Call for written submissions on freedom of debate and members' privilege

Freedom of debate is a cornerstone of our democracy and is a fundamental feature of our parliament. Under the Constitution of Ireland, Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas have freedom to debate any issue. This privilege ensures that Members can speak freely and raise important issues without fear of being sued in the Courts. These wide-ranging privileges are constitutionally protected under Articles 15.10, 15.12 and 15.13 of the Constitution. Only the Houses of the Oireachtas themselves can hold Members to account for what they say in parliamentary debate.

For that reason, the Houses of the Oireachtas make the rules governing their own Members, and Members’ use of privilege. The Standing Orders of the Dáil regulate privilege, for example, in relation to making statements in the nature of being defamatory, or commenting on ongoing court proceedings.

The Ceann Comhairle has convened the Forum on Parliamentary Privilege to consider the current rules regarding privilege; the Forum wishes to hear from interested members of the public and is seeking written submissions addressing the following six questions as applicable in Dáil Éireann:

  1. What constitutes a responsible use of freedom of debate in the Houses of the Oireachtas?

  2. How should freedom of debate in the Houses of the Oireachtas and the right of an individual to his or her good name be balanced against each other?

  3. How should freedom of debate in the Houses of the Oireachtas and the rights of the individual in court proceedings be balanced against each other?

  4. If a person’s good name has been impugned in the Houses of the Oireachtas, or his or her privacy has been breached, what procedure should be in place (within the Oireachtas itself) to deal with the abuse of privilege?

  5. What recourse should the citizen have where his or her good name or privacy rights have been interfered with by the abuse of privilege? What measures to protect the good name of the citizen should be considered?

  6. What sanctions should be imposed on a Member who has abused privilege? 

Submissions are welcome from all interested parties and should follow the rules outlined below. Submissions can be sent by email to privilegeforum@oireachtas.ie (please note: emails with attachments will not be accepted) or by post to the Journal Office, Houses of the Oireachtas Service, Leinster House, Dublin 2, D02 XR20.

The deadline for receipt of written submissions is 11 September 2017 at 18:00.

Written submissions received after this date will not be considered. 

 

Rules on the receipt of submissions

  1. The Forum on Parliamentary Privilege welcomes submissions from all interested parties.
  2. Submissions should be clear and concise and address the questions included in the advertisement.
  3. The Forum on Parliamentary Privilege reserves the right not to accept a submission, or any part thereof, if it considers it to be irrelevant, offensive, inappropriate or defamatory. Persons making submissions should not refer to ongoing court cases.
  4. We intend to publish all accepted submissions in the final report, displayed with a full name (first name, surname)/name of organisation, if appropriate.
  5. Anonymous submissions will not be accepted. You must include your full name, and a telephone contact number for verification purposes.
  6. In the case of submissions containing sensitive personal information, all personal data and related identifiable details may be removed or redacted if you request it. If this happens, these submissions will be listed online as “Name with Forum Secretariat”, or ‘NWFS’. In certain circumstances the submission itself may not be published.
  7. Submissions in email attachments will not be accepted.
  8. Our data protection policy regarding submissions can be downloaded here.
  9. The Forum may decide to hear oral submissions once they have considered all of the written submissions.