Socialist Party T.D. Joe Higgins was suspended from the Dail today until the next session in 2001 because he protested against a ruling of the Ceann Comhairle that only the Leaders of Fine Gael and the Labour Party could argue against the Taoiseach’s proposals for Dáil business.

Deputy Higgins said:

“It is incredible that deputies elected by the people to the Dáil are prohibited from a voice in how the Dáil business is ordered each day, unless they are the leaders of Fine Gael and the Labour Parties. The relevant Standing Order (No. 36) does not prevent the Ceann Comhairle from allowing me to speak on these matters – his ruling is part of a relentless effort to silence strong voices of opposition to the establishment in Dáil Éireann.

“The speaking arrangements proposed by the Taoiseach today are reminiscent of the late, unlamented Stalinist Politburos. In the Budget Debate only the Taoiseach, the Leader of Fine Gael and the Leader of the Labour Party were allowed to speak for half an hour each. On the Nice Summit only the Taoiseach, the Leaders of Fine Gael and Labour as well as a Minister of State were given time.

“It is ironic that a T.D. with Ansbacher accounts, a T.D. who bankrupted farmers, and T.D.s who have received large donations from land speculators are free to enter Dail Éireann, but I am suspended for insisting that the voice of ordinary working class people is heard.

“I will be holding urgent discussion with other deputies who are independent or from small parties with a view to securing our democratic rights to speak in the Dáil to which we were elected by the people.”

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