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The Oireachtas ( ) is the "national parliament" or legislature of Irelandmarker, sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann. The Oireachtas consists of:

The Houses of the Oireachtas sit in Leinster Housemarker in Dublinmarker, an eighteenth century ducal palace. The directly-elected Dáil is by far the most powerful branch of the Oireachtas.


Dáil Éireann, the lower house, is directly elected under universal suffrage of all Irish citizens who are resident and at least eighteen years of age. An election is held at least once in every five years as required by law. However the house can usually be dissolved at any time at the request of the Taoiseach (head of government). Dáil elections occur under the system of proportional representation by means of the Single Transferable Vote. The Seanad is not directly elected but consists of a mixture of members selected in a number of ways. 43 senators are elected by councillors and parliamentarians, 11 are appointed by the Taoiseach, and six are elected by two university constituencie. The President of Ireland is directly elected once in every seven years, for a maximum of two terms. However if, as has occurred on a number of occasions, a consensus among the larger political parties can result in only a single candidate being nominated, then no actual ballot occurs.


To become law a bill must first be approved by both the Dáil and in most circumstances the Seanad (although the Dáil can override a Seanad refusal to pass a Bill), and then signed into law by the President. Bills to amend the Constitution must also be approved by the People prior to being presented to the President. In most circumstances, the President is in effect obliged to sign all laws approved by the Houses of the Oireachtas, although he or she has the power to refer most bills to the Supreme Court for a ruling on constitutionality. The powers of the Seanad are in effect limited to delay rather than veto. It is the Dáil, therefore, that is the supreme tier of the Irish legislature. The general enacting formula for Acts of the Oireachtas is: "Be it enacted by the Oireachtas as follows:-", for an act with a preamble this enacting formula is, instead, "Be it therefore enacted by the Oireachtas as follows:—".


The Oireachtas has exclusive power to:
  • Legislate, including a power vested in the Dáil of approving the financial resolutions relevant to the budget.
  • Create subordinate legislatures.
  • Propose changes to the constitution (must be initiated in the Dáil), which must then be submitted to a referendum.
  • Raise military or armed forces.
  • Allow international agreements to become part of the domestic law of the state.
  • Pass certain laws having extra-territorial effect (in accordance with the similar practices of other states).
  • Enact, when it considers a state of emergency to exist, almost any law it deems necessary.


  • Laws are invalid if, and to the extent that, they contradict the constitution.
  • In the event of a conflict, EU law also takes precedence over acts of the Oireachtas.
  • It may not retrospectively criminalise acts that were not illegal at the time they were committed.
  • It may not enact any law providing for the imposition of the death penalty, even during a state of emergency.
  • It can only legislate for the Republic of Ireland and not for Northern Irelandmarker.


Each house of the Oireachtas has its own committees but there are also a number of joint committees that include members of both. There are currently twenty of these (the first thirteen below are based on the thirteen select committee of the Dáil):

  • Joint Committee on Agriculture and Food
  • Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
  • Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources
    • Sub-Committee on Salmon Drift Netting, Draft Netting and Angling
    • ICT Sub-Committee
  • Joint Committee on Education and Science
  • Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business
  • Joint Committee on Environment and Local Government
  • Joint Committee on European Affairs
    • Sub-Committee on European Scrutiny
  • Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service
  • Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs
    • Sub-Committee on Development Co-Operation
    • Sub-Committee on Human Rights
  • Joint Committee on Health and Children
    • Sub-Committee on Orthodontics
    • Sub-Committee on the High Levels of Suicide in Irish Society
  • Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights
    • Sub-Committee on the Barron Report on the Dublin Bombings of 1972 and 1973
    • Sub-Committee on the Barron Report on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974
    • Sub-Committee on the Barron Report on the Murder of Seamus Ludlow
  • Joint Committee on Social and Family Affairs
  • Joint Committee on Transport
  • Committee on Article 35.4.1 of the Constitution and section 39 of the Courts of Justice Act 1924
  • Joint Committee on the Constitution
  • Joint Committee on Broadcasting and Parliamentary Information
  • Joint Committee on House Services
  • Joint Committee on Standing Orders
  • Standing Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills
  • Working Group of Committee Chairmen


The word oireachtas comes from the Irish language name MacOireachtaigh (Geraghty), believed to have been advisors to ancient kings and has been the title of two parliaments in Irish history: the current Oireachtas of the Republic of Ireland, since 1937, and, immediately before that, the Oireachtas of the Irish Free State of 1922–1937.

