The clock is ticking on forming a coalition
Sir, – Dáil arithmetic in the aftermath of Election 2020 is problematic, to say the least. No pair of parties added together has a majority. Our Constitution does not expressly provide for a lengthy and difficult process of coalition formation.
Article 18 of the Constitution (perhaps accidentally) appears to create a time-limit after which a second general election must be called. Article 18.3 states that “the nominated members of Seanad Éireann shall be nominated, with their prior consent, by the Taoiseach who is appointed next after the reassembly of Dáil Éireann following the dissolution thereof”.
So, straight away, we see that the 11 nominated members of the Seanad cannot be installed by a caretaker taoiseach. Article 18.8 of the Constitution then stipulates that a Seanad election must take place not later than 90 days after the dissolution of the Dáil for a general election. Reading these two constitutional provisions together, it is strongly arguable that there is a time-limit for the formation of a coalition government. That time-limit would be 90 days from January 14th last minus a minimal few days for the preparation of the Seanad election.
On that analysis, a coalition government must be formed by April 6th at the latest.
Beyond that point, the process would, at the very least, become legally controversial – and that is the last thing we need. – Yours, etc,