24 Oct 2019, 12.10
On Tuesday I informed the House that I had commissioned a review into the conduct of the voting block on Thursday 17 October 2019. The review which was undertaken by the Clerk of the Dáil with the assistance of senior officials of the Service, has now been submitted to the Committee on Procedure which has incorporated the review in its own report which has now been laid before the Dáil.
The controversy that has ensued following the voting one week ago has further eroded public confidence in how our National Parliament conducts its business. Like many Members I have received emails, phone calls and correspondence from the public, which has been highly critical of our voting practices. It is most timely that I remind Members of the Code of Parliamentary Standards, adopted by resolution of this House on the 7th July 2010. The first principle of that Code reads: Members belong to an institution that is a cornerstone of and plays a central part in our democracy. They have a fundamental duty to behave in a manner that supports and reflects this and should endeavour to avoid comment or action that undermines the institution of parliament or how it is perceived.
Politics is a profession. It is an honourable profession, but, as politicians, we must conduct ourselves professionally. It is a matter of deep personal and professional regret to me that this did not happen last week. Over the coming hours I hope Members of this House will take the opportunity to read this report. It is factual and evidence-based. It makes no findings against any individual, but the facts as laid out in the report are stark and unpalatable. It is sobering to reflect on the voting irregularities that occurred last week and under no circumstances can they be allowed to happen again.
The Constitution requires Members of this House to be present in the Dáil Chamber when voting. There can be no deviation from this fundamental requirement.
On a personal level, I have always believed that when errors are made in life they should be admitted and learned from, and I would apply this maxim to what transpired last week. As Ceann Comhairle I have endeavoured to be open and accountable about these events. As a parliamentary institution we can take some solace from having established the facts expeditiously. I also very much appreciate the co-operation that every Member gave in the course of this process.
As stated in the report there are now a number of complaints which have been made pursuant to the Ethics in Public Office Acts. Of necessity and based on legal advice, these complaints must be allowed to take their course in accordance with the processes laid down under statute. It is now for the Committee on Members’ Interests to examine the matter and to recommend any appropriate sanction. Any recommendation from that Committee will be made to this House and it will be this House – not any 1 committee - which will decide the imposition of sanctions if appropriate.
Later today we will have statements in the House on this report. It is my sincere wish that Members read the report before they express their views. I refer again to our Code of Parliamentary Standards where Members are expected to recognise the importance of their collective responsibilities and show respect for the institution of parliament and for each other by conducting themselves with decorum.
Dáil Éireann is first and foremost a legislature and I am therefore reassured by the advice of the Chief Parliamentary Legal Adviser regarding the presumption of constitutionality which attaches to all legislation passed by the Oireachtas. This presumption also applies to resolutions of this House.
As Ceann Comhairle and Chairman of the Committee on Procedure, I commissioned the report. I undertake to do my utmost to lead the changes required as a result of it. However, I will require all Members of this House to work with me in implementing solutions. Let me say, the problems of last Thursday were not of a technical nature. The failure was political, and – as politicians and parliamentarians– there is an onus on us to deliver the solutions which are now required.
In conclusion, I thank you for your attention and I am under no illusion regarding the work that now needs to be undertaken but I know that I can count on the support of all Members of this House in implementing the necessary measures to strengthen public confidence in the proceedings of Dáil Éireann.
For full CP report see here.