Decisions on Public Petitions Received

We will now go into public session to record the decisions of the committee. Petition No.48/12 from Mr. Patrick Martin, claiming that his father was murdered in disputed circumstances in 1979. Additionally, the petitioner alleges corruption on the part of the Garda Síochána in reporting the death of his father, together with collusion between the Garda, the attending doctor, the Coroner and the County Registrar. The petition is deemed to be inadmissible under the committee's standing orders in that it names individuals, contains language which is in the nature of being defamatory, is asking the Dáil to do something which it does not have the power to do and is asking the committee to consider an individual complaint which has already been determined by a District Court and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

Petition No. 37/2012 is from Mr. Jimmy Ryan who claims that at his original assault trial and subsequent appeal the Director of Public Prosecutions introduced allegedly incorrect fingerprint evidence. The petitioner is seeking the assistance of the committee in clearing his name. The decision of the committee is that the petition is deemed to be inadmissible under Standing Orders in that it requests the Dáil to do something it does not have the power to do. In addition, it asks the committee to consider an individual complaint which has been the subject of a decision by a body established for the purposes of redress.

The reason we have a number of inadmissible petitions today is we had a backlog. We have since received legal advice on the matters involved and, therefore, are now able to deal with them together. It may seem negative that we are deeming a number of petitions to be inadmissible, but that is the nature of how we deal with our work at times.

Petition No. 46/2012 is from Mr. Matthew Vincent Smith who claims he was wrongfully convicted of assault in circumstances where a garda had allegedly lied under oath. He is seeking the assistance of the committee in having his conviction for assault overturned and the garda in question fired. The decision of the committee is that the petition is deemed to be inadmissible under Standing Orders in that it requests the Dáil to do something it does not have the power to do. In addition, it asks the committee to consider an individual complaint which has been the subject of a decision by a body established for the purposes of redress.

Petition No. 80/2012 is from Mr. Kevin Tracey who claims he was the victim of an assault by a garda and that subsequently the same garda accused him of assault on another individual and charges were brought against the petitioner. He is alleging that he was charged with assault as a result of making a complaint to the Garda Complaints Board. This matter has been dealt with by the courts. The decision of the committee is that the petition is deemed to be inadmissible under Standing Orders in that it asks the committee to consider an individual complaint which has already been determined by the courts.

In regard to petition No. 48/2012, the committee has adjudicated that the petition is inadmissible and, following legal advice, we have agreed that we wish to return the documents submitted in accordance with section 92(4) of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013 to avoid a scenario in the future where the petitioner may seek to claim privilege over said documents.

Petition 26/2013 is from Mr. Jim Beirne. The petition stems from a county council's interpretation of a planning application fee calculation and the subsequent invalidation of a planning application by the petitioner. The petitioner is of the opinion that not all county councils are charging the same planning fees as set out in the Planning and Development Regulations 2001. The petitioner took his complaint to the Ombudsman who investigated the matter and made a ruling on it. The decision of the committee is that the petition is deemed to be inadmissible under Standing Orders in that it asks the committee to consider an individual complaint which has been the subject of a decision by the Ombudsman or a body established for the purposes of redress.

We now have a fast-track system to deal with matters that have been adjudicated on by a court or the Ombudsman. It will not be the committee's role to second guess these bodies and in the future we will relay that information promptly to petitioners. We apologise if people were waiting for considerable periods. In the future we will make it clear to petitioners that where matters have been decided by a court or the Ombudsman, we have no legal right to second guess the decision.

Petition No. 24/2013 is from Mr. Kevin Sharkey and concerns recruitment policy at RTE. The decision of the committee is to write to RTE inviting it to respond to the assertions and allegations made by Mr. Sharkey. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Petition No. 18/2013 is from Ms Margaret Gilbert of Gillygordan and Crossroads Youth Club in County Donegal and seeks legislation against cyberbullying and anonymous websites. The petitioners are seeking legislation to make cyberbullying a criminal offence. They are also seeking the banning of anonymous websites. I invite Deputy Seamus Kirk to set out the committee's initial recommendation.

I propose that we invite representatives of the Internet service providers before the committee for a question and answer session. I want to establish the legislative position underpinning the proposal and whether they consider it is adequate. Decisiveness in this area would help us to come to terms quickly with the matters arising.

We will also make the petitioner aware of our intention and when we will hold a hearing in order that she can monitor the proceedings.

Given that there has been considerable debate on this issue, it is important that we note our understanding of its importance. We should convey to the petitioner that a number of Private Members' Bills and reports have been drafted to deal with the issue.

We will relay that information to the petitioner to make her aware of our progress. The petition came in response to a double tragedy in her community. As Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh suggested, we will acknowledge the seriousness of the matter, outline the work which has been done and inform the petitioner that we will be taking the course of action suggested by Deputy Seamus Kirk.

Petition No. 29/2013 is from Mr. Pádraig Murphy and seeks the legalisation of cannabis in Ireland. A Private Members' Bill was recently introduced in the Dáil on this issue and has been subject to considerable debate. Furthermore, another Bill will be tabled on the issue in the near future . The committee does not propose to debate the matter further when there is already so much ongoing debate and analysis. We will communicate this decision to the petitioner. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Petition No. 67/2012 is from Mr. Liam Ó Tuathail and pertains to the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2010. Members will recall this petition was initially considered at our meeting on 16 October, at which time members requested that legal advice be obtained on the issues arising in respect of it. After receiving legal advice, the committee has deemed the petition to be inadmissible. We will write to the petitioner with a clear explanation of the grounds on which we believe it to be inadmissible. While we clearly have to inform petitioners when their petitions are inadmissible, when we have to receive legal advice, the secretariat will be able to draw on the assistance of the Parliamentary Counsel in drafting letters.

I return to petition No. 46/2012 from Mr. Matthew Vincent Smith who claims he was wrongfully convicted of assault in circumstances where a garda had allegedly lied under oath.

Regarding that petition, we are advised by the parliamentary legal advisers that we should return the documents to the petitioner in accordance with section 92(4) of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act so as to avoid any scenario in the future where the petitioner may seek to claim privilege over said documents. We will return the documents to the petitioner.

The joint committee went into private session at 5.30 p.m. and adjourned at 5.55 p.m. sine die.