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Dáil Éireann
Type
Type Lower house of Oireachtas
Leadership
Ceann Comhairle Séamus Kirk, Fianna Fáil
since 13 October 2009
Chief Whip Pat Carey, Fianna Fáil
Structure
Members 166
Political groups Fianna Fáil
Fine Gael
Labour Party
Green Party
Sinn Féin
Independents
Election
Last election 24 May 2007
Meeting place
Dáil Chamber.jpg
Dáil chamber
Leinster House, Dublin
Website
www.oireachtas.ie

Dáil Éireann (Irish pronunciation: [d̪ˠaːlʲ ˈeːrʲən̪ˠ]) is the lower house, but principal chamber, of the Oireachtas (Irish parliament), which also comprises the President of Ireland and Seanad Éireann (the upper house). It is directly elected at least once in every five years under the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote (STV). Its powers are similar to those of lower houses under many other bicameral parliamentary systems and it is by far the dominant branch of the Oireachtas. Subject to the limits imposed by the Constitution of Ireland, it has power to pass any law it wishes, and to nominate and remove the Taoiseach (head of government). Since 1922, it has met in Leinster House in Dublin.

Contents

Title

The word Dáil Éireann is taken from the Irish language but is the official title of the body in both English and Irish. Since the Dáil was first established in 1919 it has also been described variously as a "National Assembly", a "Chamber of Deputies" and a "House of Representatives".

A dáil means an assembly or parliament, so a literal translation of Dáil Éireann is "Assembly of Ireland". The Irish constitution does not provide a direct translation of the word; the body is called "Dáil Éireann" in both the official English and Irish texts. However Article 15 describes the body as "a House of Representatives to be called Dáil Éireann" (Teach Ionadóirí ar a dtugtar Dáil Éireann)[1]. For this reason Dáil Éireann is often translated as "House of Representatives"[2]. The literal Irish translation of House of Representatives is "Teach Ionadóirí".

In common usage the word Dáil is accompanied by the definite article but Dáil Éireann is not. So one speaks of "the Dáil" but not "the Dáil Éireann".

Composition

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Dáil Éireann has 166 members. Members are directly elected at least once in every five years by the people of the Republic of Ireland under the system of proportional representation by means of the Single Transferable Vote (STV). Membership of the Dáil is open to citizens who are 21 or older. A member of the Dáil is known as a Teachta Dála (usually abbreviated as TD), or Deputy.

The Dáil electorate consists of Irish and United Kingdom citizens over 18 years of age who are registered to vote in the Republic of Ireland. Under the Constitution of Ireland a general election for Dáil Éireann must occur once in every seven years, but a five year limit is currently specified by statute. The Taoiseach (head of government) can, by making a request to the president, effectively dissolve the Dáil at any time, in which case a general election must occur within thirty days.

The STV electoral system broadly produces proportional representation in the Dáil. The small size of the constituencies used, however, usually gives a small advantage to the larger parties and under-represents smaller parties. Since the 1990s the norm in the state has been coalition governments. Prior to 1989, however, one-party government by the Fianna Fáil party was common. The multi-seat constituencies required by STV mean that candidates must often compete for election with others from the same party. This increases voter choice but is accused by some of producing TDs who are excessively parochial. Two failed attempts — 1959 and 1968 — have been made to change to the British Plurality voting system ('First-past-the-post') electoral system. Both were rejected in referendums. By-elections occur under the Alternative Vote system.

Currently every constituency elects between three and five TDs. The constitution specifies that no constituency may return fewer than three TDs but does not specify any upper limit to constituency magnitude. However, statute (Section 6 of the Electoral Act 1997) places a maximum size of five members on constituencies. The constitution requires that constituency boundaries be reviewed at least once in every twelve years, so that boundaries may be redrawn to accommodate changes in population. Boundary changes are currently drafted by an independent commission, and its recommendations are usually followed. Malapportionment is forbidden by the constitution.

Number of members

Under the Constitution of Ireland there must never be fewer than one TD for every thirty thousand of the population, nor more than one for every twenty thousand. In the 29th Dáil there was one TD for every 21,000 citizens, one of the most generous such ratios anywhere in the world[citation needed]. With the adoption of the current constitution in 1937 the membership of the Dáil was reduced from 153 to 138, but in the 1960s the number was increased, only to be increased more substantially in 1981 to the current figure of 166.

Ceann Comhairle

The chairman, or presiding member, of Dáil Éireann is the Ceann Comhairle. The Ceann Comhairle is chosen from among TDs but is expected to observe strict impartiality. Despite this, the government will usually try to select one of its own for the position, if its numbers allow. In order to protect the neutrality of the chair, an incumbent Ceann Comhairle does not seek re-election as a TD but rather is deemed automatically to have been re-elected by their constituency at a general election, unless they are retiring. The Ceann Comhairle does not vote except in the event of a tie. The current serving Ceann Comhairle is Fianna Fáil TD Séamus Kirk.

