Friday 19 January 2018

Dáil to get nine week break and €700k makeover – so that we can hear TDs better

The Dáil chamber. Photo: Tony Gavin
The Dáil chamber. Photo: Tony Gavin

Kevin Doyle Group Political Editor

The Dáil is to close for almost nine weeks from next Thursday to allow for a €700,000 upgrade that will allow us hear TDs better.

It has been confirmed TDs are to get an extra long summer break, running from July 21 until September 27.

And by the time they come back the chamber’s sound system will be completely overhauled – meaning we’ll be able to hear the day-to-day haranguing better than ever.

Although some committee work will continue during September there will be no debates or formal sessions in the Dáil.

Despite some complaints when the lengthy break was first proposed several weeks ago, the Dáil Business Committee said yesterday that “a major programme of improvements on technology” is necessary.

As part of the works the microphone and voting systems in the Dáil chamber and Committee Room will be modernised, as well as graphical display units.

In 2014 the Houses of the Oireachtas Service established a Working Group to review the technology supporting the chambers, investigate systems in operation in other parliaments and to examine the degree to which the business requirements of the Houses in relation to voting, broadcast and sound systems are met by existing technology.

According to a statement that group found “that the age and obsolescence of the equipment supporting the Chambers represents a critical risk and presents difficulties in respect of quality of output, support and scarcity of spare parts”.

“The vulnerability to failure of critical systems supporting parliamentary business is compounded by the age of the cabling supporting the equipment, which needs to be replaced.”

It noted that some elements of the sound system are 25 years old and do not provide good sound quality.

The voting system was installed in 2001 and operates on unsupported operating systems. It has become increasingly difficult to support as spare parts are not easily available and repair is not possible. 

“The synoptic voting display will be replaced with modern, high-resolution and remotely controllable, graphical display units capable of numerically and visually summarising vote data; presenting voting summaries; displaying documentations, presentation and videos with throughput to displays around campus,” the committee said.

It is planned that the removal of old units and cabling and the installation of new equipment will take eight weeks.

The committee does hope to have a symposium on the EU around one week before the Dáil resumes.

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