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Oireachtas committee seeks new powers after €2.5m EU fine

The imposition of a €2.5m fine on Ireland last month, for failing to implement a new EU law on schedule, has led to calls for a new Oireachtas committee to be given additional powers.

Independent Senator Michael McDowell has claimed that its members are encountering “obstacles” when trying to ensure legislative deadlines are met and fines avoided.

The latest fine was imposed by the European Court of Justice, due to Ireland’s failure to incorporate an online safety directive into Irish law by the September 2020 deadline.

Under the ruling, Ireland must pay a fine of €2.5m; pay its own legal costs at the Court as well as that of the European Commission; and also pay a fine of €10,000, every day, until the EU legislation is transposed into Irish law to the satisfaction of the European Commission.

The debacle has led to calls for the Seanad Select Committee on Scrutiny of Draft EU Statutory Instruments to secure additional powers to carry out its work.

Senator Mark Daly said the role of the committee should be expanded

Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly said: “It is clear that the delay in the way these laws are being implemented is costing the citizens of Ireland millions of euro in unnecessary fines. Therefore, the role of the committee should be expanded to make sure this no longer happens.”

Independent Senator Michael McDowell contended that the rules, as they currently stand, are hindering the committee’s work.

He said: “We have run into a few obstacles, and one of them is that we are finding it difficult to bring into the open the state of non-transposition and the consequences for Ireland. It now appears that millions of euros are being imposed by way of fines, on Ireland, for non-transposition of EU Directives and regulations.”

Senator Michael McDowell says the current rules are hindering the committee’s work

The chair of the select committee, Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway backs the demands for his committee members, claiming Ireland has been “atrocious” at bringing EU Directives into Irish law on time.

He said: “What we need is enhanced powers. We need a faster flow of statutory instruments as opposed to information notes so that the committee can scrutinise, in a timely manner, and make recommendations to the sectoral [Oireachtas] committees.

The committee members hope that the latest multi-million euro fines from the European Court of Justice will bolster their case.

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