An internal Public Accounts Committee row over questions to justice chiefs about alleged theft by prison staff in jails is to be referred to a Dáil dispute body.
Member, Marc MacSharry, claims that PAC chairman, Sean Fleming, “undermined” him and “made a mockery” of the committee by removing his entitlement to ask questions about the theft allegations.
Mr MacSharry raised his complaint against Mr Fleming during public session yesterday, arguing that it is “bananas” that committee members can now not raise concerns or claims about criminality.
The row stems from a hearing with Department of Justice officials last week, at which Mr MacSharry raised explosive claims that prison staff had stolen items in jails and sold them online. He asked officials about prison officers allegedly taking items from workshops and stores and officers who used items taken to make improvements to personal, family or holiday homes.
During that hearing, Mr Fleming said he would refer the claims to gardaí and that justice officials did not have to reply to Mr MacSharry.
But the Sligo TD put it to the PAC chairman yesterday that he had “totally undermined” his position on the committee and made him out as “a rogue”.
“I don't come to the committee to make up the numbers. I'm a pretty good attender [of the committee],” argued the Fianna Fáil TD.
“I think you were wrong,” he told Mr Fleming, adding that the chairman's intervention “narrowed the remit” of the committee and that this is “bananas”.
Mr Fleming stood over his decision and intervention as chairman, insisting that matters of theft or comments about criminality have to be reported to gardai. He denied there is pressure after the recent Kerins Supreme Court ruling to clamp down on members' comments or questions.
The PAC chairman also said he received advice from the committee's secretariat supporting his view and intervention during the hearing about the prison service.
He also disputed a claim by Mr MacSharry that the TD was somehow "thrown under the bus" at the hearing last week.
Mr MacSharry said he is forwarding his complaint to the Dáil's Committee on Procedure, which deals with disputes, to which Mr Fleming said he is “happy” to clarify any issues around the incident.