Micheál Martin seeks cut to small parties’ speaking rights

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has called for key speaking rights for smaller parties to be cut, despite the move being central to Dáil reforms sought by his party after the general election.

Mr Martin outlined the request in a letter to the Oireachtas sub-committee on Dáil reform this week, saying the current situation is unfair on parties which have more TDs elected.

In the aftermath of the February general election, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil agreed to implement a series of Dáil reforms in order to address long-term issues in how parliament works.

The moves — which included more family-friendly hours, Friday sittings, and greater speaking rights — were seen as central to necessary improvements in parliament.

However, in a letter to the sub-committee on Dáil reform on Tuesday, seen by the Irish Examiner, Mr Martin said while the developments should be welcomed there are difficulties with how the new speaking time arrangements are affecting larger parties such as his own.

“I do not think it is fair that when the Dáil is doing statements that I, as leader of the main opposition party, get the same time allotted as Sinn Féin, Labour, Social Democrats, Green Party, AAA-PBP, as well as other groupings.

“The speaking rotation should be calculated on a pro rata basis... as in previous standing orders,” wrote Mr Martin.

He said a rule change would allow “more legislation to be debated” and help the Dáil perform more work during its day.

His request was criticised by a number of smaller opposition parties yesterday, who claimed it was a U-turn on previous reform plans and said it will unfairly limit their own speaking time.

The situation emerged as the separate Dáil business committee met yesterday to address the fallout from calamitous scenes on Tuesday when plans for parliament to take next week off were agreed in private before being voted down in public.

Under moves that nine of the 11 business committee members insisted were ratified last week, the group had planned for the Dáil to break for mid-term next week on the proviso it would sit for longer in December.

This was designed to make Dáil hours more family friendly. However, while nine of the committee members insisted Fianna Fáil did not object, Mr Martin led a revolt on the schedule during a Dáil debate on Tuesday, saying it would send out “the wrong message”.

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