TDs may get greater powers in the annual budgetary process

A turf war is looming between the Dáil and the Department of Finance over proposed increased powers for TDs in the annual budgetary process.

At a meeting of the newly created Dáil reform sub-committee, proposals for strengthening the role of the Dáil in the budget were discussed, but it was argued that such proposals could undermine the constitutional position of the department in formulating the budget.

Sources at the committee, said the TDs were nearly unanimous in their support for strengthening the Dáil’s powers. The meeting agreed to bring forward proposals for a special budget committee and an advisory office, which would provide an economic analysis service to TDs, to allow parliament be involved from the start.

The meeting discussed a previous OECD report on how the Budget process works in Ireland, and concluded that there is a great deficiency in parliamentary oversight here compared to other countries.

Sources at the meeting have said Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin articulated the concerns of Michael Noonan and the Department of Finance.

“Howlin did give the view of Michael Noonan and the officials, highlighting some constitutional concerns about ceding power to the Dáil. Finance apparently felt it could breach their constitutional position. But his comments got short shrift from us,” said one TD present.

The cross-party committee, chaired by ceann comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, hopes to bring forward reform measures which will see the Dáil given increased powers to hold the Cabinet to account. The meeting also discussed procedures on how to make appointments to Oireachtas committees.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who sits on the committee, told the Irish Examiner that the body is making good progress and is working well together. “It will, by the end of the month, come up with a radical range of proposals of how the Dáil works,” said Mr Ryan.

The body was established in the wake of the general election after a broad political consensus emerged to modernise the Dáil’s procedures and rules.

It is expected that given its new diverse make-up, the new Dáil will see more than one technical group and smaller parties and groupings will also see their speaking rights increased. The proposals are to be presented to the Dáil later this month.

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