Number of Dail committees cut from 26 to just 16
TDs face new limits on participation
THE number of Oireachtas committees was slashed last night.
This will mean a reduction in the number of chairmen getting €9,500 each. But the number of TDs on the committees will remain much the same.
That means that nearly every backbench TD will still be on a committee, though they will not be paid for their duties. Their most important job will be to make detailed changes to legislation.
Because there will be fewer committees, the TDs will be restricted in the number in which they can participate.
The Government reduced the number from 26 to 16 -- with three of them containing 21 TDs and senators to cover several government departments.
The number of committees had mushroomed to 26 under the stewardship of the previous Fianna Fail-led coalition Government, with payments of €20,000 for each TD appointed to chair the committee.
There had been widespread criticism that it was a method of providing 'jobs for the boys'. And there were complaints that TDs had to rush between four different committees to ensure there were enough members to hold the meetings.
Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe said it would make the committees 'far more effective' in examining legislation.
"In the last Dail, members were rushing in and out to attend two, three or four committees. They weren't able to find out what was on the agenda. Now they will have one committee and they can concentrate on that," he said.
Mr Kehoe dismissed opposition criticism that committees with 21 TDs and senators as members and three government departments to cover would not be able to operate effectively.
There will be just one 21-member committee to deal with three government departments -- Environment, Transport and Arts -- which previously had three separate committees dedicated to them.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin complained that three other government departments -- Enterprise, Social Protection and Education -- were being run into one 21-member committee.
"Where can we get genuine, real and meaningful accountability in the unwieldy committees the Taoiseach proposes to establish?" he asked.
But in the past, many Oireachtas committees had large numbers of TDs and senators as members, with the Agriculture and Justice committees having 17 and 18 members respectively.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fail was at loggerheads with the 16 Independent TDs in the Dail, who are demanding control of the Dail's spending watchdog, the Public Accounts committee.
Fianna Fail wants to give the post to Carlow-Kilkenny TD John McGuinness but Independent TD Finian McGrath said his group did not want a member of the party 'that messed up the economy'.
The Dail will soon start to sit four days a week instead of three --and the extra sitting will be for committee work.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael Laois-Offaly TD Charlie Flanagan, who came out against Enda Kenny during an unsuccessful heave, made a comeback by being appointed as chairman of the parliamentary party. He was elected unopposed.
New Fine Gael Wicklow TD Simon Harris beat off a challenge from the party's Dublin Mid-West TD Derek Keating to become secretary of the parliamentary party.