This week in the Dáil: April 12-14, 2011

Another week, another batch of ministerial questions and various minor policy jibes to work through as both the government and the opposition parties continue to try and bed into their respective roles.

While the new government continues to shepherd through the passage of the last administration’s leftover legislation, there’s not much cause for major argument, aside from the usual Order of Business sparring about the events of the day.

Perhaps, in that light, the most intriguing thing to watch out for might be an indication on the number of Oireachtas committees, apparently due this week. The last Oireachtas had 24, plus three standing committees – apparently we should expect that number to fall to 14.


Questions to the Taoiseach at 2:30pm will see Enda no doubt answering more questions about whether Ireland can afford to wait any longer for a cut in its bailout interest rate – and how much the developing Portuguese situation is likely to affect any moves to change it. One of the leftover questions from last week is one on whether the government’s support arrangement with Michael Lowry is still in place – one to listen out for perhaps.

New health minister James Reilly will take questions at 3:15pm; given the delay between tabling questions and getting the response, we can probably expect to hear questions about the future of the National Paediatric Hospital given the resignation of its chairman – the second such resignation in six months.

The 20-minute theatre of Leaders Questions (4:15pm) and the aforementioned Order of Business, followed then by continued Second Stage discussion on the Postal Services Bill – ‘the one with the postcodes’ until 7pm.

At 7pm, then, we’ll have Fianna Fáil’s alloted slot of private members’ time; despite the party’s publication this week of a political donations bill that would all but outlaw corporate donations to businesses, the party is spending its time discussing an ice cream motion (everybody likes ice cream) calling for education to be made a priority area for future budgets. Discussion on that stops at 8:30pm for adjournment matters, before home time.


Leaders’ Questions at 10:30am, Order of Business for half an hour at 10:51am, more low-octane Taoiseach’s questions at 11:21am and then 85 minutes of statements on the last meeting of the European Council (more Portugal, then).

If there’s any time left after that – and the timetable should leave about ten minutes, maximum, before lunch at 1:30pm – there’ll be discussion on committee stage of the Road Traffic Bill, which is housekeeping, and even more discussion on the Postal Services Bill. Discussion on those bills resumes at 3:45pm, after 75 minutes of ministerial questions from agriculture minister Simon Coveney.

At 7pm discussion will once again turn back to Fianna Fáil’s fruitlessly futile education motion – which, as it happens, serves to do little but glorify its own education record in government – until adjournments at 8:30pm.


It’s rather like last week: Order of Business at 10:30am, resumption of last week’s statements on suicide prevention, and then some discussion on a miscellaneous Environment Bill – a hangover from John Gormley’s era in the brief now occupied by Phil Hogan, which continues until 3:30pm.

Thereafter lies another peculiar hangover from the last government. The current ministerial rota inherited from the last government assigns this Thursday’s slot of questions to the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs. Since Enda Kenny changed the makeup of the cabinet briefs, however, there is no such minister – nor is there any such department, because the brief was so heavily segregated.

The three policy briefs from the Department have all been assigned to other departments entirely: Community now resides in Environment with Phil Hogan, Equality has been absorbed into Alan Shatter’s Department of Defence, and Gaeltacht Affairs has returned to its former parent brief of Arts under Jimmy Deenihan. Not only that, but there are also two junior ministers around – Kathleen Lynch, who takes care of equality, and Gaeltacht minister Dinny McGinley.

We could, theoretically, see five members of cabinet lined up to take questions – or, of course, the government will inevitably choose a minister from another brief entirely to answer some questions.

A strangely anticlimactic end to what is unlikely to be a particularly gripping week.