The chairman of the Dáil, Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghail, has said pending reforms as to how committees operate would negate any need for sanctions for politicians who break the law.
He also said the apology he offered to former Rehab boss Angela Kerins was made in a personal capacity, as he had no authority to make it on behalf of the Dáil.
“What I said, I said on my own behalf and very carefully in a personal capacity. I had not been authorised by the Dáil or any committee of the Dáil to say so, but my reaction was on foot of careful reading of the Supreme Court ruling and on deliberations here as how to implement the recommendations that are implicit in what the Supreme Court found,” he said.
While the Supreme Court judgment in the Kerins case referred to the need for adequate sanctions for those politicians who are found to have breached the rules, Mr Ó Fearghail said TDs and senators must ensure members of the public who appear before committees are treated fairly.
“The idea of putting sanctions in place is something identified by the Supreme Court. I would like to think that we would have such a process in place here that the need for sanction would never arise, but we need to look at how we can redress any wrong done in a committee to a member of the public — particularly a member of the public.
“We are well used to taking criticisms ourselves as politicians, but when a member of the public comes in here, they have a right to expect that the highest standards pertain,” he said.
When asked about the risk of committees having their powers curtailed, the Ceann Comhairle said the new rules will “empower” committees to do their work effectively.
Asked did he think those members of a previous Public Accounts Committee who were found to have exceeded their remit should apologise, he said that is entirely a matter for themselves.
Mr Ó Fearghail was speaking at the launch of the Treasures of the Oireachtas Library project, which reveals unusual items of national significance, which will now be available online.
As part of Dáil 100 celebrations, the Oireachtas Library opened up a special collections range from the late 16th century onwards, including historical monographs, maps, periodicals, cartoons, prints, and pamphlets.
They represent a unique perspective on Anglo-Irish relations and administration during the 18th and 19th centuries, Mr O’Fearghail said.
At the launch, the Ceann Comhairle outlined the contents of a booklet which describes the link between Ireland and America, the American Revolution, Irish efforts for independence, and English attempts to maintain rule over Ireland.
Details of the project can be found at: https://www.dail100.ie/en/oireachtas-library