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SEANAD ÉIREANN

THE IRISH SENATE 

  

Two unequal chambers.

 

I - COMPOSITION

60 members, including :

49 elected by indirect vote: - 3 elected by the National University of Ireland, - 3 elected by the University of Dublin, - 43 elected by panels of candidates ;

11 appointed by the Prime Minister.

 

II - ELECTORAL SYSTEM

41 constituencies.

Voting method : single transferable vote, based on proportional representation ; - secret vote by mail ; Age of eligibility : 21 years old.

Term : 5 years. Most recent election : 26 and 27 April 2011

General elections must be held within 90 days of the dissolution of Dáil Eireann (Chamber of Representatives).

If there is a vacant elected seat during the legislature, the Prime Minister designates a replacement or partial elections are held.

A Senator can be a member of the government (with the exception of the Minister of Finance). However, a member of the Government cannot be appointed President of Seanad Eireann.

 

III - SYSTEM OF SESSIONS

At least one session each year.

The President of Ireland may convene Seanad Eireann (or Dáil Eireann) at any time.

 

IV - RELATIONS WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH

A - LEGISLATIVE POWER

1) Power to introduce legislation

Yes, with the exception of financial matters. Laws generally originate from the Government.

2) Right of amendment

Yes, with the exception of financial matters.

In addition, as is the case in the Dáil Eireann, amendments that impose or increase financial contributions by the people or state entities must be proposed by a minister.

3) Legislative procedure

a) As regards ordinary laws

Bills may be filed in either chamber.

Bills introduced and adopted by Dáil Eireann (lower chamber), with the exception of bills related to financial matters, which are sent to Seanad Eireann, which can amend them. Amendments are then examined by Dáil Eireann.

Adopted bills introduced by Seanad Eireann are submitted to Dáil Eireann. If Dáil Eireann amends the bill, the latter is considered to be a bill introduced by the lower chamber.

Any bill rejected or adopted by Seanad Eireann with amendments not accepted by Dáil Eireann, within 90 days, or any other longer period accepted by the two chambers, or if, within this timeframe, Seanad Eireann has not stated its opinion, the bill shall be considered --if Dáil Eireann so decides within 180 days of the previous period-- to have been adopted by the two chambers of the Oireachtas (Parliament) on the date of the resolution's adoption.

The same provisions apply to projects introduced by Seanad Eireann and amended by Dáil Eireann. The period begins on the date that the bill amended by Dáil Eireann is sent to Seanad Eireann.

In a state of emergency cited by the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) -to maintain peace and public security, or due to an internal or international public danger- the period may be shortened and set by Dáil Eireann in accord with the President of Ireland.

In this case, the text shall remain in effect for a period of 90 days from the date of its promulgation unless, prior to the expiration of this period, the two chambers have agreed that this law will remain in effect for a longer period of time and have specified the length thereof.

The examination procedure is as follows (applies to both chambers):

The procedure is comprised of 5 stages, the most important of which are the 2nd and 3rd readings: the 2nd reading consists of a general debate on the principles of the text; during the 3rd reading (commission), the text is examined on an article-by-article basis and can be amended. The 4th reading (report) is devoted to amendments and the 5th is restricted to the text's content.

Once it is adopted by one chamber, the text is sent to the other, which examines it according to the same procedure, thereby commencing the 2nd reading.

b) As regards financial matters

Bills adopted by Dáil Eireann are sent to Seanad Eireann for recommendations. At the expiration of a 21-day period, the text must be sent to Dáil Eireann, which may adopt or reject all or some of Seanad Eireann's recommendations.

Any bill not sent within the period in question or sent with recommendations not accepted by Dáil Eireann shall be considered to be adopted by the two chambers at the expiration of the period.

Seanad Eireann may adopt --provided that at least 30 of its members are present-- a resolution calling on the President of Ireland to refer the question of the bill's financial aspect to a Commission of Privileges (comprised of members of the two chambers and presided over by a Supreme Court Judge, whose vote shall be decisive in the event of a tie).

The Commission's decision (taken within 21 days of the sending of the bill to Seanad Eireann) is definitive and cannot be appealed.

If the President of Ireland does not allow Seanad Eireann's motion or if the Commission does not communicate its decision within the stipulated period, the motion of the President of Dáil Eireann considering the bill to be financial is deemed to be confirmed.

c) Promulgation of laws

At the request of the Government, and with the prior consent of Seanad Eireann, the period during which the President of Ireland must promulgate laws may be shortened.

d) Referral to referendum

Within 4 days of the date on which the text is deemed to be adopted, a majority of the members of Seanad Eireann and at least one-third of the members of Dáil Eireann may, by joint petition, ask the President of Ireland to refer to a referendum any bill containing-- in their view-- a proposal of national importance. .

4) Delegated legislation

The chambers may adopt enabling legislative acts in favour of ministers. They have the power to verify the measures taken in application of these delegations, which may be cancelled by either chamber.

This power to delegate is used frequently.

B - SUPERVISORY POWER

Power to supervise the policy of the Government and the administration, which is exercised through questions and debates.

C - COMMISSIONS

Over the last few years, many commissions -legislative and specialised- have been created.

D - GOVERNMENT'S RIGHT OF ACCESS

All members of the Government shall be entitled to be present and heard in each chamber.

 

V - SPECIFIC PROVISIONS

A - POWER TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION

Send to Seanad Eireann for examination any proposed constitutional amendment introduced by Dáil Eireann.

B - INTERNATIONAL MATTERS

The Parliament's two chambers determine international agreements that will become part of domestic law.

C - VIS-À-VIS THE PRESIDENT OF IRELAND

1) Indictment of the President of Ireland

Seanad Eireann (and Dáil Eireann) may indict the President of Ireland for specified improper conduct, on a motion introduced by at least 30 of its members, and based on a 2/3 majority of its members.

The indictment is examined by the other chamber based on the same rules.

If the indictment is adopted, the President is suspended from his functions.

2) Replacement of the President of Ireland

If there is a vacancy, the President's powers and functions are exercised by a Commission comprised of the Presidents of the two assemblies and the President of the Supreme Court.

D - THE COUNCIL OF STATE

The President of Seanad Eireann is an ex officio member of the Council of State (counsel of the President of Ireland).

E - THE GENERAL CONTROLLER

1) Mission

To monitor, on behalf of the country, all expenses and check all of the accounts of the deniers administered by the Oireachtas or under his authority.

2) Dismissal

Cannot be dismissed from office, except for serious fault and incompetence noted officially by a resolution of the two chambers demanding his removal. These resolutions shall be communicated to the President of Ireland. Upon receipt, the President of Ireland shall dismiss the Controller.

F - DISMISSAL OF SUPREME COURT AND HIGH COURT JUDGES

The above procedure applies in this case.