Today in Leinster House: April 25, 2012

A lengthy day of business across 13 hours, from committee business in the morning, through the Dáil’s consideration of contentious amendments to the Budget’s Social Welfare plans, and the Seanad wrapping up some other outstanding bills.

9:45am – Jobs, Social Protection and Innovation – Continuing last week’s overarching discussions on unemployment and particularly youth unemployment, members invite representatives from the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU) and the National Youth Council of Ireland pop into Room 3 to give their thoughts.

10:00am – Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture – In Room 4, members discuss a matter of importance to many in rural areas – the future of Ireland’s post office network – with An Post’s chief executive Donal Connell.

10:30am – Leaders’ Questions – Enda Kenny takes the usual televised attacks from Micheál Martin, Gerry Adams and the technical group.

10:30am – Order of Business – The Seanad begins its day with its standard 75-minute free-for-all allowing members to raise matters of varying prominence. 

10:30am – Jobs, Social Protection and Education – In Room 2, Sean O’Driscoll from Glen Dimplex Ireland offers his thoughts on how to combat unemployment and youth unemployment. In recent weeks he’s called for a national five-year pay freeze in order to help make Ireland more competitive. It’ll be interesting to see how that is received.

10:51am – Order of Business – TDs get 30 minutes to check up on the status of some of the government’s promised measures.

11:00am – Jobs, Social Protection and Innovation – A second meeting on youth unemployment in room 3 will see the managers of the Ballyfermot – Chapelizod Partnership and Ballyfermot Civic Centre discuss the roles they have taken to combat youth unemployment. They will be joined by the local area officer from Dublin City Council.

11:21am – Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2012 (committee and remaining stages) – The Dáil will spend the next two days considering opposition amendments to the Social Welfare bill, which gives legal effect to the Budget’s welfare measures. Among the most controversial will be one particular section which proposes to incrementally reduce the age a child must be in order for its parent to qualify for the One-Parent Family Allowance. Currently that age is 14; the Bill proposes to gradually lower it to 7. There will, at some point, be a vote on whether to include that section at all. 

11:30am – Health and Children – In Room 2, members hear from a member: former world 5000m champion Senator Eamonn Coghlan joins former Olympic silver medallist John Treacy, the chief executive of the Irish Sports Council, to discuss how sport can be used to help tackle childhood obesity.

11:45am – Competition (Amendment) Bill 2011 (committee stage) – With the Seanad awaiting the Dáil’s conclusion of the social welfare legislation, it busies itself by wrapping up other legislation that it hadn’t gotten around to finishing yet. This first one is a piece of Richard Bruton’s work which simply amplifies the powers of the Competition Authority.

2:00pm – Sub-committee on the Fiscal Compact Referendum – Having missed last week’s sessions from party leaders, Gerry Adams makes a delayed stop into the Fiscal Compact sub-committee (in room 3) to give Sinn Féin’s evidence on the effects of the treaty for Ireland.

2:30pm – Questions (Minister for Social Protection) – Joan Burton gets a breather from considering Dáil amendments to her Social Welfare bill in order to… oh, take parliamentary questions relating to precisely those. She’ll take questions on community employment schemes, adjustments to disability allowance, the Pathways to Work plan, and precisely how much childcare she thinks is sufficient in order to proceed with planned adjustments to the One-Parent Family Allowance.

2:30pm – Road Safety Authority (Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness) Bill 2012 [Seanad] (to conclude) – Leo Varadkar has the afternoon free, so he pops upstairs to conclude consideration of legislation which overhauls the standards commercial vehicles must maintain in order to be considered roadworthy. It’ll take an hour at maximum.

2:30pm – Foreign Affairs and Trade – With the Taoiseach in one committee meeting, the Tánaiste attends another – with Eamon Gilmore visiting the Foreign Affairs committee in Room 4 to offer a briefing on the aftermath of the last Global Irish Economic Forum in Farmleigh and where it has gotten us. (Expect some quips about Denis O’Brien’s attendance from some of the opposition members.)

3:30pm – Statements on Transport – Once Varadkar has gotten Senators to clear the legislation, he begins 90 minutes of general Seanad discussion on transport.

3:30pm – Finance (sub-committee) – Continuing the theme of ministers-asking-for-money-so-they-can-pay-themselves, Michael Noonan pops into Room 4 as members consider the budgets for the Department of Finance, the Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General, and the Revenue Commissioners.

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

4:33pm – as 11:21am – Debate continues on opposition amendments to the Social Welfare Bill, until 7:30pm.

5:00pm – Private Members’ Business [Fine Gael] – Motion on Nursing Tuition – Because the Seanad doesn’t recognise party affiliations, members have the unusual situation of considering private motions put forward by FG itself. The FG senators want the Minister for Health to make gerontology – the study of the physical, sociological and psychological effects of ageing – to be included in the next revision of the undergraduate Nursing course.

7:00pm – Matters on the Adjournment – Whenever that’s taken care of, the Seanad wraps up its day with the usual daily session of miscellaneous matters of general interest.

7:30pm – Private Members’ Business [Fianna Fáil] – Motorist Emergency Relief Bill 2012 (second stage) – The second 90 minutes of debate on Fianna Fáil’s legislation which is carefully calculated to force the government into a vote on whether to cut excise duties on motor fuel. The contentious debate will be called at 9pm.

9:00pm – as 11:21am – Debate once again resumes on a few opposition amendments to the Social Welfare Bill, with business shutting down for the day at 10pm.

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