A Brief Guide to the Legislative Process
A simplified outline of the legislative process follows. This is for information only. It is not an exhaustive treatment of the subject.
First Stage: the initiation of a Bill.
There are two ways that a bill may be initiated:
A Bill can be published without the prior permission of House.
- In the Dáil, only the Government, and groups provided for in standing orders (seven or more deputies), may present Bills (one Bill at a time from each group).
- In the Seanad, the Leader of the Seanad may present a bill on behalf of the Government. Groups provided for in standing orders (five or more senators) may also present a bill, and there may be three bills at a time from each group.
- Leave to Introduce
Leave of the House is sought for publication of Bill. In the Dáil any member may seek leave to introduce a bill. In the Seanad introduction requires three Senators to sponsor the bill.
As a general rule, Bills may be initiated in either the Dáil or the Seanad. Exceptions to general rule are:
- Money Bills (Dáil only)
- Bills to amend the Constitution (Dáil only)
- Private Bills (Seanad only)
Second Stage: whether the law should be amended as broadly envisaged in the Bill
- The House discusses what the Bill contains and also what might be relevantly included.
- Debate takes place on a motion:
"That the Bill be now read a second time".
- Individual speaking times are limited
- The proposer may also reply to the debate;
- other members may speak once only
- Restriction on amendments which can be moved:
- Amendments are to the motion only, not to the text of the bill and may be related to time (postponing the second reading to a later date), or
- To reason (giving a reasoned argument against the second reading)
Third (Committee) Stage: detailed examination and improvement of what is proposed
- Detailed consideration of the Bill section by section,
- Committee of the whole House or
- Select Committee or
- Special Committee.
- In case of the Dáil, Select Committee is the norm.
- There are 12 legislative committees in the 30th Dáil.
- Relevant amendments may be made to the Bill.
- Amendments which are not relevant may, however, be made if the House has given an appropriate instruction to the committee.
- Members may speak more than once on each question (i.e. on each section or amendment) but the proposer usually replies.
Fourth (Report) Stage: a review of changes made at Third Stage
- Consideration is limited to amendments tabled which arise from proceedings at Third Stage.
- Members may speak only twice on each amendment, the second contribution being limited to 2 minutes;
- The proposer of an amendment may reply to the debate.
- The Bill may be recommitted as a whole or in respect of certain sections or amendments only. This removes the restrictions mentioned above.
Fifth (Final) Stage: whether the Bill, in its current form, would constitute good law
- Debate takes place on a motion "That the Bill do now pass".
- The proposer may also reply to the debate;
- Other members may speak once only.
The Bill, if passed, is then sent to other House
Typically from Dáil to Seanad, and second, third, fourth and fifth stages are repeated.
Amendments made by Seanad to Bill initiated in Dáil
- Amendments made by the Seanad are considered in Committee of whole Dáil.
- Amendments may be accepted, rejected or amended or consequential amendments made.
- The Committee's decisions can be reviewed by Dáil on report, and further amendments may be made.
- The Dáil may agree Seanad amendments and/or
- The Dáil may disagree with Seanad amendments and request that the Seanad does not insist on them, and/or
- The Dáil may amend Seanad amendments, and/or
- If the Dáil has made further amendments, the Seanad is asked to agree them.
Amendments made by Dáil to Bill initiated in Seanad
- The Bill is deemed by virtue of Article 20.2.2 of the Constitution to be a Bill initiated in Dáil Éireann and is sent to the Seanad.
- Consideration by the Seanad commences at Fourth (Report) Stage.
As a general rule, the President is required to sign a Bill presented to him or her for signature not earlier than the fifth day or later than the seventh day after it has been so presented (Art.25.2.1).
A Bill becomes law on the day it is signed by the President and, unless the contrary intention appears, comes into operation on that day (Art. 25.4.1). A Bill may, for example, contain provision for its commencement (in whole or in part) by way of Ministerial order.