Control of Oireachtas committees divided up between parties

All Dáil groups to be represented in committee hearings
Control of Oireachtas committees divided up between parties
Mary Lou McDonald said she has someone in mind to chair the Public Accounts Committee, but did not say who. Picture:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Government and opposition parties have divided up control of the Oireachtas committees in a move which will see all groups and factions in the Dáil represented at hearings.

Some 17 committees have been divided up amongst parties, with the Coalition parties chairing most of these.

While there was criticism recently that only seven or eight TDs on each committee would see less opportunities for smaller groups or independents inputting, this has been resolved.

Instead, there will be nine members on committees, a decision which allows all factions have representation while also giving the Government a majority on committees for votes.

The amicable agreement was made at the Dáil business committee, with compliments paid to government whip Jack Chambers over the compromise. This followed a huge row the previous week when Mr Chambers faced criticism for not having details ready for the committees being set up.

At a further meeting last night of a select committee, decisions were made about which parties and groups will chair the different committees.

Under that agreement, the Government's coalition of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Greens will chair committees on housing, EU affairs, Good Friday affairs, justice, finance, budgetary oversight, education, climate and transport, agriculture, media and culture, foreign affairs, and disability.

Sinn Féin will get the chairman roles for committees on enterprise, children, health, the Gaeltacht as well as the powerful and high-profiled Public Accounts Committee (PAC). 

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she has someone in mind to chair PAC but has yet to confirm who may get the role.

The Regional Independents are the only other group at this stage who have secured control of a committee with a chairman role, overseeing social protection.

The majority of committees will not get up and running until after the Dáil's summer recess and it has yet to be decided just how several can sit at the same time, which is the tradition, given the limits in the parliamentary complex on space because of Covid-19 social distancing rules.

It is expected that witnesses and TDs may sit in separate rooms in Leinster House during hearings for just one committee sitting. 

There are also plans that members can contribute to proceedings directly from their private offices via video link, although it is not clear yet how this system might work if there is a need for a vote.

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