Seven are appointed to Council of State

Sat, Jan 7, 2012, 00:00

A BRITISH Labour Party councillor has been chosen by President Michael D Higgins as one of his appointees to the Council of State.

Sally Mulready, a councillor in Hackney in London, is a prominent emigrant rights activist in Britain who moved there from Dublin in the 1970s.

A former secretary of the Federation of Irish Societies, she was involved in the campaign to free the Birmingham Six and is currently involved in the Magdalene laundries issue.

Otherwise, lawyers, academics, and NUI Galway feature strongly in the list of appointees.

His choices include a long-time friend and former colleague at NUI Galway, retired history professor Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, and retired Supreme Court judge Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness. She is a former member of the council of state in the late 1980s and currently serves as an adjunct law professor at NUI Galway.

Prof Gerard Quinn of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at the NUI Galway school of law has also been appointed, along with Prof Deirdre Heenan of the University of Ulster and human rights lawyer Michael Farrell.

Ruairí McKiernan (32), a social entrepreneur originally from Cootehill, Co Cavan, has also been appointed to the council.

During his presidential campaign, Mr Higgins promised that if elected president he would make sure the council was “representative in an inclusive sense”.

The Council of State is the body established under the Constitution to advise the President in the exercise of his powers.

Presidents can convene the council to consider legislation, but are not bound by its recommendations.

Aside from the seven appointed members, former presidents, taoisigh and chief justices sit on the council, along with ex officio members.

The ex officio members of the Council of State are Taoiseach Enda Kenny; Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore; Chief Justice Mrs Justice Susan Denham, Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett, Seanad Cathaoirleach Senator Patrick Burke, president of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns and Attorney General Máire Whelan.

The other members are former presidents Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson, former taoisigh Liam Cosgrave, John Bruton, Albert Reynolds, Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen and former chief justices John L Murray, Thomas Finlay and Ronan Keane.

Outgoing members of the previous council of state who were not reappointed were: Daraine Mulvihill, Harvey Bicker, Anastasia Crickley, Mary Davis, Martin Mansergh, Enda Marren and Denis Moloney.

The council met to consider eight separate pieces of legislation during Mary McAleese’s two terms as president.

PRESIDENT'S CHOICE: COUNCIL APPOINTEES

PROF GERARD QUINN

Director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway.

The centre is part of a new research institute which researches policy innovation covering age, child and family as well as disability.

A graduate of UCG, he holds a master’s and doctorate in law from Harvard Law School. His specialisation is international and comparative disability law and policy.

He has worked in the European Commission and is a former member of the Irish Human Rights Commission.

RUAIRÍ McKIERNAN

A community activist and social entrepreneur, he is founder of the national youth organisation SpunOut.ie. He is also a founder and organiser of the Possibilities 2011 Social Summit.

A business graduate, he is a recipient of numerous awards including a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Award, a Net Visionary Award, and a Junior Chambers International Award.

After eight years as chief executive of SpunOut.ie, he recently stepped down to develop new social innovations.

MICHAEL FARRELL

The senior solicitor with Free Legal Advice Centres, Michael Farrell was involved in the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland and is a former co-chairman of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

He was a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission for 10 years until last year and is currently the Irish member of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance. He is also a member of the human rights committee of the Law Society.

PROF GEARÓID Ó TUATHAIGH

Retired history professor and a former dean of arts and vice-president of the National University of Ireland, Galway.

A former member of the Senate of the NUI and of the Irish-US Fulbright Commission, and a former cathaoirleach of Údarás na Gaeltachta, Prof Ó Tuathaigh has published widely – in Irish and English – on many aspects of modern Irish history.

JUDGE CATHERINE McGUINNESS

Called to the Bar in 1977 and to the Inner Bar in 1989, she was a member of Seanad Éireann from 1979-82 and was previously a member of the council of state from 1988-90.

She served as a judge of the Circuit Court from 1994-1996, of the High Court from 1996-2000 and of the Supreme Court from 2000-2006.

From 2005-2011, she was president of the Law Reform Commission. She is currently the adjunct professor of law at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

PROF DEIRDRE HEENAN

Provost and dean of Academic Development for the University of Ulster’s Magee Campus.

She is also a co-founder and former co-director of the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, which has become a key statistical resource for schools, academics and policymakers. Her areas of expertise are devolution, education and social care.

In 2008-9 she worked as a policy adviser in the North’s Office of the First and Deputy First Minister. Last year she was appointed by Minister for Health, Edwin Poots, to assist with the Review of Health and Social Care Services in Northern Ireland.

SALLY MULREADY

Born in Dublin, she moved to Hackney in London with her mother in the 1970s and has made a large contribution to the Irish emigrant community in Britain over many decades.

A Labour councillor in the borough of Hackney since 1997, she is a former secretary of the Federation of Irish Societies.

She is also a founder member of the Irish Women’s Survivors Network and director of the Irish Elderly Advice Network.

She was prominently involved in the campaign to free the Birmingham Six and is currently active in the Magdalene laundries issue.

THE COUNCIL’S ROLE

The Constitution of 1937, Bunreacht na hÉireann, provides that the President should have certain discretionary powers. These include the appointment of up to seven people of his or her choosing to the Council of State.

The council is composed of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Chief Justice, the president of the High Court, the Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann, the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, the Attorney General, and former presidents, taoisigh and chief justices who are able and willing to act on the council. Aside from the seven appointed members, the current “ex officio” members of the Council of State are Taoiseach Enda Kenny; Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore; Chief Justice Mrs Justice Susan Denham, Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett, Seanad Cathaoirleach Senator Patrick Burke, president of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns and Attorney General Máire Whelan.

The other members are former presidents Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson, former taoisigh Liam Cosgrave, John Bruton, Albert Reynolds, Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen; and former chief justices John L Murray, Thomas Finlay and Ronan Keane.

The President can convene the council to consider legislation. After consultation, the President may refer any Bill to the Supreme Court for a decision on whether it contains anything repugnant to the Constitution.