Mary Lou McDonald abused Dáil privilege on Ansbacher, says report

Allegations ‘in nature of being defamatory’ and an abuse of privilege, committee finds

Comments made by Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald about alleged Ansbacher account holders in the Dáil last December were found to be “in the nature of being defamatory” and “an abuse of privilege”. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Comments made by Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald about alleged Ansbacher account holders in the Dáil last December were found to be “in the nature of being defamatory” and “an abuse of privilege”. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald abused her Dáil privilege by naming a number people with alleged links to Ansbacher offshore accounts last year following information released by a whistleblower, an official report has found.

Following complaints about her conduct, the Oireachtas Committee on Procedures and Privileges said her “utterances” in the chamber were “in the nature of being defamatory” and “an abuse of privilege”.

Four former government ministers named by Ms McDonald complained to the committee, requesting that it invoke Standing Order 59 and have the allegations withdrawn and the record of the House corrected.

Those submissions were made by onetime leader of the PDs Des O’Malley, former minister for finance and EU commissioner Ray MacSharry, former minister for justice and EU commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and former PDs leader and tánaiste Mary Harney.

Authorised officer

Ms Harney was alleged by Ms McDonald to have terminated an investigation into Ansbacher accounts by an authorised officer.

The other three - Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, Mr MacSharry and Mr O’Malley - were alleged to have been holders of Ansbacher accounts. All three categorically denied this.

In its report on the matter, the committee noted Ms McDonald claimed in a submission to it that her exercise of privilege had been in the public interest and met the requirements of Standing Order 59 in relation to reasonable excuse, responsible exercise, good faith and sound basis.

The committee said it was “of the view that the right to one’s good name is a fundamental right, and persons outside of the House should not be referred to in a manner which would adversely affect their good names or reputations”.

It said Ms McDonald had not indicated any intention to withdraw the remarks. Consequently, it said, it would now report its findings to the Dáil.

Ms McDonald could not be reached for comment.