Wednesday 21 February 2018

Plans to form new Dail technical group gather pace

JOHN DRENNAN Political Editor

EAMON Gilmore may soon suffer the indignity of being cross-examined across the floor of the Dail during high- profile arenas such as Leaders' Questions, on a weekly basis, by former Labour colleagues such as Tommy Broughan, Roisin Shorthall and his nemesis Colm Keaveney. In the wake of a series of resignations a critical mass of four Labour TDs, Mr Broughan; Mr Keaveney, the current party chairperson; Ms Shorthall; and new TD Patrick Nulty have extremely limited speaking rights in the Dail.

However, the Sunday Independent has learnt that ongoing negotiations are taking place with Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett over the need to reform Dail procedures to increase the rights of independent TDs to cross-examine the Government.

One source told the Sunday Independent the objective is to "allow the independent Labour TDs with the support of three independent TDs to form a technical group, which would have the right to engage in high-profile Dail events such as Leaders' Questions".

Current Dail rules only allow for one technical group to be created, but there has been a series of "ongoing discussions'' over the possibility of a change to these archaic rules.

However, the Sunday Independent was told by Mr Broughan that the Ceann Comhairle "was very sympathetic to the suggestion that Dail procedures be reformed to allow more than one technical group''.

For a technical group to be formed, seven "like- minded non-party independents would have to band together''.

And outside of the four rebel Labour TDs, a number of other broadly left-wing independent TDs have become increasingly disillusioned with the current technical group.

It is believed that, in particular, TDs such as Thomas Pringle, Catherine Murphy, John Halligan and Finian McGrath, who have been deeply embarrassed by the colourful antics of Michael Wallace and Luke 'Ming' Flanagan in particular, would be open to an approach.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent Mr Broughan said that "what we are looking for is a 'democratic revolution' in a procedure that would allow us the space to articulate Labour positions that are not currently being raised in the Dail''. Mr Halligan said this was regularly raised by "former loyal Labour supporters who have left the party recently and find themselves in a political wilderness. They have nowhere to go because they certainly won't go to FG, FF and SF. They are looking for a coherent moderate left alternative."

Irish Independent

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