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President appoints three from old college to Council of State


PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins yesterday appointed three lecturers from the college where he worked to the Council of State, the body that will advise him during his seven years in office.

He also followed through on his promise to reach out to emigrants by appointing a prominent member of the London-Irish community.

Three of his nominees have links to the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), where Mr Higgins studied, served as president of the student council and lectured in sociology and politics for years.

He was also elected as a senator for the NUI constituency in 1982 and is currently adjunct professor at the university's Irish Centre for Human Rights.

Mr Higgins is allowed to make seven such appointments and during the campaign for the Aras he said his appointees would be "representative in an inclusive sense".

The presidential choices are not paid and they usually serve for the president's term in office.

The Constitution provides for a Council of State to "aid and counsel the President on all matters on which the President may consult" it, such as deciding whether to refer legislation to the Supreme Court.

Aside from the seven appointed members, former presidents, taoisigh and chief justices sit on the council, along with 'ex officio' members, including the Taoiseach and Tanaiste.

Mr Higgins' nominees are:

• Michael Farrell, a solicitor with the Free Legal Advice Centre.

• Deirdre Heenan, a former policy adviser to the North's first and deputy first ministers.

• Catherine McGuinness, former Supreme Court judge and current adjunct professor of law at NUIG.

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• Gearoid O Tuathaigh, professor emeritus in history at NUIG.

• Professor Gerard Quinn, director of the centre for disability law and policy at NUIG.

• Ruairi McKiernan, the founder of the national youth organisation SpunOut.ie.

• Sally Mulready, a Dublin-born UK Labour Party councillor in Hackney, London, who is strongly associated with Irish emigrants in the British capital.

She met Mr Higgins when he travelled to London during the presidential campaign to highlight the connection with emigrants.

The Council of State does not have a decision-making role. The President listens to its advice and makes his own decision but he must convene a meeting of the council before referring a bill to the Supreme Court to test if it complies with the Constitution.

Former president Mary McAleese last summoned the council in December 2010 to consider the Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Bill, which gave the Minister for Finance additional powers over the banks.

She signed the bill into law without referring it to the Supreme Court.

The first meeting of the Council of State under Mrs McAleese's terms in office was in 1999 -- two years after her 1997 election -- to discuss a millennium address she was making to the Oireachtas.

The President must also consult the council if he wants to: address a joint sitting of the Dail and Seanad; address the nation; convene a sitting of the Dail or Seanad; refer a bill for a referendum; establish a committee to resolve a dispute between the Dail and Seanad over a money bill; or shorten the time available to the Seanad to debate a bill.

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