The purpose of this assignment is togive the reader a brief outline of the principal roles of Select and JointCommittees in the Oireachtas.
Followingthis there will be a description of the role and development of the Irish CivilService. Committeesof the OireachtasIreland is a democratic country. As discussed in course notes, the Irishlegislature is Westminster style in nature; there are two Houses of theOireachtas; the upper House, Dáil Éireann and the lower House, the Seanad. For the 158 Teachtaí Dála (T.D.’s) in DáilÉireann, the members are elected by the public.
Ireland’s system of voting, Proportional Representation by the Single TransferableVote (PR STV), allowing for a more accurate representation of the choice madeby the voting public on what people they want to represent them ingovernment. The party that is electedwith the majority of seats get to choose who to give ministries to. The election of Seanad members is differentto the election of T.
D.’s; they are not voted for by the public but by thefollowing, as described on the Oireachtas website:· 43 areelected by five different panels that represent various interests, e.g.Agriculture, Culture and Education, Industry and Commerce, PublicAdministration and Labour.· 6 areelected by university graduates from National University of Ireland (NUI) andthe University of Dublin (Trinity College).
· 11 areelected by the Taoiseach. As outlined in course notes, thepurpose of parliamentary committees are to bring together subject matter expertsto work on parliamentary business and to allow interest groups and members ofthe public to voice their opinions in matters of policy formation. Oireachtas committees are made up of membersfrom Dáil Éireann and the Seanad.
Someare made up of members from entirely one house while others are made up of amix of members from both houses. Powers ofCommitteesAs discussed by O’Donnell (2017), committeeshave certain powers and privileges, as follows:ü Under the Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas(Compellability, Privileges and Immunities of Witnesses) Act, 1997 committeeshave the power to send for ‘persons, papers and records’ and can come toconclusions in respect of matters under investigation by the committee.ü The powers of compellability are not automatically held by anOireachtas committee.
To receive thesepowers the committee must apply for them from the Compellability Committee,which is a sub-committee of the Committee on Procedures and Privileges.ü The committees can compel anybody apart from the President ormembers of the judiciary to appear before them.ü The appointment of sub-committeesü They can take evidence orally or in writing and take writtensubmissionsü Take advice from subject matter expertsü Publish materialü Discuss policy matters with Ministers and issues with principaloffice holders on matters that they are responsible forü Draft legislationü Travel to meetings and conferences SelectCommitteeA Select Committee is made up solely ofrepresentatives of one House, i.
e. the committee members would all be from DáilÉireann or all from the Seanad. Thereare procedures that are in place when bringing legislation into force and thereare a number of stages that legislation must go through before being passed. As highlighted in an Oireachtas fact sheet,Dáil Éireann gives the job of the clause-by-clause study of Bills to SelectCommittees. Although many of the functions of Select Committees relate tolegislation, they can also be established to deal with urgent matters ofcurrent interest, e.
g. Brexit. In June 2016 the people of the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leavethe European Union (EU). A SpecialSeanad Select Committee, Seanad SpecialSelect Committee on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EuropeanUnion Membership, was established in February 2017.
As outlined on the Oireachtas website, thepurpose of this committee was to compile a report that would consider theimplications of Brexit in the Irish context. This included the effects on the Irisheconomy, border relations with Northern Ireland. This committee calls on industry experts togive their opinions and recommendations, which assists them in compiling thenecessary information for their report. Aspart of the terms of reference of this committee, it will be dissolved by the31st December 2017. Thiscommittee was made up of members of the Seanad as shown in Appendix One.
Joint CommitteeA Joint Committee is made up of members of both Houses; Dáil Éireannand the Seanad. According to anOireachtas fact sheet a Joint Committee is usually the joining of two selectcommittees. A Joint Committee usuallyshadows government departments and monitors their activities in relation tolegislation and expenditure and will contact the department should they needclarification on any matters. Forexample there are Joint Committees on Communications, Climate Action andEnvironment and Agriculture, Food and Marine which shadow the activities ofthese Departments. They can carry out detailed scrutinyof statutory instruments that have been laid before the houses of theOireachtas. These Committees have thepower to annul regulations up to one year after laying of the statutoryinstrument. An example of a Joint Committee is the Joint Committee on EighthAmendment of the Constitution.
