Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

Explaining and broadcasting the Oireachtas

May 9th, 2011 · 1 Comment · Irish Politics, Social Media

I was invited by the Oireachtas Communications Unit to the Dáil to watch and tweet some of the proceedings of today’s debate to mark Europe Day.  Myself, Ken Curtin, David Cochrane from and Billie Sparks from the European Movement were in attendance. There was little to report on the debate itself or that which I observed, a strange day and a strange time to be analysing Ireland’s relationship with Europe. However I came away thinking that more interaction between MEP’s, Commission Officials and Oireachtas members would be helpful in the analysis of legislation and EU directives.

I know from liveblogging other debates that there have been tweets sent  surreptitiously from the gallery before but today was different.  An usher was about to tell  me to put my phone away when it was explained to him that today it was allowed.  In the gallery there were a number of dignitaries from embassies and former MEP’s and classes of school children.   The embassy staff were writing things down presumably to report back to their governments.  That is a normal rule violation in the gallery.

In fact there is no applause, no talking, no reading, no writing and above all no phones or data devices in the public gallery of the Dáil or Seanad or from the committee rooms.   I have watched a lot of Dáil and Seanad debates from the comfort of my sofa and rarely visit due to work restrictions but also due to the fact that I cannot communicate what I see or think or when I want to fact check due to these rules.

I can understand no noise, no photos, no phone ring tones, no applause or disruption but surely now is the right time to allow people to communicate what they think or see when they are in to observe?  Also it’s time to explain why the Oireachtas does the things it does and as procedures change in terms of the committee structures and their powers of investigation people from various groups and sectoral interests  should be invited in to watch and tweet/blog  about how things operate and the issues that are discussed.

The experience of live blogging all the stages of the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights of Cohabitants Bill last year gave me a lot of food for thought on the lifelong civics education of the population.  How a bill is written and what happens at its various stages is something that few understand.  The set pieces that make the news do little for the reputation of the parliament but the debates and questions put on issues and legislation and discussions that happen in committee would make for much better fodder for understanding of the Oireachtas and what it actually does and can do.

The online broadcast of Oireachtas proceedings has improved hugely in recent months, I hope with digital TV on the horizon we can have an Oireachtas channel complete with broadcast of local authority meetings.  Enough of the ‘playing to the camera’ worries it’s time for transparency and that includes increasing the volume of the online message and the ability of voters and visitors to communicate what they see.


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