Business Investment Scheme: Motion.

Tuesday, 31 May 1994

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 443 No. 4

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Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn): Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  I move:

That Dáil Éireann endorses the present Business Investment Scheme operated under the Nationality and Citizenship Acts.

I propose to avail myself of the opportunity which the debate on this motion presents to do three things. I will outline the nature and operation of the scheme to which the motion refers and which has been operated by successive Governments of all political hues since the scheme was introduced by Government in the 1980s.

Mr. E. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  On a point of order, does the Minister propose to circulate copies of her script?

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  I do. I am sorry they are not here. Does the House wish me to wait until they arrive? I will wait.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I ask the Minister to resume her speech. It is not normal to wait.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  We have to reply immediately to this. I think it is desirable [852] that we wait. We do not want to criticise the Government when it does not deserve criticism, on the basis of not adequately hearing what is being read out.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  I regret that the scripts are not here yet, but they are on their way.

Sitting suspended at 4.30 p.m. and resumed at 4.50 p.m.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  I apologise to Members of the House for the fact that the printing machine in the Department of Justice broke down.

(Interruptions.)

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Perhaps Deputy Rabbitte will be able to recommend a suitable printing machine.

I propose to avail myself of the opportunity which the debate on this motion present to do three things. First, I want to outline the nature and operation of the scheme to which the motion refers and which has been operated by successive Governments since the scheme was introduced by Government in the 1980s. Second, I propose to set the record straight concerning extremely serious allegations made about the grant of naturalisation in the case of two persons who have been named publicly — allegations which are based on misinformation and which appear to be grounded on nothing more or less than pre-election posturing and politicking. Third, I want to talk about changes in naturalisation and citizenship arrangements generally since this Government took office and I became Minister for Justice early last year.

First, to the scheme itself. Section 16 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, which was inserted by section 5 of an Act of the same name in 1986, provides that the Minister for Justice may in his-her absolute discretion grant a certificate of naturalisation where the applicant has “Irish associations”, even if the other conditions for naturalisation, or any of them, are not fulfilled.

It has been the policy and practice of [853] successive Governments, from all sides of the House, to give favourable consideration to applications for naturalisation in the case of persons making or facilitating substantial investments in the State, where such investments have the aim of job creation or the preservation of jobs that might otherwise be lost. The consistent view, again of successive Governments of all political hues has been that, by being prepared to make a substantial investment in jobs in this country and by purchasing a residence here, applicants for naturalisation, assuming of course that there are no serious impediments to naturalisation on other grounds, should be deemed to have the “Irish associations” necessary for the grant of citizenship.

My understanding is that certain other countries, including EU countries, follow a similar policy and I believe that it would generally be considered to be more in accordance with the intention of the Legislature and the spirit of the legislation that we should, as a matter of normal practice, grant applications in such cases rather than refuse them in the knowledge that the grant will secure investment and the refusal may see the investment move elsewhere.

I am taking it that the correctness of the principle whereby foreign nationals who make substantial investments of this kind may be granted naturalisation is not in serious dispute. I do not see how it could be, given the record of successive Governments and the inherent good sense of interpreting the legislation in a way which would allow substantial investors in Irish jobs to be naturalised on the basis of Irish associations.

It is, of course, open to people to have different and legitimate points of view about how far we should go in this State in the use of the possibility of Irish citizenship to encourage investment by non-nationals. The reality is that this type of scheme is operated by many countries who are in competition with us in trying to attract foreign investment and, indeed, it would appear that the schemes available in some of these countries are far less rigid than ours.

[854] Whatever about making adjustments to the existing arrangements — as I will explain later I had made some myself before this present situation blew up — I doubt very much if either those seeking investment in Irish business or the people out there looking for jobs would welcome a policy shift now which saw this country spurn substantial investment offers rather than grant naturalisation to the potential investors involved.

Many favourable naturalisation decisions were made over the years under the legislative provisions I have just mentioned — they run about 20 successful applications per year. The critical issue in all cases is whether proper procedures have been followed and whether the standard of “Irish associations”, accepted by successive Justice Ministers and Governments, has been met. This brings me directly to the second issue, that is to the case which has been the subject of widespread and misleading publicity in recent days.

First of all to the facts, on which there is, I believe, a considerable amount of confusion and, as I have said, misinformation. My Department's files shows that on 10 July 1992 the managing director of a consultancy firm, which has submitted other, unrelated, applications for naturalisation, forwarded an application for naturalisation to my Department on behalf of the two persons whose names have been in the media and have been mentioned by Deputy McDowell. The consultancy firm submitted these applications through the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Michael Smith. The applicants were a mother and her son — not husband and wife as some appear to be assuming — and the application was based on the fact that, between them, the two people concerned had earlier invested £1.1 million in job creation in C & D Foods Limited. The company itself has confirmed that these jobs were created and maintained and confirmation was received by letter dated 15 July 1992 from a large and reputable firm of solicitors in Dublin that the husband of the woman and father of the man who had made the aforementioned [855] investments had purchased a residence in Dublin.

Subsequent to that — on 25 November 1992 — the two investors made the required Declaration of Fidelity to the Nation and Loyalty to the State, in the District Court, in accordance with law and both were granted their naturalisation certificates on 15 December 1992.

There was nothing out of the ordinary or underhand, in other words, about the way in which this application was dealt with. It was not unusual for the company which submitted the application on behalf of the mother and son to make such applications; it was not unusual that the application would be submitted, in the first place, through another Minister; there was a substantial job creating investment involved; there was the family investment in a residence and the declarations required by law were made in court.

Deputies who have been Justice Ministers since this investment/naturalisation scheme was introduced, irrespective of their political colour, will know full well that they have granted several applications in similar circumstances once the relevant requirements were satisfied. Deputies who served as Ministers in other Departments, together with some, indeed, who did not serve as Ministers at all — again irrespective of their political colour — will also know full well that they have supported such applications.

If the representative of any party which has been in Government in that period is tempted to stand up and challenge what I have just said, I would strongly advise him or her, right now, to remain seated and have a word instead with his or her senior party colleagues. I would also strongly advise that they ask their colleagues whether any of them ever sought to extend the scheme so as to allow for the grant of naturalisation applications on the basis of investments not necessarily falling into the direct job creation category — for example, for investments in golf clubs. If they are told the truth about this they will also be told that [856] the Government, on the recommendation of a Fianna Fáil Justice Minister, opposed the golf club move and that it failed. Deputy McDowell will not require cross-party consultations to get the facts, if indeed facts are of any interest to him.

Before I go any further, there is one sideshow which needs to be disposed of, that is the suggestion that there were Cabinet discussions on the application and that this somehow confirms that there was an element of chicanery afoot. While restricted, by law, in what can and cannot be disclosed about Cabinet meetings, I believe that it is not illegal for me to confirm that the issue was not submitted by my Department as an item for consideration by the Government. There was simply nothing for the Government to consider. There were informal discussions about the operation of the scheme from time to time, as there are about many other things not immediately before the Government for decision, but there was no Government decision — and none was required — concerning this particular application.

Proceeding further with the facts of the particular case, there is one fact which has not I believe so far emerged but which will surely demonstrate to any fair minded person that proper procedures were followed in this case. The man who is husband of the woman and father of the man granted naturalisation, himself applied — again through Minister Smith — for naturalisation in October 1993 but was routinely advised by an official of the Department of Justice that it could not be granted on the basis of the £1.1 million investments made by his wife and son or on the basis of the fact that they had acquired Irish citizenship. He was told that he would have to make his own investment if he was to qualify. The legislative term “Irish Associations”, in other words, is, as a matter of normal routine, construed quite strictly by the Department of Justice.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Is the Minister delivering the marginal note?

[857]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy McDowell will have to restrain himself.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  There is a note in the column, a Cheann Comhairle.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  That should clear the air in relation to the fact that Deputy McDowell has consistently said that a Mr. and Mrs. Masri are concerned in this instance.

I am glad to say that the man concerned was not put off by the strict requirements involved. He subsequently invested £1.5 million in forestry — an investment estimated to produce 50 jobs and welcomed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry — and he has indicated that an investment of equal amount — a further £1.5 million — will be made in another suitable venture in this country. On this basis I am prepared to grant naturalisation to him as I would to any other person who satisfied the relevant conditions.

Deputy McDowell's headline grabbing exercise, in other words, was just that and no more. While we do not know exactly what he wishes to achieve in introducing this Bill — because we have not seen it — if one is to judge from newspaper reports this, too, is no more than a headline grabbing effort in that its main purpose seems to be to put in place that which is already part of law and practice.

Leaving aside political gamesmanship, by which many Deputies may be tempted in the run-up to elections, I am surprised that Deputy McDowell lent himself to this particular effort.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Come off it, Minister.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  I am surprised on several counts. He has been a well-informed and constructive contributor to legislative measures——

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Patronising.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  ——at least those for which I have had responsibility — yet on this occasion he has clearly gone over the top without knowing the facts. I [858] do not believe the Deputy was aware that the naturalisation arrangements of which he complains have in fact been part of law and practice for some time. In fact, he admitted as much on radio this morning.

