Promissory note challenge rejected


A businessman has lost his High Court challenge to the State's decision to pay promissory notes under which €31 billion, so far, has been paid in aid of Irish financial institutions.

The court rejected the case on grounds any such challenge should be taken by a member of the Dáil.

The President of the High Court today ruled David Hall does not have the necessary legal standing to bring the challenge which, the judge said, should have be "more properly brought" by a member of the Dáil.

Such a challenge may yet be brought by a member of the Dáil and nothing in his judgment should be construed as indicating what view the court might take of the merits of the case if that occurred, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said.

Independent TDs Shane Ross and Stephen Donnelly and People Before Profit TD Joan Collins, who had supported Mr Hall's challenge to the legality of the notes, were in court today when judgment was delivered. Asked would any of them bring a challenge to the notes, their solicitor Tony Williams said they would first consider the judgment.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Kearns said Mr Hall, who operates a private ambulance company employing 70 people, had brought the case, not as a member of the D áil but as a concerned citizen and taxpayer. Mr Hall was no more affected than any other taxpayer by the decision to pay the notes, the judge said.

He noted Mr Hall contended that the appropriation of revenue or public monies by the Minister for Finance without a vote of the Dáil authorising that is unlawful. It is common case no such vote or resolution was passed by the Dáil, he also noted. He also said the delay by Mr Hall in bringing the case "must be afforded particular weight" having regard to the "solemn undertakings" entered into by the Government concerning the notes, now operational for some three years.

Mr Ross and Mr Donnelly have written to Minister Finance Michael Noonan saying they would take legal action if he enters into an agreement to restructure the notes without the approval of the Dáil, the court previously heard.

In his action, Mr Hall, College Grove, Castleknock, Dublin, sought to prevent the State making payments on foot of the notes issued by the Government  in favour of Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC and the former Anglo Irish Bank), Educational Building Society and Irish Nationwide Building Society.

Mr Hall – a founder member of the New Beginnings group of business people and lawyers – claimed the Government’s procedure relating to the notes amounts to an unlawful "blank cheque” not permitted by the Constitution and not specifically approved by the Dáil.

The Minister for Finance argued such claims were based on a misapprehension of the procedures for approving expenditure and borrowing by the State.

Correspondence from the three TDs sent to the Minister had sought an assurance the Minister would not enter an agreement to pay the promissory notes without prior approval of the Dail and it also warned of separate litigation.

The Minister said the approval of the Dáil would be sought at the "appropriate" time and an assessment of that could best be made "when the shape of a final agreement was fully apparent and finalised".

The Government is negotiating to have the life of the 10-year €30.6 billion promissory note from the European Central Bank extended to reduce the €3.1 billion annual repayments, the next of which falls due at the end of March.