Republican News · Thursday 03 February 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Cosy Dáil deal challenged

The cosy arrangement between the government parties, Fine Gael and Labour which divides Dáil time between them and discriminates against smaller parties, was challenged by Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin this week.

During the Order of Business in the Dáil on Tuesday, the Leas Ceann Chomhairle, Rory O'Hanlon (Fianna Fáil, Cavan/Monaghan), refused to allow Ó Caoláin to speak on a proposal to take a motion without debate. The motion in question continues the practice whereby Private Members Time - the time allocated to Opposition parties to propose and speak on their own bills and motions - is monopolised by Fine Gael and Labour. The Sinn Féin TD addressed the Leas Ceann Chomhairle:

``I am disappointed that in the opportunity to address the issue of Standing Order 106 which you had asked Members to address, you did not afford me the opportunity to address the substantive issue at that time. You should have allowed me speak. In standing and indicating I wished to speak I should have been afforded the opportunity to do so.''

Speaking against the motion, Ó Caoláin said:

``Standing Order 106 has been used to discriminate against the smaller parties in this House, namely, Sinn Féin, the Green Party and the Socialist Party time and time again. We are seeing a situation once more where the accommodation is only for the two major parties, Fine Gael and Labour in opposition. This is simply unacceptable. The word ``muzzle'' was used earlier. The collective muzzling of the representation of the smaller opinions in this House has happened time and again during the past two and half years of this term of the 28th Dáil. The reality is that we have been excluded from access to Private Members' time and the opportunity of participation in statements before the House.''

Fianna Fáil, the PDs, Fine Gael and Labour combined to pass the motion, while Sinn Féin, the Greens, the Socialist Party's Joe Higgins and Independent Tony Gregory opposed it.

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