Ireland: enhanced parliamentary scrutiny of European affairs: But is it effective?
Ireland, together with Denmark and the United Kingdom, acceded to the European Communities in 1973.1 Accession followed the third amendment2 of the Constitution, agreed to by a sizeable majority3 of the electorate in a referendum. Subsequent European treaties have been ratified following the successful outcome of referenda, albeit with reduced participation and reduced majorities.4 The combined effect of the amendments has been to give constitutional authority for a significant transfer of legislative, executive and judicial sovereignty to the European Communities – and, more recently, to the European Union.5 In addition to the constitutional amendments, each treaty has been accompanied by a domestic statute6 incorporating the relevant treaty, in the dualist manner.7 The most recent constitutional amendment, which allowed the ratification of the Treaty of Nice, was successful only on the second attempt at holding the referendum.8 There were many reasons9 identified as having influenced the negative outcome of the first referendum on the Treaty of Nice in 2001. Among the many issues10 raised during the pre-referendum debate had been the perceived democratic deficit in relation to national parliamentary scrutiny of European legislation.11 Amended parliamentary scrutiny of European developments was put in place in July 2002, on an interim, non-statutory basis. This was prior to the second Nice referendum. A Private Member’s Bill12 had initiated the changed procedures. These were given a statutory basis in October of that year, after the second Nice referendum.13