Martin questions constitutionality of Economic Management Council

Fianna Fáil leader claims Cabinet has become a ‘rubber stamp’ in policy reform paper

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has questioned the constitutionality of the Economic Management Council, the powerful four-person group within Cabinet that makes all key decisions on the economy and spending.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has questioned the constitutionality of the Economic Management Council, the powerful four-person group within Cabinet that makes all key decisions on the economy and spending.

Mon, Jul 22, 2013, 01:49


Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has questioned the constitutionality of the Economic Management Council (EMC), the powerful four-person group within Cabinet that makes all key decisions on the economy and spending.

In a new Fianna Fáil policy paper on political reform to be published this week – in which Mr Martin has had a strong input – it is contended that the Republic is almost unique in the world in its imbalance of power between a very powerful government and a weak parliament. It argues that this “flaw” has been at the root of many of the failures that have taken place in Ireland in the past 10 years.

The paper, which has been seen by The Irish Times, also asserts that the abolition of the Seanad will reinforce, not reform, that imbalance.

Impotent parliament
“The clearance of a policy or Bill by the Cabinet is effectively the same as it being enacted,” it states, setting out its core argument that parliament the Republic has no effective powers whatsoever.

For his part, the Fianna Fáil leader has harshly criticised the EMC, comprising Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin.

“Its existence even further concentrates power into the executive.

“The Cabinet no longer needs to discuss anything. Its role is only one of strict consideration as the issues have already been considered by the EMC before they go to Government. Is this constitutional?

“Strategic policy decisions are made in advance of going to Cabinet. I would have a serious concern about that.”

In essence, he has argued the establishment of the EMC may be counter to article 28.4.2 of the Constitution which states: “The Government shall meet and act as a collective authority.”

The paper argues the Cabinet has become a “rubber stamp” for decisions made elsewhere.

Ministers critical
There has also been criticism of the EMC by some Government Ministers who are not members including Joan Burton, Simon Coveney and Pat Rabbitte.

Mr Martin said the the fundamental rationale of the policy paper was to declare the independence of the parliament from the executive.

“The dominance of the executive over parliament is extraordinary. If you look even at the example of this week, the Government decided to kick Fine Gael deputies off committees because they voted against it on the abortion Bill. In most other jurisdictions, the executive would not be allowed to do that.”

The paper proposes giving the Oireachtas radical new powers that will allow it more equal status with government when considering new legislation, reviewing or researching proposals, and getting legal opinions on Bills and policies.

The proposed model is based on the congressional budget office in the US.

The paper also calls for the Ceann Comhairle to be elected by secret ballot rather than by Government, as happens in Westminster.