To Ourselves, Articles Twenty Three And Twenty Four

Twenty Three

1.    This Article applies to every Bill passed by Dáil Éireann and sent to Seanad Éireann other than a Money Bill or a Bill the time for the consideration of which by Seanad Éireann shall have been abridged under Article 24 of this Constitution.

1° Whenever a Bill to which this Article applies is within the stated period defined in the next following sub-section either rejected by Seanad Éireann or passed by Seanad Éireann with amendments to which Dáil Éireann does not agree or is neither passed (with or without amendment) nor rejected by Seanad Éireann within the stated period, the Bill shall, if Dáil Éireann so resolves within one hundred and eighty days after the expiration of the stated period be deemed to have been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas on the day on which the resolution is passed.

2° The stated period is the period of ninety days commencing on the day on which the Bill is first sent by Dáil Éireann to Seanad Éireann or any longer period agreed upon in respect of the Bill by both Houses of the Oireachtas.

2.    1° The preceding section of this Article shall apply to a Bill which is initiated in and passed by Seanad Éireann, amended by Dáil Éireann, and accordingly deemed to have been initiated in Dáil Éireann.

2° For the purpose of this application the stated period shall in relation to such a Bill commence on the day on which the Bill is first sent to Seanad Éireann after having been amended by Dáil Éireann.

Article 24

1.    If and whenever on the passage by Dáil Éireann of any Bill, other than a Bill expressed to be a Bill containing a proposal to amend the Constitution, the Taoiseach certifies by messages in writing addressed to the President and to the Chairman of each House of the Oireachtas that, in the opinion of the Government, the Bill is urgent and immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace and security, or by reason of the existence of a public emergency, whether domestic or international, the time for the consideration of such Bill by Seanad Éireann shall, if Dáil Éireann so resolves and if the President, after consultation with the Council of State, concurs, be abridged to such period as shall be specified in the resolution.

2.    Where a Bill, the time for the consideration of which by Seanad Éireann has been abridged under this Article,

(a) is, in the case of a Bill which is not a Money Bill, rejected by Seanad Éireann or passed by Seanad Éireann with amendments to which Dáil Éireann does not agree or neither passed nor rejected by Seanad Éireann, or

(b) is, in the case of a Money Bill, either returned by Seanad Éireann to Dáil Éireann with recommendations which Dáil Éireann does not accept or is not returned by Seanad Éireann to Dáil Éireann,

within the period specified in the resolution, the Bill shall be deemed to have been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas at the expiration of that period.

3.    When a Bill the time for the consideration of which by Seanad Éireann has been abridged under this Article becomes law it shall remain in force for a period of ninety days from the date of its enactment and no longer unless, before the expiration of that period, both Houses shall have agreed that such law shall remain in force for a longer period and the longer period so agreed upon shall have been specified in resolutions passed by both Houses.

That is some dense language huh? Really, it’s clear that the constitution was not created for easy readability. It is very much a legal document, with the focus being on definitions of various things.

These two interlinked articles are about the time needed for bills to be approved. In this the main focus seems to be, yet again, in removing what little power the Seanad has in opposing legislation.

In Article Twenty Three, the maximum amount of time that the Seanad can delay a bill is set. When a bill is sent by the Dail to the upper house, they have ninety days where-in they can debate, delay or reject the legislation.

At the conclusion of that three-month period, the Dail has 180 days where they can deem the legislation approved by the Seanad. Of course, it would never take that long.

So, realistically speaking, the Seanad, if by some miracle its government majority doesn’t approve of legislation, can stop it for little less than three months. After that, its out of their hands. If the world of Irish politics is ever to reform the Seanad into a more viable organisation, this is something that will have to change. The Seanad can’t be anything more than a sop to traditional republican thinking if it can’t actually affect legislation.

Article Twenty Four is similar, but more important, territory. This article is designed to allow for circumvention of the traditional rules in the event of an emergency. Such an emergency is not readily defined here but I would hazard it was meant for dealing with threats to the state or financial bills that have to be dealt with promptly (today’s situation, if it became a little more dire, might apply).

The Taoiseach can, after informing the right people, attach a resolution that the bill in question be passed in a quicker time. In so doing, the Seanad loses its 90 day window. It’s a necessary amendment for its purpose: in the event of an invasion or civil unrest, no one wants a crucial law being held up by some unelected moron in the upper house.

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