The Taoiseach and his Government have been accused of deliberately allowing bills pass in the hope of “killing them off” later on to avoid losing Dáil votes.
More than 240 bills have been allowed pass through the Dáil but are yet to progress, and the Government is engaging in a “tactical abuse of power” by blocking new opposition laws that are now clogging up the legislative system.
As revealed today by the Irish Examiner, there are now 242 bills snaking their way through the Oireachtas with Leo Varadkar being blamed for “trying to control the opposition” by using any means available.
Labour leader Brendan Howlin, writing in today’s Irish Examiner, described the actions of the Government as “deeply disappointing”.
He said the Government is deliberately allowing bills pass the early stages rather than face losing a vote in the Dáil and then allowing them “wither in committee”.
“The reality has been deeply disappointing, as a do-nothing Dáil has been sidelined through the bureaucracy of the legislative process.
“As dozens of new bills began passing second stage, the Government quickly cottoned on that, instead of feebly opposing a bill, it was easier to acquiesce and wave it through, where it would wither in committee,” he writes.
“Blocked politics is now the order of the day as over 100 proposed laws jam up the process with barely any moving on to committee, report and final stages.”
Since the minority Government came to power in 2016, just five of the 61 bills enacted have come from the opposition benches.
Meanwhile, there are 123 bills from opposition parties and individual TDs waiting to be debated in the Dáil, this is in contrast to four government bills awaiting second stage.
Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour have all called for changes to address the growing backlog of private members’ bills and have blamed the Government for cynically stopping new laws.
The Government is stalling new legislation even after it has been voted through the Dáil by demanding what is referred to as a money message.
The money message, which adds an additional stage and can take considerable time to get, looks at the cost of introducing a new law.
Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty, who has put forward a number of bills, said the Government is simply “trying to have their cake and eat it”.
Mr Doherty used the example of a bill on fishing for island communities which he brought forward that passed through the Dáil. He said the Government has now “killed the legislation at committee stage” claiming it needs a money message.
“Why are Government passing legislation through the Dáil and then suppressing it at committee stage?”
Mr Varadkar admitted that there is “absolutely a delay in progressing private members’ bills”, but said it is “not as simple as money messages”.
“We need a better process to ensure that legislation that comes through from private members is of equal quality to that of what is produced by the Government. If we are serious about getting some of these bills through — and there are some good bills there — we need to reform our procedures,” said Mr Varadkar.
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