I received the following email from Aras an Uachtarain today in response to my email to the President regarding the Charities Act, 2009 which makes it a criminal offence to sell a Mass card without the permission of a Catholic bishop.
Dear Mr. Sheridan,
I refer to your e-mail to the President of 19th March, 2009.
As you are aware the Charities Act 2009 has become law. The President has therefore no further function in relation to this legislation. You may wish to bring your concerns regarding the provisions of this Act to the attention of the Government.
With kind regards,
I also made a formal complaint regarding this Act to the EU through the three Munster MEPs, Kathy Sinnott (Independent), Brian Crowley (Fianna Fail) and Colm Burke (Fine Gael).
19th March 2009
Dear Ms. Sinnott,
I wish to lodge a formal complaint with you regarding the recent enactment of the Charities Act, 2009.
According to former Attorney General John Rodgers SC, Section 99 of the Act, which was recently signed into law by President Mary McAleese, may be unconstitutional because it makes it a criminal offence to sell a Mass card without the permission of a Catholic bishop.
Mr. Rodgers has stated:
The narrow categories of persons is arbitrary and unfair and represents a serious interference with the religious practice of some priests and others who are members of non-Catholic churches and religious communities in this State. (Irish Times, February 26th).
The most worrying aspect of the Act, however, concerns the reversal of the widely accepted legal principal of innocent until proven guilty. Part 7, Section 99 (2) of the Act states:
In proceedings for an offence under this section it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved on the balance of probabilities, that the sale of the Mass card to which the alleged offence relates was not done pursuant to an arrangement with a recognised person.
Clearly, this section is in direct contradiction of Article 48 of the EUs Charter of Fundamental Rights which states: Everyone who has been charged shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.
The principle of innocent until proven guilty is, I believe, one of the fundamental legal pillars of most modern democratic states.
Mr. Rodgers believes that this section goes further than is reasonably required to deal with the problem. I believe that it is an unacceptable attack on the principle of innocent until proven guilty and therefore request that you investigate the matter with the aim of having the repugnant section struck out.
Kathy Sinnott replied.
Thank you very much for alerting me to this. I will certainly do what I can and get back to you.
I received no reply from Mr. Crowley or Mr. Burke. I have resubmitted my formal complaint to both MEPs today.