The Government has been accused of pulling a “highly disrespectful bureaucratic stroke” by blocking a Fianna Fáil bill on judicial appointments at the last minute.
The Fine Gael led minority has been accused of “subverting” the work of the Oireachtas to placate Transport Minister Shane Ross, who has refused to allow appointments be made until new rules are introduced.
Members said the stroke made a mockery of the “new politics”.
The joint Oireachtas justice committee became embroiled in heated exchanges yesterday after the Government prevented Fianna Fáil legislation from proceeding to committee stage.
With no prior notice, the committee was told it could not proceed with Jim O’Callaghan’s Judicial Appointments Commission Bill because it involves a charge to the taxpayer, which the Opposition can’t impose.
Despite the committee, including government members, previously agreeing to allow the bill to proceed, yesterday Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said the O’Callaghan bill would not proceed. She told the committee she would be bringing a bill forward next week.
The Government had opposed the second stage of the legislation in the Dáil but didn’t vote against it.
Mr O’Callaghan, the Fianna Fáil justice spokesman, said: “I think it is an act of extreme disrespect to this elect committee, it is an act of disrespect by the executive branch of this Government and to the legislature and I just think it is important that that dissatisfaction be put on the record, and I think it needs to be described for what it is, this is a stroke by the Government trying to stop the Oireachtas doing their job and introducing legislation.”
Mr O’Callaghan disputed the issue raised by Fine Gael saying any charge to the taxpayer would be minimal, and this was a cover.
He said the Government’s decision to block his bill placed the committee in a difficult position, adding it was an act of utter disrespect.
Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy sought to defend the Government’s move to block the bill saying it was deeply flawed.
However, he was rounded upon by Opposition members who said they could not remember members raising any objections at the earlier stages.
Independents4Change TD Clare Daly said she was “really shocked” when she heard that the bill was being blocked without notice. She labelled the move as an “outrageous bureaucratic manoeuvre” which made an “absolute mockery” of the committee’s work.
Committee chairman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin also made his displeasure known to the Tánaiste as to the manner of the bill’s blocking, saying there must be a two-way street.
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