Gilmore backs TDs who failed to attend special Dail session
TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore yesterday defended the failure of many government TDs to turn up for the special 'Friday' Dail sitting yesterday.
It came after the Irish Independent revealed that many coalition TDs were holding constituency clinics or doing other local work instead of attending the three-hour Dail sitting.
And just one of six Kerry TDs turned up in Leinster House, with the others attending the official opening of Dingle Community Hospital and the turning of the sod at Kenmare Hospital by Health Minister James Reilly.
Mr Gilmore said the aim of the Dail sitting on the first Friday of every month was to give TDs the chance to introduce their own bill -- and so it was not necessary to have every TD present.
"Whatever day it is, the second stage bill where the general principles of the bill are set out, the spokespersons or each party respond to it and those TDs who have a particular interest in that particular issue are present and debate it," he said.
Mr Gilmore himself was absent from the Dail because he was in Galway, where he opened the constituency office of Labour Galway West TD Derek Nolan, met the Board of Galway Airport, visited a youth mental health centre and did an interview on local radio.
Government backbenchers who did turn up included Labour TD Dominic Hannigan -- after holding early morning clinics in his Meath East constituency. Another was Fine Gael Tipperary South TD Tom Hayes, whose office had previously said he would be attending a clinic in Cashel instead.
In the Dail itself, Independent TD Stephen Donnelly presented his own Private Members' Bill to help struggling mortgage holders in danger of losing their homes.
He suggested judges should be allowed to use their own discretion in individual repossession cases. But although Justice Minister Alan Shatter praised Mr Donnelly for the effort he had gone to, he dismissed the bill as unworkable and flawed. Mr Donnelly agreed to withdraw it.
Mr Shatter also pointed out the absence of Fianna Fail health spokesman Billy Kelleher, who had criticised the value of the Friday Dail sittings on the radio earlier that day.
But Mr Kelleher told the Irish Independent last night that he had been in Leinster House but had left responsibility for debating the bill to Fianna Fail's justice spokesman Dara Calleary.
"I think Minister Shatter should be more concerned about criminals running loose in Dublin than Billy Kelleher's whereabouts," he said.
But there was no mystery about the whereabouts of the country's Kerry TDs -- who obviously agreed with the newspaper editor who once declared that "a day out of Kerry was a day wasted".
Sinn Fein's Martin Ferris was the only TD in Dublin, while everyone else was at the official opening of Dingle Community Hospital.
Arts and Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan said it was "a special" day in Kerry and each of the TDs was entitled to attend.
"If it was any other day I would certainly question it, but today, surely politicians of all parties are entitled to be at the opening of a hospital that is a major event and one they all supported in some way."