The Irish Government published its legislative programme for the current session on 8 June last. Now that the Houses of the Oireachtas are on summer recess, we consider what was achieved over the last couple of months and what remains outstanding for the Autumn Session.

The Irish Government Chief Whip, Regina Doherty, introduced the current legislative programme by stating that the goal is to meet the targets set out by the “Programme for a Partnership Government”, in order to address the problems which Ireland is facing. The aims were to maintain Ireland’s steady economic growth and to prioritise areas such as water services, admission to schools and the IBRC Commission, as well as tackling organised crime.

The programme included 11 priority bills for publication over the coming months, and a number of these have already been published, as detailed further below.

Some of the Priority Legislation which was listed for Publication this Session

Legislation

Purpose

1. Education (Admission to Schools) Bill:

To contain provisions regarding pupil enrolment and the requirement to operate transparent enrollment policies. This Bill has now been published and is available here.

2. Water Services Bill:

To suspend water charges for nine months and establish an External Advisory Board. This Bill has now been passed by the Oireachtas and is awaiting Presidential signature. It is available here.

3. Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill:

To control certain drugs including prescription medicines, which are being misused and sold illegally. This Bill has now been published and is available here.

4. Commissions of Investigation (IBRC) Bill:

To address matters affecting the work of the IBRC Commission of Investigation. In particular, it extends the timeframe for the Commission and enables the Commission to continue its preparatory and preliminary work in relation to the Siteserv transaction. This Bill has now been passed by the Oireachtas and is awaiting Presidential signature. It is available here.

5. Companies (Accounting) Bill

To make changes to the accounting requirements for small companies, and also to eliminate the current exemption from filing accounts for unlimited companies with a non-EU/EEA shareholding structure. As at 23 June 2016, the Tánaiste informed the Dáil that this bill is still at drafting stage but “well advanced”.

So the Government gets 80% (or an A) on the selection of Bills that we have outlined above.

Some of the Bills Expected to Undergo Pre-Legislative Scrutiny this Session

To make changes to the accounting requirements for small companies, and also to eliminate the current exemption from filing accounts for unlimited companies with a non-EU/EEA shareholding structure. As at 23 June 2016, the Tánaiste informed the Dáil that this bill is still at drafting stage but “well advanced”.

Bill

Purpose

1. Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction (Amendment) Bill:

To provide, primarily, for a points system for serious fishery infringements of the Common Fisheries Policy as required by fishing quotas. The only update available as at 9 June 2016 is that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine plans to introduce this bill in the coming sessions.

2. Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Bill:

To amalgamate the Offices of the Pensions and Financial Services Ombudsman. The Minister for Finance recently stated that his Department is “progressing the development” of this bill. However, it is not clear whether the bill has actually gone for pre-legislative scrutiny yet.

3. Health Information and Patient Safety Bill:

This was outlined in a previous article and remains on the agenda for the new Government. On 15 June 2015, the Taoiseach informed the Dáil that this Bill would not be published before the summer recess but would go for pre legislative scrutiny “shortly”.

There appears, therefore, to have been little progress on the above bills – so it would appear that the Government gets a fail on this section of the report card. We’re sure that there are mitigating circumstances that can be put forward to explain the position however.

Update on Certain other Bills

A number of bills mentioned in one of our previous articles have also been continuing through the Houses of the Oireachtas, and updates on their status are set out below:

Bill

Purpose

1. Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill:

This Bill has completed pre-legislative scrutiny and drafting continues on the Bill. It is intended to replace out-dated legislation, meet international commitments to the Council of Europe, OECD and UN, and also give effect to some of the Mahon Tribunal recommendations.

2. Criminal Justice (Offences Relating to Information System) Bill 2016:

This Bill is now at the second stage in the Dáil. It will enable ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime and the transportation of the EU Directive 2013/40 on attacks against Information Systems.

3. Public Sector Standards Bill 2015:

This Bill is now at the Dáil committee stage. It will reform the existing legislative framework in relation to ethics regulation for those in public office.

4. Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015:

This Bill was approved by the Government in December and is now at Seanad committee stage. It aims to reduce alcohol consumption in Ireland to 9.1 litres per person per annum by 2020 and to reduce the harms associated with alcohol.

So it would appear that there is some work going on in the background but not much to show for it just yet. We will give the Government a C for effort – room to improve here.

Comments

Overall, a patchy report card with plenty of work to be made up when the Houses resume in the autumn. We will continue to update you on the progress of these and other bills.