Today in Leinster House: March 21, 2012

It’s the first day back for the Dáil and Seanad, but each house has some important stuff to get through while the committees add a considerable amount of meat to the bones of the day.

So, without further ado…

9:30am – Jobs, Social Protection and Education – Members get together in Room 3 to kick off the day, discussing new plans for EU legislation, and proposals for reforming the Social Welfare system to tackle the black market as well as examine the system allowing casual workers to claim social welfare.

10:30am – Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture – In Room 1, members also discuss new EU legislative procedures – including new rules for direct payments to farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy – before having agriculture minister Simon Coveney in to discuss an integrated plan for the marine sector.

10:30am – Environment, Community and Local Government (sub-committee) – Leo Varadkar pops into room 4 to discuss this week’s meeting of EU transport ministers in Brussels, before representatives from the Save the Moore Street Group attend to talk about the plans for a national monument and the need to preserve the properties of Moore Street, which were the home of the original 1916 Rising.

11:45am – Justice, Equality and Defence – Representatives from the Equality and Rights Alliance, AkiDwA, the Children’s Rights Alliance, the Pavee Point Traveller’s Centre, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and Sport Against Racism Ireland pop into an (apparently crowded) Room 2 to discuss various ways of helping to concept racism.

12:30pm – Order of Business – The Seanad is the first of the two houses to resume hostilities/festivities, taking 75 minutes to agree to its agenda for the day, and discuss all and sundry while they’re at it.

1:45pm – Finance Bill 2012 (second stage) – Even though they’ll need 75 minutes to agree their agenda, there are only two items on it – one being the last piece of the Budget’s legal jigsaw, which gets just over three hours’ consideration.

2:00pm – Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform – Members of ICTU’s Public Services Committee visit room 4 to discuss the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014, and specifically matters relating to the implementation body for that agreement. Incidentally, despite the furore about the government losing a vote in the Finance Committee last week? There’s no sign of Patrick Honohan on this week’s schedule.

2:30pm – Justice, Equality and Defence – In their second meeting of the day, members return to Room 2 to hear opinion on the Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011, which has come up against some resistance from within the legal profession. Among the people visiting will be figures from King’s Inns, the Law Society of Ireland, the Competition Authority, the Mandate trade union, Free Legal Advice Centres, and the Bar Council.

2:30pm – Questions (Minister for Agriculture and Food) – Simon Coveney opens the Dáil’s week with his quinweekly batch of ministerial questions; he’ll take inquiries on amending milk and butterfat quotas, moves to stop the Schmallenberg virus from coming to Ireland, delays in processing grant payments (outstanding since 2010), fishing in Irish waters by fishermen from Iceland and the Faroes, and the state of the sugar industry.

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

4:33pm – Leaders’ Questions – It’s unusual that Leaders’ Questions won’t be the marquee event of the day, but such is the timely subject of Sinn Féin’s private time later tonight that Enda Kenny’s quipping match against Micheál Martin, Gerry Adams and the technical group’s new rostered leaders.

4:54pm – Order of Business – With LQs out of the day, TDs spend 30 minutes divvying up time on the single item of business they have to discuss. They will also use the time to query the status of other legislation at varying pieces of the bureaucratic pipeline.

5:00pm – Private Members’ Business [Fianna Fáil] – Motion on Government Promises – FF’s motion had been due for discussion last week but was postponed due to the unavailability of ministers (“given the week that is in it”, apologised Ivana Bacik). It follows up on the government’s one-year anniversary by tabling a straightforward motion condemning the ways in which FF thinks the government has failed in its election promises. A vote will be called at 7.

5:24pm – Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011 [Seanad] (second stage) – The Dáil will bring the two hours between Leaders’ Questions and PMB with some other important legislation, as Phil Hogan’s bill on Gender Quotas gets its first airing in the Dáil. Sinn Féin supports the Bill but Fianna Fáil is likely to be silent, having been instructed at its Ard Fheis to drop its support for such legislation (and also being without female representation in the Dáil). It will therefore be of most interest simply to see who from the independent benches might oppose the Bill.

7:00pm – Clotting Factor Concentrates and Other Biological Products Bill 2012 (all stages) – Once the Fianna Fáil motion has been taken care of, attention will quickly turn short legislation which formally legalises the use of certain clotting agents (including recombinant protein preparations) for use in treating patients. Its only difficulty passing the Dáil was the opportunity taken by independents to hog the debate, so no such problems will be anticipated in the Seanad.

7:30pm – Private Members’ Business [Sinn Féin] – Motion re European Stability Mechanism – Though most of the discussion on the Fiscal Compact referendum relates to its link (or otherwise) with the Anglo Irish Bank promissory notes, a point frequently made on the left is that the treaty also relates closely to the new European Stability Mechanism, the EU’s permanent bailout fund coming into effect this July. Part of the deal is that you can only access ESM funding if you ratify the fiscal compact – and, quite simply, Sinn Féin’s motion would demand that the government look to remove this requirement. Debate will suspend at 9pm and kick off again tomorrow.

8:00pm – Matters on the Adjournment – Once the Seanad has put the clotting factors bill to bed, it will discuss a few miscellaneous matters of its own before retiring for the night.

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