Moves to better Dáil debates

The Irish parliament, the Oireachtas, is facing operational changes this autumn after members recently voted for a raft of reforms.

New rules for the 166-member Dáil will mean that members meet more often and also sit earlier on a business day.

TDs will also no longer be able to leave the chamber during debates, while the formula of sittings will also be changed to allow for more daily "topical debates."

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The new-look Dáil rules were proposed this week at a reform subcommittee before being approved by the rest of the house. They come as TDs leave for the summer recess and with one of the most challenging periods in recent Irish governance awaiting them on their autumn return.

Once back, members will have to tackle a raft of austerity cuts.

Describing the changes as having a "transformational effect" on the running of the Dáil, government chief whip Paul Kehoe outlined some of the main details.

These include the Dáil sitting half an hour earlier on Tuesdays while on the first Friday of every month it will sit to allow TDs time to introduce their own bills.

This new regime will "stretch out" the working week, while also "streamlining" the daily sittings, Kehoe said.

Meanwhile, the issue of Dáil attendance was highlighted when a recent debate on a motion on the controversial Cloyne report into clerical child abuse was attended by about only a dozen TDs.

"Members will return to a Dáil where TDs can play a more active and meaningful role in the legislative process, and where the members of the house will have more opportunity to raise issues with ministers in a more effective manner," said Kehoe.