19 November 1997
Parties combine to disenfranchise Cavan Monaghan voters - Ó Caoláin
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said that the voters of Cavan and Monaghan are being disenfranchised by his exclusion from the group structure in Leinster House whereby members gain access to speaking time and other rights. The comment came as Democratic Left confirmed publicly for the first time (Irish Times 19 November) that they are blocking the formation of a `technical group' in Leinster House because they would not be part of a group which includes the Sinn Fein TD.
Under the standing orders of Leinster House eight of the fourteen TDs who are not members of the Government parties, Fine Gael or Labour, are required to form a `technical group'. Membership of such a group gives access to speaking time, the ability to put down motions, amend legislation and introduce bills. Those outside such groups, TDs from the smaller parties and independents in Leinster House, are effectively disenfranchised.
Explaining the situation Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
``Clearly Democratic Left are engaged in the failed politics of the exclusion of Sinn Fein. And they are being helped by the Government. Democratic Left have blocked the formation of a technical group even though this would involve no political obligation on the part of the members of such a group. There would be no whip and no requirement for common voting on issues. It would be purely an arrangement of convenience to gain rights which individual TDs should be entitled to in any case.''
Deputy Ó Caoláin revealed that Government Chief Whip Seamus Brennan and the other whips from Progressive Democrats, Labour and Fine Gael have allowed Pat Rabbitte of Democratic Left to attend their whips meeting in Leinster House, even though he does not represent a group under Standing Orders. Whips control the business of the House.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said:
``I am disappointed and frustrated with this situation. The exclusion of myself, my party and most importantly, the citizens of Cavan and Monaghan who elected me, is being facilitated by the major parties who control Leinster House.''
Deputy Ó Caoláin vowed that he would be fighting the issue ``on the floor of the House and by every means possible until justice is done.''
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