The money message and Dáil Éireann
Sir, – Kieran Coughlan, former clerk of Dáil Éireann, says that if the Government continues to “misuse money messages as a veto” on legislation, then “the only way to protect the right of the Dáil to legislate . . . may be in the courts” (“Court may be only solution to money message stand-off”, Opinion & Analysis, November 7th). It is odd that Mr Coughlan gives no consideration to a far more straightforward solution to this problem.
Under article 4.1 of the Constitution, the Government is responsible to the Dáil at all times. Therefore, if the Dáil is dissatisfied with how the Government exercises its powers – including its power in relation to money messages under article 17.2 – then it can dismiss that Government by a motion of no confidence, either putting a new administration in place or forcing a general election.
The only reason this has not occurred is because of the peculiar dynamic of the present Dáil which is governed by the so-called confidence and supply arrangement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. This unique balance of power – of a Government which has shirked at least three opportunities to seek a fresh mandate, and an Opposition which is too weak to bring it down – is the real cause of the impasse over money messages. If a majority of the Dáil is unwilling to enforce their powers under the Constitution for reasons of political convenience, then why on earth should the courts intervene? This is likely to be the question which the learned judges will ask in rather more pointed fashion in due course.
Contrary to what Mr Coughlan contends, the real threat to parliamentary democracy is surely the increasing recourse to the courts and other unelected bodies to solve problems which democratically elected politicians are unwilling to confront. – Yours, etc,