Mary Lou McDonald criticises finding she abused Dáil privilege
Decision on abuse of process when linking ex-politicians to Ansbacher ‘flawed’
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the procedure adopted by the Committee on Procedure and Privilege in its findings was “deeply flawed, affording me neither access to the letters, and therefore the basis of the complaint... nor an explanation for the CPP decision”. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has criticised a Dail committee’s decision that she abused process
when she linked six former politicians with Ansbacher accounts.
The Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) ruled Ms McDonald’s use of Dáil privilege to name the six prominent politicians last December was an abuse.
Four former TDs wrote to the committee following the comments. They were former PD leader Des O’Malley, former minister for finance and EU commissioner Ray MacSharry, former minister for justice and EU commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, and former PD leader and tánaiste Mary Harney. The other politicians named were Gerard Collins, Richard Ryan and the late Sylvester Barrett. They all categorically denied the allegations.
The CPP met to consider the matter and the four complaints on March 5th and found Ms McDonald had been in breach of Dáil standing orders in relation to making allegations against persons who were not members of the House.
However, because the comments were made under privilege, there is no facility or mechanism to effect a withdrawal.
The CPP wrote to Ms McDonald after the meeting asking her to withdraw her remarks.
In her response to the CPP, Ms McDonald asked it to provide a reasoning behind its decision.
She said the procedure adopted by the CPP in its findings was “deeply flawed, affording me neither access to the letters, and therefore the basis of the complaint... nor an explanation for the CPP decision”.
She said her use of privilege on that day was fully consistent with the provisions of the standing order.
“I find it astonishing that the CPP would respond without any reference to, much less answers to, the detailed explanation and defence of my use of privilege.”
Her detailed explanation was made in a three-page submission she sent to the committee in February saying the legal advice she received was that the only forum in which the allegations could be raised was the floor of the Dáil.
“Given the gravity of the allegations, the undisputed credibility of the whistleblower and the absence of any other parliamentary channel, after careful consideration I chose that course of action.
“I did so in the public interest on the basis of a genuine belief that this was well within my constitutional rights.”