Daniel McConnell: No gurriers or guttersnipes - the (long) list of banned Dáil insults

Did you know that calling someone 'corrupt' in the Dáil is not allowed? Yet Paul Gogarty’s “F**k You, Deputy Stagg” outburst in 2009 broke no rules.
Daniel McConnell: No gurriers or guttersnipes - the (long) list of banned Dáil insults

Did you know that calling someone 'corrupt' in the Dáil is not allowed? Yet Paul Gogarty’s “F**k You, Deputy Stagg” outburst in 2009 broke no rules.

A TD can certainly not call any other a “gurrier, a guttersnipe, a hypocrite, a bloody hypocrite or a rat”.

So, just what can you say in the Dáil? What is out of line and what is acceptable?

For years, a mysterious document that determines what is acceptable was not publicly available.

Held by the Ceann Comhairle of the day and a small number of other people, the ‘Salient Rulings of the Chair’ is an 88-page treasure trove of rulings and decisions as to what can be said and done in the chamber.

Locked away for years, it is today revealed here.

As it states, the Standing Orders (the primary rules document for how the Dáil works) do not form a complete code of the day to day procedure. Such standing orders must be read in the context of how they have been applied or developed by the Chair over the years.

“Essentially, Rulings are decisions by the Chair on matters not specifically covered by Standing Orders or which apply to the Standing Orders in specific circumstances,” the document states.

Rulings correspond with up-to-date practice and, when read in conjunction with Standing Orders, give a comprehensive picture of parliamentary procedure and practice, it adds.

The document covers everything from where people are to sit in the Dáil to how debates are to be conducted. Here now are the main elements contained in the Salient Rules of the Chair.

The document states that TDs “must refer in a respectful manner to another member”.

“A member should not be referred to by a Christian name, by Christian name and surname without prefix "Deputy", by surname only or by an appended name,” the document states.

The private activities, affairs, or avocations of Members should also not be introduced into debate. The manner in which a TD conducts his business is not a matter for discussion and TDs should not refer to another Member's family.

PERSONAL CHARGES:

The Salient Rules say members should not engage in criticising other members and member may not, under privilege of the House, repeat serious allegations which he states were made outside the House, the document states.

A member “must not threaten another member” and the chair protects Members against innuendo, insinuation and allegation.

“It is the function of the Chair to protect the character, good name and integrity of all persons outside and inside the House unless it is proceeded to by way of substantive motion,” it says.

It makes it clear that the word "corruption" should not be used unless it can be substantiated.

A TD must also not allege that another member is “guilty of a criminal or unlawful act or reflect on his character or personal honour.”

But at the heart of the document is the list of rulings going back since the foundation of the State whereby personal charges or allegations were ruled out of order and therefore TDs are not allowed use these terms.

“Allegations of this nature which have been ruled as disorderly are that a Member was guilty of: murder or condoning or conniving at murder; blackmail; corruption, corrupt practices, etc; perjury; physical or moral cowardice, or of making a cowardly statement; graft, embezzlement or malversation and defalcation of public funds.”

The list also includes seditious libel; interfering in the distribution of land while a Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture; fraud and deception or being deceitful.

Previous chairs have ruled utterances out or order which suggested a member of Dáil Eireann was: dishonest; a black-marketeer; a smuggler; a rogue; a scoundrel or protector of thieves and rogues or trying to put his hand in the public purse.

You cannot also say a Member has been bribed; as Minister, been influenced in the administration of his Department by funds supplied to him by industrialists or that a decision by the Minister was "criminally irresponsible". A member may not say that another Member is taking orders or instructions from outside interests or is representing or speaking for such interests.

Also to suggest that a Member doctored the Official Report is disorderly.

To allege that a TD had been paid for his vote and no member may impute deliberate falsehood to another member is also disallowed.

The Chair will insist that an allegation that a Member told a lie or deliberately misled the House be withdrawn and such a withdrawal must be unqualified. The use of word "lie" or words which imply a lie cannot be allowed, otherwise conduct of debate in a dignified and orderly way would become an impossibility, the document states. It has been ruled as disorderly to state that a Member was a liar, lying or telling a lie.

The document also says that any insinuation of drunkenness against a member are disorderly and no TD can be allowed to call another Member names.

Insulting and abusive expressions applied to a Member, a Member's statement or a Member's actions or conduct which have from time to time been ruled to be disorderly.

These include: brat, acting the brat; buffoon, buffoonery; communist; corner boy/corner boy tactics; fascist; gurrier; guttersnipe; hypocrite, bloody hypocrites, hypocrisy etc; rat; scumbag; scurrilous and yahoo.

The reference to "handbagging" particularly with reference to a lady member of the House, has been deemed to be unparliamentary, the document states.

While political charges are in order but personal charges may not be made, “TDs must not be thin-skinned in relation to political remarks,” the rules state.

An allegation that Minister was “listening to his developer friends who are contributing to the coffers of” the Minister's party was ruled to be a political charge. So too have allegations that Political Party was guilty of double-dealing and guilty of bribery.

The document also states that decisions that come to by Dáil cannot be criticised and the President should be “outside and above debate in House”.

“The conduct of President in his Office is not open to criticism, direct or indirect and no member may attack or cast a reflection on President,” the document states.

ROLE OF JUDGES/OUTSIDE

Members of the judiciary are independent by virtue of the Constitution and they may neither be criticised nor have their rulings referred to in House except on a substantive motion, the document states.

Therefore, a member may neither make a charge against nor discuss the conduct or actions of judges or justices.

The following are examples of interventions which have been ruled to be disorderly: accusing a judge of conspiracy, accusing a judge of giving a prejudiced summing up and of being a disgrace to his profession; an allegation that Minister attempted to influence judges.”

The term "cooking the books" with regard to persons outside the House has also been deemed to be a derogatory remark and ordered to be withdrawn.

Revealed: Terms not allowed in Dáil Eireann

Allegations or reflections of this nature which have been ruled as disorderly are that a Member was guilty of:

* murder or condoning or conniving at murder

* blackmail

* corruption, corrupt practices, etc.

* perjury

* physical or moral cowardice, or of making a cowardly statement

* graft, embezzlement or malversation and defalcation of public funds

* seditious libel

* interfering in the distribution of land while a Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture

* fraud and deception

* being deceitful

or that a Member was:

* dishonest

* a black-marketeer

* smuggler

* a rogue, scoundrel or protector of thieves and rogues

* trying to put his hand in public purse

or that a Member had

* been bribed

* as Minister, been influenced in the administration of his Department by funds supplied to him by industrialists

* or that a decision by the Minister was "criminally irresponsible"

It has been ruled as disorderly to state that a Member was a liar, lying or telling a lie;

* was telling untruths or not telling the truth;

* was deliberately misstating what was said

* deliberately misled the House or public

* was guilty of — deliberate untruth

Insulting and abusive expressions applied to a Member, a Member's statement or a Member's actions or conduct which have from time to time been ruled to be disorderly

* brat, acting the brat

* buffoon, buffoonery

* communist

* corner boy, corner boy tactics

* fascist, fascist

* gurrier

* guttersnipe

* hypocrite, bloody hypocrites, hypocrisy etc.

* rat

* scumbag

* scurrilous, scurrilous speaker

* yahoo

* The reference to "handbagging" particularly with reference to a lady member of the House, has been deemed to be unparliamentary

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