Today in Leinster House: September 19, 2012

THE RECESS comes to a total conclusion today with the Seanad coming back, but again all eyes will be on the Dáil to see whether any members of the government parties break ranks on the vote of no confidence in James Reilly.

9:30am – Committee on Transport and Communications – The day starts in Committee Room 4, though, where the transport committee will be discussing a proposed review of the penalty points system. Among those giving evidence on their thoughts are the AA Ireland’s Conor Faughnan, Noel Brett from the Road Safety Authority, and Niall Doyle of the Irish Insurance Federation.

10:00am – Committee on Education and Social Protection – In Room 3, meanwhile, Ruairí Quinn will be offering the first glimpse as to just how difficult our ministers think Budget 2013 is going to be. Quinn is on the record as saying the Croke Park deal on public pay means he can’t touch 80% of his budget – so this pre-Budget briefing could give us a hint about where the fees are going in future years.

10:30am – Leaders’ Questions – Enda Kenny takes the main event of the morning, with the usual TV-friendly barbs from Enda Kenny, Gerry Adams and the rostered head of the technical group.

10:51am – Order of Business – Having done that, they’ll then spend a half-hour agreeing to the rest of the day’s agenda.

11:21am – National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012 (second stage resumed) – The main item of the morning is another two hours’ debate on the new National Vetting Bureau, which ought not to take up too much time.

2:30pm – Questions (Minister for Justice and Equality) – After breaking for lunch, the Dáil resumes with Alan Shatter taking questions on action taken after Alan Ryan’s paramilitary funeral, his plans for cutting Garda resources and reforming the courts, ensuring single cell occupancy in prisons and the factors considered when new policing plans are being prepared.

2:30pm – Order of Business – The Seanad ends its eight-week break at 2:30pm by having what will inevitably be a wider-range-than-usual discussion on all things… well, all things everything, really.

2:30pm – Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade – In Room 1, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel – an international group which ‘brings internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation’, hoping to bring about a two-state solution in the region, briefs members on the current state of play in Israel and Palestine.

3:45pm – Topical Issues – Four newsworthy items are discussed for 12 minutes apiece, with ministers on hand to respond.

3:45pm – Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Bill 2012 (committee and remaining stages) – The Seanad gets its teeth back into legislative business by polishing off its dealing on a bill which allows chemists to dispense generic equivalents for brand-name drugs. Previously pharmacists were bound to dispense only what was written on the prescription; this would mean they could offer a cheaper generic equivalent which saves money for all parties.

4:33pm – Animal Health and Welfare Bill 2012 [Seanad] (second stage) – The Dáil will meanwhile get to discussing animal welfare legislation which has already made it through the Seanad. The Bill is aimed at beefing up animal health provisions, but controversially legally guarantees the right to hare coursing.

5:00pm – Private Members’ Business [Labour] – Motion on Charities Act – Because the Seanad doesn’t recognise political groupings, a government party gets to table its own motion for free. Labour’s motion vents some frustration at how the Charities Act – which requires mandatory account filing for charities – hasn’t been activated due to various administrative problems, but doesn’t actually have a go at the government over it. There’ll be a debate for two hours, and assuming no votes called, it’ll be passed at 7pm.

6:00pm – Committee on European Union Affairs – Eamon Gilmore will be heading to a meeting of EU ministers next week; here he’ll pop into Room 2 to brief members on what will be discussed.

7:00pm – Matters on the Adjournment – The Seanad day ends with three matters of topical importance being discussed by senators and ministers.

7:30pm – Private Members’ Business [Fianna Fáil] – Motion of No Confidence in the Minister for Health – The main event of the evening is Fianna Fáil’s motion on whether the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly, should walk (or be pushed off) the plank. Its motion, in full, reads:

“That Dáil Éireann has no confidence in the Minister for Health, James Reilly T.D., because of his inability to deliver on his budget commitments which were based on false and misleading targets in many areas that were never achievable or implementable due to his lack of governance, resulting in more chaos across the health service which will directly impact on patients because of more frontline services being cut, extra bed closures, and more cuts to social support services to the disabled and elderly.”

The debate began last night, and tonight will see a continued barrage from the opposition who will be hoping to fragment the government parties and pick up a few stray votes from their backbenchers. Either way, the big event is the vote at 9pm.

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