Minister of Education Issues Strong Rebuke of Klaustur MPs

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir is one of the people nominated for Person of the Year.

Icelandic Minister of Education, Science and Culture and Progressive Party MP Lilja Alfreðsdóttir had some strong words about the Klaustur Scandal MPs.

“In their conversation at the Klaustur Bar, it became clear precisely how these MPs think about women,” she wrote on her Facebook page on Thursday morning. “It was truly sad. But even sadder is that these same [MPs] should now, eight months later, still have not come to their senses, but are rather trying to justify their comments. Disappointing that they don’t even have the decency to take a hard look in the mirror. Their comments will be to their lasting disgrace.”

Since it was published, the post has received over 850 likes and been shared 44 times.

Lilja’s post came in the wake of the Parliamentary Ethics Committee’s ruling that two of the six embroiled MPs breached parliamentary ethics with their sexist remarks about fellow politicians. The two MPs found guilty of an ethical breach were Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson and Bergþór Ólason, both of the Centre Party. Both men have contested the ruling.

Lilja was among several female MPs who were the target of sexist and sexually explicit comments made by Gunnar Bragi and Berþór during their recorded conversation at Klaustur Bar last November.

Klaustur MPs Breached Parliamentary Ethics, Committee Rules

Klaustur Bar

Two MPs breached parliamentary ethics with their sexist remarks about fellow politicians at Klaustur Bar last November, according to the Parliamentary Ethics Committee, Morgunblaðið reports. The MPs in question, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson and Bergþór Ólason, both of the Centre Party, have contested the ruling. The Parliamentary Speakers’ Committee has made a final ruling on the matter which will be made public later today.

Six MPs took part in the conversation at Klaustur Bar last November, which unbeknownst to them was recorded and later made public. The remarks of the other four MPs, all of the Centre and People’s Party, were not considered a breach of ethics. The conversation included sexist, homophobic, and ableist remarks about other politicians and public figures, and led to public protests and calls for the MPs’ resignation.

Read More: The Klausur Scandal

“As previously stated, conduct that is considered immoral or inappropriate on behalf of the Parliament can devalue the Parliament and damage its image,” reads the Ethics Committee’s ruling in part. “This may include inappropriate behaviour or disrespect toward a gender, race, or religion. The Ethics Committee does not consider it necessary to analyse every single aspect of the comments. They all share the same root. They are indecent and consist of disrespect toward the gender of the women discussed. The Ethics Committee considers them disdainful and damaging to the image of Parliament, in addition to showing a lack of respect for Alþingi, its position, and its work.”

The Parliamentary Speaker’s Committee met today to discuss the matter and has made a final ruling. The ruling will first be sent to the six MPs in question, and be made public later today.

Klaustur Scandal Whistle-blower Must Delete Recordings

Bára Halldórsdóttir

Bára Halldórsdóttir broke data protection laws when she recorded the conversation of six MPs at Klaustur Bar last November, according to the Data Protection Authority. RÚV reports that the authority ruled on the matter yesterday. Bára will not be fined, but must delete the recordings and submit a statement confirming she has done so.

Read More: The Klaustur Scandal

The nation reacted in shock when a recording of six MPs of the Centre and People’s Parties revealed them making sexist, ableist, and homophobic remarks about their colleagues at Klaustur Bar in Reykjavík in late November. The MPs say that Bára Halldórsdóttir, who made the recording, violated their right to privacy.

Last December, the four Centre Party MPs on the recording, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Bergþór Ólason, and Anna Kolbrún Árnadóttir requested that the Data Protection Authority investigate the case. The have stated their belief that Bára’s recording was premeditated and not a spur of the moment decision, as Bára has asserted. Bára’s lawyer sent a statement to the Data Protection Authority in response to the MPs’ request, writing that the case was outside of the Authority’s jurisdiction and should be handled in court.

Recording considered “electronic surveillance”

The Data Protection Authority has ruled that Bára’s recording falls under electronic surveillance and conflicts with EU legislation on the processing of personal data. The ruling states, among other things, that Bára considered the comments of the parliamentarians to be of importance to the public in light of their position, the conversation has given rise to much debate in society about the conduct of elected representatives, and there is no evidence of collusion in the case. In light of these facts, Bára will not be fined for her actions.

Bára wants protection for informants

Auður Tinna Aðabjarnardóttir, Bára’s lawyer, told RÚV the Data Protection Authority’s ruling does not come as a surprise as is based on a thorough review of relevant past cases. “My client is fairly satisfied and is very willing to delete the recording,” Auður stated. Bára does, however, want increased legal protection for informants, and feels she has had little in her case.

The MPs involved declined to comment on the ruling yesterday evening.

