Wednesday, 10 July 2019
Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Bill 2019: Committee Stage
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 4, line 36, to delete “Act of 2005.” and substitute the following:"Act of 2005, or
(d) be likely not be met with reciprocal assistance regarding information for investigative purposes for an inquest or investigation into a troubles related crime committed in this State.".
I think the Minister for Justice and Equality knows where I am coming from on this particular amendment. It is because of my engagement with victims' and survivors' groups. I will talk briefly about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and their survivors who the Minister has met, having twice attended the commemoration on Talbot Street. He knows the issues they have faced over many years going back to 1974. Listening to the survivors and families, their pain remains obvious even after all this time. On Friday night, they are putting on a production at Liberty Hall entitled "Blood Red Lines". It is a real and poignant way for them to tell of their continuing pain at the fact that they do not have information without which they do not have justice. They are still waiting. If anyone had any doubt about the continuing effect on victims and survivors of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, that is a graphic presentation of it. I ask the Minister to refer to the role of the Garda liaison officer who has been appointed. I think he is the third officer appointed at this stage. It would be useful to have some information on what exactly his terms of reference are and what the nature of his role is. I hope the Minister refers to that in reply to me.
There have been 121 conflict related deaths in the State. People are still waiting for information and I have to judge the Bill in that context. That is what informs amendment No. 1. While we cannot legislate for another jurisdiction, the information cannot flow in one direction. There is a need for reciprocity and a reciprocal arrangement with Northern Ireland and the British authorities. Last week, we had another meeting with four victims who travelled from the North. There were two Protestants and two Catholics and all of them are fighting for truth and justice. I quote from a letter sent by one of them:
It is an insult to the memories of our murdered family members that we have had to travel and seek help and support from politicians from another jurisdiction. There is no real desire among the Northern politicians because every debate and every initiative about victims ends up in finger-pointing, blame, religion and politics. Cross-community is the only way forward. We should all work together in relation to victims without religious or political agendas.
That is another group of survivors. They have not been waiting quite as long as the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings but they are also waiting. Their frustration, disillusion and disappointment are palpable. How can we give all the information one way unless we know there is going to be co-operation and information coming in the other direction. I ask the Minister to clarify his own amendment in that regard. Does he foresee that there will be co-operation and a two and three-way exchange of information?
I turn to collusion. We all know collusion took place. Some of the groups can give chapter and verse on where it went on. There must be a fearlessness in facing the truth of this collusion. The Minister might clarify, given the political vacuum in the North, how the legislation will bring about change. I mentioned Dr. Thomas Leahy earlier and his work on legacy issues. I referred to the five themes he came up with, including full engagement with the Stormont House Agreement, transparency and sustained communication with victims and survivors, services for victims and survivors, engagement and co-operation between Irish and British authorities and a remembrance day for all survivors and victims. The purpose of my amendment is to ensure there is finally truth, justice, information and an acknowledgement of what happened. That will include collusion but we have to be fearless in facing that.
It is important that Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan has moved this amendment. It is right that this jurisdiction is moving forward with legislation, which is overdue, but there must be accompanying action from Britain. On the text of the amendment, it is not necessarily the case that we should avoid legislating because of the absence of legislation in Britain. However, the lack of action is lamentable. In terms of the British Government, there has been consultation and that process was extended. The can has been kicked down the road constantly, which is deeply frustrating and upsetting for victims who have been waiting for far too long for the truth. As I said in previous contributions, making progress on legacy issues is very difficult and has required lengthy discussion. It is not easy to get both Governments and all parties on to the same page. However, that was achieved in Stormont House. We need to expedite this. The legislation is but one part of it. I see the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade is present and I hope he continues to put pressure on the British Government to hold up its part of the Stormont House Agreement. This is one part of it but Britain's legislation on legacy issues is also needed urgently. That is the sentiment behind the amendment. Co-operation on legacy issues must be a two-way street. That is right and appropriate.
I do not want to delay the legislation. I understand how serious it is. However, I want to support Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan's amendment wholeheartedly. As a young schoolboy, I was in Dublin on the day of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. There was very little communication at that time and my parents, who are now deceased, and the parents of the other children I was with thought we were all in danger and might never come home. Thankfully, we all got home safely albeit at 2 a.m. instead of 9 p.m. It is shocking that there has been no closure on that. I salute Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan on her efforts and the cross-party meetings she has held as she tries to get closure on this. That was 1974. If we fast-forward to the Omagh bombing, which took place in 1998, we come to one of the biggest episodes of collusion ever. Those killings were needless. They should never have happened. Information was passed on. I have that at first hand from a retired garda from my own neighbourhood. That information was not acted on because to do otherwise might have blown the cover of an undercover agent. Shockingly, 29 people lost their lives. Michael Gallagher has been in here. He attended a Fine Gael Ard-Fheis at the invitation of the former leader, Deputy Enda Kenny, and his family. Television cameras were brought to bear on him and he was told he would not get justice under Fianna Fáil but would under Fine Gael. When Deputy Enda Kenny became Taoiseach, that was the end of it. There has been avoidance, subterfuge and everything else and nothing has happened on the Omagh bombing. I name those two events but there are many other victims who have not received justice. I see nothing in the legislation that will make that right. Everything is not right in the state of Denmark, nor in the State of Ireland. It is not good enough. Those families stood down their activities on the Omagh bombing as they could not keep going. They will have a commemoration, however. It is not good enough that we are dancing on the head of a pin and failing to deal with things honestly and in an upfront manner. We need international people to come in with no baggage to deal with legacy issues fairly and honestly. What happened in Dublin was a travesty but what happened in Omagh was a bigger one because it was so many years later. Information was not acted on and the bomb was let go into Omagh to cause havoc.