The Irish Assembly has plans to create its' own police force' with investigators who will have the power to search homes and businesses, seize documents, computers and other materials, and have people arrested, reports The Daily Mail.
Investigators will be appointed by Dáil committees, who in turn will be able to appoint other investigators with the same powers.
These plans are contained in the draft of the General Scheme Of The Houses Of The Oireachtas (Powers Of Inquiry) Bill 2011 that will be enacted if Ireland votes 'yes' to the 30th Amendment in next Thursday's referendum.
"You could have an Oireachtas committee pursuing a line of inquiry that suited the government of the day – and these investigators would be reporting to a political person," warns Labour election candidate Oisín Quinn, a nephew of Education Minister Ruairi Quinn and a campaigner against the planned change.
"They could go into the office of a newspaper and take laptops and what could be done about it? They don't need a warrant, your permission or the permission of the person at the front desk.
"We have had in the past a government that deliberately tapped the phones of journalists. We have had TDs who have gone to prison for corruption.
"It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that in the future there would be a configuration of government whereby an inquiry would be used to try to damage an opponent. The great fear is that these would be used as a political weapon."
Concerns are now being raised about the proposed inquiries.
"I can see some politicians imagining themselves as starring in their own detective stories and carrying out these major investigations," said former minister Mary O'Rourke.
"It is much too far-ranging without any precautions, and is fraught with potential danger. There are too many sweeping powers and far too little thought has gone in to it."
Investigators would only be obliged to supply their personal Oireachtas warrant, which would grant extensive search powers. They would require no evidence, only "reasonable grounds to believe there are any documents, or there is information in any form, relating to any matter within the terms of reference for the inquiry."
"The people are free to elect governments that are corrupt, populist or extremist – the Constitution and the courts are there to protect us against their excesses," said Independent TD Stephen Donnelly.
"This amendment will make it more difficult to seek that protection. I believe that is dangerous."
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