Opposition attempts to embarrass the Fine Gael-led minority government by passing Dáil bills which contradict State policy could be blocked under new reforms set to be introduced from next week, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny revealed the plan last night before Fianna Fáil’s variable mortgage motion was passed, saying even if his party loses key Dáil votes any legislation will still have to be cleared by a new Oireachtas body.
Speaking in Washington DC as part of a two-day US visit, Mr Kenny admitted his party will lose more Dáil votes because it does not have full control of parliament in the new minority government set up.
However, he said despite the clear risk to the stability of the government, new “pre-legislative scrutiny” rules mean some of these bills will still be blocked – despite receiving the backing of the majority of TDs.
“We are now in a political situation here where there is a motion before the house so what the Fine Gael party have done in the changes that we are bringing about in the way the Dáil does its business is that any private members bill from next week, it will be mandatory for all those bills to go to the pre-legislative scrutiny facility committee that doesn’t happen in this particular week so the vote has been placed,” Mr Kenny said.
“If it is defeated, the vote is not on the bill, so the bill goes off to the committee to be dealt with at committee stage and everyone will have their opportunity to tease out what it is they want to say about it and about the implications.
“I can’t direct that the Fianna Fáil party do not put their bill. That is what a minority government is about.
“But we are the majority party in the Government and we have to stand up for what we believe in government also outside the conditions of the agreements that we have both with the Fianna Fáil party and the programme for government,” he said.
Asked about Fianna Fáil’s bill, which is attempting to lower the cost of variable rate mortgages, Mr Kenny said the Central Bank has already made it clear it does not want additional powers to tackle the issue.
However, he did not echo Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s claim the new legislation would be “illegal”, instead saying it may not be needed.
“In this case I wrote as Taoiseach on a couple of occasions to the Central Bank asking them if they wanted to have the powers to deal with variable mortgaged interest rates and they said they did not need those powers and didn’t wish to have them,” he said.