garda probe | 

Political party won’t say if it has suspended worker as cops seize Dáil laptop over alleged child abuse material

Allegations relate to the viewing of material contrary to the provisions of Child Trafficking and Pornography Act

Two internal Leinster House committees were this week asked to waive parliamentary privilege that applies to politicians’ documents. Photo: Karl McManus

Hugh O'ConnellIndependent.ie

A TD and their political party have refused to say whether a man who works for them, accused of viewing child abuse material, has been suspended.

Gardaí have seized a laptop from a man who is being investigated for alleged breaches of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act.

The man has not been arrested and the TD who they work for is not accused of any wrongdoing.

The Irish Independent revealed yesterday that two internal Leinster House committees were this week asked to waive parliamentary privilege that applies to politicians’ documents in order for gardaí to access the Oireachtas-issued laptop.

Investigating officers are examining any electronic device the accused man owns or has access to.

An Garda Síochána confirmed in a statement: “Gardaí in the north-west are currently investigating allegations made against a male from the area relating to the viewing of child abuse material online contrary to the provisions of Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998.”

Both the party and the TD did not respond to questions as to whether the man had been suspended or been subject to any disciplinary proceedings.

The TD, who is the man’s employer, and two Oireachtas committees made up of TDs and senators were required to waive parliamentary privilege, in order to allow gardaí to gain access to the laptop and its contents using an Oireachtas-issued digital access key.

Privilege normally applies to all documents belonging to members of the Oireachtas.

The Dáil Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight (CPPO) signed off on the “request for official documents” at a short meeting on Tuesday.

The equivalent Seanad committee met briefly on the same request.

Members of both committees were given a verbal briefing on the request from An Garda Síochána by the Office of the Parliamentary Legal Adviser and were told it was a “serious indictable offence”.

Neither committee was informed of the nature of the alleged offence, nor the names of those involved, including the TD the man works for or their party affiliation.

“At the outset we were told they were not getting into names,” a source said.

Both committees consented to providing the access key to gardaí with two conditions: the information could only be used for the purposes stated by gardaí in making their request, and that a court order be provided to underpin the request to access the documents.

A spokesperson for the Houses of the Oireachtas said: “We are not in a position to comment on the confidential proceedings of CPPO of either House.”

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