The president’s concerns about the amount of legislation sent to his office are “legitimate”, the Taoiseach has said.
Michael D Higgins has flagged concerns about the volume of legislation sent to his office.
Speaking after a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council, Micheal Martin said: “If the president is of the view that the volume of legislation that arrives, it’s such a high volume in a very short space of time, I think there are legitimate issues there to be articulated and to be discussed.”
It really shouldn’t take an intervention from the president for the Government to realise that ramming through legislation at the last minute, using the guillotine, not allowing time for debate, scrutiny and amendments is no way to treat the democratic processSocial Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan
In a letter to the Oireachtas, Mr Higgins referenced the large volume of complex legislation he has had to consider in recent weeks.
Mr Higgins specifically referred to legislation he had to consider in the weeks leading up to Christmas as well as in recent weeks.
He said nine pieces of legislation were sent to his office in one day.
A joint meeting of the Dail Business Committee and Seanad Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight met on Friday to discuss the issue.
In a statement, they said all members welcomed and recognised the importance of the intervention by the President.
It was unanimously agreed that all parties and groups in both Houses will be invited to make written submissions by the end of August on improving the legislative process.
The Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail and the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad Mark Daly is to write to all ministers to seek their proposals on how departmental legislative programmes can be progressed “more smoothly” throughout the year.
The secretary general of the Houses of the Oireachtas will also write to all secretaries general of Government departments.
The Ceann Comhairle and the Cathaoirleach said they will request a meeting with the Taoiseach and the Attorney General Paul Gallagher in early September to discuss legislative programming and whether additional resources to draft Government legislation are required by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.
Both committees are to meet again in early September.
As set out in the constitution, the president must consider new legislation before signing it into law.
Under Article 26 of the constitution, Mr Higgins can refer legislation to the Supreme Court within seven days of receiving it, to determine whether the Bill conflicts with the constitution.
The president must convene with the Council of State when doing so.
If the Supreme Court holds that the Bill is unconstitutional, the president cannot sign it.
If the court rules it is constitutional, the president signs the Bill and it becomes law and it cannot be challenged at a later date.
Mr Martin said that some problems had partially been caused by the pandemic.
“I think we have to look at this in the context of Covid,” he said.
The Taoiseach said that the end of any Dail session always brings attempts to complete the passage of legislation.
He added: “Covid has without question exacerbated that in terms of reducing the number of days that the Dail and the Seanad could meet.
“So I know that that’s been a contributing factor to the situation that has been articulated within the president’s correspondence.”