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Alan Kelly says his questions about the Department of Justice are going unanswered

The Labour TD said the refusal to answer his ‘legitimate’ questions is ‘undemocratic’.

Labour's Alan Kelly has an issue with a number of his parliamentary questions being refused.
Labour's Alan Kelly has an issue with a number of his parliamentary questions being refused.
Image: Leah Farrell

LABOUR’S ALAN KELLY has said a number of parliamentary questions he has submitted in relation to the Department of Justice are going unanswered – something the Tipperary TD has dubbed as “undemocratic”.

Questions Kelly asked in the past in relation to the department resulted in uproar in the Dáil.

His queries related to the Department of Justice and whether it was aware of the former Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan’s legal strategy “to go after” whistleblower Maurice McCabe and challenge his “credibility and motivation” at the O’Higgins Commission. Questions were also later raised about the documents that were handed over to the Disclosures Tribunal.

Kelly now states that a number of parliamentary questions relating to the department are being rule “out-of-order” by the Ceann Comhairle’s office.

“Last November, through questioning, I was able to bring out a lot of information about the Department of Justice regarding an Garda Síochana. In the recent past, and over a number of months now… I have been asking a range of other questions. Unfortunately, I can’t get them past the Ceann Comhairle,” said Kelly.

He said his questions relate to factual information, adding that he has asked “simple questions” relating to diary entries and notes of meetings.

“These questions are being refused point-blank despite my protestations to the Ceann Comhairle,” said Kelly, who said the excuse being given is that the Charleton tribunal is underway.

“I think that is unfair. I think it negates my role as a TD. I think it is in many ways anti-democratic and I think it is going to become a real issue. As someone that is elected by the people, when they ask real questions, which are real, factual questions, regarding information – I believe it needs to be brought out in the public,” he added.

He said the Department of Justice should have the answers to his questions, which Kelly said relate to the O’Neill report.

The Charleton inquiry, which is currently underway, was established in light of the publication of a heavily-redacted report by Judge Iarfhlaith O’Neill into the whistleblower allegations.

“Am I not entitled to ask questions about the O’Neill report which is concluded? Why am I not allowed ask about diary entries, about meetings that took place in the Department of Justice, five years ago, four years ago, three years ago?

“The fact is we have a functioning democracy, thank God. The fact is, parallel to tribunals… Dáil Eireann should be allowed function, and the fact an elected representative can’t get proper answers, the fact my democratic mandate and democracy is being negated … that is unacceptable,” he said.

I worry deeply about it because in the past my track record has been to deliver an awful lot of information from those questions and now I am not in a position to do that, because in the main, any questions in the whole justice area are being ruled out of order.

Kelly maintains the questions he is submitting do not refer to the tribunal of investigation and could have ramifications across areas outside of the work of the inquiry. He said just because an investigation is underway it should not prevent a TD from asking legitimate questions.

“There has to be a parallel process that works,” he said, adding that his “legitimate questions” are not vexatious or leading.

“It is absolutely unacceptable,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Disclosures tribunal resumes today.

This week, the tribunal will hear from a number of senior gardaí, as well as members from the Garda Press Office. A representative from the mobile phone network, Three Ireland, will also give evidence.

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