Sunday 21 January 2018

Gerry Adam's campaign to close Dail bar is a 'stunt', senior TD claims

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. Photo: Tom Burke
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. Photo: Tom Burke
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

SINN Fein President Gerry Adams’ campaign to close the Dáil bar has been branded a “stunt” by senior politicians tasked with examining his proposal.

Mr Adams today ramped up his crusade to close the bar while the Dáil is sitting but is now facing questions over why he has not sought similar action in Stormont where Northern Ireland politicians also have access to alcohol.

The Sinn Fein TD’s long running campaign to close the Dail bar is causing huge concern among Leinster House staff who fear the move could result in job losses.

The Dail’s Committee on Procedure and Privilege today examined a submission from Mr Adams on banning the sale of alcohol in Leinster House.

“The Dáil bar will not be closed - this is just another Sinn Fein stunt,” a TD who sits on the committee said.

In his letter to Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Mr Adams said he had a “range of concerns” about the sale of alcohol in Leinster House.

This included the opening hours of the Dáil bar, the operation of the bar under privilege, the lack of licensing restrictions and the impact of opening hours have on staff.

Mr Adams also said it is “unacceptable” that TDs have access to a “bar, in a workplace, where important legislation affecting the lives of citizens is debated”.

At the committee meeting, Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath criticised the Sinn Fein proposal and questioned why alcohol was not banned in Stormont where the Northern Ireland Assembly was held until Mr Adams’ party collapsed the power-sharing executive last year.

Mr McGrath also told the committee Mr Adams’ campaign is causing worry among Oireachtas staff.

The proposal was raised at the committee by Sinn Fein TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh and supported Solidarity TD Brid Smith, according to sources.

Senior restaurant and bar staff will now be called before a Dail committee to defend the sale of alcohol in the national parliament.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Assembly confirmed there are four premises in Stormont where members can purchase alcohol.

“There are three catering outlets in Parliament Buildings where alcohol can be purchased. These are the Members’ Dining Room, the Blue Flax Restaurant and the Members’ Bar. In addition, the Speaker’s Corner (public coffee and gift shop) sells a range of gifts including a small number of locally-produced alcohol products," the spokesperson said.

This evening, a Sinn Féin spokesperson revealed the party is also planning to close the bar in Stormont, if the power sharing executive is ever restored.

“The members bar in Stormont is currently opening between the hours of 10am and 5pm while the Assembly isn’t sitting,” a spokesperson said.

“However, when the institutions are up and running the practice is that the bar would close half an hour after the house stops sitting.

“This is something that Sinn Fein is opposed to and, when the institution is back up and running, the party will write to the new speaker of the house to voice our concerns,” he added.

Sinn Féin has been asked if Mr Adams will attempt to close bars in Stormont but did not respond by time of publication.

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