Today in Leinster House: September 15, 2011

Day three of the week, and day two of the new term as far as the Dáil and Seanad are concerned.

There’s another constitutional amendment up, and some more interesting committee business also on the agenda.

Here’s what’s happening.

10am – Public Accounts Committee - The Oireachtas’s most high-profile committee gets going for the new term by pulling out the magnifying glass and having a closer look at the Annual Report of Comptroller & Auditor General – and in particular the chapters on social welfare payments. Room 1.

10:30am – Leaders’ Questions – The fun kicks off early in the Dáil, as Micheál Martin and Gerry Adams get their first chance to put Eamon Gilmore under the microscope. No doubt, given the headlines about Gilmore being a ‘ditherer’ at cabinet, there’ll be much to discuss.

10:30am – Order of Business – Meanwhile, upstairs in the Seanad, it’s time for the morning free-for-all as senators get a chance to discuss the issues of the day.

10:51am – Order of Business – The Dáil ends its 21-minute (yes, 21 minutes…) of leaders’ questions by arranging the rest of the day’s schedule. As we mentioned yesterday, there’s likely to be some disputes from the opposition benches about the government’s plan for a bill later today: the government’s plans include rushing through the bill responding to the Abbeylara judgment.

11:21am - Private Members’ Business (FF) - Fianna Fáil’s motion on the potential reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy gets its second exposure, with a vote set for shortly before 1pm.

11:30am – Health and Children – Continuing a theme from last week, when the committee heard the youth perspective on the problem, the committee hears the input of drug rehab clinics into the problem of illegal and chronic drug use. (Room 2)

11:30am – European Union Affairs – In a more varied offering nextdoor in Room 3, the EU Affairs committee hears from the ambassadors of Poland, Denmark and Cyprus on their collective plans for their 18-month presidency of the Council of the EU, which began on July 1. After that, Kevin Cardiff of the Dept of Finance briefs the committee on the deal struck by Eurozone countries in July – the one which got our interest rate reduced – before some Foreign Affairs bods come in to brief the committee on the Middle Eastern peace process (and no doubt the latest in Palestine’s bid for full UN membership). Room 3.

11:45am – Statements on Transport – The Seanad spends two hours discussing the state of Ireland’s public transport. Junior minister Alan Kelly will be in attendance.

12:41pm – Statements on International Democracy Day – Did you know that today, September 15, was International Democracy Day? You do now – and some of our TDs will be making speeches on why other countries should share the right to choose their own leaders.

1:06pm – Thirtieth Amendment to the Constitution (Houses of the Oireachtas Inquiry) Bill 2011 – This is the bill we discussed earlier. This is the government’s proposed referendum allowing committees to make ‘findings of fact’ – essentially to act as a quasi-judicial entity. Since the ‘Abbeylara ruling’, committees have not had this power. It is unusual, however, for the wording of a proposed referendum not to have been published several weeks in advance – the wording was only formally published on Monday – so the opposition parties may have a few quips about  a single day of debate for such a weighty proposition.

1:45pm - Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2011 - The first legislation brought upstairs in the new term, Michael Noonan guides the upper house through his insurance bill – notable for its move to introduce a 2% levy on insurance premiums, which is to go towards ensuring Quinn Insurance Ltd remains solvent.

2pm – Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform – The pantomime booing of yesterday will continue apace, as the committee takes input from John McGlouchlin (the chief financial officer of Irish Nationwide) and Anglo chairman Alan Dukes, with yet another session of input on the future of Ireland’s banks. Room 4.

3:42pm – Topical Issues – Another short-term-unscripted batch of contemporary matters get discussed, with relevant ministers obliged to attend and reply.

4:30pm – Questions (Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government) – Phil Hogan steps up to the plate to bat away at whatever curveballs may be thrown at him on his first appearance back in the Dáil. Among the questions in for debate are clarification on how much the new Interim Household Charge (the combined water and property tax) will cost, and his plans for the regulation of domestic septic tanks.

5:45pm – as 1:06pm - There will no doubt be quite a few people on the opposition benches who will like to have some input on the Abbeylara referendum, so they’ll have another hour to get their word in. Debate continues until 6:45pm, when the Dáil breaks for the weekend – but the referendum discussions will go on, and will continue on Tuesday.

As always, all of the day’s business can be viewed on the streams:

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