Politicians guilty of corruption to be forced from posts
Government ministers, Dail deputies or civil servants found guilty of corruption will be forced out of their posts and banned from seeking a return to them for up to 10 years under new legislation published yesterday.
Prison sentences of up to 10 years and unlimited fines will also be handed down by the courts to those convicted in the Circuit Court of bribery or corrupt influence.
The proposed legislation, which was approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday, has implications for the constitutional balance of power between the judiciary, the legislature and the electorate, according to Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
As a result, Mr Shatter has opted to refer his proposals to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice for its observations and recommendations before it is sent for formal drafting.
Mr Shatter said last night that the Government was determined that corruption in any form would not be tolerated.
"Ireland must be a country and be seen as a country where business and public life can only be undertaken honestly and openly.
The bill will contain a new offence of making payments knowingly or recklessly to a third party, who intended to use them as bribes.
The DPP will be given additional powers to bring prosecutions by providing for the presumption of corruption where:
• A person with an interest in the functions being discharged by a public official made a payment to him -- such as an applicant for planning permission making a payment to a planning official.
• A public official has a lifestyle or property out of proportion to their official income and declared interests.
• A public official accepts a gift in breach of ethics.
Mr Shatter pointed out that while suspected bribes could be seized and forfeited under current legislation, the new measures would allow the courts to order the forfeiture of assets equal to the value of any bribe, given or received.
Fianna Fail's justice spokesman Dara Calleary described the bill as an essential legislative basis for high standards in public life.
He said the Government had appeared reluctant to face up to the recommendations of the Moriarty Report in particular and he looked forward to the main provisions of the Bill being debated by the Oireachtas committee.
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