The practicalities of a vote for new Taoiseach amid Covid-19 restrictions

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar takes part in a photocall to promote the wearing of facemasks on public transport in Dublin city centre. Picture: Press Association
The practicalities of a vote for new Taoiseach amid Covid-19 restrictions
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar takes part in a photocall to promote the wearing of facemasks on public transport in Dublin city centre. Picture: Press Association
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar takes part in a photocall to promote the wearing of facemasks on public transport in Dublin city centre. Picture: Press Association

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will still call a special sitting of the Dáil this weekend if the coalition pact is rejected.

The meeting would still proceed with a vote for a new Taoiseach while parties would be asked together to approve 11 Seanad members to complete the Upper House in order to pass urgent laws.

However, if the proposed coalition pact is agreed this Friday, just the vote for Taoiseach will go ahead at the specially convened meeting in Dublin’s convention centre.

Strict Covid-19 limits for the proposed vote for Taoiseach will result in a ban on diplomats and the general public attending the special Dáil vote amid severe restrictions on numbers.

The Dail's business committee today agreed on special seating arrangements for the vote, which will see all 160 TDs gather in the larger convention centre to vote for a new Taoiseach on Saturday.

Government whip, Seán Kyne, said outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is still inclined to arrange the special sitting even if the coalition pact fails on Friday.

The coalition deal is being voted on by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens. The committee yesterday set strict rules in place for the unique event, which is taking place at the centre to allow for social distancing measures.

A Dáil motion to allow for the special Dáil Saturday sitting to be formally approved by the Taoiseach on Friday is set to be tabled today.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl laid out the restrictions to party whips today. Access to the centre will be strictly limited and there will be no general public access possible, due to health and safety restrictions. Even members of the Seanad and the European Parliament will have to view proceedings in party rooms in the building.

Strict limitations are also being put on party staff to attend the centre, who will also have to watch the event from rooms.

A distinguished visitors' gallery has been set up. But seating is extremely limited due to social distancing requirements and it is expected that demand will outstrip the number of seats. Furthermore, this will be a ticket-only area and limitations will include five seats for the proposed incoming Taoiseach Micheál Martin while there will only be three seats for outgoing members of government.

Seating for visitors is so limited that there will only be one visitor seat each for the Labour Party, Social Democrats, Solidarity-PBP, Regional Group, Rural Independent Group, Independent Group;

Due to the limited seating capacity, there is no public gallery available.

If all goes to plan, a vote for the new Taoiseach will take place towards midday while, after a visit to Aras an Uachtarain, the new Cabinet would be unveiled to the Dáil at around 4pm.

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