Saturday 15 December 2018

Dáil 'bingo' system faces chop in row over speaking time

Marc MacSharry TD
Marc MacSharry TD
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The so-called game of 'Dáil bingo', which involves TDs taking numbered cards in order to gain speaking time, is facing the axe.

Scenes of uproar in the Oireachtas have led to a general acceptance among the main political parties that the practice will have to end.

It was introduced on a trial basis after Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghail was accused of not adequately taking lists of TDs who had used hand signals to indicate they wanted to ask questions of the Taoiseach.

However, the new system has seen a number of TDs repeatedly arriving up to 20 minutes before Dáil sittings in order to ensure they get near the top of the speaking list.

Mattie McGrath TD
Mattie McGrath TD

The Dáil's Business Committee has discussed reverting to the old system - or devising a new one - after the Easter break. A source told the Irish Independent there was a "general consensus that the numbered cards is unbecoming of the parliament and needs to change".

It is understood Independent TD Mattie McGrath was a lone voice in defending the system, although Mr Ó Fearghail is thought to have reservations about further change.

Marc MacSharry, who was involved in the shouting match with the Healy-Rae brothers, a video of which went viral globally, has circulated all TDs with a document calling for widespread reform of 'new politics'.

He said Dáil procedure "is terminally flawed and requires urgent reform".

In an email to TDs, Mr MacSharry highlighted five issues including the reality that speaking time is not allocated based on party size.

The Sligo TD also criticises the Government for ignoring motions such as the one last week calling for a National Broadband Plan review.

Mr MacSharry also argues that Oireachtas committee recommendations should have binding outcomes.

He said in his email: "We think we live in a democracy but without the necessary reform I am afraid it is a mirage.

"The reform proposals outlined above are necessary and can easily be introduced.

"Will it make the business of Government more difficult? Yes it will, but it will ensure a truly democratic process."

Irish Independent

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