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Here's how the Dáil will pass legislation if the Seanad is abolished

Committees would be radically overhauled and given the task of scrutinising legislation to an even greater degree under the government’s reform plans.

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THE GOVERNMENT WOULD overhaul the way legislation is passed if the Seanad is abolished.

The referendum to abolish the upper house takes place next month but if passed it won’t be until the next Dáil term – presumably in 2016 – that it will cease to exist.

If that happens then the changes in the chart above under ‘reformed system’ would be implemented fully with a number of these changes already proposed as part of Dáil reform plans coming into effect in the the next few weeks.

The new ‘pre-enactment stage’ would come into effect in the next Dáil term if the Seanad is abolished. It would mean that when a bill has passed first, second, committee and report stages it would go back to the relevant Oireachtas committee which would then consider the bill and make recommendations for approval by government.

In a sense it would be the final chance to scrutinise legislation thoroughly and for opposition to raise concerns or put down amendments before the bill is passed and signed into law.

The government is keen to stress that overhauled committees, some with extra powers, would be able to invite interest groups, experts, and civil society to public hearings in order to inform their work.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said yesterday he wants members of the public “to engage in a way and to an extent that they have never had the opportunity to do before”.

Committee overhaul

The number of Dáil committees would be reduced from 16 to 14 under the post-Seanad abolition proposals.

Their chairpersons would be elected through the d’Hondt system meaning that there would be proportionate distribution of chair roles among government and opposition.

Essentially an opposition TD could be the chairperson of a committee which is not the case now aside from the Public Accounts Committee. How does d’Hondt work? Let Jeremy Vine explain:

YouTube: beebNEWSgfx

There would be four strategic committees which would focus on “issues of importance”. These would include committees for Public Accounts, Finance and Budget, EU scrutiny and Social Affairs.

These committees would be granted powers that are currently enjoyed by the Public Accounts Committee and would take precedence over seven sectoral committees which would shadow government departments.  For example the Department of Justice would have a Dáil Justice Committee.

There would also be three thematic committees which would focus on Oversight and Petitions, the Good Friday Agreement and members’ interests.

But the reform of the committee system is contingent on Seanad abolition.

The government also said yesterday that although the upper house will exist for the next two-and-half-years irrespective of the referendum vote it did not examine any ways in which to reform the Seanad.

Read: Government pledges that TDs will sit earlier and for longer

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

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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