Dáil debates

Tuesday, 3 February 2004

Ceisteanna — Questions.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings.

2:30 pm

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Question 1: To ask the Taoiseach if he has raised the report of the Barron inquiry with the British Prime Minister. [30941/03]

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Question 2: To ask the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on the outcome of his meeting on 10 December 2003 with representatives of the families of the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. [31159/03]

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Question 3: To ask the Taoiseach the action he intends to take arising from the publication of the Barron report into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; if he has raised the contents of the report with the British Prime Minister; if so, the response he has received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31160/03]

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Question 4: To ask the Taoiseach his plans to contact the British Government regarding the findings of the Barron inquiry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1048/04]

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Question 5: To ask the Taoiseach the total cost of the Barron inquiry into the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1049/04]

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Question 6: To ask the Taoiseach the actions the Government proposes to take following the publication of the Barron report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1279/04]

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Question 7: To ask the Taoiseach if he has raised the contents of the Barron report into the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings with the British Prime Minister; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1845/04]

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 7, inclusive, together.

The 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings were terrible outrages which left 34 people dead and more than 240 injured. Many people never recovered. For many others, the legacy of pain and suffering remains and some still suffer from their injuries to this day. Like everyone else who watched the proceedings of the sub-committee considering the Barron report, I found the accounts of the victims and families about the events of that day and their terrible suffering, profoundly moving.

I was glad to have had the opportunity, together with Mr. Justice Barron, to meet representatives of Justice for the Forgotten at their request on Wednesday, 10 December, before the publication of the report on what was a very important day, especially for the families. At that meeting, I thanked Mr. Justice Barron and his team on completing that phase of their work and I paid tribute to Justice for the Forgotten for its assistance to the inquiry and for its dedication and tenacity in pursuing its campaign for the truth. I also paid tribute to the earlier work of the former Chief Justice, the late Liam Hamilton.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights is now considering, including in public session, the report of the independent commission and it will report back to the Dáil and Seanad in March with its findings on whether the report addresses all of the issues covered in the terms of reference of the inquiry; the lessons to be drawn and any actions to be taken in the light of the report, its findings and conclusions; and whether, having regard to the report's findings and following consultations with the inquiry, a further public inquiry into any aspect of the report would be required or fruitful. The committee may also accept, including in public session, submissions on the report from interested persons and bodies and, of course, public hearings are under way.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Paul Murphy, has said the British Government will consider the report with great care and he has said that the British Government, from Prime Minister Blair down, has been committed to helping the inquiry as fully as possible. He also said after the meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference in Farmleigh recently, that the British Government wanted to be as helpful as best it can.

I am aware that the Secretary of State, as well as some of his predecessors, have been invited by the sub-committee to assist it in its work and I hope the assistance already referred to also extends to the work of the sub-committee. At my most recent meeting with Prime Minister Blair on Monday, 19 January, I asked for the fullest co-operation from the British Government with the Oireachtas sub-committee.

I understand Mr. Justice Barron will report early in the coming months on the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973. Following that report, he will report on other cases, including the Dundalk bombing of 1975 and, in the context of that report, he will report on a number of other events, including the Castleblaney and the Belturbet bombings. Following those reports, Mr. Justice Barron will report on the Seamus Ludlow case.

The total cost of the Barron inquiry to date is approximately €2.541 million. This includes an amount of approximately €700,000 for the legal expenses of the Justice for the Forgotten group and €167,000 for the administrative expenses of the group at the start up phase. Currently, the administrative costs of the group as well as the services to victims provided by the group, are also being paid for by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. In this regard, an amount of approximately €500,000 has been paid since 2001. In addition, an ex gratia contribution is being made to the relatives to pay for assessment and review of the Barron report and any other steps and procedures arising. Offers have been made by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to the legal representatives of the relatives in connection with the inquests of those killed in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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The Taoiseach will recall that, in his presence, my Sinn Féin colleagues and I used the opportunity of a meeting in Downing Street to apprise the British Prime Minister of the Barron report and its detail. He will recall that the British Prime Minister undertook to reply to me on the matters I raised with him on that occasion. I received a reply only last week from the Minister of State in the Northern Ireland Office, Jane Kennedy, of fewer than 200 words. Quite incredibly, she states in the letter that all relevant information from British files was passed on to Mr. Justice Barron. Does the Taoiseach agree with that extraordinary statement that all relevant documentation was passed on to Mr. Justice Barron, particularly given that we were advised that 68,000 files of possible relevance were in the hands of the Northern Ireland Office? Mr. Justice Barron indicated he did not get the level of co-operation and only received a ten-page missive, followed by a further missive. He received no original documentation. Has the Taoiseach pressed the British Prime Minister, even at this late stage, to undertake to release all the relevant information and not the reply offered to us by the Minister of State, Jane Kennedy?

