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There were some familiar faces at this morning's Council of State meeting

President Higgins called the meeting to discuss asylum laws that were ‘rushed’ through the Dáil.

Updated at 3.45pm

meeting of state 201 90403971 Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

(Second Row, left to right) John Bruton, Sally Mulready, Michael Farrell, Catherine McGuinness, Ronan C Keane, John Murray, Deirdre Heenan, Bertie Ahern, Ruairí McKiernan, Gerard Quinn, Brian Cowen. (First row, left to right) Paddy Burke, Sean Barrett, Joan Burton, Enda Kenny, President Michael D Higgins, Susan Denham, Peter Kelly, Maire Whelan, Mary McAleese

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins held a Council of State meeting this morning over asylum legislation that was ‘rushed’ through the Dáil before Christmas.

A Council of State meeting allows the president to refer legislation to the Supreme Court for scrutiny, following a meeting with a number of officials including the Taoiseach, the President of the High Court, and the Attorney General, along with anyone who has previously held the position of President, Taoiseach or Chief Justice, and several appointed members.

It is only the second time Higgins has invoked Article 26 of the Constitution since taking office.

29/12/2015. Council of State Meeting. Pictured (Lt Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Concerns were raised over the International Protection Bill, designed to reduce the length of time asylum applicants spend in the protection process, including direct provision, by establishing a single applications procedure.

Under the new law, there would be a single application procedure for protection which would include applications for refugee status, subsidiary protection and leave to remain.

29/12/2015. Council of State Meeting. Pictured Joh John Bruton Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

The meeting concluded this afternoon and Higgins said he will make a decision on whether to refer the Bill to the Supreme Court in the next 24 hours.

He also thanked the members of the council for their time.

Labour backbencher Michael McNamara was kicked out of the Dáil over his objections to the guillotining of the Bill, and said it restricts the ability of people fleeing persecution to be joined by family members.

29/12/2015. Council of State Meeting. Pictured Cea Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett, being harassed by First Dog Bruno. Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

In a statement last week, Sinn Féin said the Bill fails to protect children and minors travelling alone and opens the door for fast-track deportations, with Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh describing it as “baffling” that so many recommendations of the government’s own working group were ignored. He added:

We were also alarmed that the democratic procedures required for effective scrutiny of legislation were ignored in the speed with which this bill was rushed through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

It was also jointly opposed by the Irish Refugee Council, the Irish Immigrant Support centre (Nasc), and refugee support group Doras Luimní.

Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, said: “A single procedure will not cure the problems in the Irish asylum system unless there are proper safeguards in place which protect asylum seekers from cursory examination of their applications and a swift move towards deportation.”

The outcome of passage of the Bill, as it stands, will lead to people being at risk of being returned to persecution or serious harm and refugees separated from family members.

“This will be at the time of the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.”

In a statement, the Áras said the particular sections of concern in the legislation are:

  • Whether section 56 and section 57 of the International Protection Bill 2015 should be referred by the President to the Supreme Court for a decision as to whether either Section or any specified provision thereof is repugnant to the Constitution or to any provision thereof.
  • Whether the Bill or any of its provisions are repugnant to the Constitution in light of Article 42A (Children)
  • Whether section 78 of the Bill is repugnant to the Constitution in light of Article 29.6.

Originally published 8.08am. Additional reporting by Hugh O’Connell

Previously: So what happened when the Council of State was convened in the past?

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Nicky Ryan

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