The Chair has made careful inquiries into the complaint made by Deputy Harte in the House yesterday. The evidence made available to me from all sides of what occurred is to an extent conflicting. While there would appear to have been heated language and frayed tempers between the Minister for Local Government and certain other Members after the close of the sitting on Thursday, 20th March, the incident cannot be regarded as of sufficient significance to justify declaring it to be a prima facie breach of privileges of the House. The Chair, however, deplores that Members should, in an unseemly manner, indulge in arguments in the precincts of the House as has happened in this case.
Privilege: Complaint by Member.
May I say that any remarks which were made came from the Minister for Local Government? No remarks whatever were made by me or any member of my Party in my presence. I state that firmly and categorically.
The evidence received by the Chair would indicate that remarks were made from all sides.
Where did you get the evidence? Neither you nor anybody else asked me for any evidence. I certainly have not given you any evidence.
How would a judge come to a conclusion without getting evidence from the witnesses? The Minister for Local Government, Deputy Boland, used filthy language and threatened to assault us, but we kept our tempers.
You were yapping behind me.
I was not asked for evidence. Where did I give my evidence? How can you give a judgment without getting the necessary evidence?
You were buzzing around me like flies.
Because the Deputy was a good boy he was not asked for evidence.
I kept my temper for once in my life. I will admit that.
I wish to pledge, on my word of honour, that there were no remarks whatsoever of a derogatory nature used by any members of the Fine Gael Party towards the Minister for Local Government. I wish further to say, on my word of honour, that any abuse which was used came from the Minister for Local Government and from no one else. We refrained from saying anything whatsoever because we felt the Minister for Local Governmen ment needed sympathy more than anything else.
You kept yapping around my heels.
I would appeal to you to call the Committee on Procedure and Privileges together to investigate the abuse used by the Minister for Local Government.
We cannot debate the matter, but I can assure the Deputy the evidence tendered to me from all sides——
What do you mean by "all sides"? From whom did you get the evidence?
Would Deputy Harte and Deputy L'Estrange please listen to what the Chair has to say on this matter?
Before the Chair says anything further, in the interests of the dignity of the House would the Chair indicate, when replying, from what source the evidence to which the Chair refers came, who gave the evidence, so that the Deputies may understand——
The Chair cannot be cross-examined in that way. The Chair has sources from whom it obtains information relating to matters in this House, sources on which it can rely. In this case the evidence was so conflicting——
Would the Deputy not sit down?
I am on my feet.
Not while the Chair is speaking.
Would the Minister for Local Government kindly keep quiet?
The Deputy must be well paid to keep out of the Law Library at this time of day. What is his fee to be here today?
This matter is of some significance to Deputies in this House, and I would urge upon the Chair to indicate why the Deputies who raised this matter here, Deputy L'Estrange, Deputy Harte and Deputy Luke Belton, were not approached or asked for their account of what happened.
On a point of order.
You cannot have two points of order at the same time.
We cannot have a debate on this.
What is the source of the evidence upon which the Chair relies?
On a point of order. The conduct of the Chair has been challenged. That should be done by motion and Deputy O'Higgins knows that.
The conduct of the Chair is not being challenged.
We are entitled to know where the information came from, and nobody on this side was asked any question by the Ceann Comhairle.
The Fianna Fáil Party tried to destroy this House from outside once; they will not destroy it from inside now.
There are not enough of you to intimidate me, and no sham squire will do it.
You will not destroy this House.
No O'Higgins will do it. There are not enough of you to intimidate me.
Now we are getting an example of what the Minister is capable of.