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What Parliamentary Counsel do

A. Functions of the OPC

The functions of the OPC are to :

  • draft Government Bills (including Bills containing proposals to amend the Constitution)
  • draft Government amendments to Bills during the Parliamentary process
  • draft, or settle the drafts of, statutory instruments to be made by Government
  • draft, or settle the drafts of, statutory instruments to be made by a Minister of the Government, a Minister of State or the Revenue Commissioners
  • draft, or settle the drafts of, statutory instruments to be made by a person (other than a Minister of the Government) or body authorised in that behalf by statute, if requested to do so by a Minister of the Government or a Minister of State where the Minister has the statutory function of approving the draft concerned
  • provide information to the Government Legislation Committee on the progress of the drafting of Bills
  • provide information to the European Union Division, Department of Taoiseach, on the progress of the drafting of European Union statutory instruments
  • provide drafting advice to client Departments on achieving their aims in proposed legislation
  • liaise with client Departments during the drafting process.

B. How the OPC works

A Minister of the Government who wishes to bring forward legislation must, in accordance with requirements set out in the Cabinet Handbook, obtain a Government decision authorising the drafting of that legislation. When a decision is obtained the Minister concerned will request the Attorney General to arrange for the drafting of a Bill. The request will then be sent to the Group Manager in the OPC whose group deals with requests from the Department for which the Minister has responsibility. The Group Manager will then assign a Parliamentary Counsel to draft the Bill.

The function of Parliamentary Counsel is to transpose the policy of the Department into a draft Bill which is expressed in clear and precise terms. During the drafting process legal issues can arise which may involve Parliamentary Counsel seeking the advice of another lawyer (known as an Advisory Counsel) in the Office of the Attorney General whose specific function it is to give legal advice to Government Departments. Parliamentary Counsel may also have to consult with the Attorney General from time to time during the drafting process. When the Department and the Office are satisfied with the draft Bill, and all legal and outstanding policy issues have been resolved, the Parliamentary Counsel assigned to draft the Bill will transmit the final draft to the Department. The Minister will then present the Bill to Cabinet for a decision to publish the Bill. Parliamentary Counsel also draft all Government amendments that are moved at Committee or Report Stage during the passage of the Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas.