Today in Leinster House: February 1, 2012

There are some marquee moments in all sides today, with interesting topics in the committees to supplement marquee votes in the Seanad and a major discussion on that possible referendum in the Dáil.

9:30am – Jobs, Social Protection and Education – The Wednesday begins, as it tends to, with the Jobs and Education committee on room 3. They have a busy day – discussing the future of guidance counsellors in secondary schools and the modern languages programme in primary schools, before then discussing plans for a European directive on criminal sanctions for insider trading.

9:30am – Penal Reform – This five-member sub-committee of the Justice committee, chaired by FG’s David Stanton, is spending its day hearing input on proposals for the reform of penalties for criminals. In their morning session in room 2, they’ll hear from the Irish Prisons Service and the Probation Service.

10:30am – Leaders’ Questions – The main event of the morning will see Enda Kenny return to fight off the barbs of Micheál Martin, Gerry Adams and a leader from the technical group.

10:30am – Order of Business – The Seanad’s day begins with its usual 75-minute discussion on all things topical.

10:30am – Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht – Over in room 4, the entire pre-lunch session is devoted to an intensive discussion on the effects of fuel laundering. The session begins with feedback from the IFA and agricultural contractors, before petrol retailers are in at 11:25am. Then, at 12:10pm, Department officials and the Revenue discuss the taxation impact.

10:51am – Order of Business – Once Leaders’ Questions are taken care of, TDs will sign off on the day’s agenda, airing any grievances they have at some absences.

11:21am – Statements post European Council – The main item of the Dáil’s day is an 85-minute discussion on the outcomes of last Monday’s European Union summit – and the navel-gasing as to whether we’ll need a referendum on the deal.

11:45am – Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2011 [Seanad] (Dáil amendments) – The Seanad’s main item, meanwhile, will be signing off on the Dáil’s amendments for its bill requiring mandatory inspection of septic tanks. A vote will be taken at 1:15pm if not beforehand. Once it’s done, the Bill will be rushed to the President for his signature.

12:46pm – Statements re Health Service Plan – The rest of the Dáil’s day is tied up with debate on James Reilly’s new Health Service Plan, which aims to have all elective surgical waiting lists cut to nine months by the end of the year, and to have all A&E wards deal with patients within nine hours (though 95% of them will have to be addressed within six hours). Possibly because of the positive impacts for the government, most of the day will be devoted to it.

1:15pm – Statements and Q&A on Local Government Reform – Once his bill on septic tanks has been passed, Phil Hogan will settle down for a more routine session of statements and questions on his plans for changing the format of Ireland’s local government.

2:30pm – Questions (Minister for Finance) – Michael Noonan’s parliamentary questions always make for interesting listening. In light of the current debates about the promissory notes and the likes, today’s will be no different. The scripted questions ask him how long it will take Ireland to comply with the new European Council deal on debt limits, the use of the NPRF to create jobs, downgraded economic forecasts from the IMF and the threats to an export-led recovery.

2:30pm – Penal Reform – Continuing its hearings in room 2, members hear from Care after Prison, the Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders, and the Inspector of Prisons on how penal servitude might be reformed in Ireland.

3:45pm – Topical Issues – TDs get to hold ministers to account on four of the day’s burning issues. Each topic gets 12 minutes’ discussion.

4:00pm – Private Members’ Business [Fine Gael] – Motion on planning for strategic infrastructure – Fine Gael’s private time in the Seanad is devoted to a lengthy motion trying to spruce up the general planning rules for projects of major strategic importance.

4:33pm – as 12:46pm – More debate on the Department of Health’s Health Service Plan.

6:00pm – Matters on the Adjournment – Once the Fine Gael motion has been dealt with, the Seanad discusses four matters of political importance to its members before the evening draws to a close.

7:30pm – Private Members’ Business [Fianna Fáil] – Motion re Small Primary Schools – This week’s private time falls to Fianna Fáil, who have tabled a motion focussing on the Budget’s impacts on small schools. Their motion calls on the government to protect schools with 1, 2, 3 and 4 teachers, and recognise the disproportionate impact that Budget cutbacks will have on smaller schools. Debate will wrap up at 9pm, when members vote on Ruairí Quinn’s pro-government amendment, and therefore on the amended motion.

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