Today in Leinster House: October 10, 2012

IT’S AN UNUSUAL day in the Oireachtas today – even though the Dáil is discussing a bill to legally limit the budget deficit, with a Budget only weeks away, the biggest topics of the day are in committee meetings.

9:30am – Committee on Transport and Communications – We begin with a topic which always provokes quite an emotive response: gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing, better known as ‘fracking’. Room 4 will play host to Department officials and industry experts who will discuss the environmental implications of the novel extraction mechanism.

10:00am – Committee on Education and Social Protection – Another topical matter is the difficulties of back-to-school costs. Representatives of interested bodies – including the Catholic Primary School Management Association; An Fóras Pátrúnachta; Educate Together; Church of Ireland; and IVEA – will convene in Room 3 to discuss the cost of ‘free education’.

10:30am – Leaders’ Questions – The marquee event of the morning will see Enda Kenny step up to bat away the curveballs of Micheál Martin, Gerry Adams and the technical group.

10:30pm – Order of Business – The Seanad begins its day with the 75-minute free-for-all where members can say what’s on their mind…

10:51am – Order of Business – …though the slightly more constrictive format of the Dáil means the 30-minute chat will have far less vigour.

11:21am – Fiscal Responsibility Bill 2012 (second stage resumed) – The morning’s business is wrapped up with continued debate on the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, which – following on from the Fiscal Compact – puts a legal limit on the size of a Budget deficit that Ireland can run.

11:45am – Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (Amendment) Bill 2012 (second stage) – The Seanad’s morning is guided by slightly less hectic legislation: a bill which will transfer official responsibility for translation services away from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and over to the Oireachtas, which is considered an appropriately apolitical body.

2:00pm – Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform – Another committee meeting in Room 1 will likely raise tempers, and could dictate the news agenda for a couple of days: reps from the Central Bank, Department of Finance and Grant Thornton will discuss the shortfalls at Quinn Insurance and the impact it’ll have on the State’s Insurance Compensation Fund – which in turn means higher premiums for the punter.

2:30pm – Questions (Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform) – While that’s going on, Brendan Howlin will back in the Dáil answering questions on further voluntary redundancies in the public sector, the review of public service allowances, jobs to be created by the stimulus plan, and his views on increment payments to staff already earning over €100,000.

2:30pm – Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill 2012 (committee stage) – In the Seanad, meanwhile, James Reilly is back to deal with proposed amendments to legislation which will abolish the board of the HSE, ahead of the abolition of the body outright in the coming years.

2:30pm – Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade – In Room 1 there’s another meeting which could raise eyebrows. Ordinarily an engagement with the Iranian ambassador would be quite tame; throw in the fact that we shut our embassy in Tehran last year and it may get a bit more complex.

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

4:30pm – Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions – Last week’s meeting was called off, but today in Room 3 we’ll get to see what petitions have been submitted by the public before now, and what might be done about them. Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly will also be along to brief members on her annual report for 2011, while members will also deal with proposed amendments to her brief which include expanding it to cover other government departments.

4:33pm – as 11:21am – More chat on the Fiscal Responsibility Time. There’s not likely to be time, but if the chat is done before 7:30pm, there’ll be time for statements on philanthropy in the arts.

5:00pm – Private Members’ Business [Fianna Fáil] – Motion on Health Services – The wonders of scheduling mean Fianna Fáil gets the private time in both the Dáil and Seanad; the Seanad motion is a bit more topical than its Dáil counterpart, and deals with James Reilly’s mismanagement of the health service. Realistically there’s no hope of the motion being carried – all the motion hopes to do is drive a wedge between Fine Gael and Labour.

7:00pm – Matters on the Adjournment – Three matters of daily importance will be discussed at the conclusion before the night ends.

7:30pm – Private Members’ Business [Fianna Fáil] – Motion re Agriculture – The Dáil motion is a slightly less tabloid headline-grabbing motion from Eamon O Cuiv, whose motion discusses the role of the Agri-Environment Options Scheme and also calls on the government to address rising diesel prices. There’s a vote at 9pm.

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