I also find it hard to believe that the Deputy would land himself in a piece of naked politicking which, though the allegations on which it is founded have no substance whatsoever, has succeeded in attracting unfavourable attention to a very respectable family — identified by name — who have done no more than provide substantial investment in job creation in this country and apply for naturalisation on that basis, like many others — in accordance with the law of the land.

A Deputy:  Hear, hear.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Nobody is questioning that.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  I earlier asked Deputies who may have been tempted to get in on this particular bandwagon to talk to their party colleagues and consider what they are told before they too are led on a wild goose chase.

The alternative is for me to mention the names of other investors, other naturalisations and other political parties who operated the naturalisation arrangements which are the subject of discussion here. It has been long standing practice in my Department not to discuss individual cases. It is a practice which exists for very valid reasons as anybody who has served as Minister for Justice will know and much as one might be tempted to refer to other cases to set some balance on the totally misleading nonsense we heard from Deputy McDowell and others in recent days, I will stick with the principle of preserving the privacy rights of the persons concerned. I would like to assure them and others who may be thinking of investment in this country that we will not trade their privacy rights in an attempt to score political goals — in Deputy McDowell's case an own goal. I would like to assure them also that the very sensible scheme fully operated by successive [859] Governments will continue to operate here as it does in other countries which need and value job creation opportunities for their citizens.

The third matter I want to mention is the action I have taken, with Government approval, since I became Minister for Justice, but first I want to say why I thought it desirable to look at the whole area of naturalisation and citizenship and to see whether change was called for.

I was aware, like everybody else in politics, that concerns have been expressed — particularly in relation to refugees — and that there was need generally for more transparency and openness. I was aware also — and this is true of legislative schemes of all kinds, whether in the area of naturalisation and citizenship or otherwise — that it is necessary to ensure that the various checks and balances are kept under review, so that unknown to anybody and despite the best intentions of those operating the systems, something has not begun to go astray.

In the very area we are dealing with, for example, the scheme under which naturalisation may be granted on the basis of “Irish associations” following a substantial investment, I was as much aware as everybody else of allegations of non-permanent investments at a discounted interest rate and so on. I discussed this within my Department and it was clear that there was no really effective way of establishing absolutely that a loan that appeared to be above board and completely bona fide was not in fact as described. In other words, money put into a company for the purpose of securing naturalisation and then subsequently withdrawn with limited or no benefit to the company when naturalisation had not been granted. My Department simply does not have the follow up mechanism to check on each and every one of these investments and, although, I had no specific reason to believe — in the sense that I was not aware of any particular case — that something had gone or was going astray — I thought it prudent to introduce a system whereby other Departments with access [860] to relevant information would have a direct say in relation to granting these applications.

On my recommendation the Government agreed last April to set up a committee consisting of representatives of my Department, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Enterprise and Employment, the Department of Finance — and the Industrial Development Authority, which will have the function of examining each of these applications and making recommendations on them to the Minister for Justice. When that decision was taken, I immediately sought nominations from those concerned for the new committee and I have since obtained them.

Although I do not, as I say, have information which would suggest that matters had or have gone wrong in relation to this particular category of naturalisation applications, I will certainly be glad to investigate any complaints brought to my notice. If it becomes apparent that any individual or group of individuals have knowingly provided false information about investments for the purpose of supporting their naturalisation applications, then I will have no hesitation in taking whatever action is necessary to deprive them of the very considerable and valid status of Irish citizenship.

I have taken other steps also in the whole area of naturalisation and citizenship. Deputies will recall that quite recently the Oireachtas enacted the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act. That Act remedied a situation which had emerged a few years ago which led to the unacceptable position that some thousands of people who had applied for citizenship in due time and in compliance with the relevant law could not be granted it because their applications had not been processed by the relevant authorities within the time limit imposed by the previous Irish Citizenship and Nationality Act, 1986.

When that problem — which had existed for some time — was brought to my attention I did not sit upon it. I acted to remedy the problem by bringing before the Oireachtas the necessary [861] amending legislation. As a result of the enactment of that legislation the way was opened for some 4,000 persons, who had fully complied with the law and who had been deprived of their statutory rights by the inability of the relevant authorities to deal with their applications in time, to acquire the citizenship to which, under the law, they had proved themselves entitled. The enactment of that legislation was welcomed by Deputies from all sides of the House.

With regard to refugees and asylum seekers Deputies will be aware the Programme for a Partnership Government contains the following statement:

Our policy towards treatment of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants will meet the highest international standards. Procedures will be introduced to guarantee rights of hearings, appeal, access to legal advice and access to the Courts.

In May last year the Government appointed an interdepartmental committee of senior officials to examine policy and practices with regard to non-Irish persons who are resident in the State and in the area of persons who apply for refugee status. Last November the committee presented an interim report dealing with applications for refugee status and that report has been published.

My Department drafted a general scheme of a Bill taking account of the recommendations in the interdepartmental committee's interim report. The Government, having considered the proposals, gave formal approval on 1 March last for the drafting of a Bill.

The Refugee Bill will give effect in our domestic law to the provisions of the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the status of refugees. It will provide for a statutory basis for examining applications and there will also be an appeal procedure.

The Bill will be major legislation and will bring our law, practice and procedure in relation to asylum seekers into line with the best practices in other countries. The Bill will ensure that all applications [862] for refugee status will be examined by an independent body and that there will be an appeals mechanism operated by a second independent body. The Bill will also ensure that the system for examining refugee application will be transparent and that applicants will be given all possible reasonable assistance in framing their cases. There will be legal provision that they are told of their rights to seek asylum, of their right of access to legal advice and to the use of an interpreter.

The Bill will also recognise the role played by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees dealing with application for refugee status. In this context I would like to place on record my appreciation of the advice and assistance given by the office of the High Commissioner dealing with applications currently and also, in particular, in giving advice on matters to be covered in the proposed Bill.

It is my intention that the Bill will be introduced as soon as possible and when the work on the drafting of the Bill has been completed I will arrange for its immediate publication.

I should remind the House that the terms of reference of the interdepartmental committee extends beyond the area of refugee and asylum seekers. The full terms of reference of the committee are as follows: to examine and restate present policy and practice in relation to the admission to, residence and right of work in the State of EU and non-EU nationals from the point of view of general aims of policy, clarity, consistency, efficiency of application and appeals mechanisms; to examine, in particular, the transparency and efficiency of arrangements which exist for dealing with special categories of immigrant e.g. asylum seekers and refugees; to make such recommendations as are necessary for the development of a system of treatment of immigrants which is consistent and transparent, having due regard to the commitment in respect of refugees and asylum seekers which is contained in the Programme for Government and to make recommendations on the most feasible way of dealing with the problem of immigrants [863] who have illegally resided in the State for considerable periods of time.

The interdepartmental committee is continuing its work. As soon as it publishes reports or makes further recommendations to me I will study them and act on them as soon as possible in each case.

I have responded at some length to this motion, because I believe that extremely serious damage may be done to job creation prospects in this country, that serious injury may be done to the privacy rights of individuals if the kind of wild speculation which has been let loose in recent days concerning our naturalisation law and practice is not brought in check by means——

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Not a mention of C & D Foods.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  ——of a full and frank confrontation with the actual facts. I feel sure that nobody in this House wants to produce results of this kind however tempting it may be now and then to take a flier in the run-up to an election and proceed to claw up what looked like a gold nugget but turns out to be nothing but brass.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  So well Deputies opposite might clap.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The first matter I wish to raise——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Are Deputies ready now?

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  I am not ready.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Bruton, without interruption.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The first matter I wish to raise are the menaces made by the Minister in the course of her speech where she said implicitly she had access to secret files, which she has as Minister, [864] and that any Member who dared to make allegations might have those used against them in some fashion that would compromise them. That is a breach of privilege. It is an attempt to curtail the freedom of Members to ask relevant questions if a Minister is essentially menacing the Opposition saying: do not ask awkward questions about these matters because we have information on file which might be embarrassing to you or to some of your colleagues. That is a breach of privilege.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  If the Deputy feels there is a breach of privilege he is free to bring the matter to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It is a political response.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I would have expected the Chair to curtail it but he did not do so. I will leave it at that.

There are five problems with the scheme. First, no one is accountable to the public for any of these decisions, and that is bad. Secondly, there are no published rules governing the issuing of these passports. Decisions made which are of financial importance and discriminate between one individual and another should be made in accordance with rules, and there are no published rules in this case. Thirdly, the decisions appear to be made by Ministers acting alone. That is wrong. Ministers are politicians and are subject to all the pressures politicians are subject to, including the necessity to raise funds for elections. If decisions of this kind are taken by Ministers there should be an independent oversight of those decisions on a post hoc basis to ensure they were made at arm's length without fear or favour.

