Sittings and Business of Dáil: Motion

I understand the Government Chief Whip has a business proposal to put to the House.

I move:

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders or in the Order of the Dáil of 22nd October, 2020, that the sitting be now suspended for 90 minutes, and on the resumption, the sitting shall continue in the Convention Centre Dublin on North Wall Quay, Dublin 1, whereupon Leaders' Questions shall be taken in accordance with Standing Order 36.

Is that agreed?

Deputies

No.

Can I make a point, which I also made here last week? I am not speaking on behalf of politicians but on behalf of every usher and every other member of the staff. I am speaking for those workers who have been informed that the Dáil has to sit until 1 a.m. When the sitting adjourns at 1 a.m. in the convention centre the workers here will have to stay on for at least an hour and a half, bringing us up to 2.30 a.m., and they will be expected to be in here again tomorrow morning. On behalf of the ladies and gentlemen who have served this House with distinction over the years, I advise the Chief Whip that I think that is wrong. I am not fighting about this but I want to put on the record on the workers' behalf that they are not happy. I am airing their views. I am sure everybody would agree it is not right to say to workers at 2.30 a.m. tomorrow that they can go home but they will be expected to be in again tomorrow morning at 8 a.m., 8.30 a.m. or 9 a.m. That is wrong.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

I thank the Chair for his indulgence.

That point is well made. Every minute extra we spend here will be added on at the end of the night, so we have to be careful about that. I will call Deputy Mac Lochlainn to be followed by Deputy Mattie McGrath and that will be it, I believe.

The issue of late sittings is one we are working to resolve. I hope that soon we will not be sitting later than 10 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. That is a shared concern across the Houses.

Sinn Féin Private Members' time tonight is Opposition speaking time of two hours' duration during which the Government would normally have 20 minutes' speaking time. I have received official notification from the Oireachtas authorities that this cannot now go ahead. Intentionally, the Government's confidence motion is aimed at tripling its speaking time, from 20 minutes to 63 minutes, and halving the Opposition's speaking time, from 100 minutes to 50 minutes. It triples the Government's speaking time and halves the Opposition's speaking time. That is the intent of the Government motion. The House will not sit until 1 a.m. but will wrap up at approximately 11 p.m. I want to make an official protest about that move.

I make the same point. I was at yesterday's meeting of the Business Committee. The time was changed without any consultation. There are people in this House who want the Business Committee destroyed and for it to be defunct. The motion proposing no confidence in the Tánaiste is a Sinn Féin motion, but the Government decided to table a countermotion. That is its right and there is precedent for that. However, the trick of the loop is the speaking time. We are down to five minutes for our group, and all other Opposition parties are restricted in their time. There is also the fact we are here for 20 minutes or so and will then be decamping across the river to the convention centre at enormous cost. That is a waste of time given that we will vote on the Finance Bill in the convention centre tomorrow in any event. It is a display of pure heavy-handedness in an effort to crush the Opposition. I object to it in the strongest manner.

On the motion that has been put forward, it has been put across that the Opposition is wasting time but that is not the case. The Government could have ordered this business for tomorrow when we will be in the convention centre in any event.

Therefore, there would be no need to decamp from this House across the river, for everybody to have to rush to get there and to have the threat of staff having to work late. It is only an excuse for the Government to make it look as if we are causing it problems. It could have put the motion forward and answered it tomorrow. That would have prevented Sinn Féin from raising it today, and that would have been the job done. That is the reason I will be opposing the motion.

I call the Deputy Chief Whip, Deputy Griffin.

I want to put on the record that Sinn Féin misled the Business Committee on Thursday when it indicated it intended to table a Private Members' motion on a matter related to social protection. It was made aware on Friday that its Private Members' motion, it being a motion of no confidence, could not be taken in the House tonight because under Standing Orders, a motion of no confidence or confidence must be voted upon immediately and it cannot be a reduced vote. It was made aware of this on Friday. It waited until Monday to bring forward alternative arrangements, by which time the Government had brought forward its own arrangements because a motion of no confidence in one of its Ministers had been signalled.

In addition, Sinn Féin neglected to use the time it had yesterday following the Business Committee and before the time for Private Members' submissions closed to revert to its original Private Members' motion, which it could have secured for tonight. It did not do so, however. It is not our fault that it does not know the procedures or rules of the House.

When a motion of no confidence in a Minister is moved, it is customary for the Government to move a motion of confidence. The Opposition is expecting a Minister to come into the House to carry on his or her duties with a motion pending. The same Minister will take oral parliamentary questions this evening. How on earth does the Opposition expect a Minister to come into the House and carry on his or her duties when there is a motion pending? This needs to be dealt with now, which is why the Government is acting in this way now. It is a shame the Opposition is costing the taxpayer €25,000 through its antics when we are dealing with this and getting on with running the country.

Shame on the Deputy.

(Interruptions).

Please Members, with respect.

This is an exercise of the most cynical game-playing by the Government.

A Deputy

That is hypocrisy.

