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Dublin: 18 °C Sunday 31 May, 2020

Government pledges that TDs will sit earlier and for longer

The Dáil will start earlier on a Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays than it currently does and Friday sittings will be every two weeks instead of every month as is the case at present under government proposals outlined today.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS outlined a raft of reforms to the way Dáil Eireann does its business with the pledge that the public will have more involvement in the lawmaking process.

Under reforms announced today – that it is hoped can be implemented from the first week of October – TDs’ standard week in the Dáil chamber will increase from 23 hours to 28 hours and there will two extra hours to debate actual legislation.

The Dáil will start earlier on a Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays than it currently does and Friday sittings will be every two weeks instead of every month as is the case at present:

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The reforms are not contingent on the Seanad being abolished although the government has also outlined proposals to reform the committees system in the event that the referendum is passed next month.

The government has pledged that all non-emergency legislation will now go through a pre-legislative process whereby relevant Oireachtas committees will hold hearings that the public will be encouraged to participate in.

This will be similar to the way the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill was dealt with where there were committee hearings held prior to the drafting of the Heads of Bill. Experts and interest groups gave evidence to the Oireachtas Health Committee which then submitted a report to the Department of Health before the law was drafted.

‘Queen’s Speech’

The government also intends to outline its priorities every April upon the publication of three separate reports – a Stability Programme and National Reform Programme, a National Risk Assessment, and a National Progress Report.

This has been likened to the Queen’s Speech in the UK where the Queen addresses both houses of parliament on the government’s legislative agenda.

The Taoiseach and Tánaiste will outline the government’s priorities and Ministers will also address the Dáil on their individual priorities with debate in the chamber.

The government is also promising more scrutiny of the budgetary process at Dáil and Committee stages with a pledge that the TDs will be able to scrutinise budget proposals and estimates before any money is spent.

Opposition spokespeople will have more opportunities to submit questions to Ministers and there will be two ‘Europe Weeks’ in early May and November where matters related to the EU will be scrutinised.

The government is also pledging to reduce the use of the guillotine – as there will be more sitting time – and have a post-legislative review where a Minister addresses the relevant Oireachtas committee on the impact of legislation 12 months after it has been enacted.

Read: Government chief whip will look at allowing free votes after next election

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Hugh O'Connell

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