Editorial: An unacceptable lapse from a lawmaker
Patrick Nulty, the Independent TD for Dublin West, has committed a grievous breach of public trust and engaged in utterly unacceptable behaviour. Chosen as an advocate for the people of his constituency and as a national lawmaker, he was given a position of exceptional trust. But by his own admission, he engaged in inappropriate behaviour towards female constituents.
On occasions, many people who seek out the help of a public representative are vulnerable and require support, compassion and understanding. The relationships must also be professional and without any other motive.
It is notable that Mr Nulty has promptly resigned from Dail Eireann and acknowledged the gravity of his misbehaviour. He has rightly admitted that he has not met the standards set for the office he occupied.
Resignations of any kind are extremely rare in Irish public life. They are even rarer at Leinster House, so, his decision to quit must be seen in that context. However, it is regrettable that it was only at the last moment before his lapse of judgment was revealed in the national media that he took this path.
He has also spoken of difficulties with alcohol abuse, which apparently may have been in some way a factor in these serious happenings. Ultimately, he may need help and some compassion in facing those difficulties – provided he does not claim they in any way excuse his behaviour.
Unusually, the development leaves voters in Dublin West facing their second by-election since the general election in February 2011. Mr Nulty was himself elected in a by-election in October 2011, which arose from the untimely death of Brian Lenihan a little more than three months after he had been returned as a TD.
The issue also means the Government must continue honouring its pledge to hold by-elections within six months of a vacancy occurring. The options on dates are perhaps holding it on the same day as the upcoming local and European elections on May 23. Or perhaps the Government will wait until the autumn and hold a number of other by-elections, which might arise as a direct consequence of the European Parliament elections and the requirement of the Government to appoint a new EU Commissioner.
At all events, this incident is a disappointing and sorry episode in Irish politics.