Although Ireland had aspirations to become a member of the Community as far back as 1961 it was not until 1972 when a referendum confirmed Ireland’s entry into the European Community with 83 per cent of voters supporting membership. Ireland formally acceded to the then EEC in 1973.
The Oireachtas has a National Parliament Office in Brussels with a full-time official representative to represent both Houses of the Oireachtas at EU level.
Joining the EEC had a radical impact on Ireland’s development and during the years that followed our accession, the Oireachtas has performed a crucial role in holding the government to account for its actions at EU level and by monitoring significant policy developments in Ireland’s interest. The Oireachtas has over the years further developed and strengthened its role with regard to European Affairs for example putting Oireachtas Scrutiny of EU legislative proposals on a statutory footing by implementing the EU Scrutiny Act 2002 and the creation of a dedicated scrutiny Committee in the 30th Dail.
Following the Lisbon Treaty the Oireachtas went through a period of change on foot of the new powers afforded to all national parliaments of member states of the EU. The Treaty significantly strengthened the role of national parliaments in the EU architecture.
The European Union Affairs Committee plays a key role in informing debate on the European Union in Ireland by fully considering important EU developments and initiatives affecting Ireland, ensuring that EU legislation and proposals are properly scrutinised and in holding the Government to account in Ireland’s relations with Europe. The Committee also regularly engages with EU institutions to monitor and influence the political and strategic direction of the Union as a whole.