I was interested to read this weeks 'IQ Issues and Questions of the Week' in The Irish Times about President Michael D Higgins convening his first meeting of the Council of State to consult whether the proposed abortion referendum should be referred to the Supreme Court. I'm not going to get into the fors and againsts of the Bill here. I was more interested in the members who make up Mr Higgins advisory body. They will meet at Áras an Uachtarain in the Phoenix Park on Monday afternoon and in case,like me, you are unfamiliar with who they are, this is just what I was interested to find out.
The advisory body is quite interesting. Ex officio members include Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Ceann Comhairle (Chair of Dáil) Seán Barrett and Cathaoirleath (Chair of Seanad) Paddy Burke, Chief Justice Supreme Court Susan Denham, High Court President Nicholas Kearns and Attorney General Máire Whelan.
In addition to this veritable collective of the country's great and powerful are the former office holders that are invited. This includes former Presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese.
Former taoisigh, whatever our views on them may be, are invited. Liam Cosgrave is now 92 years of age and has largely retired from public life. Also Albert Reynolds who at 80 years was seriously ill in hospital this March and has Alzheimer's and Diabetes. John Bruton, Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen are all also invited. An interesting article from last July in the Journal http://www.thejournal.ie/gallery-former-taoisigh%E2%80%A6-where-are-they-now-514085-Jul2012/#slide-slideshow6
In addition past Chief Justices John L. Murray, Thomas Finlay and Ronan Keane are invited.
Finally, there are seven members who were nominated by the president on his election. These are:
-Michael Farrell, FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) Senior Solicitor and civil rights activist
-Prof. Deirdre Heenan, Pro Vice Chancellor Communication and Provost Coleraine and Magee,University of Ulster
-Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, retired Supreme Court judge and activist
-Prof. Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, NUI Galway (History). Known by all Irish history graduates for his seminal texts.
-Ruairí McKiernan, social entrepreneur and campaigner and the youngest member at 35years.
-Sally Mulready,UK Labour Party councillor (Hackney). With decades of work for the Irish community in Britain behind her Mulready is the only member not living in Ireland.
-Prof. Gerard Quinn, NUI Galway Centre for Disability Law and Policy.
Now we know who they all are, we can follow the progress of the legislation with a little more knowledge and from the calibre of the Council, total trust in their final judgement.