Today in Leinster House: February 29, 2012 [updated]

What had otherwise promised to be a day laden with committee activity has taken on a whole new light after yesterday’s concession that the government would need to call a referendum on the EU Fiscal Compact deal.

This piece has been updated at 11:22am to take account of amendments to the Dáil schedule in light of yesterday’s news.

Elsewhere, there is indeed plenty of committee action, while the Seanad gets its teeth into some more major business and the Dáil discuss the now large-looming referendum.

9:30am – Jobs, Social Protection and Education – The day begins in Room 3, where members will consider no fewer than eight plans for EU legislation (each of them dealing with EU relations with Asian countries) before hearing from officials at the Department of Social Protection, who will discuss how IT could be used in social welfare services – particularly with the creation of a national database for benefit payments.

9:30am – Justice, Equality and Defence – It’ll be crowded in Room 2, meanwhile, as members take submissions on the proposed Mental Capacity Bill. Among those giving input will be representatives from Amnesty International Ireland, the Office of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the Law Reform Commission, the Law Society of Ireland, the Centre for Disability Law NUI Galway, Mad Pride Ireland, and the Irish Human Rights Commission.

10:00am – Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht – In Room 1, in an event delayed from last week, junior transport minister Alan Kelly briefs members on the outcome of the review into taxi regulation.

10:30am – Leaders’ Questions – With three committee meetings underway, the Dáil chamber might be less crowded than usual by he time Enda Kenny steps up to bat against curveballs from Martin, Adams and Ross.

10:30am – Order of Business – Meanwhile, the Seanad kicks off its own day with the usual 75-minute session of anything and everything.

10:51am – Order of Business – TDs get 30 minutes to agree on their daily agenda.

11:00am – Finance (sub-committee) – The only available committee room is Room 4, where Michael Noonan will sit down with a subcommittee to consider amendments to the Finance Bill 2012, which gives legal effect to the Budget.

11:21am – Statements pre European Council and fiscal compact referendum - EU heads of state get together for the second time this year in Brussels, beginning tomorrow evening – with business now likely to be dominated by Ireland’s referendum on the fiscal compact deal (and, indeed, the signature of that treaty by 25 of the leaders). Here, members will give statements on that referendum and other matters to be discussed at this week’s summit.

11:45am – Health and Children – In Room 1, representatives from the Genetic and Rare Disorders Organisation, the Rare Diseases Taskforce, Rett Syndrome Ireland and 1p36 Deletion Syndrome Ireland brief members on the presence of rare genetic diseases in this country.

11:45am – Statements of Sympathy for former senator Michael Doherty – The Seanad takes a few moments to pay tribute to former member Michael Doherty, who died shortly before Christmas in Co Louth.

12:26pm – Education (Amendment) Bill 2012 [Seanad] (second stage) – After getting EU matters out of the day, members deal with legislation which restricts the circumstances under which schools can hire unqualified teachers. This will occupy most of the day.

2:00pm – Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture – Officials from the Department of Communications head to Room 3, where members will be waiting to hear details of a report on the proposed underground Meath-Tyrone energy interconnector.

2:30pm – Questions (Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation) – Richard Bruton takes his first batch of oral questions since announcing the Action Plan for Jobs, and will takes questions on how that plan will achieve its target, the role of county enterprise boards and Enterprise Ireland in achieving those targets, any cost-benefit analysis of closing county and city enterprise boards, and potential state sponsorship of SMEs.

3:00pm – Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011 (committee stage) – The fact that this is the third session to discuss amendments to the bill, which essentially enforces gender quotas among political parties for Dáil elections, speaks to the interest that there is in it. In this key session, members will discuss proposals to raise the minimum participation of either gender from 30 per cent to 40.

3:45pm – Topical Issues – Four newsworthy topics are discussed for 12 minutes apiece.

4:00pm – Investigations, Oversight and Petitions – In Room 1, members greet the ombudsman for the defence forces, Paulyn Marrinan Quinn SC, who will brief members on the general goings-on in her office.

4:33pm – as 11:21amDáil debate resumes on the fiscal compact referendum.

5:00pm – Private Members’ Business [Taoiseach’s nominees] – Motion on Child Protection – The private time this week falls to the Taoiseach’s independent nominees, who put down a motion authored by Jillian van Turnhout encouraging Ireland to sign up to UN protocols on safeguarding children from child pornography, and which (among many other things) would require Irish ISPs to block access to child pornography if hosted overseas. Should any amendments be put down, they will be voted upon at 7pm.

5:34pm – Education (Amendment) Bill 2012 [Seanad] (second stage) – After getting EU matters out of the way, members deal with legislation which restricts the circumstances under which schools can hire unqualified teachers. This will occupy most of the day.

7:00pm – Matters on the Adjournment – Once van Turnhout’s motion has been dealt with, the Seanad discusses four matters of political importance to its members before the evening draws to a close.

7:30pm – Private Members’ Business [Sinn Féin] – Motion re sale of State Assets – Debate resumes on Sinn Féin’s timely and comprehensive motion listing why each of the State Assets are vital to the country’s interests, and therefore condemning and blockading their potential sale. The government will have an amendment in to negate the details, and so a vote will be taken on that at 9pm.

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