New High Court president and two colleagues to hear action over Seanad
Posted on 18th June 2020 at 22:09
Ten elected Senators bring proceedings over failure to fix a date for meeting of chamber
A three judge High Court will sit in the Supreme Court next Wednesday to hear a significant constitutional action over whether or not there is a validly constituted Seanad.
The case will be heard by the newly appointed president of the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, Mr Justice Denis McDonald and Ms Justice Niamh Hyland.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the hearing, expected to last two days, is being held in the Supreme Court because it has a longer judicial bench capable of maintaining a two metre distance between each of the three judges.
Ten elected Senators — Ivana Bacik, Victory Boyhan, Gerard Craughwell, Annie Hoey, Sharon Keogan, Michael McDowell, Rebecca Moynihan, Ronan Mullen, Marie Sherlock and Mark Wall — have brought the proceedings against An Taoiseach, Ireland and the Attorney General.
The case centres on interpretation of Article 18 of the Constitution concerning the composition of the Seanad and election of Senators. It arises from a dispute between Senators and the Taoiseach over whether the Seanad, currently comprising 49 elected members, is validly constituted and entitled to sit and pass legislation.
The ten argue, since the election of 49 Senators by April 3rd last, there has been no constitutional inhibition on the Taoiseach advising the President to fix a day for the first meeting of the Seanad. They dispute the Taoiseach’s claim the nomination of 11 Senators by a Taoiseach is a constitutional prerequisite to the sitting, meeting or functioning of the Seanad or to the passing of legislation by both Houses of the Oireachtas.
The Taoiseach has said, until the 11 nominees of a Taoiseach nominated by the 33rd Dáil are appointed to the Upper House, the Seanad is not properly composed and cannot pass legislation.
In seeking an urgent hearing of the case, John Rogers SC, for the plaintiffs, said, if the Seanad is invalidly constituted as of now with 49 out of 60 members, and that is not corrected quickly, then significant criminal legislation, including a law permitting the continuation of the non-jury Special Criminal Court, will lapse on June 29th.
His clients had been hoping for a political solution to the “conundrum” but that has so far not been forthcoming and they want a legal solution. Political events would either crystallise with the appointment of a new Taoiseach on June 27th “or they won’t”, counsel said.
Conleth Bradley SC, for the defendants, agreed the matter was urgent. When the matter came before outgoing High Court president Mr Justice Peter Kelly on Tuesday, he agreed it was urgent and said it would be heard by a divisional High Court due to the importance of the issues raised.
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