I am not sure if the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence, Equality and Women's Rights intends inviting, in the widest context, people from the British side. Has the Taoiseach engaged with the British Prime Minister with regard to indicating to or, where appropriate, directing those from the British side to attend if they are invited, summoned or whatever is the case before the sub-committee considering the Barron report? That would be very important.

As regards the ongoing, unfolding events in the joint committee's sittings — I note today, again in terms of Mr. Justice Barron's attendance, the line of questioning — what steps were taken by the Taoiseach, his Department and the various Departments with responsibility to try to establish what happened to the missing files? I note from the engagement taking place in the committee shortly before the resumption of business in the House this afternoon that not only were these files missing in original form, the duplicates at another location were also missing, which is an incredible position. Were they stolen, deliberately lost or destroyed? What steps have been taken by the Government to try to discover the files' location?

If files relevant to any of the other tribunals or major investigative processes taking place in this State or to any former Member of the House or any other area of interest were missing, would it not be a national scandal? Is it not, therefore, a scandal that we have not been able to establish definitively what happened to the files which were in the care of Departments and other arms of the State?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy has asked a number of questions and I will do my best to answer them all. The first question he raised was whether I recall his making the case to the British Government and senior British officials. Yes, I do. As he knows, I made that point strongly and I know he added to it. I think that has been noted in the British system. Obviously, I cannot comment on the reply he received but I know that the Secretary of State has taken up this matter on the two occasions to which I referred and he stated that the British would give full co-operation.

On the second question of whether I raised the matter with the British Government again since, I did so at the last meeting I had just a few weeks back on 19 January when I again emphasised that point. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, did so again to Secretary of State, Paul Murphy, at the recent meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in Farmleigh. There is no doubt that the British side is aware of the concern of this House.

I hope that the assistance already referred to also extends to the work of the sub-committee if it seeks assistance. I hope that any requests for assistance or a presence before the committee would also receive full co-operation by the British.

Regarding a report providing information about our efforts in recent years, at least once or twice in every session since 1999 when the House agreed on the procedure to be followed, I have answered questions and reported on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. All that I would have to say about the ongoing co-operation is already on the record of the Dáil and on public record. We have sought information from the British on many occasions. Mr. Justice Barron also asked for the assistance of the Government in arranging meetings and submissions on what he had got. He is before the committee today, so there is no need for me to answer the questions which he is answering elsewhere at the same time. I am sure he will give the committee full information on what he got or did not get for its report.

Regarding the files that are missing in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, whether they are duplicate or triplicate, the fact of the matter is that sensitive files relating to this issue have been missing for some years from the Department. I do not know the circumstances of how that happened, quite frankly. The full account had been given to the late Mr. Justice Hamilton some years ago because he discovered that aspect of the work, as I recall. Mr. Justice Barron has completed that work and this matter has been discussed with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Garda Síochána and others and is detailed in the reports. A significant number of complete and detailed files are missing and have not been retrieved over the years. I cannot explain to the House why this happened and I will not try to do so. I will continue to give whatever assistance or support I can to see this and the other issues completed.

In a light-hearted vein, in reply to Deputy Ó Caoláin's last question, he is probably correct about other tribunals and inquiries but I find that any information of a confidential nature supplied by me to those tribunals seems to end up in the newspapers and so it is obviously not a case of its being lost.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Rabbitte.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Will you allow me to reply?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I have called Deputy Rabbitte.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Will you come back to me?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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It is a question of time, Deputy. If everybody takes five minutes to ask a question, we may not have time.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I wish to express my party's appreciation to Mr. Justice Barron for the effort put into this important investigation. Has the Taoiseach formed any view about any further inquiry or the shape of a further inquiry? In respect of the verbal commitments given by the British Government, expressly so by Mr. Paul Murphy, does the Taoiseach consider that the order of co-operation by the British Government might be different with a different kind of inquiry? Whatever Mr. Justice Barron says today, we know what he says in his report. He states that the value of the co-operation of the British authorities was diminished by their reluctance to hand over original documents and that as a result, the scope of his report is limited. Does the Taoiseach think that any other form of inquiry would be likely to bring primary material from the British authorities into the public domain or to the benefit of such an inquiry? Given that this was the greatest act of mass murder in the history of the State, is it not extraordinary that the files have gone missing in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform?

