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President Higgins raises concerns about volume of legislation he's asked to consider in a short period

The Ceann Comhairle and Cathaoirleach have said they “appreciated the concerns” raised by President Higgins.

President Michael D Higgins.
President Michael D Higgins.
Image: Leah Farrell

Updated Jul 29th 2021, 8:30 PM

TWO OIREACHTAS COMMITTEES are to hold an unscheduled meeting tomorrow following an “unprecedented” letter from President Michael D Higgins about the legislative process. 

In a letter to the Oireachtas, Higgins expressed concerns about the volume of “complex” legislation he has been asked to consider in a short space of time and raised “concerns about a pattern that has emerged in recent years.”

The President said that since the beginning of July he has been asked to consider “19 separate bills. Nine were presented on the one day.”

He said the legislation was required “to be considered and signed in the same seven-day period”.

“Many of these bills are complex and require me to undertake a detail analysis of their constitutional implications. Some may require the seeking of legal advice and others consultation with the Council of State.” 

The Dáil is currently in recess but before it broke for the summer a number of high-profile bills were passed that were signed into law by President Higgins. 

Among them was the controversial indoor dining bill as well as laws relating to the  CervicalCheck Tribunal and the Land Development Agency. 

In his letter, Higgins says that 21 of 32 Bills presented to him last year were sent in the weeks leading up to the summer and Christmas breaks. 

“It would strike me, as President and from my years as a parliamentarian, that there must be a more orderly approach to arranging the legislative timetable that allows all legislators the time to consider and contribute to proposals before the Oireachtas without unnecessary time constraints and an unseemly end-of-term haste to have Bills concluded,” Higgins wrote. 

Following the correspondence, Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl and Cathaoirleach  Mark Daly have agreed to convene a joint meeting of the Dáil Business Committee and the Seanad Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight to discuss it.  

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The President’s letter is the sole item on the agenda and deputies have been told that the meeting is being called “owing to the unprecedented nature of the correspondence”. 

The letter from President Higgins has not yet been circulated to deputies but will be ahead of tomorrow’s meeting.

In a statement this evening, the Houses of the Oireachtas said that both Ó Fearghaíl and Daly “appreciated the concerns” raised by President Higgins. 

“The Ceann Comhairle and the Cathaoirleach in a joint letter of response to the President have said that they understand and appreciate the concerns raised by him and have convened a joint meeting tomorrow at 2pm of the Dáil Business Committee and the Seanad CPPO to consider the President’s letter and to determine how the ordering of business might be addressed from September onwards,” the statement reads.

- With reporting by Cónal Thomas

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