Council of State (Ireland)

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The Council of State (Irish : an Chomhairle Stáit [1] ) is a body established by the Constitution of Ireland to advise the President of Ireland in the exercise of many of his or her discretionary, reserve powers. [2] It also has authority to provide for the temporary exercise of the duties of the president in the event that these cannot be exercised by either the president or the Presidential Commission [3] (an eventuality that is very unlikely to occur, since it would require the simultaneous absence of the President and two members of the three-member Commission). [4]

Irish language Goidelic language spoken in Ireland and by Irish people

Irish is a Goidelic language of the Celtic and Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is spoken as a first language in substantial areas of counties Galway, Kerry, Cork and Donegal, smaller areas of Waterford, Mayo and Meath, and a few other locations, and as a second language by a larger group of non-habitual speakers across the country. A speaker of the Irish language is known as a Gaeilgeoir.

Constitution of Ireland National democratic constitution

The Constitution of Ireland is the fundamental law of the Republic of Ireland. It asserts the national sovereignty of the Irish people. The constitution falls broadly within the tradition of liberal democracy, being based on a system of representative democracy. It guarantees certain fundamental rights, along with a popularly elected non-executive president, a bicameral parliament based on the Westminster system, a separation of powers and judicial review.

President of Ireland position

The President of Ireland is the head of state of Ireland and the Supreme Commander of the Irish Defence Forces.

Contents

Members

The Council of State consists of a number of government officials, who sit ex officio , as well as certain former office holders and up to seven individuals of the president's own choosing. The ex officio members comprise the attorney general as well as individuals from each of three branches of government: legislature, executive and judiciary. [5]

The Attorney General of Ireland is a constitutional officer who is the legal adviser to the Government and is therefore the chief law officer of the State. The Attorney General is not a member of the Government but does participate in cabinet meetings when invited and attends government meetings. The current Attorney General is Séamus Woulfe, SC.

A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. Legislatures form important parts of most governments; in the separation of powers model, they are often contrasted with the executive and judicial branches of government.

The executive is the organ exercising authority in and holding responsibility for the governance of a state. The executive executes and enforces law.

Unlike most of the president's other duties, which must be conducted in accordance with the advice of the cabinet, the seven presidential appointees to the Council of State are chosen at the president's absolute discretion. [6] These appointees retain their positions until the president's successor takes office. [7]

Government of Ireland Ministerial cabinet exercising executive authority in the country of Ireland

The Government of Ireland is the cabinet that exercises executive authority in Ireland.

ClassOfficeCurrent members
Ex officio: executive Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar
Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) Simon Coveney
Ex officio: legislature Ceann Comhairle (Speaker of Dáil Éireann) Seán Ó Fearghaíl
Cathaoirleach (Chairperson of Seanad Éireann) Denis O'Donovan
Ex officio: judiciary Chief Justice Frank Clarke
President of the Court of Appeal [8] George Birmingham
President of the High Court Peter Kelly
Ex officio Attorney General Séamus Woulfe
Former officeholders President Mary Robinson, Mary McAleese
Taoiseach John Bruton, Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen, Enda Kenny
Chief Justice Ronan Keane, John L. Murray, Susan Denham
President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State None [fn 1]
President's nominees(List of former nominees) Cara Augustenborg, Sinéad Burke, Sindy Joyce, Maurice Malone, Johnston McMaster, Mary Murphy, Seán Ó Cuirreáin  [ ga ] [10]
  1. The office of President of the Executive Council was superseded in 1937 by that of Taoiseach; both former Presidents are dead. The 1996 Constitution Review Group proposed removing, as obsolete, mention of the office in relation to the Council of State. [9]

The Constitution explicitly states that members appointed by the President may resign, [11] or be dismissed by the President. [12] Former office holders are members if "able and willing to act as a member", [13] which implies an ability to resign; but there is no provision for dismissing them. When the McCracken Tribunal found in 1997 that former Taoiseach Charles Haughey had misled the Tribunal, there were calls for him to formally resign from the Council of State. [14] [15] He did not do so, although he sent his regrets to subsequent meetings of the Council until his death. [14] [16]

