Classifieds Advertise Archive Subscriptions Family Announcements Photos Digital Editions/Apps
Connect with us

Political World

Denis O’Brien action cuts to the heart of privilege

Published

on

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

Anyone studying journalism or law will learn very early in their studies about the concept of privilege. It comes in two forms – qualified or absolute.

If absolute privilege attaches to the event the reporter is covering it is bomb-proof when it comes to defending a defamation action.

Unfortunately – from the reporter’s viewpoint! – only two institutions are covered. One is the courts. The other is the Oireachtas.

It works on two levels. Anything that is said in Court cannot be subject to a libel action, including what it said by the judge.

The same goes for parliament. A TD or Senator can’t be sued for what they have said in the Dáil, not matter how scandalous or destructive it is. It is also open to abuse, which is a downside, but is a necessary evil.

And that very great latitude is also supposed to be extended to the press. If the comments made in the Courts or in the Oireachtas are reported fairly, accurately and contemporaneously it follows that those reports will also be privileged.

The logic of that is that reporters are (or were!) the conduit between the institutions of the State and the public. There is no point in Court being held in public, or public representatives making public statements, unless the public is in a position to know.

A can of worms is only the start when we start trying to work our way through the controversy that has exploded in the past week over what the independent TD Catherine Murphy said in the Dáil.

My own opinion is  the suppression of reporting on what she said is scandalous and an outrage – and strikes against the right of free speech and against the autonomy and robust independence of one of the pillars of our democracy – Oireachtas Eireann.

Firstly, there is no doubt that she was within her rights to say what she said.

Article 15 of the Constitution states:  “The members of each House of the Oireachtas shall, except in case of treason as defined in this Constitution, felony or breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest in going to and returning from, and while within the precincts of, either House, and shall not, in respect of any utterance in either House, be amenable to any court or any authority other than the House itself.”

The application is a wide one. Parliamentarians can’t be arrested on their way to or from Dáil business. That provision has its roots in the civil war and was designed to prevent forces acting for a particular faction from arresting a member of another faction in order to prevent him or her voting in the Dáil.

It’s the second half of the Article that is most pertinent here. Essentially, no statement or comment made in the house can be challenged in the courts or elsewhere.

The language is explicit. It also means that no TD or Senator can find themselves at the wrong end of a libel action for something they said in the house.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Covid casts long shadow – but vaccine is still winning the race

Published

on

Tony Holohan...concern at rapid rise in numbers.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

To channel Neil Young, Covid-19 is a little like rust; it never sleeps. A few weeks ago it looked like we had it finally under control, and the vaccination programme under the stewardship of Prof Briain Mac Craith was working seamlessly. Case numbers were plummeting as were numbers for hospitalisation and ICU admission. All the indicators were going in the right direction.

The Delta variant has given us a reminder that virus should never be underestimated. Within a number of weeks it has gone from a handful of cases in the UK to being so dominant that, as of yesterday, it accounted for 99 per cent of all cases, according to Public Health England.

Not only there but in Portugal, over 60 per cent of new cases in Lisbon are of the Delta variant. In the US it tripled from 10 percent of all new cases to 30 per cent in just eleven days.

In old money it is known as the Indian variant, and anyone who has followed its progress in that incredibly populous country will know the trail of destruction it has left behind.

Here too, the rapid increase in cases has been incredible. It went from five per cent to 20 per cent in little over a week. There is a strong chance that by July it will be the dominant strain.

Not that we should be panic, because vaccinations have been the key to addressing Covid. In January we were looking at thousands of cases every day and hundreds of deaths. Now people are still contracting Covid in their hundreds each day but the deaths have fallen to near zero and there are hardly two dozen people in ICU.

That connection between the number of cases and deaths has been broken – because of vaccines.

Most of those getting Covid-19 now are younger. The biggest group to get it, the latest 14-day figures show, were those between the ages of 19 to 24, followed by those between 25 and 35, and then those between 35 and 44. The median age is now 25 – two months ago it was 45.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Continue Reading

Connacht Tribune

Homeowners living in fear of walls coming tumbling down

Published

on

Pyrite and Mica-affected homeowners protest this week at Dublin’s Convention Centre.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Mica and Pyrite are two words that have been lifted from a technical manual or a science textbook to become part of common speech in Ireland in recent years. The presence of both substances in construction materials has had devastating consequences for families from Donegal, Mayo, Limerick, Sligo and other counties. We have seen the TV documentaries and newspaper reports where distraught homeowners show huge cracks in the gables of houses or show a block to the camera that is crumbling in their hands like dust.

Sometimes it looks like somebody has built a giant bungalow-shaped sandcastle that’s going to be washed away by the next spring tide.

We are talking about people’s family homes here. This is where all the life savings – past, present and future – have gone. They (or rather their builders) bought the blocks in good faith, little knowing they were so defective they would endanger their houses, and indeed their own lives.

As Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald remarked in the Dáil this week about these families: “They go to bed at night wondering will their gable end fall down or will the chimney on their neighbour’s house fall down.”

So who is to blame? The companies who manufactured the blocks? The State for not having robust safety standards for the material or manufacture of blocks? The State, again, for not conducting sufficient inspection?

It’s complicated. Like Pyrite, apportioning blame is a tricky business. What is not in doubt is that people who have built family homes cannot live in them anymore, because they are dangerous and falling apart, and it is not their fault. They deserve compensation.

The focus of the Sinn Féin motion this week was for the families to get 100 per cent open-ended compensation. That would mean the State would foot the entire bill to remediate their houses, to rectify the faults, and sometimes to rebuild the whole lot.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

Continue Reading

Connacht Tribune

Will ‘vaccine bounce’ prove crucial to by-election victory?

Published

on

Noel Treacy...a rare by-election win for the ruling party.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

By-elections sometimes mean everything – and sometimes they mean nothing at all. Because often, by the time a general election takes place, they have faded away into the past. They have no impact at all on the national level.

That doesn’t mean that we haven’t seen some memorable and crucial by-elections.

Like way back in 1982, when Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, who had a minority government, engineered a coup by nominating a Fine Gael TD, Richard Burke, to be Ireland’s European Commissioner.

Burke was a TD for Dublin West which was a Fianna Fáil stronghold at the time. The idea was the party’s candidate would win the subsequent by-election to give Fianna Fáil a majority in the Dáil.

But things did not go to script. Fine Gael’s candidate was a local businessman named Liam Skelly who bucked the trend by taking the seat in an audacious victory for Fine Gael.

Another significant by-election was in 2010 in Donegal South West. Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher had won a seat in the European Parliament in 2009 and the Fianna Fáil-led government had dilly-dallied over holding an election to fill the vacant seat.

The long-fingering eventually resulted in a court case taken by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty – which he won, amid huge publicity.

The narrative, of course, was that Fianna Fáil were trying to shut him out. By that stage they probably were. Doherty won a massive victory for his party, getting elected in the first count.

I have always believed that this victory alone provided much of the momentum for the big gains Sinn Féin made in the following election.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

Continue Reading

Local Ads

Local Ads

Advertisement
Advertisement

Facebook

Advertisement

Trending