MEPs ‘need not fear’ being sued by Hogan

Members of the European Parliament have been assured they need not fear court action from Commissioner designate Phil Hogan if they ask him questions about his alleged actions in the past.

MEPs ‘need not fear’ being sued by Hogan

The former Fine Gael minister is due to spend three hours being questioned by MEPs on Thursday next about his suitability for his role as EU Agriculture Commissioner.

However, he has upset MEPs by sending three legal letters to their Irish colleague Nessa Childers, threatening legal proceedings if she does not withdraw, by Monday, allegations made against him.

This revolves around a letter she wrote to members of the parliament alleging his intervention in the housing of a Traveller family in Co Kilkenny and saying it raised questions about his judgment.

Mr Hogan has denied the allegations and said they are the subject of two High Court proceedings.

Dublin Independent MEP Ms Childers, asked the parliament’s legal experts if she and others — who might question Mr Hogan about the issue at his hearing — could face legal action. She has been assured that any MEPs doing so have legal immunity in a letter signed by the chair of the legal affairs committee, Pavel Svoboda, which stresses Article 8 of the Protocol on privileges and immunities of the EU.

However, the issue has now grown to include a question of whether Mr Hogan’s actions could be considered by MEPs as intimidating and Ms Childers has written to parliament president Martin Schulz informing him of the situation.

“If the threat is seen as one to the freedom of expression of a member, then logically, this will be defended,” said a parliament spokesperson.

Fredrick Federley, a Swedish MEP and member of the agriculture committee, said he was calling on parliament president, Mr Schulz to take up the issue with Commission president Jean Claude Juncker.

Swedish MEP and former member of the parliament’s ethics committee Cecilia Wikstrom said threats were unacceptable. “We are in the process of hearings.”

Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy, a member of the Agriculture Committee, said: “I would be shocked if this is not raised at the hearing. MEPs defend their right as public representatives to air their opinions without facing legal threats from their opponents.”

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