WE KNOW NOW for sure that there won’t be any new legislation enacted before next September – because the Dáil and the Seanad have gone on their summer breaks and won’t be reconvening for another eight weeks.
The Oireachtas recess marks the end of the government’s summer term – so we thought we’d go back to the list it released in April, of the 29 pieces of legislation it aimed to publish this term, and see how they got on.
As with the original list, the following is sorted on a department-by-department (that is, minister-by-minister) basis.
Agriculture, Food and the Marine
1. Animal Health and Welfare Bill – This bill updates and consolidates previous laws relating to animal health and welfare, and repealed some redundant laws. Controversially, it gave a legally enshrined status to hare coursing. Published.
2. Forestry Bill – This Bill hopes to offer a similar overhaul to the existing laws in the forestry sector, hoping also to advance sustainability practices. Not published. A spokesperson said the Department hoped to publish it after the Summer recess.
Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
3. Gaeltacht Bill - Legislation to revise the official definition of a Gaeltacht, and to change the structure of Údarás na Gaeltachta so that there are no more direct elections. Published. The subject of a controversial Dáil walk-out by the opposition this week. Due to be signed into law next week.
4. Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (Amendment) Bill – Legislation which will transfer official responsibility for translation services away from the Department and into the Oireachtas, which is considered an apolitical body. Not published (yet). A spokesperson said the Bill had been approved at Cabinet last Tuesday and should be Published shortly.
Children and Youth Affairs
5. Children First Bill – A landmark piece of legislation which will give legal effect to the government’s commitments on child protection. Not published. The ‘Heads of Bill’ – a skeletal version of the law – was publishe in May so that interest groups could give feedback; the Oireachtas committee overseeing children’s affairs recently submitted a 700-page report to the Department, which is now being taken on board. An updated Bill is likely to be out in the autumn.
Communications Energy and Natural Resources
6. Minerals Development Bill – An overhaul of existing legislation dealing with mineral mining. Not published. A spokesperson said the legislation was at an ‘advanced stage of drafting’.
7. Civil Defence Board (Dissolution) Bill – A Bill to scrap the Civil Defence Board and transfer its functions back to the Department of Defence. Not published. A spokeswoman said they anticipated that the Bill would be published in September.
Education and Skills
8. Education and Training Boards Bill – Legislation to overhaul the current structure of the VEC system, merging existing bodies so that the total number is reduced from 33 to 16. Not published. A spokeswoman said the Bill is still being formally drafted but should be released over the summer break.
Environment, Community and Local Government
9. Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill – Legislation which aimed to address legal question marks over the constitutionality of any body established under the Local Government Act 1971. This, in turn, would help to facilitate the abolition of many of those bodies. It would also allow individuals to be the manager of more than one county council. Published.
10. Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill – Legislation which aims to encourage the increased use of mediation to resolve tenant-landlord disputes, and therefore reduce the workload of the Private Residential Tenancies Board. Published.
11. Betting (Amendment) Bill – Updating 70-year-old legislation so that offshore bookies will need a licence before they can accept bets from Irish residents. It also makes sure they are subject to the same duty as Irish-licensed bookies. Published.
12. Central Bank (Regulation of Credit Unions) Bill – Legislation which hopes to provide a stronger method of regulation for credit unions. Not published. A draft version was released earlier this summer, and the full version is now due in September. A spokesman said the delayed publication had been agreed with the Troika.
13. Fiscal Responsibility Bill – The Fiscal Compact required countries to put ‘automatic correction mechanisms’ in place so that any major government overspending could be automatically corrected. Published.
14, Fiscal Responsibility (No. 2) Bill – Legislation “to provide for the other fiscal control measures required under the EU-IMF Programme of Financial Support”. Not published; a Department spokesman declined to comment on its status.
15. Treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism Bill – Legislation which formally allowed Ireland to ratify the ESM Treaty and participate in the Eurozone’s new bailout fund. Published.
Foreign Affairs and Trade
16. European Communities Act 1972 (Amendment) Bill – Legislation which goes hand-in-hand with the ESM Treaty, amending the EU’s founding treaties so that a permanent bailout fund would no longer be illegal. Published.
17. Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Bill – A bill establishing a formal system of reference pricing, and allowing pharmacists to dispense generic equivalents instead of more expensive brand-name drugs under certain circumstances. Published.
18. Health and Social Care Professionals (Amendment) Bill – Legislation which will tweak the nature and membership of the Health and Social Care Professionals Council. Not published. A spokesperson said it was due to be discussed at Cabinet “shortly”. “As the Bill was of a technical nature the amendments involved lengthy consultation with the Office of the Parliamentary Draughtsman,” they added.
19. HSE Governance Bill – A law to overhaul the internal structure of the HSE, creating six new ‘directorates’ which will be overseen by a Director-General and not a CEO. Published. HSE chief executive Cathal Magee has indicated his intention to step down, rather than become a director-general.
Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
20. Companies (Amendment) Bill – A housekeeping Bill which will allow companies to use a particular US standard of accounting. The idea is to allow US subsidiaries to file the same version of the accounts they would have to use in the States. Published.
Justice and Equality
21. Criminal Justice (Search Powers) Bill – A law to address the implications of the Supreme Court judgment in the case taken by Ali Charaf Damache. That case ruled that it was unconstitutional for some Gardaí to issue search warrants – as was permitted under legislation – and then follow them up themselves. Published.
22. Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill – Legislation allowing people not to disclose some previous criminal convictions, as long as their punishments were below a certain threshold and a minimum time had passed since conviction. Published.
23. Criminal Justice (Withholding Information on Crimes against Children and Vulnerable Adults) Bill – Making it a crime to have knowledge about a crime against a child or vulnerable person, and not pass that information onto Gardaí. Published.
24. Europol Bill – Allowing Ireland to ratify the creation of Europol, a new trans-EU police organisation, and replacing previous legislation with similar functions. Not published, though a spokesperson said it was due out “shortly”.
25. Mental Capacity Bill – Reforming the law on mental capacity, following the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission’s report on the subject. Not published. A spokeswoman said it was still being drafted and would probably be submitted for government approval before the next Dáil session begins in eight weeks.
26. National Vetting Bureau Bill – Legislation setting up a new National Vetting Bureau to oversee recruitment within certain trades such as teaching. Published.
27. Personal Insolvency Bill – Reforming Ireland’s bankruptcy laws and allowing the creation of new court-enforced systems under which debts can be written off after a certain period of time, pending the approval of the creditors. Published.
Public Expenditure and Reform
28. Statute Law Revision Bill – Scrapping around 7,000 redundant pieces of legislation dating from before Ireland’s independence. Many of those laws are Private Acts allowing two people to divorce; for a long time these laws were the only way to get a divorce under UK law. Published.
29. Valuation Act 2001 (Amendment) Bill – A general piece of legislation to change previous laws, which create a Valuation Commissioner who can oversee methods by which the value of property can be reappraised. Not published, but the government is due to approve a draft version next Tuesday.
Total: 17 published so far, 4 due to be published ‘shortly’ or imminently, 8 delayed.