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Tuesday 24 December 2013

Oireachtas Petitions

Started writing this post as the year long delays were ongoing, as below the committee chair says they now have legal advice available and can deal with the petitions now.

This is follow on post from my previous blogpost on Oireachtas petitions I created a spreadsheet by scraping the petitions site with scraperwiki, joining together the petition transcripts and videos on one page, along with details of the petition, the dates of stages and actions and my notes on the result. I thought important that the public should be able to follow the petitions, and the petitions site doesn't link the necessary information together. I also use page2rss to monitor changes, and ifttt to email me them.

It took 371 days for a petition to be addressed publically by Oireachtas petitions committee, then they just say we'll write to the minister about it, and that's it for maybe months more. transcript video

I made a list of longest delayed public committee responses Longest wait for petitions list. 2nd longest delay was for 'equality budgeting' and the longest a petition about Gardai misconduct and wrongful arrest.

but to invite people already frustrated with bureaucracy to submit a petition and then delay it a year is maybe just another insult.

A self congratulatory column in the TheJournal.ie and Oireachtas press release with no acknowledgement of the delays, Oireachtas Committee to continue consideration of petitions 10th December 2013 press release.

Chairman of the Committee Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD says: “The Oireachtas petitions system is a direct channel for individual citizens and groups across Ireland to influence the parliamentary agenda. Creating a petition is simple and the process has been designed to be open, user-friendly and accessible to all. Tomorrow our Committee will have an opportunity to carefully consider a diverse series of petitions received, and how best to advance the concerns and suggestions in relation to delivery of public services.”

I emailed the chair and the secretary to give them a chance to tell us more about the behind the scenes work done by the committee and by the clerk. No response.

The press releases say that the committee meets for up to an hour in private session before each public session of the petitions committee. Although they often start the public session sooner especially if there are invitees.

Chair of Oireachtas Petitions committee Padraig Machochlain said they hadn't the resources to deal with the petitions but they now have a legal advisor available to the committee so they deal with or dismiss more petitions. Video .wmv

The reason we have a number of inadmissible petitions today is we had a backlog. We have since received legal advice on the matters involved and, therefore, are now able to deal with them together. It may seem negative that we are deeming a number of petitions to be inadmissible, but that is the nature of how we deal with our work at times.

The 11th of December meeting the committee chair apologises for the delays.

We now have a fast-track system to deal with matters that have been adjudicated on by a court or the Ombudsman. It will not be the committee's role to second guess these bodies and in the future we will relay that information promptly to petitioners. We apologise if people were waiting for considerable periods. In the future we will make it clear to petitioners that where matters have been decided by a court or the Ombudsman, we have no legal right to second guess the decision.

They are closing many, I don't if the issues were truely addressed, they "the purpose of this committee is not to lend support to endeavours in that way but rather its purpose is an oversight one". 6 November 2013

They've dismissed a number if the issue has already been through the courts, or if another avenue is open to deal with it, such as ombudsman or initiated Dail legislation. They passed two (committee discussion, petition) , off saying the constitutional convention was dealing with the issue, I'm not sure it was or they can, one person was complaining about over development of residential sites and they replied well the minister for housing said she is dealing with that now, petition closed. 18th September 2013.

They have had discussions with the minister for social protection and raised various petitions and also a had the Garda commissioner in so you can hope that they covered a number of petitions in a more general way with them.

Invited petitioner

Discussion with ombudsman and Garda commissioner

Revised Eligibility Criteria for State Pension (Contributory): Discussion with Minister for Social Protection Minister for Social Protection discusses two petitions. State Pension (contributory) Eligibility Result committee recommends a long lead in time to rule changes.
Provision of Good Samaritan clause in State Contributory Pension Legislation Result. Minister has no plan to change rules.

Back to Education Allowance
Nine months after petitions received petitioner invited to committee to discuss the issue of criteria for BTEA with INOU and Department of Social Protection officials for 50 minuntes. Good but no clear recommendations, the committee sends a transcript of committee he was at to him.

Employment Appeals Tribunal: Public Petition No. P00027/12
The fact that Employment Appeals Tribunal costs must be met be the complainant in the first instance Where a number of union, business and department reps were invited along with the petitioner in a three hour discussion, they wrote a letter to the Department of Enterprise, along with the transcripts but we don't know what their recommendations were that they said they included. 18/09/2013

Examples of Petition Process
Open Access to publicaly funded research details at bottom of previous post.

Petition P00001/13 submitted by Guy Le Jeune.

Status: Non-Admissible.
Discussion: None in public session
A pdf of the letter in response from committee clerk

Guy le Jeune said he wrote the petition to make a point, rather than expect anything to change, although it would be good to see any research he submitted to see what they'll except.

Submitting Previous Work

Under the "Admissibility of Petitions" rules.
Petitioners should demonstrate that they have already taken steps to resolve the issue raised in their petition, for example, through raising it with the Ombudsman, public bodies, or directly with the relevant Government Department.
The form ask you to fill in a box which asks,
Other action taken to resolve issues of concern before submitting the Petition:

Like this petition Legislation against Cyber Bullying and anonymous websites
We the undersigned agree herewith to petition the Government to legislate to ban all anonymous websites, recognising bullying as a crime, with prescribed punishment/rehabilitation for offenders
should we not be able to see what effort they made to recognise the current laws in this area.
Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill said in the Seanad that 6,000 people signed a petition in the name of Margaret Gilbert on behalf of the Killygordon & Crossroads Youth Club near Finn Valley, Donegal, the committee noted that "The petition came in response to a double tragedy in her community." This is referring to the Gallagher sisters fom Finn Valley but we still don't know the details of what happened.

A group of children in the Killygordon and Crossroads youth club, which is in my constituency, came together to write a report with recommendations, which some 6,000 people living in Donegal signed, and sent it to the Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions to ask it to make recommendations on this issue to the Seanad and the Dáil and, by extension, the Government.

I'm not sure how much research they did on this area of law they want addressed, we should be able to see this to be able to follow the petitions.

Status of Petitions

Petitions spreadsheet.
If the petition is listed on its page of Deliberation by Committee but not discussed in the public session then it was discussed in the private session.? Want to count how many times that has happened for each petition.

Does Being Examined For Compliance With Standing Orders refers to the clerks

I started a thread on the Petitions on Politics.ie which I've been updating, (forums are better for getting views and replies then blogs).

better presentation of spreadsheet?
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AqAEiinGYynOdFdkc0dGYW5CUUl0UGVicFhNaWpxTXc#gid=26 okfn listfy datatables tablestacker tablefu

Update in the 2013 Annual Report of the Oireachtas says
In 2013, an additional member of staff was assigned to
the petitions process, A working group of members of the
Committee was also set up to give preliminary consideration
to petitions before they are submitted to the Committee.
This resulted in an outcome wherein, by year end, 79% of
petitions received had been submitted to the Committee for
consideration (up from 37% at end 2012).

I asked about what this working group wasand who was on it the reply from a committee clerk

In order to streamline the petitions system a working group as referred to in the report was set up with the agreement of the Joint Committee in July 2013. This group consists of four Members, Mr Padraig MacLochlainn T,D, Chairman of the Committee, Mr Derek Nolan T.D. Vice Chairman and Senators Trevor O'Clochartaigh and Susan O'Keeffe. The group meet to consider petitions which are considered by the Secretariat to be borderline or clearly inadmissible under the Committees Standing Orders.

These petitions are considered by the Members of the group in the first instance and recommendations following consideration are then made to the main committee. The recommendations agreed on by the group are then brought before the full Joint sub-Committee for consideration and agreement.

Committee Page

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