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Legislative Agenda 2022 - Summary

2022.01.25 05:48 Thom0101011100 Legislative Agenda 2022 - Summary

It is 2022 already and most of us are probably wondering where did the last 2 years go? The pandemic was disruptive, and tragic but it also offered many of us an opportunity to adopt new perspectives on life, reassess the problems we face in our personal lives and find new ways to work. Our elected officials should also make the same perspective considerations and above all work. Luckily for us, every year each respective government publishes their legislative agenda which outlines upcoming legislative changes and offers us a surface level glance into the inner workings of the state. It also lets us see if there is perspective and above all – that they are working. I have reviewed the 2022 agenda and all prior agendas back as far as 2016 in order to provide you with relevant information.
For those unaware all governments publish legislative agendas on a biannual basis. These reports provide us with insights into the level of legislative activity each government is participating in as well as providing a high-level view of the general direction the government is heading towards policy wise. On 24 January 2022 the current government published their Spring legislative program for the year 2022. There are a number of points of interests that I will bring to your attention but before I do an important point must be noted. The pandemic proved to be unpredictable and disruptive. This resulted in certain policies taken precedence over others and disruptions within the government and other public entities. This isn’t an excuse but it is a qualification to the summary of the 2022 agenda - as a matter of practicality the current government was unable to achieve much of what they had planned in 2021 and 2020.
The purpose of this summary is to just bring some clarify to how governments work and to offer and objective view on this government and the prior government. These agendas offer a clear and objective view of the level of work being carried out by our elected representatives and the general vision each government has for the future of Ireland. I hope this summary was useful and if you found this beneficial, please feel free to check out my other work at https://www.theruleoflawblog.com/
Without further deliberation here is the summary.
Legislative process:
The phrase “order paper” is used frequently throughout all legislative agendas; this simply means a bill has passed from the first stage in the legislative process into the second. For those who are unaware, or unfamiliar - in Ireland legislative activity is a linear process with legislation starting out as bill and passing through a number of stages before reaching the end stage process of enactment into Irish law as legislation. The legislative process can be broadly split into three stages; pre-legislative stage, legislative stage one, and legislative stage two. The pre-legislative stage comprises of initial drafting of policy direction, working papers and pre-legislative scrutiny by the Oireachtas Committee. Legislative stage one and two are a series of debates and redrafting which is participated in by both Houses of the Oireachtas.
For more information see:

  1. https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/visit-and-learn/how-parliament-works/how-laws-are-made/
  2. https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/committees/
Legislative workflow: 2016 – 2022 and beyond
The 2022 agenda indicates a high volume of predicted legislative workflow with 44 Bills placed on the priority list, an increase of 14 from 2020. For comparison, in 2018 there were 49 Bills on the priority list. Considering there was a pandemic the level of work predicted is relatively uniform to normal government working conditions and comparable to the legislative activity of 2018.
Predicted workflow is irrelevant if the work itself isn’t ultimately completed. So far, the current government has established a decent delivery rate of legislation indicating that their legislative predictions are in my view balanced and achievable. In the Autumn 2020 agenda a total of 12 Bills were enacted, this is more than what the prior government achieved by Autumn 2016 which was 8. However, as noted the current government delivered an acceptable level of work amidst the first year of the pandemic when compared to the pre-pandemic 2016. Again, this is not an excuse for what is empirically a lower output of legislative productivity it would be unfair to not factor in the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
As of January 2022, the current government has enacted a total of 80 new bills, with 18 being completed in 2021, and 50 being completed in the Autumn portion of the 2020 legislative calendar. This offers us a three-year window to access the level of working being carried out by the current government. For comparison when we view the period of 2016 to 2018 a total of 81 bills were enacted. The breakdown of these figures is below however between 2020 to 2022 (read: end of 2021) almost the same amount of bills were enacted as in the 2016 – 2018 period. So far, going of pure date we can see that the current government is performing compartivley with the last government even in spite of the disruptions caused by the pandemic. In short, it would seem like the current government has managed to maintain a healthy output of legislative work. However it is important that we don’t just access the quantity of work but also the quality. Accessing the quality of legislative work requires an analysis of the general policy vision and direction indicated by the government.
Summary of legislative activity between periods 2016 – 2022:
Prior government:
  1. Priority – 25
  2. All other - 71
  3. Bills on order paper – 21
  4. Bills published since 6 May 2016 – 13
  5. Bills enacted since 6 May 2016 – 8
  1. Priority – 28
  2. All other – 73
  3. Bills on order paper – 24
  4. Bills published since 6 May 2016 - 49
  5. Bills enacted since 6 May 2016 - 44
  1. Priority – 39
  2. All other – 61
  3. Bills on order paper - 23
  4. Bills published since 6th May 2016 – 89
  5. Bills enacted since 6 Math 2016 – 81
  1. Priority – 30
  2. All other – 72
  3. Bills on order paper – 31
  4. Bills published since 6 May 2016 – 115
  5. Bills enacted since 6 May 2016 – 112

