Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 9 April 2014
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions
Decisions on Public Petitions Received
The joint committee has had an opportunity to adjudicate on the three petitions before it today. We will discuss the decisions we have made.
Petition No. 9/13 is from Mr. Hugh Rance on the State's failure to provide an independent process of appeal against a vocational education committee's refusal to provide qualified pay or increments for prior approved teaching service in the EU. The petitioner asked the joint committee to refer his case to the Ombudsman and, subject to his report and the advice of the Attorney General, to recommend to the Minister for Education and Skills that an independent process of appeal must be provided for teachers who are employees of VECs, now education and training boards, when refused qualified pay or incremental credit for prior approved teaching service in the EU.
The petitioner is also asking the committee to recommend that a departmental circular be issued to all VECs, now ETBs, clarifying their statutory obligation as emanations of the State to abide by and implement Regulation No. EU 492/2011 on the free movement of workers in the EU in all administrative decisions in relation to EU citizens.
I agree with the recommendation as outlined. May I suggest that the joint committee write to Cork ETB, the amalgamated city and county VECs, to confirm that circulars issued from the Department of Education and Skills are now applied automatically to all employees?
Is that agreed? Agreed.
The second petition is No. 8/14 from Mr. Desmond FitzGerald concerning access to Leinster House for a member of the public. He states that at present a member of the public is required to obtain sponsorship from a Deputy or Senator or their staff to sit in the Public Gallery of the Oireachtas. What we have agreed after the process of deliberation is that we would explore the matter further by forwarding the petition to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges for its consideration and, when it reports back to us, we will revisit it.
The third petition is No. 23/13 from Mr. Frank Mulcahy regarding the alleged reneging by the then Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on an agreement made with Deputy Ruairí Quinn in 2004. The then Department agreed, following an internal investigation, that its files showed that the allegation in respect of EU grants levelled at Mr. Frank Mulcahy had no merit and that the Department would publicise that evidence. This has not been done.
Unfortunately, because this complaint has been the subject of an investigation by the Ombudsman and an adjudication has been made by the Ombudsman, the joint committee, under its Standing Orders, cannot second-guess decisions of the Ombudsman or of a court of law. We will relay to the petitioner that we must deem his complaint inadmissible under Standing Orders. The petitioner has the right to come back in relation to any public policy matter he believes might need to change as a result of his experience. Is that agreed?
I accept the committee is bound by its Standing Orders and is not allowed to second-guess the Ombudsman or the courts, which is reasonable. My understanding of this case is that the person has a lot of evidence that his good name has been taken. That seems to have been acknowledged in the report of the Ombudsman. I am baffled by the case and the fact that quite senior politicians seem to have acknowledged the injustice that has been done to him. I am baffled that he has not been vindicated. I accept we are not in a position to do that, but I hope that somehow he will be vindicated.
That is the view of committee members but we are limited in what we can do by Standing Orders. There is sympathy for his case. I hope he will get a satisfactory outcome by pursuing it through other channels.