Two TDs urged to apologise over Barrett confrontation
THE DÁIL’S high-powered Committee on Procedure and Privileges has written formally to two Independent TDs requesting them to make formal apologies arising from an angry confrontation with Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett.
The committee, which maintains Dáil protocol and disciplinary standards, met in emergency session yesterday to consider complaints by the Ceann Comhairle that Roscommon TD Luke Ming Flanagan and Waterford TD John Halligan had confronted and harangued him in the corridors of Leinster House.
There are strict protocols in place in relation to exchanges between TDs and the Ceann Comhairle outside the Dáil chamber. The role is a constitutional one and requires a disengagement from TDs in order to maintain the independence of the role.
The incident happened after the conclusion of the second stage of the Personal Insolvency Bill in the Dáil on Wednesday night. At the conclusion of the debate, the Ceann Comhairle put the question and declared it had been accepted.
However, both sides of the chamber disputed whether he had given the Opposition the opportunity to challenge the result and call for a vote on the issue.
Government TDs maintained he had and that Independent TDs were too involved in verbal exchanges with Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to have noticed it. Opposition members of the House maintained the choice had not been given to them.
As the Ceann Comhairle walked down the corridor, he was confronted by a number of Independent TDs, who angrily challenged his decision to allow the second stage of the Bill to pass without a vote.
Mr Halligan confirmed last night he did have a disagreement with Mr Barrett in the corridor but he said he had remained polite and had not used provocative language. He said if he had broken a protocol by speaking to the Ceann Comhairle outside the chamber, he was not aware of it and would apologise.
However he added that if anyone alleged he had used threatening language or was disrespectful, they should make the allegations outside the House.
According to several TDs who witnessed the exchange, all of whom spoke on condition of not being named, the most intense and confrontational exchange involved Mr Flanagan, who followed Mr Barrett down the corridor. “I have not seen anybody behave in that manner with the Ceann Comhairle before,” one TD said.
The Committee on Procedure and Privileges, which met privately, has written to those TDs involved and is understood to have asked them to make a formal apology to the Dáil when it returns in September.
Mr Flanagan was not contactable for comment last night. The Personal Insolvency Bill is expected to become law in the autumn.
Welcoming the completion of the second stage, Mr Shatter said yesterday the committee stage of the Bill would be dealt with in September by the Oireachtas justice committee.