Thursday, 25 May 1972
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Desmond: asked the Minister for Justice if he will tabulate the total number of so-called political prisoners currently in prison custody under the headings of remand, under sentence for possession of arms, ammunition and explosives, armed robbery, et cetera.
Mr. O'Malley: The Deputy will appreciate that I cannot recognise any such category of prisoners. Assuming, however, that the question relates to persons who claim to be in that category, the position is as follows:
Owing to variations in the wording of charges to reflect the facts of particular  cases, and owing, also, to the fact that some prisoners were convicted of or stand charged with more than one offence, a simple tabulation is not possible. The general picture is that there are 14 convicted prisoners, of whom seven have been convicted of armed robbery, seven others are convicted of possession of firearms or explosives. Thirty-nine are on remand before the District Court or are awaiting trial in the Central Criminal Court or Circuit Court. The charges are, for the most part, of possession of firearms or explosives with intent to endanger life, but there are five cases where the charges are of incitement and membership of illegal organisations.
Mr. Desmond: May I ask the Minister if he has been able to extract any information on the question of those involved in armed robberies or do they come within the group claiming to be political prisoners?
Mr. O'Malley: I have given the figure of seven convicted of armed robbery or something similar. There are others among the remands who were charged with armed robbery but I am not sure how many of those there are.
Dr. O'Connell: Could I ask the Minister a question about those on remand? An allegation was made that the book of evidence was not available. Could he comment on that or is there any truth in it at all?
Mr. O'Malley: I should preface my remarks by saying that the preparation of a book of evidence is a matter for the Attorney General for whose Department I am not answerable to the House but, as a matter of courtesy to the Deputy, I would say that the books of evidence are, in fact, made available as speedily as possible and indeed exceptionally quickly in many of these cases.
Mr. Desmond: May I ask the Minister a final supplementary question in relation to the persons on remand? Is it possible for the Minister to give any indication of the length of time  on remand? Is there any general information available on that, in view of the allegations that have been made?
Mr. O'Malley: All I know is that of those the longest is on remand since February, which is three months, and a lot of them are there only a few weeks. It is very important that Deputies and the public should bear in mind that a high proportion of these people are there of their own volition. They have been offered nominal bail in many cases by courts and they will not take it and they are there of their own volition. When commentators, either inside the House or outside the House, talk about keeping these people on remand, that very important factor should be borne in mind, that they need never have set foot inside a prison if they had so desired.
Dr. O'Donovan: May I ask the Minister a simple question? Have these prisoners all been removed to the Curragh or are they the people who, in fact, were removed to the Curragh? Thirty-nine and 14 are 53. The figure we had for the number removed to the Curragh was 40.
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