Wednesday, 16 May 2018
Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill 2017: Committee Stage
Like Senator Ó Donnghaile, I am fascinated by this debate. I remember in the mid-1990s, having this very discussion as a politics student in UCD when the former Member of this House, Senator Maurice Manning, lectured in that Department. It was before any of what we know now had emerged, it would have been in 1993 or 1994. The first time I was ever in the Seanad Chamber was when I visited with my class with Maurice Manning.
Like Senator Ó Donnghaile, I am conflicted in that it is a very good amendment in what it seeks to achieve but one can also have miscarriages of justice. There could be a situation where people were convicted of corruption and ten years later, they might be able to prove their innocence and in the meantime, they had been denied the opportunity of seeking a mandate from their constituents.
Democracy is something that we in this country treasure. It is a difficult matter if the people choose to give someone a mandate. One might argue that a person having been convicted of corruption should be banned for life, but on the other hand, if one truly believes in democracy, the democratic process and universal suffrage, who am I to say that the person they vote for is not suitable? I might believe that but the people who vote for this person may not agree. Sometimes we have to accept the will of the people. On Friday week, whatever the result, we as politicians will respect and accept the will of the people.
A better way to deal with this issue would be for the people who abhor corruption to put candidates up against people who have been found to have been corrupt and for the political system not to select candidates who are found to be corrupt. There is nothing to stop people from standing as an Independent but they should not stand as a candidate from a registered political party.
I would be interested in the Minister's thoughts on this.The motivation behind the amendment is 100% on the ball, but we have to consider the democratic process, the secrecy of the ballot box, the notion of respecting democracy and ultimately accepting - not necessarily respecting - a mandate.