ROI Commission of Investigation
KRW LAW LLP represents a number of people, including survivor groups, who will be affected by the President of Ireland’s decision to sign a controversial bill regarding access to records relating to Irish mother and baby homes.
In signing the Bill without referral to the Irish Supreme Court the President has given a clear sign that the Bill can be challenged by way of judicial review.
On 25 October President Higgins signed the Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related Matters) Records and another Matter Bill 2020.
Opponents of the Bill have expressed concern that the transfer of data from the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation over to the new Tusla system will leave survivors unable to access crucial information.
The Bill means that the Irish government can transfer a database of 60,000 records created by a five-year State investigation into mother-and-baby homes to the child and family agency, Tusla
President Higgins has now signed off on the legislation, following “careful consideration”.
The President of Ireland “considered all the options available to him” before making the decision. He acknowledged that the issues raised by critics of the bill were “serious and must be addressed” but he considered the legislation did not raise any constitutional issue that would make it suitable for referral to the Irish Supreme Court.
When considering any piece of legislation, the President must also be cognisant of Art. 34.3 of Bunreacht na hEireann, which provides that no Court can question the validity of any legislation following a referral by the President to the Supreme Court.
Article 26.1.1 of the Constitution states that ‘The President may, after consultation with the Council of State, refer any Bill to which this Article applies to the Supreme Court for a decision on the question as to whether such Bill or any specified provision or provisions of such Bills is or are repugnant to this Constitution or to any provision thereof.’
Owen Beattie, Solicitor, KRW LAW LLP, said
“The President of Ireland’s decision to sign this legislation leaves it open to any citizen to challenge the provisions of the Bill in the future. We are now considering with those we represent whether or not to issue a legal challenge to the Bill by way of Judicial Review”