News & Media

Position of anti-face mask speaker on State Tribunal panels would be untenable if reported remarks are correct

23 August 2020

Statement by Brendan Howlin TD
Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Brexit, Northern Ireland and Justice

Labour Justice spokesperson Brendan Howlin has called on Una McGurk to clarify if the remarks attributed to her at an anti-face mask rally are hers, and if so, said the Minister for Justice should immediately act and remove Una McGurk SC from the International Protection Appeals Tribunal, and for the Mental Health Commission to also remove her from their Panel of Tribunal Chairpersons, saying her position would be untenable.

Deputy Howlin said:

“Una McGurk SC is a member of the International Protection Appeals Tribunal and a member of the panel of chairpersons for the Mental Health Tribunal.

“She was a speaker at yesterday’s anti-facemask rally in Dublin. There are reports that in her comments she said that the wearing of a face mask should be a choice and not a mandate, and that the State is fabricating Covid-19 case numbers, and that there is no new spike in cases. She should clarify if the remarks attributed to her are her views.

“Whatever about promoting non-wearing of masks, a member of two tribunals making decisions about vulnerable people should not be arguing that official State statistics are fake. Reported comments indicate she has publicly accused State agencies of fabricating official statistics and has publicly argued, contrary to all the evidence, that the Covid-19 pandemic is ‘fake’.”

“For these reasons it is my view that if she did say those comments then her position on State Tribunal panels would be untenable and should now clairfy her position.

“If so the Minister for Justice must act, and has the power to do so under Section 62 (13) of the International Protection Act 2015 which says ‘A member of the Tribunal may be removed from office by the Minister for stated reasons.’

“Section 48 (9) of the Mental Health Act 2001 also provides the power to remove a member stating, A member of a tribunal may at any time be removed from membership of the tribunal by the Commission if, in the Commission's opinion, the member has become incapable through ill-health of performing his or her functions, or has committed stated misbehaviour, or his or her removal appears to the Commission to be necessary for the effective performance by the tribunal of its functions.’.”

ENDS