A series of reforms to the operation of the Dáil are being unveiled in Leinster House this afternoon. This is an attempt to make the Oireachtas more relevant and effective.
The most visible change will be the introduction of electronic voting in the Chamber. The package also includes new ways to raise current issues without notice, more monitoring of proposed European Union legislation, longer sitting times, and more focus on the work of committees.
For the past two years, the whips of the main parties have been negotiating what is said to be the most far-reaching reforms of the Dáil since the foundation of the State.
The Government Chief Whip said that the reforms present an opportunity to increase the relevance and effectiveness of the Dáil. Seamus Brennan said that they would lead to greater public interest in the political system.
Electronic voting in the chamber will reduce the time taken for each vote from twenty minutes to eleven. The new system will begin on Wednesday.
For the first time, Committees will discuss proposed European Union legislation before it is agreed. The Government will be required to take serious account of their views before deciding its negotiation position.
There will be a major change to the current Order of Business, where members are only allowed to ask about promised legislation. Under the new system, they will be able to raise issues of current national importance without notice with the Minister responsible, rather than just the Taoiseach as at present.
The Dáil will sit for an extra ten hours per week for three weeks each month, allowing the fourth week to be devoted entirely to the work of Committees.
In another measure aimed at strengthening the work of Committees, no TD will sit on more than two committees - at the moment, 21 Deputies sit on at least three.
The current Adjournment Debate at the end of Dáil business will be replaced by a Commencement Debate, starting at 12pm on Tuesdays and 9.30am on Wednesdays and Thursdays, with six separate issues being raised each day.
Apart from electronic voting and EU monitoring, which is expected to start shortly, the other measures will be introduced after talks with unions representing staff in Leinster House. These are expected to be agreed in time for the start of this year's Autumn Session.