Government 'trying to gag and frustrate work of PAC'
THE Government has sought to "undermine, gag and frustrate" the workings of the Dail's independent Public Accounts Committee (PAC), coalition members of the committee have said.
The committee has been dogged by controversy over the past two weeks regarding the question of whether it was "acting beyond its remit" by hearing testimony from Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.
Several government members of the committee have said that it was their opinion that attempts were made to ensure the committee did not go ahead with the McCabe hearing last Thursday.
The Sunday Independent has confirmed that Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe made two phone calls to Fine Gael members of the PAC last week in relation to the garda whistleblower hearings, but he denied "seeking to interfere" in the committee's work.
"I was not interfering, they were personal comments," he said. When asked if he would reveal what those personal comments were, Mr Kehoe said he wouldn't, but said he was speaking "as if I wasn't in the Dail".
His remarks come in the wake of him writing to the body that sets Dail rules over concerns of committees straying into one another's jurisdictions.
Mr Kehoe's letter to the Dail Committee on Procedures and Privileges came after the PAC was given legal advice
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that it was in danger of acting outside its remit.
The PAC, which is supposed to be non-political and non-partisan, is believed by many to have become politicised, and according to several members "has been severely damaged" by the infighting.
While divisions between Fine Gael's John Deasy and Independent TD Shane Ross have already been made public, clear differences have also emerged within the Fine Gael members of PAC.
The Sunday Independent has learned of a "significant difference of opinion" between Simon Harris and Kieran O'Donnell on one side and John Deasy, Eoghan Murphy and Paul Connaughton on the other. Mr Deasy and Mr Murphy in particular are known to have been "furious" at Mr O'Donnell's adjourning of a private meeting of the committee last Tuesday which ultimately decided to hear Sgt McCabe's evidence.
During this time, Labour TDs on the committee – Ged Nash, Derek Nolan and Robert Dowds – moved from being opposed to hearing Sgt McCabe to supporting it, forcing Mr Deasy and Mr Murphy into a retreat.