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High Court rejects case from Senators who wanted clarity on rules for Seanad sittings

The issue raised in a case against the State no longer remains, but the court said it “could arise again” in the future.

THE HIGH COURT has ruled that the Seanad can only meet after all 60 members have been elected or nominated by a new Taoiseach after a case was brought forward by a number of Senators before the new government was formed. 

The case was first brought forward earlier this month by ten Senators to clarify whether the Seanad could pass legislation before a new Taoiseach was elected and their 11 nominations for the Seanad announced. 

A new Taoiseach, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, was elected by TDs on Saturday. The new Cabinet was announced, followed by Martin’s 11 nominees for the Seanad.

The issue raised in the court case no longer remains as a result, but the court acknowledged that this situation “could arise again” in the future. 

It said the issue also might again affect any number of the plaintiffs in the same way and is “undoubtedly a question of exceptional public importance”. 

In a lengthy ruling today, the High Court said that the Seanad can only meet when all 60 members have been elected or nominated. 

“We are of the view that the first meeting of the Seanad may only lawfully take place when all sixty members identified in Article 18.1, elected and nominated, are in place,” the High Court ruling said. 

The general election was held on 8 February, but a government was only formed last Friday after members of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party approved a Programme for Government.

There are 60 members of the Seanad. 49 Senators were elected in early April this year and the remaining 11 are nominated by the Taoiseach.

The Constitution says that a continuing Taoiseach cannot nominate these Senators, it must be a newly elected Taoiseach. 

The now-complete Seanad will meet for the first time at 2.30pm today where a new Cathaoirleach will be elected. 

Ten Senators – five from the Labour Party and a number of independents – wrote to the former Taoiseach earlier this month seeking a date for the first sitting of the new Seanad.

The Senators who took this case against the Taoiseach, the State and the Attorney General, are Ivana Bacik, Victor Boyhan, Gerard Craughwell, Annie Hoey, Sharon Keogan, Michael McDowell, Rebecca Moynihan, Rónán Mullen, Marie Sherlock and Mark Wall.

The State argued the Seanad can only meet and legislate when all 60 members are in place.

Earlier this month, Senator Bacik said the democratic assembly “should not be frozen from legislating and there is a looming deadline of the end of June for the review and renewal of certain provisions under the Offences Against the State Acts”. 

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