Farrell to bring forward new public ethics legislation

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Mairéad Farrell TD will bring forward legislation to reform the public ethics framework in the wake of what her party is calling recent concerns around standards in public office.

The Galway West TD said that the entire ethics framework needs to be ‘rebuilt from the ground up’ but said her bill would allow it to better function while that process takes place.

She said simply allowing the ongoing situation to persist while the government tells us that they are ‘working on it’ is tantamount to saying there will be no accountability in the lifetime of this government.

“In recent months, we have had two ministerial resignations for, among other things, a failure to disclose relevant interests,” the Sinn Féin TD said.

“We have had many having to correct the statements of their interests due to a failure to disclose all the required information.

“We have even had complaints referred to SIPO, who are also currently investigating the minister in charge of public ethics and standards.”

Farrell said that it is a bizarre situation where we have an ethics watchdog who cannot initiate its own investigations despite them having requested this power for years.

“There is no penalty for those who fail to disclose their interests, and in recent months we have seen certain ministers seemingly forgetting that they had more properties than you could count on both hands.

“Lastly, the fact that Oireachtas members are not required to disclose their liabilities above a certain threshold, excluding the private home, is a major weakness that has long been identified.”

The Bill, she said, would allow SIPO to initiate investigations on its own, broaden the list of declarable interests, and ‘make it a sanctionable offence’ for someone found to have wilfully and recklessly failed to make the required disclosures.