Dáil briefly suspended amid row over medicinal cannabis bill

Richard Boyd Barrett hit out at what he described as an "outrageous sabotage" of the bill

Dáil briefly suspended amid row over medicinal cannabis bill

Richard Boyd Barrett. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

The Dáil was briefly suspended this afternoon this afternoon amid complaints about the handling of a bill proposing the legalisation of medicinal cannabis.

Yesterday, it was revealed that the Oireachtas Health Committee had recommended that the bill should not proceed to committee stage.

According to the Health Committee's report, the bill poses “major legal issues, unintended policy consequences and a lack of safeguards against harmful use of cannabis by patients.” 

People Before Profit's Gino Kenny - who introduced the bill - and Richard Boyd Barrett raised the issue in the Dáil today.

Deputy Boyd Barrett argued: "A report has been produced about Gino Kenny's medicinal cannabis bill, where it has been stated that this bill is going to be stopped - even though it was passed democratically last December. That is a subversion of the authority of the Dáil.

"The Health Committee has no right to decide a bill that was passed by this House is not going any further."

After Deputy Boyd Barrett refused to 'resume his seat', Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl suspended proceedings for several minutes.

When the Dáil resumed, the Ceann Comhairle said the report form the basis of a motion that will come before the Dáil in September.

He noted: "When that motion comes before the House, I would expect that the Business Committee would provide for an opportunity for the matter to be debated.

"That is the democratic process in operation," he added.

Deputy Boyd Barrett responded that there has been an "absolutely outrageous sabotage of this bill for the most spurious of reasons".

"Pretty horrendous"

Earlier, Gino Kenny said it was "pretty horrendous" that he found out his bill was being rejected on national radio.

He claims it was a PR stunt by Fine Gael's Kate O'Connell to announce it on The Pat Kenny Show without telling him.

The bill aims to decriminalise cannabis for medicinal use - but the Oireachtas Health Committee feared it would do the same for recreational use.

Deputy Kenny said it is a shambles that he was not formally told his bill was being dumped.

"I don't think that's acceptable whatsoever," he argued.

When quizzed by Deputy Kenny about the bill in the Dáil this afternoon, the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald claimed there were "very serious problems" with the proposed legislation.

She added that the Health Minister will make sure "there will be a medicinal cannabis access programme".

Simon Harris has established a "Compassionate Access Programme" for cannabis. Deputy Kenny, however, has labeled the programme “hugely restrictive and totally unworkable.”