Childers criticism of Hogan ‘covered by immunity’

Irish commissioner-designate unhappy about letter sent by Independent MEP

A European Parliament spokesman has said that MEPs have parliamentary immunity in the exercise of their duties  following a row between Irish commissioner-designate Phil Hogan and Independent MEP Nessa Childers over a row she circulated to parliament members of his potential appointment. Photographs: The Irish Times and Patrick Seeger/EPA.

A European Parliament spokesman has said that MEPs have parliamentary immunity in the exercise of their duties following a row between Irish commissioner-designate Phil Hogan and Independent MEP Nessa Childers over a row she circulated to parliament members of his potential appointment. Photographs: The Irish Times and Patrick Seeger/EPA.

 

Members of the European Parliament have parliamentary immunity in the exercise of their duties as MEPs, a spokesman for the European Parliament has said.

The comment follows a decision by Independent MEP Nessa Childers to write to the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee after she received a number of legal letters from solicitors representing Irish commissioner-designate Phil Hogan.

Speaking this morning in Brussels, a spokesman for the European Parliament said: “Members are covered by immunity in expression of their duties. If it is considered as an exercise of their duties, then immunity applies.“

Ms Childers is arguing that comments she made about Mr Hogan in a letter sent to some 200 MEPs from the Socialists and Democrats (S &D) group were covered by parliamentary privilege. This is disputed by Mr Hogan’s legal team.

A spokesman for Mr Hogan this morning said: “As Nessa Childers has actively misrepresented the facts, Phil Hogan has taken the only option open to him to defend his reputation and good name.

“Regrettably due to this misrepresentation he has no option but to deal with this through the legal system. He has every right to defend himself. He will answer questions on this and any other issue that is raised by MEPs at the confirmation hearing next week.”

In her letter to the chair of the Legal Affairs committee yesterday, Ms Childers says she received three legal letters from Mr Hogan.

She says that her legal counsel has indicated that her statements “come within the scope of article 8 of the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities of the European Union. ”

She calls on the chair of the committee “to reassure the Members of the European Parliament that they can discharge their duties of scrutiny without hindrance or fear of legal retaliation.”

The dispute between Ms Childers and Mr Hogan centres around Ms Childers letter to S&D MEP’s earlier this month, in which she alleged that Mr Hogan’s involvement in a dispute over accommodation for a Traveller family in Kilkenny meant his appointment would be “a step backwards for equality.”

In the letter to MEPs, Ms Childers said that Mr Hogan had submitted a request to Kilkenny County Council in September 2012 to prevent a Traveller family being provided with social housing.

His actions are “incompatible with the proper discharge of the duties incumbent upon a European commissioner,” Ms Childers says in the letter.

Mr Hogan recently dismissed the assertions made by Ms Childers as “absolute rubbish”, saying that they “will be dealt with in the European Parliament if they arise and they will be dealt with in the courts in due course.”

His spokesman for Mr Hogan today said: “As Nessa Childers has actively misrepresented the facts, [Mr Hogan] has taken the only option open to him to defend his reputation and good name. Regrettably due to this misrepresentation he has no option but to deal with this through the legal system.

“He has every right to defend himself. He will answer questions on this and any other issue that is raised by MEPs at the confirmation hearing next week.”

Mr Hogan will appear before the European Parliament’s agriculture committee next Thursday for a three-hour hearing.

Like all 27 commissioner-designates, Mr Hogan received a list of written questions last week on his suitability for the role, and his plans for the portfolio.

Among the 90-strong group of MEP’s are three Irish MEP’s – Fine Gael’s Mairead McGuinness, Independent Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan and Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy.