Tuesday, 21 October 2014
Garda Síochána (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2014: Second Stage
I am pleased to take part in the Second Stage debate on this Bill. We have been waiting a long time for these extra powers to be given to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. It is has been a very disturbing period in terms of the whole area of the administration and application of justice in this State. Public confidence has been fundamentally undermined by the incompetence, and sometimes arrogance, that this Government has shown in overseeing all the episodes that have emerged in the recent months and, indeed, years. In the months the Minister has held her current office, I acknowledge that she has sought to move in a very different direction from that taken by her predecessor, Deputy Shatter. However, I noted, with interest, her comments reported in today's Irish Independent. She has a large number of dossiers from families all over Ireland seeking justice. Some of those cases are of the most serious and profound level, including murder and accusations of cover up of murder. They are very serious. I note she has not commented on those.
A number of the families - quite distressed families - who have written to her today have contacted me to say and note that they have not been offered a meeting by the Minister or by the Taoiseach. The Minister has not agreed or offered to meet them. These are cases where they are alleging that their loved ones were murdered and there was a cover-up of the murders. The Minister has refused to comment on these very serious cases, even though they are on her desk and she has seen the full extent of the allegations. She has refused to comment on them because she said a review is under way. I point out to her that the allegations to which she has referred in today's Irish Independent have been referred by the person making the allegations, Maíria Cahill to the police ombudsman in the North and today there is an independent review of the role of Director of Public Prosecutions in all of that, and that is right and proper. There is a process under way, yet the Minister chose to comment on those matters, which is entirely inappropriate as the Minister for Justice and Equality, as she must know. Let me be clear, this is the precedent that she has now established. I will be expecting her to openly comment on any cases I bring to her attention as we move forward. She need not use the excuse of a review or a panel or anything like that. I want her to look at the facts that will be presented to her and give a comment in the public domain because if she does not, she will be seen to be inconsistent and politically opportunistic. I look forward to her responses to these various cases I will bring to her attention in the time ahead.
The Taoiseach spoke today about referring these allegations to the justice committee. He said he would speak to the Chairman of that committee, Deputy Stanton, who is present. Let us be very clear that again this is a very interesting precedent because the Oireachtas justice committee, as a matter of policy, has not been dealing with individual justice cases because the process has not been completed. That has been our approach and I think it is a fair one. However, if the Taoiseach refers this matter to the justice committee and we deal with it, I want to be clear in pointing out that I will be insisting on all of these families who have made allegations to also come before that committee. In every single case where a family has alleged that there has been a cover-up of murder by An Garda Síochána, I will be insisting that those families also come before our committee. I will be insisting on that in the interests of fairness because the families have contacted me today.
The Minister has no idea of the outrage she the Taoiseach has caused these families. They have said that they cannot get a meeting with the Minister, they cannot get her to comment on the cases of their loved ones and now she has taken immediate action in this area. They are very clear as to the reasons for that. Let me be clear, the precedent the Minister set in this case will be the measure of every other case I bring to her attention in the time ahead.