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New Laws

Here are just some of the government's priorities for the months ahead

Renting, judge’s appointments, microbeads and noise at the airport – just some of the issues the government plan to tackle.

IT’S TWO WEEKS into the Dáil term and so far it has debated issues such as alcohol advertising, vulture funds, and post offices. There was a motion of no confidence in a minister thrown in for good measure. 

Over the summer, there was speculation that this Dáil might not last past October’s Budget, with many predicting a bump in negotiations with Fianna Fáil.

Ultimately, such a knock could end the confidence and supply arrangement – but the government is pressing on. 

This Dáil term is dominated by the Budget and the abortion legislation, which Health Minister Simon Harris has to get over the line in order to have services in place by 1 January. 

But it has other priorities too – 39 pieces of legislation, in fact. 

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So, what stands out on that priority list, published at the start of term? 

As mentioned, the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill is the government’s number one priority piece of legislation. It is due before the Dáil on Thursday, and is expected to have an easy passage through all Houses of the Oireachtas. 

There is what has been dubbed as Shane Ross’s Judicial Appointments Bill, which aims to introduce a new system of appointing judges. Earlier this year it was called a ‘dog’s dinner’ but it should finally be passed this session.

There’s the Unfair Contract Terms (Gift Vouchers) Bill. This will ensure that all vouchers will be valid for a minimum of five years. This would be an easy win for the government to get over the line by Christmas shopping time . 

For the weekend that’s in it (the 10th anniversary of the banking bailout), it is notable that the government plans to pass the National Surplus (Reserve Fund for Exceptional Contingencies) Bill – this is also known as the setting up of the ‘Rainy Day Fund’ for if and when Ireland hits on hard times again. 

Then there’s the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Bill. It might seem unusual that Ireland haven’t already set this down in stone, but this Bill will enable Ireland to become a State Party to the 2017 Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which was adopted by 122 States at the UN last July. So that’s good to know. 

Ireland plans to ban microbeads and they’ll do so through the Microbeads Bill. Currently the Heads of the Bill are being prepared so it’s early days for this. (Find out more about the issue here.)

The State pays €1.5 billion to approved housing bodies (AHBs) to build houses, but as it turns out, these voluntary housing organisations are not regulated. The government plans to do this through the Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Bill. Despite the Heads of the Bill being drafted in 2015, and the Bill passing through pre-legislative scrutiny in early 2016, it still remains off the statute books. 

In relation to housing, the long-awaited Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill is another big priority. There isn’t a mention of the housing and rental crisis that goes by without Minister Eoghan Murphy stating that he wants to get this over the line. It will essentially provide further protections to tenants’ rights and give better enforcement powers to the Residential Tenancy Board, particularly around landlords that raise rents over and above the limit in the Rent Pressure Zones. The sooner this one is passed the better. 

The Justice Department has a raft of legislation it wants to get passed this session, including the Crime Procedure Bill, which will reduce the timeframe and delays in ‘white collar crime’ trials. There is also the Gaming and Lotteries Bill which will provide for better promotion of local gaming and lotteries, for instance, like competitions run by local sports clubs. 

There’s been a lot of talk in the last year about the gender pay gap. Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan announced earlier this year that Ireland will legislate for it, and this will come in the form of the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill which will establish the mandatory reporting obligation on companies to report on gender pay gap differences in their companies. This has been flagged that it will impact firms with 500 or more employees, however the Taoiseach has indicated that this is just the starting point and that smaller companies could be included at a later date. 

Noise at the airport due to the new runway that is planned is also to be dealt with through the Airport Noise Regulator Bill. This will put in place noise-related operating restrictions at Dublin Airport. 

While the government has enacted 81 Bills since taking office in May 2016, there are over 250 Private Members’ Bills stuck in the system.

These are Bills that are generally put forward by members of the opposition, and in the past, never made it very far due to the government having the numbers to block such Bills.

However, with ‘new politics’ at play, many of these Bills make it on to Second Stage, only to be left languishing. 

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