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Saturday 10 December 2016

Michael Martin claimed the extra long Dail recess turned out to be unnecessary, is that true?

on October 25th Michael Martin said in the Dail on October 25th 2016 that

The Dáil rose on 21 July and resumed on 27 September. In July we were all told major works were to be undertaken to physically refurbish the Chamber, but that did not happen. Therefore, it transpired that there was no necessity for the longer than usual summer recess.

I've been trying to find out if this statement is true or not, its extraordinary claim considering the issue that has been made about the amount of work/legislation the Dail has been able to do so far this term

I've emailed Michael Martin and Fianna Fail weeks back no reply.

I also emailed the Oireachtas, this is the reply I got
As you're probably aware there were quite extensive works undertaken in the Dáil chamber during the summer recess (read more here and here). The quote may reference the wider restoration work to be completed in Leinster House but this would not have impacted on Dáil sitting dates. Perhaps Michael Martin's office may be able to clarify the quote however.


Best regards,

Liam O'Brien
Press Officer
Communications | Broadcasting | Web
Houses of the Oireachtas
Dublin 2

The email from the Oireachtas cites it press release of 14/07/2016 Dáil Chamber technology improvement update
A major programme of improvements on technology supporting the Dáil Chamber will start when the Dáil rises for the summer recess on 21st July.

The programme includes the replacement of critical aspects of the Dáil chamber equipment, namely delegate units containing integrated microphone and voting components and modern Chamber and Committee Room graphical display units.
The Irish Times, the Irish Mirror, the Independent and the Sunday Times all quoted/paraphrased what Michael Martin said without further clarifying, only Irish Times added a qualifying sentence many hours later to say "The sound and voting systems in the Dáil were changed during the recess."

Dáil to get nine week break and €700k makeover – so that we can hear TDs better Kevin Doyle Independent 14/07/2016

There is is also the minutes of the Oireachtas Commission meeting 4th October 2016 which say
The Commission was briefed on the ICT project underway to modernise the technical systems in the Chambers of both Houses and in the Committee Rooms.
The Commission noted that the Technology in the Chambers project is part of a significant programme of ICT investment to build an Enterprise Architecture for the Service and to develop the ICT systems in the Houses to make them more responsive to the needs of users.
The Commission welcomed the project and noted the enhancements to the technical systems in the Dáil Chamber following completion of the necessary work within the agreed timeframe and budget over the summer recess period.
(i) Refurbishment works to Georgian Leinster House
The Secretary General updated the Commission on the progress on the refurbishment works to Georgian Leinster House. He noted that discussions on the relocation of the Seanad Chamber to the National Museum for the duration of the works were ongoing and had escalated to political level at this point.

In the Irish Times in May wrote Give Me a Crash Course In . . . Dáil holidays
Isn’t there something about Leinster House being restored? The renovation of Leinster House was cited at the Fine Gael parliamentary-party meeting as a reason for the longer-than-usual summer recess. In the past few years the Dáil rose in late July and returned in early or mid-September. It is true that the Georgian core of the Leinster House complex, which dates from the 18th century, is about to undergo its most significant restoration ever, with scaffolding and severe restrictions set, effectively, to close the building for a year. The Seanad will have to move to another premises, but the Dáil chamber, which is outside the Georgian core, will be largely unaffected. It will see its sound and voting systems upgraded over the summer. Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl has said the restoration works will not require the Dáil to rise as early as July 7th.

Political Editor Irish Mirror told me that it was true and the Dail works had not taken place as intended. which may be the case but does that mean the Dail chamber could not be used?, or is the issue with other offices in Leinster House?

He said that it was in the public sphere already that the works had not taken place as intended, but I cannot find where in the public sphere that it says that, or that that meant the Dail could not be used.

The political correspondents of Today FM told me twice its untrue, that the works
finished ahead of plan, partly because of the hurry to prepare for Apple

Thomas Byre TD said of the works "they didn't happen! We don't know why" I asked him what works didn't happen?, no reply.

Did Michael Martin get the distinction between the chamber refit over the summer and wider Leinster House works that are to take much longer * confused, that would be surprising as in May Martin said,
“The clerk did explain about the structural problems with Leinster House, the old part of Leinster House from his perspective, required urgent remedial works, in terms of securing it and so on.”
Dáil summer recess too long, says Micheál Martin Irish Times Fiach Kelly May 26, 2016

Fiach Kelly has written the most about this, earlier this year,
Initial work will begin during the Dáil and Seanad summer recess, but the opening stages will focus on assessing the exact amount of work that has to be done.Leinster
House restoration scheme to start during recess Irish Times Fiach Kelly May 26, 2016

Were these urgent works remedial works carried out? would they have disrupted the use of the Dail?

Restoration and Conservation of Georgian Leinster House Oireachtas.
Preliminary investigation works will take place in late 2016, with the main works being undertaken in 2017 and completed in the summer of 2018.

The Ceann Comhairle office replied to my email reaffirming the contents of the email I got from Oireachtas Comms, but refusing to comment on it any further because of his independence, the Ceann Comhairle says its not true but doesn't care that thousands may think it is.

*Historic Leinster House Refurbishment Project Tender Response deadline 20-06-2016 Duration in months: 27