Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has said the introduction of new legislation that will allow TDs and Senators to carry out inquiries is about allowing for the views of the people to be heard.

Last year a referendum to give the Oireachtas extensive powers to investigate and make findings against individuals was rejected.

Mr Howlin said the new legislation will allow for the setting up of five types of inquiry, while "living within the constraints" laid down under the Constitution.

On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland he said: "The people in their own wisdom decided not to strengthen the powers of the Oireachtas in this area, so we have constructed what can be done within that confined area."

Mr Howlin said careful balances would be required, and these would be set out in the legislation.

They would include protection against bias - especially if a committee member had previously made statements on a particular issue being investigated - and a provision for members to exclude themselves from an inquiry.

Mr Howlin said that he was anxious to give authority back to the Oireachtas itself, as opposed to Government, so that inquiries do not have their genesis or control in the executive, but in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Asked whether the proposed system was "second best" after the rejection of the proposal in the referendum last year to extend the powers of Oireachtas committees, Mr Howlin said: "You can't say to the people that their views are not the best. The people have made that determination.

“We put a proposal to them and they said 'No, we don't want to give you that extra power', so this is the people's best decision, and we, as the people's servants, are obliged to say that's exactly what we'll do."