Thursday, 4 December 1980
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. M. 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.
Dr. 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  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.
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.
Mr. M. 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: 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  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: 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: 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: 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: 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. Colley: ——where the inter-connector  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.
Mr. 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: 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?
Mr. 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.
Mr. 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. B. 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?
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