A row has erupted in the Dáil over the amount of holidays TDs will take this summer.
The Taoiseach announced at a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting this week that the Dáil will rise on July 7 and will not return for around three months.
However, yesterday Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said no date has been yet set after the suggestion of taking extended leave sparked anger amongst opposition TDs who pointed out that the Dáil had not sat for an extended period during government formation negotiations.
Enda Kenny told his party colleagues on Wednesday night that a longer than usual break would be taken to allow vital renovations to be carried out in Leinster House.
Speaking in the Dáil, Sinn Féin’s Mary-Lou McDonald said it would be “absolutely unthinkable” to rise early and not return until September. This was echoed by Fianna Fáil’s Michael Moynihan who asked how a break of around three months could be justified: “How can that be justified with the amount of work required and the amount of business that needs to go before the Dáil concerning a whole variety of urgent areas that I could mention?”
Ms McDonald said that if works need to be done in the chamber, alternative accommodation should be sourced and she suggested the Round Room in the Mansion House as an appropriate venue.
She added: “Having stalled for 10 weeks while there were negotiations and no small amount of sham battling between different parties, it would be absolutely unthinkable that the House would rise on 7 July and not return until the end of September. We cannot have a situation where we are barely in and just about off to a spluttering start with Dáil business and then we go into recess again. There are too many serious issues to be dealt with.”
However, Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl moved to clarify the matter by stating that “no decision whatsoever” has been made as to when the Dáil will rise.
He said: “It is my understanding that while there is important work to be undertaken, such work would not require the House to raise on 7 July.”
The Tánaiste said the summer recess is a matter for the Dáil: “We have a Dáil reform programme and a new business committee that will examine this issue and, no doubt, will make a recommendation to the Dáil.”
Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan said TDs would not have appropriate time for legislation if a lengthy break is taken over the summer. “While other work needs to be done around the House, could we not sit in the Chamber while this work is being carried out and find accommodation, if necessary, for us in other places?” she asked.
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