Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Department of An Taoiseach
Office of the Attorney General
3. To ask the Taoiseach the full title and record number of each and every set of legal proceedings including commissions, inquiries and inspections in which the Attorney General has acted as counsel since their appointment; the proceedings in which they have acted as counsel for any party other than the State or a Minister of the Government or any other State party since his appointment, whether in person or by virtual hearing; the dates when such cases were heard; the dates when the Attorney General appeared; the date when any such hearing date was fixed; the identity of the instructing solicitor; the dates when such cases were heard, including if the case was heard by means of virtual hearing, in-person hearing or if, it was compromised, the date on which any settlement mechanism, arbitration, mediation or otherwise; the time taken including preparation time; and if the Attorney General charged or intends to charge a fee or fees of any description. [48922/21]
4. To ask the Taoiseach if the Attorney General has engaged in the provision of legal advices and or opinions or the like for any party, other than the State or a Minister of the Government or any other State party, since their appointment; the time taken including preparation time; if the Attorney General charged or intends to charge a fee or fees of any description; and the identity of the client and the instructing solicitor. [48923/21]
5. To ask the Taoiseach in circumstances in which the Attorney General has engaged in either the provision of legal advices and or opinions and or appearing in court in person or virtually or engaging in settlement mechanisms such as mediation, arbitration or settlement, the name of the person or persons who authorised him to so do; the date or dates when such authorisation was given; if such authorisation was given on a general basis; if the authorising parties were aware of the names of the clients; the nature of the advices provided and-or professional service provided; the identity of the instructing solicitor in each and every instance in which an authorisation was provided; and if there are instances in which no such authorisation was obtained and or declined. [48924/21]
8. To ask the Taoiseach the number of occasions in which the Attorney General delegated his functions to the Director General of the Office of the Attorney General since his appointment; the reason for such a delegation; and the date of each. [49300/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 8 together.
The powers and functions of the Attorney General are set out at Article 30 of the Constitution and in the Ministers and Secretaries Act 1924. The role of the Attorney General is to advise the Government in matters of law and legal opinion, and to this end, his Office comprises of a number of different functions in providing services to the Government.
A core function of the Attorney General’s office involves the handling of, and providing advice relating to, litigation involving the State. In such cases the instructing solicitor is the Chief State Solicitor. As the Deputy will appreciate there are very many such live cases and, as would be expected, the Attorney General has been personally involved in providing and approving advices in respect of these cases.
I would note that the Attorney General, in common with many of his predecessors, has personally represented the State in a number of cases before the courts since his appointment. The Attorney General had previously represented the State in a private capacity in the Apple tax case and he has continued to represent the State in this case since his appointment. He has also represented the State in the Supreme Court and the European Court of Justice since his appointment.
Prior to his appointment in June 2020, the Attorney General informed me and I informed the other leaders of the parties in Government that he had a small number of existing litigation commitments that he considered he had a professional obligation to discharge, and it was agreed that he would do so.
The Attorney General’s involvement in these matters dates back to 2011 in one case and 2017 in two others. The first matter related to the State recapitalisation of Irish Permanent. The Attorney General was involved in one hearing in that matter in November 2020 and his involvement ceased at that time. The second matter related to a commercial dispute and the Attorney General's involvement ceased in February 2021. The final matter related to the Inspectors investigation into certain matters relating to INM and involved a hearing on two Saturdays, 18 and 25 September 2021. The Attorney General's involvement in that matter ceased on 25 September.
In the normal course of events these private professional obligations would have been discharged in a short period of time following his appointment. However, due to the Covid pandemic there were exceptional delays in the hearings of those aspects of the litigation in which the Attorney General was involved, and it was not possible to discharge these obligations as early as anticipated.
While I have responsibility for answering questions on administrative matters connected with the Office of the Attorney General, I have no function in respect of the detail of the Attorney General’s professional engagements outside of his role as Attorney General. I would note also that the Attorney General is bound by a duty of confidentiality to his clients and that he has no continuing private professional obligations.
I would emphasise that I am fully satisfied no conflict of interest arises in this regard. Having acted in those three matters in a private capacity the Attorney General could never have acted for the State in these or any related matters. It is the long-standing practice that if an Attorney General has a conflict of interest in relation to any case, such cases are not dealt with by the Attorney General but rather they are advised on by the Director General of the Office of the Attorney General.