Powers

While in principle Dáil Éireann is only one of three components of the Oireachtas, the other two being the President of Ireland and Seanad Éireann, in practice the powers the constitution grants to the Dáil render it by far the dominant branch, meaning that most bills passed by Dáil Éireann will ultimately become law. The President can only veto the bill if it is in conflict with the Constitution of Ireland. For this to happen, the President must refer the bill to the Supreme Court of Ireland to test its constitutionality upon consultation with the Council of State.

In addition to its legislative role, it is the Dáil that designates the Taoiseach for referral to the President for appointment. The Dáil may also pass a motion of no confidence in the Government, in which case the Taoiseach must either seek a parliamentary dissolution or resign[3].

The Dáil also has exclusive power to:

  • Propose the budget (which may not originate in the Senate – Seanad Éireann).
  • Ratify treaties. (Provided they do not conflict with the Constitution of Ireland)
  • Declare war or permit the state to participate in a war.

Activities

Leinster House in Dublin, seat of Dáil Éireann.

Dáil Éireann determines its own standing orders and its members are protected by certain rights arising from parliamentary privilege. In line with other modern parliamentary systems, TDs do not generally vote first and foremost in accordance with their consciences or the wishes of their constituents, but must follow the instructions of party whips, a practice that originated in the Irish Parliamentary Party. Except in exceptional circumstances, the Dáil meets in public. The Dáil currently has three standing committees and thirteen select committees.

Debates are rigidly structured and extremely limited and famous for lacking the passion of the US Senate or UK House of Commons. TDs often read slowly from prepared scripts. By contrast, debates in Seanad Éireann are known for the humorous contributions of one or two Senators.

A typical day consists of Questions to various cabinet ministers, Leaders questions whereby opposition Leaders ask the Taoiseach questions and routine debates on Bills. Every Tuesday and Wednesday three hours over the two days are given to the debate of opposition motions. These normally try to embarrass the government and are widely covered in the media. The government and its Majority normally amends these suitably and the amended version is passed praising the Government.

There is a common tactic, well known to journalists, of a Deputy intentionally breaking the rules and being disorderly, in order to force the Ceann Comhairle to have them removed from the chamber. This is generally intended to create publicity and is designed to cast the particular TD in the role of defending his area against the government, or highlight a particular issue outside of the chamber via the media.

Standing committees

  • Committee on Procedure and Privileges
    • Sub-Committee on Members' Services
    • Sub-Committee on Dáil Reform
  • Committee of Public Accounts
  • Committee on Members' Interests of Dáil Éireann

Select committees

  • Select Committee on Agriculture and Food
  • Select Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
  • Select Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources
  • Select Committee on Education and Science
  • Select Committee on Enterprise and Small Business
  • Select Committee on Environment and Local Government
  • Select Committee on European Affairs
  • Select Committee on Finance and the Public Service
  • Select Committee on Foreign Affairs
  • Select Committee on Health and Children
  • Select Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights
  • Select Committee on Social and Family Affairs
  • Select Committee on Transport

Voting procedure

Firstly the Ceann Comhairle (or Deputy Ceann Comhairle) puts the question in Irish asking the TDs present to say (Yes) or Níl (No) if they agree or disagree with the question before them. The Ceann Comhairle then gives his opinion as to the outcome of the voice vote. Deputies can challenge the Ceann Comhairle by shouting 'Votáil' the Irish word for Division. The Ceann Comhairle then shouts 'Votáil' again which starts the voting process. Division bells sound around Leinster House and in some of its adjoining buildings calling Deputies to the chamber to vote. The bells ring for six minutes and the doors to the chamber are locked after a further four minutes.

The Ceann Comhairle then appoints two tellers for each side and Deputies are given one minute to vote. The voting takes by electronic means whereby Deputies press either the Tá or Níl button on their desks to vote for or against a motion. After the voting time has concluded a sheet (Division Paper) containing the result and each TDs vote is signed by the four tellers and given to the Ceann Comhairle who declares the result.

While electronic voting has become the norm the Dáil votes manually through the lobbies at the back of the chamber on a number of occasions, for example, motions of no confidence. A teller in an electronic vote can call a manual vote if they so wish. This has become a opposition tactic during important votes which are widely covered in the media.

History

Precursors

The first legislature to exist in Ireland was the Parliament of Ireland and the first legislative lower house was the House of Commons of this body. However the Parliament of Ireland was abolished under the Act of Union of 1800. Irish nationalists first convened Dáil Éireann as a revolutionary parliament in 1919 and while it successfully took over most functions of government it was not recognised under United Kingdom law.

