Formal complaint to Gardai and Clerk of the Seanad in response to Senator Landy's allegations of bribery

On 1 August last I submitted a formal complaint in writing to Cobh Gardai in response to allegations of bribery made by Labour Senator Denis Landy (See full complaint below).

I also submitted a formal request to the Select Committee on Members’ Interests Seanad Éireann to investigate the matter.

This submission was made to the Clerk of the Seanad by email.

The Clerk of the Seanad rejected my request on the following grounds.

One: It was made via email. Apparently, all such submissions must be made in hard copy and physically posted to the Clerk of the Seanad.

While endearing, this insistence on using an ancient communications system does not auger well for those who argue that the Senate is a viable institution that should be retained.

Two: I requested an investigation into the matter rather than making a complaint. Apparently, I should have made a formal complaint under Section 8 (2) of the Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995 and 2001.

Crucially, this legislation only allows for a member of the public to make a complaint against a member (of the Houses of the Oireachtas) who may have contravened Sections 5 or 7 or done a specified act.

In plain English, this means that a complaint must be made under Section 8 (2) of the Act and therefore must be made against a member.

The Catch 22 is, of course, that I am not making a complaint against a member. I am making a complaint regarding allegations of a very serious crime that took place within the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The strict adherence to the letter of the law/legislation by bureaucrats and the absence of any mechanism by which a complaint can be made regarding allegations of criminal activity within the confines of the Houses of the Oireachtas means that my complaint is likely to be rejected on the grounds that I am not making a specific complaint against a specific member.

The following exchange between myself and a senior official at the office of the Clerk of the Seanad makes this very clear.

Me: Should I submit it as a complaint?

Official: Yes, a complaint is the word used in the Act. You may make a complaint in respect of a specified act, as in an action. The Act says that a person who considers that a member (emphasised) of the Oireachtas may have contravened Sections 5 or 7 of the Act or done a specified act, something that is not permitted may make a complaint to the Clerk, so your complaint must relate to a member.

Me: In other words, my complaint must be against a member?

Official: Yes.

Me: So what you’re saying is that my complaint is going to be rejected because I will not be making a complaint against a member?

Official: I’m not saying that but I can see how that is a logical conclusion.

Me: I can’t see any other conclusion given what you’ve said to me.

Official: Yes.

Irish citizens who will be voting to abolish or retain the Senate later this year will be wise to consign this archaic, expensive and totally useless institution to the history books.

After all, that’s the bubble in which its members, regulations and procedures actually exist.

Copy to:
Clerk of the Seanad
All political parties
Michael McDowell

See below:
Complaint to Cobh Gardai
Request for investigation to Clerk of the Seanad
Reply (rejection email) from Clerk of Seanad
Second complaint to Clerk of Seanad

Cobh Garda Station
Cobh
Co Cork

1 August 2013

To Whom It May Concern:

I wish to formally report allegations of bribery made by Labour Senator Denis Landy as reported in the Irish Independent on 21 July 2013.

Senator Landy claimed that he was offered a plush holiday to coincide with a series of votes on the referendum to abolish the Seanad.

Senator Landy was reported as saying:

“I was approached by an individual in Leinster House and offered flights and a stay in a top hotel in New York should I go missing during this week.”

I have included below the full Irish Independent report.

Yours Sincerely

Anthony Sheridan

Signed:

——————————————————————————————————-

First submission to Clerk of the Seanad

29th July 2013

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a formal request to the Committee on Members Interests (Seanad Éireann) to investigate a claim by Senator Denis Landy that he was offered a plush foreign holiday to coincide with a series of votes on the referendum to abolish the Seanad.

Senator Landy expressed the opinion that the offer was made in an attempt to defeat the Government or, that he was effectively offered a bribe.

I include a report on the matter published in the Irish Independent on 21st July last.

Yours Sincerely
Anthony Sheridan

Reply from Clerk of the Seanad

Dear Mr Sheridan,

I refer to your email of 29 July 2013 in which you make a request in the following terms:
“This is a formal request to the Committee on Members Interests (Seanad Éireann) to investigate a claim by Senator Denis Landy that he was offered a plush foreign holiday to coincide with a series of votes on the referendum to abolish the Seanad.”

While members of the public can correspond directly with Committees on any matter, I would note that there is no statutory procedure to request the Committee on Members’ Interests to commence an investigation.

There is however a statutory complaints procedure available to members of the public under the Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995 and 2001. Section 8(2) states “a person…who considers that a member… may have contravened sections 5 or 7 or done a specified act may make a complaint …to the Clerk …”.

Under the same section, The Clerk of the Seanad refers complaints to the Members’ Interests Committee of Seanad Éireann unless s/he forms the opinion that the complaint is frivolous or vexatious or that there is “not sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case in relation to the complaint”.
If the complaint is rejected, the Clerk is obliged to send the complainant, the member concerned and the Committee a statement of reasons for so doing.

Therefore, please confirm if you wish for me to treat your correspondence as a formal complaint in line with the procedure under the Ethics Acts. If you confirm that you do not want to make such a complaint, your correspondence will then be forwarded to the Committee.

If you choose to follow the complaints procedure outlined it is crucial that you provide to me all evidence available to you which is relevant to your complaint.
This information will assist me in considering whether the complaint must be sent to the Committee. If you do choose to make such a complaint I should be obliged if you would also sign your letter and return the signed copy to me.

You may rest assured that on receipt of this further information, this matter will be dealt with promptly in so far as I and the Clerk are concerned.
Please find attached an appendix with certain relevant sections of the Ethics Acts enclosed.
Yours sincerely,

Second submission to Clerk of Seanad (By post)

8th August 2013

To: The Clerk of the Seanad.

This is a formal complaint made under the Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995 and 2001, Section 8 (2) regarding a reported incident that occurred within the Houses of the Oireachtas on a date between the 1st and 19th July 2013.

The complaint concerns a claim by Labour Senator Denis Landy that he was offered a plush holiday to coincide with a series of votes on the referendum to abolish the Seanad.

Senator Landy is reported as saying:

“I was approached by an individual in Leinster House and offered flights and a stay in a top hotel in New York should I go missing during this week.”

Senator Landy expressed the opinion that the offer was made in an attempt to defeat the Government.

According to the report Senator Landy has refused to name the person who approached him but he did describe the person as a political figure.

The incident was first reported in the Sunday Independent on 21st July 2013. I have included the complete report below.

The response of some politicians, as reported in the Irish Independent of 24th July, may be helpful in considering the matter.

Labour Seanad chief whip Aideen Hayden is reported as saying:

“It is obviously a very serious matter if someone has attempted to subvert the workings of the house in this way.

Seanad leader Maurice Cummins called on Mr Landy to report the matter to the Gardai. The Fine Gael senator told the Seanad that allegations of bribery and corruption were an extremely serious matter.

Rebel Fine Gael senator Fidelma Healy Eames also called on Mr Landy to give the “truth” about what had happened.

“If someone attempted to bribe him to absent himself from votes in this house last week, then that is very serious.”

Yours Sincerely
Anthony Sheridan

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