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Ó Cuanacháin Decision Could Lead To Withdrawal Of Other Meritorious Cases

Posted on: January 31st, 2008

Yesterday in the Seanad chamber, I raised the High Court’s decision in the Ó Cuanacháin case. I have met Ms. Ó Cuanacháin, and was most impressed by what she had to say. I argued that if the House was to remain relevant, it should be debating this case, given its immediacy. I proposed an amendment to the Order of Business to do exactly this:

I intend to propose an amendment to the Order of Business. Members are not overburdened with business or legislation. If this House is to mean anything to anyone, it should be able to discuss immediate matters, rather than matters of lesser immediacy. The House is scheduled to discuss the 70-year old Constitution, but Members might better discuss what happened in the High Court yesterday instead.

Perhaps the Leader will agree to a debate on this subject. Some serious issues arise, into which I do not wish to delve because it is late and the allotted time has been extended. However, it is extraordinary to see such newspaper headlines as appeared today to the effect that the case may cost the family €5 million. How can they possibly charge these fees to those who cannot afford them?

One should also ask whether those who cannot afford the fees will be prevented from proceeding with their cases. One hundred and fifty cases are to be withdrawn because sufficient resources are not available to take such important, meritorious cases in the courts. I propose we discuss the judgment in the Ó Cuanacháin case immediately after the Order of Business. If the Leader can promise that the issue will be debated in the immediate future, I will not press my proposal.

I pressed the amendment to the Order of Business, and the House divided. However, the vote was lost by 22 votes to 28.