Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Science, Technology, Research and Development, James Lawless TD, has called for an exploration of the options available to conduct a virtual parliament to complete the necessary work required in these extraordinary times.
Deputy Lawless said, “This virus has wreaked huge health, economic and other damage on our country and around the world. At a time of national crisis, it is fundamental that the Dáil can work at its maximum capacity and to be seen to carry out this work by our citizens.
“Legislation needs to be debated, scrutinised and passed and members of the Government need to be held to account for the decisions taken that effect every one of us in these unprecedented times.
“I think that if TD’s cannot meet in person it needs to be examined whether TD’s can debate and vote remotely. I have written to the Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD and requested that his office examine the options available and consider my request that this be undertaken as soon as possible.
“This request is not unprecedented. In the UK, the Commons Commission have just approved the holding of a virtual parliament via Zoom. Up to 120 MPs will be able to take part remotely at one time with a further 50 members able to sit in the parliament under social distancing guidelines. They will be allowed ask departmental questions, participate in statements and ask urgent questions.
“In Spain, their parliament already has the technology to allow remote voting for members who are unable to attend, the European Parliament trialed email voting last month and the Welsh Assembly met remotely this week. The Pennsylvania General Assembly has introduced remote voting for the first time.
“Regardless of a Government being formed in the coming weeks, restrictions and social distancing measures of some description will be with us for some time, so it’s important we plan now to be able to continue our work.
“Government and opposition must work together to explore and decide on plans for a virtual Dáil to be put in place as soon as possible for the sake of the country as a whole.” concluded Deputy Lawless.