Government publishes inquiries Bill

Mon, Sep 12, 2011, 01:00

The Government has published the wording of a constitutional amendment paving the way for Oireachtas committees to investigate matters of general public importance.

It will be voted on in a referendum on October 27th, the same day as the presidential election, the Dublin West byelection and a referendum on judicial pay.

The amendment is to reverse the Abbeylara judgement halting an Oireachtas inquiry into the shooting dead of John Carty at his home in Abbeylara, Co Longford, during a stand-off with gardai in 2000.

Gardaí took a successful High Court action on the matter. The judgment meant no Oireachtas investigation could be pursued if the good name of any citizen might be impugned.

If passed, the amendment will allow the inquiry to make findings relating to the conduct of any person investigated and give the power to the Dáil and Seanad to determine the appropriate balance between individual rights and the public interest.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin will introduce the necessary legislation in the Dáil on Thursday.

He said today that it would ensure effective and cost-efficient parliamentary scrutiny of issues of significant public importance and facilitate more open, transparent and better government as promised in the programme for government.

"This is a key element of the Government's ambitious political reform agenda,'' he added.

The Minister also published detailed draft Heads of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Powers of Inquiry) Bill, 2011 detailing the proposed structure and operation of the proposed new system of Oireachtas inquiries.

Fianna Fáil’s public expenditure and reform spokesman Sean Fleming welcomed the amendment.

“The referendum and legislation is necessary to ensure the elected representatives of the people have appropriate powers to investigate matters in the public interest. Such inquiries have been prohibited following the Abbeylara
judgment,” Mr Fleming said. “The referendum will allow the Oireachtas, through a committee, to inquire
into the conduct of persons in both public and private sectors.”