Varadkar says SF TD who named Harris as leaker has no evidence and was just repeating a rumour
SINN FÉIN TD Matt Carthy abused parliamentary privilege to make an accusation against another member of the Dáil, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.© Leah Farrell SF TD Matt Carthy has defended his use of Daail privilege yesterday.
Speaking under privilege during a Dáil debate yesterday, Carthy accused Minister Simon Harris of leaking from Cabinet about plans to appoint Katherine Zappone as a special envoy to the UN.
A spokesperson for Minister Harris said the accusation amounted to “a clear misuse of Dáil privilege” and that it was untrue.
Speaking in the House today, Varadkar said: “What happened in the Dáil was wrong.”
He said Carthy had no evidence for his claim, and was repeating a rumour under Dáil privilege.
The intention of Dáil privilege is to allow TDs to raise points in the chamber that need addressing without fear of being pursued in the courts.
Minister Harris spoke up in the House today and reiterated that what was said by Carthy was untrue, adding that he wanted the record of the Dáil corrected.
Defending his actions on RTÉ’s News at One, Carthy claimed that a “sting operation” was carried out by a junior minister to uncover who leaked from Cabinet.
When asked if he took the necessary steps to check the veracity of his claims, before speaking out in the Dáil yesterday, Carthy said he did not.
Carthy said it was “general knowledge” and he is “aware of what he said”.
He added: “I didn’t carry out the sting operation, Fine Gael did”.
He continued: “What I am saying is that Fine Gael conducted a sting operation to expose one of their own ministers.”
“I would contend my actions and my statement in the Dáil is consistent with the principle and the reason for why parliamentary privilege is in place.”
Carthy also confirmed that he did not contact the gardaí in relation to the claim he made.
When put to him that other people, other than those that sit around the Cabinet table, would have have been privy to the information about Zappone, he said that the information could have only have come from a Cabinet minister in his view.
Speaking to reporters at the TU Dublin campus in Grangegorman this afternoon, Harris described Carthy’s actions as “an extraordinary misuse, an abuse, of Dáil privilege”.
“I think what happened yesterday was an extraordinary misuse of Dáil privilege and if you didn’t already think that, and I think as any fair minded person would, I’d invite you to just listen to Deputy Carthy on RTÉ Radio One.
“It’s quite extraordinary that somebody could come to the Dáil, misuse Dáil privilege, abuse Dáil privilege.”
The minister said he would ”consider very strongly” reporting the Carthy’s Dáil comments to the Oireachtas Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
I take my responsibilities as a TD and minister very seriously, sadly some people don’t. Dáil privilege is there for a very specific reason and it is certainly not to engage in tittle-tattle, which I think is effectively what Deputy Carthy did, he said he was repeating what he believes to be general knowledge and making a very serious charge on the record of the house in the absence of my presence there because I was unavoidably absent.
Speaking alongside Harris, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he was “absolutely not” aware of any Fine Gael sting operation to attempt to identify the leaker.
Harris said that he was aware of media reports which said that such an effort had taken place but that he was not part of it.
“I’m obviously aware of that, I’m not aware of being part of any so-called sting operation also I think the definition of a sting operation is an interesting concept, it usually pertains to very serious matters,” he said.