I desire to raise a matter of privilege concerning me personally, and concerning what I deem to be a misrepresentation in to-day's papers of what you said yesterday, regarding an incident that happened in the debate. You are credited in to-day's Press with having stated: "The Speaker was understood to say that the statement was slanderous." That refers to the statement I am alleged to have made here yesterday. However questionable my position in this Dáil may appear to any Minister or Deputy, and may I say that can be tested at any time either now or in the near future, I do not admit the right of any Minister or any Deputy to pass judgment here on any statement I make. Unless it is to be assumed that I and those who sit with me appear here as criminals in the dock, I think that your statement, as reported in the Press, is a misrepresentation of what you actually said. I say with all respect I would deny the right of any Minister or Deputy to pass judgment on any statement I make here.
QUESTION OF PRIVILEGE.
The question of whether a particular statement would constitute a slander is, of course, one for a Court to decide, and I would never undertake to give such a decision. But yesterday evening, in order to avoid what I thought might develop into a scene between the Deputy and a Minister, I intervened to point out that any statement made here by a Deputy is covered by the privilege of the Dáil. If an individual is aggrieved by a statement made here, the individual has, I understand, no legal remedy. If the statements were made outside the Dáil a person aggrieved by the statement could take legal proceedings. That was, I think, the meaning which the Minister for Home Affairs had in his mind when he said Deputy Davin could go outside. I think that was what the Minister had in his mind when he said, "Make such a statement outside." I do not think the Minister had any intention of ordering a Deputy out in general. I think the Minister will agree with that.
The Minister indicated assent.
It was in order to prevent the Deputy from misunderstanding the Minister, and to prevent some words that might not help us that I intervened to point out the question of privilege. I could not have said that a particular statement constituted a slander. What I did say was that if a statement were made outside against any particular person that the person would have a legal remedy, whereas, when made in the Dáil the aggrieved person is deprived of a remedy.
There is one aspect of that that I thought of raising to-day, it is this, that the question of privilege extends over such matters and that question of privilege has been assumed in every country for some public purpose. It may be the duty of a Deputy to make a statement which if he made outside would subject him to legal procedure under the well-known tag "The greater the truth the greater the libel," but which, if true should be made here. There must be some place where a public statement could be made covered by protection, if that statement be in the interests of the public. I believe it is the custom that when a statement is made it is not anybody in the Dáil who challenges the maker of the statement to repeat it outside. It is the aggrieved party, and nobody else, who does that. I think we ought not in this Dáil raise any question affecting what is a very necessary privilege even in the public interest.
I did not say anything yesterday about, the matter which Deputy Davin had raised. I expressed no opinion but I merely intervened to explain a thing which arose between a Minister and a Deputy. The other question raised by Deputy Figgis is not relevant to this particular matter.