Saturday 20 January 2018

Explained: What is Dail privilege?

Labour leader Brendan Howlin Picture: Frank McGrath
Labour leader Brendan Howlin Picture: Frank McGrath Newsdesk Newsdesk

We have been hearing a lot about Dail privilege this week but what is it all about?

TDs and Senators may not be sued for defamation because of any speech the may make in the House.

It extends to both the Dail chamber and committee meetings.

The media is also free to report on statements made under Dail privilege once they are reflected as such.

However there is a procedure in place to ensure that there is no abuse of the privilege by members of the Oireachtas.

The Committee on Procedures and Privileges may recommend disciplining  any member if they are found to have abused Dail privilege.

The protection afforded to TDs is enshrined in the constitution and it is argued that it is in place to protect free speech and encourage open debate.

TDs other than Brendan Howlin have used Dail privilege to make serious allegations against public figures.

In 2012 Independent TD Clare Daly named a judge that allegedly benefited from the illegal removal of penalty points from here licence in the chamber.

More recently two Sinn Fein TDs were named under privilege, by Fine Gael backbencher Alan Farrell as people who may have information about the murder of prison officer Austin Stack, after he told the Dail they were named in an email sent by Gerry Adams to the garda commissioner.

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