Dáil committee rules Philip Dwyer’s reputation not ‘adversely affected’ by 'far right' comments

A Dáil committee has ruled that Ireland First election candidate Philip Dwyer wasn’t “adversely affected in reputation” by comments about his attendance at properties later set on fire. 

Citizen journalist Dwyer claimed TD Paul Murphy’s remarks in the Dáil, made under parliamentary privilege, were “outrageous and libellous”.

The Dáil Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight has however rejected Dwyer’s complaint.

‘Law abiding citizen’

Last February during Dáil leaders' questions, People Before Profit’s Paul Murphy raised the issue of arson attacks on accommodation rumoured to be used to house asylum seekers.

“We have seen 26 arson attacks in the past five years against premises rumoured to be used for asylum seekers. The pattern is very clear. A rumour starts, true or false, suggesting a property is going to be used. Far-right activists, people like Philip Dwyer, Gavin Pepper and Fergus Power, are quick to the scene. A few days later it is burnt down,” said Murphy on 8 February, 2024.

Days later Dwyer wrote to the ceann comhairle to express his outrage at Murphy’s remarks.

“As one of the people mentioned in the outrageous and libellous remarks and as a law abiding citizen, I am outraged that you did not insist that deputy Murphy withdraw those remarks and apologise to the house and the people concerned,” wrote Dwyer in his 16 February email to ceann comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl.

“It is an absolute disgrace that a member of the Dáil can abuse Dáil privilege in this manner to attack an innocent Irish citizen with no right of recourse. I am requesting that you raise this matter in the Dáil as soon as possible and insist deputy Murphy withdraw his statement and apologise to the people he named and slandered,” added Dwyer.

The ceann comhairle later referred the complaint to the Dáil Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight (CPPO), which later wrote to Murphy and invited him to make a submission on Dwyer’s complaint.

Murphy responded to the committee by claiming that the charges he levelled against Dwyer were “factual”.

“It is not clear exactly what Mr Dwyer is objecting to in my remarks. I effectively made two charges against him (that he is a ‘far-right activist’ and is ‘quick to the scene’ of properties later burnt down), both of which I believe to be factual,” wrote Murphy in his letter to the committee on 1 June, 2024.

Last Friday the committee clerk told Murphy that Dwyer’s complaint had been rejected.

The committee found that “whilst Mr Dwyer is identifiable from the utterances made by you, it has not been demonstrated that there is ‘a significant likelihood’ that he had to a ‘significant degree’ been adversely affected in reputation”.

“CPPO has made a determination that Mr Dwyer was not ‘adversely affected’ by the utterance complained of, within the meaning of Dáil Standing Order 71(1) and considers this matter now at an end,” wrote the committee clerk in his letter dated 5 July, 2024.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors