Thursday 27 October 2016

Top ministers wade into Dáil privilege showdown

Published 02/06/2015 | 02:30

Tanaiste Joan Burton
Tanaiste Joan Burton
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar
Catherine Murphy

The battle over Dáil privilege is set to return to court as senior ministers entered the debate.

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Last night Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Joan Burton both defended the right of TDs to raise issues in the Dail free from legal restrictions.

The Tánaiste said that Dail privilege was the cornerstone of Ireland's democracy and needed to be defended.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar said that politicians should be free from the threat of legal action when speaking in the chamber. However, he also warned that politicians should be "careful" not to abuse the privilege by revealing personal information that might be false.

"I would agree that Dáil privilege is unrestricted and should be. The Constitution is clear on that but politicians need to be careful not to abuse it, particularly when it comes to personal information or allegations that might be false," Mr Varadkar told the Irish Independent.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy's comments about loans to businessman Denis O'Brien from IBRC are at the centre of the unprecedented legal-political wrangle.

Former IBRC chairman Alan Dukes has dismissed some of the allegations made by Ms Murphy and said he believed they were inaccurate.

He insisted none of the bank's customers received preferential treatment based on who they were or the size of their loans.

Mr Dukes said customers were treated on a case-by-case basis but the bank's ultimate goal was to make a "maximum return" for the taxpayer.

Meanwhile, the High Court has been asked to clarify if RTÉ can broadcast Ms Murphy's Dáil speech. Fianna Fáil has called on the Houses of the Oireachtas to join the High Court case taken by RTÉ and print media.

Irish Independent

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