LATEST: Ruth Coppinger will not stand for morning Dáil prayer

UPDATE 1.15pm: A left-wing TD says she will not stand up during the Dáil prayer - now that the rules are being changed to require it.

Rules are today being rewritten to include 30 seconds of silence after the prayer - but members are now also required to stand up.

Most TDs already do so, irrespective of their religion, because it also marks the arrival of the Ceann Comhairle.

But Ruth Coppinger says the rules should NOT force TDs to stand up for a prayer they're not taking part in.

"I think we have to separate church and state and that's kind of obvious with all the things we've been discussing.

"I don't think that this 30-second reflection is bit silly. It hasn't stopped them enforcing austerity, and it hasn't stopped them savaging loan parents."

EARLIER: Half of the Cabinet has yet to put through a single piece of legislation, a year after the Government’s formation, writes Elaine Loughlin.

“Internal angst” in Fine Gael has been blamed for “weak” law-making.

Six ministers, as well as the Taoiseach, have failed to put through any legislation since the Fine Gael-Independent Alliance minority government was formed on May 6 last year.

Ministers in the Departments of Education, Agriculture, Arts, Children, Foreign Affairs, and Jobs have not enacted any bills.

Other departments, including Health, Housing, and Justice, have only managed several pieces of legislation.

LATEST: Ruth Coppinger will not stand for morning Dáil prayer

While opposition parties have put forward many private members’ motions, which they hope to get into law, none have so far been passed and there are 140 pieces of legislation at different stages in the slow-moving system.

Opposition parties have again hit out at Government for enacting just 23 bills in a “do-nothing Dáil”.

The Government is to review the system of “new politics” after the Easter break. All sides accept that the system is not working and a massive backlog of legislation has been piling up.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin branded the Government legislative programme “weak”, claiming they “haven’t been assertive enough and they are not leading from the front, in relation to legislation”.

“Fundamentally, it’s up to government to lead on the policy front and lead on the legislative front, and government hasn’t been leading.

“I think part of the problem has been the internal angst from within Fine Gael from the get-go. Fine Gael were not happy with forming the minority government, even though they were getting all the lion’s share of the posts and positions, and at the fact that Fianna Fáil were facilitating that.

“Then, you had the angst of losing so many seats in the election and then they turned on their leader. They have been sniping at their leader, the Taoiseach, for quite some time,” Mr Martin said.

Mr Martin said “there is no point passing legislation that is not getting anywhere”.

“Some of the parties are exploiting it and they are just putting down motions that they know will never see the light of day and are not going to happen immediately. There has to be give-and-take on all sides to make the Dáil work.”

This was echoed by Government chief whip, Regina Doherty, who said a review would go ahead after the Dáil resumes.

She suggested restricting parties to having a certain number of bills in the system at one time. “There is definitely a need for a review, so we can actually look at the bits that have worked and the bits that have not worked,” she said.

Ms Doherty also said the amount of time allocated to government has decreased in this Dáil, meaning less time to press ahead with legislation.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said that because of the minority government, it is inevitably harder to get legislation through. “The new Dáil procedures, like pre-legislative scrutiny by committees, also makes it slower. I don’t think this a bad thing, though. Bad law is rushed through; good law is examined properly and reflected on.

“I don’t think, however, parliamentary procedures are the main cause of Dáil delays. Rather, it’s delays getting things drafted. I think we need to scale up our legislative capacity in government to improve this,” he said.

Describing it as a “do- nothing Dáil”, Labour leader Brendan Howlin said legislation has “all but ground to a halt”, yet government business regularly finishes early.

“Important laws are being delayed, as the Government is worried they might be amended. And anything controversial is sent to a special committee or for extended consultation,” Mr Howlin said.

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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