IMEACHTA AN CHOISTE.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE.
Dé Céadaoin, 7ú Feabhra, 1945.
Wednesday, 7th February, 1945.
1. The Committee met at 11.15 a.m. in Committee Room 106.
2. The following members were present:—
The Ceann Comhairle (Chairman); The Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach; Deputies Breen, Briscoe, E. Coogan, Donnellan, Doyle and O’Loghlen.
3. Rules Relating to Disorderly Conduct in the Dail.
A Draft Report brought in by the Chairman was read a first time as follows:—
1. The Committee on Procedure and Privileges has had under review various aspects of the rules relating to disorderly conduct in the Dáil. These rules, which are contained in Nos. 49, 50 and 51 of the Standing Orders of the Dáil relative to Public Business, appoint the Ceann Comhairle the sole judge of order in the Dáil and vest him with powers to enforce obedience to his ruling. Those powers are, firstly, the power to order a Deputy, guilty of gross disorder, to withdraw from the Dáil for the remainder of the day’s sitting and, secondly, if he deems that to be inadequate, the power to “name” the Deputy, which is the method of calling on the Dáil to suspend the Deputy from the service of the Dáil. Suspension from the service of the Dáil lasts for a week, a fortnight or a month according to whether it is the first, second or any subsequent occasion in respect of the Deputy concerned. Within those periods, the Dáil can discharge the order of suspension on receipt of a written and approved expression of regret from the Deputy.
2. The Committee is satisfied that the Ceann Comhairle’s powers, as described above, provide ample means of checking disorder. In the matter of the periods during which a Deputy’s suspension remains in force it is considered that, while the Dáil is in regular week-to-week session, they fairly adequately represent the measure of censure which ought to be imposed on a Deputy guilty of the type of disorderly conduct normally meriting such punishment. It is clear, however, that the penalty loses much of its effect when the offence is committed shortly before a period of recess or when sittings are irregular. In such circumstances it can easily happen that the suspension of a Deputy will be effective only for the day on which it takes place. The Committee accordingly recommends that the duration of an Order suspending a Deputy should be fixed by reference to a number of sitting days corresponding roughly to the number that would be included in the periods at present prescribed, were the Dáil in full uninterrupted session. The amendment suggested is the deletion from Standing Order No. 51 of the words “If any member be suspended under this Standing Order, his suspension on the first occasion shall continue for one week, on the second occasion for a fortnight, and on the third or any subsequent occasion for one month” and the substitution therefor of the words “If any member be suspended under this Standing Order, his suspension on the first occasion shall continue until the fourth day, on the second occasion until the eighth day, and on the third or any subsequent occasion until the twelfth day, on which the Dáil shall sit after the day on which he was suspended.”
3. The Committee is informed that, in practice, the reckoning of the number of times a Deputy has been suspended, for the purpose of determining the duration of the Order of suspension on any particular occasion, is made by reference to suspensions occurring during the life-time of each Dáil. The Committee is satisfied that this is the commonsense interpretation of Standing Order No. 51 but, as the said Order is not explicit on the point, recommends its formal approval to the Dáil.
4. The Committee considers that the phrase “precincts of the Dáil,” in the Standing Order directing the withdrawal of disorderly members therefrom, requires definition, as practice has not been uniform in its application. In its widest sense, it can be held to mean the entire premises and grounds of Leinster House and the Committee was at first inclined to the view that the Standing Order should be so applied. On consideration, however, the Committee decided that it was unnecessary, from the point of view of checking disorder, to exclude suspended members from more than the immediate precincts of the Dáil, i.e. the Chamber itself, including all Galleries, and the adjacent Lobby. The Committee accordingly recommends the latter interpretation of the phrase to the Dáil for the purpose of the application of Standing Order No. 50.
5. With the exception of the matter referred to in paragraph 2, the Committee does not consider that the recommendations contained in this Report require textual amendment of the Standing Orders. The adoption of the Report by the Dáil will suffice to give formal approval to the interpretations of the Standing Orders recommended in paragraphs 3 and 4.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach moved:
“That the Chairman’s Draft Report be read a second time.”
Question put, and agreed to—Deputies Coogan and Doyle dissenting.
Report considered paragraph by paragraph.
(i) Paragraph 1 agreed to.
(ii) Paragraph 2.
Amendment proposed (Deputy Donnellan):
“To delete all words from and including the words ‘If any member be suspended’ where they secondly occur and substitute therefore the following:—
‘If any member be suspended under this Standing Order his suspension shall continue until the fourth day on which the Dáil shall sit after the day on which he was suspended. If, however, a member be suspended on more than one occasion in any period of twelve months, his suspension on the second such occasion shall continue until the eighth such day, and on the third, or any subsequent, such occasion until the twelfth such day.’”
Question put, and agreed to.
Paragraph, as amended, agreed to— Deputies Coogan and Doyle dissenting.
(iii) Paragraph 3, 4 and 5 deleted.
Question “That the Chairman’s Draft Report, as amended, be the Report of the Committee to the Dáil”—Put, and agreed to—Deputies Coogan and Doyle dissenting.
Ordered: To report accordingly.
4. The Committee adjourned at 12.35 p.m.