Gardaí seek to restrict privilege in Dáil

Senior gardaí have asked the chairman of the Dáil to stop TDs from making "adverse" comments and "damaging allegations" in the chamber about members of the force.

A garda inspector also said “false” claims were made by independent TD Mick Wallace about him mistreating a Kilkenny publican. He now wants his name removed from the Dáil record.

The Irish Examiner has obtained letters sent to Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett, who has previously criticised TDs making allegations against named people in the Dáil.

An Oireachtas Committee is considering whether to tighten up the rules on how Dáil privilege can be used.

Association of Garda Superintendents (AGS) general secretary Patrick McCabe wrote to Mr Barrett on October 20: “We are concerned that various Teachta Dála are addressing the Dáil chamber during debates and are making utterances in the course of such contributions which are adversely affecting certain [sic] of our members.”

Mr McCabe, while noting remarks are being made using parliamentary privilege, says the AGS is concerned that the “good name and reputation [of members] are preserved”.

“The damage is immediate and causes damage to the affected party vis-à-vis their professional standing and career and renders them susceptible to public opprobrium and contempt,” said Mr McCabe.

He asked Mr Barrett to ensure no further allegations are put in the public arena by TDs “for disgruntled or disaffected citizens which are unverified or agenda- driven”.

Inspector Liam Connolly has written to Mr Barrett asking that his name be removed from the Dáil record after Mr Wallace named him five times and claimed he was involved in harassing a bar owner in Kilkenny.

Insp Connolly said the claims were false and had had a serious impact on his reputation as a garda and on his family.

“I believe that this was a gross misuse of Dáil privilege and a breach of the conventions of the house,” said Insp Connolly.

Mr Wallace responded by letter in January to the Oireachtas Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) and said that the “Dáil is the primary medium through which gardaí can be held democratically accountable”.

He stressed that the use of privilege without fear of litigation is a crucial way of raising garda malpractice.

Mr Wallace was one of the first TDs to raise concerns by garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe. These included claims that gardaí were abusing the penalty points system, as well as allegations that they mishandled inquiries into serious crime in Cavan and Monaghan.

TDs historically used Dáil privilege to raise matters of public concern. Meath East TD Regina Doherty recently named an alleged republican sex abuser and asked if he was helped to move south of the border. The late Dublin TD Tony Gregory also used Dáil privilege to name drug dealers.

This week, the CPP met to discuss complaints about Dáil privilege, including recent allegations by Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald about former senior politicians having offshore Ansbacher accounts.

No changes are expected to be made until the next Dáil.


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