Role of Ceann Comhairle 'should be enhanced'

The Constitutional Convention has recommended that the role of the Ceann Comhairle be bolstered and that election to the post be by secret ballot.

The recommendation comes as the Convention holds a two-day meeting in the Grand Hotel, Malahide with ballots taken on making a number of recommendations to the Houses of Oireachtas on the subject of Dáil reform.

Members of the Convention voted to recommend that the Constitution is altered to enhance the role of the Ceann Comhairle and that a new provision be inserted to allow for the election of the Ceann Comhairle by secret ballot.

Members also voted to amend Article 17.2 of the Constitution to allow all TDs to make recommendations to the Dáil that involve a charge to the public purse. Currently only members of Government can make recommendations that involve a charge on the public purse. The Convention also recommended a series of changes to Standing Orders or Parliamentary Practice.

Over the two days members of the Convention heard presentations from academics and specialists on the role and functions of Dáil Éireann and the challenges facing modern parliaments in Ireland and in other countries.

“How Dáil Éireann does its business goes to the very heart of our democracy and throughout the weekend it was apparent that Convention members felt very strongly about the issue of Dáil reform," chairman of the Convention Tom Arnold said.

“It is an exceptionally complex issue and members of the Convention heard a number of presentations from experts as well as drawing from the experience of former and presently sitting parliamentarians.

"Proposed reforms were discussed and debated in the context of the affect they would have, if they could in fact end up weaken or strengthen government and the democratic process."

The Convention on the Constitution is a forum of 100 people, representative of Irish society and parliamentarians from the island of Ireland, with an independent Chairman.

The Government is obliged to respond to recommendations made by the Convention within four months of having received them.

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