Action by TDs over 'money message' process adjourned to March

Action by TDs over 'money message' process adjourned to March
Paul Murphy an Brid Smith outside court. Pic: Collins

An action by four Opposition TDs arising from a process under which the Ceann Comhairle decided a Bill aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions required a "money message" has been adjourned at the High Court.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly was due to hold another case management hearing on Thursday when he was told by John Rogers SC, for the TDs, there had been "without prejudice" discussions between lawyers for the TDs and the Ceann Comhairle which might be of assistance to both sides.

"These are, of course, without prejudice to any views the parties may have arising from the dissolution of the Dail," counsel said.

Having been told the sides considered it would be "beneficial" to adjourn the matter to March 9th next, the judge agreed to do so.

The judicial review proceedings are by Deputies Brid Smith, Richard Boyd Barrett, Gino Kenny and Paul Murphy, members of the Solidarity/People Before Profit grouping in the Dail, against the Ceann Comhairle, Seán O Fearghail, with the Attorney General as a notice party.

They had secured leave from the High Court to challenge the Ceann Comhairle's refusal last November to allow a debate on a motion which sought to prevent the blocking of Opposition Bills by withholding a “money message” necessary to allow them to proceed through the legislative process.

The Bill at issue - the Petroleum Development Bill 2018 - is intended to make a significant contribution to achieving Ireland's greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, Deputy Smith said.

The TDs last month sought leave to amend the case to also challenge an earlier May 2019 decision by the Ceann Comhairle that the Bill required a money message and to join the Minister for Communications, the Government of Ireland and Dail Eireann as parties for the purpose of seeking additional orders. They want to bring claims the process at issue is unconstitutional.

Ceann Comhairle, Seán O Fearghail
Ceann Comhairle, Seán O Fearghail

In an affidavit, Deputy Smith said the TDs have significant concerns as to how the Ceann Comhairle interpreted the requirement for a money message for the purposes of Dail Standing Order 179 and Article 17.2 of the Constitution.

She said the Bills Office had said in 2018 the Petroleum Development Bill did not require a money message.

The Office of the Parliamentary Legal Advisor later identified the number of licences which might be affected by the Bill and the Department of Communications had opposed it, she said.

She said, when it became apparent the Bill could pass all stages in the Dail, the Minister for Communications wrote to the Ceann Comhairle in May 2019 indicating the Minister's view the Bill now required a money message.

The Ceann Comhairle informed her on May 22nd 2019, without any prior consultation, the Bill required a money message, she said.

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