Today in Leinster House: November 29, 2011

The Dáil’s week is dominated by high-profile legislation – including a bill cutting judges’ pay, a bill allowing for a household charge, and a proposed constitutional amendment.

That’s not to mention the stuff going on elsewhere – so a busy one all around.

12:30pm – Order of Business – For the second week running, the Seanad kicks off early on its Tuesday – making time for an extended session of its new Public Consultation Committee, which meets for the second time later today.

2pm – Questions (Minister for Community, Energy and Natural Resources) – With a busy Dáil week preceding next week’s Budgets, Pat Rabbitte’s batch of ministerial questions may be a high-octane launch. He’ll face questions on reducing the broadcasting licence, tackling fuel poverty, advertising of gas and electricity suppliers, and European help for the REFIT project.

2pm – Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture – While the minister is taking Dáil questions, the committee which oversees his work will be busy in what could be a more high-profile event: hearing from concerned community groups about offshore exploration off the West coast. Before that they’ll consider EU legislative plans governing the labelling of wine and on fishing stocks in the Baltic Sea. Room 3.

2:15pm – Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht – Continuing the EU theme, over in Room 4 staff from Iarnród Éireann and the Department of Transport brief members on European legislation governing railways – and the impact it may have on Ireland.

2:30pm – Seanad Public Consultation Committee – Last Thursday the Seanad capitalised on the visit of Mary Robinson by holding the first session of hearings on its Public Consultation Committee. Today it holds the second, with Prof Gerard Quinn of NUI Galway offering input on the merit of a UN Convention on the Rights of Older People, while TCD’s Prof Rose Anne Kenny will offer thoughts on the TILDA Study for the Rights of Older Persons.

3:15pm – Leaders’ Questions – Enda Kenny returns from the funeral of his late mother to get back to Dáil duty, facing missives from the leaders on the opposition benches.

3:30pm – European Union Affairs – After the Budgets next week, Enda Kenny will be diverted by a meeting of the European General Affairs Council – the heads of government of each state. Given that next week will be far too busy to hold such a meeting, the committee on EU Affairs will get a briefing from Lucinda Creighton, in Room 2, on what will be brought up.

3:36pm – Questions (Taoiseach) – Having dealt with the unscripted matters, Kenny then turns to more sedate questions on the Constitutional Convention, the North-South Ministerial Council, other meetings with Northern Ireland leaders, developments on an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, and the A5 upgrade.

4:30pm – Road Transport Bill 2011 (second stage) – The Seanad gets its first look at legislation which cleared the Dáil last week, replacing secondary regulations which would otherwise be affected by new EU regulations coming into force next month. It also allows for the online publication of a national register of licensed road transport operators, and makes a few other minor housekeeping amendments. Though the Dáil passed it within a day, the Seanad is getting a longer run at it.

4:36pm – Order of Business – TDs rubberstamp the rest of the day’s agenda.

5:06pm – Topical Issues – Backbenchers and opposition TDs get a chance to press ministers on four of the day’s relevant issues.

5:54pm – Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Amendment) Bill 2011 (all stages) – The text of the 29th Amendment the Constitution – the one which allows for cuts to judges’ pay – provides that judicial pay can be cut only when such measures are deemed in the public interest. In order to avoid any such question marks about this first attempt at using those provisions, this Bill – which cuts judicial pay in line with the rest of the public sector – is given an idiot-proof name that makes it difficult to vote against. The government devotes a little over three hours’ debating time to the motion.

6pm – Matters on the Adjournment – Three of the day’s pressing issues are discussed before the Seanad breaks for the night.

6:30pm – Justice, Equality and Defence – In the first of five (yes, five!) meetings this week, and despite the 2011 Budget being 51 weeks old, members sign off on an adjustment which allows for increased funding going towards Army Pensions. Room 2.

7:30pm – Private Members’ Business [Sinn Féin] – Sinn Féin gets the opposition baton this week, and puts down a pretty straightforward motion: either the government assents to not cutting child benefit and other social welfare rates in the Budget, or it tables an amendment to buy itself the option. Debate continues until 9pm and continues tomorrow.

9pm – as 5:54pm – The final 90 minutes of debate on cutting judges’ pay, before the bill is put to a vote – which, if called, will be forced by the independent benches, as Sinn Féin backed the referendum and Fianna Fáil did not take a stance on it.

All of the day’s business can be viewed on our streams: