Virtual Study Tour of Ireland
The Interns were privileged to participate in a Virtual Study Tour of the Republic of Ireland. We started with an educational tour of the Houses of the Oireachtas in Dublin – the bicameral Parliament of the Republic of Ireland, and concluded with an academic seminar on Irish politics led by Dr. Adam Fusco from the University of York.
The Oireachtas is comprised of the Dáil Éireann (lower house) and the Seanad Éireann (upper house). Conor Reale, a Parliamentary Education Officer with the Oireachtas, conducted our tour. Mr. Reale gave us valuable insights into the history of the Oireachtas, its evolution over time, and virtually walked us through its halls.
We learned more about the role of the Oireachtas’ houses, including the legislative power vested in the Dáil to approve budget-related financial decisions, propose constitutional amendments (which must be launched in the Dáil), and increase the size of the military or armed forces.
Mr. Reale also provided an in-depth explanation of the legislative process of the Houses of the Oireachtas. We learned that for a bill to become law, it must first be approved by both the Dáil and in most circumstances the Seanad, and then signed into law by the President. We also talked extensively about the role of committees, and some of the issues that are currently top-of-mind for Irish constituents and representatives.
We were able to draw similarities and differences between the Ontario Legislative Assembly and the Houses of the Oireachtas. For example, we were surprised to learn that there are only 39 constituencies in the Republic of Ireland, less than half the number of constituency districts in Ontario alone. However, the Republic of Ireland uses proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote, so up to 3 representatives may be elected to the Dáil in each constituency. Mr. Reale also spoke about Ireland’s historic referendums, and how frequently they have been used to as a means of direct public participation in decision-making processes.
Our study tour continued with Dr. Adam Fusco, a Lecturer of Political Theory at the University of York, who presented an academic seminar on Irish politics. While we had done some prereading to prepare for the seminar, Dr. Fusco’s thorough presentation gave us a more pronounced understanding of Ireland’s rich history, and the political priorities in Ireland today. In particular, we learned how the Irish Civil War influenced party politics throughout the 20th century and how this has changed in the 21st century.
We would like to extend our thanks to Mr. Reale and Dr. Fusco for taking the time to host us for the wonderful seminar and tour of the Oireachtas!