Forum on Parliamentary Privilege

The Ceann Comhairle, Mr Séan Ó Fearghaíl TD, established a Forum on Parliamentary Privilege on 21 July 2017. The Forum will examine matters around the fair balance to be struck between freedom of debate for Members of the Dáil and the rights of individuals.

The Forum will offer advice and recommendations to the Ceann Comhairle, who will bring a report to the Dáil Committee on Procedure for its consideration.

Members of the Forum

  •  Mr Conleth Bradley SC is a practising barrister specialising in constitutional and administrative law.
  •  Professor David Farrell holds the Chair of Politics at UCD where he is Head of Politics and International Relations.  He is a member of the Royal Irish Academy, Speaker of the Council of the European Consortium for Political Research, and a former President of the Political Studies Association of Ireland.  His research focuses on the study of parties, elections and parliaments. He is currently the ‘research leader’ of the Irish Citizens’ Assembly, and a member of the Welsh Assembly’s Expert Panel on Electoral Reform.
  •  Ms Mary Hanafin was a TD from 1997 -2011. She held a number of Ministerial appointments, including Government Chief Whip, where she developed knowledge of the rules and procedures of Dáil Éireann. She is currently a Councillor on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.
  •  Mr Conor Brady was editor of The Irish Times from 1986 to 2003, having held senior roles in print and broadcast journalism. He was a founding Commissioner of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and serves on a number of state boards. He writes weekly on current affairs and politics for The Sunday Times.

Relevant Documents

Terms of reference have been defined for the Forum and a data protection policy is in place for handling all submissions received.

  1. Terms of Reference
  2. Data Protection Policy

 

Call for written submissions on freedom of debate and members' privilege

Freedom of debate is a cornerstone of our democracy and is a fundamental feature of our parliament. Under the Constitution of Ireland, Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas have freedom to debate any issue. This privilege ensures that Members can speak freely and raise important issues without fear of being sued in the Courts. These wide-ranging privileges are constitutionally protected under Articles 15.10, 15.12 and 15.13 of the Constitution. Only the Houses of the Oireachtas themselves can hold Members to account for what they say in parliamentary debate.

For that reason, the Houses of the Oireachtas make the rules governing their own Members, and Members’ use of privilege. The Standing Orders of the Dáil regulate privilege, for example, in relation to making statements in the nature of being defamatory, or commenting on ongoing court proceedings.

The Ceann Comhairle has convened the Forum on Parliamentary Privilege to consider the current rules regarding privilege; the Forum wishes to hear from interested members of the public and is seeking written submissions addressing the following six questions as applicable in Dáil Éireann:

  1. What constitutes a responsible use of freedom of debate in the Houses of the Oireachtas?

  2. How should freedom of debate in the Houses of the Oireachtas and the right of an individual to his or her good name be balanced against each other?

  3. How should freedom of debate in the Houses of the Oireachtas and the rights of the individual in court proceedings be balanced against each other?

  4. If a person’s good name has been impugned in the Houses of the Oireachtas, or his or her privacy has been breached, what procedure should be in place (within the Oireachtas itself) to deal with the abuse of privilege?

  5. What recourse should the citizen have where his or her good name or privacy rights have been interfered with by the abuse of privilege? What measures to protect the good name of the citizen should be considered?

  6. What sanctions should be imposed on a Member who has abused privilege? 

Submissions are welcome from all interested parties and should follow the rules outlined below. Submissions can be sent by email to privilegeforum@oireachtas.ie (please note: emails with attachments will not be accepted) or by post to the Journal Office, Houses of the Oireachtas Service, Leinster House, Dublin 2, D02 XR20.

The deadline for receipt of written submissions is 11 September 2017 at 18:00.

Written submissions received after this date will not be considered. 

Rules on the receipt of submissions

  1. The Forum on Parliamentary Privilege welcomes submissions from all interested parties.
  2. Submissions should be clear and concise and address the questions included in the advertisement.
  3. The Forum on Parliamentary Privilege reserves the right not to accept a submission, or any part thereof, if it considers it to be irrelevant, offensive, inappropriate or defamatory. Persons making submissions should not refer to ongoing court cases.
  4. We intend to publish all accepted submissions in the final report, displayed with a full name (first name, surname)/name of organisation, if appropriate.
  5. Anonymous submissions will not be accepted. You must include your full name, and a telephone contact number for verification purposes.
  6. In the case of submissions containing sensitive personal information, all personal data and related identifiable details may be removed or redacted if you request it. If this happens, these submissions will be listed online as “Name with Forum Secretariat”, or ‘NWFS’. In certain circumstances the submission itself may not be published.
  7. Submissions in email attachments will not be accepted.
  8. Our data protection policy regarding submissions can be downloaded here.
  9. The Forum may decide to hear oral submissions once they have considered all of the written submissions.

 

Further information

Press enquiriesGeneral enquiries

Ciarán Brennan
Press Officer
Leinster House
Kildare St
Dublin 2
D02 XR20
ciaran.brennan@oireachtas.ie
+353 1 618 3903
+353 86 0496518

Journal Office
Leinster House 
Kildare Street
Dublin 2
D02 XR20
journal.office@oireachtas.ie
+353 (0) 1 618 3201 
+353 (0) 1 618 3385