Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 8 November 2017
Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution
Business of Joint Committee
We must now attend to a housekeeping matter. I return to an issue which was raised with me earlier. Letters may be read into the record in limited circumstances only, as, for example, in the case of Ms Cora Sherlock where clarification was necessary. I am reliably informed that it is a matter for the Chair, rather than individual members, to decide how correspondence is handled. I have proposed that the correspondence in question be placed on the committee's website. That is my decision and it is one on which I will not be challenged. Individual members may not demand a decision or question the decision of the Chair. This applies to the Dáil, the Seanad and all committees. If any member wishes to table a substantive motion in respect of a ruling of the Chair, he or she is free to do so, provided he or she gives adequate notice to the committee. That is the position. My sincerely held view is that if someone is scheduled to attend and subsequently decides not to do so, it is not appropriate to read statements from him or her into the record. If we were to allow this, many people would not attend meetings. I have made my final decision on the matter.
The Chair gave us her sincerely held view that my request would not make sense. She then gave a ruling that it was a matter for the Chair to decide and said that she had been reliably informed that it was only done in certain circumstances. What is the source of her authority in this matter?
As Chair of the committee, I have decided that letters sent to the committee by persons who were due to attend will not be read into the record. I am happy to read into the record clarification. It would also be reasonable to do so if an issue arose subsequent to a person's appearance. It would not set a good precedent to allow individuals who were due to attend but did not do so to write to the committee and have their statement placed on the record. We could spend all day doing so.
I am clear on the Chair's personal view on what is the appropriate approach to take and that she believes it is her right, as Chair, to make a decision on the matter. What is the source of her authority to make this ruling now, as opposed to expressing this view as a member who happens to be Chair? I am merely seeking clarification on a couple of points.
I am exercising my right to find out from exactly where the Chair sources her authority in this matter. This is in everyone's interests. Perhaps we should all know that this authority is provided for in what the Chair referred to as the salient rulings of the Chair. Can I also establish that while she stated she was relying on the salient rulings of the Chair to make this, as it were, extemporeand ad hocdecision, certain letters can be read out and certain letters may not?
I am entitled to seek full particulars in this matter because where I am leading is that the Chair has conceded that, on notice, a motion can be tabled to seek to overturn the ruling of the Chair and have letters read into the record. Is that what she said?
I am an extremely patient person, but I find this inappropriate at this point. I made a ruling on the matter and set out in detail my rationale in respect of the letters in question. It is only fair that we leave the matter at that, unless an additional point needs to be made.
I indicated that I wished to speak. We are not disrespecting the Chair's ruling. We waited all day for her to obtain advice, which is fair enough and which we accept, but for her to take umbrage at us questioning the reasons behind-----