Irish Times view on Government’s legislative list: wheat and chaff

Budget and abortion will dominate as more than 250 Private Members’ Bills remain stuck in the system

The Government’s legislative priority list for the current session is dominated by some obvious items such as the financial measures required by the budget and the legislation arising from the abortion referendum.

Although there are 39 items on the list, financial measures will dominate for much of the session following the budget on October 9th and the Finance Bill that will follow to give effect to its provisions. A welcome ancillary piece of legislation will be the National Surplus (Reserve Fund for Exceptional Contingencies) Bill which will establish an €8 billion rainy day fund, a core part of Pascal Donohoe’s budget strategy.

Abortion is another major item which will be the focus of attention with the debate on the Health (Regulation of the Termination of Pregnancy) Bill. It is expected to be published within the next week or so with the intention of facilitating a quick passage in the Dáil and Seanad. Minister for Health Simon Harris will be pressed by pro-choice campaigners to relax the draft legislation published in advance of the abortion referendum in May and will also face pressure from anti-abortion campaigners to move in the opposite direction. The Minister has said he will stick to the provisions of the draft Bill which is the basis on which people voted to delete the constitutional provision prohibiting abortion.

Some long-awaited pieces of legislation like the Judicial Appointments Bill, designed to introduce a new system of appointing judges, have been held up because of debate about their contents but should finally be passed this session.


One worrying feature is that while 81 Bills have been enacted since the Government took office in May 2016, an astonishing 253 Private Members’ Bills are stuck in the system. It is widely accepted that the vast majority will never be passed and probably just as well. Some are woefully inadequate and have only made it this far because the minority Government has not been able to stop them. Still, the fact that so many remain marooned and are clearly going nowhere is a poor reflection on the 32nd Dáil.