Public Affairs

Oireachtas Service’s Rosemary Keogh: Opportunity for innovation

Having joined the Houses of the Oireachtas Service in August 2023, Rosemary Keogh, Head of the Corporate and Members’ Services Division is one of four assistant secretaries in the Houses of the Oireachtas Service.

Reflecting on her appointment in August 2023, Keogh emphasises the “pride and commitment” that her colleagues within the Houses of the Oireachtas Service exhibit. “People are very proud to support the national parliament,” she says, adding: “It is a very welcoming environment and I think that was a really pleasant surprise for me coming in from outside the civil service. There is a lot going on. Not only within my own brief, but I suppose right across the entire organisation.”

Having joined the Houses of the Oireachtas Service from the charity sector, Keogh suggests that the change in context has not been as dramatic as might be imagined. “There are a lot of parallels,” she observes, adding: “In my previous role, I spent eight years interacting with several civil and public service bodies. Fundamentally for me, the Service is very much a people centric organisation. We deliver a service for people by people and that aligns with my background and values.”


Discussing the perspective she brings to the role as a former advocate for people with disabilities, she concedes that while there is a commitment to inclusivity within the Houses of the Oireachtas, including the Service and members, “some aspects of delivery may be a little bit more challenging”.

“We are working out of a suite of listed buildings that were not designed with the future in mind in terms of accessibility. But if you look at the Oireachtas Work Learning (OWL) training programme – an applied learning, development, and socialisation programme for young people with intellectual disabilities – there is a real openness to innovation and inclusion here,” she says.

“In the Houses of the Oireachtas Service’s service delivery remit, there is an opportunity to be an innovation leader within the civil service. We have recently received accreditation from AsIAm – Ireland’s Autism Charity – as an autism friendly workplace, one of the world’s first accredited autism-friendly parliaments and leading the way in promoting an autism-friendly approach to public buildings.

“To see initiatives like this being implemented demonstrates the overall willingness of the Oireachtas to be a leader in the civil service in the area of equality, diversity and inclusion.”

“In the Houses of the Oireachtas Service’s service delivery remit, there is an opportunity to be an innovator within the civil service.”

Rosemary Keogh, Assistant Secretary, Corporate and Members’ Services Division, Houses of the Oireachtas Service


Multifaceted in remit, the role of Head of the Corporate and Members’ Services Division encompasses some of the non-procedural aspects of the Oireachtas.

Keogh has responsibility for seven units covering:

  1. Facilities and business continuity;
  2. Sustainability and safety;
  3. The Superintendent’s Section;
  4. Finance, Procurement, and Salaries;
  5. HR Oireachtas Staff and Training;
  6. HR Members’ Staff, Pensions, and Print Services; and
  7. Members’ Services and Catering.

“The Corporate and Members’ Services Division includes everything from HR and facilities to members’ services – administration of salaries and pensions, supporting new members, and anything they need in between – and the security brief via the Superintendents Section,” the Assistant Secretary explains.


The latter, she acknowledges, has received “significantly more attention in the last six months than anticipated”.

“Everybody will be familiar with what happened the day the Dáil resumed after the summer recess in September 2023. There was a very hostile protest, which I think was a real gear shift for many people working here; there is a recognition that the nature of protests has changed.

“One key objective is to ensure that the right of citizens to protest is respected – and that is something that is culturally ingrained – but at the same time, we have a responsibility to protect the organisation, the members of the Oireachtas, and the people who work here. Ensuring that balance is something that is really important as we move into the future.”

Task Force on Safe Participation in Political Life

In May 2023, the first informal meeting of members of the Task Force on Safe Participation in Political Life took place in Leinster House. Chaired by former Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, the Taskforce has been set up in response to reports in the media and survey results that indicate there is a significant level of abuse, including online abuse, and harassment experienced by those who participate in political life.

“The task force has undertaken an extensive workload over the last year, meeting with and receiving submissions from multiple stakeholders. Its work is almost finished, with a research survey sent to all members, and with a view to publishing a draft report by the end of Q1 2024.”


Another priority for Keogh’s division is preparation for the coming general election which must take place by March 2025. “We do not know when, but we know that at some point in the next 12 months, there will be a general election. That will bring a lot of changes,” the Assistant Secretary says, referencing both the shifting dynamic of the Oireachtas, and also the fact that there will be 14 additional TDs as per An Coimisiún Toghcháin’s recommendations in August 2023. The additional Dáil seats do not equate to a total of 14 more people, it is more like 50 or 60 when you include political staff. That is where one of the more significant challenges lie,” she observes.

“There will be quite a few logistical challenges associated with this,” she comments, adding: “We have a specific footprint in terms of the size and the scale of the Houses of the Oireachtas campus and all members and their political staff must be housed within those environs.

“Currently, we are contemplating how to best reconfigure the existing infrastructure, primarily to ensure that members have ease of access to the chambers. We must also consider the knock-on implications for people working within the Service.

“Given the already spread-out footprint – which includes offices outside the main Leinster House campus – we must ensure that everyone still feels very much a part of the parliamentary community and continues to share a sense of pride in and commitment to the contribution they make in society.

“Similarly, in the post-Covid blended working environment, we have a goal of ensuring that we preserve and further enhance the existing positive culture.”

Digital Transformation

Under the Houses of the Oireachtas Service Strategic Plan, there are five strategic goals and outcomes, the fourth of which is ‘A digitally transformed parliament’. This strategic goal includes:

  1. continuing to advance cybersecurity capabilities;
  2. progressing the implementation of the Digital Transformation Programme;
  3. continuing to implement innovative solutions to modernise technical infrastructure in the context of a blended working model; and
  4. providing effective and responsive technical supports to ensure resilience and continuity of service in digital systems.

Commenting on this “very significant programme of digital transformation at the Houses of the Oireachtas”, Keogh indicates: “One thing our Election Planning Group is examining is how to streamline processes for new members, ensuring that they can get the information they need quickly and in an easily digestible format.

“From a digital perspective, this is about reviewing manual processes and determining whether there are opportunities to digitise them.”

Strategic cycle

With the current Houses of the Oireachtas Service’s Strategic Plan coming to the end of its lifespan in 2024, the Management Board has already commenced working to develop the next stage of the strategic cycle.

“Very much at the starting point, this will be driven by the Management Board, in consultation with the various stakeholder groups across the service. It will also consider government policy and other factors including digital transformation, societal change, and developments in the wider global political environment.

“We aim to have that completed by Q4 2024, with the intention that it is signed off by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission – the service’s governing body – and we have a new strategic plan in 2025,” Keogh concludes.

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