Charles Haughey Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland

Charles James Haughey was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician who served as Taoiseach on three different occasions, 1979 to 1981, March 1982 to December 1982 and 1987 to 1992. He was also Minister for the Gaeltacht from 1987 to 1992, Leader of the Opposition from 1981 to 1982 and 1982 to 1987, Leader of Fianna Fáil from 1979 to 1992, Minister for Social Welfare and Minister for Health from 1977 to 1979, Minister for Finance from 1966 to 1970, Minister for Agriculture from 1964 to 1966, Minister for Justice from 1961 to 1964 and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Justice from 1959 to 1961. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1957 to 1992.

Members of the Council of State may be excused from jury duty. [17]

Jury duty or jury service is service as a juror in a legal proceeding.

The Constitution specifies a declaration of office, "in the presence of Almighty God", which a new member must take before attending an official meeting. [18] Tánaiste Éamon Gilmore, a declared agnostic, sought legal advice before attending the 2013 Council meeting. [19] The 1996 Constitutional Review Group recommended making the religious part optional. [9]

Oath of office an official promise by a person who has been elected to a public office to fulfill the duties of the office according to the law

An oath of office is an oath or affirmation a person takes before undertaking the duties of an office, usually a position in government or within a religious body, although such oaths are sometimes required of officers of other organizations. Such oaths are often required by the laws of the state, religious body, or other organization before the person may actually exercise the powers of the office or any religious body. It may be administered at an inauguration, coronation, enthronement, or other ceremony connected with the taking up of office itself, or it may be administered privately. In some cases it may be administered privately and then repeated during a public ceremony.

Agnosticism is the view that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable. Another definition provided is the view that "human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist."

Role

Before exercising any reserve power but one, the President is required to seek the advice of the Council of State, although not required to follow its advice. The one exception, where the President has "absolute discretion", [20] is in deciding to refuse a dissolution to a Taoiseach who has lost the confidence of the Dáil. The remaining discretionary powers, which do require prior consultation with the Council of State, are as follows (for a detailed description of the president's reserve powers see: President of Ireland#Discretionary powers):

The draft of the Constitution gave more powers to the Council of State. Article 13 allows additional powers to be given to the President acting on the advice of the Government; originally, it was the advice of the Council of State that was to be required. [28] Article 14 provides for a Presidential Commission as the collective vice-presidency of the state when the President is absent; originally the Council of State was to fill this function. [28] Nevertheless, under Article 14.4 of the constitution the Council of State, acting by a majority of its members, has authority to "make such provision as to them may seem meet" for the exercise of the duties of the president in any contingency the constitution does not foresee. [3] This provision has never been invoked.

The Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1958, which was defeated at a referendum, gave a role for the Council of State in the work of an envisaged constituency boundary commission.

Close to the time of its inception, the Council of State was likened to a privy council, [29] [30] although Jim Duffy calls this "more apparent than real" as it has no legislative or judicial functions. [28] Gemma Hussey, who was a member of the Council of State in 1989–90, described it as "largely a symbolic body". [31]

Meetings

Working meetings called by the President for consultation under the terms of the Constitution are rare, though less so since the election of Mary Robinson in 1990. Four meetings have related to an address the Oireachtas, which requires the approval of the Government as well as the consultation of the Council of State. All other meetings have been to advise the President about whether to refer a bill to the Supreme Court. [32]

Meetings are held in Áras an Uachtaráin. [14] Members arrive 15 minutes before the meeting starts, and are served light refreshments in the Council of State Room. [14] At the first meeting of the Council in Mary McAleese's first term, there was a photocall in the State Reception Rooms. [14] The Council's deliberations are held in camera, [14] as for cabinet meetings, though there is no explicit requirement for confidentiality. The Irish Times obtained details of a 1984 meeting from an unnamed attendee, [33] while James Dooge discussed a 1976 meeting years later with journalist Stephen Collins. [34] Members are seated in order of precedence in the Presidents' Room around a 1927 dining table purchased by President de Valera in 1961. [14] The Secretary-General to the President serves as clerk to the Council. [35] The Council does not offer collective advice; the President asks each member in turn to comment, and further discussion may involve several members. [28]

Apart from the Council of State's official meetings, its members are invited to important state functions, such as state funerals, the National Day of Commemoration, and the inauguration of the next President. The first President, Douglas Hyde, dined monthly with the members of his Council of State. [36] The seven new Presidential nominees of Mary McAleese's second term were introduced at a luncheon in the Áras the month after their appointment. [37] Campaigning in the 1990 presidential election, Mary Robinson promised to have meetings of the Council regularly rather than on "an emergency basis". [38]

Addresses to the Oireachtas

Date of meeting [32] PresidentTopic of AddressDate of Address (link to text)Notes
20 December 1968 [39] Éamon de Valera 50th anniversary of the First Dáil 21 January 1969 Brendan Corish was the only absentee from the Council of State meeting. [40]
29 June 1992 Mary Robinson "the Irish Identity in Europe" [41] 8 July 1992
24 January 1995 Mary Robinson "Cherishing the Irish Diaspora" 2 February 1995
28 October 1999 Mary McAleese Marking the millennium [42] 16 December 1999 Charles Haughey, Albert Reynolds, and Mary Robinson were absent. [14]

Referring of bills

In some cases, the President has decided to sign the bill (thereby enacting it) without referring it to the Supreme Court; in other cases, the President has referred the bill (or sections of it) and the court has upheld its constitutionality; and in other cases the Court has found some or all of the referred portions to be unconstitutional. It is not revealed whether some or all members of the Council of State counselled for or against the President's course of action.

Jim Duffy in 1991 criticised the lack of supporting resources for members of the Council; at meetings they were provided only with a copy of the Constitution. [28] By contrast, prior to the 2013 meeting to discuss the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, a dossier of background information was sent to each member, including legal briefs and news reports. [43]

Although the serving Chief Justice is a member of the Council, by convention they do not get involved in substantive discussions on the bill, as they will be involved in the deliberations if the bill does get referred. [34] [43] Therefore, retired Chief Justices and the President of the High Court play a greater role in the discussion. [34] [43] The 2013 meeting was the first at which two serving members of the Supreme Court were present, as John Murray is an ex-Chief Justice but was then an ordinary member of the Court, the first such since the term of the Chief Justice was limited to seven years in 1997. [34] [44]

