This week in Leinster House: April 19-21, 2011

Ivor Callely must be a frustrated man this week. For weeks he’s been canvassing to get the Seanad to reconvene for one reason or another, all so that he might get a chance to put on the record his own opinions about those expenses, that suspension and that Supreme Court appeal.

Now, in what is the second-last week of its existence, the 23rd Seanad will reconvene… to discuss the almost-but-not-quite-as-controversial matter of retaining the personal details of air traffic passengers.

It might be worth watching in at 2:30pm on Wednesday just to see what goes down – and, given that the 23rd Seanad now retains a huge Fianna Fáil majority given the election of over a dozen FG and Labour members to the Dáil, just how the dynamics will play out.


Questions to the Taoiseach at 2:30pm will offer the usual semi-tame comments, though following on from Enda Kenny’s Monday meeting with David Cameron – and with the visit of Queen Elizabeth leading victims groups to once again ask Britain to release its files on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings – outstanding questions about North-South relations could be particularly interesting.

Questions to the Minister for Defence at 3:15pm will be an odd event, partly because the defence portfolio has now been rolled into Alan Shatter’s justice brief (Shatter has done two rounds of questions already) – but also because, by last week, there had only one innocuous question submitted to answer.

That question – submitted by his Fine Gael stablemate Michael Creed – merely seeks statistics on how many people are employed at the Department. The answer, of course, is now official zero. So, unless Fianna Fáil’s new Justice/Defence/Equality spokesman Dara Calleary has already submitted a batch of questions for Shatter to answer, we could be in for a quiet afternoon.

That is, of course, until Leaders’ Questions at 4:15pm (which, again, will no doubt be dominated by the aftermath of Kenny’s trip to London) and the inevitable disciplinary issues that Richard Boyd Barrett will no doubt cause in the following Order of Business – which could also provide indications on nominations to the panel of acting Cathaoirligh, and prompt a discussion on whether Mick Wallace can get a new robe commissioned that won’t clash with his pink shirt should he ever find himself chairing any Dáil business.

Thereafter, Alan Shatter will put back on his Department of Justice hat to discuss a motion on the EU’s new rules about retaining data on airline passengers – details of which, sadly, had yet to be published at the time of writing, so the government’s position on it isn’t quite clear.

That discussion is limited to 45 minutes, meaning there’ll be enough time to hold more discussion on Shatter’s Community Service Bill, which prioritises community service ahead of jail terms if the prison sentence would be less than 12 months. That Bill was originally proposed by Dermot Ahern (with Shatter’s sole amendment to delete ‘six months’ and insert ‘twelve’), so its passage won’t be remarkable.

At 7pm, then, it’s time for Sinn Féin’s private members time – and a motion calling on the State to revoke the exploration licenses for the gas fields at Lough Allen and the Corrib, and to exert a 50% tax on any profits that any exploration company could make on them in future. It also calls on the State to set up an exploration company which would take an automatic 51% stake in any such projects.

Adjournment matters at 8:30pm wrap up a varied day.


The main – and more theatrical – weekly stint of Leaders’ Questions kicks off business at 10:30am (the agenda of which will be dictated by whatever’s in that morning’s papers), followed by the Order of Business, more Questions to the Taoiseach and then Statements on the EU-IMF Bailout.

The chances are that the latter piece of business will bring the house straight to lunch at 1:30pm, but if not then there’ll be ratification of a miscellaneous Road Traffic Bill, a Nurses and Midwives Bill that effectively recognises the professions as being separate (though both would still be regulated by a Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland), and the conclusion of last week’s statements on suicide prevention.

When Dáil business resumes at 2:30pm, Leo Varadkar takes 75 minutes of Questions to the Minister for Transport, led by questions on coastguard services and any fairs or events that Ireland will be hosting in the next few years. While that’s going on, therefore, the aforementioned meeting of the Seanad – and the Order of Business that precedes it – could make for more interesting viewing.

While that takes place, the government will be publishing the Nyberg Report, or officially the ‘Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Banking Sector in Ireland’. That, we are told to expect, will essentially criticise bankers for their ‘herd mentality’. Discussion on that, given the gravity of the theme, will continue from 3:45pm right up until 7pm, when Sinn Féin’s exploration motion is wrapped up, with matters on the adjournment wrapping up business at 8:30pm.


Eamon Gilmore stands in to take Order of Business at 10:30pm, before an hour’s debate on a motion about the deployment of the defence forces. When that’s done – and if it hasn’t already been wrapped up on Wednesday – then the Dáil wraps up the Nurses and Midwives Bill, continues chat on the Community Service Bill, and concludes its statements on suicide prevention.

Gilmore returns for Questions to the Minister for Foreign Affairs at 3:30pm – where he’ll face a raft of questions from Fine Gael rookie Eoghan Murphy about just which international despots the EU wants to get rid of, and about the value for money the state receives in development aid. Fianna Fáil’s new appointee to the foreign affairs brief, party whip Seán Ó Fearghaíl, will no doubt also have a few things tabled. Thereafter, adjournment matters at 4:45pm wrap up the week.

As always, all of the week’s business can be viewed on our live Dáil stream – or, for the Seanad meeting on Tuesday, at our Seanad stream.