Oireachtas grouping urge 'no' on committee probe vote
GOVERNMENT TDs last night attacked a group of Independent TDs and senators who have called for a 'no' vote in the referendum on giving Oireachtas committees greater powers.
The referendum on Oireachtas inquiries and a separate referendum on reducing judges' pay will be held on October 27, the same day as the presidential election.
If the Oireachtas inquiries referendum is passed, politicians will have the power to decide what rights witnesses have when they are grilled by a political inquiry and will also be able to make findings against witnesses who appear before them.
Yesterday, a group of Independent TDs and senators came out against the proposals to beef up Oireachtas committees, saying it would give politicians too much power.
The 'no' vote, led by the Dail technical group, prompted angry responses from Government TDs.
Fine Gael Minister Brian Hayes said he was "disappointed" that the Independent group had publicly called for a 'no' vote, as Labour TD Michael McNamara accused Independent TD for Wicklow Stephen Donnelly of "blatant scaremongering".
Ten TDs and two senators said they were not opposed in principle to giving Oireachtas committees more powers, but said the Government's proposals were rushed and had not been considered properly.
Dublin South TD Shane Ross said the proposed amendment was "absolutely appalling".
"I think it is being deliberately held on the same day as the presidential election so there won't be a full debate on it," he said.
Others against a 'yes' vote in the referendum include TDs Finian McGrath, Catherine Murphy, Stephen Donnelly, Mick Wallace, Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, Thomas Pringle, John Halligan, Tom Fleming, as well as Senators John Crown and Ronan Mullen.
Mr Donnelly said that while the group was broadly in agreement "with the spirit of the proposed amendment", he said the proposals were rushed. "Would you give this power to your political opponent? The power to investigate you and make findings against you without the right of appeal to the courts?
"We are asking people to vote 'no' and we're asking the Government to keep it on the agenda, to make it as urgent as the children's rights referendum which will hopefully be held in the new year," Mr Donnelly added
"All we're saying is let's give it the time it needs."
The Bar Council and the Law Society -- the representative bodies for barristers and solicitors -- as well as the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the United Left Alliance political group, have all launched "no" campaigns to the inquiries bill.
Separately, Dr Bryan McMahon, the retired High Court judge who is chairing the Referendum Commission, conceded that he did not know what powers politicians would have under the new regime.
"The powers of such inquiries will be what the Government says they are," said Dr McMahon. "The law is not defined as yet, and if you vote 'yes' to this it is up to the Government to introduce the appropriate law to give effect (to the referendum)."