Dáil ‘second chamber’ mooted under proposals to make politics more family friendly

Seán Ó Fearghaíl says both chambers would sit simultaneously so proceedings finish earlier in the evening

Dáil chamber

The Dáil could get a second chamber under proposals aimed at making politics more family friendly for politicians and Leinster House staff.

The goal of the reform would be to allow Dáil business to be conducted in both chambers simultaneously so that proceedings finish earlier in the evening.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl revealed the proposals in an interview with The Irish Times where he also spoke about the growing abuse levelled at politicians and his hope that US president Joe Biden will address the Houses of the Oireachtas.

According to Mr Ó Fearghaíl, the idea of a second Dáil chamber is under “very active, ongoing investigation” and he will be speaking to the leaders of political parties and Dáil groupings about it shortly. He said the hope would be that Leinster House staff could be sent home at 7pm or 8pm as opposed to midnight or the early hours of the morning as frequently happens on sitting days.


Mr Ó Feargháil said some workers in the Oireachtas Bills Office sometimes work through the night processing legislation and “we have to do something about that”.

In recent weeks he visited Westminster with Minister of State at the Office of Public Works Patrick O’Donovan to see how a similar arrangement works in the House of Commons. It has a second chamber, Westminster Hall, that conducts about 16 hours of parliamentary business a week. There is a similar arrangement in the Australian House of Representatives.

In Ireland, the Forum on a Family Friendly and Inclusive Parliament recommended consideration of establishing a second chamber where Dáil business, that does not require TDs to vote, could take place. The forum, which was set up last year with members drawn from inside and outside the Oireachtas, suggested parliamentary questions to Ministers or topical issues raised by TDs could be debated in the proposed second chamber as could additional business added to the Dáil schedule.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl suggested the kind of debates that could take place in a second chamber could be “virtually anything other than voteable business”.

He said one problem that could arise if a second chamber is set up is “generating the legislation and facilitating the debates that will be requested because we will be able to vastly increase our daily and our weekly output”.

He said it is possible that a second chamber could be introduced before the next election but “it won’t come in at all unless we get agreement from the political leaders”, adding: “We have to wait and see.”

Mr Ó Fearghaíl’s priority in the next Dáil term is to have a “more evenly flowing legislative pipeline” to avoid a significant number of Bills coming before TDs in the run up to Christmas or before the summer recess. He characterised this priority as “very much the same concern that President Higgins expressed in his unprecedented correspondence to us last year”.

In a letter last July President Michael D Higgins said an “overwhelming number of Bills” were being sent to him in the final two weeks before Dáil recesses and it was “less than ideal” as he sought to scrutinise complex legislation.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times