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#Constitution of Ireland

# constitution-of-ireland - Sunday 5 May, 2019

Quiz: How much do you know about Irish referendums?

Test your knowledge here.

# constitution-of-ireland - Monday 6 May, 2013

A new Vice President, and other things that happen if the Seanad is scrapped

We have a look at how the constitution may need rewriting if the second House of the Oireachtas is binned.

# constitution-of-ireland - Thursday 10 January, 2013

High Court rejects MS sufferer's challenge in 'right to die' case

Marie Fleming, who suffers from terminal multiple sclerosis, fails in her attempt to have suicide laws declared unconstitutional.

# constitution-of-ireland - Tuesday 18 September, 2012

Cabinet set to agree wording on children's rights referendum

Ministers are likely to sign off on the final wording for the ballot to be put to the public at this morning’s meeting.

# constitution-of-ireland - Monday 10 September, 2012

Children's minister plays down referendum 'forced vaccination' fears

Frances Fitzgerald says a constitutional reference to children’s rights would not result in forced vaccinations or adoptions.

# constitution-of-ireland - 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.

# constitution-of-ireland - Friday 9 March, 2012

TheJournal.ie’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?

# constitution-of-ireland - Wednesday 1 February, 2012

Independent TDs seek to force referendum on EU fiscal compact

The Dáil Technical Group hopes the President can help force a referendum on the EU treaty if the government is advised against holding one.

# constitution-of-ireland - Monday 5 December, 2011

'Campaign for Conscience' lodges Supreme Court challenge to same-sex partnerships

The Mayo-based group believes major parts of the Civil Partnership Act are in conflict with the Constitution and therefore illegal.

# constitution-of-ireland - Tuesday 6 September, 2011

Retired judge to oversee referendum on judges' pay

Bryan MacMahon, formerly of the High Court, will chair the Referendum Commission overseeing next month’s referendum.

# constitution-of-ireland - Monday 25 July, 2011

New Chief Justice rejects €38k pay rise

Chief Justice Susan Denham says the judiciary does not oppose a referendum allowing their pay to be cut – and has refused a pay rise of €38,044.

# constitution-of-ireland - Saturday 23 July, 2011

Could two Mayo publicans have exposed a gaping hole in Ireland's legal system?

Two Claremorris publicans escaped punishment for having punters on their premises after hours. But how?

# constitution-of-ireland - Tuesday 12 July, 2011

Children's referendum not likely until next year, says minister

Children’s minister Frances Fitzgerald says the draft text should be ready by autumn, but a referendum won’t be.

# constitution-of-ireland - Wednesday 15 June, 2011

Kenny promises autumn referendum on Oireachtas committee powers

A referendum giving renewed powers of investigation to Oireachtas committees will be held with the Presidental election.

# constitution-of-ireland - Tuesday 10 May, 2011

Fianna Fáil proposes referendum on political donations rights

Fianna Fáil will tonight table a Bill moving a referendum so that people without voting rights cannot donate or campaign.

# constitution-of-ireland - Friday 11 February, 2011

Greens suggest new constitution 'written by the people'

The Green Party’s manifesto would see Ireland become oil independent by 2030, and cut the number of TDs by 44.

Gilmore calls for Ireland to reject 'conservatism' of past

Launching Labour’s election manifesto, Eamon Gilmore asks Irish voters to ask themselves where they want to take Ireland.

# constitution-of-ireland - Monday 24 January, 2011

The Doomsday option: what happens if Cowen doesn't run?

The Cabinet is now at its constitutional minimum – so what happens if Cowen or a minister quits or loses their seat?

# constitution-of-ireland - Friday 31 December, 2010

State papers: Opposition proposed 'secret' Bill to grant divorce

Parties tabled a bill that would have led to a divorce referendum as early as 1980 – six years before one was held.

# constitution-of-ireland - Saturday 18 December, 2010

President summons Council of State to discuss banking Bill

The President may refer the new Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Bill to the Supreme Court if she thinks it constitutional.

# constitution-of-ireland - 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.