Fianna Fáil Party Whip Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD has proposed that there should be a change in Dáil Standing Orders where deputies who have been found to have abused Dáil privilege will face an automatic sanction of at least one month’s salary.
His call comes following the recent finding that Deputy Mary Lou McDonald was guilty of abusing her Dáil position when she named a number of individuals and repeated accusations that they were guilty of tax evasion despite being advised that they had been fully investigated and had no case to answer.
Deputy Ó Fearghaíl commented, “In this Republic, Dáil Éireann holds a special place of privilege, and the Deputies elected to it properly share in that privilege. However, it is increasingly clear that there are some who do not respect that special privilege and are happy to abuse it for personal or political purposes.
“As they are currently constituted, Dáil Standing Orders are based on an assumption of good faith on the part of Deputies and the assumption that being found guilty of abusing privilege is a sufficient disincentive to prevent it happening. Unfortunately, that no longer appears to be the case and meaningful sanctions are now needed.
“Fianna Fáil does not believe that excluding members from the Dáil is appropriate as it penalises constituents rather the guilty deputy, so we are proposing a straightforward financial penalty for those who are found guilty of abusing their position. Introduced as an automatic fine of one month’s salary, but reviewed after 12 months and increased as appropriate.
“We regret that such a proposal is necessary, but the special place that the Dáil chamber enjoys in Irish life is something that must be protected. Those who will happily undermine or subvert it in the interests of party political considerations must get the message that such behaviour brings with it meaningful consequences.”