Data Protection Authority Denies Klaustur MPs Request

Klaustur Bar

The Board of the Data Protection Authority has denied the request of four Centre Party MPs for further data collection connected to the so-called Klaustur Scandal, RÚV reports. The MPs’ lawyer had requested, among other things, information on payments made to Bára Halldórsdóttir’s bank account. The four MPs were among a group of six whom Bára recorded making sexist, ableist, and homophobic remarks about their colleagues at Klaustur Bar in Reykjavík in late November.

In Focus: The Klaustur Scandal

The ruling states that the Data Protection Authority does not consider itself authorised to gather information from financial institutions and communications companies for cases which do not concern the companies themselves. The Authority considers there to be enough information available to make a final ruling in the case.

The Authority’s ruling also states that the MPs’ lawyer believes Bára’s recording was premeditated and executed with one or more accomplices. Bára’s lawyers have denied such claims and requested the Data Protection Authority drop the case, as it pertains to freedom of speech and privacy and should be ruled on in court.

Centre Party MP Takes Second Leave of Absence

Centre Party MP and chair Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson has taken an indefinite leave from parliament, RÚV reports. Gunnar Bragi is one of the six Centre and People’s Party MPs who were embroiled in the recent Klaustur Scandal, having been recorded making sexist, ableist, and homophobic remarks about parliamentary colleagues at Klaustur Bar in downtown Reykjavík. This is the second leave of absence that Gunnar Bragi has taken since the scandal broke, although no reason has yet been given for his current departure.

Gunnar Bragi did not answer calls from RÚV’s news agency on Friday to give an explanation for the leave, and nor did fellow Centre Party MP and former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson. (Sigmundur Davíð was also involved in the Klaustur Scandal.) Anna Kolbrún Árnadóttir, another Centre Party MP involved in the Klaustur scandal, said that she didn’t know anything about her colleague’s leave of absence except that it is being taken for personal reasons.

Anna Kolbrún continued by saying that the decision had been a quick one and that the party hoped that the party’s alternate chair, Bergþór Ólason, would be taking over that position at the start of the coming week. Gunnar Bragi’s seat in parliament will presumably be taken over by one of the party’s alternate MPs, either Una María Óskarsdóttir or Þorgrímur Sigmundsson.

Gunnar Bragi’s previous voluntary leave of absence was taken from late November, after the Klaustur scandal broke, until late January 2019.

Ethics Committee Reports on Klaustur Scandal: Not a Private Conversation

Klaustur Bar

The Parliamentary Ethics Committee delivered a report stating that the conversation of six MPs recorded in the so-called Klaustur Scandal should not be considered a private conversation, RÚV reports. The committee furthermore stated that the MPs conduct is a matter of public interest. The report was mistakenly made public on the Icelandic parliament’s website, prompting complaints from the four Centre Party MPs on the recording. It has since been taken down.

A violation of privacy?

The nation reacted in shock last November when a recording of six MPs from the Centre and People’s Parties revealed them making sexist, ableist, and homophobic remarks about their colleagues at Klaustur Bar in downtown Reykjavík. The event has since come to be known as the Klaustur Scandal. Four Centre Party MPs who were part of the conversation maintain the recording was a violation of their privacy. The Ethics Committee’s recent report contradicts that statement.

In Focus: The Klaustur Scandal

The report, which is no longer available on the Icelandic Parliament’s website, stated that MPs are public figures and their conversation took place in a public place and is connected to topics that have been prominent in public discourse. “Since the conduct concerns the public, the events in question will not be considered as a private conversation,” the report asserts. The committee made clear, however, that it has not assessed whether the conversation constituted a breach of ethics.

MPs object

The four Centre Party MPs on the recording protested that the statement was published before the deadline for sending in objections had passed. They stated furthermore that “the assessment of the Ethics Committee was based on incorrect assumptions,” and that laws and principles of fair procedure have been repeatedly violated in the handling of the case.

The Office of Parliament asked RÚV to take down the article about the Ethics Committee’s report, which RÚV declined to do, stating that the information was of concern to the public. Vísir has also reported on the statement.

In Focus: The Klaustur Scandal

Klaustur Bar

The nation reacted in shock when a recording of six MPs revealed them making sexist, ableist, and homophobic remarks about their colleagues at Klaustur Bar in Reykjavík in late November. The case, which has since become known as the Klaustur Scandal, made headlines internationally and led to public protests in Iceland. The individual responsible for […]

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Klaustur Scandal Continues to Cause Upset

Klaustur Bar

Alþingi’s Environment and Communications Committee voted in a new chairman this morning amid upset over the return of the Klaustur scandal MPs to parliament, RÚV reports. The former chairman was one of the MP’s recorded making misogynistic comments last November. The recordings were reported to The Icelandic Data Protection Authority, which is currently investigating the matter

The Environment and Communications Committee’s last meeting was reportedly a heated one, with contention arising over the presence of Bergþór Ólason, one of the disgraced Klaustur scandal MPs, who had been chairman of the committee until he took a leave of absence due to the scandal. Bergþór has now stepped down as chairman and been replaced by Jón Gunnarsson, MP for the Independence Party.

