Wednesday, 20 March 1991
Dáil Éireann Debate
3. Mr. Shatter asked the Taoiseach the number of High Court cases in which he was named as a defendant in court proceedings in each of the last ten years; the issues involved in such proceedings; the number of such cases successfully defended by him; the number of such cases in which the plaintiff was successful; the amount of legal costs incurred by the State in each year in respect of such cases; and the amount of legal costs paid out by the State in each year pursuant to orders for costs made against him.
4. Mr. Shatter asked the Taoiseach the number of court cases, instituted in the High Court, against the State in each of the last 15 years to which the Attorney General was a party; the number of such cases in which the State was ultimately successful; and the number which were lost by the State.
5. Mr. Shatter asked the Taoiseach the number of cases determined in each of the last 15 years in which the constitutionality of legislation enacted by the Oireachtas since 1937 was challenged; and the number of cases in which such legislation was held to be unconstitutional.
6. Mr. Shatter asked the Taoiseach the number of cases determined by the Supreme Court pursuant to a reference under Article 26 of the Constitution; and the number of Bills found (a) to be repugnant to the Constitution and (b) in accordance with the Constitution; and if he will outline the Bills which fall within (a) and (b) above.
I consider that extracting the very detailed information requested would serve no useful public purpose, would mean deferring more pressing and urgent work in the Offices of the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor and cannot be justified.
As regards Questions Nos. 5 and 6,  I have no functional responsibility for constitutional cases brought before the courts, including, in particular, cases referred to the Supreme Court by the President under Article 26, or for the number or recording of determinations in such cases. The courts are independent in the exercise of their judicial functions subject only to the Constitution and the law.
Mr. Shatter: Is the Taoiseach saying that the Government are unaware of the number of court cases in effect involving the State in the last ten to 15 years, is unaware of the advice they received regarding those court cases, is unaware as to whether public moneys were unneccessarily spent defending what are undefendable court cases? Is the Taoiseach saying that none of this information is available or is not worth pursuing or investigating?
Mr. Shatter: Is the Taoiseach aware of the view that a substantial number of court cases in which the Taoiseach is nominally named as defendant or in which the Attorney General acts for the State, are brought against the State, cases which proceed to the High Court and the Supreme Court? Is he aware, too, that the State is constantly defending the undefendable and that as a result considerable personal difficulties are caused to the people bringing those cases while substantial unnecessary funds are lost to the State by way of legal costs? Can the Taoiseach re-examine the way in which the State, through the Chief State Solicitor's office and the Attorney General's office, approaches litigation and deals with litigation matters?
The Taoiseach: That is a different matter. I would be prepared to listen to the Deputy arguing that case but the  detail sought in the questions is voluminous, and would involve an enormous amount of time to compile which would not be justifed. I trust the Deputy will agree with me.
Mr. J. Bruton: Would the Taoiseach not agree that in any normal business operation the business would not divulge as a matter of routine, information of the success rate of any transactions in which it is engaged and the cost of those transactions? Does he not agree that it suggests a lack of proper business management within the office in question that they do not have this information available as a matter or routine?
Mr. J. Bruton: ——that in any business one wants to know whether one is successful according to some particular measure of success? Does the Taoiseach not agree that the fact that the Attorney General's office do not keep information on their costs and relative success in particular proceedings indicates that that office, under successive Administrations, let it be conceded, have not operated in accordance with normal business customs?
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Arising from the discussion on this issue so far, does the Taoiseach now accept that there is a case for a review? It has been suggested that hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money may have been wasted defending cases which should not have been defended. The only way to prove or disprove this is by reviewing the situation. Will the Taoiseach now confirm that he will have such a review undertaken with a view to establishing a policy for the future which will ensure that there will be no such wastage?
The Taoiseach: I do not think that is what Deputy Shatter was suggesting. I do not think the information sought in this question would be of any value in coming to a decision about the efficacy of the State's conduct of its legal business. That is an ongoing matter——
Mr. Shatter: Would the Taoiseach not acknowledge that without the information sought it is impossible to gauge the correctness or not of the State's approach to litigation? Would he not also agree that on a regular basis Ministers come into this House suggesting that various legislative proposals might be contrary to the Constitution on the basis of advice received from the Attorney General's office. Would he not further agree  that there has been a substantial number of Constitutional cases in which the advices from the Attorney General's office have been proven to be wrong?
The Taoiseach: No, I do not agree. I do not think there is any sort of standard of measurement which could be applied to the constant ongoing legal business of the Attorney General's office and the Chief State Solicitor's office, no more than any other such standard of measurement could be applied in the conduct of any ordinary solicitor's office.
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