SENATORSCliceáil anseo don leagan Gaeilge.
The Irish Parliament (Legislature) consists of two Houses, Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann. The Members of Seanad Éireann (Senate) are referred to as Senators and this leaflet gives a general overview of their work.
A General Election to Seanad Éireann must be held within 90 days of the dissolution of Dáil Éireann. Seanad Éireann is composed of 60 Members as follows:
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. Furthermore, 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.
Seanad Éireann normally meets on 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.
A typical working day for a Senator involves researching and preparing speeches for debates on social, economic and financial issues, drafting amendments to Bills and examining proposals for new legislation, contributing to debates on Bills and other important matters, voting on issues in the House and making representations on behalf of individuals and others to Government Ministers. 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 Senators 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. In addition to their parliamentary duties, Senators also make themselves available to assist members of the public who may require advice or guidance on matters relating to State administration. Senators will frequently be called upon by the media to comment on current political issues and to participate in broadcast debates.
Members are provided by law with a range of entitlements (e.g. secretarial assistance, mileage, subsistence, postal and telephone allowances) to help them to deal effectively with their duties as Senators and legislators.