Minister claims Dail is 'not fit for purpose'
Published 23/07/2010 | 05:00
FORMER Fianna Fail Chief Whip Pat Carey yesterday criticised the manner in which the Dail conducts its business as "not fit for purpose".
The Minister for Community, Equality & Gaeltacht Affairs told the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal, there should be a an overhaul of the parliament, describing it as "rusty and perhaps dysfunctional".
He singled out several of the Dail's set-pieces for criticism, including the twice-weekly Leaders' Questions.
"The contents of Leaders' Questions by and large is now dictated by the colour writers of the morning papers, by the agenda of the two main news programmes on RTE and on Newstalk, and I even see experienced politicians looking up and winking up at the gallery when they have made a hit," he said, during a debate titled 'Parliamentary Reform is Long Overdue'.
He also called for a Leaders' Questions-style session to replace the existing Order of Business, adding: "Whatever has happened to a Thursday, it has become a circus . . . No serious work any longer gets done."
The Dublin North-West TD who was Chief Whip from May 2008 until the cabinet reshuffle last March, also had harsh words for the three-times weekly Taoiseach's Questions, in which the Taoiseach answers selected written parliamentary questions from the opposition.
"Very often, the questions relate to events that happened six to nine months previously. Now that's hardly a relevant parliament," he said.
His views were echoed by former member of Dail and Seanad, Dr Maurice Manning who was also speaking at the debate. He slammed as "scandalous" the failure of the Oireachtas to discharge its core responsibility to scrutinise legislation.
"Every year dozens of Dail Bills are guillotined. That is, they are rammed through the Dail with no committee stage examination of many of the detailed proposals contained in the sections of the bill.
"This means major changes in law are enacted without full parliamentary scrutiny, and this is one of the few things we expect of our legislators," he told the summer school.
On the Seanad, he said he would hate to see it abolished but status quo was not an option. "It must change or it will die," he said.