#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 6°C Saturday 28 November 2020

#Bunreacht na hÉireann

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Saturday 1 August, 2020

Having 18 ministers at Cabinet is 'fairly obviously unconstitutional' and politically 'dubious'

Bunreacht na hÉireann states: “The Government shall consist of not less than 7 and not more than 15 members.”

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Sunday 5 May, 2019

Quiz: How much do you know about Irish referendums?

Test your knowledge here.

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Monday 2 July, 2018

Opinion: 'My tiny family is not a family in the eyes of Bunreacht na hÉireann'

Our home is not a family home in the eyes of the law. And this is true of any family which does not have a married couple within it, writes Sinéad Gibney.

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Wednesday 7 March, 2018

Ruling that Justice Minister 'obliged to consider' pregnancies in deportation cases could be 'helpful'

A 2016 High Court ruling that said the Minister is obliged to consider the prospective rights of the unborn in deportation cases has been upheld by Ireland’s highest court.

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Thursday 22 February, 2018

Argument from Justice Minister that unborn has no constitutional rights 'radical', Supreme Court told

The Supreme Court is considering the legal arguments for and against defining ‘the unborn’ in the Constitution as an unborn child.

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Tuesday 6 February, 2018

Supreme Court to decide whether Pro Life Campaign can be an advisor in the 'defining the unborn' case

The Pro Life Campaign argued that they had spent a significant amount of time on the issue that was before the Supreme Court.

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Saturday 18 November, 2017

Opinion: 'The Irish Constitution has served us well for the most part'

In the context of the late 1930s, it is quite a remarkable document in its commitment to democratic ideals, writes Dr Laura Cahillane.

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Wednesday 8 March, 2017

The Irish Constitution still makes reference to woman's place in the home

Dublin Rathdown deputy Josepha Madigan wants a referendum on Article 41.2.1 of Bunreacht na hÉireann.

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Tuesday 19 May, 2015

That 'other referendum' could bridge a gap between the Irish and English versions of our Constitution

Given the significant gap that currently exists in the translation of Bunreacht na hÉireann, there is a good reason to pass this second referendum.

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Sunday 3 November, 2013

Blasphemy offence should be replaced in the Constitution, says Convention

The Constitutional Convention has held its seventh meeting in Dublin this weekend.

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Saturday 2 November, 2013

Poll: Has the Constitutional Convention been a success? Your Say This post contains a poll

Poll: Has the Constitutional Convention been a success?

It meets for the seventh time today, but has it been a success?

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Monday 26 November, 2012

Voters want to scrap Seanad, give diaspora the vote and review Constitution

Ipsos MRBI has polled a number of issues that will be up for discussion at the constitutional convention which gets under way this weekend.

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Tuesday 6 November, 2012

Catholic Bishops give cautious welcome to Referendum

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference said the amendment offers a ‘reasonable and balanced approach’ to children’s rights.

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Monday 5 November, 2012

At last: Constitutional Convention to hold first meeting in December

The first meeting of the Constitutional Convention was delayed as the Government searched for a chairperson – but it’s now set to meet at the start of December

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Wednesday 24 October, 2012

Drumroll please: Chair of the Constitutional Convention is.... Tom Arnold

The Constitutional Convention had been due to begin meeting this month but had been delayed due to the search for a chairperson.

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Friday 29 June, 2012

Column: ‘The current situation of the Supreme Court is unsustainable’

Chief Justice Susan Denham pays tribute to the Constitution on its 75th birthday – and examines the case for a drastic overhaul of Ireland’s judicial system.

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Friday 9 March, 2012’s progress report for the Government: Constitutional reform

Political reform was a hot topic in the election that saw Fine Gael and Labour take power. So what’s happened since?

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Friday 20 January, 2012

People in Northern Ireland should have a say in new Irish constitution - TD

Labour TD for Meath East Dominic Hannigan says that the views of people in Northern Ireland has to be taken into account if there is a new constitutional convonvention.

# bunreacht-na-heireann - Monday 9 August, 2010

THE TAOISEACH says he can’t force Ivor Callely out of his job – despite the fact he’s in the Seanad as a Taoiseach’s appointee. Why?

Well, it’s actually a rather simple reason. Article 18 of the Constitution of Ireland outlines the makeup of the Seanad, which (as it says) includes 49 elected members and 11 “appointed” ones.

Here’s two appropriate passages from subsections of Article 18:

3. The nominated members of Seanad Éireann shall be nominated, with their prior consent, by the Taoiseach who is appointed next after the re-assembly of Dáil Éireann following the dissolution thereof which occasions the nomination of the said members. [...]

8. A general election for Seanad Éireann shall take place not later than ninety days after a dissolution of Dáil Éireann, and the first meeting of Seanad Éireann after the general election shall take place on a day to be fixed by the President on the advice of the Taoiseach.

So, all simple so far. The Seanad is dissolved at the same time as the Dáil. The Dáil is elected, meets and appoints a Taoiseach. There’s then a Seanad election for 49 of the 60 seats, and the new Taoiseach then gets to hand-pick the other 11 people.

In 2007, Bertie Ahern was given his third term as Taoiseach, and thus the Manchester United fan got to hand-pick his starting 11. As is customary, he gave two seats to each of his coalition partners, the Greens and the Progressive Democrats.

Ahern appointed one independent – Sunday Independent columnist Eoghan Harris, who fought his case on the Late Late Show just before the general election – and six members of Fianna Fáil, including Callely.

Now let’s skip down to subsection 9:

9. Every member of Seanad Éireann shall, unless he dies, resigns, or becomes disqualified, continue to hold office until the day before the polling day of the general election for Seanad Éireann next held after his election or nomination.

This is the key point of contention – while most might think that the Taoiseach ought to be able to remove someone’s Seanad membership just as easily as they can give it, it’s not the case.

Take the people Ahern appointed – Senator Ciarán Cannon, who was appointed as one of the two Progressive Democrats and even went on to lead the party, joined Fine Gael when the PDs disbanded. Surely, if a Taoiseach could remove a member, he would have done so then.

So Article 18.9 guarantees that a Senator can’t be kicked out unless they’re “disqualified”, begging the question: how is someone disqualified? Well, that’s slightly more ill-defined. Says Article 18.2:

2. A person to be eligible for membership of Seanad Éireann must be eligible to become a member of Dáil Éireann.

Assuming the same criteria apply to ineligibility as they do to eligibility - a matter which hasn’t been clarified or proven in court - the following bar someone from membership of the Dáil, and thus (presumably) the Seanad:

  • Membership of the European Commission or being a judge, advocate general or registrar of the European Court of Justice
  • Membership of the Court of Auditors of the European Community
  • Membership of the Garda Síochana
  • Full-time membership of of the Defence Forces
  • Being a civil servant and not having explicit permission to run for the Dáil in your contract
  • Being of unsound mind
  • Being in prison for a term greater than 6 months
  • Being an undischarged bankrupt
  • Being the President, a member of the Seanad, the Comptroller and Auditor General or a Judge.

Therefore, realistically, the only way Ivor Callely can be stripped of his Seanad membership is if he is somehow given a prison term of longer than six months.

The only way to avoid this procedure in future would be to amend the constitution inserting a provision that allows a member be sacked – which would require a national referendum.