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The Oireachtas sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the "national parliament" or legislature
Legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

 of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

. The Oireachtas consists of:
  • The President of Ireland
    President of Ireland
    The President of Ireland is the head of state of Ireland. The President is usually directly elected by the people for seven years, and can be elected for a maximum of two terms. The presidency is largely a ceremonial office, but the President does exercise certain limited powers with absolute...

  • The two Houses of the Oireachtas :
    • Dáil Éireann
      Dáil Éireann
      Dáil Éireann is the lower house, but principal chamber, of the Oireachtas , which also includes the President of Ireland and Seanad Éireann . It is directly elected at least once in every five years under the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote...

       (Lower house
      Lower house
      A lower house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the upper house.Despite its official position "below" the upper house, in many legislatures worldwide the lower house has come to wield more power...

      )
    • Seanad Éireann
      Seanad Éireann
      Seanad Éireann is the upper house of the Oireachtas , which also comprises the President of Ireland and Dáil Éireann . It is commonly called the Seanad or Senate and its members Senators or Seanadóirí . Unlike Dáil Éireann, it is not directly elected but consists of a mixture of members chosen by...

       (Upper house
      Upper house
      An upper house, often called a senate, is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house; a legislature composed of only one house is described as unicameral.- Possible specific characteristics :...

      )


The Houses of the Oireachtas sit in Leinster House
Leinster House
Leinster House is the name of the building housing the Oireachtas, the national parliament of Ireland.Leinster House was originally the ducal palace of the Dukes of Leinster. Since 1922, it is a complex of buildings, of which the former ducal palace is the core, which house Oireachtas Éireann, its...

 in Dublin, an eighteenth-century ducal
Duke
A duke or duchess is a member of the nobility, historically of highest rank below the monarch, and historically controlling a duchy...

 palace
Palace
A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence or the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a bishop or archbishop. The word itself is derived from the Latin name Palātium, for Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills in Rome. In many parts of Europe, the...

. The directly elected Dáil is by far the most powerful branch of the Oireachtas.

Composition


Dáil Éireann, the lower house, is directly elected under universal suffrage
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

 of all Irish and United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 citizens who are resident and at least eighteen years of age. An election is held at least once in every five years as required by law. However the house can usually be dissolved at any time at the request of the Taoiseach
Taoiseach
The Taoiseach is the head of government or prime minister of Ireland. The Taoiseach is appointed by the President upon the nomination of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas , and must, in order to remain in office, retain the support of a majority in the Dáil.The current Taoiseach is...

 (head of government). Dáil elections occur under the system of proportional representation
Proportional representation
Proportional representation is a concept in voting systems used to elect an assembly or council. PR means that the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received. For example, under a PR voting system if 30% of voters support a particular...

 by means of the single transferable vote
Single transferable vote
The single transferable vote is a voting system designed to achieve proportional representation through preferential voting. Under STV, an elector's vote is initially allocated to his or her most preferred candidate, and then, after candidates have been either elected or eliminated, any surplus or...

. The Dáil has had 166 members since 1981. The Seanad is not directly elected but consists of a mixture of members selected in a number of ways. 43 senators are elected by councillors and parliamentarians, 11 are appointed by the Taoiseach, and six are elected by two university constituencie
University constituency
A university constituency is a constituency, used in elections to a legislature, that represents a university rather than a geographical area. University constituencies may involve plural voting, in which eligible voters are permitted to vote in both a university constituency and a geographical...

s, giving a total of 60 members. The President of Ireland is directly elected once in every seven years, for a maximum of two terms. However if, as has occurred on a number of occasions, a consensus among the larger political parties can result in only a single candidate being nominated, then no actual ballot occurs.

Role


To become law a bill
Bill (proposed law)
A bill is a proposed law under consideration by a legislature. A bill does not become law until it is passed by the legislature and, in most cases, approved by the executive. Once a bill has been enacted into law, it is called an act or a statute....

 must first be approved by both the Dáil and in most circumstances the Seanad (although the Dáil can override a Seanad refusal to pass a Bill), and then signed into law by the President. Bills to amend the Constitution must also be approved by the People in a referendum prior to being presented to the President. In most circumstances, the President is in effect obliged to sign all laws approved by the Houses of the Oireachtas, although he or she has the power to refer most bills to the Supreme Court for a ruling on constitutionality. The powers of the Seanad are in effect limited to delay rather than veto. It is the Dáil, therefore, that is the supreme tier of the Irish legislature. The general enacting formula for Acts of the Oireachtas is: "Be it enacted by the Oireachtas as follows:-", for an act with a preamble this enacting formula is, instead, "Be it therefore enacted by the Oireachtas as follows:—".

