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Committee on Public Petitions debate -
Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Business of Joint Committee

I welcome all attendees to our meeting.

Yesterday, the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil, Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl, and the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Senator Mark Daly, appealed to everybody in the parliamentary community to continue to follow public health advice, to wear a mask and to maintain social distancing. I request that members, witnesses and staff use wipes and hand sanitiser provided to clean seats and desks that are shared, so as to supplement regular sanitation. This will help to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 spread among the parliamentary community.

I propose that we approve the minutes of the private and public meetings on 11 May 2021, already approved in private session this morning. Are they agreed? Agreed.

I will now read some formal notices. I remind members of the constitutional requirement that members must be physically present within the confines of the place of which Parliament has chosen to sit, namely, Leinster House and-or the Convention Centre Dublin in order to participate in public meetings. I will not permit a member to participate where they are not adhering to this constitutional requirement. Therefore, any member who attempts to participate from outside the parliamentary precincts will be asked to leave the meeting.

Before we start, I wish to explain some limitations to parliamentary privilege and the practice of the Houses as regard references witnesses may make to other persons in their evidence. The evidence of witnesses physically present or who give evidence from within the parliamentary precincts is protected pursuant to both the Constitution and statute by absolute privilege. However, witnesses are giving evidence remotely from a place outside of the parliamentary precincts and, as such, may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as a witness who is physically present does. Witnesses may think it appropriate to take legal advice on this matter.

Witnesses are again reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not criticise and make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable, or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. Therefore, if witnesses' statements are potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative that they comply with any such direction.