Dáil ‘money message’ case to be heard in December

Four Solidarity-People Before Profit TDs challenging decision of Ceann Comhairle

 Solidarity-People Before Profit  TD Bríd Smith: submitted a motion. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith: submitted a motion. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A High Court challenge over the Ceann Comhairle’s decision not to allow a vote on changing Dáil standing orders so as to stop the Government blocking Opposition Bills will be heard before Christmas.

The move, if successful, could clear the way for more than 50 Bills - on subjects including banning the import of goods produced in occupied Palestinian territories, expanding sex education in schools and banning evictions - to progress through the lawmaking progress.

The Bills have been blocked by the Government despite winning majorities in the Dáil on their initial votes.

Four Solidarity-People Before Profit TDs - Bríd Smith, Richard Boyd Barrett, Gino Kenny and Paul Murphy - secured permission on Wednesday to bring judicial proceedings against the Ceann Comhairle, Sean Ó Fearghail, after Mr Justice Garrett Simons found their case was “arguable”.

The legal threshhold for leave for judicial review proceedings requires a party to demonstrate an arguable case.

When the matter returned before Mr Justice Charles Meenan on Thursday, he was told a timetable had been agreed between the parties for exchange of legal documents in the case.

The judge then agreed to fix the hearing for December 17th.

John Rogers SC, for the TDs, said the case is likely to take two days to hear. The court will be informed later this month if the Attorney General will participate in the action.

In their proceedings, the TDs are challenging a refusal by the Ceann Comhairle last Monday to place a motion submitted by Ms Smith for the Dáil Order Paper for debate in the chamber on Wednesday afternoon.

The motion seeks to prevent the Government blocking Opposition Bills by withholding a “money message” necessary to allow them to proceed through the legislative process even when they have been voted for by the Dáil.

The TDs claim the Ceann Comhairle’s decision is a breach of the rules and his decision provoked a fierce row in the Dáil on Tuesday, leading to the House being suspended.

They want a court order quashing the decision and various declarations, including that the decision breaches their constitutional rights. If they are successful, their motion will be put before the Dáil and deputies can vote to change the standing orders, paving the way to unlock progress of the Opposition bills.

Lawyers for the Ceann Comhairle have argued the case is misconceived and cannot be considered by the courts.

In granting permission to bring the case, Mr Justice Simons said, while he was not making any findings in relation to the serious constitutional issued raised by the TDs, he was satisfied the threshold of arguability had been met.

He refused to grant the TDs a temporary injunction requiring the Ceann Comhairle to suspend the effect of his refusal and to restore the motion to the order paper.