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Senators to begin High Court action to clarify if Seanad can legislate

Eleven seats in the Seanad are vacant as a new Taoiseach has not yet been elected.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik, one of those taking the case.
Labour Senator Ivana Bacik, one of those taking the case.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

TEN SENATORS ARE due to begin their High Court action today in order to clarify if the Seanad can pass legislation before a new Taoiseach is appointed and nominates 11 more senators.

Members of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party are currently voting on whether or not to back the programme for government agreed by the three parties.

If the deal is passed, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is expected to be appointed as Taoiseach on Saturday.

Concerns have been raised in recent weeks about the fact a new Taoiseach may not be elected before certain legislation needs to be passed. The general election was held on 8 February, but a government has yet to be formed. 

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

The senators taking the 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.

They want a court declaration that there is nothing in the Irish Constitution to stop outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar advising President Michael D Higgins to fix a date for the Seanad to meet, before his successor nominates more members to the upper house.

Offences Against the State Acts 

The State argues the Seanad can only meet and legislate when all 60 members are in place, not the current 49.

Earlier this month, 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”.

President of the High Court Ms Justice Mary Irvine and two other judges will hear the case.

Martin yesterday refused to be drawn on whether or not he would support Varadkar to stay on as Taoiseach in the short term in order to pass necessary legislation, if the programme for government is not passed.

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Órla Ryan

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