Written answers

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Department of An Taoiseach

Seanad Reform

Photo of Alan KellyAlan Kelly (Tipperary, Labour)
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41. To ask the Taoiseach if he will report on his plans for Seanad reform. [58861/21]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Seanad has an essential role as part of our legislature and has always played an important part in the State’s politics by enhancing debate on the important issues we face. The all-party Seanad Reform Implementation Group published its report in December 2018, including proposals on implementation of the 2015 Manning Report.

I commend the work done by the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Senator Daly who, with the support of all the party and group leaders and, indeed, Members of this House, has implemented the relevant recommendations in the Seanad reform reports that were within the power of the Seanad to action.

Seanad Standing Orders have been amended to provide for debates focused on the vocational panels. Motions for a debate relating to the interests of a particular panel may be tabled by Senators elected to that panel and when the debate is scheduled priority is given to Senators elected to the panel when allocating speaking slots.

Seanad Standing Orders have also been revised to change the way in which the reports of Joint Committees are debated. Debates can now be led by the Chair or a nominee of the Joint Committee and provision has been made to allow a Committee Chair who is a member of the Dáil to open and close the debate. The relevant Minister responds in the course of the debate.

Furthermore, if a Motion tabled on behalf of a committee is not moved within two months any other Senator may now table a similar “take note” motion for discussion during Private Members’ time. Once six months has elapsed since a Motion to take note of a Committee Report has been debated, a Committee may table another motion to take note of progress on implementation of the recommendations.

The arrangement whereby MEPs may address the Seanad has also been revived and to date two groups of MEPs have engaged with the Seanad on a Constituency basis with a third group to be scheduled for early next session.

I met recently with the Ceann Comhairle and the Cathaoirleach and discussed, amongst other items, a proposal for a new role for the Seanad in the scrutiny of EU-related secondary legislation. I have asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs to engage with the Attorney General in this regard with a view to bringing forward this proposal which will serve to enhance Oireachtas scrutiny of EU measures.

On the seventh amendment of the Constitution about expanding the electorate and its implementation, I realise that Senators Michael McDowell and Malcolm Byrne have brought forward proposals in that regard. We will work with Senators to see if we can bring that matter forward because it has been unresolved now for a long time.


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