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Higgins warned about abuse of parliamentary privilege over Belmayne 'lie' remarks

The Ceann Comhairle says Joe Higgins can’t use the Dáil “to make allegations against people who cannot defend themselves”.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett told Joe Higgins he could not use parliamentary privilege to make allegations against people who could not defend themselves.
Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett told Joe Higgins he could not use parliamentary privilege to make allegations against people who could not defend themselves.

THE CEANN COMHAIRLE of the Dáil, Seán Barrett, has warned Joe Higgins that he cannot use his parliamentary privilege “to make allegations against people who cannot defend themselves”.

Barrett’s remarks came after Higgins accused junior housing minister Jan O’Sullivan of repeating a “blatant lie” in the House yesterday over the fire safety risks at the Belmayne housing estate in northern Dublin.

Residents in Belmayne were told last week that they would need to be displaced for some time while urgent fire repair work was carried out.

Higgins said O’Sullivan had yesterday told the Dáil that problems only came to light when an examination on a leaking pipe exposed the difficulties – describing this assertion as “a blatant lie” while O’Sullivan visibly shook her head.

The Ceann Comhairle interrupted, telling Higgins that the Dáil was “not a forum for you to be making allegations,” only for Higgins to again assert: “I’m telling you that that is a lie.”

‘Scurrilous and scandalous remark’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was “beneath Deputy Higgins to claim that junior minister Jan O’Sullivan is a liar… you should be big enough to withdraw a scurrilous and scandalous remark.

“I feel for the tenants who will have to leave Belmayne for a number of days,” the Taoiseach offered. “There are a number of other locations where this may well arise.

You should be big enough, in your retort, to withdraw your scurrilous remark.

The exchange came at the end of a fraught session of Leaders’ Questions, in which Kenny and Micheál Martin locked horns on yesterday’s disappointing retail figures – during which Kenny claimed that “no jobs have been lost in the retail sector,” a remark he later clarified.

“Your head must be in the sand if youre saying that no jobs have been lost in the retail sector,” the Fianna Fáil leader said. “There’s not a town in Ireland where you can walk any street and have no shops closed.”

“Retail sales are actually higher in January of this year than they were last year,” the Taoiseach replied, saying he knew of anecdotal cases where retailers were having to take on new staff. “Competition has increased, prices are down… people are shopping around,” he said.

‘Cartridges’

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams had raised concerns of a potential conflict of interest in NAMA, where the Blackstone Group had been hired to advise NAMA on the sale of its Irish and British assets – while at the same time being a likely bidder for those assets.

“Blackstone are the largest bidder of distressed assets in the world… these vulture capitalists are advising on this loan sale, while they’re not precluded from bidding.”

Kenny, in reply, quipped that Adams was showing an interest in loans, saying:

I thought yourself and Aengus Ó Snodaigh might go to the Northern Bank and get a loan for those ink cartridges…

Some of your members can’t get away from cartridges, with unfortunate results.

In subsequent exchanges, Kenny said he may be able to offer a draft timetable for the passage of a referendum bill on the fiscal compact after the matter is discussed at Cabinet next week.

Read: Repair work needed at homes in Dublin housing estate >

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Gavan Reilly

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