Passage of Electoral Bill is a victory for democracy

19 December 2017

Speaking after the hearing in the High Court this morning, former TD and Minister, Joe Costello stated:

“I am happy to discontinue my proceedings against the Oireachtas, The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and The Attorney General as the purpose of my legal action has now been achieved and the threat to the Constitution has been removed.

“In that regard I welcome the passage of the Electoral (Amendment) (Dáil Constituencies) Bill 2017 through all stages in the Dáil and Seanad last week. All that now remains is the signature of the President of Ireland for the Bill to become law.

“Today is a good day for democracy. The speedy passage of the legislation after the High Court intervention demonstrates the effective functioning of our democratic process.

“I first applied to the High Court on the 27th November seeking a declaration that dissolution of the Dáil and the calling of a general election-both of which appeared imminent at that time – would be in breach of the Constitution unless amending legislation was introduced to provide for the impact of population growth since the 2011 Census.

“The President of the High Court, Judge Peter Kelly, treated the case with great seriousness and gave direction for an accelerated hearing. Then, as the immediate threat of an early election ebbed Judge Kelly agreed to my request to adjourn the hearing for two weeks until today, the 19th December, to give the Oireachtas the opportunity to enact the necessary legislation urgently.

“The Oireachtas duly obliged. All stages of the Electoral Bill were passed in both Houses of the Oireachtas before the Christmas recess last week.

“I wish to thank all concerned for dealing with the Bill so expeditiously. I want to thank the President of the High Court for his care and diligence and I want to thank my own legal team who argued the case so effectively.

“The “appalling vista” of constitutional vulnerability in the event of an early General Election before the Constituency boundaries were adjusted and the number of Dáil members were provided for in law, has been averted. 

“However, much still remains to be done to implement the legislation and ensure that full protection for the Constitution is in place.

“An early General Election in January or even in February 2018 could still be problematic. A new register of electors must be compiled for each constituency; postal and special voter lists have to be drawn up; constituency boundaries have to be redrawn; and polling stations have to be adjusted to accommodate changes in size of constituencies and location of new boundaries.

“The responsibility for putting in place the logistical requirements for holding an election now rest with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government.

“I urge the Minister to direct and resource the local authorities throughout the country to carry out this work as quickly as possible to ensure that no new challenge to the Constitution arises through failure to implement the provisions of the Electoral Bill, 2017 that has now passed both Houses of the Oireachtas.

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