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Bertie Don't Do Questions

6.29.2005

Reading more of the fallout over the proposed reform of leaders questions in the Dail in todays Irish Times, I cannot believe that this government has the audacity to mount such an attack on oversight in our state. Whatever power the DAil may have is weak enough at enforcing government transparency and serious reform of practice and method should be introduced.
Having said that current government proposals that Bertie need not attend leaders questions should he so choose are preposterous.
I understand that the government are offering more prime time to opposition but what is the point of having loads of time to speak to an empty chamber with no government minster present? There is clear and present need to upgrade the status of the Dail as the representation of our interests in the face of executive power. No amount of argument can nor should be able to dissuade us from our need to maintain oversight on our government. Understandably all opposition parties are fairly angry and i mentioned Emmet Staggs response earlier.
Alongside this proposal however are some other serious proposals made by Chief Whip Tom Kitt, the idea of having interesting debates at sensible hours seems to be a no-brainer to most of us but in Dail this is real progress. There can now be televised debates at hours when people are awake, on topics which are current and needing discussion. This move however will only be of benefit if it is adjoined with reform of reporting criteria on the Dail. If RTE or TV3 were to be given more leeway in camera shots allowed and also a decent list of debates etc there would be little excuse for one or other to refuse to air dail proceedings. The BBC parliament model is probably unfeasible but certainly a daily dail show taking in topical debate and leaders questions is in order.
The moves by Kitt however are, as usual, unilateral and devoid of any braoder strategic vision for the Dail outside of rubberstamping Law and not asking too much questions.
Well the questions must be non-negotiable and these reforms should be part of a serious package of proposals to bring both activity and coverage of the DAil into the 21st century and attempt son reengagement with the electorate.
Im sure all leftwing parties will have something to say and a genuine commitment to Dail reform owuld garner more momentum and support for the opposition coalition.
RR

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