Irish Parliament is similar in many ways to Congress in the United States because both have a bicameral governing body. The biggest difference between the two is where the power is held. In the United States the power lies with the upper house, known as the Senate. In Irish Parliament the power falls into the lower house which is directly elected by the people. Another difference is the way that their “senate”, Seanad Eireann, is elected. In the United States there are two senators elected per state, despite the population size, however the Seanad Eireann is elected by local politicians, university graduates, and appointments by the Taoiseach.
An interesting practice followed by the Dail Eireann is the questioning of the Taoiseach by the party leaders. During questioning this July there was a bit of heated debate between Micheal Martin, leader of Fianna Fail, and Enda Kenny, Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael. It was hard to make out exactly what was being said but things got a bit out of hand for a room full of adults. There was also a debate over the new Minister with responsibility for the Gealtacht between Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, and the Taoiseach. The newly appointed Minister is not fluent in Irish and Mr. Adam was not happy about the appointment. They debated in English as well as Irish, mainly to make a point. Despite having the debates get a bit out of hand, the idea of challenging the Taoiseach is a great political practice.
The building where parliament is held, the Leinster House, is rich with Irish history. Leinster House was a building relevant to Irish politics even before Irish independence, starting out as the house for a Minister when there was a parliament in Dublin under British rule. The building has grown and changed since being built in the late 1700s, but has always been a relevant building for Irish history.
– Tracy Venella