Date of meeting [32] Bill (section)PresidentOutcomeNotes
8 January 1940 Offences against the State (Amendment) Bill, 1940 Douglas Hyde Referred and upheld [45] [46] See Offences against the State Acts 1939–1998. W. T. Cosgrave was the only absent member of the Council. [47] The Dublin North-West branch of the Labour Party passed a resolution urging William Norton to withdraw from the Council "which exists for the purpose of endorsing Fianna Fáil restrictions on liberty". [48] Hyde instructed attendees not to discuss "political considerations" or "legal arguments", which limited the value of the meeting. [49]
25 February 1943 School Attendance Bill, 1942 Douglas Hyde Referred and struck down [50] [51] Hyde's 1940 instruction was not repeated, after De Valera advised Michael McDunphy, Secretary-General to the President, that it was unhelpful. [49]
13 August 1947 Health Bill, 1947 Seán T. O'Kelly Signed without referral [52] Absentees were George Gavan Duffy, Douglas Hyde, Timothy Sullivan, W. T. Cosgrave, and Richard Mulcahy. [53]
14 June 1961 Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1961 Éamon de Valera Referred and upheld [54] [55]
6 March 1967 Income Tax Bill, 1966 Éamon de Valera Signed without referral [56] All members attended. [57] On 7 March, before the President announced a decision, the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 1967 was introduced and passed by the Oireachtas. [58] This pre-emptively cancelled the contentious sections of the original Bill. [58] [59] Next day, the President signed both bills into law. [59] [60]
10 March 1976 Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Bill, 1975 Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh Referred and upheld [61] [62] James Dooge, Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, was absent. [63]
23 September 1976 (a) Emergency Powers Bill, 1976 Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh Referred and upheld [64] [65] The meeting, which discussed two bills, lasted 4 hours. [66] Maurice E. Dockrell was the only absentee. [66] President Ó Dálaigh and Attorney General Declan Costello debated points of law in great detail. [28] Minister Paddy Donegan described the President's decision to refer the bill as a "thundering disgrace", precipitating Ó Dálaigh's resignation. James Dooge later suggested that Ó Dálaigh was more concerned with asserting his right to refer the bill than casting doubt on its Constitutionality. [34] As the bill was formally stated to be emergency legislation, most Constitutional safeguards did not apply to it. [34]
23 September 1976 (b) Criminal Law Bill, 1976 Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh Signed without referral [67] Same meeting as preceding
22 December 1981 Housing (Private Rented Dwellings Bill), 1981 Patrick Hillery Referred and struck down [68] [69]
20 December 1983 Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1983 Patrick Hillery Referred and struck down [70] [71] Absentees were Siobhán McKenna, Seán McEntee, and James Dillon. [72] The bill would have given British citizens the right to vote in all elections in the Republic of Ireland. The Ninth Amendment of the Constitution in 1984 removed the obstacle with regard to Dáil elections but not Presidential elections or referenda (ordinary or constitutional). [73] The Electoral (Amendment) Act, 1985 extended the franchise for Dáil elections. [74]
5 December 1984 Criminal Justice Bill, 1983 Patrick Hillery Signed without referral [75] Siobhán McKenna and Máirín Bean Uí Dhálaigh were absent. [33]
22 June 1988 Adoption (No. 2) Bill, 1987 Patrick Hillery Referred and upheld [76] [77] Absentees were Tom O'Higgins and Jack Lynch. [78]
30 October 1991 Fisheries (Amendment) Bill, 1990 Mary Robinson Signed without referral [79]
1 December 1993 Matrimonial Home Bill, 1993 Mary Robinson Referred and struck down [80] [81]
1 March 1994 Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill, 1993 Mary Robinson Signed without referral [82]
16 March 1995 Regulation of Information (Services Outside the State For Termination of Pregnancies) Bill, 1995 Mary Robinson Referred and upheld [83] [84] The act sprang from the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland in 1992. See also abortion in the Republic of Ireland.
1 April 1997 Employment Equality Bill, 1996 Mary Robinson Referred and struck down [85] [86] 15 of 22 members attended, including the Taoiseach. [87] After the bill was struck down, the Employment Equality Act 1998 was passed instead. [88] [89]
6 May 1997 Equal Status Bill, 1997 Mary Robinson Referred and struck down [90] [91] Charles Haughey was absent. [92]
30 June 2000 (a) Planning and Development Bill 1999 Mary McAleese Referred Part V; upheld [93] [94]
30 June 2000 (b) Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill 1999 Mary McAleese Referred §§ 5 and 10; upheld [93] [95] Same meeting as preceding
8 April 2002 Section 24 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Bill, 2001 Mary McAleese Signed without referral [96]
21 December 2004 Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2004 Mary McAleese Referred and struck down [97] [98] Charles Haughey was the only absentee. [16]
9 May 2007 Criminal Justice Bill 2007 Mary McAleese Signed without referral [99]
22 July 2009 (a) Defamation Bill 2006 Mary McAleese Signed without referral [100] 19 of 22 members of the Council were present; the meeting lasted over 3 hours. [101] See also blasphemy law in Ireland.
22 July 2009 (b) Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2009 Mary McAleese Signed without referral [100] Same meeting as preceding
21 December 2010 Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Bill 2010 Mary McAleese Signed without referral [102] See 2008–2011 Irish banking crisis
29 July 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 Michael D. Higgins Signed without referral [103] See Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013. [104] Of 24 members, 21 attended; Mary Robinson, John Bruton and Albert Reynolds were absent, though Robinson and Bruton made written submissions. [105] [106] The meeting ran from 3.15pm to 6.45pm. [105]
29 December 2015 International Protection Bill 2015 Michael D. Higgins Signed without referral [107] Liam Cosgrave, Mary Robinson and Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh did not attend. [108] The press release stated the meeting would consider whether: [109]
  • sections 56 and 57 of the bill violated any part of the Constitution
  • any part of the bill violated Article 42A of the Constitution
  • section 78 of the bill violated Article 29.6 of the Constitution