Powers


The Oireachtas has exclusive power to:
  • Legislate, including a power vested in the Dáil of approving the financial resolutions relevant to the budget.
  • Create subordinate legislatures.
  • Propose changes to the constitution (must be initiated in the Dáil), which must then be submitted to a referendum
    Referendum
    A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

    .
  • Raise military or armed forces.
  • Allow international agreements to become part of the domestic law of the state.
  • Pass certain laws having extraterritorial effect (in accordance with the similar practices of other states).
  • Enact, when it considers a state of emergency
    State of emergency
    A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...

     to exist, almost any law it deems necessary.

Limitations

  • Laws are invalid if, and to the extent that, they contradict the constitution.
  • In the event of a conflict, EU law also takes precedence over acts of the Oireachtas, as is common throughout the European Union
    European Union
    The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

    .
  • It may not retrospectively criminalise acts that were not illegal at the time they were committed.
  • It may not enact any law providing for the imposition of the death penalty, even during a state of emergency.
  • It can only legislate for the Republic of Ireland and not for Northern Ireland
    Northern Ireland
    Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

    .

Committees


The Oireachtas has a number of joint committee
Joint committee
A Joint Committee is a term in politics that is used to refer to a committee made up of members of both chambers of a bicameral legislature. In other contexts, it refers to a committee with members from more than one organization.-Republic of Ireland:...

s that include members of both houses. There are currently thirteen of these (the first ten below are based on the ten select committees of the Dáil):
  • Joint Committee on Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture
  • Joint Committee on Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht
  • Joint Committee on European Union Affairs
  • Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform
  • Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement
  • Joint Committee on Health and Children
  • Joint Committee on Investigations, Oversight and Petitions
  • Joint Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education
  • Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality
  • Joint Committee on Administration
  • Standing Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills
  • Working Group of Committee Chairmen

History



The word oireachtas comes from the Irish language
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 name MacOireachtaigh (Geraghty), believed to have been advisors to ancient kings and has been the title of two parliaments in Irish history
History of Ireland
The first known settlement in Ireland began around 8000 BC, when hunter-gatherers arrived from continental Europe, probably via a land bridge. Few archaeological traces remain of this group, but their descendants and later Neolithic arrivals, particularly from the Iberian Peninsula, were...

: the current Oireachtas of the Republic of Ireland, since 1937, and, immediately before that, the Oireachtas of the Irish Free State
Oireachtas of the Irish Free State
The Oireachtas of the Irish Free State was the legislature of the Irish Free State from 1922 until 1937. It was established by the 1922 Constitution of Ireland which was based from the Anglo-Irish Treaty...

 of 1922–1937.

The earliest parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

 in Ireland was the Parliament of Ireland
Parliament of Ireland
The Parliament of Ireland was a legislature that existed in Dublin from 1297 until 1800. In its early mediaeval period during the Lordship of Ireland it consisted of either two or three chambers: the House of Commons, elected by a very restricted suffrage, the House of Lords in which the lords...

, which was founded in the thirteenth century as the supreme legislative body of the lordship of Ireland and was in existence until 1801. This parliament governed the English-dominated part of Ireland, which at first was limited to Dublin and surrounding cities, but later grew to include the entire island. But the Irish Parliament was, from the passage of Poyning's law in 1494 until its repeal in 1782, subordinate to the English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, and later British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, Parliament. This Parliament consisted of the King of Ireland
King of Ireland
A monarchical polity has existed in Ireland during three periods of its history, finally ending in 1801. The designation King of Ireland and Queen of Ireland was used during these periods...

, who was the same person as the King of England, a House of the Lords
Irish House of Lords
The Irish House of Lords was the upper house of the Parliament of Ireland that existed from mediaeval times until 1800. It was abolished along with the Irish House of Commons by the Act of Union.-Function:...

 and a House of Commons
Irish House of Commons
The Irish House of Commons was the lower house of the Parliament of Ireland, that existed from 1297 until 1800. The upper house was the House of Lords...

. In 1800 the Irish Parliament abolished itself when, after widespread bribery of members, it adopted the Act of Union
Act of Union 1800
The Acts of Union 1800 describe two complementary Acts, namely:* the Union with Ireland Act 1800 , an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, and...

, which came into effect from 1 January 1801.

The next legislature to exist in Ireland only came into being in 1919. This was a unicameral parliament established by Irish republicans
Irish Republicanism
Irish republicanism is an ideology based on the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic.In 1801, under the Act of Union, the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

, known simply as Dáil Éireann. This revolutionary Dáil was notionally a legislature for the whole island of Ireland. In 1920, in parallel to the Dáil, the British government created a home rule
Home rule
Home rule is the power of a constituent part of a state to exercise such of the state's powers of governance within its own administrative area that have been devolved to it by the central government....

 legislature called the Parliament of Southern Ireland
Parliament of Southern Ireland
The Parliament of Southern Ireland was a home rule legislature set up by the British Government during the Irish War of Independence under the Fourth Home Rule Bill...