Fourthly, there is no appeals procedure against decisions taken. One person could have their application for naturalisation granted and another could be refused. As there is no one to whom they can appeal there is no case law underlying the appropriate reasons for refusing or granting an application. The existence of an appeals procedure leads [865] to the establishment of case law and clear rules that people understand. As there is no case law or appeals procedure, there is complete discretion and decisions can be taken without the need for transparency.

Finally, there is no requirement for people to live here. The Minister referred to this matter here on 9 March — column 342 of the Official Report —

If a foreign national is prepared to be associated with Ireland by making a substantial financial investment, purchasing a home and living here, he or she should be considered for naturalisation by my Department.

Did the applicant in this case purchase a home here?

The Minister said she is setting up a committee, representative of a number of Departments, to assist her in making such decisions. She mentioned Departments which presumably would have some expertise in these matters. However, that seems to be only in relation to the making of the original decision. There does not seem to be any procedure to ensure that if money is invested in this country in order to buy a passport it stays here. The committee to which the Minister referred does not seem to have power to ensure the money is not recycled out of the country through a bank account once the passport has been obtained, with a brokerage fee having been paid to someone along the way. No such follow up procedure seems to exist.

The Minister said the managing director of a consultancy firm made an application on behalf of C & D Foods Ltd. What consultancy firm was involved? Does it specialise in passport applications? The consultancy firm submitted the application through the Minister for the Environment. Why? What has the Minister for the Environment to do with the matter? This firm is not in north Tipperary and had nothing to do with the Minister in his capacity as a constituency Deputy. Why was he chosen to process this application? That is not explained.

I note the investors in question made [866] a declaration of fidelity to the nation. That seems to be above board. As regards the investment in C & D Foods Ltd, did the investors receive shares in the company? If not, how could this be described as an investment? Do they have representation on the board of the company? If not, how do they protect their investment? If they do not have shares or are not directors, is it a genuine investment? Were fees paid to any brokers in regard to the passport application, in other words, is it the case that there is profit to be made in facilitating a passport application? If that is the case, is it desirable?

Did the IDA recommend these investors in the case of C & D Foods Ltd? Did C & D Foods Ltd. go to the IDA or just directly to the Minister, Deputy Smith? If they did not get the IDA to vet and approve this application for a passport, why did they not do so? Why are the accounts of C & D Foods Ltd. not up to date in the Companies Office? Do the accounts show the investment by the two Arab gentlemen and, if not, why not? Is there any connection between this investment and the money lent to C & D Foods Ltd. by Fóir Teoranta before it was wound up? If not, why not?

Did the Taoiseach know this application was being made given that his spouse is a director of the company and his son is managing director? Did he make any informal representations about this matter at any stage? Does he maintain any ongoing contact with the affairs of the company? Does he stand to benefit in any way from this investment? These questions need to be answered. It is impossible to draw any conclusions, favourable or unfavourable, on this matter until we have the answers.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  Outrageous allegations.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I have asked questions which the Minister——

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  They are outrageous. The Deputy has brought this House into disrepute. He cannot touch the Taoiseach's reputation.

[867]Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  ——had every reason to anticipate would be asked but for some reason she chose not to answer them in her introductory remarks. I have no doubt that others will have an opportunity to make any comments they wish.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  The Deputy is so wrong.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Let us hear Deputy Bruton without interruption.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  The Deputy is unfair and unjust.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Minister said she had the files and was able to look at applications made by Members and if they or their secretary wrote a letter which might compromise them she was ready to produce the goods.

I want to say openly that when I was Minister for Industry and Commerce I wrote to the then Minister for Justice suggesting that there should be a facility of the kind we have for the granting of passports to those who invest in Ireland. I made this suggestion because during a visit to Hong Kong as Minister for Industry and Commerce I was told that there were substantial investors who would be willing to invest in this country — some of them subsequently invested here — and would be interested in obtaining Irish passports. I have no fear about the publication of anything relating to this by anybody if it is in any way helpful to the Minister.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  In that case, why did the Deputy call on the Minister——

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I wish to make it clear that I had no interest in any of the companies concerned. As the House will soon discover I have no interest in any companies whatsoever; my sole interests are agricultural. The House will not be able to find anything of interest in regard to anything concerning me.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  That is understandable.

[868]Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Any representations I made in this matter were entirely above board in terms of my functions as a Minister — I believed jobs could be obtained as a result of the representations I made. In case anyone wants to put a construction on this, I want to make my position clearly known. I am sure other members of my party made similar representations.

We are concerned about a particular case. In the past very clear rules were drawn up about the appropriate involvement by Ministers with companies, including companies with which they were previously associated. The questions I have asked ought to be asked, and I am fairly confident that reasonable answers will be provided to most if not all of them.

A Deputy:  That is a change.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is no change at all, Deputy Callely.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  It was not me who made the remark.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  They all sound the same.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  There is a time limit attached to this debate and interruptions are particularly unwelcome, if not disorderly.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  I think Deputy Bruton wants to apologise.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Bruton without interruption.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  On coming to office the Taoiseach made much of the fact that he was the first Taoiseach to make known to the public all his financial affairs, including his interests in a cinema in Longford and other very interesting and, I have no doubt, extremely remunerative investments——

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  Not all, some of them.

[869]Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I have no doubt, therefore, that he will have no problem answering in full and without prevarication all of the questions I have posed in this debate.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  Is that a threat?

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  If those answers are not complete or if the Taoiseach is unable for some reason to give complete answers to all of the questions I have posed it is appropriate that there should be an independent investigation of this case by the independent body now being proposed by the Government to deal with the ethics of Members of this House.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Rarely have I heard a ministerial speech with such a tone of menace and venom as that which has just been delivered to the House. It contained an implied threat that if decent standards are vindicated in this House people will be embarrassed. This is the threat I am supposed to be deflected by on this occasion, but I am not deflected in the slightest by it. The Minister can publish whatever she likes and make known any detail she likes about my party or about any other Member of this House but I will not be deflected from vindicating decent standards of politics. I am aware that the Minister's Department has put people in the press corps in possession of material with which to blacken some Members of this House.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  That is outrageous.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  It is true.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  It is not true.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  The Deputy should withdraw that remark.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  I am not going to be intimidated in any way by leaks to the press or by threats made in this House. I will speak my mind, and I believe that what I have to say will reflect some degree of reality on the role played in this matter [870] by the Minister, the Taoiseach, the former Minister for Justice, Mr. Padraig Flynn, now an EU Commissioner, and the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Michael Smith.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am sure the Deputy will agree that we should be very careful not to impugn the character or integrity of any Member of this House or any person outside this House.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  That should apply to both sides.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  When on 26 April I asked the Minister whether any investment had been made under this scheme in family firms in which members of the Government had at that time or recently had an interest it was disallowed——

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Not by me.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  ——on the basis which I now accept, and am happy to do so, that it contained a personal imputation.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Not as set out by me.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  When on the same day I asked the Minister to give details of the investment made by the people concerned she completely ignored the issue in the reply she tendered. All this material is available to the House and will be available afterwards to anyone who may wish to see it.

Curiously the Minister said that a man was denied citizenship even though he was the owner of the house in which he and his wife and son resided in Dublin and that he was required to make a further investment before he would be considered for naturalisation. How low can one go? How can one say that this man's wife and his son are eligible for naturalisation as Irish citizens but that the man who owns the house in which they are supposed to reside must pay more money before he can become a naturalised Irishman? The Minister should be [871] ashamed of herself. This is not a defence; rather it compounds the low standards being applied by her Department. I notice that the Taoiseach is smiling.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I surely am.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Throughout all of this there has been a web of deceit in terms of the way the public has been told about these events. Last Sunday on television the Minister for Justice told the nation that this investment was made in 1990. Unfortunately, that was untrue. We now know from the financial controller of the Taoiseach's family firm that the investment was made in 1992, after the Taoiseach was appointed. The Minister for Justice reiterated that this matter was not dealt with in Cabinet. However, when one looks carefully at the script it is clear that this matter was discussed in Cabinet——

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  No.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  ——because she refuses point blank to say that the then Minister, Padraig Flynn was wrong and the matter was not discussed in Cabinet. She referred to informal discussions, but I say that this matter was raised in the presence of the Taoiseach.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  That is not true.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  My next point relates to the Taoiseach's public assertions on this matter. He has asserted that he has had nothing to do with C & D Foods Limited for 14 years. This is not true. Reference has been made to Fóir Teoranta and the assistance given by that concern to this company. In 1986 the Taoiseach was represented to Fóir Teoranta as being, with his wife, the proprietor of the entire shareholding in the company. As the Taoiseach knows well, during the same year he was in negotiation with British supermarket firms to carry the products of that company. He knows that this is the case and that people [872] have been actively and deliberately misled by being given a completely different view of the realities on this occasion.

