TDs' legal challenge of Dail 'money message' procedure to be heard before Christmas

TDs' legal challenge of Dail 'money message' procedure to be heard before Christmas
Paul Murphy and Brid Smith outside court yesterday. Pic: Collins

A High Court challenge brought by four Opposition TDs against the Ceann Comhairle's decision not to allow a vote on changing Dáil standing orders to stop the Government blocking Opposition Bills will be heard shortly before Christmas.

TDs Brid Smith, Richard Boyd Barrett, Gino Kenny and Paul Murphy secured permission this week to bring a legal challenge against the Ceann Comhairle Mr Sean O Fearghail after Mr Justice Garrett Simons found their claim was "arguable".

The matter returned before Mr Justice Charles Meenan today and the judge was told a timetable had been agreed between the parties for the exchange of pleadings in the case.

The Judge then agreed to fix the hearing of the action for December 17th next.

John Rogers SC for the four TDs said that the case should take two days.

The court will be informed later this month if the Attorney General will participate in the action.

In their judicial review action, the four TDs are challenging a refusal by the Ceann Comhairle last Monday to place a motion submitted by Deputy Smith for the Order Paper of Dáil Eireann, which would have been debated in the chamber on Wednesday afternoon.

The motion seeks to prevent the Government from blocking Opposition Bills by withholding a “money message” necessary to allow them to proceed through the legislative process – even when they have been voted for by the Dáil.

The TDs claim the Ceann Comhairle's decision is a breach of the rules.

They seek an order from the court quashing the decision, as well as various declarations including that the decision breaches their constitutional rights.

Lawyers for the Ceann Comhairle argue the TDs' application is misconceived and is not something that can be considered by the courts.

In granting permission to bring the case, Mr Justice Simons said that while he was not making any findings in relation to the serious constitutional issues raised by the TDs he was satisfied that the threshold had been met.

The judge refused to grant the TDs a temporary injunction requiring the Ceann Comhairle to suspend the effect of his refusal and to restore the motion to the order paper.

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