Court challenge to Bill while Dáil debate ongoing is contempt for House, says Howlin

Mattie McGrath had called for delay in vote on abortion legislation

Mattie McGrath: had called on the Government to delay a final vote on the legislation until consideration was given to provisions in the Bill which he claimed were unconstitutional.

Mattie McGrath: had called on the Government to delay a final vote on the legislation until consideration was given to provisions in the Bill which he claimed were unconstitutional.

Fri, Jul 12, 2013, 01:00

MARIE O’HALLORAN

TDs cannot challenge in the Dáil the constitutionality of Bills under debate, the House has been told following calls by Independent TD Mattie McGrath for a delay in the final vote on the Government’s abortion legislation.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said that every piece of legislation passed by the Dáil and Seanad is deemed constitutional unless the Supreme Court and only that court, decides otherwise.

He also said that Bills under discussion in either House, which have not yet been signed by the President, are also deemed constitutional. “That is the way it has always been,” Mr Howlin said.

And he said it was “extraordinary” Mr McGrath would support a court challenge “when the deliberative process of the Oireachtas is still in mid-stream”. The Minister also viewed it as “contempt for the House”.

Mr McGrath had expressed his support for a High Court challenge against the constitutionality of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, before its enactment. The challenge was later struck down by the High Court, but was reportedly expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Tipperary South TD had called on the Government to delay a final vote on the legislation until consideration was given to provisions in the Bill which he claimed were unconstitutional.

He said “it has been brought to my attention that the Oireachtas has no right to vote on a Bill that contains provisions that have been put to the Irish people in a referendum and which they in a sovereign exercise rejected”.

But Mr Howlin said it was a “well-known construction of law that laws passed by the Oireachtas are presumed to be constitutional” unless struck down by the Supreme Court.

He said “Bills which have not yet received the signature of the President also enjoy the presumption of constitutionality.”