Family-friendly ‘second Dáil chamber’ among proposals in 2023 Oireachtas spending estimates

Facility would allow Leinster House staff to go home in early evening rather than working until past midnight

Proposals for a second Dáil chamber aimed at making politics more family friendly have been included in spending estimates for the Oireachtas next year.

A decision on whether or not to proceed with the plan has not yet been taken. However, funding for the potential debating space, to be known as the “main committee room”, is included in overall estimated spending for the Oireachtas next year.

The goal of the second chamber would be to allow Dáil business to happen simultaneously, so that Leinster House staff could be sent home at 7pm or 8pm, as opposed to midnight or the early hours of the morning as frequently happens on sitting days.

In Britain, the House of Commons has a second chamber, Westminster Hall, that conducts about 16 hours of parliamentary business a week. There is a similar arrangement in the Australian House of Representatives.


In Ireland, the Forum on a Family Friendly and Inclusive Parliament recommended consideration of establishing a second chamber where Dáil business that does not require TDs to vote could take place.

The forum suggested that parliamentary questions to Ministers, or topical issues raised by TDs, could be debated in the proposed second chamber, as could additional business added to the Dáil schedule.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl previously suggested that the kind of debates that could take place in a second chamber could be “virtually anything other than voteable business”.

The Houses of the Oireachtas Commission — the body which runs Leinster House and is made up of senior officials as well as TDs and Senators — is to make the ultimate decision on whether or not to proceed with the plan for a second chamber.

A spokeswoman for the Oireachtas could not provide a timeline on when this decision will be made.

Asked about the €177 million in estimated spending by the Oireachtas Commission in 2023, she said that the overall increase in spending for next year is expected to be €10 million when deferred spending and savings from 2022 are taken into account.

Part of the expected increase in spending relates to increased staff salaries due to higher numbers of workers as well covering the cost of the Building Momentum public pay deal.

Increased allocation for the facilities, ICT and broadcasting sections mainly relate to the potential requirement for a new main committee room.

The spokeswoman said there is engagement with the Office of Public Works (OPW) to develop designs for the room as well as detailed costings.

She said: “The concept is for a Dáil main committee in which non-voteable business can be discussed while the Dáil is sitting.

“In effect, the House will assign business to the main committee, in exactly the same way as committee business is delegated to the existing joint, select and special committees.”

The Irish Times reported on Saturday that some TDs who are supportive of the proposal have identified a little-used reading room/library on the ground floor as a potential location for the second chamber.

It has been suggested that the library could be moved to a more modern room already identified within the complex.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times