Wednesday, 16 May 2018
Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill 2017: Committee Stage
I am happy to reflect further along the lines Senator Boyhan indicates. However, I am very much constrained by the Constitution. I am not of the view that this is a matter that should be put to the people by way of an early constitutional referendum. The programme for Government includes a full schedule of referendums and I would rather not introduce a new one into the public arena at this stage on this issue. With that in mind, I am constrained by the current constitutional position. However, I am keen to see what further reflection by myself, my officials, my legal advisers and the Office of the Attorney General might produce with a view to allaying the concerns of Senator Boyhan and others.
I am concerned, however, by any suggestion on the part of elected Members to formulate groups of persons who would be ineligible for membership of Parliament and which could be expanded and developed by way of a majority vote in the Houses at any future time. I would not subscribe to that. It is not a matter for us. I believe firmly that we should leave the issue of penalties entirely in the hands of the independent Judiciary. Introducing legislation here which might exclude murderers and sex offenders today could extend to any person or group in future. That might very well strike at the heart of our democracy. I would certainly caution against that. I understand that Senator Boyhan is disposed to withdraw the amendment. While I will give the matter further consideration, I am constrained by the Constitution and will come back to the Seanad within that framework.