Those who claim to be defamed in Dáil could access redress

Review began after Paul Murphy wrote to Ceann Comhairle about ‘thuggery’ comment

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy claimed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had defamed him when he accused him of thuggery during a Dáil debate on the Jobstown anti-water charges protest.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy claimed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had defamed him when he accused him of thuggery during a Dáil debate on the Jobstown anti-water charges protest. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

People who claim to have been defamed by TDs in the Dáil could be entitled to redress under plans to be considered this week.

Ceann Comhairle Seán O’Fearghaíl is expected to publish a report by an expert forum on the privilege afforded to TDs in House.

The review centred on whether there should be any safeguards put in place and whether politicians should face sanctions for breaches of privilege. It is understood that it concluded there should be no financial penalties enforced on individual TDs or Senators.

Instead it will offer members of the public an opportunity for redress including expunging the record of the House, if the claims made under privilege are found to be untrue.

The review commenced after Solidarity TD Paul Murphy claimed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had defamed him when he accused him of thuggery during a Dáil debate on the Jobstown anti-water charges protest.

Violation of rules

A lengthy letter to Mr Ó Fearghaíl, signed by Mr Murphy and his colleagues Ruth Coppinger and Mick Barry, stated that the comments were defamatory and a violation of Dáil rules.

The forum included senior counsel Conleth Bradley, UCD professor of politics David Farrell, former government minister and Fianna Fáil councillor Mary Hanafin and former Irish Times editor Conor Brady.

It reported last year and will be considered by the Dáil committee on procedures at a private meeting on Wednesday.

The Ceann Comhairle in December said the aim of the review was not to constrain members or to minimise their constitutional rights.

“We are not trying to curtail anyone’s freedom of speech but rather we are trying to have a streamlined, understandable, implementable process that will serve the public interest,” he said.

Members of the public have rights to their good name, and redress must be made available to them, he added.