Fianna Fáil Chief Whip Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD has written to the Ceann Comhairle seeking a formal response to comments from Minister Simon Harris about the IBRC issue. In a RTE Morning Ireland interview, Minister Harris dismissed criticism of information not being provided in answer to Parliamentary Questions on the basis that the information was available through Freedom of Information requests.
Deputy Ó Fearghaíl commented, “Ever since it emerged that Minister Michael Noonan did not fully answer Parliamentary Questions from Deputy Catherine Murphy, it has been a recurring theme from Government spokespeople that it wasn’t really a problem because she got the information through Freedom of Information. On Friday, Minister Simon Harris was particularly dismissive, making the point that PQ’s and FOI requests are ‘different’ and that essentially this was why Deputy Murphy’s questions weren’t answered.
“This development cannot and will not go unchallenged. The clear implication of what Harris and others are saying is that parliamentary accountability and the PQ system which ensures that accountability is secondary to Freedom of Information legislation.
“I have written to the Ceann Comhairle for a formal response on the issue on the basis that if Minister Harris’ view has the support of the Ceann Comhairle’s office, the role of the Dáil and the entire process of Ministerial Question Time have been subverted without debate or consultation.
“This latest tactic from Government follows closely on the inexcusable failure to properly assert the Dáil’s freedom of expression in the face of legal threats last week and further demonstrates the lack of esteem Fine Gael and Labour in Government have for the National Parliament.
“I look forward to the Ceann Comhairle’s response. If he agrees with Fianna Fáil position on the unacceptability of Minister Harris’ comments, will we will be seeking a statement from Minister Michael Noonan. If he does not, and seeks to support the Minister’s comments, we will be seeking a Dáil debate on the matter at the earliest opportunity.”