Tuesday, 7 November 2006
Leaders' Questions (Resumed).
Bertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
The report of the independent international panel on alleged collusion in sectarian killings in Northern Ireland was launched in Belfast and Dublin yesterday. The panel met with officials after the launch to brief them on the contents of the report and the panel's findings and recommendations. We are up to date with the issue and are pursuing it.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has been issued with a copy of the detailed report and officials are studying any new detail that it might contain. The report draws heavily on what we discussed earlier, namely, the work done by Mr. Justice Henry Barron, and much of the panel's inquiries mirrors his investigation. I assume it referred to his document because, from what I saw of the report, it draws on the work he did. It also highlights the good work done by this House and the relevant sub-committee.
It is well recorded that concerns about collusion were a persistent issue for the Government during the Troubles. Unfortunately, we may never achieve full clarity on what happened but for the past six years I have been pressing the British Government on the issue. At Weston Park, over five and a half years ago, we obtained agreement on the establishment of an international examination of these issues by Mr. Justice Peter Cory, a very eminent member of the Canadian Supreme Court and internationally acclaimed by members of the world's Judiciary long before he was involved in this issue. He has put his report into the public domain so all these things have a consistent thread. Regarding the inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, we have argued very strongly internationally — in the United States, Australia, Canada and the European Union — that the inquiry be conducted in the comprehensive manner recommended by Mr. Justice Peter Cory. That approach is replicated in many other cases, although not in every single one. Instead, we decided to focus our efforts on certain cases.
The Pat Finucane Centre commissioned Professor Douglass Cassel to establish an independent panel of experts to consider allegations of loyalist collusion in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. Among the incidents they investigated were the bombings in Dublin and Monaghan and others, including the Miami Showband massacre. That report found that senior Royal Ulster Constabulary officers were aware and approved of collusion while officials in London had enough information to intervene. That is all on the record. The report calls on the British Government to appoint an independent inquiry to examine how high the collusion went in the chain of command. The report also states the panel received allegations of alleged failure on the part of gardaí and the Irish authorities to properly co-operate with law enforcement in cases of violence against loyalists in Northern Ireland and it has signalled that it intends to raise this matter with the Irish Government. Officials have held a meeting with the panel on these issues today.
We will pursue these issues and keep up the campaign to persuade the British Government. I am sure Deputy Ó Caoláin will appreciate, from what I have said, that we have had difficulty obtaining co-operation from the British Government to the fullest extent.