The minority parties are not satisfied with the new chairman, as it means that the opposition now only has two chairmen in the Parliament’s committees, instead of three. The parties released a statement today, objecting to a member of the government parties taking over the committee. They had previously proposed that a member of the opposition should take Bergþór’s place. The Centre Party, to which Bergþór belongs, suggested that Jón Gunnarsson of the Independence party, should lead. The motion was then accepted to accusations of betrayal from the minority opposition.

Meanwhile, the Klaustur MPs have now reported Bára Halldórsdóttir to the Icelandic Data Protection Authority, the woman behind the infamous recording, for breach of privacy. Bára, who is LGBT+ and disabled, claims she was outraged at how the MPs spoke and decided to record them on the spot. The Klaustur MPs have in turn accused Bára of conspiring against them by wearing a disguise, dressing up as a tourist to draw attention away from herself as she recorded the MPs’ drunken outbursts.

Yesterday the Icelandic Data Protection Authority revealed on their website that they have requested that Klaustur hand over surveillance footage of the fateful evening, in order to ascertain what truly went on.

As Iceland Review has previously reported, the Klaustur scandal broke late last November when a recording of MPs for the Centre Party and People’s Party, including Bergþór Ólason, was made public where the MPs were heard making disparaging remarks about colleagues, women, gays and disabled people over drinks at hotel bar Klaustur in downtown Reykjavík, causing uproar.

Members of the Pirate Party Silently Protest in Parliament

Þórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir and Björn Leví Gunnarsson, members Iceland’s Pirate Party, silently protested the return of the Klaustur scandal MPs yesterday by silently standing on either side of the podium at parliament wearing hats denouncing violence against women. The rambunctious MPs were chided by Alþingi’s vice president Bryndís Haraldsdóttir.

The performance came as Bergþór Ólason, one of the infamous Klaustur scandal MPs was delivering a speech at the podium. Þórhildur and Björn briefly flanked the disgraced MP before returning to their seats.

The hats the pair wore bear the initials “FO” which stands for “Fokk Ofbeldi” (“Fuck Violence”). The hats are a part of UN Women’s campaign that denounces violence against women.

Bergþór Ólason is one of the MPs that made headlines recently as he was secretly recorded at hotel bar Klaustur making sexist, ableist, and homophobic remarks alongside other members of parliament. Bergþór and others took a brief leave of absence before eventually returning to Alþingi.

Bryndís Haraldsdóttir was quoted saying that “incidents of this nature are not appropriate and in this room people should express their views from the podium.”

Committee Approves Road Tolls Despite Chairman Dispute

Ring Road South Iceland

The Environment and Communications Committee has approved a four-year transportation plan which calls for major infrastructure improvements around the country, Vísir reports. The construction will be financed by road tolls implemented on main routes around the capital area. Though the meeting was productive, committee members were taken aback by the unexpected appearance of Bergþór Ólason, the committee’s chairman, who had recently taken a voluntary leave of absence due to his involvement in the Klaustur Scandal.

Improvements financed by tolls

Independence Party MP Jón Gunnarsson, the committee’s rapporteur on the matter, stated that the group has approved the plan, which includes “large-scale construction in the next few years” financed “on the basis of road tolls.”

The committee’s approval means the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration can now hire contractors or begin construction on many projects scheduled for this year that are to be financed without road tolls. Drivers will likely not see tolls until next year, however, as instituting them will require two more parliamentary bills in the spring and fall sessions.

Jón says it is not yet clear which road projects will be financed by the tolls, but they will likely be improvements to main routes in the capital area, where accidents are more frequent and “the need is really to go into large-scale construction to improve the road network.”

Klaustur MP not welcome in committee

Many committee members were not happy with the presence of Centre Party MP Bergþór Ólason at the meeting. While Bergþór is the committee’s chairman, he has just recently returned from a voluntary leave of absence due to his involvement in the Klaustur Scandal. Bergþór was one of six MPs recorded uttering sexist, homophobic, and ableist remarks about colleagues at a Reykjavík bar in November.

MPs from the Social Democratic Alliance, the Reform Party, and the Pirate Party who were present at the meeting criticised the fact that Bergþór should attend the meeting. Helga Vala Helgadóttir, Social-Democratic Alliance MP, proposed the committee vote on a new chairperson. The proposal was dismissed, and the matter was said to be under the jurisdiction of party chairs, who are responsible for appointing MPs to committees.