herald

Monday 26 September 2016

That's how much we're spending just to hear our TDs better

Jim O'Callaghan, Fianna Fail deputy for Dublin Bay South at Leinster House yesterday.
Jim O'Callaghan, Fianna Fail deputy for Dublin Bay South at Leinster House yesterday.

The Dail is to close for almost nine weeks from next Thursday to allow for a €700,000 upgrade that will allow us to hear TDs better.

It has been confirmed that TDs are to get an extra week off during the summer break, from July 21 until September 27.

By the time they come back, the chamber's sound system will have been completely overhauled, meaning we'll be able to hear the day-to-day haranguing better than ever.

Although some committee work will continue during September, there will be no debates or formal sessions in the Dail.

Complaints

Independent deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace at Leinster House yesterday
Independent deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace at Leinster House yesterday

Despite some complaints when the lengthy break was first proposed several weeks ago, the Dail Business Committee said yesterday that "a major programme of improvements on technology" is necessary.

As part of the works the microphone and voting systems in the Dail chamber and committee room will be modernised, as will graphic display units.

In 2014, the Houses of the Oireachtas Service established a working group to review the technology supporting the chambers, investigate systems in operation in other parliaments and examine the degree to which the business requirements of the houses in relation to voting, broadcast and sound systems are met by existing technology.

The working group found that: "The age and obsolescence of the equipment supporting the chambers represents a critical risk and presents difficulties in respect of quality of output, support and scarcity of spare parts.

"The vulnerability to failure of critical systems supporting parliamentary business is compounded by the age of the cabling supporting the equipment, which needs to be replaced."

It noted that some elements of the sound system are 25-years-old and do not provide good sound quality.

Fine Gael Senator Michelle Mulherin at Leinster House yesterday
Fine Gael Senator Michelle Mulherin at Leinster House yesterday

The voting system was installed in 2001 and operates on unsupported operating systems. It has become increasingly difficult to support as spare parts are not easily available and repair is not possible.

"The synoptic voting display will be replaced with modern, high-resolution and remotely controllable graphical display units capable of numerically and visually summarising vote data, presenting voting summaries, displaying documentations, presentation and videos with throughput to displays around campus," the work group said.

Removing old units and cab-ling and installing new equipment will take eight weeks.

The committee hopes to have a symposium on the EU around one week before the Dail resumes.

First sitting Day of the 32nd Dail in Leinster House.
First sitting Day of the 32nd Dail in Leinster House.

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