Apologies have been received from Deputies Nessa Hourigan and Sean Sherlock.
I welcome everyone to our online meeting. Due to the current situation regarding Covid-19, only the clerk, support staff and I are in the committee room. Members of the committee are attending remotely from within the precincts of Leinster House. This is due to the constitutional requirement that in order to participate in public meetings, members must be physically present within the confines of the place where the Parliament has chosen to sit. I ask that committee members confirm their location before contributing in order to ensure that they are adhering to this constitutional requirement.
Today we engage on the topic of bogus self-employment with Mr. Martin McMahon, who appeared before the Joint Committee on Social Protection of the previous Dáil to discuss this matter. We requested submissions from the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Social Protection and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, in advance of this meeting. I welcome Mr. McMahon. When we begin to engage, I will ask members and the witness to mute their microphones when not contributing in order to ensure that we do not pick up any background noise or feedback. As usual, I remind those in attendance to ensure that their mobile phones are in silent mode or switched off.
Before we begin, I wish to explain some limitations to parliamentary privilege and the practice of the Houses as regards references witnesses may make to other persons in their evidence. As they are within the precincts of Leinster House, they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the presentation they make to the committee. This means they have an absolute defence against any defamation action for anything they say at the meeting. However, they are expected not to abuse that privilege and it is my duty as Chairman to ensure that this privilege is not abused. If, therefore, their statements are potentially defamatory in respect of an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative that they comply with any such direction. In that regard, I have reviewed the opening statement and note that there are some instances where there are references to unlawful acts on the part of the State. I would assume that, in making such references, Mr. McMahon was in fact referring to a misinterpretation of the law by the various parties rather than deliberately stating that they were unlawful acts. Allegations of deliberate illegal activity are not in order and not to be permitted during the course of the engagement. It is on that basis that we will proceed.
Members are reminded of the provisions within Standing Order 218 that the committee shall refrain from inquiring into the merits of a policy or policies of the Government or a Minister, or of the objectives of such policies. They are also reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
We are operating on the basis of limited time because of Covid-19. We are tied to two hours so, as detailed in the invitation, Mr. McMahon has five minutes to make an opening statement. We welcome that he sent in a concise one to the committee. I will give him a reminder of the time after four minutes. He is very welcome and I ask him to proceed with his statement.