Today in Leinster House: September 14, 2011

Back in the big leagues today: there’s been three weeks of committee meetings already, but today the big business gets underway as the Dáil and Seanad both get back from their summer break.

It’s not just routine business either – there’s the small matter of a constitutional amendment to get through the Dáil today…

9:30am – Jobs, Social Protection and Education – In at work a good five hours before anyone else, the jobs committee hears suggestions and reports from officials at Richard Bruton’s Jobs department. They’ll be discussing initiatives for job creation and business start-up schemes, before getting onto the thorny issue of changing the funding for County Enterprise Boards. This is in Committee Room 3 – stream links are at the bottom of this post.

2pm – Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform – Easily the most prolific committee in terms of summer recess meetings, the finance committee continues its hearings on the future of the economy and the banking sector. There might be some pantomime booing today: in attendance will be David Hodgkinson, the chairman of AIB, and Bank of Ireland’s chief executive Richie Boucher. Room 4 – links, again, at the bottom.

2:30pm – Questions (Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources) – Pat Rabbitte is the first minister up to take questions in the new term, answering questions on offshore explorations, proposals to sell ESB, and the development of a biomass industry in Ireland.

2:30pm – Order of Business – Meanwhile, the Seanad will be getting back to business with a far more unscripted session, as a rowdy and restless upper house does its best to make an impact on its first day after the holidays. 75 minutes of bombast and anarchy.

3pm – Investigation, Oversight and Petitions – One of the newer Dáil committees, the oversight committee hasn’t had much of a chance to find its feet yet – so Brendan Howlin will be sitting in to talk it through its terms of reference. That, again, is in room 3.

3:45pm – ‘Innovation at the heart of the jobs challenge’ – Seasoned Oireachtas watchers will know that the Seanad’s schedule is largely dictated by that of the Dáil: when urgent legislation is sent upstairs, the Seanad has to drop everything to take care of it. With the Dáil only getting back on its feet now, though, there’s not quite so much to work through – so instead the Senators will be having a two-hour discussion on how Ireland’s going to sort out its unemployment crisis. (After that, they’ll break for the day.)

3:45pm – Topical Issues – This is the main change to the Dáil agenda under new standing orders introduced late in the last term. The Dáil has long been accused of being out of touch with the public at large, debating the abstract while more pressing daily issues went untouched. In response to this, the previous ‘Matters for the Adjournment’ has been shifted forward to the middle of the day, with time for discussion on three or four issues. The relevant minister will be required to attend in each occasion.

4:33pm – Leaders’ Questions – After the Topical Issues comes the main theatre of the day: the first batch of Leaders’ Questions of the new term. Micheál Martin and Gerry Adams – fresh from their think-in and Árd-Fheis respectively – will see what punches they can land on Enda Kenny in the first batch of unscripted Q-A of the year.

4:54pm – Order of Business – Thereafter comes a little epilogue where TDs will agree on the rest of the week’s business. The chances are that there’ll be some complaints about the relatively small notice being given for a bill coming up tomorrow, more of which we’ll tell you about then. There’ll also be a couple of miscellaneous motions, changing the rota for ministerial questions and sending a budget vote to a committee.

5:24pm – Twenty-Ninth Amendment to the Constitution (Judges’ Remuneration) Act 2011 – This, though it probably won’t garner as many headlines, is actually the biggest piece of action for the day. The Dáil will debate and pass (presumably) all stages of the bill that’ll lead to the referendum on October 27 – amending the constitution so that judges’ pay can be cut in line with that of other public servants. There aren’t any high-profile voices to oppose the bill, but if one should emerge, it could make for interesting viewing.

7:30pm – Private Members’ Business (FF) – Fianna Fáil gets the first opposition time of the new term, putting in a motion on the potential reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy – and calling on the government to make its position clearer.

9pm – as 5:24pm – If there’s anyone who hasn’t had their tuppence-worth of input on the referendum bill, they’ll get their chance between 9pm and 10pm, afterwhich the Dáil breaks for the day.

As always, all of the day’s business can be viewed on the streams:

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