Whereas this House quite correctly points the finger at the British for not being as forthcoming as it might be, is it not extraordinary that our Administration can only put its hands up and say that the files are missing and the Taoiseach says he cannot say or do anything further? I accept that the Taoiseach is not responsible but it is extraordinary.

Does the Taoiseach propose to institute any inquiry into why the documents are missing from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform? Some Garda documents are also missing. Regarding the documents in the Department in particular, will there be a Garda inquiry into the reason those documents are missing, to ascertain when exactly they went missing and what additional information is available about their disappearance?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Rabbitte's questions can be divided into two sections, the first of which relates to the information the British have given. I have said in this House on many occasions that while I cannot guarantee 100% co-operation in respect of the records held by the Northern Ireland Office and within the British defence system, the level of co-operation has been good. Those involved have genuinely tried to be co-operative. A number of Secretaries of State have tried to be co-operative in that regard, for example by working with the late Mr. Justice Hamilton and Mr. Justice Barron. Records from MI5 and MI6 do not seem to be available as it has not been possible to get them.

Deputy Rabbitte asked if I have formed a view. I would like to wait until the sub-committee has finished its work so that I can see its report. I have been dealing with this issue for many years, for the past five or six years in my capacity as Taoiseach. I have formed views about the matter in that time, for example, as a result of the meetings I have had on it, but we should wait until the end of the process.

I have to be frank with the Deputy in response to his other question. I could try to dodge the answer but I will not do so. I do not see us getting any records regardless of what we do. Mr. Justice Hamilton and Mr. Justice Barron are totally competent and high-standing people who have been backed fully by the Attorney General and this House, which agreed that it did not hold a different opinion. I am aware of the pressure that has been put on in the debates we have had here and we have always made the British authorities aware of that. I do not, frankly, foresee a change in that regard.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Should we not inquire into the matter? Servants of the State in possession of serious documents on an act of mass murder which have gone missing in our sovereign control——

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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My answer relates to the British side, which was the first aspect of the Deputy's question. I do not think the position will change in that regard. Having watched the British dealing with a number of other inquiries and being familiar with the way the system works there, I do not think that there will be a change. I do not think we could appoint someone in a higher position to do the job — for example appointing a Supreme Court judge would have no effect. Mr. Justice Hamilton was once the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Barron is a highly distinguished member of the Bench. I do not foresee a change, but I would like to wait until the final report has been produced.

The files of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Síochána, to which Deputy Rabbitte referred, have been examined. The previous Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, answered questions on the matter in the House. He explained when examinations and investigations took place and outlined how the files could have gone missing. Additional searches were done. As the House is aware from its experience over the years, people discover files in the archives which may turn up a year late under the 30-year rule, for example. I asked for more searches some years ago and the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, ordered that this should happen. I have not read the report of the investigations of that time. A large number of files and records vanished. I am not sure whether they would have been helpful, but it certainly would have been better if they had been available. They vanished out of the system and that has been reported on. Investigations were conducted by the Garda Commissioner at the time. The reports are on the record. I can look them up again and bring them to the attention of the House. Some years have passed since that happened and they are not annexed in the report. They are not in the system. They certainly would have been useful.

As Deputy Rabbitte said, and I have said many times, this was an enormous atrocity. It was the biggest single atrocity in more than 30 years of the Troubles. The report that will be laid before the House might ask us to examine other aspects of the matter. We should wait to see what advice we are given in that regard. Based on the information I received after the archives were searched, I do not think that the files will come up. I do not know what happened to them.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I would like to pursue an aspect of this matter that arises from Deputy Rabbitte's question. Many people put a great deal of faith in the relationship between the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister. In the Taoiseach's last reply to the Dáil he referred to a meeting on 19 January at which he again asked the British Prime Minister for full co-operation. I would not like people to think the Taoiseach was merely putting his request on the record. Even a public sworn inquiry, if that call were to emerge from the committee, will not provide the truth about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings unless the British Prime Minister guarantees that all witnesses of which his Government is aware are compelled to attend and all evidence in its possession is made available, including MI5 files. In his meetings with the Prime Minister, did the Taoiseach mention that possibility? Given that a former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs has indicated the possibility that an international inquiry would bear fruit, will the Taoiseach consider this option?

