Each House of the Oireachtas has power under its Standing Orders (Rules) to form Committees for specific purposes. There are four types of Committees – Standing, Select, Joint and Special (rare).
Standing Orders provide for the automatic creation of such Committees in a new Dáil or Seanad e.g. Committee of Public Accounts, Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.
Comprise membership of one House only, whether Dáil or Seanad
Comprise Select Committees from both Houses sitting and voting together under common Orders of Reference
Established for the sole purpose of considering a specific Bill.
Most Committees meet in public session and their proceedings are televised. Representatives of the media and members of the public may attend.
Each House decides the Orders of reference, membership and powers of Committees. It is the practice for Committee membership to be proportionally representative of the House which sets it up. Committee Reports are published and it is for the House (s) thereafter to decide on any follow up action. With the exception of the month of August, Committees meet throughout the year.
The expansion in the number and range of Committees in recent years has enabled the Houses to deal with an ever-increasing volume of parliamentary business while providing Members with additional opportunities to participate in all aspects of the work of Parliament.
As required, Ministers are ex officio members of Dáil Select Committees when they are considering Bills or Estimates for Public Services. In the case of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Joint Committee on European Affairs, Irish MEPs (including Northern Ireland MEPs) and members of the Irish delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe can attend and participate at their meetings but they do not have voting rights. These Committees can also invite MEPs of other Member States to attend under similar conditions. The orders of reference of some Committees also allow for the appointment of substitute members or indeed the attendance of members of the Houses who are not formal members.
Committees common to each House
i. Committee on Procedure and Privileges
(considers matters relating to Standing Orders and Members’ privileges).
ii. Committee on Members’ Interests
(performs the functions conferred on it by the Ethics in Public Office Acts, 1995 and 2001)