Chambers accused of 'reading riot act' at Dáil Business Committee

Chambers accused of 'reading riot act' at Dáil Business Committee

New Chief Whip Jack Chambers was described by some of those present as having "an attitude problem" when he arrived at the meeting on Thursday morning. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

A Dáil Business committee meeting descended into "chaos" after the government was accused of stymying democracy.

Sources say the establishment of "essential" Oireachtas Committees is being prevented by the government, which continues to defer major decisions relating to how the committees are set up.

New Chief Whip Jack Chambers, who replaced Mayo TD Dara Calleary on Wednesday, was described by some of those present as having "an attitude problem" when he arrived at the meeting on Thursday morning before "reading the riot act", telling members that the government wanted to defer for another week.

The deferral means essential committees will not be set up before the Dáil goes into summer recess next week, and lasts until September.

For the last number of weeks members have been trying to get cooperation from the government on two issues; appointing chairs and how many members a committee will have.

It is understood Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy has proposed that the committees be made up of eight TDs and four Senators, as opposed to the previous makeup of seven TDs. 

Ms Murphy has reportedly said the new makeup would be more inclusive, giving every TD the opportunity to be on a committee and give smaller parties a bigger voice in committee.

The committee had prepared to sign off on allocated chairpersons last Thursday, however sources say "at the eleventh hour" they were told it wasn't going ahead, as the government wasn't ready, but were assured that it would happen this week.

Jack Chambers attended the meeting on Thursday and announced the government wanted to defer for another week, after which "chaos" ensued as a row broke out over the government's behaviour.

"The implications now are that the essential committees agreed on, Public Accounts, Budget Oversight, Finance EU Affairs and the Good Friday committees will now not start until after recess," a source said.

These committees have been deemed a matter of priority because of responsibilities around finance and Brexit.

"Jack Chambers said he hasn't had time to look at it, but the government have had weeks to prepare as to what committees they want, there's a list from 1-17, this is basic stuff," a source said.

"We had asked for a compromise to meet on Tuesday, which Chambers also rejected and said we were meeting on Thursday as planned.

"We've had weeks of delay, this is the final straw, they've been stymying us for weeks."

Whether it's by accident or design, if it's an accident, it's a chaotic government who can't decide on basic things. 

"If it's by design, then it's clearly anti-democratic to stifle priority committees."

Members say former Government Whip Dara Calleary was "more willing to compromise".

"We felt he was listening, everyone respected Dara for being honorable in his dealings. The culture of the business committee is reasonable, you give a new minister a bit of time, but Chambers showed no willingness to compromise.

"We are deeply frustrated. There is no excuse, its a three-party coalition, they must be talking about what committees they want.

"It's outrageous, the implications of what happened today is that the government has prevented essential committees being established before recess." 

It's understood all opposition representatives dissented in the vote.

Jack Chambers has been approached for comment.

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