Ceann comhairle may get power to make ministers answer TDs

New committee on Dáil reform discusses how House can be run more effectively

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl: “Each member has a part to play in this process of reform.” Photograph: Eric Luke.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl: “Each member has a part to play in this process of reform.” Photograph: Eric Luke.

 

The ceann comhairle could be given the power to intervene if government ministers decline to answer TDs’ questions, under proposed Dáil reforms.

The new Dáil committee examining reform met for the first time yesterday to discuss how the House could be run more effectively.

Proposals included a dedicated day for committees, an increased number of technical groups and changes to voting arrangements.

Spoken agreement was reached on a number of measures but the clerk of the Dáil, Peter Finnegan, was asked to report back to outline the implications of any such decisions.

The meeting, which lasted three hours, did not discuss the proposed establishment of a budgetary committee or calls to loosen the whip system.

There was agreement to establish a new committee that would determine the business of the Dáil every day. It would be chaired by the Ceann Comhairle rather than the government chief whip. This would allow the House decide the order of business rather than the government.

It was also agreed the secretaries general of government departments would be accountable to committees to detail progress on legislation.

Implications

The committee also discussed changing the way TDs vote, including whether the system should remain the same or votes should take place en bloc.

Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh proposed using a card system where members would not have to leave committees to cast their vote.

Members also discussed having a “committee week” or “committee mornings” where the Dáil would not sit to allow TDs to attend committees.

The newly established committee will meet up to five times to discuss the proposals, with the next meeting to take place on April 5th.

Members believe they will be in a position to alter standing orders on April 6th, when the Dáil next sits, to allow some of their proposals to be introduced.

Strengthen procedures

“There is a duty on us as parliamentarians to reorder this Dáil in a manner that more accurately reflects the real needs of a modern Ireland,” he said.

“Each member also has a part to play in this process of reform and I’d like to thank all of those involved in our meeting today which was carried out in a constructive and positive manner and which reflected the commitment and dedication of members to meaningfully reform how our parliament does its business.

“I would like to see the changed approach to the election of ceann comhairle as the first step in reforming how our parliament does its business.”