Wednesday, 16 May 2018
Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill 2017: Committee Stage
This is a fascinating debate and is a fascinating issue to tease out. There is no doubting the sincerity with which Senator Boyhan and his colleagues have brought forward this amendment. Senator Boyhan is correct that in this House, he is someone who engages, who listens, seeks views and guidance and is not dogmatic in the views or proposals he puts forward.
Having listened to the debate, Sinn Féin also has concerns on the constitutionality of this amendment. We may not have to die on a ditch at this point and we can have the opportunity now to listen to the various views of Members and the Minister.
There is a fundamental issue where a culture has prevailed in the politics of this State where individuals are regarded as being all right and a bit of a rogue. There is also a broader question of how we as a society think that it is okay to elect someone to political office and public life in that case. I agree with much of what the Senator said. It is not the case that all the people who found themselves in those political positions have not been convicted, but they were in the political positions by dint of the people who elected them. Other legislation and aspects of our politics can be examined in the context of how we ensure that the controversies which have bedevilled this State, in terms of white collar crime and corruption, can be challenged in broader society. People would then know that there was some transparency around candidates' records or their pasts when they go forward. I think the Senator is on shaky ground on this and that there are questions regarding the constitutionality of such an amendment. At this stage, I am reluctant to support the amendment without having teased those matters out for a later stage. I am keen to hear the Minister's thoughts and those of colleagues.
I think it is reasonable that if any Member of the Oireachtas or the European Parliament was found guilty by a court of law under this Act that he or she would be disbarred from public office for ten years, and I would suggest that in some cases, ten years would not be enough. I just do not know if we are that far yet but maybe with the Minister's co-operation and that of others we can navigate a way through this which gets the right amendment and goes beyond rhetoric to also filter into society.