Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach

General Scheme of the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Bill 2021: Discussion

Photo of Jim O'CallaghanJim O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay South, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank Deputy Mairéad Farrell for nominating me as Acting Chairman. Our Chairman, Deputy McGuinness, is momentarily delayed so I have been asked to sit in until he arrives.

I remind members to ensure their mobile phones are switched off. This is important as it causes serious problems for broadcasting, editorial and sound staff. Apologies have been received from Deputies Steven Matthews and Pearse Doherty.

I now invite the witnesses to join the meeting remotely from Kildare House. Once members and witnesses join the meeting via MS Teams, they should assume that they can be seen on screen video, whether speaking or not. Members are also reminded to ensure their microphones are muted when they are not contributing to the meeting.

The purpose of today's meeting is to engage in pre-legislative scrutiny of the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Bill 2021. I welcome members and viewers, who may be watching our proceedings on Oireachtas TV, to the public session of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach. I am very pleased to say that we are joined by four witnesses: from Raiseaconcern, Mr. Philip Brennan, Mr. John Wilson and Mr. Noel McGree and, from Whistleblowers Ireland, Ms Julie Grace. The format is that each of the witnesses will make some brief opening remarks and this will be followed by a question and answer session with the members.

Members and witnesses are reminded that the meeting must conclude within two hours. The evidence of witnesses physically present or who give evidence from within the parliamentary precincts is protected, pursuant to both the Constitution and statute, by absolute privilege. They are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable or otherwise engage in speech that may be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. If their statements, therefore, are potentially defamatory in regard to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative that they comply with any such direction.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise 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 of the constitutional requirement that members must be physically present within the confines of the place where Parliament has chosen to sit, namely, Leinster House or in the convention centre in Dublin in order to participate in public meetings.

I now invite Mr. Brennan to make his opening remarks. He will be followed by Ms Grace, Mr. Wilson and Mr. McGree.


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