Senator Bacik confirms Labour's view on powers of incoming Seanad

27 March 2020

Speaking today on the Seanad Order of Business in advance of the debate on the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill 2020, Senator Ivana Bacik expressed condolences to the families of all those bereaved as a result of the coronavirus, and to all those affected by it through illness or loss of income.

She further referred to the recent debate as to whether the nomination of the 11 Taoiseach’s appointees would have to take place before any incoming Seanad could lawfully legislate; Seanad standing orders, and apparently the government’s legal advice, suggests this is the case. However, she confirmed her view, and that of Labour, that under the Constitution the incoming Seanad could lawfully meet and legislate in advance of the Taoiseach’s nomination having been made, even without any amendment to Seanad Standing Orders, saying that:

“Under Article 18.8 of the Constitution, the Taoiseach has a power that cannot be confined or contradicted by any standing orders. That Article provides that 'the first meeting of Seanad Éireann after the general election shall take place on a day to be fixed by the President on the advice of the Taoiseach', regardless of whether standing orders require the nominees to be appointed first.

“Thus, in our view, shared by constitutional experts, an incoming Seanad made up of the 49 Senators elected through the universities and the vocational panels could lawfully meet and legislate even without the appointment of Taoiseach’s nominees.

‘Seanad Standing Order 190 specifically allows for suspension of standing orders without any notice ‘in cases of necessity’ - but clearly Seanad standing orders could not be invoked in any case to contradict the exercise of the Taoiseach’s constitutional power.