. However this parliament was boycotted by most Irish politicians. It was made up of the King, the House of Commons of Southern Ireland and the Senate of Southern Ireland. The Parliament of Southern Ireland was formally abolished in 1922, with the establishment of the Oireachtas under the Constitution of the Irish Free State
Constitution of the Irish Free State
The Constitution of the Irish Free State was the first constitution of the independent Irish state. It was enacted with the adoption of the Constitution of the Irish Free State Act 1922, of which it formed a part...

.

The Oireachtas of the Irish Free State consisted officially of the King
Monarchy in the Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was, in accordance with its constitution, governed formally under a form of constitutional monarchy. The British monarch was the head of state of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1931, when the Statute of Westminster came into effect, and thereafter the Irish Free State had a...

 and two houses, named, as their successors would be, Dáil Éireann (described, in this case, as a 'Chamber of Deputies') and Seanad Éireann. However the Free State Senate
Seanad Éireann (Irish Free State)
Seanad Éireann was the upper house of the Oireachtas of the Irish Free State from 1922–1936. It has also been known simply as the Senate, or as the First Seanad. The Senate was established under the 1922 Constitution of the Irish Free State but a number of constitutional amendments were...

 was abolished in 1935. The modern Oireachtas came into being in 1937, with the adoption by referendum of the Constitution of Ireland.

Televising of the Oireachtas


The televising of Oireachtas debates commenced in 1990, while those of committees commenced in 1993. Since 2005 the proceedings of both houses have been made available over the internet by HEAnet
HEAnet
HEAnet is the Irish NREN; it provides high-speed Internet access to academic institutions in Ireland direct to European and USA networks...

 and the eDemocracy Unit of the Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Oireachtas TV is a proposed digital television channel in Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

. It will resume broadcasting Committee and Houses and other parliament proceedings following establishment under a Broadcasting Act 2009 The channel will provide for coverage of the Houses of the Oireachtas and the programming of other national parliaments.

Houses of the Oireachtas family day


On 28 June 2008 the first Houses of the Oireachtas family day was held. This initiative by the Ceann Comhairle
Ceann Comhairle
The Ceann Comhairle is the chairman of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas of Ireland. The person who holds the position is elected by members of the Dáil from among their number in the first session after each general election...

 of Dáil Éireann
Dáil Éireann
Dáil Éireann is the lower house, but principal chamber, of the Oireachtas , which also includes the President of Ireland and Seanad Éireann . It is directly elected at least once in every five years under the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote...

, John O'Donoghue
John O'Donoghue (politician)
John O'Donoghue is a former Irish Fianna Fáil politician. He was a Teachta Dála for the Kerry South constituency from 1987 to 2011. He is a former Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas. He resigned as Ceann Comhairle on 13 October 2009 due to controversy about his...

 and the Cathaoirleach
Cathaoirleach
Cathaoirleach is the title of the chairman of Seanad Éireann, the sixty-member upper house of the Oireachtas, the legislature of Ireland. The current Cathaoirleach is Senator Paddy Burke...

 of Seanad Éireann
Seanad Éireann
Seanad Éireann is the upper house of the Oireachtas , which also comprises the President of Ireland and Dáil Éireann . It is commonly called the Seanad or Senate and its members Senators or Seanadóirí . Unlike Dáil Éireann, it is not directly elected but consists of a mixture of members chosen by...

, Pat Moylan
Pat Moylan
Pat Moylan is a former Irish Fianna Fáil politician and member of Seanad Éireann.Born in Banagher, County Offaly, where he still lives, he is married with three sons and one daughter....

 is to increase public awareness in the work of the Houses of The Oireachtas. It included tours of both chambers of the Oireachtas, lectures on the history of Oireachtas, historic political speeches recited by actors and a hot air balloon – commemorating the balloon flight which took place in 1785 from Leinster Lawn. The Oireachtas family day is due to become an annual event.

Northern Ireland representation


Although, as adopted in 1937, Article 3 of the constitution asserted the "right of the parliament and government established by this constitution to exercise jurisdiction" over the whole of Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, it also provided that pending the "re-integration of the national territory" Acts of the Oireachtas would not apply to Northern Ireland. Therefore no serious attempts have been made for the representation of Northern Ireland in the Dáil. As Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera was one of the dominant political figures in twentieth century Ireland, serving as head of government of the Irish Free State and head of government and head of state of Ireland...

, while a staunch opponent of partition, who had been elected to represent a Northern constituency in the First Dáil, did not pursue the idea of seats in the Dáil for Northern Ireland, on the grounds that this would amount to representation 'without taxation or responsibility', although subsequent Taoisigh have appointed people from Northern Ireland to the Seanad.