I make no secret of the fact that my Bill proposes to bring to public attention a major abuse of citizenship and naturalisation by certain members of the Government, and I make no apology for doing so. I am not, to use the Taoiseach's words, playing politics.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  That is what the Deputy is doing.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Rather I am trying to establish and vindicate basic political standards which are obviously absent in the Government and which even the recently published Ethics in Public Office Bill does not even attempt to address.

Acquisition and loss of Irish citizenship, under the Constitution, are entrusted to the Oireachtas for legislation. In turn we have delegated significant functions in this respect to successive Ministers for Justice. Under section 15 and 16 of the Irish Citizenship and Nationality Act, 1956, as amended, the Minister for Justice of the day is given wide discretion, in certain circumstances, to confer citizenship on people who have Irish associations. Nobody in this country opposes the granting of citizenship to foreigners under a genuine, above board, business migration scheme where there is transparency and accountability. If any one wants to establish or join an Irish business, to create jobs in the process, to live here as part of our political and economic community and, within that context, to assume the obligations and duties of an Irish citizen, including the right to vote at elections, there should be a mechanism to enable that to happen.

This Bill does not prejudice the operation of a proper business migration scheme. In the context of those beliefs I tabled questions to the Minister but was denied straightforward and truthful answers. I have since come into possession of a document prepared in the Department of Enterprise and Employment in September 1993 which summarises the position in relation to [873] citizenship in return for investment. Again I will make a copy of that document available to any Member or any other person who wants to see it.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  The Deputy can keep it.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  It makes it very clear that the Department of Enterprise and Employment is wholly opposed to the notion of giving people who make financial investments, as opposed to entrepreneurs, any citizenship in this State. Second, it makes it very clear that the interdepartmental group of which the Minister spoke issued an invitation to one of the consultants-intermediaries we have just heard about to address that group on the method by which foreign people could obtain Irish citizenship and that this was the cause of major dissatisfaction within the Department of Enterprise and Employment.

The Department of Justice's statement of intent, as set out in that document, and the conditions laid down for granting Irish nationality and citizenship to people proposing to make an investment in this country have been totally flouted in the case of the Masris to whom the Minister referred. There has not been even an attempt to establish, first, that there was residence in this country for two years; second, that there was any intention to bona fide reside in this country and, third, that there was any intention to make a genuine business investment in the sense that most normal people would consider that term to mean something.

We know now that the loan made to the Taoiseach's firm was not an investment in share capital and we know, that like every other loan, in the last analysis it can either be brokered through a third party or, alternatively, repaid. That is not what successive Governments regarded as the appropriate method of investing in this country for people who wanted to come here as business migrants. Nor is it suggested for one moment that the people in question — whom we now hear are the son and wife of the person in question — intended to [874] make Ireland their place of residence, to become part of our political and economic community. There was never a hint of that, there still is not, and the Minister knows well that that is so.

Then there is the position of the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Smith. As Deputy John Bruton said, the reason he was selected to act as an advocate at the highest level of this application for citizenship is obscure. However, it is relevant to point out, in the context, that the Minister for the Environment represented to the Department of Justice that he was prepared to support the application for citizenship from: “personal knowledge of an intimate acquaintance with the man in question and to vouch for his good character.” I challenge whether that was anything other than a gross deception of the Department of Justice. I suggest that he was introduced to this man by a consultant, with whom he had no personal connection except in this context, that he had had no personal dealings with this man. I challenge the Minister for the Environment to come into this House and state clearly when he first met Mr. Masri, in what context he met him and what dealings he had with him.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Let us avoid references to persons outside this House.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  What dealings had he with this gentleman? Why did he have dealings with him? Were they economic or purely social dealings? A Minister who makes a representation to the Department of Justice, by way of reference, that he is an intimate acquaintance of a person, cannot stand up in this House and say that he was introduced by a citizenship broker as part of a deal to get that person naturalised in Ireland. That is what happened in this case and the Minister knows it well. He also knows that the representations made by the Minister for the Environment to her Department grossly exaggerated any knowledge he had of this person and were designed to prevent the Department from conducting a searching examination [875] into the person's background; that is what they were for; they were designed to have that effect.

I come then to a point which the Minister, in all the bluster, threat and menace contained in her remarks, deliberately ignored, that unlike any other case in which an application for citizenship has been made in this State, on this occasion, £1.1 million have been invested in a family business of a member of the Cabinet and, as we now know, the Taoiseach. When I asked if that could be the case the Chair suggested that it would be a personal imputation even to ask it. Now we know it is true. We know that this Government——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  We know, Deputy, that if serious charges are to be made against any Member of this House or outside it, it can only be done by way of substantive motion.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  They are confirmed. We now know that standards of political behaviour have reached the point at which a Taoiseach of the day can stand up in public and accuse somebody else of playing politics when that person makes a simple point that it is wrong, and manifestly wrong, that his own private, family firm received £1.1 million——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  References to persons outside this House, or the naming of families is something which should not be condoned.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  ——in return for granting citizenship to the wife and son of a man to whom the Minister still will not grant citizenship because he will not pay up some more.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  There is a long standing convention in this House, Deputy, that we do not offer to persons or families outside the House——

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  That is what it is all about.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  There is a long [876] standing convention perhaps in this House that it is necessary to refer to families in the circumstances in which I am doing so.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Surely there is a long standing convention in Irish politics that a Taoiseach was never part of a Government that gave out citizenship in return for investment of £1.1 million——

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  My predecessors have so ruled and I stand by that ruling.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  ——in a firm with which he himself is intimately connected and which is his family fortune. I suggest to you, a Cheann Comhairle, that a long standing convention of that kind, to exclude references to families, is prefectly defensible except when we are discussing the family activities of one member of Government.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Deputy is exposing a scandal.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  This is a scandal and I refuse to be muzzled or told that convention makes it impolite to refer to the basic truth.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  This is not a court of law, Deputy.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  I know it is not. I can tell you one thing, if it were, there would be a very different result.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I will proceed by the rules and conventions of this House, nothing more. I am not concerned about what transpires outside.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  On a point of order, Sir, there are many examples of Members in this House referring to people outside it. I could produce numerous examples [877] from that side of the House but I do not think it proper to interfere.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The longstanding convention is that references should not be made to persons outside the House, nor should they be referred to in a manner so as to be identifiable.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Lest I be misunderstood, I am referring to the Taoiseach. His family firm was enriched by £1.1 million in exchange for citizenship. That is not a reference to a person outside this House; that is a reference to the man over there.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  If such charges are to be made they should be made by way of substantive motion and not by way of innuendo or otherwise across the floor of this House.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  What are the people opposite so worried about? The truth is coming out now.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  I will not be deflected by your ruling. It is an insult to people's intelligence that members of this Government are asking us to accept that the financial controller of C & D Foods Limited, out of the blue, should receive in September 1991 a proposal to lend £1.1 million to his company by a man with whom the company had no previous connection of any kind. I find it incredible that we are asked to accept that he and all those involved did not realise this person was being introduced for the purpose of getting flag of convenience citizenship. It is also incredible that the Taoiseach would not have been informed or have become aware of this loan in March 1992 [878] or earlier. I suggest he would also have immediately realised that the motive of the intermediary and the lender was to obtain Irish citizenship for the lender; that the Minister for the Environment, a long time friend and associate of the Taoiseach, could write to the Minister for Justice to the effect that he could vouch for the lender from personal knowledge and intimate acquaintance with him while the Taoiseach claims he has never laid eyes on this man. I find that fantastic and incredible.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  It is absolutely true, and if the Deputy does not want to believe it——

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  It may be that the Taoiseach has never seen this man but the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Smith, is certainly no intimate acquaintance of his and the Taoiseach knows that quite well. I also find it incredible that the issue of citizenship would arise nine months after the loan which, according to all those involved in the loan transaction, had nothing to do with it and was never discussed. I also find it incredible that it should be suggested it is simply coincidence that the matter was dealt with by members of the Government when they were acting as caretakers, having resigned their seals of office in the interregnum between one Government and another. I do not accept it was a coincidence or that most people in Ireland could possibly view it as such. This is not a court of law but if there was a jury it would not even retire to consider its verdict on those points.

The Minister for Justice cast doubts on Commissioner Flynn's assertion that the matter was dealt with by Cabinet. The Taoiseach has been prevaricating as to precisely to whom he mentioned it and who mentioned it to him. The Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Eithne Fitzgerald, has publicly relied on Commissioner Flynn's assertion that it was dealt with at Cabinet, in debate with me on the radio yesterday. Who is telling the truth? The Minister for Justice also asserted on television that [879] the loan had gone through before Deputy Reynolds became Taoiseach. We now know that assertion was wrong. Why did she make that assertion? Who put her up to it? Who fed her false information and put her in front of the cameras to give the people such a misleading account? Are we to accept that the Taoiseach was kept in the dark throughout 1992 about the naturalisation proposal? Are we to believe — and I ask this in all seriousness —that this country has descended to such depths that a son and a wife of a man who live in a flat owned by him, which apparently is not used by any of them in this country, would be accepted for citizenship because they put £1.1 million into the Taoiseach's family firm? The man himself would be told: “You do not qualify, hold me up another £1 million and then we will see if we can deal with you”. What kind of squalid little banana republic with a Papa Doc Duvalier regime have we when that is the kind of deal we do? We say: “Put up your money and we will give you more and, sorry, we will not give you citizenship even though your spouse can have it”.

