Seanad debates

Thursday, 6 February 2003

Adjournment Matters. - Morris Tribunal.


10:30 am

Photo of Ivor CallelyIvor Callely (Dublin North Central, Fianna Fail)

I have been asked by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to apologise to Senator Higgins for his inability to address this matter directly in the House and to reply to the Senator on his behalf. A letter dated 18 December 2002 was sent to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform by Amnesty International, the subject of which was the Morris tribunal and to which a detailed reply issued recently. It would not be appropriate, however, to discuss the details of the correspondence in the House at this time.

The Minister has asked me to address the specific issues the Senator raised regarding the terms of reference of the tribunal and legal representation for the McBrearty family. The McBrearty family have initiated a number of civil actions in the High Court for damages arising from events in County Donegal and, to the best of my knowledge, have full and adequate legal representation for those proceedings. As regard the Morris tribunal of inquiry, the onus to establish the facts and inquire into the matters in question falls on the tribunal. Nevertheless, tribunals of inquiry have the right to authorise legal representation for any person appearing. This is done, in particular, where a person's good name may be called into question. The Morris tribunal has, on application to it, granted representation for 67 persons or bodies, including the McBrearty family.

The question of costs is determined by the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts 1921 to 2002 which allow a tribunal which is of the opinion that, having regard to findings in all other relevant matters, there are sufficient reasons rendering it equitable to do so to order the whole or part of the costs of representation of a person appearing before it to be paid. A tribunal, when determining whether costs should be paid, may take into account failure to co-operate or provide assistance for or knowingly giving false or misleading information to the tribunal. In effect, therefore, the reasonable legal costs of participants are effectively guaranteed in advance provided the persons concerned co-operate with the tribunal, although actual payments are not made in advance.


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