If the Taoiseach were asked to attend the committee, would he be prepared to do so, given that he has been dealing with this matter for a number of years? He may be required to answer questions about the co-operation he received from the British Government and Prime Minister and files that were or were not made available.

In respect of moneys paid to legal representatives, I note the Taoiseach's reply of last week in which he indicated that offers had been made to legal representatives of the relatives. What offers have been made to the legal representative who travelled from the United States or the legal representatives of people from the Derry area? If such offers have been made, what is the significance of this? Will the Taoiseach attend the inquiry? Has he discussed the possibility of a further inquiry with the British Prime Minister? Have offers been made to legal representatives? Does the Taoiseach believe we can uncover the truth, which is what matters?

3:00 pm

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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Over Christmas Members had a chance to read the report and consider its annexes. We now have substantially more knowledge than we ever had before. One can piece together through the documentation what may or may not have happened. It is no longer woolly. There is much information available.

The Deputy asked whether any more information is available. All I can tell him is that I do not think the British Prime Minister is knowingly withholding information or files which he believes we need. He is well aware of the standing of this inquiry, which has the backing of the Oireachtas, and the status of the late Mr. Justice Hamilton, formerly Chief Justice of the State. There is also the question of the possible involvement of MI5, MI6 and other security elements, and whether their involvement was official. People must reach their own conclusions about this. The British Government has given its views and has co-operated with us in this matter, passing on files for our consideration. Mr. Justice Barron must answer the question of whether there were rogue elements in these security services.

I do not think there is any other way of obtaining these documents. If there are other aspects of co-operation we will deal with them. Everybody from the Attorney General on the British side to various Ministries of Defence and all Secretaries of State from Mo Mowlam onwards — there have been three or four since that period — have been well seized of these matters. The committee may come up with other questions in its examination. If the committee asks me for my co-operation I will give it fully. The information available to me, however, is already on the record of the House.

Throughout the process we have been trying to help Justice for the Forgotten and all the resources we have provided have gone to that group. Some of these were ex gratia contributions to assist the group and some were taken up in the group's legal expenses. This includes €700,000 for the group's legal expenses and €167,000 for its administrative expenses. These were from the start-up phase and, more recently since 2001, €500,000 has been paid to the group. In addition to those payments, the Government has made an ex gratia contribution to the relatives to pay for the assessment of the review. This was because the group received many reports and annexes to those reports. This contribution was to help the group's review and also to see what other procedures may arise and offers that could have been made to it. Not all the legal representatives of the victims are tied up with Justice for the Forgotten. Some of the victims have gone with their own representatives which are also covered in these payments.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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We can expect some meaningful answers on Question Time. I wish to go back to an answer the Taoiseach gave when he described the files at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law reform as having vanished. Can I take it he does not actually mean that, as that is the kind of answer one expects from Paul Daniels? Does the Taoiseach mean that he has not been able to find where the files have gone? Did the Taoiseach actually say that there will be, or there was, a Garda investigation to get to the bottom of this matter and restore some faith in the rule of law? Is the Taoiseach shutting the door on this matter or is he accepting the fact that some files get into the hands of journalists, while others vanish, and that is just the way life is? Does he believe that is acceptable?

If the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights declares that there should be a public inquiry into the bombings, will the Government agree to it or will some conditionalities be put in place? The remembrance fund was established in February 2003 yet no moneys have been paid from it. Can the Taoiseach inform the House what difficulties in administering the fund have been encountered, given that there was to be a meeting in mid-January to administer it but it was postponed? Can the Taoiseach indicate where the postponed meeting and the remembrance fund stand?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am not being flippant when I say the files have vanished. If the Deputy wants me to phrase it better, I can say that files in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, that were indicated to exist at one time, could not be found after extensive searching of the Department's records and archives. That matter was examined, as was the Garda issue referred to by Deputy Rabbitte. A number of years ago when it emerged, it was reported to the House by the then Minister. Even though there have been subsequent checks, the files have not been located.

I have insisted, dutifully, from the beginning of this process that the Government would ask the late Mr. Justice Hamilton to carry out extensive investigations, which were then carried on by Mr. Justice Barron. The investigation would report to the Oireachtas committee which would examine the report and then report back to this House for debate. We have to see where it goes from there. I do not want to be giving the end answer to an on-going process. It is not for me to do that.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Will the Government agree to a public inquiry?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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We will see what happens at the end of the process. However, we must let the committee come to its judgment and report to the House. The Government has not considered the end position until it has been reached, as to do so would be irresponsible.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Will the process be fast-tracked?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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There can be no fast-tracking this issue. It has already taken five years to get the process to this stage. Deputies may want quick public inquiries, but if there is one thing I have learned in almost seven years as Taoiseach, it is that there is no such thing. Deputies will find this situation no different. We may not get anywhere quickly but we should receive the committee's report quickly because it is working diligently to report to the House.

