Dáil Éireann - Volume 286 - 26 November, 1975

Private Members' Business. - Report of Tribunal: Motion.

The Taoiseach: I move:

That the Report dated the 31st July, 1975, of the Tribunal appointed on the 4th July, 1975, pursuant to Resolution passed on the 3rd July, 1975, by Dáil Éireann and on the 4th July, 1975, by Seanad Éireann, be referred for consideration to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and for report thereon to the House.

The House will recall that on 2nd July last Deputies Robert Molloy and Brendan Crinion alleged that the Minister for Local Government had a business connection with a County Meath builder named Robert Farrelly, otherwise James Farrell, and made three specific allegations about ways in which this connection operated. Similar allegations had been made in this House as long ago as the 12th December, 1974, and notwithstanding emphatic denials by the Minister, both Deputies Molloy and Crinion confirmed the allegations on 2nd July, 1975, after the Minister had made personal explanation to Dáil Éireann denying any association with the builder in question.

You will recollect, a Cheann Comhairle, that in the circumstances the Minister asked you to refer the matter to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. You did so but the Committee reported that it was unable to investigate the matter because Deputies Molloy and Crinion refused to make any statements before the Committee.

Accordingly, on the 3rd July, 1975, a motion moved by me to set up a Tribunal of Inquiry was passed by Dáil Éireann and on the following day by Seanad Éireann. You will also recall that, on the 4th July, Deputies Molloy and Crinion made personal explanations, in this House, in which they withdrew unreservedly the allegations made by them concerning the Minister and the builder in question.

[302] The report of the Tribunal of Inquiry was made on 31st July last and is now before us in print. I would like to record my appreciation of the expeditious manner in which the members of the tribunal conducted their investigation.

Under Standing Order 73 of this House the Committee on Procedure and Privileges are charged, inter alia, with the function of considering and reporting, when requested to do so, as to the privileges attaching to Members. Accordingly, I am of the view that because of the implications of this matter the Committee on Procedure and Privileges should be asked to consider the report of the tribunal and to report thereon to this House.

I now move the motion.

Mr. J. Lynch: It is not the purpose of this party to oppose the Taoiseach's motion but I feel I should make some observations on it and to raise the question as to its purpose.

There is no doubt about the allegations having been made by Deputies Molloy and Crinion. On 3rd July in this House, as is stated in paragraph 13 of the report of the tribunal appointed by the Taoiseach, Deputy Molloy said he was satisfied that the allegations made to him by two men on whose information he had relied were incorrect. In the circumstances he withdrew unreservedly the allegations made concerning the Minister and Mr. James Farrell and he wished to apologise to both men for any distress caused resulting from his statements in the Dáil. Deputy Crinion endorsed what Deputy Molloy had said. He withdrew unreservedly the allegations he had made in Dáil Éireann about the Minister and Mr. James Farrell. He wished to apologise publicly to both of them for any distress caused to them resulting from his statements in the Dáil.

In the light of that we were rather surprised that the Taoiseach persisted in going to the Seanad with the motion requiring approval to set up the tribunal. It is difficult to understand why the matter must now be referred to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges in the light of the [303] total withdrawal of the allegations in this House by the Deputies concerned and the manner in which they publicly apologised for any distress caused to the Minister and to Mr. Farrell. I think it was a manly withdrawal and a manly apology and it is difficult to appreciate and understand why this matter is being pursued.

The Taoiseach: The House will recall, as I already mentioned, that the time-scale of this was that on 2nd July last, the Deputies made the allegation. The allegation was denied and on 3rd July, the next day, I moved a motion. On the following day, after the motion was moved, the Deputies withdrew the allegation. Prior to that when the matter was before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, they refused to give any evidence. I think if the Leader of the Opposition or any Deputy is in any doubt, he will see that the sequence of events was quite remarkable. On the 2nd the allegation was made and the Minister denied it; on the 3rd the Dáil passed a motion to set up the tribunal and on the 4th, after the allegation had got considerable publicity, Deputies Molloy and Crinion said that their informants were not able to substantiate the claim they had made. Surely it is obvious——

Mr. J. Lynch: May I interrupt? They said that the allegations were incorrect. They could not have gone further.

The Taoiseach: Surely they should have verified the source of the allegation before it was made in the House? I think it reasonable that the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to whom the matter was referred originally should now consider the matter and report to the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Motion agreed?

Mr. J. Lynch: Not opposed.

Question put and agreed to.