Under laws dating from 1997, departmental staff involved in decision making are forbidden from giving evidence about government policy or the merits of policy objectives.
But a new version of a bill, which will be passed if the October 27 referendum is successful, lifts this prohibition. It says civil servants will give evidence to ensure the full facts of any issue being inquired into by the Oireachtas are available.
It is one of the main changes in the draft Houses of the Oireachtas Bill published yesterday.
If the changes are passed in the referendum, it would reverse a Supreme Court judgement halting the inquiry into the shooting dead of a John Carthy at his home in Abbeylara, Co Longford, during a stand-off with gardaí.
The inquiry process will involve:
*A “requesting committee”, which will decide if a matter is of general public importance and why it should be held.
*An “oversight committee” will decide whether to agree to the request and submit a recommendation to the Dáil and Seanad.
*An “inquiry committee” made up of TDs and Senators will proceed with the investigation and questioning of witnesses.
*A draft report of its findings will be sent to anyone against whom adverse findings are made or who may have provided commercially sensitive information.
*A final report is submitted to the Oireachtas and published.
Those sitting on the committees will not be subjected to a party whip.