Ceann Comhairle defends lack of Garda malpractice debate

Barrett said it was not in order for Dáil debate as it would encroach on Shatter court case

Opposition TDs have staged a walkout from the Dáil chamber over the cancellation of a debate on the Guerin Report.

 

Michael O’Regan Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett has defended his decision not to have a Dáil debate on a motion to establish a commission of investigation into claims of Garda malpractice.

Speaking on behalf of Mr Barrett in the Dáil on Thursday, Leas Cheann Comhairle Michael Kitt said the Ceann Comhairle was required to implement the relevant standing order.

“His decision was reached in a fair, impartial and objective manner, having regard to all of the facts before him,’’ Mr Kitt added.

“Any suggestion or characterisation to the contrary is incorrect.’’

Mr Barrett’s decision led to a walkout of Opposition TDs on Wednesday.

The commission is to investigate allegations of malpractice in the Cavan-Monaghan division of An Garda Síochána and follows the findings of a report by Seán Guerin SC into claims made by whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Mr Guerin’s report led to the resignation of Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter as minister for justice. Mr Shatter has taken a High Court action to overturn some of Mr Guerin’s findings.

When the matter was raised in the Dáil on Thursday, Mr Kitt said he had a note from Mr Barrett.

“Having regard to the fact that High Court proceedings had been initiated against Mr Guerin in connection with certain conclusions contained in this report, the Ceann Comhairle was obliged to consider carefully all relevant matters in the context of Standing Order 57, which sets out the rules for debating matters that are sub judice,’’ Mr Kitt said.

“The Ceann Comhairle formed the view that, while the motion could be moved in the house, it was not in order for debate because of the risk of encroachment by the Dáil on proceedings before the High Court.’’

Mr Kitt said Mr Barrett had particular regard to Standing Order 57 (3) which read that “a matter shall not be raised in such an overt manner so that it appears to be an attempt by the Dáil to encroach on the functions of the courts or a judicial tribunal’’.

Tánaiste Joan Burton said she appreciated the issue was of importance to TDs on all sides of the house. “Frankly, the Government and both parties in Government would have welcomed a debate on this issue,’’ she said.

Earlier, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said a standing order had been invoked in an unprecedented manner that silenced the house in its capacity to debate serious legislation establishing a commission of investigation into matters of fundamental concern pertaining to the administration of justice.

Agreeing, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the interpretation of the standing order was “perverse’’.

She said it was the worst imaginable start for the commission, given it was being insisted the terms of reference would go through the Oireachtas without the opportunity for democratic scrutiny, debate or amendment.

“It was quite something to see the Taoiseach yesterday insisting that this matter be forced through even though there clearly were basic and fundamental difficulties,’’ she said.