Independent TD Mattie McGrath has accused the leader of Fianna Fail, Michael Martin, of trying to reintroduce the parliamentary dominance of the two main political parties. Deputy McGrath was speaking as Mr Martin confirmed that he has sought support from incoming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to severely limit the speaking times of smaller groups like the Rural Independent Group of which he is a member:
“It is my firm belief that any attempt to effectively disqualify the smaller Dáil groups from full participation in parliamentary debates will be seen as a power grab by Fianna Fail.
Deputy Martin simply has to accept that we have moved on from the days when Independents and others were forced to accept the crumbs from the table of the two larger parties when it came to speaking time.
Indeed it is a bit bizarre for Deputy Martin to be highlighting this issue when the majority of his own party are consistently absent from most debates on a Thursday afternoon, when they have ample opportunity to speak.
While I can certainly share his frustration with the amount of Dáil time that is being wasted, specifically by those on the so called ‘hard left’ like Solidarity and PBP; choosing to side line all Dáil groups, including the Rural Independents, is not the solution.
What we need is a far more robust implementation of the agenda that is agreed every week by cross party consensus in the Dáil Business Committee.
If those on the hard left could abandon their petty political posturing for even one day then maybe we would not have the kind of continual disruption to Dáil business that is eating up so much time.
If however Deputy Martin does receive the support of Deputy Varadkar to reverse the new speaking time arrangements, then those like Solidarity and the PBP will have effectively brought this on themselves and they will be in no place to whine about it.
It will just be one more way that they have damaged the credibility of parliamentary procedures for the rest of us who are actually trying to effect real change and real debate,” concluded Deputy McGrath.