28 Jun 2022, 17.15
The Houses of the Oireachtas Commission has published its 2021 Annual Report which presents an overview of the work of the Commission over the past year in performing its functions. As well as providing details of parliamentary activity throughout 2021 it also accounts for the public money spent in running the Houses of the Oireachtas last year.
The report shows parliamentary services continues to be delivered efficiently and effectively. The Commission’s audited financial accounts presented in this report show that the cost of running the Houses in 2021 was €132.5m. With the enactment of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (Amendment) Act 2021, the Commission received its three-year budgetary allocation of €462.5 million for the three years 2022-2024. The Commission will continue to exercise prudent stewardship of public resources in running the Houses of the Oireachtas over the next three years.
While the Dáil and Seanad resumed sittings in Leinster House in September 2021 with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, many aspects of the parliamentary business continued through virtual and hybrid means. For example, interparliamentary engagement this year continued to be facilitated through virtual engagements, 56 of the 68 Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe plenary and committee meetings during 2021 were held virtually. In February the Oireachtas hosted the first full virtual meeting of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) which was addressed by An Taoiseach. The meeting marked the first plenary for BIPA since the Covid-19 pandemic began and the first since the end of the UK’s transition from the EU. The theme of the event was 2021: Challenges and Changes.
In June the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD, launched Straitéis na Gaeilge, 2021, the Irish Language Strategy for the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Strategy aims to expand the range of Irish language supports and resources available to members and staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas Service and help it develop into a functioning bilingual organisation.
Over the past twelve months, the Oireachtas continued the delivery of its Digital Transformation Programme. The Oireachtas vision for the Digital Transformation Programme is to provide an open and accessible Oireachtas for all, transformed by intuitive, collaborative and integrated digital solutions with considerable progress being made in achieving integrated processes and systems.
The report of the Forum on a Family-Friendly and Inclusive Parliament was published in November. Following broad-based consultation, the Forum presented recommendations to make the Houses of the Oireachtas, a more family-friendly workplace and more responsive to the needs and interests of men and women of all ages in its composition, structure, operation and methods of working. The Commission has taken steps towards advancing the Forum’s recommendations and will receive regular progress reports on actions taken to address the recommendations which will be reported in our annual report to the Houses next year.
This year the Houses mark another significant milestone in our history: the first meeting of Seanad Éireann which took place in December 1922. The programme of events launched in February under the theme Seanad 100 – Minority Voices, Major Change includes online events, a TV documentary, exhibitions for the public as well as student debates. These events will explore the contribution of Seanad Éireann to Irish public life since 1922.
In another year of unprecedented challenges:
• Dáil Éireann sat for 95 days (943 hours).
• 297 Topical Issues were selected for debate in the Dáil.
• 68,297 Parliamentary Questions were processed.
• Seanad Éireann sat for 82 days (608 hours).
• 76 Seanad divisions were recorded.
• 354 Commencement matters were tabled for debate in the Seanad – Up to four commencement matters are chosen for debate by the Cathaoirleach on each sitting day.
• 160 Bills were initiated in the Houses – 31% were Government Bills and 69% were Private Members Bills (PMBs).
• 48 Government Bills were passed during 2021. Two PMBs were passed during 2021.
• Overall, Parliamentary Committees held 1,170 meetings (over 1,752 hours).
• 2,596 witnesses attended Committee meetings.
• 75 Committee reports were presented.
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD and Cathaoirleach Senator Mark Daly said: “Ensuring the continuity of parliamentary business and the work of members was an important objective during the period covered by this annual report. The effective response to the pandemic required flexibility and determination to overcome the exceptional circumstances and unpredictable environment.
We are very grateful to all concerned for their efforts in ensuring that the core functions of the Houses and their Committees continued without disruption through the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Read the report here