CATHERINE MURPHY’S PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS
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Parliamentary Questions are an excellent means of obtaining direct answers from Ministers on issues under their particular remits which appear on the record of the house.
It is only possible to obtain a response to a parliamentary question on a day during which the Dáil is in session and one of the principal benefits of this type of information gathering is that Ministers are required to respond to the question within a specified time period.
There are 3 main categories of Parliamentary Questions that any and every TD can table. They are: Written Questions, Oral Questions and Priority Questions.
These are questions which are put down to the Minister in question to receive a written response. There is no limiation on the amount of this category of question you can submit to a Minister however such questions will only ever receive a written response and will not be the subject of a debate in the chamber.
Each TD is entitled to submit two oral questions to each Minister to on each day in which that Minister has been scheduled to take questions in the Dáil. The order in which these questions are listed for answer by the Minister is determined by a lottery system and only those that occupy the first few spaces in that order will be answered by the Minister on the floor of the house. The rest of the questions receive a written response.
Each oppositition Dáil group is allocated a certain amount of “Priority Questions” each week which are then allocated to members of those groups. These questions are guaranteed to be answered by the Minister in question on the floor of the house and this is the first 5 questions on the questions order paper for each day. These are a very effective means of not only obtaining a response but having a discussion with the Minister in question on a particular topic.
Each TD is entitled to table questions to the Taoiseach in the same manner as oral questions. These questions are answered on a rotational basis.
On two of the three sitting days each week it is open to the “leaders” of each opposition Dáil group to put questions to the Taoiseach or whatever member of the cabinet has been nominated by the Taoiseach to take his/her place on that day. Leaders questions continues for roughly 45 minutes and can only be taken by the designated representatives of each group, in the case of the political parties this is usually the leader of the party. In the case of the Dáil Technical Group the position of “Leader” for the purposes of Leaders Questions rotates evenly between Joe Higgins, Finian McGrath and Shane Ross (correct as of September 2011).
These questions are not advised to the Taoiseach in advance of being asked and therefore he/she must answer off the cuff.