Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform: Select Sub-Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform

Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013: Committee Stage

7:45 pm

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour) | Oireachtas source

I have been involved in a number of tribunals of inquiry, including, for example, the tribunal on blood contamination. There is no issue with going through all the policy issues and what was done in a Department in relation to such matters. There would not be an issue either with regard to the issues the Chairman mentions. What is protected is Cabinet documentation and Cabinet discussions. It is an important principle upon which we should not trample readily. The Cabinet must be free to discuss. As the Constitution provides that the decisions of Cabinet are the collective decisions of every member, the fact that one trenchantly opposed something at Cabinet cannot be exposed subsequently. It should not be exposed subsequently because the Cabinet decision is one's own decision unless one resigns. That allows for the robustness of real Cabinet debate, which is why the protection is there. There will be no impediment, however, to conducting the type of inquiry referred to by the Chairman as a result of that particular rule.


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