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Seanad lawyers tell Court it cannot hear Callely appeal

Lawyers for the Seanad committee that suspended Ivor Callely tell the High Court to butt out of Oireachtas business.

Ivor Callely: Lawyers for the committee that suspended him from the Seanad for 20 days say the High Court cannot interfere with Oireachtas affairs.
Ivor Callely: Lawyers for the committee that suspended him from the Seanad for 20 days say the High Court cannot interfere with Oireachtas affairs.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

LAWYERS REPRESENTING the Seanad Select Committee on Members’ Interests have argued to the High Court that to interfere with a decision of the Seanad would be a breach of the separation of powers.

The committee – which is appealing a case taken by Ivor Callely against the committee’s decision to suspend him for 20 sitting days, and suing it for loss of earnings – said the Oireachtas had its own constitutional power to make its own rules for its members.

There was extensive law to support the argument that the judicial branch of government could not rule upon the acts of the legislature, said Conleth Bradley, senior counsel for the committee.

The question of whether the court had jurisdiction over the committee’s actions was one of fundamental importance, he added.

After Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill asked if members of the Oireachtas were not covered by the constitution, Bradley said the enforceability of the standing orders of the Dáil or Seanad was a matter for each respective body.

Bradley also argued that the committee was permitted to make a political and ethical judgement against Callely, under the Ethics in Public Office Act.

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The claim came after Callely’s own counsel had said there was no explicit Constitutional guarantee that Oireachtas proceedings were immune from judicial review.

Committees would be completely immune from oversight otherwise, and could essentially act above the law.

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Gavan Reilly

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