Current government:
  1. Priority – 30
  2. All other – 87
  3. Bills on order paper - 14
  4. Bills published since 27 June 2020 - 11
  5. Bills enacted since 27 June 2020 - 12
  1. Priority – 46
  2. All other – 89
  3. Bills currently on order paper – 19
  4. Bills published since 27 June 2020 – 62
  5. Bills enacted since 27 June 2020 – 62
  1. Priority – 44
  2. All other – 91
  3. On order paper – 18
  4. Published since 27 June 2020 – 83
  5. Enacted since 27 June 2020 – 80

Legislative direction;
It is clear the current government has indicated a respectable level of upcoming legislative activity in the Spring 2022 agenda. We also have no reason to doubt these intentions as so far, the current government has demonstrated a uniform track record of high-legislative activity. However, with that said the 2022 policy proposals appear to lack vision with much of the policy areas and directions being more of the same with a high level of predictability and with a medium-level of innovation. This does not mean there is nothing of interest but it does mean the current government lacks a distinct policy vision. Frustratingly, some of the policy within the 2022 agenda appears to be bills introduced by the prior government. In other areas a noticeable delay is observable with the government only now indicating an intention to introduce measures which provide for body cameras on Garda, statutory footing for COVID support provisions and the introduction of the work-from home policy just as we are entering the end stage of the pandemic. From a policy perspective I’m not too sure if this can be described as a retrospective policy attitude - it really is a policy inertia. In general, the current government appears to be focusing on streamlining planning and development and reorganizing public services. With that said I have outlined what I believe to be the most relevant areas of interest to the average person below.
I would also like to note that the legislative agendas were given a fresh coat of paint and rebranded somewhat with the publishing of the 2022 agenda. This is a welcome change and while entirely irrelevant when it comes to policy it is important that official state documents are branded and formatted in a way that looks professional and approachable. Prior agendas genuinely looked terrible.
Priority Bills for Spring 2022;
1. Agriculture, Food and Marine:

2. Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

Both are welcome bills in an area of Irish society that has proven controversial and haunting. Nothing to note here and while it is far too late to be meaningful it is a symbolic gesture.

Includes the introduction of Domestic Violence Leave which is good. In addition, the bill is intended to further assist in the increased participation of women in the workforce with the emphasis being on flexible working arrangements. The broader issue is the lack of care facilities in Ireland and chronic overcrowding of the limited spaces currently available. On the balance of things this is poor policy and until this government, or the next legislatives to liberalize the care industry and provide funding for education and training this is useless.

3. Enterprise, Trade and Development

Ireland has maintained a relatively open jurisdiction for foreign investment and it has avoided implementing many of the checks present in other European jurisdictions. This bill isn’t really anything innovative and it is the result of Regulation 2019/452. While professionals may not be too happy to have to learn a new regulatory landscape, it will assist in protecting the Irish markets. On the balance of things, it is good however I would be interested to hear any insights from those in relative industries who are working with FDI’s on a daily basis.

