Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Transport, Tourism and Sport, Timmy Dooley TD, says a worrying trend is emerging among Government Ministers where oral Question Time is being cynically loaded with questions from back bench Deputies to suppress the Government being properly held to account.
Deputy Dooley commented: “Last week the Minister for Health made a blatant and completely see-through attempt to rig Dáil Question Time so as to exclude the opposition.
“This week Minister Varadkar is doing likewise. While he is not doing it on the same brazen scale of Minister Reilly, where Fine Gael submitted over 80 questions on the Health Minister’s behalf, nonetheless more than one in three oral questions (34 of 94) submitted for tomorrow’s Transport session has clearly been arranged by Fine Gael.
“What’s more concerning is this has become a habit on Minister Varadkar’s part when it comes to his Dáil questions. Last month Fine Gael arranged 30 planted questions for the Transport session and in November, 27 questions were also placed.
“Anyone who thinks this is simply enthusiasm on the part of Fine Gael TDs need only look at December’s Transport Questions. On that occasion Minister Varadkar was absent and just 2 questions were submitted by Fine Gael TDs and neither was a plant. This is the exception that proves the rule.
“Government back-benchers have ample opportunity to raise issues of concern during their parliamentary party meetings, they can also do so through written parliamentary questions. This is not an attempt to deny members a chance to partake in the parliamentary process but oral questions are the only time opposition spokespeople get a chance to hold the Government to account.
“Why do some Fine Gael Ministers who promised to be such great reformers have to attempt to control ministerial questions? In fact the Government’s Programme for Government stated “We believe that in recent years an over-powerful Executive has turned the Dáil into an observer of the political process rather than a central player and that this must be changed.”
“Ministers only have to take oral questions once every 5 sitting weeks for an hour and a quarter at most. Is this the sea-change that the Government boldly promised when they came into office? If they can’t endure the opposition for that long should they really be Ministers at all?