Regulations under European Act can be signed without being examined by Oireachtas
Senator seeking to recall house to discuss organ donation regime
The Seanad has a month to annul the regulation. Photograph: Alan Betson
The 1972 European Communities Act is a very significant piece of legislation. It was enacted to enable Ireland to comply with the obligations required under membership of what was then called the European Communities.
The Act gave ministers wide powers to enact regulations necessary to ensure Irish law complied with the requirements of European law. Thousands of these “European Communities” regulations have since been signed by ministers over the last four decades, covering all kind of policy areas.
These regulations are very seldom if ever discussed by the Oireachtas before being enacted and, although they can actually be annulled by the Dáil or Seanad, this has also never been done in the 40 years since the 1972 Act. Many of these regulations have a more significant impact on people’s lives than the legislation passed by the Oireachtas itself but ministers can sign them without consulting at all with the Dáil or Seanad.
This regulation is the first law in Ireland relating to organ donations but it did not receive any parliamentary scrutiny before it was enacted and there was only cursory consultation with the sector.
Interestingly, the 1972 Act includes a provision that if either house of the Oireachtas is in recess for more than 10 days, and one-third of the members of that house sign a request to do so then the house must reconvene and consider whether it will annul the regulation.
On September 6th, 2012, when the Seanad was well into its long recess, Senator Mark Daly gathered more than the necessary 20 signatures from his Seanad colleagues seeking that the Seanad be recalled to debate the organ donation regulation. Daly had been nominated to Seanad Éireann by the Irish Kidney Association, which had and still has serious concerns about the content of the organ donation regulation . As it sees it, the regulation in this country only does the bare minimum required from the EU directive which it implements. In particular, it says the system in the current Reilly regulation is flawed because it splits responsibility between the Health Service Executive and the Irish Medicines Board. The main purpose of the EU directive, it feels, was to provide clear leadership by means of a single competent authority in each member state with designated responsibility. The split responsibility in Ireland it says means that no one will be responsible. The need for improved infrastructure within the health services for encouraging and managing of organ donation is something all practitioners in the area say is badly needed and which they all feel could have a transformative effect on transplant figures.