I wish to refer to one final point, that is, the “due diligence” which we are told was carried out into the investor. In the newspapers last weekend the spin doctors had their day. We were told that the person who was investing in this country was a millionaire, a trillionaire, but he still cannot come up with the money to buy his own citizenship, he has only managed instalments for his wife and son. What due diligence was carried out into the reference in the newspaper to his banking relatives in Jordan? If an investigation had been carried out it would have been discovered that the man referred to was a former Jordanian Cabinet Minister and head of the Arab bank there, a Mr. Rashid Al Masri. That man was found by an American security and exchange commission report to have recently accepted a bribe of $2.4 million. I ask that this House go back to the basic issue. The Taoiseach received into his family firm £1.1 million in exchange for two passports for the son and wife of a [880] person from whom they want more money before they will allow him become a citizen of this country. They have a flat in Dublin but have never been resident in this country.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  The Deputy will have to conclude.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  We are told that this man will only be admitted for Irish citizenship if he can come up with sufficient money to cover himself. That is a shameful day in politics and the Taoiseach's role in this is shameful. I am calling on him and the Minister for Justice, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn to resign their seats before they bring more shame on this country.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  They are disgrace to the nation.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“—expresses its serious concern at the operation of the Business Investment Scheme which has enabled wealthy foreign investors to by-pass normal procedures and effectively purchase Irish passports and acquire Irish citizenship simply by virtue of their wealth;

—expresses particular concern at the circumstances in which passports were issued to two investors in the family firm of An Taoiseach and calls for a full disclosure of all of the circumstances in which these passports were issued;

—and, while accepting that Irish citizenship should be available to foreign investors who genuinely wish to promote economic development and take up residence in Ireland, believes that the naturalisation process should be applied equally and fairly to all applicants irrespective of wealth and accordingly instructs the Dáil Committee on Legislation and [881] Security to undertake a full review of the Business Investment Scheme and to make recommendations as to appropriate reforms.”

The Minister for Justice, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, finished her script with the remarks that there are Members of the House who thought they had dug out what looked like a gold nugget which turned out to be nothing but brass. The Minister for Justice has a brass neck in attempting to come into this House and present this scheme as if it was something known to the public. It is not known to the public. I have a document here that I want to read into the record of the House because some concession has been given to the notion of this kind of business investment scheme. A valid argument can be advanced for such an investment scheme but not the kind of investment scheme we have here and certainly not the manner in which it is implemented in this jurisdiction. This document was given to me today and has been circulated by an international lawyer seeking investors under the existing business investment scheme. Such is the obsessive secrecy surrounding the scheme that in this memo the country involved is referred to, all the way through, as Greenland, although there is no doubt to which country it refers. The document reads:

Greenland is an English speaking common law country with a residency system of taxation. It is a neutral state and is not a member of NATO, although it does provide men and materials for UN peace-keeping operation in Lebanon. It is a full member of the European Union (formerly the European Economic Community) and its citizens have therefore complete freedom to live and work anywhere within Europe.

This project offers naturalisation to an investor, his wife and minor children, in return for an “approved investment” of £500K in local currency a risk capital in a specified local enterprise. The project is so structured that [882] it is for the Government's economic advisers, and not the investor, to source and select a suitable investment that conforms to the Government's job creation criteria. Furthermore the £500K will be invested in its entirety and no amount will be sidetracked by way of commissions and fees to third parties.

There is an agreement in principle to preserve the anonymity of the investor and therefore the approved investment can be made by his own (offshore) company incorporated for that specific purpose and whose beneficial owners (as opposed to legal shareholders) need not be a matter of public record.

The political sensitivity of this project is enormous and a high degree of confidentiality is therefore essential...

Applications from individual investors will not be considered and we are at present getting together the next group of four investors who we are calling — Project...

An investor of Chinese origin or from the Indian sub-continent is not acceptable. An investor of Middle East origins might be acceptable provided he/she was already legally resident in a developed country. Nor, for political reasons, will the Government consider any investor from another European Union country.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Is that a private advertisement?

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  This is out of the Deputy's league, just stay quiet for a moment.

As well as completion of a simple application form, and the execution of a declaration of allegiance, each investor will be required to provide the following documentation:

Birth certificate of himself, his wife and minor children, marriage certificate, notarised copies of the existing passports of himself, his wife [883] and children, confirmation of the deposit of £500K.

An offshore shelf company will be purchased which will open an account with a specified local bank. We will retain shareholder and directorial control of that company at all times. The investor will transfer to that company's new account (anonymously) if he wishes £500K.

The Investor will transfer to that company's new account (anonymously if he wishes) £500k... We will then deliver photocopies (not originals) of the documentation requested. Shortly thereafter the Investor should receive a letter confirming his application is acceptable and requesting him and his wife to attend court to make a declaration of allegiance and to submit his original documentation. The Investor and his wife will then have to come to Greenland to each sign an original application form in the presence of a Greenland notary and to make the required declaration of allegiance. This can all be accomplished in a one day visit. Approximately 21 days later we will receive a photocopy (not original) of the naturalisation certificate of the Investor, his wife and children. We will check these photocopies against our records to ensure they are correct. ...Once the entire transaction has been completed and documentation (naturalisation certificates and passports) has been issued to the satisfaction of the Investor, the Investor will have no further personal liability associated with the enterprise into which his investment has been made, nor will he have any fiscal liability within the State.... Our fee will be £25,000 for each Investor and payable in advance; although we will undertake, should citizenship be refused, to return this fee less any properly recorded expenses, including the incorporation and winding up of the client's offshore investment company.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  Where is that from?

[884]Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Is this the same scheme that has been defended during the past few days by the Taoiseach and by the Minister for Justice in the House today as a legitimate business scheme? This scheme with its coded memos, anonymous investors, offshore companies and guarantees of exemption from fiscal liability sounds more like a money laundering operation than a legitimate investment scheme. The racist overtones——

(Interruptions)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Order, please.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  The Deputy is in a glasshouse and he should not throw stones.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I am aware that the Deputies got their break when the Taoiseach came to power but they did not get too far. I especially object to the racist overtones, the reference to the Chinese and Indian subcontinent as not being acceptable.

Mr. Byrne:  Russian.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Deputies should keep the lid on; they do not know what is going on.

Mr. L. Fitzgerald: Information on Liam Fitzgerald  Zoom on Liam Fitzgerald  Deputy Molloy has a monopoly of wisdom.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The party is over.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Deputy Rabbitte is in possession and he should be allowed to continue without interruption.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  The Deputies do not have a clue about what is going on.

Mr. Byrne:  What about Deputy Cox?

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  They did not tell Martin anything.

[885]Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  This House and the public are being asked to believe that an Arab businessman sought out an investment project in Ireland and settled on a project in Longford which happens to be in the ownership of the family of the Taoiseach; that this Arab and his mother were subsequently granted Irish passports, that these events are unconnected and merely a coincidence. The Taoiseach came to power when he acted in concert with Ministers Flynn, Smith and Geoghegan-Quinn. Together this so-called gang of four succeeded where so many others before them had failed — they successfully toppled the then Taoiseach, Charles J. Haughey. All four are implicated in the passports for sale affair. Perhaps this, too, is no more than a coincidence. It is perhaps another coincidence that a significant benefit was conferred on the family business of the Taoiseach on the decision of former Minister, Flynn, and on the recommendation of the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Smith.

According to Mr. Flynn in a statement in the Sunday Independent cases such as this involving job creation, or a jobs maintenance element, would have been discussed by Cabinet. Yet, in a statement issued on Sunday the Minister for Justice, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, said it would be unusual for such a case to come before the Cabinet. Which is it? Was there a job creation element? How much did the Cabinet know and what precisely was the involvement of the Minister for the Environment?

It now emerges that the Minister for the Environment gave the Masris a character reference to facilitate their citizenship application. I find this to be curious. When and how did the Minister meet the Masris or did he give them a reference unseen based on the colour of their money? After all, the Masris appear to be extremely elusive characters — now you see them, now you do not. The Taoiseach has claimed that he has never seen or met them.

I have noted that on a previous occasion the Minister for the Environment has taken to presenting himself [886] as a world weary monsignor. The case of his intimate knowledge of the Masris raises questions about whether this is the first time Rome has met Islam with such a happy outcome. As usual, the Tánaiste finds himself perched on the horns of a dilemma. His long awaited Ethics in Public Office Bill covers just about everything but the situation being debated in the House. We will no doubt shortly have the entertaining spectacle of the Tánaiste and his colleagues rushing to plug the ethical loopholes, but it is too late. Two years ago the Fianna Fáil horse and the Labour as combined to produce a governmental jennet and now that jennet has bolted with the Government's moral aspirations.

