Today in Leinster House: October 3, 2012

THERE’LL BE a sense of carnival about today’s business in Leinster House, though it’s not likely to translate to those of us watching from a distance. Enda Kenny is leading a delegation of no fewer than 11 ministers, ten of them Cabinet attendees, to Brussels to discuss Ireland’s priorities for its presidency of the European Council.

Ruairi Quinn is the most senior of the five being left behind, so he’ll be the one presiding over business in the Dáil today.

10:00am – Committee on Education and Social Protection – Quinn’s business elsewhere means he’ll be absent from Room 3, as the education committee puts on its social protection hat to discuss the challenge of getting disabled people into the workforce, and entitlements for the self-employed.

10:30am – Leaders’ Questions – Not Ruairí Quinn’s first session of Leaders’ Questions in the lifetime of this Dáil; it’s his first on a Wednesday, however, meaning he’ll be locking horns with Micheál Martin, Gerry Adams and either Shane Ross or Richard Boyd-Barrett for the first time.

10:30am – Order of Business – Of equal spontaneity is the Seanad’s opening session, but there’s nothing unusual about it – it’s just the usual 75-minute free for all where members get to raise whatever they please.

10:51am – Order of Business – There follows a 30-minute discussion about what the Dáil should talk about…

11:21am – Healthcare and Social Care Professionals (Amendment) Bill 2012 (second stage resumed) – …before eventually they talk about what they were going to talk about anyway. Discussion resumes on James Reilly’s housekeeping amendments to previous laws which brush up the function and operation of medical organisations.

11:45am – 31st Amendment to the Constitution Bill 2012 (committee stage) – There are four proposed amendments to the Children’s Rights referendum wording; two (largely housekeeping) come from Sinn Féin and two from NUI independent Rónán Mullen whose proposals are slightly more substantive.

2:30pm – Questions (Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht) – Jimmy Deenihan is another of the ministers considered too unimportant to make the trip to Brussels; he is left behind to deal with queries on the merger of the National Library and National Archives, the role of the arts in making Dublin more competitive; hare coursing in Co Kerry and turf-cutting rights in the West.

2:30pm – Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade – Over in Room 1 members get a first-hand look at life post-Lisbon: the executive secretary-general of the European External Action Service, Pierre Vimont, is on hand to brief members on its work. (Spoiler alert: the EEAS is the global diplomatic corps/foreign military presence of the EU, created by the Treaty of Lisbon.)

3:30pm – ‘Statements on the Consultation Paper, ‘Radical Seanad Reform through Legislative Change’ – It probably says quite a bit about the current attitude of the Seanad towards its own abolition that FG’s Seanad leader Maurice Cummins let this onto the agenda at all. Enda Kenny has long said the reason the Seanad is being abolished is because there is no consensus on how to reform it. Today for two hours members will discuss proposals tabled by a panel of current and former members – including Katherine Zappone, Joe O’Toole, Feargal Quinn – as well as Michael McDowell and Noel Whelan, who put forward a platform for legislative change to reinvigorate the chamber. The government reaction will be interesting to read.

3:45pm – Topical Issues – Four newsworthy items are discussed for 12 minutes apiece – though with the mass ministerial exodus to Brussels, it’ll be interesting to see who’ll end up having to issue the government’s stock responses.

4:30pm – Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions – It’s an interesting meeting over in Room 3. The petitions committee – previously the investigations committee – was formed with the intent of being able to lead Oireachtas Inquiries. With that proposal kicked to touch in last year’s referendum, its focus is now on petitions. It launched its inelegant-but-functional petitions system a couple of weeks ago: today we find out what’s been submitted, and what’ll be done about it.

4:33pm – as 11:21am – Discussion continues on the legislation to update the health services. If there’s any time left, there’ll also be a discussion on the role of philanthropy in the arts.

5:30pm – 31st Amendment to the Constitution Bill 2012 (report stage) – Having considered the four amendments tabled later (read: ‘voted down’), there’ll be one last debate on the referendum bill before it’s sent off on its way. 

7:30pm – Private Members’ Business [Technical Group] – Motion re addition supports – At 7:30pm debate continues on Maureen O’Sullivan’s motion which notes that addiction problems cost twice as many lives as road traffic accidents, and calls on the government to prioritise addiction as a health issue and demand that prison programmes provide adequate supports for people with those problems. A vote on the government’s amendment will be taken at 9pm and the amended version thereafter.

7:30pm – Matters on the Adjournment – At the same time, there’ll be three topical matters discussed in the Seanad before the lights are turned out.

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