Plan for five new forms of inquiry

Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 00:00

The Government yesterday announced five new forms of inquiry that can be carried out by Oireachtas committees without breaching the severe restrictions imposed on parliamentary investigations by the Abbeylara judgment.

Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin got Government approval at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting to draft the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures Bill) 2012.

The legislation includes a number of new departures, including two new types of inquiry that will deal with the process to impeach judges and presidents, as well as dealing with the conduct of a TD or Senator.

These new forms of inquiry will address some of the ambiguities, uncertainties, flaws and legal lacunae that were associated with the impeachment process related to former circuit court judge Brian Curtin, and also with hearings held by an Oireachtas Committee into the conduct of former senator Ivor Callely.

Two different styles of inquiry have been included that will not run foul of the Abbeylara judgment. The first is an “inquire, record and report” style inquiry. This allows a committee to record and report evidence, but only to make findings of fact where it is uncontested.

The other, described as a `forward-looking’ inquiry, will be empowered to make findings of fact in the context of investigations relating to the legislative functions of the Oireachtas.

The Oireachtas committees conducting inquiries will have full powers of compellability of witnesses and evidence, but those who appear will also have their constitutional rights to a fair hearing fully protected.

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