Saturday 23 September 2017

Government hits back at O'Reilly's attack on Dail

* Stagg rises to defence of TDs n Anger as Kenny misses speech

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

THE Government's deputy whip has defended how the Dail operates after Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly criticised it for "pretending it has no power whatsoever".

Ms O'Reilly, who will soon take up her new post as EU Ombudsman, also said the Dail spent its time "ducking and diving" and left it up to the courts to decide the values of the Republic. She also accused the Cabinet of "planting its boot far too firmly on the neck of the parliament and wielding power in a manner never envisaged by the Constitution".

And she told the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal, that politicians often leave the courts to "divine" their intentions when they "cobble together deliberately ambiguous laws" and sometimes "deliberately ambiguous constitutional amendments".

But Labour whip Emmet Stagg said some control was needed to make sure legislation was passed through the Dail. Mr Stagg said he wasn't sure what Ms O'Reilly was talking about and said Labour had weekly parliamentary party meetings where it decided the positions it would take on issues.

"This can sometimes be by majority decision but most of the time it is by a consensual approach," Mr Stagg said.

He said it would be impossible to pass legislation if the whip was dropped, adding: "You may as well have a Dail full of Independents in that case."

In a speech on Sunday evening, Ms O'Reilly also said "the republic that was created from the ashes of the Rising was a perversion of the human rights ideals of 1916".

It was difficult for citizens to remind themselves that "we are actually the ones in charge".

She claimed the more bodies like the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority "prod, the more they are stripped of resources and independence, the more in effect are nobbled".

She said that "both bodies are limping along with skeleton staffs" due to Budget cutbacks.

Poet Theo Dorgan, who also spoke in Glenties, criticised Enda Kenny for not staying around on Sunday evening to hear Ms O'Reilly's speech.

SPEECH

Mr Kenny opened the summer school on Sunday evening and went to have a meal and socialise in the same venue, the Highland Hotel, after his speech.

Mr Dorgan said the Taoiseach would have been better staying around to listen to Ms O'Reilly, especially since he wanted to abolish the Seanad and replace it with a strengthened Dail committee system.

Ms O'Reilly detailed how her experiences showed Oireachtas committees were tightly controlled by the government of the day, although she added: "In recent years, prodded by the public debate and demand for reform, I have found the committee system beginning to work as it should, with members slowly realising that the power is there if we plug it in."

Irish Independent

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