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Tuesday 12 November 2019

Independents join forces to question Kenny

Technical group picks three TDs to rotate role

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

INCOMING Taoiseach Enda Kenny will face weekly questioning from three colourful Independent TDs, after a deal was brokered yesterday.

Around 16 of the 19 Independent TDs in the Dail came together to form a "technical group", which will allow them to take part in Leaders' Questions and Dail debates.

The three designated representatives of the group are journalist Shane Ross (for business background members), former Celebrity You're a Star contestant Finian McGrath (for the 'soft left' members) and Socialist Party MEP Joe Higgins (for the 'hard left' members).

One of them will put questions to Mr Kenny in the Dail each week, alongside Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

Mr McGrath said it was an amazing achievement for 16 different people to come together to work on different issues.

"Everybody in the room was hungry for speaking time because we have a great bunch of fresh Independent TDs. But the initial consensus was for the initial period of leaders' questions to be handled by the people with a bit of experience," he said.

Kildare North TD Catherine Murphy will act as a whip for the group.

It may be possible for some of the other Independents in the group -- such as Luke "Ming" Flanagan and builder Mick Wallace -- to take part in the questions because a review of the arrangements will take place after a year.

Mr McGrath, who chaired yesterday's meeting at Leinster House, said it would ensure Independents had a strong voice in the Dail.

"We've all agreed that we will run the technical group on a co-operative basis where we share out the speaking time equally," he said.

However, three Independent TDs will not be taking part in the technical group -- Kerry South TD Michael Healy-Rae, Tipperary North TD Michael Lowry and Galway West TD Noel Grealish.

Mr Lowry denied reports that a side deal had been arranged for him and his two colleagues to get speaking time in the Dail in return for voting for Mr Kenny as Taoiseach.

"We're satisfied with the proposed procedural reform in the Dail that we'll have adequate opportunity to express our views when the need arises," he said.

But it means Mr Lowry will be dependent on the goodwill of other parties and the technical group to be granted speaking time, unless reforms are introduced immediately.

Mr Healy-Rae denied he was looking for the "quiet life" by staying out of the technical group -- which would have guaranteed him more Dail speaking time.

"I'll be able to achieve as much outside the technical group as I would hope to by aligning myself to that group."

He did not comment when asked if it was because he did not want to be in the same group as left-wing TDs like Joe Higgins.

"I'd hate to go saying that because I don't say those sort of things. But let's put it this way, I'm happy with the arrangement that we have," he said.

Irish Independent

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