Thisdiffers from the Joint Committees mentioned above as this committee doesn’tshadow the work of a Department. Thiscommittee was set up to review and make recommendations on the eighth amendmentof the Irish constitution. According tothe Oireachtas website, this committee was set up to examine the Citizens’Assembly report and recommendations on the Eighth Amendment of theConstitution. The committee will examinethe report’s recommendations and report its own conclusions to both Houses. Experts appear before the committee and givetheir recommendations based on evidence and research. This committee is made up members of theSeanad and Dáil Éireann as shown in Appendix 2. 2 (b) Discuss the role anddevelopment of the Irish Civil ServiceThe fundamental principles of the Irish Civil Service have alteredvery little from the when the civil service was reformed back in the1800s.
Prior to 1922 Ireland wasgoverned by the United Kingdom (UK). Atthe height of the industrial revolution in the 19th century, two UKparliamentary members Northcote and Trevelyan were commissioned by theChancellor of the Exchequer to conduct a study on the civil service. They reported their findings to governmentofficials.
As detailed in course notes,the report’s conclusions were; that civil service should be recruited throughopen competitive examination and that the examination board should be independentand promotion through the civil service should be on merit rather than onlength of service. Their report wasn’ttaken into consideration until a change in Prime Minister. When William Gladstone took office in 1864 henoted the report and found that the report conclusions were something to takeon board. This process is still inoperation to this day.
It worked becauseit gave all civil servants and non-civil servants the chance to progress in afair and open manner. It judged candidateson their skills and knowledge rather than the length of time they were workingthere. This report laid the foundationsfor the civil service that was introduced following Irelands independence andis very similar to the civil service that we see in operation in Irelandtoday.
Members of the Civil Service arepolitically impartial; this means that when Governments change followingelections there is a seamless run of service as although the Ministers andleadership may change the staff within the departments do not. Each department has permanent staff, whichdoes not change following an election. As noted by the Citizens Information website, there are 17 governmentdepartments, each headed up by a Minister and a Minister of State. They elect a Secretary General for eachdepartment for a term of 7 years. Asoutlined on the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants website, theSecretary General of each department is responsible for the overall managing ofthe department, the implementation and delivery of policies, advising theMinister and the delegation of tasks within the department.
Below the Secretary General there area number of different positions (see Appendix 3). As mentioned in the course handout,there are over 37,000 civil servants currently employed in Ireland. As detailed in the course handout, the roleof the Irish Civil Service is to assist the Government with policy developmentand the implementation of the policies that are in place. Also, as highlighted by the civil service renewalplan, of October 2014, it states that the purpose of the civil service is toprovide public services to the people of Ireland effectively andefficiently. Although a lot of civilservice work is behind the scenes, with policy formation and administration, italso provides a lot of frontline services to the public.
ReformAs detailed in the classpresentation, Public Service Mod 2017, there have been a number of reforminitiatives over the life of the civil service, from the Devlin report of 1969to the current Public Service Reform Plan. O’Malley and MacCarthaigh (2012) outline theDevlin report of 1969, this report identified two main problems with the civilservice; “lack of strategic capacity andpoor coordination of activities across departments.” It didn’t see the civil service as forward thinking, efficient or valuefor money.
Awhite paper entitled Serving the CountryBetter (Government of Ireland 1985) was published in 1985. The main attention of this report was seniorand middle management and how this section was required to become managersrather than administrators and to concentrate on the cost effectiveness whenmeeting targets. The Transforming Public Services report, 2008, conclusions were tomake the public service citizen centred and performance focussed.
This reportmentions that in light of the OECD review that Ireland needed to work on increasing quality, efficiency andvalue for money in providing services to the public. As highlightedby the civil service renewal plan, 2014, the purpose of the civil service is toprovide public services to the people of Ireland effectively and efficiently. It is important to keep public services up todate, the changing economy, political structures, environmental factors, theconstantly changing technology are challenges for the civil service when tryingto keep up to date with the changing needs of the public.ConclusionOireachtas committees play an essential part in Irish Government,from scrutinising of legislation to the review of current interest topics.
The reports that they provide give Governmentthe opportunity to make fully informed decisions. The Civil Service has gone through manychanges over the years, however, the ethos remains the same, provide quality,efficient, effective services for the public; provide assistance togovernment.