See also

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References

Footnotes

  1. "the Council of State". téarma.ie – Dictionary of Irish Terms. Foras na Gaeilge and Dublin City University . Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  2. Constitution of Ireland, Articles 31–2
  3. 1 2 Constitution of Ireland, Article 14.4
  4. Constitution of Ireland, Article 14.3
  5. Constitution of Ireland, Article 31.2
  6. Constitution of Ireland, Article 31.3
  7. Constitution of Ireland, Article 31.5
  8. Irish Government, 33rd Amendment. "Constitution of Ireland". Irish Statute Book. Government Printer. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  9. 1 2 Constitution Review Group (1996). "The Council of State". Report of the Constitution Review Group (PDF). Government publications. Pn.2632. Dublin: Stationery Office. p. 113. ISBN   0707624401. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011.
  10. "President appoints members to Council of State" (Press release). Office of the President of Ireland. 4 April 2019. Retrieved 4 April 2019.; "Seven new members in Irish Council of State". BBC News. 4 April 2019. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  11. Constitution of Ireland, Article 31.6
  12. Constitution of Ireland, Article 31.7
  13. Constitution of Ireland, Article 31.2(ii)
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 McCarthy, Justine (30 October 1999). "Keeping her own Council". Irish Independent . p. 1. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
  15. "Haughey's removal from Council of State urged". The Irish Times . 15 October 1997. p. 7. Retrieved 13 November 2010.
  16. 1 2 "Council advises McAleese on Health Bill". RTÉ.ie . 21 December 2004. Retrieved 12 November 2010. the only absentee was the former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey
  17. "Juries Act, 1976; First Schedule, Part II". Irish Statute Book . Retrieved 7 November 2013.
  18. Constitution of Ireland, Article 31.4
  19. Minihan, Mary (27 July 2013). "Agnostic Gilmore got legal advice on swearing religious oath". The Irish Times . Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  20. Constitution of Ireland, Article 13.2.2°
  21. Constitution of Ireland, Article 13.2.3°
  22. Constitution of Ireland, Article 13.7.1°
  23. Constitution of Ireland, Article 13.7.2°
  24. Constitution of Ireland, Article 22.2.6°
  25. Constitution of Ireland, Article 24.1
  26. Constitution of Ireland, Article 26.1.1°
  27. Constitution of Ireland, Article 27.4.1°
  28. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Duffy, Jim (21 February 1991). "Council of State's function is still very confined". The Irish Times. p. 9.
  29. "First Council of State meets to-day". The Irish Times. 8 January 1940. p. 5. The new body may be said to be analogous to the old-time Privy Council, with the important difference that it is purely advisory, and has, in fact, no definite powers.
  30. Keogh, Dermot; McCarthy, Andrew; McCarthy, Dr. Andrew (2007). The making of the Irish Constitution 1937: Bunreacht na hÉireann. Mercier Press. p. 199. ISBN   978-1-85635-561-2 . Retrieved 11 November 2010. The Privy Council in Ireland disappeared with the Viceroy and the rule of Dublin Castle; it comes back as the President's Council of State
  31. Hussey, Gemma (1995). Ireland today. Penguin. p. 12. ISBN   978-0-14-015761-1 . Retrieved 12 November 2010.
  32. 1 2 3 "Meetings of the Council of State". Office of the President. Retrieved 11 November 2010.
  33. 1 2 "Council of State gives mixed reaction to Bill". The Irish Times. 6 December 1984. p. 7.
  34. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Collins, Stephen (28 July 2013). "State's most bizarre body to advise on abortion Bill". The Irish Times . Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  35. Presidential Establishment Act, 1938 §6((5)); as amended by Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Act 2005 §27
