Following on from my post on Saturday, I thought it would be a useful exercise to list all the Private Members debates initiated by Sinn Féin in the previous Dáil:

* The organ retention scandal
* Enshrining neutrality in the Constitution
* Restoration of the northern Assembly
* Enshrining the right to housing in the Constitution
* No confidence in the Minister for Health (Martin, at the time)
* Rural development
* Childcare (note that this was several months before the Meath by-election, in which the Government was reportedly "surprised" that this was an issue)
* Special Needs education
* Privatisation of Aer Lingus
* Reunification
* Establishment of a Department of Labour Affairs
* Drugs
* Part V of the Planning and Development Act (the developers' "get-out clause" for social and affordable housing)
* Domestic violence

If we hadn't tabled these motions, would another party have taken the initiative? Would there have been any debate on these issues? Maybe, in some cases. Probably not, in some others. Definitely not in a couple. And that's not even to mention the myriad of issues that we (and sometimes we alone) raised at Leader's Questions, Priority Questions and in the course of Second Stage debates.

The point here is that the loss of speaking rights for our TDs isn't just our loss. It means that fewer of these issues will be discussed in Leinster House. With us and Gregory silenced, Higgins and Healy gone, and Finian and the Greens bought, Labour will be the sole voice of the left(ish) in the Dáil - and their own poor showing relative to Fine Gael's means it will primarily be the latter who benefits from the demise of the Technical Group. Partisan Labour supporters and SF opponents may celebrate our exclusion, but it can hardly be seen as a good thing for progressive politics in this state.


WorldbyStorm said...

One thing that has heartened me is the way that SF has taken every opportunity over the last day or so to put their case in the Dáil. Am I wrong, or is true that with more than 2 TDs they get a certain 'party' right to put Leaders Questions? In any case, I was surprised and pleased to see that they were prominent, and if that continues, although they lose overall, the narrowing of the 'left' can only be good for them as an oppositional voice.

Wednesday said...

is true that with more than 2 TDs they get a certain 'party' right to put Leaders Questions?

No, we only get a 'party' right for Statements.

You're right though that we did make the most of the opportunities available to us.

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