TDs should be sanctioned for abusing parliamentary privilege, Agsi says

Oireachtas forum says deputies should face four days of suspension for breaching rules

Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.

 

Politicians who abuse parliamentary privilege should face suspension and financial sanction, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) has said.

In a submission to an expert forum examining Dáil privilege, the garda representative group said naming a member of An Garda Síochána in the Dáil or Seanad has “far-reaching consequences”.

The person affected is impacted, as are their families, colleagues and the wider garda organisation, Agsi said.

“The rules should prevent any member of either House from naming or identifying a Garda without first having referred their allegations to one of the more appropriate authorities for appropriate investigation and determination.”

Agsi said it was not seeking a removal of the privilege contained in the Constitution but it believes instant news online means information is communicated through social media and that this is not considered in current Dáil rules.

“Once circulated through social media and the internet, the information can be accessed for time immemorial. Having information removed from the internet is practically impossible as there is always a trace somewhere,” it said.

Complaints

The expert forum was established by Ceann Comhairle Seán O’Fearghaíl in response to a number of complaints made to his office about the use of privilege.

Submissions were made by each of the political parties including one from Fine Gael, which said the current sanctions for abuse of privilege are not sufficient.

The report recommends TDs should face four days of suspension from participating in the Dáil and Oireachtas committees.

It proposes the timeframe for making complaints should be extended to three months and those affected should be given the right of reply.

A member who is found to have abused privilege should be required to withdraw his or her utterances within a set period of time and at an equally prominent time to the original statement.

Those that refuse to remove their remarks should be named and the House will vote to suspend the member.

If passed, the suspension will last four days and will be prevented from participating in committees.

The report also recommends prior notice be given to the Ceann Comhairle in advance of statements being made.