Ceann Comhairle takes action following president's complaint over legislative logjam 

Seán Ó Fearghaíl is to write to every minister and their top officials over delays in new laws coming through following complaints from President Michael D Higgins
Ceann Comhairle takes action following president's complaint over legislative logjam 

President Higgins took the unprecedented step to complain to Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl
about a high volume of bills landing on his desk this week, all of which require signature into law within a matter of days. File picture: Maxwells

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl is to write to every minister and their top officials over delays in new laws coming through following complaints from President Michael D Higgins.

Following a meeting of the Dáil Business Committee on Friday, it was agreed that Mr Ó Fearghaíl and his Seanad counterpart Mark Daly would write to all departments to resolve the issue of a legislative logjam in recent days.

President Higgins took the unprecedented step to complain to the Ceann Comhairle about a high volume of bills landing on his desk this week, all of which require signature into law within a matter of days.

President Higgins has expressed concern to the Oireachtas over the large volume of bills he has been asked to consider and sign into law in a short period of time. File picture: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie 
President Higgins has expressed concern to the Oireachtas over the large volume of bills he has been asked to consider and sign into law in a short period of time. File picture: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie 

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.

At the committee, President Higgins’ intervention was largely supported by opposition TDs, who said they have been raising this issue with Government in recent weeks.

It was also agreed that TDs and senators would be given four weeks to submit written suggestions that would help improve the passage of legislation.

Exacerbated by Covid-19

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said clearly there was an issue in terms of the volume of legislation that gets completed at the end of every session but that was exacerbated by Covid-19 this year.

He said: "I do believe that there are opportunities in terms of reforming how the Dáil operates and the Oireachtas reform committee can meet on the whole range of issues to provide more time for legislation, and for government and for legislation in respect of getting vital bills through."

"Obviously, there's been an ongoing need throughout the pandemic to get Covid legislation through depending on public health advice at any time. But I would accept that there's a high volume, too high a volume coming at the end of the parliamentary session. That's been the trend for many, many years and has been exacerbated by Covid, no question,” the Taoiseach said.

He said if the president is of the view that the volume of legislation that arrives is at such a high volume in a very short space of time, “I think there are legitimate issues there to be articulated and to be discussed”.

"In my view, I think we have to look at this in the context of Covid too," he said. 

"Covid is without question exacerbated that in terms of reducing the number of days the Dáil could meet and reducing the time the Seanad could meet, so I know that that's been a contributing factor to the situation that has been articulated within the president's correspondence, and so we'll leave it at that for the time being."

 

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