Seanad Éireann - Volume 124 - 05 April, 1990
Personal Explanation by Member.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach An Leas-Chathaoirleach
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I have been given notice by Senator Sean McCarthy that he wishes to make a personal explanation. Before I call the Senator I want to make it clear that I will not allow any debate on this matter. Once the personal explanation is made the matter is closed. This is in accordance with long standing precedent. Members, of course, can put their own motions for debate.
Dr. McCarthy Dr. McCarthy
Dr. McCarthy: In view of the public attention which has focused on the recent court proceedings in which I was involved, I feel that public interest requires that I clarify matters. On the evening of 22 November last I addressed this House on the subject of eastern Europe, from where I had recently returned. I later attended a constituency meeting in Leinster House. Afterwards I worked on a report concerning my eastern European trip for some several hours. On my way home I stopped in Rathmines to purchase the morning newspapers and to have breakfast. I had my breakfast and read the newspapers.
When I emerged I noticed several gardaí in the vicinity. I got into my car and drove a short distance whereupon I was stopped by the gardaí. I was asked my name and address which I gave. I was asked where I was coming from and I said from work. When disbelief was expressed at this I explained that I was a Member of this House. I believed, and  still firmly believe, I had committed no offence under the Road Traffic Acts. I was informed I was being arrested. I have to state to this House that there and then I informed the garda that in my view he was acting illegally, having regard, among other things, to Article 15.13 of the Constitution. The upshot was that I was brought to Rathmines Garda station where I was asked to provide a sample of my blood or urine. I declined to do so and was charged with an offence under the Road Traffic Acts. I appeared before the Dublin District Court the following morning when the case was adjourned at the request of the gardaí to 8 February last. On that date it was adjourned further, with the agreement of the prosecution, to 29 March last.
In the meantime, I had obtained legal advice to the effect that Article 15.13 of the constitution quite probably afforded a defence to the charge against me. Whilst it was open to me to communicate this view to the Director of Public Prosecutions I decided that no representations should be made by me, or on my behalf. I had, of course, also open to me the full range of defences available to every citizen in such cases. My solicitor received a letter dated 26 February last from the Office of the Chief State Solicitor indicating that the Director of Public Prosecutions proposed to withdraw the charge against me at the next court hearing. No reason was given for this decision either in correspondence or at the subsequent hearing.
Whilst the constitutional provision was never relied upon on my behalf in court I obviously could not undo the events of 23 November. During the past few weeks I have been pilloried by the national media. Severe embarrassment has been caused to my family and friends and aspersions cast on the honour of this House and the rights and obligations of its Members. I confess openly to this House that if I could wind back the clock I would choose to adopt a different stance than the one which I did adopt in Rathmines. I would do so not because of the rights and wrongs of my actions prior to my  raising Article 15.13 but rather because I would never wish to do anything which could reflect badly on this House.
If my actions have reflected ill on this House I regret them. If it were possible to undo what occurred on the morning of 23 November last I would undo it. If an expression of regret for what occurred will serve the best interests of this House, I apologise. I cannot do more. I note the intentions of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to introduce new rules relating to the use of Article 15.13. I welcome and support that decision conscious as I am that there is no existing precedent or rules governing the use of this privilege. Hopefully, my experience will be the last occasion on which difficulties of this type will arise.
Seanad Éireann 124 Personal Explanation by Member.