Government seeking to 'muzzle' Opposition voices on Dáil committees, say TDs

Government seeking to 'muzzle' Opposition voices on Dáil committees, say TDs

Government chief whip Jack Chambers. Picture: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The Government has been accused of seeking to “muzzle” the Opposition by restricting the numbers of TDs sitting on 24 Dáil committees, due to be announced tomorrow.

Opposition parties have slammed as “outrageous” the attempt by the new Government to reduce their say in how the Dáil and its committees do their work.

A row broke out at the Dáil Reform Committee today when Government chief whip Jack Chambers refused to accept Opposition suggestions to increase the numbers of committee members to ensure greater diversity.

The Fianna Fáil parliamentary party heard last night that the committees will be formed “with proportional representation”, meaning the Government will have a majority on them.

Catherine Murphy, co-leader of the Social Democrats, told the Irish Examiner it was a “blatant case of majoritarian-ism” by the Government.

“Over the past four years, so much work got done by way of consensus which avoided many rows on the floor of the Dáil,” she said. 

"This Government is seeking to undo all of that good work and return it to the bad old days where many voices will be shut out."

Ms Murphy warned that under the Government’s plan, many Opposition TDs will not have a place on any committee, which she said was “hugely disappointing”.

“It is particularly galling that the Green Party — who seek to champion diversity of opinion and democracy — have signed up to this.”

It is understood that the Government parties will have seven TDs and four senators on each of the committees.

The coalition parties — Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Greens — will nominate four TDs, with Sinn Féin nominating two TDs.

All other groups and independents, totalling 39 TDs, would battle it out for just one spot for Opposition TDs on each committee.

The Opposition groups raised their concerns in writing to the Government chief whip and proposed that increasing the allocation of spaces for TDs from seven to eight would address their concerns.

“As a matter of principle, we feel every member should have the opportunity to sit on a committee,” the letter stated. 

“We believe the best solution is to increase the size of committees to 12, with eight TDs and four senators making up the membership.”

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