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Kenny plans Dail watchdog after Seanad scrapped

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is planning to set up a high-powered Dail committee to specifically scrutinise legislation after the Seanad is scrapped, the Irish Independent has learned.

The internal think-tank would have outside experts appointed to it and would be aimed at countering the argument of a lack of checks and balances.

The referendum on the abolition of the Seanad is being held in the autumn with campaign groups looking for its retention and reform cranking up their efforts.

Ministers believe if the Seanad referendum is defeated and the Upper House is retained, there will be no reform before the next general election.

The new committee is also being described within government circles as a "mini-Seanad with outside experts".

"Every complex piece of legislation would have to go through this legislative committee. It's obvious the Dail doesn't do a good enough job in scrutinising legislation. It would fill the gap.

"It would be like Oireachtas committees, but with its own secretariat and outside members with experience and expertise in drawing up legislation and its impact. They have to make recommendations and go through the legislation line by line," a senior coalition source said.

The discussions within Government on the creation of a legislative committee are a reason for the delay in the legislation on the referendum for abolition of the Seanad.

The Cabinet is expected to discuss the referendum legislation at its weekly meeting either today or next Tuesday.

A final decision on whether to opt for the legislative committee and what form it would take has not yet been taken by ministers.

But the process is being guided by Mr Kenny and was suggested to him by a well-known public servant.

Government sources say the idea is currently being "kicked around".

EXPERTS

The outside experts would be appointed by the Taoiseach, similar to the manner in which some senators are currently nominated or the finance minister appoints economists to the Fiscal Advisory Council.

The committee would be part of the Houses of the Oireachtas, but would have its own designated staff, separate to the rest of the committees.

The official in charge of the organisation of the committee would likely be a senior civil servant with experience of guiding legislation through the Oireachtas.

"If this is included in the legislation for the referendum, it's different as they are putting in a new structure to effectively replace the Seanad," a source said.

The concept is aimed at countering the argument that the Seanad offers checks and balances on legislation that are not offered by the Dail.

Irish Independent