Dáil debates

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Other Questions

Global Intelligence Forum

4:00 pm

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Question 45: To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide details of attendance of the Secretary General of his Department at the forthcoming Global Intelligence Forum in Dungarvan, County Waterford in July; the nature of this conference; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11886/11]

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Question No. 45 is in the name of Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I-----

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I call an tAire. Gabh mo leithscéal.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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My apologies.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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I would not want to deprive the Deputy of the opportunity to ask a supplementary question before he receives his first answer. If he would like to go ahead, I am quite happy to sit down and relax for a couple of moments. We seem to be going at a rate of knots at this stage.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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The question is whether the Deputy will be wiser after hearing the Minister's response on the forum.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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He will.

Photo of Joe HigginsJoe Higgins (Dublin West, Socialist Party)
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Unlikely.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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I know the Deputy is anticipating yet another conspiracy advanced by the US Government. I am anticipating the protest about capitalist imperialism and the possibility of demonstrations being held in Waterford. If the Deputy listens to the answer, perhaps he will be somewhat enlightened.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I am all ears.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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I am advised that my Department has accepted an invitation to be represented at the second annual Global Intelligence Forum. Intelligence, of course, is very important.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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It is in short supply.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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It is, indeed.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Order, please.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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A well known legal phrase is, Res ipsa loquitur.

The Global Intelligence Forum is due to take place in Dungarvan from 11 to 13 July. I understand the forum which is organised by Mercyhurst College, in partnership with the Waterford local authorities - the Waterford local authorities have not yet been taken over by the CIA - is one of a number of outreach initiatives on which the college has embarked to capture best practices in the intelligence community. The annual forum focuses on key intelligence issues from a global perspective and will include speakers and participants from a number of countries in the areas of business, national security, history, law enforcement and government. I am satisfied that in the circumstances it is entirely appropriate for my Department to participate in the forum.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I hope the Minister in his responses will not resort to utterly false claims of anti-Americanism. For the record, and in response to the claims the Minister has made today, I am very pro-American and its history, culture and people, but I reserve the right to be critical of the American Government's foreign policy and other matters.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Could the Deputy ask a question now?

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I am just stating that for the record, given the earlier unjustified comment.

What is the reason senior figures both in the Garda and from the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Defence are attending this conference with former directors of the CIA, former directors of military intelligence in the United States army and former senior figures from the FBI? Bizarrely, the intelligence conference is also being attended by the director of Treasury Holdings, one of the developers that helped bankrupt this country, and Mr. Frank Daly, the chairman of the National Asset Management Agency. Is it appropriate for high level officials from various Departments to attend such a spooks conference with spooks from the CIA, FBI and so forth, as well as developers who have played such a malign role in our economic fortunes? Is it in line with this country's tradition of military neutrality to be involved in such a conference?

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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I would not wish to unduly upset the Deputy but it might not be a surprise to him to hear that "Spooks" is my favourite television programme. It is a great pity it is not on television at present. It should also not surprise the Deputy that there is substantial co-operation between us and the United States in dealing with organised crime and international terrorism. There is also substantial co-operation between us and our European Union partners and the British Government in addressing these issues. It is of great value and importance to this country that in counteracting a broad range of activities by organised criminals, be it drug importation or human trafficking, there is capacity to exchange intelligence, interact with each other and to learn best practice from each other.

Intelligence is a key aspect in all aspects of policing and national security, from day-to-day operational policing to the sophistication and complexity of investigations into organised crime. Good intelligence gathering and co-operation between democratic countries in acquiring intelligence are crucial in the engagement of a police force. It is important that my Department is fully informed of the best practices to apply in dealing with matters in the justice area. My Department, which has a primary strategic role in supporting the Garda Síochána in tackling crime and promoting a peaceful society, has a very substantial interest in participating in this conference and in consideration of issues related to intelligence gathering and analysis in the broadest sense, both from a practical and academic perspective.

The Secretary General of the Department received and accepted an invitation to speak at the conference, which is focused on best practices in the intelligence community. I presume the Deputy would not wish this country to operate as a solitary island in a vacuum and never engage with other countries in dealing with international crime and terrorism and issues in which we have an interest as a democratic society to protect both the State and the citizens of the State from those engaged in criminality.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Of course some of the issues the Minister mentioned are legitimate matters on which we must co-operate with other countries. However, there is a little more than that to the CIA. Does it not concern the Minister that the CIA is involved in illegal kidnapping, so-called renditions and has been involved in all sorts of manipulations in places such as the Middle East? It might well be involved in the activities of the Saudi regime, with which the US Government is so closely associated, in trying to crush a democratic movement in Bahrain. Are these the intelligence services we should mix with given that history? Why is there a requirement on delegates attending this conference not to write about their attendance or what takes place at the conference? There are to be no blogs about it and journalists are not allowed to attend. None of the content of the conference is allowed to emerge from it. Can the Minister explain why that is the case?

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy is yet again revealing his eccentric and odd views of this world. He is overwhelmed personally with conspiracy theories and, despite denying it, an anti-US bias. He apparently loves the American people but does not want us to engage with or talk to them, which is an odd way of viewing the world.

This is the second year that Mercyhurst College, which is based in Pennsylvania, has organised an academic outreach event in Dungarvan. It is a great benefit to Dungarvan that such events are organised. The event is organised in partnership with the Waterford local authorities. There is nothing covert or underhand about it. Indeed, if the Deputy wishes to find more information about it, he should look at the Mercyhurst College website at www.mercyhurst.edu.