The explanatory memorandum states:
The purpose of the Bill is to consolidate and reform:
the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921;
the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Act 1979;
the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Act 1997;
the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Act 1998;
the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1998;
the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Act 2002;
the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Act 2004;
It must have been tough going in 1998 if two Act were required. This list is indicative that something is wrong in society. From time to time, questions have been raised about whether various matters are proceeding in accordance with good practice and due diligence. While I do not argue that the current regime is complicit in this matter, during my time as a Member of the Oireachtas various issues have been raised which could and should have been addressed in the House by way of Question Time, parliamentary inquiry, for which provision is made, or one of a number of other methodologies available to Members. We did not have the wherewithal or commitment to take this course of action and opted instead for a cumbersome and expensive procedure of inquiry.
In general, those who have been critical of the inquiry system have not criticised the inquiries per se but have focused on their cost and the endless nature of the process. Members of the public also ask the reasons inquiries take so long and cannot be brought to a conclusion much earlier. I fully realise that the tribunals of inquiry must have due regard for the rights of the persons who come before them, the various procedures laid down and their terms of reference.
The inquiries established thus far, including the Tribunal to Inquire into Certain Planning Matters and Payments and the Morris tribunal, have shed light on indiscretions which have taken place at various levels. I was astonished during the recent debate on the report of the Morris tribunal that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform chose to lambaste a serving Deputy and former Deputy. His intervention in this matter was unprecedented in my experience in the House and I have been a Deputy for longer than he has. The manner of the Minister's departure from procedure and practice was scandalous.