The earliest parliament in Ireland was the Parliament of Ireland, which was founded in the thirteenth century as the supreme legislative body of the lordship of Ireland and was in existence until 1801. This parliament governed the English-dominated part of Ireland, which at first was limited to Dublin and surrounding cities, but later grew to include the entire island. But the Irish Parliament was, from the passage of Poyning's law in 1494 until it's repeal in 1782, subordinate to the Englishmarker, and later Britishmarker, Parliamentmarker. This Parliament consisted of the King of Ireland,who was the same person as the King of England, a House of the Lords and a House of Commons. In 1800 the Irish Parliament abolished itself when, after widespread bribery of members, it adopted the Act of Union, which came into effect from 1 January 1801.

The next legislature to exist in Ireland only came into being in 1919. This was an extra-legal, unicameral parliament established by Irish republicans, known simply as Dáil Éireann. This revolutionary Dáil was notionally a legislature for the whole island of Ireland. In 1920, in parallel to the extra-legal Dáil, the British government created a home rule legislature called the Parliament of Southern Ireland. However this parliament was boycotted by most Irish politicians. It was made up of the King, the House of Commons of Southern Ireland and the Senate of Southern Ireland. The Parliament of Southern Ireland was formally abolished in 1922, with the establishment of the Oireachtas under the Constitution of the Irish Free State.

The Oireachtas of the Irish Free State consisted officially of the King and two houses, named, as their successors would be, Dáil Éireann (described, in this case, as a 'Chamber of Deputies') and Seanad Éireann. However the Free State Senate was abolished in 1935. The modern Oireachtas came into being in 1937, with the adoption by referendum of the Constitution of Ireland.

Televising of the Oireachtas

The televising of Oireachtas debates commenced in 1990, while those of committees commenced in 1993. Since 2005, live broadcasts over the internet of both houses have been made available by HEAnet and the eDemocracy Unit of the Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Oireachtas TV is a proposed digital television channel in Irelandmarker from 2009. It will resume broadcasting Committee and Houses and other parliament proceedings following establishment under a Broadcasting (Amendment)Act 2008 currently Broadcasting Bill 29 of 2008.

The channel will provide for coverage of the Houses of the Oireachtas and the programming of other world parliaments. It may be operated by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission though that has to be finally determined in the passed Broadcasting Bill 2008. It is expected on the Irish DTT service in 2009 and on cable and satellite platforms, both in Ireland and abroad thereafter.

Houses of the Oireachtas family day

On 28 June 2008 the first Houses of the Oireachtas family day was held. This initiative by the Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann, John O'Donoghue and the Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, Pat Moylan is to increase public awareness in the work of the Houses of The Oireachtas. It included tours of both chambers of the Oireachtas, lectures on the history of Oireachtas, historic political speeches recited by actors and a Hot Air balloon – commemorating the balloon flight which took place in 1785 from Leinster Lawn. The Oireachtas family day is due to become an annual event.

Northern Ireland representation

Although, as adopted in 1937, Article 3 of the constitution asserted the "right of the parliament and government established by this constitution to exercise jurisdiction" over the whole of Irelandmarker, it also provided that pending the "re-integration of the national territory" Acts of the Oireachtas would not apply to Northern Ireland. Therefore no serious attempts have been made for the representation of Northern Ireland in the Dáil. As Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera, while a staunch opponent of partition, who had been elected to represent a Northern constituency in the First Dáil, did not pursue the idea of seats in the Dáil for Northern Ireland, on the grounds that this would amount to representation without taxation, although subsequent Taoisigh have appointed people from Northern Ireland to the Seanad.

More recently, Sinn Féin has advocated that elected representatives from Stormont, Westminstermarker, or Strasbourgmarker should have the right to participate in Dáil debates, if not voting rights. In 2005 the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, proposed that Northern Ireland MPs should be able to address a committee of the whole of house sitting in the Dáil chamber. However, the media, Fine Gael, the Labour Party, the Green Party, the Socialist Party and Ahern's coalition partners, the Progressive Democrats, all opposed the idea, as did some Oireachtas members from Fianna Fáil. Only Sinn Féin, the party that stood to gain most from the proposal, supported it, while the more moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) described it as a step forward. The proposal was also criticised widely in the media, with editorials and/or columns published criticising the proposal in The Irish Times, the Irish Independent, the Irish Examiner, the Sunday Independent and other publications Only the republican-leaning Daily Ireland supported the proposal fully.


  1. The term "National Parliament" appears in Article 15 of the Constitution of Ireland; it is a description of the role of the Oireachtas, rather than an alternative official title.
  2. Oireachtas website: Parliamentary Televising
  3. Dáil TV station to be unveiled this week:
  4. Broadcasting Bill 2008 (Seanad) (Number 29 of 2008) - Tithe an Oireachtais
  5. Parliamentary Televising
  6. See De Valera Long Fellow Long Shadow, Tim Pat Coogan, Hutchinson, 1993.
  7. See Irish Echo article.
  8. Ibid.

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