Frankly, Government Deputies are smirking through their words because they know that it is cynical game-playing and politically motivated spite essentially-----

(Interruptions).

-----against the fact that an Opposition party put forward a no confidence motion in a Minister. It is important for people to know that Deputy Pringle, at the Business Committee, proposed an alternative that would have saved the €25,000 it will cost to move us at short notice over to the convention centre when we had decided we would be sitting here today.

I did not interrupt the Deputy. Notwithstanding the political differences he may have with Sinn Féin and the Opposition over the motion, a proposal was put forward by Deputy Pringle at the Business Committee to save us having to incur additional cost and the impact on staff of having to move to the convention centre today. The Government did not accept that, purely for political reasons, precisely because its Deputies wanted to be able to get up and play political games in here and point fingers at people.

A Deputy

The Deputy is the one pointing the finger.

It was said that the argument was most vociferously conducted by Deputy Griffin in pretty much the same breath as he said we should effectively do away with the Business Committee.

Thank you, Deputy.

That is the real agenda. The Government wants to do away with any cross-party co-operation on how we set the schedule of this Dáil-----

The Deputy's colleagues told the Dáil last week-----

-----because it wants to steamroll whatever it wants to go through the House, regardless of the feelings of the rest of the democratically elected Opposition.

They will oppose everything. That is what they do.

I ask Deputies to behave with a bit of dignity, please. I call the Chief Whip to conclude on this matter.

It is important we reiterate the facts around this. At the Business Committee last Thursday, Sinn Féin proposed a motion on social protection and was very clear and explicit about that.

It then allowed the Dáil to adjourn - to reconvene at 2 p.m. today, Tuesday - without informing or giving notice to all colleagues and other parties that it was intending to table a motion of no confidence. Those are the facts. Sinn Féin slipped the motion of no confidence in at the last minute, knowing that this would necessitate a change of location and in how the business would be transacted today. Standing Order 80, which we have all supported and voted for, is very clear that divisions on such matters must be taken immediately and cannot be deferred. That is the factual position under Standing Orders, and it is important that we speak about the facts. Because Sinn Féin tabled a motion of no confidence after the Business Committee had gone through its normal course of work on Thursday last, that has necessitated us being here today. We need to stop the game-playing and be clear on the facts.

I also wish to respond to Deputy Mattie McGrath on speaking time. We are putting forward a motion of confidence, which is standard practice for Governments. When a motion of no confidence is tabled, the Government will table a motion of confidence in the particular Member involved. The speaking arrangements that are outlined are underpinned in what the Dáil voted on in July in the context of such arrangements.

(Interruptions).

Please. The Chief Whip should be allowed to speak, without interruption.

A Deputy

Democracy is inconvenient.

(Interruptions).

If I can be allowed to-----

It is a battering ram.

Deputy Mattie McGrath should please let the Chief Whip answer.

I know Deputy Mattie McGrath respects democracy and the capacity of this House to make decisions on its rules, which is underpinned by the Constitution.

Yes, but the Government nobbled the Opposition.

We have set out the speaking time today, in line with what was agreed in the context of Dáil reform and with what the House agreed. That is what we are doing. There is no factual basis to what the Deputy.

There is no-----

Shush, please.

To respond to Deputy Michael Healy-Rae, I agree that we need to conduct business in a more family-friendly fashion. We are working across parties to change the current position on late sittings, but that requires the co-operation of the Opposition. When the Opposition comes in here and calls votes, even though the Government has made concessions, that adds 30 minutes to the day of the staff. We have had threats from the Opposition-----

We made no threats.

-----to the effect that regardless of what concessions we make, or what we agree to, it will call a vote on every matter.

(Interruptions).

That has been the custom and practice since July. I respect the Business Committee and I have tried to work in a constructive way with everybody. We have made concessions on lots of matters, including in terms of speaking time and in bringing Ministers before the House. Last week, for example, we suggested a change to the proposed business to increase speaking time by up to 50% for the Opposition in the debate on the Tánaiste. However, the Opposition voted against the increase in speaking time just because of game-playing on the part of those in opposition and not wanting to support a Government proposal.

We voted for more time.

It is very clear. The Opposition argued over one minute last week. We want to be constructive.

The Government is playing a game.

The factual position is that the vote on a confidence motion cannot take place in the Dáil Chamber. That is underpinned by the public health guidance. I think everyone supports that. As a result, business must be transacted in the convention centre and that is what we are voting on today. I ask those who oppose that proposal to outline their solution. In the interests of staff and of ensuring-----

We could debate it tomorrow.

-----the expedient progress of business today, Members should accept the situation and move across to the convention centre to allow Leaders’ Questions and our normal work to proceed.

I thank the Chief Whip. Is the proposal from the Chief Whip agreed?

It is not agreed.

Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 19; Staon, 0.

  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Troy, Robert.

Níl

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Smith, Duncan.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers; Níl, Deputies Mattie McGrath and Michael Collins.
Question declared carried.
Sitting suspended at 2.30 p.m. and resumed at 4 p.m.