Frustrated senators claim that the Seanad has simply turned into a “talking shop” with little work being carried out
In the three weeks since the the Seanad returned after the summer break, just eight hours and 15 minutes have been spent on legislation while 33 hours have been taken up with statements and motions.
The issue was raised by Senator Mark Daly, who complained that “the schedule of business has been very long on statements and motions and very short on legislation”.
“It could not be said that we are doing our job as a legislative body,” the Fianna Fáil senator said. “If someone were to accuse this House, and the other House is not much better, of being a talking shop, it most certainly is because legislation is not being brought through.”
This sentiment was echoed by Labour senator Kevin Humphreys, who said that delays in the Dáil is resulting in little legislation arriving in the Upper House. However, he suggested that legislation could be introduced in the Seanad.
Mr Humphreys, who was a TD for Dublin South-East in the last Dáil, said: “As m Minister of state in the previous government, I started several bills in the Seanad because there was a backlog in the Dáil, it has been used in the past.
“We basically have a ‘do nothing’ Dáil, which means we have a ‘do nothing’ Seanad and ‘do nothing’ committees because of a lack of action by Government.
“For those who want to bring about change, it is becoming frustrating.”
Fine Gael’s Martin Conway also said the current situation is “frustrating”.
“Ultimately, new politics should be about more legislation and not less legislation.”
However, Senator Kieran O’Donnell stressed that questioning ministers on issues of the day is an important part of the Seanad.
“Ministers come in quite frequently and you get to raise issues directly, it’s a feature of the Seanad that is quite positive,” he said.
“I would expect that the level of legislation coming through will increase.”
Neale Richmond said the lack of legislation is a direct result of the minority Government.
The Fine Gael senator said: “Unfortunately it’s systematic if the times we are in, there is a lot less legislation going through the Dáil.
“With a minority Government every piece of legislation that comes up has to be past by our counterparts in government and the majority of the time it has to be flagged with Fianna Fáil, Labour and other members of the opposition.
“I would love to be debating more legislation.”
In response to Mr Daly’s complaints, leader of the Seanad Jerry Buttimer said pre-legistlave scrutiny was now “stalling” the work that can be done.
Speaking in the Seanad last week, Fine Gael’s Mr Buttimer said: “With regard to legislation, let me assure the senator that the Government side of the House has requested that bills start from this House.
“However, as the Senator knows, as he has been here as long as I, pre-legislative scrutiny has now come in and that is stalling pieces of legislation.
“Rather than bemoaning the fact pre-legislative scrutiny is in situ, we should welcome it because it makes legislation better and allows for a better and more participative journey of bills.
“Nonetheless, it is a source of concern.”