Farce in Dáil as just one TD shows up to pass legislation

Daniel McConnell

Fianna Fail's Justice spokesman Niall Collins was forced to defend his and his party's absence from the Dáil after a bill on the prison service was passed with just one TD present.

Labour Junior Minister Ann Phelan was the only politician present, from either from the Government or Opposition side, for the debate on a bill that ratifies the closure of St Patrick’s institution for young offenders.

The bizarre scenes unfolded this afternoon as the final amendments to the important legislation were being taken.

Given the absence of any opposition, Ms Phelan was left to see the legislation through the Dáil with many amendments going through on the nod.

When asked by the Leas Ceann Comhairle, Micheal Kitt, if government amendments to the bill were agreed, the Labour TD repeatedly responded: “agreed”.

It is the norm for at least one member of each of the opposition parties to be in attendance for the entire debate.

Mr Collins defended his party’s absence, said he was there for the second stage debate and made a full contribution.

He added that if they were going to have a “silly buggers debate” about who was there and who was not, he was present and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald was absent.

The legislation was accepted at second stage, when the House debated the general principles of the Bill.

Its main purpose is to facilitate the complete closure of St Patrick’s Institution for young offenders.

Speaking afterwards about his absence during the committee stage debate, Mr Collins said he had been there for the entire second stage debate and made a contribution outlining the party’s position in full.

Pressed on his party’s criticisms of the Government’s handling of Dáil business and the possibility of unexpected amendments from the Department of Justice, Mr Collins said the amendments were well flagged.

He stressed his attendance for the entire second stage debate, said he had made a full contribution and outlined Fianna Fáil’s position and policy.

He said he wasn’t going to enter into a “silly buggers' debate in relation to who was there and who wasn’t there”.

Mr Collins added: “I note the Minister for Justice wasn’t there. I’m not making an issue out of that”.


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