  36. Dunleavy, Janet Egleson; Dunleavy, Gareth W. (1991). Douglas Hyde: a maker of modern Ireland. University of California Press. pp. 399–400. ISBN   978-0-520-06684-7 . Retrieved 12 November 2010.
  37. "Engagements Week beginning 13th December 2004". Office of the President. Wednesday, 15th December 2004 ... 12:30 pm Áras an Uachtaráin: President hosts lunch for newly-appointed members of the Council of State
  38. Tynan, Maol Mhuire (27 September 1990). "Robinson wants Council of State to have new role in Presidency". The Irish Times. p. 2.
  39. 20 December 1968 – Address to Houses of the Oireachtas (Parliament) Office of the President
  40. "Council of State meets". The Irish Times. 21 December 1968. p. 4.
  41. 29 June 1992 – Address to the Houses of the Oireachtas (Parliament) Office of the President
  42. 28 October 1999 – Address to the Houses of the Oireachtas (Parliament) 28 October 1999 – Address to the Houses of the Oireachtas (Parliament) Office of the President
  43. 1 2 3 Mac Cormaic, Ruadhan (29 July 2013). "Council of State gathers at Áras for meeting on abortion Bill". The Irish Times . Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  44. "Appointment and Tenure of Judges of the Supreme Court". Supreme Court of Ireland . Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  45. 8 January 1940 – Offences against the State (Amendment) Bill, 1940 Office of the President
  46. In re Article 26 and the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill 1940 Supreme Court
  47. "Offences Bill referred to Supreme Court". The Irish Times . 9 January 1940. p. 5.
  48. "The Council of State; A Dublin Labour resolution". The Irish Times. 13 January 1940. p. 13.
  49. 1 2 Cahillane, Laura; Gallen, James; Hickey, Tom (19 February 2017). Judges, politics and the Irish Constitution. Manchester University Press. p. 231. ISBN   9781526108203 . Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  50. 25 February 1943 – School Attendance Bill, 1942 Office of the President
  51. In re Article 26 and the School Attendance Bill 1942 Supreme Court
  52. 13 August 1947 – Health Bill, 1947 Office of the President
  53. "Council of State Meets". The Irish Times. 14 August 1947. p. 1.
  54. 14 June 1961 – Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 1961 Office of the President
  55. In re Article 26 and the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 1961 Supreme Court
  56. 6 March 1967 – Income Tax Bill, 1966 Office of the President
  57. "Council of State meets". The Irish Times. 7 March 1967. p. 1.
  58. 1 2 Dáil debates Vol.227 col.113 Archived 22 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  59. 1 2 Income Tax (Amendment) Act, 1967 Irish Statute Book
  60. Income Tax Act, 1967 Irish Statute Book
  61. 10 March 1976 – Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Bill, 1975 Office of the President
  62. In re Article 26 and the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Bill 1975 Supreme Court
  63. "Criminal Law Bill for Supreme Court". The Irish Times. 11 March 1976. p. 1.
  64. 23 September 1976 – Emergency Powers Bill, 1976 Office of the President
  65. In re Article 26 and the Emergency Powers Bill 1976 Supreme Court
  66. 1 2 "President consults Council of State for four hours". The Irish Times . 24 September 1976. p. 1. Retrieved 13 November 2010.
  67. 23 September 1976 – Criminal Law Bill, 1976 Office of the President
  68. 22 December 1981 – Housing (Private Rented Dwellings Bill), 1981 Office of the President
  69. In re Article 26 and the Housing (Private Rented Dwellings) Bill 1981 Supreme Court
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