Blocking of Opposition Bills is troubling

 

Sir, – In recent months, the Government has faced growing criticism over its use of the “money message” device to veto Opposition legislation. Nearly all Opposition Bills with majority support in Dáil Éireann have been blocked in this manner, and it raises serious questions for how our democracy functions.

Writing in The Irish Times (“Government blocking of legislation is constitutionally dubious”, Opinion & Analysis, June 14th), two leading experts in Irish constitutional law, Dr David Kenny and Dr Eoin Daly, argued that this recurring veto on Dáil votes “has the makings of a democratic and constitutional crisis”.

As civil society organisations, we follow the work of the Oireachtas closely, and we are deeply concerned about how the money message is being wielded. We have seen numerous important Bills win the support of a clear majority of TDs in Dáil Éireann, only to be vetoed by the Government on vague and unspecified cost grounds.

According to the Oireachtas Library & Research Service, as of May 27th, 2019, of the 68 opposition Bills to have passed their first Dáil votes, 55 have been deemed to require a money message, but the Government has granted only three. The rest of these Bills remain in limbo, unable to progress.

After the 2016 general election, the promise of “new politics” was that the Dáil would be able to legislate on the basis of cross-party consensus. TDs from all sides of the House could put forward proposals, seek support from their colleagues, and pass laws with majority backing.

The frequent use of the money message veto has made this extremely difficult, however. There is very little clarity as to what kind of costs are sufficient to trigger the need for a money message in the first place, and because all legislation will require at least some form of implementation by civil servants or State bodies, it is very unclear where the line is drawn.

This must be examined and clarified by TDs and Senators as a matter of urgency.

The current uncertainty has handed a minority Government, in the words of Dr Daly and Dr Kenny, “a general power to override legislation passed by a democratic parliament”, and this is cause for serious concern.

As the Oireachtas resumes from its summer recess, we are calling on all elected representatives to ensure that this issue is swiftly addressed. – Yours, etc,

CAOIMHE DE BARRA,

Chief Executive,

Trócaire;

MARIE CRAWLEY,

Chairwoman,

Sadaka – The Ireland

Palestine Alliance;

SUZANNE KEATINGE,

Chief Executive,

Dóchas;

DEIRDRE GARVEY,

Chief Executive,

The Wheel;

PATRICIA KING,

General Secretary, ICTU;

ROSAMOND BENNETT,

Chief Executive,

Christian Aid Ireland;

PHILLIP KEARNEY,

Chairman,

An Taisce –

The National Trust

for Ireland;

SIOBHÁN McGEE,

Chief Executive,

ActionAid;

JOHN HAUGHTON,

Chairman,

Forest Friends Ireland;

MARY CUNNINGHAM,

Director,

The National Youth

Council of Ireland;

RUTH McGRATH,

Chairwoman,

Voice;

NIALL McLOUGHLIN,

Chief Executive,

World Vision Ireland;

PAUL GINNELL,

Director,

European

Anti-Poverty

Network Ireland;

RACHEL DOYLE

and ANN IRWIN,

National Coordinators,

Community Work Ireland;

JIM CLARKEN,

Chief Executive,

Oxfam Ireland;

SEÁN HEALY,

Chief Executive,

Social Justice Ireland;

ASHIMEDUA OKWONKO,

Chairwoman,

AkiDwa;

CHARLIE LAMSON,

Chief Executive,

Sightsavers Ireland;

CATHERINE DEVITT,

Coordinator,

Stop Climate Chaos

Coalition;

JOHN K GUINEY SJ,

Director,

The Jesuit Centre

for Faith and Justice;

ANN MARIE

QUINN PBVM,

IPA Executive Director,

Presentation Sisters;

FATIN AL TAMIMI,

Chairwoman,

Ireland Palestine

Solidarity Campaign;

MARK CUMMING,

Head of Comhlámh;

SEAN MEEHAN,

Chairman,

Irish Wildlife Trust;

MARK HOGAN,

National Coordinator,

All Together

in Dignity (ATD) Ireland.