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Oireachtas

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The Oireachtas is the "National Parliament" of the Republic of Ireland1. The Oireachtas consists of the President of Ireland and two houses: Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann (also known as the Senate). However the directly elected Dáil is by far the its most powerful branch. The legislature is also sometimes known as Oireachtas Éireann. Both Houses of the Oireachtas currently reside in Leinster House in Dublin.

Contents

Composition

Dáil Éireann, the lower house, is directly elected under universal adult suffrage, at least once in every five years. However the house can be dissolved at any time at the request of the taoiseach (head of government). Elections occur under the system of proportional representation by means of the Single Transferable Vote. The Senate is not directly elected but consists of a mixture of members selected in a number of ways, including indirect election and appointment by the taoiseach. 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 political parties means that only a single candidate is nominated, then no actual ballot occurs.

Role

To become law a bill must theoretically first be approved by both the Dáil and the Senate, and then signed into law by the President. In most circumstances, however, the President is obliged to sign all laws approved by the Houses of the Oireachtas, and the powers of the Senate are limited to delay rather than veto. It is the Dáil, therefore, that is the supreme tier of the Irish legislature. The enacting formula for Acts of the Oireachtas is simply: "Be it enacted by the Oireachtas as follows:-".

Powers

The Oireachtas has exclusive power to:

  • Legislate, including approving the budget.
  • Create subordinate legislatures.
  • Propose changes to the constitution, which must then be submitted to a referendum.
  • Raise military or armed forces.
  • Allow international agreements to become part of the domestic law of the state.
  • Pass certain laws having extra-territorial effect (in accordance with the similar practices of other states).
  • Enact, when it considers a state of emergency 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.
  • 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.
  • Under Article 3 of the constitution, the laws of the Oireachtas apply only to the twenty-six counties of the Republic of Ireland and not to Northern Ireland.

History

The word oireachtas comes from the Irish language and has been the title of two parliaments in Irish history: the current Oireachtas of the Republic of Ireland, since 1937, and, immediately before that, the Oireachtas of the Irish Free State of 1922-1937.

The earliest parliament in Ireland was the Parliament of Ireland in existence until 1801. This parliament governed the whole island of Ireland but was, over its history, subordinate to varying degrees to the English, and later British, Parliament. The Irish Parliament consisted of the King of Ireland, a House of the Lords and a House of Commons. In 1801 the Irish Parliament abolished itself when it adopted the Act of Union.

The next legislature to exist in Ireland only came into being in 1919. This was an extra-legal, unicameral parliament establish by Irish nationalists, known simply as Dáil Éireann (translated as 'Assembly of Ireland'). The First Dáil, as it is known, was notionally a legislature for the whole island of Ireland. In 1920, parallel to the First Dáil, the British government created a home rule legislature entitled the Parliament of Southern Ireland. However this parliament was boycotted by Irish nationalists and so never came into full effect. It was made up of the King (in this case the monarch of Great Britain and Ireland), 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.

The Oireachtas of the Irish Free State consisted officially of the King 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 was abolished in 1935. The modern Oireachtas of the Republic of Ireland came into being in 1937, with the adoption by referendum of the Constitution of Ireland.

Footnote

  • Note 1: Oireachtas may be roughly pronounced by English speakers as "o-roch-tus" (with the ch as in loch).

Related topics

External link

nl:Oireachtas de:Irisches Parlament fr:Oireachtas ro:Oireachtas Éireann

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