Sunday 21 January 2018

Results show public favours giving PAC more teeth

Perhaps unwittingly, the Public Accounts Committee has been sowing the seeds of a new political party.

John McGuinness,TD,Chairman of the Dail Public Accounts Committee
John McGuinness,TD,Chairman of the Dail Public Accounts Committee
Sunday Independent/Millward Brown

Shane Ross

Debunkers of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have been mushrooming in the media recently. Opponents have accused us of "grandstanding". Alternatively, we have been branded as "witch-hunters". Today's opinion poll appears to answer the critics. Not only do an overwhelming majority (77 per cent) seem to endorse the committee's current investigations, they appear to demand an expansion of them. The Irish people are developing an appetite for giving more powers to ordinary TDs to hold powerful people to account.

We can thank Angela Kerins and Frank Flannery of Rehab for this reaction. The Rehab duo's reluctance to attend a parliamentary committee may prompt the Government to give the PAC sharper teeth. The power of an Oireachtas Committee to compel witnesses to attend is on the brink of being tested. The public view on its direction runs more than six to one in favour of giving the PAC extra powers.

Whether the powers of the PAC are tested in the Oireachtas itself (compellability is currently decided by a government-dominated Committee of Procedures and Privileges, CPP) or in the courts public opinion obviously favours giving the PAC its head.

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