Armistice Day clash can be avoided
Labour Party Leader, Brendan Howlin TD has today written to the Taoiseach calling on him to change the date of the Presidential inauguration due to a clash with the centenary of Armistice Day.
Deputy Howlin said:
“The Government’s decision to hold the Presidential Inauguration on the same day as the centenary of Armistice Day is an unfortunate clash but one that can be easily rectified by the Government.
“I do not need to remind the Taoiseach of the particular significance of the anniversary of the cessation of World War One for many Irish men and women, including especially those descended from or related to the more than 250,000 from this island who served in that war.
“While in a previous generation the anniversary would have been marked only by those of a unionist background, we have learned in this decade of centenaries to be more inclusive in our commemorations. The Taoiseach has put on record many times that he is personally committed to such an approach.
“The impression I get from the comments of Ministers Eoghan Murphy and Simon Harris and from Government spokespersons is that the Government believes its hands are tied on the choice of date. I do not believe this to be the case.
“The relevant provisions of Article 12 of the Constitution are reasonably straightforward.
· The Presidential term of office is seven years from the date upon which he entered upon his office.
· The President enters upon his office by making the prescribed declaration in the presence of members of both Houses, the judiciary and other public personages – the Inauguration.
· The President must enter upon his office ‘on the day following the expiration of the term of office of his predecessor or as soon as may be thereafter’.
“There are two relevant points about these arrangements. First, President Michael D Higgins’ term of office will expire at midnight on the 10th November. So, regardless of the outcome of the election – whether the incumbent is returned or not – we will have no President for a number of hours, until the new Presidential term is inaugurated.
“We do not have ‘acting’ Presidents. Instead, the Presidential Commission is provided for and in place, in the unlikely event that any Presidential acts are required during that interim period. This has been true of every one of the 12 occasions to date when there has been an expiry of a Presidential term of office: the office, of necessity, must be vacant for a period. There is therefore nothing unprecedented about a vacancy in the office of President during the transition period. The question is really whether it should be a vacancy of 36 hours instead of 12 hours.
“I believe there are sound reasons for just one day’s delay in the present case and I believe the Constitution provides latitude for the date of the inauguration to be moved.”