State to pay costs of failed action over Seanad composition

The State has agreed to pay the legal costs of an unsuccessful High Court action by 10 elected senators who contended a new Seanad could convene and pass legislation before an incoming Taoiseach nominated 11 of its 60 members.
State to pay costs of failed action over Seanad composition
The first sitting of the 26th Seanad Éireann at the Convention Centre which took place on Monday.  Picture: Maxwells
The first sitting of the 26th Seanad Éireann at the Convention Centre which took place on Monday. Picture: Maxwells

The State has agreed to pay the legal costs of an unsuccessful High Court action by 10 elected senators who contended a new Seanad could convene and pass legislation before an incoming Taoiseach nominated 11 of its 60 members.

The action was initiated in mid-June and was fast-tracked due to uncertainty about the legal position and about whether a government would be formed in time for an incoming Taoiseach to appoint senators to renew important legislation due to lapse at midnight last Monday, including provisions of the Offences Against the State Act.

The case was heard last week over one and a half days.

In its judgment this week, a three judge High Court agreed with the attorney general that a first meeting of a new Seanad can only lawfully take place with its full membership of 60, comprising 49 elected members and 11 nominees of an incoming Taoiseach.

In their judgment, High Court president Ms Justice Mary Irvine, Mr Justice Denis McDonald and Ms Justice Niamh Hyland noted the case concerned constitutional issues of “exceptional public importance”.

Gerard Craughwell and Sharon Keogan, two of the senators that were plaintiffs in the case. Picture: Maxwells
Gerard Craughwell and Sharon Keogan, two of the senators that were plaintiffs in the case. Picture: Maxwells

Conleth Bradley, for An Taoiseach, Ireland and the attorney general, said the agreement was for costs to be paid on a party-party basis with the amount to be adjudicated in default of agreement.

Ms Justice Irvine noted the outgoing taoiseach had indicated in a letter of June 10 last to solicitors for the plaintiffs that an "important point of law" had been raised by them "that needs to be clarified due to the fact that necessary legislation may need to be enacted in the coming weeks".

The judge commended the parties for the approach taken.

The court made the costs order as agreed and a formal order dismissing the plaintiffs claim.

Ivana Bacik was also a plaintiff in the High Court case. Picture: Maxwells
Ivana Bacik was also a plaintiff in the High Court case. Picture: Maxwells

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