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Overhaul sees number of Oireachtas committees increased

The Programme for Government included a pledge to reduce committee numbers – but the survivors had too much work.

The number of Leinster House committees was cut under the current government - but some of these cuts have now been reversed.
The number of Leinster House committees was cut under the current government - but some of these cuts have now been reversed.
Image: Leandro's World Tour via Flickr

A REORGANISATION of the Oireachtas committee system has resulted in an increase in the number of committees – in an acknowledgement that the new government’s Dáil reforms have been more difficult to manage than first envisaged.

The number of select committees has been expanded from seven to nine, in order to address the reservations of TDs and Senators who believed each of the larger committees had too many roles of responsibility.

The previous Dáil’s committee system meant that almost all of the 15 government ministers was overseen and scrutinised by an individual Oireachtas committee, while other committees had niche remits like Economic Regulatory Affairs and Climate Change.

In the aftermath of the 2011 election, however, the number of committees was greatly reduced – with only seven select committees tasked with overseeing the work of 15 members of cabinet.

This resulted in some committees having large and widely-varied areas of responsibility – with one 21-member group being responsible for overseeing three departments and ministers with remits ranging from transport to the Gaeltacht, and another being responsible for both communications and agriculture, areas with only minimal overlap.

Another 21-member committee was responsible for jobs, social protection and education – meaning it was also responsible for scrutinising three ministers and departments.

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From today, however, those committees are being fragmented – a move which will mean committees are able to better focus on individual ministers, but which will result in a slight back-track on the government’s pledge to reduce the number of committees, contained in the programme for government.

Even including the creation of two new committees, however, the overall number remains significantly lower than in the previous Dáil.

Committee chairpersons are paid an annual allowance of €9,500, but vice-chairpersons no longer receive an annual payment.

Read: Halve the size of the Dáil, says Bertie Ahern

Column: Abolish the Seanad? Here’s a better idea to fix our political system

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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