The Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, and Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Mark Daly, are to seek a meeting with the Taoiseach and Attorney General about how the legislative process can be streamlined.

Ministers and senior civil servants will also be asked to examine how bills coming from their departments can be spread out more evenly to avoid bottlenecks developing.

It follows an intervention from the President, Michael D Higgins, who told the Oireachtas that an "overwhelming" volume of Bills were presented for his consideration in the final two weeks running up to the Christmas and summer holidays.

The letter prompted a meeting of the Dáil's business committee and the Seanad's Committee on Procedures and Privileges, which included both Ó Fearghaíl and Senator Daly.

It was decided that they should write to the Taoiseach and Attorney General seeking a meeting to discuss the concerns raised, and the resourcing of the parliamentary draftsman's section of the AG's office.

TDs and Senators at the meeting were asked to submit proposals on how the situation could be resolved which will be discussed at a further meeting in a month's time.

Research will be carried out on how other parliaments manage their legislative programme more evenly.

Sources at the meeting said the notion that Covid-19 was the cause for such logjams was rejected, although they accepted that it magnified the problem.

They agreed that the correspondence from the President would be treaded seriously.

President Michael D Higgins expressed concern over the volume of legislation

In the first three weeks of July, President Higgins said he was asked to consider 19 bills - nine were presented in one single day. Some of the legislation needed to be considered and signed in a seven-day period.

He said many of the bills are complex and require him to undertake a detailed analysis of their constitutional implications, and some may require consultation with the Council of State.

In response, the Ceann Comhairle and the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad told the President they understand and appreciate his concerns.

Legislation volume at end of Oireachtas terms 'too high'

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has accepted that the volume of legislation being passed towards the end of Dáil and Seanad terms is "too high".

Following a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council today, Mr Martin said that the problem was exacerbated by Covid-19 but added that the trend has been developing over a number of years.

He said that the Covid wave after Christmas placed restrictions on the amount of time the Dáil, Seanad and Committees could meet.

Micheál Martin said that there was an ongoing need throughout the pandemic to get Covid legislation through and he believed that the Oireachtas has been "nimble and agile" in responding to public health "imperatives".

He also pointed to housing legislation, telling reporters that such bills also fed into the high level of legislation towards the end of the Dáil term.

The Taoiseach defended the right of the President to express concern on this matter, adding that there are "legitimate issues there to be articulated and to be discussed".

'Appalling and poor standards of parliamentary debate'

Labour TD Duncan Smith said that over the last number of months there have been "appalling and poor standards of parliamentary debate".

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One he said: "We are increasingly dealing with a congested timetable with very little time to debate legislation and put forward amendments for legislation and it's leading to these really quite appalling and poor standards of parliamentary debate on Wednesday evenings before the Dáil vote."

He said today's meeting should "serve as a stark point" to "make sure that we are in much better shape when we come back in September".

Deputy Smith said this has been a "wake-up" call for the government, and to the whips departments.

"They're the ones that drive the agenda, and Dáil schedules. Something needs to change, and change drastically."

Cian O'Callaghan of the Social Democrats said it should not take an intervention from the President to realise that ramming through legislation at the last minute is no way to treat the democratic process.

Additional reporting: Tommy Meskill