Out of all the parliamentary conventions that I despise, Parliamentary Privilege is by far the worst. Members of legislatures seem to have scant regard for peoples reputation, family integrity and privacy and indeed the persons personal safety.
The case that shows this in point is that of Pat Finucane. A defence Solicitor who was killed by Unionist Death squads and British government agencies.
Less than 4 weeks before Pat was killed Douglas Hogg MP, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, in a Committee Stage debate on the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill on 17 January 1989 said
“I have to state as a fact, but with great regret, that there are in Northern Ireland a number of solicitors who are unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA.”
The simple fact is that MP's hide behind this when they haven't got the proof to mention it in public, this is taking the cowards way out and leaves the implicated party with no legal recourse.
We have seen DUP and UUP MP's time and again hide behind this bastardisation of speech. Just today we have witnessed the fact that Peter Curistan, named by Peter Robinson as a business man involved with "IRA dirty money" vindicated.
Yet Robinson et al are still allowed to hide behind Parliamentary Privilege despite the fact that they have failed to offer any evidence.
Abuse of this convention should be made a criminal offence!
Recently we have seen the Stoops also hide behind this ridiculous construction when Durkan named the former RUC officers who refused to co-operate fully with the O'Loan report.
Now Durkan could have stood outside the SDLP HQ (Phonebox) and spouted out those names to the press and I would have respected him for having the balls to do so. All he would have had to do, if sued, is to rely on the full O'Loan report which named the officers involved anyway.
Some Politicians argue that they have no choice but to mention the names in Parliament as it involves questions to Ministers. That however is easily solved as MP's can use Section 13 to waive their Parliamentary Privilege.
The fact remains however that most MP's refuse to do so and instead take the cowards way out, standing behind their Mammy AKA Parliamentary Privilege