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Government Buildings. Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Howlin says new law on Oireachtas inquiries will require "careful balances"

The Minister said he was anxious to give authority back to the Oireachtas itself as opposed to the Government.

MINISTER FOR PUBIC Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has said new legislation that would allow the Oireachtas to carry out inquiries will require careful balances.

Yesterday the Minister announced the the Government approval for the drafting of the new bill which he said would enhance the role of the Oireachtas in securing accountability.

The bill would provide for Oireachtas to undertake inquiries outside their normal day-to-day functions under five principal categories:

  • “Inquire Record and Report” style inquiries which would involve taking in evidence, recording it and reporting it without coming to conclusions.
  • “Forward-looking” inquiries which would be empowered to make findings of fact in the context of investigations relating to the legislative functions of the House(s);
  • Inquiries relating to the removal of certain office holders like the President or judges;
  • Inquiries in relation to the conduct of a Member of the House(s);
  • Inquiries and make findings of fact for the purpose of holding the current Government to account under Article 28.4 of the Constitution.

Speaking on Morning Ireland today Howlin said there will be “very careful balances” required when dealing with the conduct of a member of a House or with the removal of an individual from office.

“There are over 87 heads in the draft bill that we published and they enshrine very clearly protections against bias, if members have made statements in relation to any individual or any set of circumstances that would objectibly make them unsuitable to have an impartial inquiry, they would have to exclude themselves from it.”

Howlin said he was anxious to give authority back to the Oireachtas itself so that inquiries don’t “have a genesis of control in the executive of the Government but actually in the Houses”.

Commenting on last year’s rejected referendum to give powers to the Oireachtas to investigate and make findings against individuals, Howlin said the government has constructed what can be done “within that constrained area”.

“We put a proposal to them and they said ‘No, we don’t want to give you that extra power’, so this is the people’s best decision, and we, as the people’s servants, are obliged to say that’s exactly what we’ll do,” he added.

Read: Legislation may have to be put in place before banking inquiry>

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