Passports Unlimited Incorporated is yet another murky chapter in a tale of shady cover-ups, a tale which included Goodman International, Telecom Éireann and Greencore, a tale which the people thought we had put behind us. The only difference is that while those cases were largely concerned with money and money men the present case involves citizenship and nationality and this strikes at the heart of our body politic.

Passports Unlimited Incorporated, also known as the business migration scheme or in its most recent incarnation, pet food for passports, is a squalid business providing a refuge for dubious individuals — Deputy McDowell has outlined for the House some of the background of the beneficiary in this case — whose only character reference is money. By selling what amounts to citizenships of convenience, Ireland is taking its place among the world's shadier nations, countries which dole out everything from passports to shipping flags and company registrations provided that the price is right but there is one significant difference between Irish citizenship and that of, say, Panama. By attaining Irish citizenship the holder automatically becomes a citizen of the European Union and £1 million is a small price to pay for such a coveted scrap of paper. One wonders how our European partners will view the operations of Passports Unlimited Incorporated.

[887] This motion addresses the citizenship granted in 1992 to an Arab gentleman and his mother — and the prospective award to Mr. Khaled Masri — two individuals of Palestinian origin who must be suffering from an identity crisis given that they already hold Saudi Arabian and Jordanian passports, as well as Irish passports, a privilege not allowed by this jurisdiction to any citizen of any member country of the European Union. If French nationals seek to acquire Irish citizenship they must first shed their French citizenship.

The citizenship laws provide for naturalisation at the Minister's discretion of those with Irish associations. Since last March when parties, including my own, sought to raise this matter it has become apparent that the term “Irish association” is infinitely expandable and functions as a handy catch all for various opaque dealings. A willingness to grant a soft loan of £1 million to a pet food company which, coincidentally, happens to be owned by the family of the Taoiseach, can scarcely be construed as an Irish association unless it is accompanied by a manifest desire on the part of the applicant to put down Irish roots and contribute on an ongoing basis to the economy. The pet food connection apart, these two individuals' Irish associations are tenuous in the extreme. I understand that Mr. Masri and his wife are based in London and that as recently as last year in an interview with Business Middle East Mr. Masri expressed his patriotic intentions to invest in the Palestinian homelands.

This affair gets more curious. According to the Minister, as quoted in The Irish Times yesterday, the procedure normally adopted in these cases is simple: companies in financial trouble or seeking to expand would be identified once the Government has received an approach from a potential investor and the IDA would then investigate the job creation potential of the investment. It would appear that this is perfectly straightforward and above board except that in the case of C & D Foods it did not work like that. It appears the IDA was not [888] involved. Instead, depending on which report one believes, Mr. Masri's investment was brokered by a bucket shop or he was struck by the sudden visions of crocks of gold to be made in the midlands. According to the first report the pet food for passports deal was brokered by what appears to be an ad hoc citizenship bucket shop run by a trio of Americans and Irish businessmen. It is undoubtedly a most lucrative brokerage as can be seen from some of those who have got in on the act.

To give a flavour of the scheme, I have read to the House a document from an international lawyer seeking potential investors. It is my understanding that the typical scheme involves three-quarters of the money advanced as a soft loan at a very preferential interest rate and the remaining quarter of the investment goes to purchase preferable shares which are redeemable within three to five years. In return, the company is required to set up a sinking fund to which money is paid on a regular basis so that the shares can be redeemed at the end of three to five years. The investor, however, must reside in this jurisdiction for a minimum of 60 days in a two-year period. That has not happened in this case and, as far as I am aware, neither is it happening in many other cases. The management of a large hotel in this city could tell us about this type of investor booking in for ten days over Christmas to claim entitlement to this scheme and the biggest task for the consultants is to find a race meeting or some other entertainment to which to take the investor over the ten days.

The Minister has come in here today and read to the House a script which does not deal with the obvious questions which arose as a result of this affair. I fail to understand — and the Minister has not explained — the conflict between herself and the former Minister, Pádraig Flynn, who said it would have been normal for this matter to come before Cabinet, but the Minister has said that is not the case and that the decision was made in 1990. We now know from the financial controller of the company that the decision [889] was made in March 1992, a short time after the Taoiseach took up office, and in the same month he recruited consultants for the beef tribunal, which is the subject of a separate inquiry in this House. An explanation has not been given for the involvement of the Minister for the Environment. He has chosen to absent himself from the House for this debate. Why did the Minister for the Environment have such an intimate knowledge about the Masri family, how could he vouch for their probity in the manner required by the legislation? We know nothing about that Minister in this regard. However, we know that there is a cabal of Ministers in this Cabinet who saw eye to eye, at least under the Kinsealy regime, and all four of them are involved. The decision was made by the former Minister, Pádraig Flynn on the recommendation of the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Smith, to the benefit of the family enterprise of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, came in here trading on her well merited reputation of being a open and helpful Minister in most matters, and presented this matter as normal. This is anything but normal and the scheme is anything but acceptable.

This is extraordinary in the context of an experience I have had, and I am sure many other Members have had similar experiences. At precisely the same time as this matter was being considered by the former Minister, Pádraig Flynn, I was pleading with the Minister on the Adjournment of this House for recognition on behalf of an Iraqi gentleman in my constituency. Following the Gulf War this gentleman was told his entire family had been wiped out but he subsequently learned his 17 year old brother was alive in a camp on the Saudi border after he had responded to American leaflets to defect. The gentleman in question was a businessman in this city and offered to take in his brother at no expense to the State or even merely to take him out of the camp where he was living in deplorable conditions. I pleaded with the then Minister for Justice privately and on an Adjournment debate of this House and [890] the Department of Justice said what it normally does to the economically dispossessed, it ruled the matter out of order and said it could not be entertained for all sorts of reasons. The gentleman in question went to Mayo and camped on the doorstep of the then Minister for Justice and after some nine months eventually got a temporary exit visa which allowed his brother to be taken out of the camp.

With respect to the Tánaiste, members of the Labour Party have gone on radio talking about one law for the rich and another for the poor, as if something will be done about it. A different law is applied to people who are economically dispossessed and refugees who arrive into Shannon. In this case, we are asked to believe that the character reference of wealth is a matter of coincidence.

The scheme is open to corruption and potentially will create a conflict of interest for Ministers. Rather than coming in here with a blasé motion, the Minister and Government should address the scheme urgently so that there will not be potential conflicts of interests for Ministers and to ensure the scheme is not open to corruption.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  I wish to move my amendment.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  It is too late for the Deputy to do so.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Does the Chair have discretion in that regard? Even if he did, he certainly would not exercise it in my favour.

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I want to respond to a number of the points that have been raised by Deputies and I am speaking as Minister for Enterprise and Employment. As Deputy Bruton and others who have had the honour to hold the post of Minister for Industry and Commerce will be aware, since the mid to late 1980s a scheme similar to that which operates in other OECD or European countries has been in operation here. It is my understanding [891] that when an application is received from the Department of Justice for such a business passport it is referred to the Department of Enterprise and Employment. In most cases, if not all, the IDA is asked to give an evaluation as to the quality and appropriateness of that type of investment and on its recommendations the Department, in turn, forwards its recommendations or comments to the Department of Justice where the final decision rests.

I recently defended a decision of the IDA in this House not to go ahead with a scheme in Kilkenny which promised to create more than 500 jobs because the terms and conditions which the IDA had set down in respect of granting taxpayers' money to that worthwhile investment in terms of jobs were not being adhered to. The House will recall that the conditions which the IDA sought to impose were standard conditions of compliance designed primarily to safeguard the duration and quality of the investment. I outline that case merely to indicate that the purpose of the scheme is to ensure that inward investment has the desirable objective — with which I am sure nobody would disagree — of achieving sustained employment in this economy. In fairness to Members who have spoken, that matter is not in dispute. Following the Maastricht Treaty and the establishment of the European Union, access to an Irish passport involves the question of European Union citizenship and the many rights and entitlements which that involves in the global market and world in which we live.

The IDA and I share a continuing desire to maximise the level of investment — from whatever source — into this country if the money invested will result in sustainable employment. Deputy Bruton made a measured contribution in that regard. It is the policy of the IDA and my Department to ensure that such investment is made on terms and conditions that are in accordance with established procedures which comply with sustainable employment. By definition, soft money wheeled in on a [892] Monday and out on a Friday would not qualify for that type of criteria.

If Deputy Rabbitte or anybody else can point to such kinds of investment in the past, notwithstanding any guarantees or undertakings that were made or commitments undertaken, and can provide such information I will bring it to the attention of the IDA and the consequential benefits and other grants that may have been given to the recipient of the investment will be considered because it would appear to have been in breach, as I understand it, of the terms and conditions of such investments.

