Monday 26 February 2018

Dail to start an hour earlier under new proposals

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

THE Dail is to start an hour earlier on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as part of new reforms Taoiseach Enda Kenny has promised that his Government will bring in the reforms to compensate for the abolition of the Seanad.

Under the plan, the Dail will start an hour earlier on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as well as sitting for two Fridays every month instead of one.

At Government Buildings, Mr Kenny said that, as the longest serving TD in the House, there had been numerous attempts to change the running of the Dail. He said the Government's new plan was not perfect but could be revisited again.

"You might have a situation where the Dail would sit seven days a week, 50 hours a day and you're still not going to satisfy everybody," he said.

Mr Kenny said the plan would improve the process of scrutinising legislation in the Dail - with some changes happening when the Dail returned from its summer break next week. Others will depend on whether voters decide to abolish the Seanad in the October 4 referendum.

There will be a requirement for a lengthy public consultation on all draft bills - as was done recently with the abortion legislation. Dail committees will get to carry out a second examination of a bill before it is passed - and ministers will be required to report back to the Dail 12 months later to explain how the legislation is working.

There will also be two weeks of Dail time dedicated to the scrutiny of EU affairs - one in April and another in November.

Other reforms include:

:: Ministers who do not bring a Bill to committee for the pre-legislative stage will be required to inform both the Cabinet and the Dail their reasons why.

:: Committees will have greater involvement in the Budget process, with the opportunity to review spending estimates for the year ahead between budget day and the Christmas break.

:: Two sitting weeks a year - in early May and early November - will be spent dealing with European Union-related business.

:: Committees will review the annual Stability Programme Update produced by the Government for the EU.

:: There will also be Dail debate on a new document called the National Risk Assessment, which will set out risks - both financial and non-financial - which the country faces in the year ahead.

The Government outlined a separate set of reforms to take effect in the next Dail - provided its campaign to abolish the Seanad is successful.

Under a unicameral system, these reforms will include:

:: A pre-enactment stage will be introduced between report stage and final stage of legislation. This would be undertaken by the committee which had considered the Bill at pre-legislative and committee stages, and will allow it to make recommendations to the Dail before approval.

:: The committee system will be overhauled - with 14 Dail committees including four strategic, seven sectoral and three thematic committees.

:: The committee chairpersons will be appointed using the d'Hondt system to ensure proportionate distribution of chairs between the Government and opposition.

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