The President and legislation


Sir, – If the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil and the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad were to write to the President criticising him for the performance of his duties, and disseminate the contents of that letter through a spokesperson for all the world to see, then this action would be greeted with outrage across the political and media spectrum. The words “constitutional crisis” would no doubt be bandied about.

So why should it be acceptable for the President to write such an open letter in the opposite direction?

The manner in which the Houses of the Oireachtas do their work and the number of Bills they pass are, frankly, none of the President’s business. Just as the President is not answerable to the Dáil or Seanad for the performance of his functions, they are not answerable to him for theirs.

Under Article 25.2.1 of the Constitution, the President must sign any Bill passed by the Oireachtas within seven days of it being presented to him by the Taoiseach. This time limit applies irrespective of how many Bills are presented to him – an arrangement which works both ways.

Between 2011 and 2015, the Dáil and Seanad passed an average of 51 Bills each year. However, the Houses passed an average of just 40 Bills per year between 2016 and 2019 – a 20 per cent reduction in the President’s workload.

Just 22 Bills were placed on the President’s desk during the entire year of 2016, almost as many as he received in the last month alone. Strangely, no missives were issued from the Áras that year, querying whether the Oireachtas should increase its productivity.

Rather than complaining about the workload of a job which he willingly sought and has been elected to on two occasions, and for which he is handsomely remunerated, the President should do as any private-sector worker would do in his situation: suck it up, and take the rough with the smooth. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.