The main function of the Oireachtas is to make laws for Ireland. The Oireachtas also elects the Government and approves the funding of Government Departments. An important function of the Oireachtas is to hold the Government to account.
On a typical sitting day, the Dáil may debate a proposed law, called a Bill, and decide whether or not to pass it to the next Stage. Members may ask questions of the Taoiseach, Tánaiste or a particular Minister. Any questions that are not answered in the Dáil receive written answers from the relevant Minister. TDs may also ask the Government about the progress of legislation. Time is allocated in the Dáil for Members to raise Topical Issues, which are often specific constituency issues. There may also be Private Members’ time, during which Opposition Members may propose motions or introduce Bills.
A Seanad sitting usually begins with Commencement Matters, when Senators may raise specific issues with the relevant Minister. During the Order of Business, Senators agree the business of the day and call for debates on issues they feel should be discussed in the Seanad. The Seanad also debates proposed legislation. Senators may also table motions, make statements and invite Ministers to debate issues.
The Oireachtas delegates some of its work to Oireachtas committees on specific topics, such as health or social protection. Committee members are drawn from the Dáil and Seanad. Committees may invite the public to make submissions on proposed Bills, produce reports on policy, hear pre-budget submissions from citizen organisations and debate Bills.
The President is the head of State. As well as attending official functions, the President signs Bills into law. The President may decline to sign a Bill into law, however, this happens only in rare circumstances, for example, if the President, with the Council of State, deems a Bill to be unconstitutional.