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Sinn Féin challenges Government to full debate on Standing Orders

3 July, 2007

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin is challenging the Government to provide Dáil time to allow a proper debate on changes to Dáil rules. The Government is proposing changes which will copper-fasten the exclusion of Sinn Féin TDs from full speaking rights in the Dáil, while Sinn Féin is proposing changes to allow such full access. The Government wants its motion approved without debate. Ó Caoláin challenged the Green Party to prevail on its Government partners to allow an open debate.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "The Government is asking us to approve a significant change to Standing Orders without debate. The Sinn Féin Deputies cannot accept the taking of this motion without debate. We have a motion of our own to change Standing Orders to guarantee adequate speaking rights to all Deputies and all parties represented here.

"We are proposing to amend Standing Order 116 to allow five Deputies to form a group, thus ensuring full speaking rights for every Deputy in this Dáil which includes access to Leaders' Questions, Priority Questions to Ministers and Private Members' Time. The two motions to change Standing Orders are related and they should be taken together and debated together with adequate speaking time for all parties.

"The need for our motion to change Standing Orders is starkly illustrated by the fact that we cannot get Dáil time to have it debated because in the absence of a technical group we do not have access to Private Members Time. The Government should have the grace to allow time today for both of these motions to be debated on the floor of the Dáil.

"We will oppose the Government's proposed changes to Standing Orders as they solidify the situation whereby Fine Gael and Labour deputies are the only Opposition deputies with full speaking rights. This rides roughshod over the rights of those who elected Sinn Féin TDs to this Dáil in the General Election.

"We would remind the Green Party TDs, now in Government with Fianna Fáil and the PDs, that in the last Dáil they called for the Standing Orders to be changed to allow five Deputies to form a Technical Group. The very least they should do now is to prevail upon their Government partners to allow Dáil time for this whole issue to be debated openly. That will allow representatives of Fianna Fáil, the PDs and the Green Party to defend their position and to explain to the Irish people why they are not prepared to allow full and adequate speaking rights to all opinion in this Dáil. The Green Party in particular has in the past won a reputation for openness, transparency and a democratic approach. Let us have that now by facilitating a debate and by changing Standing Orders to reflect the diverse nature of this Dáil." ENDS

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