Sinn Fein considers legal challenge to Irish bailout

* Sinn Fein waiting for memo before deciding on legal action

* Legal analysts say there is an arguable case

* Parliament would likely vote in favour of the bailout

By Carmel Crimmins

DUBLIN, Dec 1 (BestGrowthStock) – Irish nationalist opposition party
Sinn Fein is considering legal action to make Prime Minister
Brian Cowen put his 85 billion euro aid deal with the EU and IMF
to a parliamentary vote, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

With a parliamentary majority of just two and his coalition
government hanging by a thread, Cowen is keen to avoid a vote on
the bailout and has said the state does not need the approval of
the lower chamber to borrow funds from overseas.

But Sinn Fein, which has used the courts before to force the
government’s hand, has said it believes there is a
constitutional requirement for parliamentary approval because
the bailout is an international agreement involving a charge on
public funds.

“We have sought legal advice but we need to see the
memorandum of understanding before we can take a definite legal
view,” a spokesman for Sinn Fein said, before the Memorandum of
Understanding detailing the conditions of the loans was
published later on Wednesday.

Legal experts said Sinn Fein may have a case as 17.5 billion
euros of the 85 billion package will be provided by Ireland
itself, including 12.5 billion euros from the national pension
fund.

“There is an arguable case. It does appear to amount to an
international agreement which appears to give rise to a charge
on the public funds,” said Shivaun Quinlivan, a lecturer in
constitutional law at NUI Galway.

“It is arguable that by requiring us to use the Pension
Reserve Fund that this amounts to a charge on the public funds,
and therefore requires Dail (parliament) approval, and a failure
to get Dail approval means we are not bound by the agreement.”

“The counter argument is that this amounts to no more than
repaying a debt created by the banks. It can therefore be argued
that this is not therefore a charge on the public purse.”

If Sinn Fein do file a challenge it will be heard by the
High Court, which could make a ruling within a couple of weeks,
given that it is a case of national interest.

A successful Sinn Fein court challenge last month forced
Cowen to hold a by-election for a vacant parliament seat which
resulted in a Sinn Fein victory giving the party five seats in
parliament and cutting Cowen’s majority to just two.

A parliamentary vote on the bailout, which is designed to
shore up Ireland’s financial sector and provides the state with
50 billion euros in funding, would likely pass but the
uncertainty would spook investors and it would put the main
political parties in a tight spot.

The centre-right Fine Gael party and the centre-left Labour
party have sharply criticised Cowen for going cap in hand to the
IMF and the EU, accusing him of handing over the state’s
hard-won sovereignty.

But if they voted against the bailout it could tip Ireland,
which is frozen out of international debt markets, into
financial collapse.

If the opposition parties voted in favour of the bailout or
abstained to ensure it passed it would be another boost for Sinn
Fein, whose anti-banker rhetoric is striking a chord with voters
south of the border.

“The last trip to the courts for the by-election began as a
political publicity strategy and it also turned out to be a
successful legal strategy for Sinn Fein,” said Noel Whelan, a
barrister and political commentator.”

You can’t rule anything out. I can see every reason why they
would do it.”

(Editing by Noah Barkin, Ron Askew)

Sinn Fein considers legal challenge to Irish bailout