The role of national parliaments in the European Union (EU) has developed considerably over time. This book focuses on one parliament as a case study in this regard: the national parliament of Ireland, the Oireachtas. The basic structure of that parliament is modelled on that of the United Kingdom. Like the United Kingdom, Ireland joined the then European Communities on 1 January 1973. Within a relatively short period from the date of Ireland's joining the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973, it became clear that major structural change to the Communities would be needed if the EEC were ever to fulfil its potential. The book examines the initial adaptations of its parliament to European integration and how Ireland's domestic parliamentary accommodation of membership slowly changed over time. It focuses on the considerable impact on domestic parliamentary arrangements of the recent banking and foreign debt crises and of the Treaty of Lisbon. An assessment of the role of the Oireachtas in European law and policy during the lifetimes of the 30th Dail (2007-11) and the 31st Dail (2011-16) follows. The book discusses the formation of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs, which held its first meeting in private on 19 July 2016, and its first public meeting on 7 September. However, Ireland's position as a "slow adaptor" to European integration has meant that the Oireachtas has had more ground to make up than many other legislatures.
This chapter seeks to examine the norms which the European Union (EU) has established regarding the role of national parliaments, and how these norms have evolved over time. It then offers some brief reflections on how domestic legal systems within the EU have tailored the role of their national parliaments in EU affairs. The chapter examines the Lisbon Treaty which saw the emergence of a more multi- dimensional role for national parliaments than had ever heretofore existed. An attempt had been made at the Nice conference to improve the Amsterdam Protocol. The Maastricht Treaty's ratification process had positive effects for national parliaments, with extra rights being conferred on them. The Constitutional Treaty was signed at Rome in 2004 but never entered into force, its ratification process halting after referendum defeats in France and the Netherlands in May and June 2005.
The empowerment of national parliaments has certainly involved a diversification in approach from the original democratisation method of deepening and broadening a directly elected European Parliament's involvement in the legislative process. Effective national parliamentary involvement in European Union (EU) policy matters requires adequate structure, e.g. the provision of adequate information and adequate time to carry out these functions. The quantity of information reaching national parliaments makes necessary systems to filter out less important data, the efficiency of which, however, depends much on parliamentary research and administrative resources. National parliaments also operate in different political contexts, capable of leading to differing approaches concerning EU-related powers. Hence, national parliaments may demand more accountability in European affairs if there is a national context of Euroscepticism, and also have more influence where there is a minority government.
Eliciting a response from the Irish parliament to European integration
The relationship between parliament and executive in Ireland has for long been particularly weighted in the executive's favour, and for many reasons. The drafters of the first (1922) Constitution of the Irish state began by replicating the structures of early twentieth-century British government, even while using the language of nineteenth-century liberalism. Adequate democratic control over the use of ministerial regulations to implement European Union (EU) law has remained conspicuous by its absence. The Joint Committee's existence permitted the development of some European expertise among its small parliamentary membership. Unsurprisingly, severe criticism resulted and the Government promised legislation giving the Oireachtas a more positive role. The disconnect between the Committee and the Oireachtas as a whole manifested itself in the Committee's failure to have its reports debated in the House.
Catalysts for reform of the Oireachtas role in European Union affairs
The impact of the Lisbon Treaty on the role of the Oireachtas, chronologically earlier than the financial crisis on domestic law has been somewhat more technical in nature. The economic crisis brought with it major implications for the role of national parliaments across Europe. Ireland became one of the countries hardest hit by the financial and sovereign debt crises. A select committee takes the view that a European Union (EU) institution's act infringes subsidiarity and wishes proceedings reviewing the act to be brought to the European Court of Justice, it must lay a corresponding report before the relevant House. The Joint Oireachtas Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis conducted an investigation into the banking crisis of 2008 onwards, engaging with that end with former ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet.
An overview of the role of the Oireachtas in European Union affairs
This chapter describes the role of the Oireachtas in European affairs in the 30th Dail (2007-11) and 31st Dail (2011-16), the two most recently completed legislative periods. There are three main aspects to parliament's relationship with Government: parliament has a role in forming and dismissing governments; parliament has a role in policy-making and law-making; and parliament has a role in rendering the Government accountable. Parliament's role in policy-making and law-making in Ireland can be divided between that concerning decision-making at European level and that at Irish level. In the 30th Dáil, the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights appeared to be the sectoral Oireachtas committee most dominated by EU-related issues. The first commemoration of Europe Day by the Oireachtas occurred in 2006 when both Houses met in joint session, one day after the fifty-sixth anniversary of the Schuman Declaration.
Reflections on how the role of the Irish parliament in European affairs might be improved
This chapter focuses on the particular case of the Oireachtas and considers what improvements could be effected in its European Union (EU)-related role. The Sub-Committee focused on the broader role of the Oireachtas in European affairs, not the implications of the Lisbon Treaty. The Sub-Committee also recommended that the Seanad play an important role in the area of monitoring the transposition of EU Directives. The Sub-Committee looked at systems used in other states to achieve executive accountability in the field of EU law, hearing from witnesses concerning the British, Danish and German parliaments. The Sub-Committee focused on the broader role of the Oireachtas in European affairs, not the implications of the Lisbon Treaty. The Joint Committee on European Scrutiny should continue to consider the Annual Legislative and Work Programme in detail.