Business of the Committee [Extract]
Deputy Shane Ross: When are we meeting SIPTU?
Clerk to the Committee: On 27 November... We have given a direction to the three individuals concerned, Mr. Matt Merrigan, Mr. Alan Smith and Mr. Jack Kelly, to appear before the committee. They will basically be compelled to appear. They are the primary witnesses but we will have other witnesses from the Department and the HSE.
Deputy John Deasy: What is the position with regard to the legislation? It could impact the banking inquiry if investigations are ongoing and the inquiry wants to bring people in. Is the legislation not clear with regard to us compelling somebody?
Clerk to the Committee: There is provision in the Act in regard to doing something where there is a Garda investigation. That is my layman's understanding. In cases where the committee has made it clear that it will not be pursuing that issue, there is provision in the Act to allow a person who is compelled to go to the Garda to get a declaration on the matter. Safeguards are built into the Act. That is the point we will be making but, again, it would be preferable to hear the legal clarification from our legal people next week... We have been granted compellability but the issue that is clouding it is that a Garda file was opened a number of years ago because when the internal audit unit of the HSE first raised the issue there was a concern that money was missing. It has subsequently been established, and the Comptroller and Auditor General's report would have confirmed this, that no issue arises in regard to missing funds. Everything was accounted for but when we inquired of the Garda Síochána approximately one year ago, it had not closed the file. That is one of the issues about which he is concerned.
Deputy John Deasy: Notwithstanding the fact that the file has not been closed, if the legal advice is that we are entirely within our rights we are going to go there.
Chairman (Deputy John McGuinness): We will get legal advice on it but as far as the committee is concerned, the date has been set. We have compellability; that has been passed by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges which, I am sure, has taken legal advice. When the parliamentary legal adviser considers the matter, we will establish the reply and proceed from there.
Deputy Shane Ross: What option will be open to him at that stage - to injunct us?
Deputy John Deasy: I presume he can challenge us in the High Court.
Deputy Shane Ross: That is the only avenue.
Clerk to the Committee: That would probably be one of the avenues open to him.
Chairman: We should not go there until we see the letter. We will get the legal advice, make our reply and take it step by step from there. There are lots of avenues open to Mr. Merrigan.