Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Speaking rights in Dáil a non-starter?

There's a good article in the Irish Examiner by Noel Whelan which can be viewed here regarding Sinn Féin's efforts to attain speaking rights in the Dail. I myself support speaking rights for northern MPs in the Dáil so I can't say I support what Mr Whelan's point of view here. Whelan writes:

"It is important to see the recent SF hype about speaking rights in the Dáil in the context of the major concessions which have recently being forced out of the republican movement. As part of the process of conditioning their own core followers for the reality that the struggle to achieve a united socialist republic in Ireland by the Armalite is over, SF has been distracting them with mythological talk about how, despite this, a united Ireland is just around the corner.

"The constitutional impediments to a substantial right of audience in the Dáil for Northern Ireland MPs are even greater now. The detailed provisions in our constitution about the membership and election of Dáil Éireann, and about the role and functions of a TD, not to mention the implication of the redrawn Articles 2 and 3 which expressly recognise the Good Friday Agreement, all mean that extending any general right of audience in the Dáil to any person not elected for a constituency in the Republic runs the risk of being struck down by our Supreme Court.

"Even the watered down suggestion of some specially constituted Dáil committee to debate Good Friday Agreement-related issues which would include representatives for Northern Ireland, and which for decorative good measure would actually sit in the Dáil chamber, may not necessarily be constitutionally well-founded.

"While Northern representatives could give evidence to this proposed Dáil committee (as they have given evidence previously to many Dáil committees), they could not, in the view of many legal authorities, participate otherwise in the deliberations of any such committees or, for example, pose questions to anybody else who gave evidence."

Whelan concludes that:

"The prospect of Sinn Féin MPs sitting in the Dáil, in any real political sense of that word, is very, very remote. There is no political support for it in the Dáil itself, apart from the Sinn Féin TDs.

"More importantly there are considerable constitutional obstacles which could only be resolved by a referendum. There is no prospect of such a referendum being held and less prospect of it passing. Bertie Ahern knows that. I suspect the SF leadership knows that too. The only people who give SF’s campaign on this issue any credence are unionist politicians who, again, have fallen for Sinn Féin hype."

What are your own thoughts on the piece?


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