In politics, a technical group is a heterogenous parliamentary group composed of elected officials from political parties of differing ideologies (or independent of any party) who are not numerous enough to form groups on their own. They are formed for technical reasons so that members enjoy rights or benefits that would remain unavailable to them outside a formally recognised parliamentary group.
In Dáil Éireann (the lower house of the Irish national parliament, the Oireachtas), prior to 2016, only parliamentary groups with seven members or more had full speaking rights under the house's standing orders. This meant that smaller parties and independent politicians would be unable to speak as often as parties with enough deputies to form their own groups. Prior to 1997, a technical group automatically came into being if there were seven or more independent TDs. Since 1997, a group of TDs must agree to form a group. Under standing orders, only one technical group could exist at any time, with at least seven members and comprising a majority of deputies who are not members of another group in Dáil Éireann.
In the wake of the 2016 Irish general election, which saw a significant increase in the number of TDs elected as independents or from small parties in the 32nd Dáil, the Dáil standing orders were extensively revised to reduce the minimum number for formation of a parliamentary group from seven TDs to five, and to allow multiple technical groups to exist in parallel.
Recent examples of technical groups include:
- 27th Dáil: a group of nine deputies formed in 1992.
- 29th Dáil: a loose federation of 22 opposition deputies.
- 30th Dáil: a technical group was not created initially after the 2007 general election, because there were only five potential members - Sinn Féin's four deputies and Tony Gregory. Most outgoing independents from the 29th Dáil lost their seats, Sinn Féin was reduced to four, the six Green Party TDs became part of the government and three out of the four remaining independents made confidence-and-supply arrangements with the government. The election of Pearse Doherty of Sinn Féin in a 2010 by-election allowed the formation of a group of seven, comprising the five Sinn Féin TDs and the left-wing independents Finian McGrath and Maureen O'Sullivan.
- 31st Dail: after the 2011 general election, 16 of the 19 independent and United Left Alliance TDs agreed to form a technical group. Catherine Murphy was the group's whip, while Maureen O'Sullivan was assistant whip. Finian McGrath resigned as chairman in October 2012 when Mick Wallace rejoined the loose group, against the wishes of many of its members. The independent TDs who chose not to join this technical group were: Michael Healy-Rae, Michael Lowry and Noel Grealish.
- 32nd Dáil: the early months saw standing orders revised to allow multiple technical groups to coexist. One group was formed between the three elected members of the Social Democrats and the two elected members of the Green Party. Another technical group was formed around the four elected members of Independents 4 Change, together with the non-party TDs Catherine Connolly, Thomas Pringle and Maureen O'Sullivan.
Political groups of the European Parliament are required by that parliament's standing orders to have a coherent "complexion" of political principles. Despite this rule, a "Technical Group of Independents" comprising members from dissimilar political ideologies has been formed on two occasions: from 1979 until 1984 and between 1999 and 2001. Such was the mixed nature of the latter group that it drew the disapproval of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, which attempted to disband the group within months of its creation; after legal appeals, the disbandment was finally confirmed by a ruling of the European Court of Justice, making it unlikely that technical groups will reappear within the European Parliament in the future.
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- Dáil Éireann - Standing Orders relative to Public Business
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