#SeanadRef: Unicameral reforms little more than a ‘fag packet visualisation’?

SeanadEireann-800So, back to the real world, sortta. Yesterday the Government launched its package of reforms to try to make a future unicameral Dail fit for purpose:

Extending Dáil sitting week and providing additional time for legislative debate
The Dáil will start earlier each day meeting at 12.30pm on Tuesday and 9.30am on Wednesday and Thursday.

Friday sittings will take place every second week and be extended to include a 2 hour debate on a Private Member’s Bill and a 2 hour discussion of a Committee Report.

More structured system for the drafting and enactment of legislation and reduced use of guillotine.

Meaningful role in law making for citizens and civic society groups.

Oireachtas Committees will be able to consult with civil society groups, advocacy groups and individuals with expertise in a specific area at Pre-Legislative Stage to develop legislation before bills are drafted.

Pre-Legislative Stage will be a requirement for all Bills. Where a Minister does not bring a Bill to Committee for Pre-Legislative Stage, they will be required to outline to both the Cabinet and the Dáil the reasons for this decision.

Extended involvement of Oireachtas Committees in the Budget process.

Slugger understands that the introduction of a d’Hondt system for picking committee chairs was under consideration, but that does appear to have made the cut. The best comment I’ve seen on it so far comes from Eoin O’Malley, who is actually in favour of getting rid of the Seanad:

Well, quite.

None of these fag packet reforms begin to touch the complaints from the No side that in ditching the little amount of independent scrutiny in the upper house, there is no plan to replace it in the Dail.

That may be because no one in power ever wants to willingly give it away.  Or it’s a simple demonstration of how little priority the government can give to an issue that is also low on the Irish voter’s list of important priorities.

They certain do not measure to the scale of the proposal to cut one whole house of the Oireachtas out of the Constitution, as elite and out of touch as it may be.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty