Galway West Labour TD Derek Nolan has defended his attendance record in Dáil Eireann after a survey in a national paper this week indicated that he was one of nine TDs who had attended none of the six special Friday sessions so far this year.
Deputy Nolan said there is no point in his attending the Friday Dáil sittings, as he has not had anything to contribute to these sittings as yet.
Speaking to the Galway Independent, Deputy Nolan said the Friday Dáil sittings have a very specific role to play and that he felt he had no contribution to make to these sittings and that his time was best spent in Galway on constituency business.
“It’s very important that the business in the Dáil happens, but it’s also very important that TDs remain very much in touch with their constituencies and meet people and know what real people’s lives are like and aren’t locked up in a bubble all the time,” he said.
The Friday sittings of the Dáil, which occur on the first Friday of every month, are devoted solely to private members’ bills. This allows opposition TDs and government backbenchers introduce their own legislation, which is then voted on at a later date.
“They don’t have committee meetings, they don’t have parliamentary business, they don’t have questions and there’s no votes,” explained Deputy Nolan.
“If you’re one of those people bringing forward legislation, you might sit, or if you’re one of the spokespersons for the opposition parties or for the Government, you speak on the bill. If you don’t speak on that day, and the bill goes forward, then you can speak at a later stage on it, so it’s about how I use my time best,” he added.
Deputy Nolan said he was proud of his attendance record in the Dáil, but maintained that, unless he had a valid contribution to make in the chamber, he would not attend sittings for the sake of appearances, but would attend in future if he could contribute to the session.
“I don’t think it should be obligatory for people to simply sit around so that people can say that they were there,” he said.
The Friday Dáil sitting has been criticised in recent months by opposition TDs who said it was masking real parliamentary reform and called for full Dáil sittings on Fridays.
Deputy Nolan, however, said he felt that the Friday sittings had a purpose and should continue to be allocated to private members’ bills, adding that the Dáil should use its existing sitting time more efficiently.
“I think that the Dáil could be more efficient. I think it could start earlier on a Tuesday, maybe sit later on a Tuesday and a bit later on Thursday,” he added.