Fianna Fáil Spokesman on Public Expenditure and Reform Seán Fleming TD has welcomed the publication of the Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution (Houses of the Oireachtas Inquiries) Bill 2011.

Deputy Fleming said: ‘I welcome the proposed referendum and the accompanying legislation published by Minister Howlin today.  The wording is based on the all-party committee report under the chairmanship of Seán Ardagh, published in January of this year.

‘The referendum and legislation is necessary to ensure the elected representatives of the people have appropriate powers to investigate matters in the public interest.  Such inquiries have been prohibited following the Abbeylara judgement.

‘The referendum will allow the Oireachtas, through a Committee, to inquire into the conduct of persons in both public and private sectors.  However, it is important to say that the Oireachtas must decide if such matters meet the test of being “of general public importance.”

‘However, we have concerns regarding the proposed legislation accompanying the Constitutional Amendment, namely:

–          there will have to be fair procedures and justice guaranteed to all witnesses and people who are the subject of an inquiry

–          that the political balance of the membership of such a Committee established by the Oireachtas must be agreed by all parties to ensure such committees are not subject to political dominance or influence from any one party

‘Overall Fianna Fáil welcomes the Constitutional Amendment and we will be seeking appropriate improvements to the accompanying legislation,’ concluded Deputy Fleming.