President Higgins expresses concern over volume of legislation

Some 19 bills were sent to the president to be signed in to law in July, including nine in one day, raising concern about the time for legislative scrutiny
President Higgins expresses concern over volume of legislation

President Michael D Higgins has written to the Ceann Comhairle and Cathaoirleach to express concerns over the volume of legislation being sent for his signature. File picture: Maxwells

President Michael D Higgins has written to the Ceann Comhairle and Cathaoirleach to express concerns over the volume of legislation being sent for his signature.

A spokesperson for the president confirmed the letter had been sent concerning the "legislative process". 

In the letter, President Higgins says that in "the three weeks since the beginning of July", he has "been asked to consider 19 separate Bills", with nine presented on one day, each needing to be signed within a week.

President Higgins has signed 14 of those bills into law, including the Climate Action Bill, the Health Amendment Bill and Affordable Housing Bill.

The President said that the Dáil had "an unseemly end-of-term haste to have Bills concluded", referring to his years as a parliamentarian.

He said, "Many of these bills are complex and require me to undertake a detail analysis of their constitutional implications. Some may require the seeking of legal advice and others consultation with the Council of State."

'Welcome intervention'

A statement from the Houses of the Oireachtas said: “The Ceann Comhairle and the Cathaoirleach in a joint letter of response to the President have said that they understand and appreciate the concerns raised by him and have convened a joint meeting tomorrow at 2pm of the Dáil Business Committee and the Seanad CPPO to consider the President’s letter and to determine how the ordering of business might be addressed from September onwards.” 

This has been called a "welcome intervention" by the Sinn Féin whip Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.

Mr Mac Lochlainn said the manner in which legislation was finalised before the Dáil broke last week was "absolutely appalling" and said  the Government was "pushing through legislation with no scrutiny".

"We said we will sit as long as the Government wanted, five days a week, all night if needed, but we cannot be rushing legislation.

And I don't believe the backlog was an accident. I believe it was to minimise scrutiny and awareness of certain parts of these bills.

"We in the opposition believe that it was constructed to approach the deadline of the recess. The president has a solemn responsibility and it is disrespectful to him.

"This is not a man who doesn't understand the legislative process."

The Dáil business committee will convene at 2pm.

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