For the Labour Party to describe the Dáil meeting as "non-essential" is "deeply troubling", when holding the Government to account is "vital" given the "extraordinary emergency legislation" passed in the last two weeks.
This is the view of Independent Galway West TD, Catherine Connolly, who has welcomed news that the Dáil will sit today [Thursday April 2] and who has called for it to "continue to sit during this time of crisis".
The Dáil's Business Committee agreed unanimously last week that the Dáil would sit, for three hours, with a limited number of TDs, for statements on health and social protection issues. However, Labour said its TDs would not attend as statements were “non-essential business” and no legislation was being proposed.
The party said its six TDs would “instead support the national effort to stay at home, and not place an unnecessary burden on the Oireachtas staff, and staff". It has since reversed that decision, as party health spokesperson, Alan Kelly, TD, and employment affairs spokesperson, Ged Nash, will attend the Dáil tomorrow.
Dep Connolly said the Dáil is "the most appropriate forum" to raise these issues, particularly when Parliamentary Questions have been suspended indefinitely. She said she intends to raise issues of delays in testing and testing results, the absence of personal protective equipment, and "anomalies that have arisen" in relation to social welfare payments.
"While legislating is an integral part of the role of the Dáil," said Dep Connolly, "equally important is our function in holding the Government to account. If we expect a range of people to turn up for work, then the least we can do as TDs is to attend the Dáil, albeit in restricted numbers and restricted times. There is no other forum to raise questions and draw attention to the issues on the ground."