Harris has now denied this accusation on the record of the Dáil. The burden is on Carthy to prove him guilty. And that burden has not, as yet, been met:
Simon Harris says he is considering a complaint to the Dáil procedures committee over Matt Carthy’s “misuse of Dáil privilege”
— Hugh O'Connell (@oconnellhugh) September 16, 2021
It is not a secret to report that some weeks ago, whatsapp messages were doing the rounds claiming that a Senior Fine Gael Minister had been caught leaking to the media by one of his Junior Ministerial Colleagues. It is no secret either that those whatsapp messages claimed that the sting had involved a Junior Minister telling a Senior Minister that he had said something on social media, when he had not. And that shortly thereafter, the Junior Minister duly received a phone call from a journalist asking him for comment – the “sting” element being that the journalist could only have known to call him if the Senior Minister had blabbed. The Senior Minister alleged to have been involved in all of this, according to unverifiable gossip, was Simon Harris.
Of course, even if it were proved true, beyond any doubt, that these facts were correct, it would not prove that Simon Harris had ever leaked anything from Cabinet. The so-called “sting” operation is alleged only to have involved leaking a juicy tidbit passed on by a Fine Gael colleague. Despite what some people erroneously believe, there was no “sting” to catch any cabinet leaker.
As such, people might believe what they want. They can say what they want. But the truth is that there is absolutely no evidence which has been presented, by anybody, that Simon Harris has ever leaked anything from the Cabinet. If such evidence existed, believe me, we would be the first to report it.
And so, it seems, the “misuse of privilege” charge made by Harris against Matt Carthy is a very fair one. Carthy has made an allegation which would be defamatory in any other setting. He has protected himself from the consequences of that by doing it in the Dáil. You’d better believe he is not going to repeat those words anywhere he can be sued for them. And that, of course, tells you again how much evidence he has in his possession to support what he said.
Carthy should apologise. He may, or may not, have gotten mixed up. Perhaps he meant only to infer that Harris had been caught leaking by a colleague (which is a rumour, not a fact). Perhaps his tongue got ahead of his brain. It’s happened to all of us (not least: me) at some stage. You get your words, or facts, garbled. That’s not a crime, but he has a duty to clarify it.
As it stands, Carthy’s words will be widely believed. For all we know they may well be true (indeed, Harris has not directly denied them himself). But they may also be false. If we want accountability in our democracy, we have to expect it from those who make accusations, as well as those who are the subject of them. Just making wild claims about people is no way to behave, as much as we might enjoy it if those claims were true.