MEMBERS OF the public will now be able put their concerns about matters of public policy directly to an Oireachtas committee through a new petitions system.
The initiative offers citizens an opportunity to submit petitions on matters the Oireachtas has the power to act on, which could range from access to medical cards to planning decisions to rates levied on businesses.
The Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions will assess submissions received and examine issues raised with a view to finding ways to improve the delivery of public services.
It has long been said that politicians do not spend enough time listening to issues raised by the public but the 20-member committee now has little option but to do so. Similar petitions systems are in use in Scotland and the European Parliament.
Committee chairman Peadar Tóibín TD (SF) said the system represented an important democratic development and that he expected issues both “micro and macro” to be raised.
“For the first time in the 93-year history of the Oireachtas citizens will have a direct route to influence the parliamentary agenda,” Mr Tóibín said at the launch of the initiative in Ballymun, Dublin, yesterday.
“Recent history is full of examples of citizens having to campaign for years to change abuses or failings in public services. I would hope that this petitions system will mean that such failings can be addressed directly, in real time, and not at the end of lengthy campaigns.”
Admissible petitions cannot relate to matters where court proceedings have been initiated; name specific individuals; contain defamatory language or be frivolous or vexatious in nature. The person submitting must show they have taken other steps to resolve the issue raised in their petition, such as bringing the matter to the Ombudsman or relevant public body or Government department.