Subject to the obligations of European Union membership as provided in the Constitution of Ireland, the sole and exclusive power of making laws for the State is vested in the Oireachtas (Parliament).
The Oireachtas consists of the President and two Houses, Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives) and Seanad Éireann (Senate).
The Members of Seanad Éireann (Senate) are referred to as Senators. An Election to Seanad Éireann must be held within 90 days of the dissolution of Dáil Éireann and a general election for the Dáil must take place within 30 days of the dissolution of the Dáil, so there are usually about 60 days between the Dáil and Seanad elections.
The Seanad is the upper house of the Oireachtas (parliament), and comprises of 60 members
– 11 of whom are appointed by the Taoiseach
– 49 of whom are elected.
Forty-three are elected through a number of vocational panels .Three are elected by the National University of Ireland and three by the University of Dublin (Trinity College).
In theory, Seanad Éireann does not recognise party affiliations.
However, as the electorate for the panels is made up of the Members of the incoming Dáil, the outgoing Seanad, county councils and county borough councils, the composition of Seanad Éireann, including the Taoiseach’s nominees, will tend to reflect party strengths in Dáil Éireann.
In practice, Senators will divide into groups supporting and opposing Government business when voting on issues.
The Constitution provides that not more than two Senators may be members of the Government and this provision has been exercised twice in the last 60 years.
How does the Seanad work?
Seanad Éireann normally sits on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and its main business is the revising of legislation sent to it by Dáil Éireann.
However, in recent years the Government has tended to make greater use of Seanad Éireann to initiate legislation. Seanad Éireann can initiate and revise legislation but under the Constitution its legislative role is restricted in that it cannot initiate Money Bills i.e. financial legislation, and can only make recommendations but not amendments to such Bills.
The fact that a Dáil Bill must be examined also by Seanad Éireann is a safeguard against legislation being enacted too quickly. In addition to its legislative role, Seanad Éireann also debates important issues.
Indeed, as the Government is constitutionally responsible to Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann can debate these issues with greater freedom because the fate of the Government will not be at stake.
Moreover, Seanad Éireann cannot delay indefinitely legislation which has already been passed by Dáil Éireann and cannot initiate Bills to amend the Constitution.
The Stages of a Bill
Bills – a new law starts as a Bill (draft law)
Most Bills start in the Dáil
A Bill has 5 stages in each House
– 1st Stage: Bill published
– 2nd Stage: General discussion
– 3rd “Committee” Stage: line-by-line scrutiny; amendments are made
– 4th “Report” Stage: Bill reconsidered, may be amended again
– 5th “Final” Stage: Bill passed
Other House: Stages 2-5 repeated
If amended again, the Bill must go back to the initiating House for confirmation
Finally the President signs it into law
You can watch proceedings of the Seanad, Dáil and Committees live; http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/watchlisten/