This is a big one and most of us have been eagerly awaiting this since Leo noted this was going to be a possibility as far back as 2020. It is a right to request, not an outright entitlement. It is a little bit irksome that this is only being introduced now as the pandemic reaches its end-stage. It would have been better if this was done earlier so as to provide more predictability for those who are facing the prospect of relocating for work in the new future.

A new statutory sick pay scheme. Can't complain.

4. Environment, Climate and Communications.

Very welcome policy. When it comes to circular economics and reuse rates of material Ireland is ranked the lowest in the EU – Ireland is currently at just 2% reuse rate. For context; Romania is at 1% which is the lowers and highest is the Netherlands at 31%. Sources and useful thread here: https://www.reddit.com/europe/comments/r1tkvp/in\_2020\_the\_eus\_circular\_material\_use\_rate\_was/

Introduction of benefit payment scheme to assist in covering energy costs. Hopefully this is widely available. Poor policy on the balance of things as a better, and more equitable response would be to simply subsidize energy costs generally or lower tax on electricity and gas. My expectations are reserved in regards to this bill.

5. Finance.

Increased liability for Senior Executives and financial regulations. Not bad.

Restriction of total cost of credit. Welcome policy and it addresses a key area of concern in Irish markets; cost of credit. For those unaware, the average Irish consumer pays nearly 30%+ extra on their mortgage than the comparable EU equal. Credit is expensive and difficult to get; this is a welcome bill.

No idea what this is, the description is simply; To address a number of insurance- related issues. Interpret this as you wish. A quick research attempt has yielded no insights for me so I can’t tell what this is going to be.

6. Health.

Introduction of opt-out organ donation system and a number of educational provisions. Another good example of policy direction in the Spring 2022 agenda.

7. Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

The MICA and Pyrite scandals have permeated Irish news cycles and public discourse for easily a decade at this point. This is a welcome bill.

The current government is looking to streamline planning and development. There are a number of additional P&D related bills in the “Other” section of the agenda. Housing is probably the single most critical issue in Irish society today but this urgency has often not translated into policy action. The current government hasn’t outlined anything ambitious in this regard.

8. Justice

Much needed policy. Gambling additions rates are high in Ireland and gambling is extremely accessible currently. Protection and regulation is required.

How do we not already have this? How did no other government think to legislate for this when even Lidl security has body cameras? This is an excellent example of no policy vision or innovation. This bills does include the use of automated number plate recognition but again, this isn’t anything new and should have been in use a long time ago.

Good bill. Ireland’s judiciary is relatively good on the balance of things but judicial appointments is still irregular and over politized when compared to other EU and democratic states.

Places statutory obligation on Garda to prevent harm.

For those inclined I would recommend you read the full agenda but I have picked out the most relevant above. As you can see, there is a general lack of vision and ambition within the current government but this isn't really anything too far from the norm set by prior governments. I would like to see Irish governments outline ambitious and progressive policy directions in areas of interest that will impact the broader Irish society but the 2022 agenda is more of the same with middling progression. When it comes to environmental policy Ireland is decades behind other EU countries - this was an area where policy has lagged significantly in past governments however the introduction of the circular economy bill in the 2022 agenda is an excellent step in the right direction even if it is a couple of decades too late.
Another important point to note is the lack of justice bills. In recent years, the criminal justice system has come under heavy public scrutiny for a number of valid reasons; lenient punishments for repeat offenders and the frequent committing of further offences while on bail. It would have been welcome to see some form of policy direction in these area. Housing, healthcare and education also appear to be relatively unchanged with no innovation or prospective attitudes being displayed by the current government. With the exception of a select few bills the Spring 2022 agenda is somewhat unambitious. 2022 was viewed by many as the year of progress – the breaking of the pandemic slump and a slow return to normality. It doesn’t appear that the current government feels the same way. Perhaps more substantial information will arrive at a later stage in the year but for now this is all there is in term of policy direction for 2022.
Many thanks for reading and if you have anything you would like to add please comment – I threw this together relatively quickly and its possible I missed something or missed the significance of a specific bill.
Have a good day all.
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