The Dáil rose yesterday and will not return until March 20, as ministers will travel to various countries to attend St Patrick’s Day festivities next week.
Labour deputy leader Liz McManus said St Patrick’s Day fell on a Saturday and argued there was therefore no good reason to cancel a whole week of Dáil activity.
“It does not take a week to travel anywhere in the world today,” she said. “I am not aware that it takes a week for ministers to do their packing.”
Green Party chairman John Gormley claimed the Government was taking a break to attend “horse racing”, a reference to next week’s Cheltenham festival.
Both Fine Gael deputy leader Richard Bruton and Sinn Féin TD Aengus O Snodaigh said that the Government was rushing through crucial legislation that could be properly debated and analysed if the Dáil sat next week.
But Tánaiste Michael McDowell responded: “It has been the case for many years that the State takes advantage of the fact that the St Patrick’s Day festival is celebrated across the globe in order to project the good aspects of Ireland, avail of goodwill towards this country and represent Irish interests at events organised abroad.
“There is an undoubted and major dividend to the economy, the State and the Irish community overseas as a result of the Government taking the festival seriously. The deputies opposite will appreciate that although St Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday, most ministers will be obliged to attend a number of events in the days beforehand at the locations to which they are travelling.”