More recently, Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

 has advocated that elected representatives from Stormont
Northern Ireland Assembly
The Northern Ireland Assembly is the devolved legislature of Northern Ireland. It has power to legislate in a wide range of areas that are not explicitly reserved to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and to appoint the Northern Ireland Executive...

, Westminster
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

, or Strasbourg
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

 should have the right to participate in Dáil debates, if not voting rights. In 2005 the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern
Bertie Ahern
Patrick Bartholomew "Bertie" Ahern is a former Irish politician who served as Taoiseach of Ireland from 26 June 1997 to 7 May 2008....

, proposed that Northern Ireland MPs should be able to address a committee of the whole of house sitting in the Dáil chamber. However, Fine Gael
Fine Gael
Fine Gael is a centre-right to centrist political party in the Republic of Ireland. It is the single largest party in Ireland in the Oireachtas, in local government, and in terms of Members of the European Parliament. The party has a membership of over 35,000...

, the Labour Party
Labour Party (Ireland)
The Labour Party is a social-democratic political party in the Republic of Ireland. The Labour Party was founded in 1912 in Clonmel, County Tipperary, by James Connolly, James Larkin and William X. O'Brien as the political wing of the Irish Trade Union Congress. Unlike the other main Irish...

, the Green Party
Green Party (Ireland)
The Green Party is a green political party in Ireland. It was founded as the Ecology Party of Ireland in 1981 by Dublin teacher Christopher Fettes. The party became the Green Alliance in 1983 and in 1987 was renamed to its current title in English...

, the Socialist Party
Socialist Party (Ireland)
The Socialist Party is a socialist political party active in Ireland. It is a member of the Committee for a Workers' International .Formerly known as Militant Tendency, then Militant Labour, it adopted the name The Socialist Party in 1996. From their foundation in 1972 until the 1980s, members of...

 and Ahern's coalition partners, the Progressive Democrats
Progressive Democrats
The Progressive Democrats , commonly known as the PDs, was a pro-free market liberal political party in the Republic of Ireland.Launched on 21 December 1985 by Desmond O'Malley and other politicians who had split from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the Progressive Democrats took liberal positions on...

, all opposed the idea, as did some Oireachtas members from Fianna Fáil
Fianna Fáil
Fianna Fáil – The Republican Party , more commonly known as Fianna Fáil is a centrist political party in the Republic of Ireland, founded on 23 March 1926. Fianna Fáil's name is traditionally translated into English as Soldiers of Destiny, although a more accurate rendition would be Warriors of Fál...

. Only Sinn Féin, the party that stood to gain most from the proposal, supported it, while the more moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party
Social Democratic and Labour Party
The Social Democratic and Labour Party is a social-democratic, Irish nationalist political party in Northern Ireland. Its basic party platform advocates Irish reunification, and the further devolution of powers while Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom...

 (SDLP) described it as a step forward. The proposal was also criticised widely in the media, with editorials and columns published criticising the proposal in The Irish Times
The Irish Times
The Irish Times is an Irish daily broadsheet newspaper launched on 29 March 1859. The editor is Kevin O'Sullivan who succeeded Geraldine Kennedy in 2011; the deputy editor is Paul O'Neill. The Irish Times is considered to be Ireland's newspaper of record, and is published every day except Sundays...

, the Irish Independent
Irish Independent
The Irish Independent is Ireland's largest-selling daily newspaper that is published in both compact and broadsheet formats. It is the flagship publication of Independent News & Media.-History:...

, the Irish Examiner
Irish Examiner
The Irish Examiner, formerly The Cork Examiner and then The Examiner, is an Irish national daily newspaper which primarily circulates in the Munster region surrounding its base in Cork, though it is available throughout the country...

, the Sunday Independent
Sunday Independent
The Sunday Independent is a broadsheet Sunday newspaper published in Ireland by Independent News and Media plc. The newspaper is edited by Aengus Fanning, and is the biggest selling Irish Sunday newspaper by a large margin ; average circulation of 291,323 between June 2004 and January 2005,...

and other publications. Only the republican-leaning Daily Ireland
Daily Ireland
Daily Ireland was an Irish daily newspaper which existed from January 2005 to September 2006 to cover news stories from an Irish republican viewpoint. It was linked to the Belfast local newspaper, the Andersonstown News...

supported the proposal fully.

See also

  • Bicameralism
    Bicameralism
    In the government, bicameralism is the practice of having two legislative or parliamentary chambers. Thus, a bicameral parliament or bicameral legislature is a legislature which consists of two chambers or houses....

  • List of Acts of the Oireachtas
  • Records of members of the Oireachtas

External links