I have spoken, as the Minister for Justice has already indicated, about my concern to ensure that there is a coherent and effective system of evaluation of such investments. As the Minister for Justice said in her contribution, in April of this year on her initiative following informal discussions she got the agreement of the Government to establish a committee consisting of representatives of the Departments of Justice, Foreign Affairs, Enterprise and Employment and Finance and IDA Ireland whose function will be the examination of each of the these applications and the making of recommendations to the Minister for Justice.

The terms of reference of the committee are as follows:

To examine and restate present policy and practice on the admission, residence and right of work in the State of EU and non-EU nationals from the point of view of the general aims of policy, clarity, consistency, efficiency of application and the appeals mechanism.

My Department is responsible for granting work permits, a function of the former Department of Labour. A substantial number of those work permits allow people the right of residence in the Republic of Ireland. As a consequence of living in the country for a certain period those people qualify, by virtue of their residency, to make an application for naturalisation. My concern in all of this, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, is to ensure that under the right conditions and the [893] right terms, subject to the evaluation of the IDA as conveyed by my Department of official level to the Department of Justice, a proposal for investment that would consequently qualify for Irish association and enable the Minister of the day in the Department of Justice to grant a passport is carried out on the highest and most stringent IDA criteria, the standard of which I have given tangible reference in respect of the most recent Kilkenny case.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  What has happened during the past week or so on this issue has totally discredited a policy of successive Governments that should be of benefit to this country. The Taoiseach's lack of candour and the efforts by the Minister for Justice during an interview on Sunday stretches credibility to its absolute limits — to expect the Irish public to believe that the Taoiseach would not know that an investment of £1 million was being made in his own firm, even though he lives with members of his family who are now the directors of that firm or that his wife, Mrs. Reynolds, would not have told him that it is proposed to invest £1 million in the business. I do not believe that the Taoiseach could not have known about this investment.

I wonder why the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Quinn, contributed to the debate because he did not answer any of the questions that were raised by Deputy Bruton and others.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Not one.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Was the IDA consulted about C & D Pet Foods? We are not talking about the policy in general but about a specific case. Was the Department committed to this investment? Why were not these questions answered? Did the Minister bother to check the files before coming into the House. I thought the Minister would give us some information. Has C & D Pet Foods repaid the Fóir Teoranta loan to which Deputy Bruton referred? These are questions that must be asked.

When I look at Deputy Quinn and the [894] Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs on the benches opposite I realise it must be very difficult for them to listen to this debate because when in Opposition in November 1992 they came into this Chamber and protested that they could not participate with a party such as Fianna Fáil. The French put this best when they say plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose— the more things change, the more they stay the same. I hope the Labour Party in Government will ask themselves the same searching questions that have been asked here today. Will they stay in Government with a party they know they cannot trust any longer?

The timing of the issuing of these passports reminded me of the famous Baskin pipe which the Department of the Environment had refused to sanction for three years but during the honeymoon period of the then new Government in 1987 the then Minister for the Environment — by coincidence the former Deputy Flynn — sanctioned it under the instructions, I understand, of the then Taoiseach, the former Deputy Charles Haughey. There seems to be great similarities with this case today.

A few more questions need to be put. How many passports have been issued since this scheme was initiated? How many of those who were granted citizenship and received such passports now reside in Ireland? If they no longer reside here can the Minister for Justice tell us how long they resided in Ireland? In response to Deputy Bruton's question about the purchase of a residence, she said that a residence has been bought but she did not say whether the people had lived in it. What checks had been carried out on the relevant businesses since the investment was made? Were the total investments made in those companies? Since 1986 how many consultants have listed in their tax returns moneys earned from such consultancies?

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Hear, hear.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  What was the period of investment? I believe the Minister for Justice's lengthy reference to the Refugee [895] Bill, interesting though it was, was an attempt not to answer some of these questions and in some way throw dirt at the Opposition parties who had granted citizenship to people who had properly invested in this country. I thought the Minister for Justice would give a full list of instructions from the Department and from that of the Minister for Enterprise and Employment on how the scheme worked. I have a copy of the criteria for a similar scheme in the US. The criteria for establishing a new commercial enterprise are clearly laid down in legislation: the creation of an original business, the purchase of an existing business. It also says that substantial change means a 40 per cent increase in the net worth.

I understand that about 30 or 40 such applications have been granted during the Fianna Fáil Party's period in Government. Can the Minister confirm this? I understand also that very few companies here can take on the full investment of £1 million. Will the Minister confirm that the £1 million is grabbed, as it were, and invested and then that different Ministers decide on the disbursement of the moneys in some kind of largesse, in £100,000 moieties, for instance? In 1955, when this legislation was introduced, the then Deputy Stephen Barrett said, column 1008 of the Official Report, “We should in some way try to define `Irish associations', there is nothing in the definition section about it and I think it is a bit wide and that the House should not allow the Bill to become law without in some way defining for the Legislature and for the State ...” We should have taken heed of that at the time and this Government has not done so.

Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The basis of this debate is in the 1986 Act, which amends the 1956 Act. It is unfortunate that some Members have not read it. Section 4 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1986, sets out the conditions for the issuing of a certificate of naturalisation. Section 5 of the 1986 Act deals with the power to dispense with [896] conditions of naturalisation in certain cases. One of the cases in which the Minister has absolute discretion to grant an application is where the applicant is of Irish descent or Irish association.

It is the question of Irish association which seems to have come in for some scrutiny, but what I would like the general public to consider when listening to this debate is the consistency of approach of successive Governments in issuing certificates of naturalisation which can under law be dispensed with under the 1986 Act. They should also consider the inconsistency of members of parties in Government at that time who never questioned it, who were happy not only with the consistency of the Government's approach, but sponsored and proposed applicants——

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  None of those companies got it.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I will come to that point in a moment. I did not interrupt the Deputy and I would ask the Deputy to sit back and not interrupt.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I am dealing with facts.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The point at issue at where is the inconsistency? Deputy McDowell asked questions about residency. Why did he not refer to the section under which the certificate was issued? Is it because, although a senior counsel, he cannot read the Act or, in his other capacity as a news journalist, he wishes to write a full page about the issue in next week's Sunday Independent or that, as a part-time politician, he wishes to confuse the issue?

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  The people want to know the truth.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  That Deputy would appear to have a split personality.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  He has been sent in to do a job.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I assure him that his political [897] hatred of my philosophy is reciprocated. Under the law due process was adhered to and that is not questioned but there have been innuendoes. Deputy Rabbitte said he never heard of the scheme. I understand why he did not hear of it, since not a member of his party contributed to the debate when the Bill passed through the House. The only people who spoke on it were the former Minister, Nuala Fennell, and our former Opposition spokesperson, Deputy Woods. What problems or concerns were there when none was raised at that time?

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  What is the relevance of the Deputy's contribution?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The arch hyprocrite is in town today and sitting on the front bench opposite. He knows in his heart what he did and did not sponsor. He did not refuse to take this investment when the opportunity arose.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  What is the relevance of those comments?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Deputy is totally irrelevant, he has been irrelevant for sometime and he will know about it on 9 June. All that has changed since then is that there is a forthcoming election and the Progressive Democrats have a 3 per cent rating in the polls. That is the reality.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  That is nonsense.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Deputy McDowell is a great spin doctor and one of the greatest Goebbels of Irish politics. He has a great opportunity to bring forward every type of semi-truth and half truth.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  That is pathetic.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  He is a past master at it. The only pathetic thing I see here is the Deputy and his party spread like chaff to the wind with O'Malley gutting for Cox at this stage. The Deputy's party is out of the running and this debate will not win it any votes, because due process has been adhered to. The Deputy's party was [898] in Government at the time. Every afternoon Deputy McDowell speaks he says he wants to restore decent standards to Irish life.

Ms. O'Donnell: Information on Liz O'Donnell  Zoom on Liz O'Donnell  Just like the Labour Party.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  If standards were so indecent, what did Deputy O'Malley's party do about it when it was in Government? There was no problem. He is seeking out scandal where none exists because he is good at doing that and he has a receptive audience who will listen.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Members should be addressed in accordance with the position they hold, namely, Deputy, Minister, etc.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I apologise. Everybody knows this kind of scheme has worked in other countries and benefited people. Who can find fault with offering a welcoming hand to overseas investors who can provide much needed capital for the creation of jobs and enterprise? That has been the consistent approach of every Government, including those of which Deputy Molloy was a member. I ask the public to look at the inconsistency coming from that side of the House for naked political opportunism.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I ask the two parties of free enterprise across the House if it is suggested that people who own a business, including members of those parties who become politicians, should work on a different level or to a different standard than others? Should the same rights not be available to them under this scheme as to the owners of other businesses? If that is the suggestion, it should be stated openly. It is that type of self-flagellation more than the innuendo raised by the party in this House that has brought public life into disrepute.

(Interruptions.)

[899]Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I ask the people to look at the consistency of approach in the past. The Progressive Democrats did not raise questions about the matter either in Government or in Opposition. The elections on 9 June are fast approaching. We know what this debate is about but it will not work.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  The Minister has missed the train.

