Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 8 June 2021
Seanad Committee on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union
Brexit Issues: Discussion
The agenda for today's meeting is the ongoing implementation of the trade and co-operation agreement between the EU and the UK, issues surrounding the Northern Ireland protocol and European Union support to assist Ireland in dealing with the challenges of Brexit. We welcome Barry Andrews, MEP, Ciaran Cuffe, MEP, and Colm Markey, MEP. Maria Walsh, MEP, is running slightly late and she will join us shortly. For the information of members, Mr. Cuffe is due to leave at 1:30 p.m. We will take opening statements from all MEPs but as Mr. Cuffe has to leave, if members have questions specifically for him, they might ask them before 1:30 p.m.
Regarding privilege, witnesses giving evidence from within the parliamentary precincts are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence that they give to the committee. This means that a witness has a full defence in a defamation action or in regard to anything said at a committee meeting. However, witnesses are expected not to abuse this privilege and may be directed to cease giving evidence on an issue at the Chair's direction. Witnesses should follow the direction of the Chair in this regard and are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that, as is reasonable, no adverse commentary should be made against an identifiable third party or entity. Witnesses who are to give evidence from a location outside the parliamentary precincts are asked to note they may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as a witness giving evidence from within the parliamentary precincts, so they may consider it appropriate to take legal advice on this matter. Privilege against defamation does not apply to publication by witnesses outside of the proceedings held by the committee of any matters arising from the proceedings.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I remind members that they are only allowed to participate in this meeting if they are physically located on the Leinster House campus. In this regard, I ask all members, prior to making their initial contribution, to confirm they are on the grounds of the Leinster House campus. If they are directed to cease giving evidence by the Chair in regard to a particular matter, they must respect that direction.
We will go straight to MEPs for opening remarks and, with the agreement of witnesses, we will then go back to members for questions. I ask Mr. Andrews to make his opening statement.