The Dáil will sit this Thursday, despite objections from both TDs and civil servants.
The chamber will sit from 2pm to 5pm on Friday, with Health Minister Simon Harris and Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty each taking a 90-minute session of statements. The Dáil Business Committee made the decision this afternoon.
The Dáil has been operating under social distancing rules for the last two weeks, meaning just one-third of TDs can be present in the chamber, but Thursday’s sitting will not see any votes or debate on any new legislation.
This has led to some TDs arguing that it is non-essential, with concerns also being raised by senior civil servants about both the optics and logistics of bringing staff and legislators into Leinster House at a time when the country is in a period of severely restricted movement.
It is understood that senior civil servants impressed upon the committee their desire that the sitting not go ahead to protect staff at Leinster House, but that it was felt that the statements will allow for some oversight to the emergency Covid-19 legislation and its implementation since passing last week.
The Labour Party has said that it will not be sending TDs to Dáil Éireann as there is provision for statements to laid before the house. Its TDs Alan Kelly and Ged Nash will instead send their statements and release subtitled videos on social media.
A statement from the party said the sitting would place “an unnecessary burden” on staff.
“The Labour Parliamentary Party has agreed that our TDs would not attend the sitting of the Dáil for statements on Thursday as it is non-essential business and not legislation that was being proposed.
"They will instead support the national effort to stay at home, and not place an unnecessary burden on the Oireachtas staff, and staff of those departments who are working heroically to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak and it’s social and economic impact.”
Privately, some TDs have said that while they disagree with the decision, they will attend.