Sunday 20 October 2019

TDs fume over 'sham' debate as Dáil blocks 'Omnibus Bill' amendments

Pre-cooked’ outcome: Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Mark Condren
Pre-cooked’ outcome: Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Mark Condren
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

More than half of Opposition demands for changes to the Government's emergency Brexit legislation - including a bid to seek arrangements to protect against a hard Border - were ruled out of order by Dáil authorities.

A total of 38 of the 74 amendments to the co-called 'Omnibus Bill' were blocked, leading to claims that the debate on the legislation would be a "sham".

Among amendments that weren't allowed was one tabled by People Before Profit that sought a provision that the Government will under no circumstances make any agreement that would lead to the installation of physical infrastructure on the Border with the North.

A total of 25 changes sought by Sinn Féin were set aside, including one that called on the Government to immediately arrange for the setting up of an all-island forum on Irish unity. Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald complained about the number of her party's amendments that were deemed out of order.

She said the purpose of the emergency legislation was to guard against the worst effects of a hard Brexit and she said it was "inexplicable" so many of the changes Sinn Féin sought were set aside. Ms McDonald claimed it raised questions about the quality of the debate and said it had led to a view that it was a "pre-cooked" outcome and the Dáil was to operate as "some kind of elaborate rubber stamp".

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl said the rulings were nothing to do with the Government and that the amendments "got the highest level of consideration" from the Oireachtas Service before they were ruled on.

People Before Profit's Richard Boyd Barrett questioned how his party's bid to rule out physical Border infrastructure could be deemed in conflict with the principle of emergency legislation for a no-deal Brexit. He claimed the debate would be "a sham".

Mr Ó Fearghaíl said it wasn't in order to discuss the matter on the floor of the House and said he was willing to meet any TD who wanted to talk about the decisions taken on their individual amendments.

Irish Independent

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