Emergency legislation on rent freeze and evictions due in Dáil

Ministers will approve legislation expected to get all-party backing at incorporeal Cabinet meeting


Emergency legislation to impose a three-month rent freeze and a ban on evictions will be dealt with this week by the Dáil, when it sits on Thursday and by the Seanad on Friday.

Ministers will approve the legislation, which is expected to receive all-party backing, at an incorporeal Cabinet meeting today before being tabled on the floor of the Dáil, where it is expected to receive all-party support.

The Government is under pressure to accelerate the passage of crucial emergency legislation ahead of the Seanad elections next week to avoid Constitutional hurdles.

In the absence of a new government in place, the Taoiseach’s eleven nominations to the upper house cannot be named - which means that the Government’s legislative actions will be strictly tied. Other emergency provisions, including from the Department of Social Protection, could be added to the Bill before Thursday, to form an omnibus Bill, though Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin is to table amendments.

Speaking yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government would try to get through as much legislation as it could this week, adding that there is “a risk” that later legislative action could be challenged.

However, the Labour Party believes it is constitutionally possible for the Seanad to meet and to change its standing orders to allow it operate without the Taoiseach’s new 11 nominees. Labour Seanad leader Ivana Bacik said its legal advice is that “the Constitution does not preclude the Seanad from meeting without the newly appointed nominees”, as long as the Seanad’s standing orders are changed.

Pointing to article 24 of the Constitution, law academic Dr Jennifer* Kavanagh said it provides for emergency circumstances where the Seanad can be temporarily bypassed.

Under it, legislation, bar proposed constitutional amendments, can stay in existence for up to 90 days if “in the opinion of the Government” it is “urgent and immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace and security, or by reason of the existence of a public emergency, whether domestic or international”.

To be used, the Taoiseach would have to certify the need for such emergency legislation in letters to the President and and the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil, and the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad.

*This article was amended on March 25th, 2020