Today in Leinster House: September 20, 2011

With last week’s Dáil and Seanad sessions being relatively curtailed, the full business of the Oireachtas only truly gets back into shape this week – though, by the Dáil’s new self-professed standards, even this week isn’t a ‘full’ one, with no Friday sitting set for the time being.

Nonetheless, today there are some interesting bits and pieces going on this afternoon…

2pm – Questions (Minister for Equality and Justice): Because Alan Shatter’s two ministerial briefs aren’t being merged, with his two departments staying separate for the time being, he still has two separate stints of ministerial questions. This week, unusually, they come one day after the other. In this, his first batch of the new term, he’ll face questions on the imminent retirement of up to 1,200 gardai; white collar crime; and upgrading IT systems in courts.

2pm – Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture: Putting on its natural resources hat, the committee discusses the Sustainable Energy Authority’s strategic plan for 2010 to 2015. Room 3.

2pm – Jobs, Social Protection and Education: The committee discusses the future of the Further Education sector, before hearing what the VEC association has to say about its own future and the proposals to rationalise the number of VECs here. In some ways, the timing of the meeting is unfortunate, given what’s coming up in the Seanad at 3:45pm. Room 2.

2.30pm – Order of Business: The Seanad spends 75 minutes essentially doing whatever it likes. Always some fireworks.

2.30pm – Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht: A classic example of where committees discuss things of genuine contemporary importance, the committee hears input from the Dept of Communications, mining company Tamboran Resources, and An Taisce over the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) versus other ways of mining natural gas. Room 4.

3:15pm – Leaders’ Questions – The first batch of leaders’ questions of the week will see Enda Kenny fend off attacks from Micheál Martin, Gerry Adams and Joe Higgins on whatever topics they deem the most appropriate.

3:36pm – Questions (Taoiseach) – Having gotten the scripted stuff out of the way, it’s then back to the more anticipated attacks. Today they include questions about the appointment of the Second Secretary to his department, the progress in setting up a mini-Department of the Tánaiste, and for an update in the number of staff he employs.

3:45pm – Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Bill 2011 (second stage): Seanad leader Maurice Hayes, on behalf of the Minister for Education, debuts the bill which proposes to merge the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, the Higher Education and Training Awards Council and the Further Education and Training Awards Council into the all-encompassing Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland. It’s not likely to be heavily contested, with the merger having been one of those proposed by the previous government a few years back.

4:36pm – Order of Business: The government outlines its legislative plans for the week, and the opposition poke a few holes in the items that are missing.

5:06pm – Topical Issues: The first batch of contemporary topics last week became a little farcical, the second batch was actually elegantly handled. Best of three: will this week’s sessions be seen as flexible enough for backbench TDs? Four topics are discussed with 12 minutes for each.

5:45pm – Matters on the Adjournment: The Seanad’s own version of topical issues – the less time-restricted Matters on the Adjournment – sees senators bring up matters close to their hearts.

5:54pm – Thirtieth Amendment to the Constitution (Houses of the Oireachtas Inquiry) Bill 2011: Debate concludes on the bill calling a referendum in response to the Abbeylara ruling. TDs have an hour to get their last words in.

6:54pm – European Financial Stability Facility (Amendment) Bill and Euro Area Loan Facility (Amendment) Bill 2011 (second stage): The first appearance of what will be the most important bill of the week. This bill has a few functions – including Ireland’s signing-off on the second bailout for Greece – while it also sets aside €5bn of additional exchequer funding to be forwarded to the European Financial Stability Fund, on top of the €7.5bn already set aside. It’ll be pushed through both houses this week.

7:30pm – Private Members’ Business (Sinn Féin): SF uses its first PMB of the new term to table a bill opposing the government’s plan to sale of the ESB, and generally outlining its opposition to the sale of any state-held asset for the benefit of the IMF. This is the first of two sessions, with the final vote tomorrow evening.

9:00pm – as 6.54pm – TDs hold another hour of debate on the Bailout Bill before calling it a night at 10pm.

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

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