As Deputy Sargent said, I announced that €9 million was to be provided for victims of the Troubles in this jurisdiction, and work has been done on schemes to disburse those funds. Members of the commission were appointed in October, and it has met on a number of occasions. Further work was required on the schemes before applications for funding could be invited, but that work is now almost finished, and it is expected that the commission will be in a position to invite applications shortly. There have been some delays, but those are about to be resolved.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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What credibility does the Taoiseach give to the British Prime Minister's assurance of co-operation with an Oireachtas committee when he signally failed to ensure his Government and its agencies co-operated fully with the Barron inquiry? The Taoiseach is glossing over the level of co-operation he received. Is he aware that Mr. Justice Barron pointed out that, of 68,000 files of possible relevance in the Northern Ireland Office, not a single copy of an original document was made available to the inquiry? The sum total received, in essence, was a ten page letter, and Mr. Justice Barron said specifically that the scope of his report was limited as a result. Will the Taoiseach address that?

Does the Taoiseach agree that the British Prime Minister has treated the inquiry and the Taoiseach with contempt because he has failed to ensure this co-operation was given? Did he perhaps think that, because the Taoiseach believed his claim that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which we now know to be a lie, he would believe anything else the Prime Minister said?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Deputy to withdraw the word "lie", please. It is not appropriate in this House.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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I am talking about the Prime Minister of Britain, who is not answerable to the House.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I do not care to whom the Deputy refers. It is not appropriate to use the word "lie" in this House about anybody.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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It is not appropriate to say that it was a lie that there were weapons of——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Deputy to withdraw the word "lie".

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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It was an absolutely fraudulent claim.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Deputy to withdraw the word.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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I will say instead that it was a fraudulent claim.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Withdraw the word "lie", Deputy.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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It is against the British Prime Minister. It is not against——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, withdraw the word "lie". We do not use it in this House.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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I will substitute "fraudulent claim" for the word "lie".

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, will you withdraw the word "lie"?

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Yes, and I will say it was an utterly fraudulent claim, which is the same thing.

Does the Taoiseach acknowledge that the relatives and victims attending and watching the sub-committee hearings are still of the opinion that they require a wider public inquiry and that alone should give serious cause for consideration of that course of action?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am aware of everything Mr. Justice Barron has said and of all the meetings which were set up. I have already answered questions on those matters. I am also aware that some people who have contributed to the public hearings have made comments on the issue of a public inquiry and on the form such an inquiry might take. There are serious, complex issues involved and the sub-committee's hearings are ongoing. I do not want to pre-empt the work of the committee before that work is finished and the matter comes back to the House. We should wait and see the committee's recommendations before considering the matter further.

On the Deputy's first question, I judge the British Prime Minister on the Bloody Sunday tribunal. Successive British Prime Ministers refused to do anything about that and I played a large part in convincing him, as a result of reports by successive Irish Governments, that a full scale inquiry was the right thing to do. He did that, and we all know the scale, level, cost and substance of it. In this case we asked for his co-operation and that of the Secretaries of State regarding information and facts that they believe is available. A huge amount of checking is required. All that is known. I will not comment about the amount of engagement that took place in the context of one line of a report as against other chapters.

I already answered Deputy Rabbitte as to whether I think any other inquiry will bring forward more evidence. I gave him my view on that, for what it is worth. We have to wait to see what our own inquiry brings forward and then we will see what action we need to take.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Does the Taoiseach not recognise that the negative view he expressed in regard to his expectation of further information or documentation being made available from the British side is, itself, something that will add to their resolve not to co-operate and not to provide further information and documentation? When our Prime Minister makes the statement that he has no further expectation of progress——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should confine himself to a question.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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It is a question. I am asking the Taoiseach if he does not recognise that his statement could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

On the issue of the missing files, the Taoiseach has not confirmed whether any level of investigation prior to or since his becoming Taoiseach was undertaken in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in regard to the copy files that have also gone missing in Garda hands. Has any investigation taken place or, given the gravity of the matter of the missing files, does he not believe——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is being repetitive.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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——that an investigation as to what happened to the files, which is a matter of great national importance, is now required? Will the Taoiseach please clarify this matter?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am sorry if I did not make that clear. I thought I did. When it became clear some years ago, the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, instituted a full examination and investigation in the Department while the Garda Commissioner carried out an examination of Garda files. They did not uncover the whereabouts of the files. It was not established how, why or where the files went missing, but both the Garda Commissioner and the Minister examined the matter.

