That Dáil Éireann, having regard to the con tent of the motion passed unanimously by the House on 30 January 2001,
That Dáil Éireann is of the opinion that, given the sentence of the High Court, structured as it was to elicit full co-operation within a definite timeframe and the fact that the judge referred to his membership of Dáil Éireann, that Deputy Lawlor should now fully meet the requirements of the courts and the tribunal or, that failure to do so within that timeframe would confirm his membership of Dáil Éireann to be untenable and that he should voluntarily resign his membership,
now notes and deplores the Deputy's continued failure to provide the co-operation sought by the tribunal, which was established by the unanimous decision of Dáil Éireann, and regards such failure as confirmation that his membership of Dáil Éireann is untenable and is of the opinion that he should accordingly voluntarily resign his membership.
Dáil Éireann is aware of the contents of Deputy Lawlor's letter to Party Whips of 5 February 2002.
Irish politics is undergoing a period of profound change. The uncovering of a previously hidden and unacceptable past in our political life has severely undermined public confidence in politics and politicians. The Government, and indeed all parties, determined that there should be a comprehensive examination of all alleged wrongdoing. For politics to recover the confidence of the people, the facts must be laid bare and the appropriate lessons must be learned. Politics was not the first area of our national life to come under the spotlight. The succession of revelations about many areas of Irish life, previously held in largely uncritical esteem, has contributed to a profoundly changed atmosphere for public life in Ireland. I am talking about public life in the broadest sense, not just politics. An increasingly confident and critical public rightly demands that its affairs are administered in an open way and to the highest standard.
All people in politics, particularly those of us who have the honour of serving in the Government of this Republic, have a solemn duty to make good the high aspirations of our people. The past must be accounted for and those who have transgressed must face justice as prescribed by the laws framed in accordance with the Constitution. For the present, we who hold office now must conduct ourselves in a way that honours the democratic mandate with which we have been entrusted. For the future, we must ensure that public life is ordered to make it as difficult as is humanly possible to repeat the excesses of the past. Furthermore, we must provide for the swift administration of justice for any transgressions in the future. The Government proposed, and the House agreed unanimously, to the establishment of the tribunals so that past events could be uncovered. This is necessary for its own sake and essential in building confidence in public life for the future.
This is an obligation that bears especially on those who hold public office. Deputy Lawlor has on three occasions been found by the High Court to be in breach of his duty to co-operate with the Flood tribunal. On three occasions he has been committed to prison. Political life is cheapened by these events. Cynicism about public life is fed by the spectacle that has surrounded these proceedings. Most importantly, the work of the tribunal established unanimously by the Oireachtas, including Deputy Lawlor, is frustrated. This is wrong and unacceptable. This, as set out in the motion before the House, makes Deputy Lawlor's membership of Dáil Éireann untenable and I believe, accordingly, that he should voluntarily resign his membership of this House. We, in this House, must honour the trust of the people who elected us. As an elected member of Dáil Éireann, Deputy Lawlor has a particular duty to uphold the law.
The tribunals are established by the unanimous democratic will of the people's elected representatives. Their work represents the national will on an issue of the highest importance, namely the conduct of our public life. In this Republic nobody is above or below the law. There is no untouchable caste. Every citizen is accountable. When a citizen holds public office, there is an additional duty to lead by example. At a minimum, there is an onus not to bring the administration of public affairs into disrepute. Deputy Lawlor has repeatedly failed to live up to the standard that might reasonably be expected of a Dáil Deputy.
We should be clear that Dáil Éireann is not a court. We cannot and should not sit in judgment. In this case, judgment has been made in the courts on three occasions. It is on foot of those judgments and in the light of our political responsibility that Dáil Éireann now draws its political conclusion and arrives at the view that Deputy Lawlor's position is untenable. In making our view known, we do not seek to interfere with or override the inalienable right of the sovereign people to elect the members of the Legislature. We do, however, seek to exercise leadership and remove even the possibility of ambiguity in relation to the duty of every citizen to the tribunals. That duty is clear, it is to co-operate with the lawful orders of the tribunals.
Today is both a sad and a good day for politics. It is saddening that this unprecedented step must be taken and it is not being taken lightly. It is good, however, that events have moved to the point that the tribunals, having been established, are doing their work and dealing effectively with the obstacles they find in their path as provided for in the legislation introduced by the Government. Specifically, and for the first time, this provided for the punishment of imprisonment for any person who fails to obey the lawful orders of the tribunal. The law is working. We have not only prescribed higher standards but also provided for serious punitive consequences. The light at the end of the tunnel is that politics is again being seen to work.
We must consider these events in context. The Government has initiated the most far-reaching inquiries not only in the history of this State but in the recent history of most democratic countries. In Government we have established the following tribunals: Moriarty, to inquire into payments to politicians; Flood, to inquire into irregularities in the planning process; Lindsay, to inquire into the contamination of blood products; Costello, to inquire into Ansbacher accounts; Dunne, to inquire into organ retention in our hospitals; Blaney, to inquire into irregularities at National Irish Bank; Murphy, to inquire into abuse in swimming; and Laffoy, to inquire into childhood abuse. We are determined to find the truth, whatever it is. We are determined to deal with all the issues from all the tribunals, however numerous and complex they are. The Government is committed to restoring confidence in public life.
We believe, as do Deputies on all sides of the House, that politics is about the service of others. In this Republic, elected office is the highest honour any citizen can achieve. Through various tribunals and inquiries, we have learned and will continue to learn the truth. Through the unprecedented legislation proposed by this Government and enacted by the Oireachtas, we will apply the lessons learned. In the life of this Government we have completely and radically overhauled the legislative basis for public affairs in Ireland and have enacted one of the strictest regulatory regimes anywhere. We have laid the foundations for a new beginning in Irish political life. However, we must first deal with unfinished business. We must ensure that the tribunals run their course and that their work is successfully completed. It is only by learning the lessons of history that we can hope to avoid repeating them and only by enforcing accountability that we can hope to provide credibility in the future.
Deputy Lawlor has let down politics repeatedly. I, therefore, commend this motion to the House.