Mary Lou McDonald will not retract her Ansbacher comments - Sinn Fein
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald will not bow to increasing pressure to retract her Ansbacher comments which were found to be an abuse of Dáil privilege.
Speaking today, Pearse Doherty said Ms McDonald had “made it clear” she will not be retracting her comments in which she said a number of former politicians were alleged to have had off shore accounts fot the purposes of evading tax.
She alleged last December a number of prominent individuals had links to Ansbacher offshore accounts following information released by a whistleblower. The Oireachtas Committee on Procedures and Privileges ruled her comments were “in the nature of being defamatory”.
“I think Mary-Lou has made it clear that she will not be retracting what she said on the floor of the Dáil because she believes that she was entitled to do that under the privilege afforded to her,” Mr Doherty said today.
The Dail's oversight Committee on Procedures and Privileges (CPP) concluded Ms McDonald should not have named the former politicians, who were alleged to have links to Ansbacher accounts.
The Dublin Central TD and Public Accounts Committee member named the former politicians on December 3 when discussing the allegations made by civil service whistleblower Gerry Ryan.
She did so in the Dail, after members of PAC had been warned not to name any individuals by their legal advisor.
Following on from complaints from Fianna Fáil whip Sean O Fearghail and other deputies as to her actions, the CPP began an investigation.
Written submissions to the committee were also made by former PD leader Des O'Malley, former PD leader and Tanaiste Mary Harney, former Minister for Finance and EU commissioner Ray MacSharry, and former Minister for Justice and EU commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn.
Ms Harney was alleged by Ms McDonald to have terminated an investigation into Ansbacher accounts by an authorised officer.
The other three - Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, Mr MacSharry and Mr O’Malley - were alleged to have been holders of Ansbacher accounts. All three categorically denied this.
Ms McDonald submitted that her exercise of privilege was in the public interest, and met the requirements of Standing Order 59 in relation to reasonable excuse, responsible exercise, good faith and sound basis.
Ms McDonald replied to the committee with a three-page letter in which she argued that she was "well within her constitutional rights" to bring the allegations to the floor of the Dáil. She said this was especially so, as there was no other "parliamentary channel" for her to raise them.
However, the committee met again last month and ruled that "Deputy McDonald's utterances that they were in the nature of being defamatory" and "prima facie an abuse of privilege".
The CPP wrote to Ms McDonald calling on her to formally withdraw the comments.
She replied insisting that her use of privilege was fully in line with the Dáil's own internal rules.
Ultimately, the CPP interpreted McDonald's reply as an indication she would not be willing to withdraw the comments, and therefore issued its findings against her.
TDs have now formally been notified that Deputy McDonald's comments would have been defamatory if she'd made them outside the Dáil chamber.
"Finally, it is also noted that in submissions made following the utterances, Mary Harney, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, Ray MacSharry and Desmond O'Malley strenuously denied the allegations," the report in the name of Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett said.
The CPP's final ruling was made last week and formally notified to TDs this week.
Mary Lou McDonald was unavailable for comment last night. A spokesman for Sinn Fein said the party had no comment to make at this stage.