Council of State to examine legislation on bank sector


PRESIDENT MARY McAleese will convene the Council of State next Tuesday to consider the Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Bill 2010, which was passed by the Dáil and Seanad this week.

Opposition parties strongly criticised the speed with which the controversial Bill went through the Houses of the Oireachtas and expressed concerns that it could be unconstitutional, with Labour Party finance spokeswoman Joan Burton claiming it could turn Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan into a “one-man legislature”.

The proposed legislation would give the Minister for Finance sweeping powers to restructure the banking sector, including the authority to overrule shareholders, sack directors and transfer loans and deposits out of Irish banks.

The Bill also allows the Minister to impose conditions in relation to any financial support for institutions, including not paying financial bonuses to employees.

The President is entitled under the terms of the Constitution to refer Bills to the Supreme Court “for a decision on the question as to whether such Bill or any specified provision or provisions of such Bills is or are repugnant to this Constitution”.

Members of the council include: Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, Chief Justice Mr Justice John Murray, president of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns and Attorney General Paul Gallagher SC.

Former office holders who sit on the council include former president Mary Robinson and former taoisigh Dr Garret FitzGerald, Liam Cosgrave, John Bruton, Albert Reynolds and Bertie Ahern. Members appointed by Mrs McAleese include Mary Davis and Minister of State Dr Martin Mansergh.

Mrs McAleese has convened the council on six previous occasions. Following a meeting on October 28th, 2009, she decided to deliver a “millennium address” to a joint sitting of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

After a meeting on June 30th, 2000, she referred Part V of the Planning and Development Bill, 1999 and section 5 and 10 of the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill, 1999, to the Supreme Court. The court ruled that the parts and sections referred were not repugnant to the Constitution and the President signed the Bills.

On April 8th, 2002, Mrs McAleese decided to sign the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Bill, 2001 into law following discussion of section 24 of the Bill with the Council of State.

Following a meeting on December 21st, 2004, the Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2004 was referred to the Supreme Court, which found certain provisions to be unconstitutional.