If I recall correctly, examinations and investigations go back to the 1970s when these issues came to light. These questions were answered by the then Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue. However, I can bring these issues to the fore once again, as it is some years since this was done.

Deputy Rabbitte asked me a straight question on the other issue. I could avoid answering his question and say that, if one keeps going back to the British Prime Minister and to the Secretaries of State and arranging meetings with the judges, either I must believe they cannot find any more information about the facts or I do not. One should be in a position to believe them if they were asked time and again over a number of years to investigate these issues. By and large I believe that Secretaries of State had no vested interest in not co-operating. They examined the issues and came up with various matters in regard to the specific questions they were asked. Having dealt with this over so many years leads me to question whether the information of that time in 1974 would have been written down and put on a file anyway. That is the issue. I do not think Secretaries of State or the British Prime Minister would have refused to pass over information to either Mr. Justice Hamilton or Mr. Justice Barron. I do not think they would do that. I do not question their bona fides.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Whatever failings you have——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask Deputy Ó Caoláin to allow the Taoiseach to respond.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I have answered this question already. I based this judgment on a far more difficult decision when we came to the Bloody Sunday tribunal, and Prime Minister Blair, against the advice of everybody in his administration and elsewhere, pressed ahead to set up the inquiry. On another terrible incident the Government, through a former chief justice, made a similar request of him. The Deputy is saying that he would knowingly and intentionally not co-operate, but I do not believe that. While the Deputy may say that I am being naïve, I am not prepared to say that he is telling me an untruth.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I am prepared to take at face value what the Taoiseach has said in his assessment of the politicians he has dealt with. Is there not a question about the intelligence on which they rely? We have seen dramatic and unprecedented evidence of this in the past 72 hours where the President of the United States is prepared to reverse engines on the reasons for going to war and is now inquiring into the quality of intelligence made available to him. The British Government has rowed in behind this overnight——

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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The Taoiseach is now the only person who believes there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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——presumably because the British intelligence services are afraid the American inquiry will show they relied on the Brits——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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We seem to be rambling outside the substance of the questions. We have gone past Taoiseach's questions and I ask the Deputy to be brief.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Merely because the Taoiseach dealt in good faith with the political heads in Downing Street and Stormont does not mean there is no cause for concern about some of the matters that have been raised here. The Taoiseach has told us that a different order of inquiry would, in his opinion, be unlikely to elicit a greater extent of co-operation from the British authorities. Does the Taoiseach believe that an international inquiry might be feasible? If there were an international dimension to this, would it be more likely to require the British authorities to co-operate with it?

While I did not see reports of this in the press, colleagues have told me that the then head of Anglo-Irish affairs, Mr. Sean Donlon, replied to a newspaper advertisement and gave evidence to the committee. He specifically said that he had not been interviewed in respect of the Barron report. Does the Taoiseach consider that people might have reasonably expected that someone like him would have been interviewed?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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This was a call made by the justices, based on the information supplied by those who responded to them. They spent several years on this and I am sure they interviewed as many people as they could. I cannot say what information or evidence Mr. Donlon would have had. However, it was open to people to submit statements and many did so. Even people living abroad who were not interviewed submitted information.

Deputy Rabbitte made a point about the political position. If he is asking me whether I have great faith in MI5 or MI6, I am not prepared to put my views on the record of the House, but I have a different view of the political issue.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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While I know the Taoiseach opposed the war last year, he does not have a great record on this.

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I opposed the war last year. MI5 or MI6 information would have nothing to do with Northern Ireland. We do not talk to MI5 or MI6 and I do not have any great information on them.

The Deputy asked about the international element of the inquiry and by and large we were satisfied with the arrangements for the Bloody Sunday inquiry. From the Government's perspective, the Justice Cory inquiry has been a very good model. Justice Cory has done a very fine job. Although we do not have the total assessment of it yet, we have a broad outline of it and we are very happy with the arrangements. Justice Cory took on some very difficult cases that spanned a lengthy period and was able to report in a short time on cases that went back over many years. There are difficulties around it, but Justice Cory's report will prove to be very useful as we go forward in dealing with the cases the British have still not published.