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Michael D calls in Council of State over law that was rushed through the Dáil

Michael D Higgins could now refer the International Protection Bill to the Supreme Court.

Michael D Higgins
Michael D Higgins
Image: RollingNews.ie

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has called a meeting of the Council of State for only the second time since he took office to consider legislation that was rushed through the Dáil last week.

Higgins has this evening invoked Article 26 of the Constitution in order to convene a meeting of the Council at Áras an Uachtaráin next Tuesday, 29 December at 11.30am to consider the International Protection Bill 2015.

Following the meeting, Higgins can, if he wishes, refer the Bill to the Supreme Court for a decision on its constitutionality.

The International Protection Bill is 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.

download The Council of State's last meeting in July 2013 Source: RollingNews.ie

Upon publication of the Bill in November, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: “The introduction of the single procedure, together with other reforms in the proposed International Protection Bill, will allow us to efficiently grant international protection to those who are entitled to it.

“At the same time, it will identify, at a much earlier stage, persons who have no entitlement to stay in the State and who can safely return to their country of origin.”

The Bill was guillotined in the Dáil last week as the government sought to pass a series of legislative measures before the Christmas recess.

Concerns about the legislation were raised by Labour backbencher Michael McNamara who said it restricts the ability of people fleeing persecution to be joined by family members.

McNamara strongly protested the guillotining of the Bill last week and was thrown out of the Dáil as a result:

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin said the Bill fails to protect children and minors travelling alone and opens the door for fast-track deportations.

The Council has met only 31 times since 1940 and last met in 2013 to consider the Protection of Life during Prengnacy Bill.

It is made up of current and former office holders including the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, the Supreme Court chief justice, the Attorney General, along with former presidents, former taoisigh and a number of presidential nominees.

Article 26.1.1 of the Constitution states:

The President may, after consultation with the Council of State, refer any Bill to which this Article applies to the Supreme Court for a decision on the question as to whether such Bill or any specified provision or provisions of such Bills is or are repugnant to this Constitution or to any provision thereof.

Explainer: What is the Council of State and why is it discussing the abortion bill?

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

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Hugh O'Connell

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