Dáil suspended amid row over speaking rights

A row in the Dáil over speaking time for independent TDs saw business for the day suspended as three deputies were ordered out of the chamber.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett was accused of “undermining” the speaking time and rights of the Technical Group, which is made up of 17 Independent TDs.

The dispute comes after the group was told that two former Fine Gael TDs, Lucinda Creighton and Peter Mathews, would now be allowed join the Technical Group, which will reduce the shared speaking time among its other members. Another independent TD, Mattie McGrath, has also been allowed join.

Mr Barrett suspended group TDs, Catherine Murphy, John Halligan and Thomas Pringle, from the chamber yesterday when they attempted to raise the matter during Dáil time.

Ms Murphy, the group’s whip, claimed the group was “being discriminated against” while Mr Halligan suggested there was “political interference” in the group.

The Technical Group was recently sent a letter from the assistant clerk of the Dáil which concluded that other TDs could join it. The group say this contradicts previous advice given to them by the parliament last year, and their own legal advice.

The Ceann Comhairle yesterday refused an appeal for the Taoiseach to intervene and mediate on the impasse, and said it was a matter for parliament, not government.

He said he was just “applying the rules”, and that if TDs wanted standing order rules changed, they should have them addressed at a committee level.

Mr Halligan responded: “The Ceann Comhairle is attempting to undermine the speaking time and rights of the Technical Group. He is attempting to appoint himself as chairperson of the group.”

After the three TDs were suspended, Mr Barrett said he had no choice but to adjourn business until today due to the row.

In a statement afterwards, the group said Mr Barrett had written to them saying he would “ignore speaker lists” provided by the group for the purposes of administrative functioning of the Dáil.

This would remove the group’s control over who speaks in the Dáil, TDs said.

Responding to the dispute, Environment Minister Alan Kelly said it would reflect badly on the parliament.


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