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TD faces legal bill of €250,000 after challenge to EU fund fails

INDEPENDENT TD Thomas Pringle is facing a personal bill of up to €250,000 after losing his marathon legal challenge to the setting up of the eurozone's €500m bailout fund.

The Donegal South West TD's case involved seven days in the High Court, three days in the Supreme Court and then a further hearing in the EU's highest court – the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

After the European Court of Justice rejected his challenge, he is now awaiting the Supreme Court's decision on the awarding of legal costs and has admitted that he faces the possibility of a "substantial" legal bill.

Costs

A legal expert told the Irish Independent that the cost of Mr Pringle's personal legal bill could be in the region of €200,000-€250,000.

This is based on the cost of hiring a senior counsel, a junior counsel and a solicitor for all the hearings, plus associated legal costs.

Mr Pringle had challenged the Government's ratification of the bailout fund, known as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which was established after the 'Yes' vote in last May's fiscal treaty referendum.

He had argued that it was unlawful to amend the EU's founding treaty to establish the bailout fund.

But in its ruling published yesterday, the European Court of Justice said the "examination" of the decision-making process for setting up the ESM by the leaders of EU states has "disclosed nothing capable of affecting the validity" of their decision.

Mr Pringle said he was now waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on legal costs from the action.

"The cost would be substantial. It's something I haven't really considered," he said.

Mr Pringle said his legal team were going to argue for costs to be granted to him on the basis that the case was taken in the public interest.

He also said that the European Court of Justice had considered it to be of exceptional importance and had decided to refer the case to the full court of all 27 judges – an extremely rare move.

"The fact that 27 judges sat shows there would be a public interest in it," he said.

Allowance

A huge legal bill would impose a serious financial burden on Mr Pringle, who receives a salary of €92,000 and a leader's allowance of €41,000.

It will not be known until the Supreme Court hearing whether the Government will seek an order directing Mr Pringle to pay its legal costs as well.

The rejection of Mr Pringle's challenge by the European Court of Justice will be a relief to the Government, which is hoping to get the ESM to take over some of the country's €64bn banking debt.

But so far, the Department of Finance has not made any comment on the ruling.

Irish Independent