Thursday, 17 December 2020
Appropriation Bill 2020: Second and Subsequent Stages
There is a part of the budgetary process that perplexes me annually. I have not been able to get any Minister to take responsibility for the Vote in question. Even the Ceann Comhairle has continually blocked my attempts to get an answer, stating, in response to my parliamentary questions, that the Minister has no official responsibility to the Dáil for this matter. The only response I ever received was from the former Minister, the late Brian Lenihan, in 2005, when he provided me with the annual costs from 1996 onwards. I cannot even get that much from the Minister in a reply to a parliamentary question because of the interference of the Ceann Comhairle regarding Vote 15, which was previously Vote 12. This Vote is contained in the group of Estimates and Votes which fall under the Minister's remit and it is bizarre that sums granted under Vote 15 for the Secret Service are regarded as public expenditure rather than expenditure on justice, foreign affairs or defence. The fact that it does not exist, is not accountable and still manages to spend €2 million annually is even more bizarre. Perhaps in his concluding remarks, the Minister could confirm for the public whether he is the head of Ireland's MI5, KGB or CIA, or who, in fact, is. The only glimpse of the true purpose of the Secret Service Vote of €2 million annually came in a note which appeared inbox in 2009. It stated that the purpose of the Secret Service Vote is to obtain information which is necessary for the security of the country and that given the sensitivities associated with a Vote of this nature, information relating to its operation is not made public. So much for transparency.
This all has the hallmarks of a spoof spy film, although it is serious because there is money involved. Maybe the Minister is being protected by the Ranger wing at a secret international auction, bidding for classified, confidential documents. Maybe the Tánaiste could help the Minister, or perhaps he would be bidding against him, given his skills with confidential documents. I ask the Minister to ensure that at some point there is a discussion about this expenditure of Irish money.