[Sinn Fein]

11th September 2002

Sinn Fein TDs walk out in protest

Dáil debate `made a mockery of democracy' - Ó Snodaigh

Sinn Fein TD Arthur Morgan was asked to leave the Dáil during the Nice Treaty Debate after he protested that he and his colleague Seán Crowe had not been afforded time to speak. All five Sinn Fein TDs then walked out in protest at what they described as the "totally undemocratic" nature of the debate.

Sinn Fein party whip and spokesperson on Europe, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has angrily slammed the Government's conduct of the four-day recall of the Dáil for a debate on the Treaty of Nice as "a mockery of democracy".

Deputy Ó Snodaigh made his comments on the last day of the debate as it emerged that only 108 minutes out of a total 22 and half hours debate were allowed for those opposing the Treaty. Deputy Ó Snodaigh went on to describe Sinn Fein's allocation of time, and that of the other 'No' deputies as pitiful and an attempt by the Government and the main Opposition parties to subvert a democratic debate on the Treaty. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"The government has made a mockery of democracy by re-running this referendum and they did it again by their conduct of the Dáil proceedings. This House was recalled for four days to facilitate a debate on the Treaty of Nice.

"There has been no real debate in Leinster House. The parties supporting the Treaty have abused the current setup to ensure that the voices of those opposing this referendum would not be heard. Two of our Deputies, Arthur Morgan and Seán Crowe, had no opportunity to speak at all.

"The allocation of 108 minutes out of 22 and a half hours to the No side of the argument clearly illustrates that. Those representing 54% of the people who voted NO in the first Nice referendum received 8% of the speaking time. What we have witnessed here over the four days of this debate, where people on the No side were given a minimal amount of time to speak, in slots that were constantly changed and moved to later and later in the night is an attempt by the Government and the main opposition parties to subvert a democratic debate on the Treaty.

"Sinn Fein is not going to tolerate this situation any more. We are serving notice on the Government that they must change Standing Orders to ensure that all parties and deputies are given adequate access to speaking time when the Dáil resumes."

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