As Assistant Government Chief Whip I want to welcome a series of changes to the standing orders of the Dáil which will operate from September onwards.

The changes are a vital first step in the political reform agenda which was written into the Programme for Government. The Dáil is currently on its shortest summer recess in four decades, and when it returns the number of days it sits will be increased by at least 50%.

One of the consistent issues coming back on the doorsteps in the run up to the last election was that people want to see a
change in the way the Dáil works. We listened to those concerns and when TDs return to the Dáil on September 14th, it will be a different Dáil, with new rules and improved procedures.

What it will mean is that all TDs can play a more active and meaningful role in the legislative process. There will also be better and more concrete ways for members of Dáil Éireann to raise issues with Ministers in a more effective manner. This first phase of the Dáil Reform Programme will take effect from September and involves the following;

* The introduction of Topical Issue Debates to replace the current Adjournment Debates

* Extra Dáil sitting days– on the first Friday of every month – to provide time for TDs to introduce their own Bills

* Providing for Leaders Questions to be taken by the Tánaiste on Thursdays

* A procedure to allow Dáil Deputies raise issues regarding replies to Parliamentary Questions.

* The Dáil commencing earlier on Tuesdays at 2pm

* Reform of the Standing Order 32 procedures for raising urgent issues

* Establishing a time limit for the Order of Business

* Changes to Taoiseach’s PQs on Tuesdays and Wednesdays

* The current Adjournment Debates will be replaced by a new system to be titled Topical Issue Debate and taken earlier in the day.

* Friday Sittings for TDs to introduce their own legislation

I welcome these changes and recognise them as the beginning of our reform package for Dáil Éireann. As Assistant Government Chief Whip I played a role in formulating these changes in co-operation with the Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe and Opposition Whips. I’m  looking forward to seeing these changes to standing orders implemented when the Dail returns on September 14th.

The Dáil remained virtually unchanged in the 14 years Fianna Fáil were in power, so I believe these changes are long over due and welcome first step.