New laws to protect whistleblowers are not clear enough on how they can present information or appear before TDs and Senators at committees.
John McGuinness, chairman of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee, said he was “deeply concerned” about the “heavy interpretation of law” in relation to how it can carry out its work.
He was speaking after two conflicting pieces of legal advice were given on whether a civil servant who says he was prevented from properly investigating tax avoidance allegations should appear before the PAC.
Mr Mc Guinness raised the issue at a meeting on Wednesday of the chairs of all Oireachtas committees, and asked that the parliamentary authorities address how the Protected Disclosures Act effects their work.
Last month, a file was sent to the PAC by civil servant Gerry Ryan, who claimed he uncovered evidence in 2003 and 2004 that leading figures were beneficial owners of accounts linked to the Ansbacher Cayman bank.
He alleges that the concerns were not dealt with by ministers in a series of recent governments or state agencies.
The PAC was given internal Leinster House legal advice stating it could not examine the complaint as it did not fall under the group or the Comptroller and Auditor General’s remit.
However, Mr Ryan has received legal advice contradicting this position on the grounds that, as the information may not have been adequately examined in the past, the PAC was entitled to open an investigation.
Mr Mc Guinness yesterday said: “I don’t think it is clearly understood just what the legislation has brought about in the case of Mr Ryan. It has left him using a piece of legislation that he thought he was covered under and now the very House that passed it, it’s legal advisors tell him no it’s not.”
The Attorney General will now be asked to advise the PAC on the issue. Mr Mc Guinness said: “I think it’s unfair on Mr Ryan to leave a stand-off between one piece of advice and another.”
Independent TD Shane Ross, said the committee should proceed with investigating the claims.
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