Friday 19 January 2018

TDs extend holidays despite pledge to slash Dail breaks

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

TDs have taken a Halloween break – and longer summer holidays – despite a promise for fewer days off in the Programme for Government.

The Dail sittings were cancelled for the entire week during Halloween – even though there had been a promise by the Government, upon taking office, that it would scrap the "mid-term break".

And the Government has also broken its promise to shorten the Dail summer break to six weeks. It was eight weeks this year and eight weeks last year.

This is despite the following pledge in the Programme for Government drawn up last year: "There will be a summer recess of just six weeks and significantly reduced breaks at Christmas and Easter.

"We will abandon the practice of providing a 'mid-term break' – a full week off at St Patrick's Day and Halloween."

The broken pledge was spotted by an eagle-eyed voter on the new Dailwatch website.

Last year, TDs did not get a full week off for Halloween, but did get an extra two days off.

Government chief whip Paul Kehoe defended the Government's record by saying that the Dail was now sitting more frequently and for more hours per day.

"We did say we were going to increase the number of Dail sitting days by 50pc and we have got it up to 43pc," he said.


Mr Kehoe pointed out that, during the Halloween break this year, there were four separate meetings of the Public Accounts Committee and the Finance Committee, with TDs coming in to Leinster House to quiz bankers in the former Anglo Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland about pay and pensions.

"TDs have been working in their constituencies as well," he said.

The commitment in the Programme for Government to sit during the week of St Patrick's Day was met last year and again this year. TDs had Christmas holidays lasting three-and-a-half weeks last year, but this break was shorter than the typical six-week recess during the Celtic Tiger era.

Other Dail reform pledges which were delivered include the early publication of legislation to allow for greater debate, a new petitions system for complaints and a "topical issues" slot every day in the Dail.

There is also an obligation on TDs to turn up on the first Friday of every month to debate private members' bills – although there has been a poor attendance record so far.

Mr Kehoe said that around four such sittings would be dedicated to Government legislation – including a special Friday sitting around the time of next month's Budget.

The Dail sat for 108 days last year, up from 101 days in 2010. The Oireachtas Commission, which runs Leinster House, said that sitting hours in the second half of last year increased by 20pc when compared with the same period in previous years.

Irish Independent

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