The Dáil is the Lower House of the Oireachtas. A Dáil Member's official Irish title is "Teachta Dála" which in English means "Deputy to the Dáil". Members are generally called "TDs" or "Deputies".
The number of Dáil Members is not fixed, but the Constitution provides that there must be at least one TD for every 20,000 to 30,000 people. Currently there are 160 TDs.
Most TDs are members of one or other political party, but many are Independents. TDs provide a link between their constituents and the Government and Oireachtas. For example, when a constituent brings an issue to the attention of a TD, the TD may raise it in the Dáil as a Topical Issue or put down a parliamentary question, PQ, regarding it.
After a general election, the newly elected Dáil meets and elects the Ceann Comhairle, who acts as Chairman of the Dáil. The Dáil also elects a deputy Chairman, known as the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. The Ceann Comhairle commences the process of forming a Government by asking a member of the largest party or group in the House to nominate their party leader for the position of Taoiseach. If there is more than one nominee, a vote takes place.
The Taoiseach appoints TDs to be Ministers and Ministers of State in the various Government Departments. These Deputies are referred to as the Government Front Bench while the TDs who are not given Ministries are known as Backbenchers. The Opposition parties appoint spokespersons on the various Ministries, creating their own Front Benches and Back Benches.
Each party also appoints a Whip. The Whips are responsible for ensuring their TDs attend Dáil votes and they meet each other weekly to set the agenda for the next week’s business in the Dáil. The Government Whip is called the Chief Whip.
Dáil Éireann normally meets in plenary session on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. You can watch the debates live on this website and read the Official Report of the debates which is published here on the following day at the latest.
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.
Last updated: 19 October 2020