RADICAL plans to streamline the sitting hours of the Seanad – and possibly the Dáil – are being considered by the Houses of the Oireachtas in an attempt to cut costs.
With Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny threatening abolition of the Seanad if elected, new initiatives to tackle costs and improve working conditions for staff are under active consideration.
Late-night sittings and other highly expensive practices could be for the chop, with pressure on to cut additional costs from the budget.
The latest meeting of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission heard that further savings would "need to be identified in both the administration and political spheres of the Oireachtas".
Secretary general Kieran Coughlan said the commission was examining a letter from Fine Gael senator Liam Twomey which recommended an overhaul of the way the Seanad operates.
The commission said it had no role in the scheduling of the business of the Houses or committees.
However, in minutes of the meeting, it said it could bring proposals to government: "It is nevertheless incumbent on the commission to examine all areas of the organisation to identify the necessary savings required to meet the demands on our budget over the next three years."
It said that Coughlan planned to write to the Seanad leader, the whips and to committee chairmen to ask about ways of "achieving efficiencies in the scheduling of the business of the Houses and the committees".
A report is expected back within weeks at which point it would be handed over to the Department of Finance for consideration.
Twomey, whose letter sparked the plan, said his motivation had primarily been the other staff that are frequently forced to hang around Leinster House until the early hours of the morning.
"It is ridiculous having all-night sittings for legislation that ends up being enacted three weeks later," he said. "As far as I am concerned, it is a health-and-safety issue and the other staff that work there should be given more consideration.
"Everybody works damn hard there as it stands and the staff are incredibly flexible in putting up with our inadequate ways."