Opposition plans 50% increase in Dáil’s sitting days

FINE Gael and Labour yesterday called for a 50% increase in the number of days of the year that the Dáil sits, as part of a joint policy programme on Dáil reform.

Party leaders Enda Kenny and Pat Rabbitte launched an agreed ten-point plan in Dublin yesterday, as they continued to roll out common policy proposals.

The key change recommended by both parties is that the Dáil sit for four days a week instead of three, and that recesses should be significantly shorter.

The current summer recess of three months would be slashed to two and breaks at Christmas and Easter would be significantly shorter.

Last year, the Dáil sat for only 92 days, one of the shortest sitting years in living memory. Both leaders pledged that their ten-point reform package would be implemented in full if Fine Gael and Labour were elected to government.

“These (reforms) are effective and do-able,” said Mr Kenny. “They are in the interest of better politics and governance.”

Mr Rabbitte said that facts were that “no government has reduced the sitting days as much as this (current) Government.

“The least likely place to have a major announcement is in the Dáil chamber,” he added.

Both parties want leaders questions to the Taoiseach to be allowed three days per week, not two; more time to be allocated to oral questions; written questions to be allowed during the summer recess and a new obligation to be placed on Ministers to answer questions properly and fully.

The Labour whip Emmet Stagg said that in negotiations about reform with the Government chief whip Tom Kitt, the issue of the Taoiseach appearing to answer leaders questions on Thursday proved to be a major road block.

He accepted that Labour agreed to the Taoiseach not appearing in the Dáil on Thursday as part of a deal struck under Ruairi Quinn’s leadership.

Mr Kitt last night described the opposition package as a “smokescreen” to disguise major policy differences between the Mullingar Accord parties.

“They have different views on Dublin transport. I also notice that Enda Kenny hasn’t supported Pat Rabbitte’s position on job displacement.

“Fianna Fail brought in leaders questions in the first instance. The Taoiseach spends far more time in the Dáil than other EU leaders. Tony Blair spends only 30 minutes a week in the Commons,” he said.

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