Sunday 17 December 2017

AG advises Tánaiste to water down bill on corruption

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald Photo: Tom Burke
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald Photo: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The Government has been forced to drop a key plank of its new anti-corruption laws following advice from the Attorney General, the Irish Independent has learned.

The Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill proposes that politicians and civil servants found guilty of corruption will be forced out of office and banned from returning to their posts for up to a decade.

The long-awaited legislation, which was first approved by Cabinet in 2012, comes on the back of virtually no convictions of public representatives .

However, the Irish Independent understands that Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has been forced to significantly water down the bill following advice from Attorney General Máire Whelan.

Ms Whelan told Ms Fitzgerald that the second core proposal - that those found guilty would be banned from running again - is unconstitutional.

A memo being brought to Cabinet tomorrow will explain that the sanction must now be taken out of the legislation.

The bill itself is due to come before the Dáil later this year and will come into force in the spring if passed.

The legislation will hand extra powers to the courts and strengthen the ability of the Director of Public Prosecutions to bring criminal charges against those suspected of corruption.

It will also be a crime for public officials to use confidential information to corruptly obtain an advantage.

The laws will help Ireland further meet its UN obligations.

The move to tighten up anti-corruption measures was first put forward months after the publication of the findings of the Mahon Tribunal.

Its report concluded that corruption affected every level of Irish political life - despite this, there have been very few convictions for political corruption.

The Mahon Tribunal became a 14-year inquiry which cost €160m but only one person -former lobbyist Frank Dunlop - was convicted of corruption.

Irish Independent

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