In 1921 the United Kingdom government established a legislature called the Parliament of Southern Ireland in an effort to appease nationalists by granting Ireland limited home rule. However this body was rejected and boycotted by nationalists whose allegiance remained with the Dáil. Nonetheless, because the First Dáil was illegal under the United Kingdom constitution, the lower house of the Parliament of Southern Ireland, the House of Commons of Southern Ireland, is considered in British legal theory as the precursor to the Dáil.

Revolutionary Dáil (1919–1922)

The current Dáil derives from the 1937 Constitution of Ireland, but claims a direct line of descent from the 'First Dáil' of 1919. This Dáil was an extra-legal assembly established by Sinn Féin MPs elected to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom in the 1918 United Kingdom general election. Upon winning a majority of Irish seats in the election (many uncontested), Sinn Féin MPs refused to recognise the United Kingdom parliament and instead convened as the First Dáil Éireann (translated as "Assembly of Ireland"): the unicameral legislature of a new notional Irish Republic, and the first Irish parliament to exist since 1801.

The Dáil of the Irish Republic, however, was only recognised internationally by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, despite intense lobbying by Irish-Americans in the United States. The first meeting of the Dáil occurred in Dublin on 21 January 1919, in the Mansion House, attended by 27 members. The body was prohibited in the following September, and was forced underground, meeting in several locations.

Irish Free State (1922–1937)

The Dáil of the Irish Republic was succeeded in 1922 by the Dáil of the Irish Free State. The Irish Free State, comprising the twenty-six southern and western counties of Ireland, was established under the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty. Dáil Éireann (now described as a "Chamber of Deputies") became the lower house of a new legislature called the Oireachtas. The first Dáil to exist under the Constitution of the Irish Free State succeeded the Second Dáil of the Irish Republic and so was styled the Third Dáil. The Third Dáil, and every subsequent Dáil, has met in Leinster House.

Constitution of Ireland (1937–present)

The Constitution of Ireland, adopted in 1937, established the modern Irish state, referred to today as Ireland.[4] Under the constitution a new legislature retained the title Oireachtas, and its lower house remained Dáil Éireann. The first Dáil to meet under the Constitution of Ireland was described as the Ninth Dáil.

Members of the 30th Dáil (May 2007)

30th Irish general election – 24 May 2007[5]
Party Leader Seats ±  % of seats First Pref votes  % FPv ±%
Fianna Fáil Bertie Ahern 77 –4 46.6 858,565 41.56 +0.1
Fine Gael Enda Kenny 51 +20 30.9 564,428 27.32 +4.8
Labour Party Pat Rabbitte 20 ±0 12.1 209,175 10.13 –0.7
Green Party Trevor Sargent 6 ±0 3.6 96,936 4.69 +0.9
Sinn Féin Gerry Adams 4 –1 2.4 143,410 6.94 +0.4
Progressive Democrats Michael McDowell 2 –6 1.2 56,396 2.73 –1.3
Socialist Party Joe Higgins 0 –1 0 13,218 0.64 –0.2
People Before Profit N/A 0 N/A 0 9,333 0.45 N/A
Workers' Party Seán Garland 0 ±0 0 3,026 0.15 N/A
Christian Solidarity Cathal Loftus 0 ±0 0 1,705 0.08 N/A
Fathers Rights Liam Ó Gógáin 0 N/A 0 1,355 0.07 N/A
Immigration Control Áine Ní Chonaill 0 N/A 0 1,329 0.06 N/A
Irish Socialist Network N/A 0 N/A 0 505 0.02 N/A
Independent N/A 5 –8 3.0 106,429 5.15 –3.8
Ceann Comhairle N/A 1 N/A 0.6 N/A N/A N/A
Spoilt votes 19,435
Total 166 0 100 2,085,245 100

The Ceann Comhairle is a Fianna Fáil member.

Current distribution of seats

Party Seats
Fianna Fáil 72
Fine Gael 51
Labour Party 20
Green Party 6
Sinn Féin 4
Independents 10§
Vacant 2
Ceann Comhairle 1

§Includes three members of the Fianna Fáil party who do not take the party whip and are no longer members of the parliamentary party.

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Constitution of Ireland (in English and Irish)
  2. ^ See, for example: CIA World Factbook - Ireland
  3. ^ It has happened only once that this did not result in a general election. In 1994 John Bruton of Fine Gael became Taoiseach when the Labour Party left the Fianna Fáil coalition government led by Albert Reynolds
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ "30th Dáil general election May, 2007 – Election Results and Transfer of Votes". Houses of the Oireachtas. http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/publications/Electoral_Handbook1.pdf. Retrieved 10 March 2009. 

External links


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

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Wikipedia

Proper noun

Singular
Dáil Éireann

Plural
-

Dáil Éireann

  1. The lower house of the Parliament of Ireland.

Usage notes

In both English and Irish, it is typically abbreviated to Dáil.


Irish

Proper noun

Dáil Éireann

  1. the lower house of the Parliament of Ireland.

Simple English

Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this name.








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