The Citizen’s Assembly is meeting this weekend to consider the issue of adopting fixed term parliaments, which would restrict the power of the Taoiseach to call an election. 

Currently, there is a maximum term of just over five years for a Government. 

Dr Eoin Daly of NUI Galway told delegates at the Assembly that while the Taoiseach formally "advises" the President to call an election, this is actually a euphemism for "instructing" the President. 

He also told members that the adoption of fixed term parliaments would not be possible under the current constitution. 

Dr Eoin O’Malley from the School of Law and Government at DCU, said the ability to call an election is an important tool in politics, in general benefiting the Government party, although not always. 

The topic was included for consideration by the Assembly at the request of the Independent Alliance following the agreement on a programme for Government. 

Minister for Transport Shane Ross proposed fixed term parliaments under a private member’s bill in 2015 when he was an independent TD on the back benches.

At the time, he said leaving the election date to the Taoiseach’s discretion "led to an abuse of executive power which was embedded in the Constitution". 

Petra Schleiter, a Professor of Comparitive Politics from Oxford, explained that in the US elections are fixed for every four years, while under UK legislation, general elections are held every five years, but can happen earlier if two thirds of Parliament vote in favour. 

Dr Rory Costello from the University of Limerick said under the current system the Taoiseach can call an election when the Government party is popular, and can also surprise opponents. 

However, he pointed out that Government parties generally lose votes at an election, in particular small parties. 

Assembly chairperson Mary Laffoy said the topic had attracted just eight public submissions, the lowest the Assembly has considered to date.

This is the final meeting of the Assembly. 

Members will meet tomorrow morning to vote on whether to recommend changing the current system.