Flannery says Dáil privilege shouldn’t ‘trample’ rights

Former FG strategist says Denis O’Brien’s decision to sue CPP raised ‘legitimate issues’

Former Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery has said absolute Dáil privilege should not be used to “trample” on the rights of ordinary citizens

Former Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery has said absolute Dáil privilege should not be used to “trample” on the rights of ordinary citizens

 

Former Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery has said absolute Dáil privilege should not be used to “trample” on the rights of ordinary citizens.

Mr Flannery told the Sunday Times absolute privilege in the Dáil “tramples on the rights of citizens” and is “ very near dictatorship.”

He said Denis O’Brien’s decision to sue members of the Dáil’s Committee on Procedures and Privileges (CPP) raised “legitimate issues”.

Mr O’Brien has defended his decision to sue the members of the Oireachtas Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP).

Mr O’Brien said he did so because the CPP “failed to properly investigate” complaints about the alleged abuse of Dáil privilege by TDs Pearse Doherty and Catherine Murphy.

Expanding his comments on RTE’s Radio One’s This week programme, Mr Flannery said he did not want to see parliamentary privilege curtailed but said it should be subject to tighter regulation within the Dáil.

“You cannot allow bad practices to become embedded in your democratic processes and you cannot allow circumstances where the rights of citizens under the constitution can be freely traduced and trampled on even if it’s only happening to a small number,” Mr Flannery said.

“There’s been a tendency recently for citizens to be named in the house under - inverted commas, privilege and criminal activity being associated with their names without those people having he opportunity of defending themselves or getting redress,” Mr Flannery said.

“I would seem to me that if members of the parliament are going to make very serious accusations against named private citizens there must be some system of sifting those and ensuring there is some realistic evidence what they propose to do.”

When asked if absolute privilege in the Dáil is an issue that effects the ordinary citizen he said: “It only effects the citizen when the knock comes to that citizen’s door. People in the third Reich thought that what was happening to the Jews would never happen to them but finally the knock came.”

“You can’t allow bad practices to become embedded in your democratic process and the rights of citizens under the constitution can be trampled on even if it’s only happening to a small number, that’s how it starts.”

“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance” he said.

Minister for Communications Alex White on the same programme said he defended the right to absolute privilege in the Dáil.

“I do not agree with that at all. Parliamentarians that are elected by the people should have the right and indeed the duty to speak clearly and freely in the parliament of the people and that should not change,” Mr White said.

“It’s an important constitutional principle that this case should not change and cannot change.”

“It is an absolute cornerstone of our parliamentary democracy and I disagree with Frank Flannery’s criticism of it and I do not believe that it tramples on the rights of citizens. I think it is in the public interest and in the interests and it should remain. It’s in the constitution, it won’t be disturbed by any action taken by any individual,”

“It’s important, it should remain and it will remain,” he added.