Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Cross-Border Inter-Connector.

Thursday, 4 December 1980

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 325 No. 3

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23.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  asked the Minister for Energy whether by virtue of the public accountability of the ESB through him to Dáil Éireann, he will ask the board to furnish such documents or information as are in their possession concerning a reported proposal that a money payment be made in exchange for an undertaking by the Provisional IRA to refrain from bombing a reconstructed cross-Border inter-connector; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

24.

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne  Zoom on Noel C. Browne  asked the Minister for Energy whether he has received and considered the report (details supplied) which he requested from the ESB on the proposal that the ESB should pay money [514] in return for a Provisional IRA undertaking not to bomb one of their installations; and if so, the name of the intermediary; and the action it is proposed to take in the matter.

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 24 together.

The ESB have outlined to me the circumstances surrounding this matter. The matter did not arise by way of a proposal made to the board by an illegal organisation or by an intermediary acting for such an organisation. In fact it arose in a much more indirect way in circumstances where an ESB official was engaged in duties related to the possible restoration of the inter-connector. There were no documents involved.

I am satisfied that the ESB acted correctly and, therefore, the question of further action by me does not arise.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  The Minister said that there were no documents involved but can he say what was the form of the proposal made? In view of numerous press reports which made it quite clear than an undertaking to the Provisional IRA to hand over a large sum of money would bring about the safety of the cross-Border transmitter and the fact that these reports received a lot of publicity, would the Minister agree, though he has heard from the ESB their account of whatever transaction took place, that to end the speculation it would be in the best interest and clear the air if the ESB handed over any evidence in their possession to the proper authority to see if any action is necessary? I accept he is satisfied that there is no criminal action involved but in view of the speculation that has occurred would the Minister agree that the proper course would be to hand over any evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Garda?

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  The information which I have on this matter from the ESB indicates that it would be importing an element of precision that did not exist to say that a specific approach was made in this matter to the board by a particular individual [515] or individuals. I am sure the Deputy is sufficiently aware of the situation in the area concerned to realise that matters of this kind do not normally arise in a clear-cut fashion. I am assured that there are no documents. I am quite satisfied with the information that I have been given and that the ESB and their agencies acted correctly. No question of referring this matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions could arise. It is giving it a degree of importance which it does not deserve to suggest that such a matter could arise.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  In the brief which the Minister has received on this matter from the ESB is there any named individual or any reference to any individual or individuals who, directly or indirectly, approached an officer or officers of the board on this matter?

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  The answer to that is in the negative. I presume the Deputy has in mind reference in press reports to a Church man. I am assured by the ESB that no approach of any kind was made to the board by any Church man or that any Church man was mentioned in relation to this incident.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  In view of the implication in the Minister's statement and the implication in the ESB's report or brief to him that an approach was made by an individual or individuals, did the Minister inquire from the ESB who those individuals were and on whose behalf they were acting either directly or indirectly? Did the Minister make that inquiry?

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  Yes, I did. As I indicated earlier to Deputy O'Leary, at this stage when one is inquiring into it one is apparently — I include myself in this — seeking a degree of precision which did not exist at all. As I understand it, this matter in so far as it arose at all arose in a very incoherent way where an official of the ESB was inspecting on the ground——

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  Literally.

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  ——where the inter-connector [516] had been blown up. There were local people around and in the course of conversation some of them came up with a suggestion like this and that is all that was involved.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  Deputy Browne.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  May I ask a final supplementary?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  No. I have called Deputy Browne.

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne  Zoom on Noel C. Browne  This has an element of déjà vu of the arms trial about it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  Would the Deputy please ask a question?

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne  Zoom on Noel C. Browne  Would the Minister confirm or deny whether, in fact, with or without his consent, the Cardinal Archbishop, Dr. O'Fiach——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  The Deputy is grossly disorderly in naming someone in the House on this matter.

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne  Zoom on Noel C. Browne  ——acted as the guarantor in this incident?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  The Deputy is naming somebody under the privilege of the House and it is grossly disorderly.

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  I have already said, and the Deputy was present and heard me, that I am assured by the ESB that no approach of any kind was made to the board by any Church man or indeed that any Church man was mentioned in relation to this incident.

Mr. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  Would the Minister tell the House, in so far as he can do so exactly, what was the proposal that was made and if there were monetary terms, the amount thereof? What was the reaction of the ESB to such a proposal and at what level was the decision taken by the ESB in response to such proposal?

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne  Zoom on Noel C. Browne  If a Prime Minister can do it why not a Cardinal Archbishop?

[517]Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  Deputy Browne no doubt would like to be able to put that proposition but the facts do not support it. In relation to Deputy O'Keeffe's question, my understanding is that there was no clear-cut proposition but some kind of suggestion made locally that it could be possible to persuade the people who had been responsible for bombing the inter-connector to desist from this kind of activity in the future if some help were given to dependants of prisoners. That was the kind of suggestion made. I also understand that no particular sum of money was mentioned and specifically the sum of £30,000.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  A final supplementary from Deputy Desmond. I cannot allow this to go on all day.

Mr. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  The Minister did not answer the second part of my question.

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  Would the Deputy repeat it?

Mr. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  At what level was the decision made?

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  My understanding is that the suggestion was made to a low level ESB representative at local level who reported it to a more senior official in Dublin. It was not really a question of accepting or rejecting it. It was made clear immediately that it would not be contemplated.

Mr. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  By whom?

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  By the senior official in Dublin.

Mr. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  Did it reach the board at all?

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  It was mentioned to the board subsequently and to the Minister at the time. The Minister confirmed in very strong terms what had already been decided on by the ESB executive concerned.

[518]Mr. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  It reached the Minister?

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Can the Minister confirm if an individual or individuals names were mentioned at the meeting of the ESB board in relation to this matter?

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  I cannot confirm or deny that because I do not know.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  This is absolutely important. Would the Minister now inquire from the ESB board if in fact an individual's name was discussed at the board meeting and if reference was made to him? Will the Minister advise the House as to who that person was?

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  I should like to ask the Minister——

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  Did Deputy Browne say something?

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne  Zoom on Noel C. Browne  I said: “Ask Seamus Scarry, he was on the board.”

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  I shall consider the matter, Deputy.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  Could I ask——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  We are finished with supplementaries now.

Mr. M. O'Leary: Information on Michael O'Leary  Zoom on Michael O'Leary  Did the Minister say to the House in effect that he sees no grounds for legal action in this whole matter?

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  Yes.

Mr. O'Keeffe: Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  To which Minister was the Tánaiste referring?

Mr. Colley: Information on George Colley  Zoom on George Colley  Deputy O'Malley.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  The remaining questions will appear on next Tuesday's Order Paper.


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