All statements made in the course of Oireachtas proceedings are privileged under the Constitution of Ireland.
If an identifiable person has been adversely affected by a statement made during the course of proceedings in the Dáil, Seanad or before an Oireachtas Committee, there is a process to address this.
For this process to apply, there must be a significant likelihood that that person has, to a substantial degree, been adversely affected. Further, in this context, adverse effect applies if a person:
- has been adversely affected in reputation or in respect of dealings or associations with others
- has been injured in occupation, trade, office or financial credit
- has had their privacy unreasonably invaded
This process applies whether the person speaking was a Deputy, a Senator, or was there in some other capacity, such as a witness before an Oireachtas Committee.
Replies to Parliamentary Questions are included in this process, given that they are published in the Official Report of the Debates.
Make a submission to the relevant clerk
If you consider that you have been referred to in the course of proceedings in a way which adversely affects you, you can make a submission to the Clerk of the House in which the statement was made, or the Clerk of the Committee at which the statement was made, whichever is appropriate.
Your submission must be made not later than six weeks after the making of the utterance, and must be otherwise in accordance with the relevant Standing Orders.
Make a further submission to the relevant Committee
If you are unhappy with the determination that the Cathaoirleach (chair) makes on your submission (or the Cathaoirleach fails to make one within six weeks of your submission being received by the Clerk) you can make a further submission to the Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight (Dáil) or the Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight (Seanad) no later than 12 weeks following the making of the initial submission.
Where your submission to the Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight has been made outside the 12 week period, it may extend the time for you to do so, but such extensions are exceptional, and the Committee will only grant such an extension where you have acted promptly, and there are compelling reasons supported by evidence.
When considering a submission, the relevant Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight will balance the right of Members and the rights of a person affected and shall have regard to the public interest, fair procedures and the requirements of natural and constitutional justice. The guidelines adopted by the Committees on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight set out such other considerations the Committees may have regard to.
This process is contained in Dáil Standing Orders 71 and 71A, and Seanad Standing Orders 49A and 49B.
You can read Dáil Standing Orders 71 and 71A in the consolidated version of the Dáil Standing Orders.
For Seanad Standing Orders 49A and 49B, please see the Joint Report on the Response of the Houses of the Oireachtas to the Judgments of the Supreme court in the Kerins Case.
Last updated: 22 March 2021
Contact details for the Clerk of each Committee can be found at the foot of each Committee's web page.
Clerk of Seanad Éireann
(01) 618 3357
Clerk of Dáil Éireann
(01) 618 3438