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Article 27 and the Independent TDs February 1, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

Got to admit this is a bit of a coup for the Independents in terms of raising their profile – as well as a good idea in and of itself given the clear aversion to putting the new fiscal treaty to the people through referendum by the Government.

A group of Independent TDs who want Europe’s new fiscal treaty put to a referendum will seek to use a little known constitutional provision to petition the President to do so, it has emerged.
Under Article 27 of the Constitution, a Bill can be referred to a referendum if requested by at least one third of the Dáil, and a majority of the Seanad.
Donegal South West TD Thomas Pringle said he was “hopeful of achieving that requirement.”

As the Press release from the Technical group notes:

Although never before used, Article 27 has been a part of the Irish Constitution since its enactment in 1937 and states that where a third of the members of the Dáil and a majority of the members of the Seanad sign a petition requesting that the President,

“shall decline to sign and promulgate such Bill as a law unless and until the proposal shall have been approved… by the people at a Referendum in accordance with the provisions of section 2 of Article 47 of this Constitution”

Deputy Pringle commented,

“This mechanism was inserted into the Constitution all those years ago to ensure that even where there’s no constitutional requirement for it, there is a means by which the people may be consulted on matters of significant public interest. Regardless of the legal requirement to put this treaty to the people, there is a moral requirement to do so as its effects will be felt by the people of Ireland long after the current Dáil has been dissolved and replaced.”

The Donegal South West TD concluded by,

“calling on all TDs and Senators to trust the judgement of those who elected them, pledge their support for the Independent Group’s petition and give the people of Ireland the opportunity to determine the course of their own future.”

So what of the numbers?

Mr Pringle said the group would need to support of one-third of all TDs and half of Senators. He calculated the Dáil membership of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Independents and ULA amounted to 52 TDs. With 55 deputies required to achieve a third, he conceded the group would require a number of Government TDs to come forward.

In the Seanad, he said Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Independents amounted to 31 members, and he was “hopeful of achieving the requirement there”.

Will FF row in behind on this? Well, whether they do or not, this is a bit of a bind for the government. In a way it functions not unlike the by-election in 2010 that saw Pearse Doherty win a fifth seat for SF, an unwelcome exercise in democracy. All the noise reported in the Irish Times from off stage such as the following ‘A high-level European official said elements of the pact were written with the objective of avoiding a public vote in Ireland’ is poison to the government if it is seen to obstruct a vote. Not that it can’t, and probably won’t stop one, but the perception is terrible. As Pringle notes, ‘if the Government was so convinced it was doing the right thing, it should not be worried about making its arguments to the people.’

What’s particularly intriguing about this is how well it points up the curious balance of forces now extant in the first chamber of the Oireachtas. That figure Pringle references of 52 TDs is tantalisingly close to the 55 required.
Not an easy task, but not necessarily impossible. The Seanad is a bit trickier, and is the sticking point one suspects [and designed as such it would seem]. It would appear to be more locked down with 31 Government Senators already in play and it may cause some headaches for some ‘Independents’ in the Seanad who were pushed to the fore by the Government.

But either way it looks like this is win win for the Opposition and in particular the Independent TDs. To take such public lead in this matter and to demonstrate that in the Dáil at least they’re near enough numbers capable of pushing through a significant check on the Government’s plans indicates just how different Irish politics has become in just a few short years.

For the future, well firstly any Independent candidate seeking reelection will be able to point to Article 27 as a reason why they should be returned, and others too. Secondly the government will no doubt be looking with fresh interest at ways to ‘reform’ the system to make these sort of approaches even less likely.


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3. shea - February 1, 2012

this is brilliant. it could be used again and again. negates the governments super majority. A back bencher gets in a huff now or has a serious attack of conscious they threatens to sign a petition for a referendum. obviously depends on the numbers stacking up but why not a referendum on hospital or social welfare cuts or any other common cause issues. ha like finding a grenade in your pocket.

fair play thomas, that bhoy will go far.


WorldbyStorm - February 2, 2012



4. EWI - February 2, 2012

I think giving the fist of defiance to Permanent Austerity (and our new would-be Franco-German masters in Europe) is the spark we need in this country. It’s a rallying call that the Left can unit around.


5. maddurdu - February 2, 2012

If they get the numbers, whats the odds that Michael D actually would force a referendum?


WorldbyStorm - February 2, 2012

Interesting question.


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