1 Apr 2021, 12.45

The Joint Committee on Public Petitions has today published a Review of the Terms of Reference requested by the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Deputy Martin Browne, Chairman of Committee on Public Petitions, said: “The parliamentary public petitions system in Ireland exists to allow members of the public to raise issues of general public interest or concern or issues of public policy with the Houses of the Oireachtas. This as an important platform, that allows all of Ireland’s citizens to actively engage with the parliament and provides direct access to this Committee so that the voice of the people can be heard.”

When the current Committee was formed last September, the Dáil and Seanad tasked it with reviewing its Terms of Reference and reporting back to both Houses. This review took place during a period of increased public health restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic and involved months of meeting virtually in private session. The review included examining the operation of Parliamentary Public Petitions Committees in Scotland and Western Australia.

The Committee also held a public meeting with the Irish Ombudsman Forum, represented by Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring, Chair of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, and the Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall.

Deputy Browne said: “The members of the Committee welcomed the opportunity to conduct this review as it felt that the Joint Committee on Public Petitions could be a more robust and effective forum, which could be used to promote greater public engagement with the Oireachtas.

“Each standing order is reviewed in this report and the Committee believes that there is sufficient scope with the existing Standing Orders, coupled with memoranda of agreement with other bodies, to improve the effectiveness of the petitions system. The Committee intends to keep its terms of reference under review, in the light of international best practice, academic research, and further consultations with other bodies. However, we are recommending amendments to a number of standing orders which we believe are appropriate to cover the Committee remit and oversight role.”

The report recommends that the Committee’s Standing Orders are amended to include:

  • Changing the name to the ‘Committee on Public Petitions and the Ombudsmen’ to reflect the importance of the oversight role of the Committee in relation to the Offices of the Ombudsmen;
  • Adding the ‘power to send for persons, papers and records’ similar to other Standing Committees, including the Committee of Public Accounts and the Committee on Budgetary Oversight;
  • Allowing the Committee to engage with international ombudsmen, including the European Ombudsman;
  • Providing for the Dáil and Seanad hold three plenary sessions per year to consider reports from the Committee.

The Joint Committee on Public Petitions is a standing Committee of the Houses of the Oireachtas and has 11 Members, seven from the Dáil and four from the Seanad.

The Report of the Committee on the Review of the Terms of Reference is available on the Oireachtas website.

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Committee membership

Deputies

Martin Browne - Cathaoirleach (chair)

Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin

Fianna Fáil

Fine Gael

Senators

Fianna Fáil