Sunday 25 February 2018

FF accused of 'sour grapes' over Dáil time

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin Photo: Tony Gavin
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin Photo: Tony Gavin
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has been accused of "sour grapes" by left-wing parties over his bid to rebalance the speaking time in the Dáil.

Mr Martin is pushing to have the allocation of time in the Dáil dramatically restructured to favour larger parties.

Frustration has been growing for months within Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that smaller parties and groups are being given too much air time compared to their backbenchers.

Mr Martin told the Irish Independent the situation is "not healthy and not fair".

Under the 'new politics' system, each group in the Dáil is entitled to equal speaking time during the first round of any debate.

However, People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said Fianna Fáil needs to get used to the growing influence of smaller parties.

"I think Micheál Martin's comments are really sour grapes about the significance and performance of the Left," she said.

The Dublin South Central TD said it is "a ruse to say that the backbenchers don't get enough speaking time".

"Every time you hear them most of them only talk about local issues to get their profile up for local constituencies."

During a meeting with incoming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the Fianna Fáil leader argued that the d'Hondt system should be used for deciding speaking time. This would see time allocated based on the size of a party's representation.

But Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy claimed Mr Martin's proposals are "an attempt to silence opposition".

"Fianna Fáil wants the best of both worlds, it already has the benefit of having one foot in Government and one foot in opposition and now it wants to effectively silence those of us who actually present real opposition to what is essentially a cosy Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael arrangement in the House.

"Fianna Fáil effectively wants to control both sides of the House by straddling the fence between Government and opposition."

She said she would be speaking to representatives from other smaller parties in the Dáil to ensure a cohesive rejection of Fianna Fáil's proposal.

Fine Gael backbencher Alan Farrell said that suggestions that there was effort to silence left-wing TDs was "utter nonsense".

"The Business Committee which established new politics that we are all suffering for the past 12 months set about coming up with an allocation model that was blatantly unfair and undemocratic in my opinion," he told Newstalk radio.

Mr Martin said he believes "new politics has been very fair to independents and smaller groups relative to what went on before. There's no comparison. I think that's an irritant with us".

Irish Independent

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