Senator Diarmuid Wilson challenged over bribe claims

Fiann Fáil Senator said Government was bribing Labour and Fine Gael senators to support abortion legislation

Senator Diarmuid Wilson

Senator Diarmuid Wilson


A claim by Diarmuid Wilson (FF) that the Government was bribing Fine Gael and Labour Senators with constituency projects to support controversial legislation led to heated exchanges in the House yesterday.

Mr Wilson said it was a fact that this was happening in return for voting for the Bill to hold a referendum on the Seanad’s abolition and the abortion legislation.

He said hearing this might be uncomfortable for Minister of State Brian Hayes, who was in the House, but it was a fact.

Seanad leader Maurice Cummins (FG) challenged Mr Wilson to name those who had been offered constituency inducements. “I have no intention of naming them,’’ Mr Wilson replied. “The leader knows this to be a fact.’’

Mr Hayes said the charge was very serious. Mr Wilson had parliamentary privilege and should substantiate the charge. “Otherwise that charge remains on the record of this House.’’

David Norris (Ind) intervened to say he had asked that the charge be investigated by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. He added that everybody knew “jobs and preferment’’ had been offered.

Mr Hayes advised Mr Norris to “stop abusing your privilege in this House’’.

The exchanges took place during the final stage debate on the 32nd amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill, paving the way for the House’s abolition, which later passed all stages.

Defending the referendum, Mr Hayes said they were not talking about the last days of the Weimar republic, as some would claim.

He said he had heard outrageous claims being made about Taoiseach Enda Kenny, with “pitiful contributions’’ comparing him to Robert Mugabe and Mussolini.

“To present this proposal as some form of power grab, or the decision of a dictatorial cabal consisting of the four Ministers who make up the economic management council, is childish nonsense,” he said.

Sean D Barrett (Ind) said the Seanad was a beacon in preventing two sectarian states in Ireland. “It is a task that becomes no less urgent now than it ever was in the past.’’