TEACHTA DÃ?LA - DEPUTY
The Irish Parliament (Legislature) consists of two Houses, DÃ¡il Ã‰ireann and Seanad Ã‰ireann. This page gives a general overview of the work of the Members of DÃ¡il Ã‰ireann (House of Representatives).
Members of DÃ¡il Ã‰ireann are elected by citizens aged 18 years and over. A Member's official Irish title is "Teachta DÃ¡la" which in English means "Deputy to the DÃ¡il"; Members are generally called "TDs" or "Deputies".
By law, a General Election to DÃ¡il Ã‰ireann must be held at least once every five years. For electoral purposes, the country is divided into areas known as constituencies, each of which elects either three, four or five Members. Under the Constitution there must be at least one Member for every 20,000 to 30,000 people and at present there are 158 Members representing 40 constituencies. The constituencies must be revised at least once in every twelve years. In practice, constituencies are revised on the publication of the results of each census of population. A census is normally taken every fifth year and then an independent Commission draws up a revised scheme of constituencies if necessary.
Deputies represent the entire electorate within their constituencies and provide an essential democratic link between constituents, Government and Parliament. A Deputy can be a member of a Government Party , the Opposition or sit as an Independent.
The work of a Deputy is extremely varied. Deputies will, therefore, divide their time between the needs of their constituency, where they maintain close links with local people, groups and organisations, and attendance at meetings of DÃ¡il Ã‰ireann and its many specialist committees.
Deputies hold regular advice clinics throughout their constituencies which enables constituents to meet them personally. Very often assistance may be required to help with a personal/family problem with a Government Department, local authority or the Health Service Executive. If necessary, the Deputy will use the procedures of DÃ¡il Ã‰ireann (e.g. Parliamentary Question) to have the matter discussed.
DÃ¡il Ã‰ireann normally meets in plenary session on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. A typical day's work for a Deputy in DÃ¡il Ã‰ireann includes researching and preparing speeches for debates on social, economic, financial and budgetary issues, drafting amendments to and examining proposals for new legislation, contributing to debates on Bills and other important matters, voting on issues in the House, attending Question Time, participating in the proceedings of any of 19 Committees and making either oral or written representations on behalf of constituents to Ministers or Government Departments.
In relation to Committee work, DÃ¡il Ã‰ireann has its own specialised Committee system which advises on a wide range of legislative, social, economic and financial business. Other work conducted by these Committees includes the processing of legislation and the examination of Government expenditure. In recent years, the setting up of a well organised system of Joint Committees ( i.e Committees of both Houses sitting and voting together ) has resulted in Deputies having additional opportunities to participate to an even greater extent in specialised parliamentary work in the areas of Foreign Affairs, European Affairs, Irish Language, State Enterprise, Women's Rights, Family Matters, Sustainable Development and Small Business and Services. A Deputy will often be a member of more than one Committee or indeed its Chairperson. Deputies also have an international political role to play through their membership of international bodies e.g. the Council of Europe, the British-Irish Inter-parliamentary Body and other parliamentary associations and are frequently called upon by national and international TV and Radio to participate in current affairs programmes.
Members are provided by law with a range of entitlements (e.g. secretarial assistance, mileage, subsistence, postal and telephone allowances) to enable them to deal effectively with their duties as public representatives and legislators.