The legislative process

09/08/2018

In the July Gazette, Ben Mannering details the political process that leads to legislation.

Ingredients of a ‘dog’s dinner’

Solicitors and students spend much of their time analysing the finished product of legislation. However, recent comments from the Attorney General regarding the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill have highlighted the journey that legislation has to take – from ‘dog’s dinner’ to ‘table d’hote’ and beyond – before it becomes law.

Legislation can come before the Dáil in many guises. However, it can broadly be separated into:

  • Primary legislation – bills that can take many forms, such as private members’ bills, money bills, private bills, and Government bills, and
  • Secondary legislation – statutory instruments (SIs) and bye-laws.

A long and winding road

Secondary legislation is by far the more straightforward to pass and, as a consequence, is used more often. In 2017 alone, 646 SIs were enacted, ranging from courts administration to serious criminal law measures and environmental protection. The diversity of these statutory instruments illustrates not only the diverse nature of the business of the State, but the complexity of secondary legislation.

Primary legislation, meanwhile, takes a long and winding path through the Oireachtas, from pre-legislative scrutiny (if referred by the President pursuant to Article 26 of Bunreacht na hÉireann) to its approval by the Supreme Court.

Ben Mannering is a solicitor at the State Claims Agency. Writing in a personal capacity for the Gazette, he discusses the tortuous path taken by all Irish legislation before it becomes the ‘finished product’ reviewed by practitioners and students alike.

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