Monday, December 08, 2008


We win a vote in the Seanad

On Thursday we managed to defeat the government and its partners on a vote in the Seanad. It's the first time we have been able to do this in this parliament in either the Dail or the Seanad, so we were very pleased with the outcome. I was particularly pleased since it was my amendment (and Jerry Buttimer's) that we won the vote on.

The way it works is that if we decide to push something to a vote, the Cathaoirleach asks "is the amendment carried?" We shout "No" and then he automatically announces that "the vote has been carried." He does this because there is a built in government majority, so even if we shout higher, he knows that the government is almost certain to win. The opposition then calls for a vote by saying as Gaeilge "Votail!"

Once we say that the clock starts ticking and senators have seven or eight minutes to get into the chamber before the doors are locked.

Generally the government side wins by 6 or 7 votes. However, after the doors were locked it became apparent that we had the numbers. My colleague, Senator Brendan Ryan was beside me and he moved over to me and said "we're going to win this!" I did a quick count and sure enough there were more on our side than on theirs. When the electronic vote concluded we had won by 19 votes to 18.

As a Whip I had to go to the back of the room to sign the result sheet. Senator Diarmaid Wilson, the Fianna Fail whip was there, and I heard him say that "we will win a walk-through vote". I must admit, I didn't really grasp the significance of this at the time - as a rookie Senator I am not an expert in parliamentary procedure.

It turns out that if a Government is defeated on a vote they are entitled to call for a walk-through vote - a recount if you like. However, if one is granted the locked doors of the chamber are unlocked and other Senators are allowed in. The outcome is that any Senator who was late for the initial vote is then able to enter the chamber and vote with the government.

When the Cathaoirleach rose to make the announcement of the electronic vote known he did not notice whether Diarmaid Wilson was standing to call for a walk-through vote. As a result, he declared the amendment carried.

The place went wild! On our side people were cheering. On the government side there was huge consternation at the Cathaoirleach. Some of their members were almost intimidatory in their attempts to get the Cathaoirleach to reverse his ruling, claiming that he should have allowed Diarmaid Wilson to call for a walk-through vote. The Cathaoirleach was adamant that he didn't see Diarmaid rise and therefore he felt that he was right to announce the result.

I didn't notice if Diarmaid rose or not. All I know is that:

1. The Cathaoirleach was sure that he didn't notice Diarmaid rising and once the Cathaoirleach makes a ruling the we have to accept it; and
2. Diarmaid had clearly told me of his intention to call a walk-through vote, so I'd be fairly sure that he was trying to call one from his place in the Chamber.

I can only suppose that in the general melee his signals were not noticed by those at the top table. One thing is for sure, I don't think any of the blame for the lost vote rests with him.

In terms of parliamentary procedure, I don't think that if I rose at the time to state that I heard him declare his intention of seeking a walk-through vote would have led to the Cathaoirleach reversing his ruling, but I do think it needs to be put on the record, as I have sought to do above.

On Saturday, myself and Niamh McGowan, one of our local election candidates in the Dunshaughlin* area went around various houses in the Hunter's Lane area. Niamh got a great response. Something that came up time and again was the road surface in the surrounding area, as the following picture illustrates.

With Niamh in potholes in Ashbourne in December - the poor crater was frozen

We got a letter off to the Council engineers asking them to look into them.

It was dark by the time we left for Kells, to attend the launch of Rex Lee's DVD on the history of Kells. The roads were treacherous and as a result we had to crawl along all the way to Kells. By the time we got there the event was over. Apologies to Rex.

I drove straight down to Pat Holton's exhibition in Enfield. Pat was our candidate in the Trim area in 2004 and came within a whisker of taking a seat. Since then we has helped out with every campaign in the area and also concentrated on his art and business.

The place was packed by he time I arrived. Pat has spent the last year putting together a collection of works and the result was very impressive. The exhibition runs for the rest of the week and I am sure that it will be a tremendous success.

* John King and Michael McLoughlin are also Labour Party candidates in this area.

You should have mentioned what the amendment was (defining sporting organisations as charities according to the Irish Times), particularly since it was an amendment that could have some interesting multiplier effects, both positive and negative.
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