Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - State v. Singer.

Wednesday, 1 June 1960

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 182 No. 4

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1.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Owen Lancelot Sheehy Skeffington  Zoom on Owen Lancelot Sheehy Skeffington  asked the Taoiseach whether in view of the failure of the Attorney General to bring to trial Paul Singer who was returned for trial in the Dublin Metropolitan District Court on 22nd January last and of the fact that the same person was held in unlawful custody since the 8th of April last he will in accordance with Article 30, section 5, subsection 2 of the Constitution request the resignation of the Attorney General.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  The answer is in the negative.

I may add that I do not accept the Deputy's allegation that there has been a failure on the part of the Attorney General in respect of this matter.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Is the Taoiseach aware that there is a great deal of public uneasiness as to whether there has been a due and proper prosecution of the matters involved in this question and does the Taoiseach not think that for the reassurance of the public it would be right for him, on a suitable occasion, to make a considered statement on the whole proceedings in this connection?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  The question at issue was whether the next sitting of the Circuit Criminal Court to which the accused was returned for trial meant a sitting during the current [454] Hilary term of the Court or during the next following Easter term. Up to the time of the recent decision of the Supreme Court these two words “term” and “sitting” were always construed as synonymous and it was considered that the hearing of the case during the Easter term would comply fully with the provisions of the law. That point was contested. The matter was considered by three judges of the High Court who held unanimously that the previous view of the law was correct, that the case could properly come before the Circuit Criminal Court during the Easter term. On appeal to the Supreme Court, that Court held by a majority of three to two the contrary view. It will be seen therefore that of the eight superior court judges who considered this matter five of them, including the Chief Justice and the President of the High Court, agreed with the view of the Attorney General and with the legality of the practice which was established over many years, and three disagreed. The fact that the three judges who disagreed constituted a majority of the Supreme Court has of course settled now what is the correct interpretation of the law.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I know the Taoiseach will agree with me that the last thing any of us wish to do is to conduct this trial in Dáil Éireann but I trust he does appreciate that there is very considerable anxiety, (1) about the apparent extravagant expenditure of public money and (2) about the interminable proceedings which appear to have resulted in a failure to bring the matter to trial and issue, which in the interests of all should be done with the least possible delay.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I should point out it was not argued by Counsel representing the accused that there was any undue delay in the case and indeed there appears to have been agreement between prosecution and defence that the case could not have been heard earlier.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I am sure both the Taoiseach and I desire to avoid any attempt to try this case here but the interests of the accused and of the [455] public have to be considered in a matter of this kind. Our concern here as the Legislature certainly should be to see that both are properly protected. There is grave general uneasiness about the interminable delays that have taken place in connection with the proceedings in this matter and, both from the point of view of the public and from the point of view of the person charged, I trust the Taoiseach will bear that in mind and exhort the Attorney General to see this issue is brought to trial at the earliest possible moment and decided upon.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  The Deputy will appreciate it is not open to us to criticise the proceedings of the courts. In this case the practice followed by the law officers of the Government was identical with that which has been operated here for very many years and, while I do not pretend to understand fully the reasons for the Supreme Court decision, we have to accept their decision as involving a change of that practice in the future unless we should decide to change the law.

Mr. Ryan:  Is the Taoiseach aware that he has advanced arguments here which were not advanced in either the High Court or the Supreme Court by the Attorney General or on behalf of the Attorney General?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I am not aware I have advanced any arguments at all.

Mr. Ryan:  Is he not aware that at the time the person concerned was returned for trial there was a Circuit Court sitting and that the simple translation or understanding of the word “next” is the next sitting——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  It is not within our jurisdiction to interpret.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  That is the point that was argued, but I say in that connection that of the eight judges who considered this matter five held the contrary view.


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