President signs Bill on banks into law

Wed, Dec 22, 2010, 00:00

PRESIDENT MARY McAleese has signed the controversial Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Bill into law after consulting the Council of State about its constitutionality.

The President met the council at Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday to discuss the controversial legislation which gives the Minister for Finance sweeping powers on the banks.

After the three-hour meeting, a short statement was issued. It read: “President McAleese has signed the Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Bill 2010 this evening pursuant to the Constitution and it has accordingly become law.”

The decision of the President was hers alone as she is not bound to follow the advice offered by the Council of State. It will come as a relief to the Government, which hopes to take decisions on the future of Allied Irish Banks as quickly as possible on the basis of the Bill.

The Cabinet discussed the issue at its meeting yesterday. At issue was whether they would need to reconvene the Dáil tomorrow to pass emergency legislation on the banks if the President had decided to refer the Bill to the Supreme Court.

The Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Bill was rushed through the Dáil in four hours last week.

The Council of State is made up of 22 members, including the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Ceann Comhairle, the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, the Attorney General, the Chief Justice and the president of the High Court.

Former president Mary Robinson, five former taoisigh and two former chief justices are among the members of the council, along with seven people appointed by the President.

The decision of the President means the Bill is now law but its constitutionality can be challenged by an affected party at a future date. If it had been referred to the Supreme Court and if it had deemed that it was in accordance with the Constitution, it could not have been challenged again on constitutional grounds.

In advance of the President’s decision yesterday, she was encouraged by the Opposition parties to refer the Bill to the Supreme Court.

Fine Gael finance spokesman Michael Noonan said yesterday that he would like to see the legislation tested by the Supreme Court so that it could be proofed against some further nasty surprise for the taxpayer on the banks.