Today in Leinster House: September 27, 2012

THE NEWS of Roisin Shortall’s resignation as junior health minister is likely to cast a dark shadow on the day – particularly as its her former line minister taking today’s parliamentary questions. What’s more, with Eamon Gilmore away, it’ll have to be another Labour minister who takes the morning batch of Leaders’ Questions.

Also plenty more ingredients in today’s parliamentary stew…

9:30am – Committee on Health and Children – Room 2 plays host to Pat O’Mahony, the head of the Irish Medicines Board, who will offer members an insight into the role his body plays in the regulation of drug usage.

10:00am – Public Accounts Committee – The Dáil’s most powerful committee gets back together in Room 1, nearly three months after its last meeting, to scrutinise one of the summer’s hot topics: spending at the country’s colleges. The heads of Trinity, UCD, DCU and Waterford IT – whose former president was noted for his relative profligacy – will be in situ.

10:00am – Committee on Transport and Communications – It’s a wide-ranging menu in Room 4, however, as members meet the incoming heads of the New Ross and Galway harbour companies, before hearing from Pat Rabbitte, Mary Curtis (the national director of the digital switchover) and RTÉ’s Network Business Manager, Michael Keogh, to hear about the progress in switching over to Saorview – with the final switch-off of the analogue TV network now just a mere 27 days away.

10:30am – Leaders’ Questions – The impact of Róisín Shortall’s resignation is likely to be the chief talking point. Eamon Gilmore ordinarily takes Thursday questions, but he’s at the UN – so it’s up to another Labour minister to take the salvos from the leaders on opposite sides.

10:30am – Order of Business – The Seanad begins its brief day – which features only one item anyway – with a 75-minute discussion on what they should talk about.

10:51am – Order of Business – TDs get a mere 20 minutes to discuss their own agenda for the day’s discussions…

11:11am – 31st Amendment of the Constitution (second stage resumed) – …before setting in for the final six (!) hours of general debate on the children’s rights referendum. There’s a half-hour break at 1pm for lunch, but otherwise the single topic will carry members right up to 8pm (that is, if there’s enough people who want to speak).

11:45am – Statements on Smarter Travel – Public transport minister Alan Kelly heads across the corridor for the only event of the day, a discussion on ‘smarter travel’.

1:30pm – Matters on the Adjournment – With that done, three matters of topical importance are mentioned before the Seanad breaks for the weekend.

2:00pm – Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform – Room 3 will play host to the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, the five-member body appointed to offer independent advice on Ireland’s fiscal situation. Last week they issued a quarterly report advocating a bigger-than-strictly-necessary Budget adjustment, trying to get the government to push through all its cuts at once so that Ireland’s recovery might begin a little bit sooner. Today they’re present to explain why that’s their idea.

8:00pm – Topical Issues – Four burning issues get 12 minutes’ airing in the Dáil…

8:42pm – Questions (Minister for Health) – …before James Reilly appears – obviously now without Róisín Shortall beside him – to take the last business of the day: his written parliamentary questions. Among the matters up for discussion are the addition of new areas to primary care centres, a national bowel cancer screening programme, outpatient waiting lists, and unregulated denture providers.

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