Mr. Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  The volume is good but the content was not.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Deputies did not want to listen.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  When I joined the Coalition Government of the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil I was informed by the then Taoiseach of the business investment scheme and how it operated. If people wished to make substantial investments in any of the projects related to the Department for which I had responsibility there were certain conditions under which naturalisation could be extended. So far as I recall, during my time as Minister for Energy there were two occasions where I met people who intended to invest in energy projects. I complied with the requirements of which I was informed by the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, that the people should reside in the country for a substantial period each year and own a residence; the investment has to be substantial and each case was to be brought to his notice so that he might adjudicate on it and pass the matter to the Minister for Justice. As a member of the Government I understood the scheme was controlled by the Taoiseach, to whom I brought parties. He discussed with them in great detail their investment and subsequently on two occasions made recommendations for granting naturalisation. I was astonished to hear that the present Taoiseach approved the granting of naturalisation to persons who had in the past made investments in his family company. We [900] have heard an extraordinary outburst from the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Cowen, which I consider is totally irrelevant. The point at issue is the propriety or otherwise of what the Taoiseach did, the standards people in Government apply to the decision making process, their fulfilment of the duty of the high office to which they have been elected and the trust they must hold on the part of the people.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  That is hypocritical.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Where a Taoiseach or a member of a Government was in a position to influence a decision as important as this, one would have expected basic standards would have been adhered to in order to ensure this procedure would never apply to a company where there was an iota of association with a Minister.

It is extraordinary that the Labour Party has sat through this debate. The contribution from the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Quinn, ignored the principle raised by the Progressive Democrats, Fine Gael and Deputy Rabbitte. It reflects sadly on the standards applied by those in control in Government at this time. They have reneged on the responsibilities of their office and on the trust put in them by the electorate. I call again for the resignation of the Taoiseach in view of the circumstances which have been confirmed during the debate and by statements in newspapers today. The Taoiseach cannot put his head down and ride this out. If the Labour Party is prepared to continue to support him in Government in the hope that this will be no more than a storm in a teacup, that it will blow over, and to pretend the Progressive Democrats are only raising this issue because of the forthcoming election, it is making a serious mistake. It is a sad day for Irish politics if the Labour Party continues to support the Fianna Fáil party and the Government led by the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds. During my years here there have been few occasions on which I have felt as upset by the blatant attempt [901] to cover up gross abuse of office by the Taoiseach of the day.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  That is unsubstantiated hypocrisy.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. M. Smith): Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  I resent strongly Deputy McDowell's antics in recent days, particularly his attempt to cast a slur on my character and good name. It is hardly surprising that these allegations should be coming from the Progressive Democrats, a party which has long traded on innuendo and character assassination. Like many others, I had thought the Progressive Democrats had softened their sanctimonious tone.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  You would know about that, king of sanctimoniousness.

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  A situation no doubt brought about by their internal squabbling and party U-turns. Their lofty principles were abandoned when party interests were threatened. What we have is a party at war with itself whose only philosophy is based on being against but never for.

Deputy McDowell's attempt to hype up this issue during the European elections campaign is nothing but a desperate attempt by a desperate party racked by internal dissension to find something which would revive their flagging political fortunes. A measure of their political plight is the Progressive Democrat's alliance with Democratic Left. Deputy McDowell and Deputy Rabbitte are the new 1990s version of the odd couple.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Tell us how well you know Mr. Masri.

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  A true measure of Deputy Rabbitte's confidence in his own party is the fact that the words “Democratic Left” are printed so small on his election posters as to be scarcely recognisable. [902] One must acknowledge that party's track record for creative printing.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Have you met Mr. Masri?

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  I have met Mr. Masri——

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Do you know Mr. Masri intimately?

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  ——and he is a very reputable gentleman.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  How often has the Minister met him? Would he recognise him?

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  The Deputy is not in court now.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  The Minister is in the dock.

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  The Deputy is running, as usual, at half cock or without cocks altogether.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  How often have you met him? You lied to your fellow Ministers.

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  I have met Mr. Masri as I would any investor——

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  How many times?

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  ——now or in the future where there was a prospect of obtaining extra investment which will lead to the retention of existing jobs and the creation of new jobs. I dealt with the matter in accordance with the normal procedures which apply to that scheme.

Mr. E. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Tell us about it?

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  I never knew where Mr. Masri's family made their investments.

Mr. E. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Or how they voted? Were you ever in Greenland?

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  These matters are normally handled by the IDA and the private [903] companies and I state categorically on my word or honour that I was never approached by the Taoiseach on this matter. No matter how long the Progressive Democrats try to make that mud stick they will stay a small party and stay in Opposition. The former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, aptly described the Progressive Democrats in this House.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  How may times did the Minister meet the Masris when he said he was intimately acquainted with them? Answer the question. You are a coward, a bloody-minded coward.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  You are an ignoramus of the highest order. The Deputy should shut up, he has had his say.

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  Is Deputy McDowell not aware that this scheme was in operation during the period when two of his colleagues were in Cabinet? Is he not aware that one of his colleagues wanted this scheme extended to investment in golf clubs? Listening to Deputy McDowell one would swear that we had no unemployment here——

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Did he own the golf club?

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  ——that the banks were prepared to give easy loans or that taxpayers could afford to pay more.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  How many times did you meet the Masris?

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  This was an industry that did not look to the taxpayer.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Answer the question.

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  Longford is a difficult place in which to create and sustain jobs.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  The Minister is not going to get away with this lie.

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  And the Deputy is not [904] going to impugn my character. He might try to impugn the Taoiseach's character but he will not succeed there either.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Hear, hear.

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  The Progressive Democrats may well be successful in keeping their party small and in Opposition——

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  This is a sad day. The Minister will not answer a single question.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  It was one dinner, was it?

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  The Minister knows he lied to his party.

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  Withdraw that now.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  No, I will not.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  You cannot substantiate it.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  You met those people once and you said you were intimate. You are a liar, and you know it.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  Tell us how many times you met them.

(Interruptions.)

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Did the IDA recommend investment in C & D Foods?

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  Withdraw that remark.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Or else what?

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  I will not proceed until that remark is withdrawn.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I did not hear a remark. I must ask the Minister to conclude.

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I think the Minister would prefer not to continue.

[905]Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Will someone tell me where the massed ranks of the Labour Party are at the moment? Have they taken leave of the House?

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  In accordance with an order of the House this day I am now calling the Minister for Justice to conclude.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn): Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  The Opposition have engaged in this debate with an unusual degree of vigour. There has been repetition of misleading and damaging comments but also a little light has been shed. The light was shed by Deputy John Bruton who was frank in his admissions. He has admitted that he was the man behind the scheme in the first place and that he has no reason to be ashamed of that.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That is not true. On a point of order, Sir, the Minister has made an incorrect statement about me personally. I am not “the man that was behind that scheme”. I made representations to the Minister for Justice at the time that it should be possible to issue passports to people who make investments, that is all.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  That is being behind it, what else is it?

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  That is all I am saying. Deputy Bruton has admitted that in his capacity as Minister for Industry and Commerce he supported such applications. Deputy McDowell appears to find it extraordinary that a Minister other than a Minister for Justice would have anything to do with such applications. Deputy Bruton has disposed of one bit of confusion, once and for all. There was nothing bogus about the scheme itself. It was introduced by the Government and operated by successive [906] Governments and should and will continue to operate.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Publish the details of the scheme.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Let us hear the Minister without interruption.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Deputy Bruton has also acknowledged the Taoiseach's frankness, when he became Taoiseach, in telling the truth about his business affairs, unlike others.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Deputy Rabbitte will give us the details.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  The Taoiseach has told the truth about this case also and I hope Deputy Bruton and others will acknowledge this. I intend to concentrate mainly on the contributions of Deputies Bruton and McDowell. Where Deputy Bruton went slightly astray was when he prepared his statements and questions without knowing what I was about to say. He referred to the need for accountability, for rules and so on, and I do not dispute this. However, the point is that successive Ministers for Justice have operated on the arrangements which exist in which there are informal rules. Is the Deputy saying that all of those are to be faulted now for the fact that they did not operate in accordance with rules which did not exist? When I say there were informal rules in operation I do not want to imply that it was a matter of doing as one wished or that it was an exercise totally devoid of conditions.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  The “old pals” act.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  A fundamental condition was that there would be a substantial investment in job creation and another condition was that a residence would be purchased. Both of these basic conditions were fulfilled in the case which has been disgracefully portrayed as an example of abuse.

[907]Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  The Minister said it was the other man who bought the house.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Deputy Bruton also complained of the fact that decisions were made by a Minister acting alone. That is the law of the land. Anybody who listened carefully to my opening remarks will know that, although it is the law of the land, I have specifically proposed — and the Government accepted my proposal in April last — that the advice and expertise of agencies outside my Department would be made available formally to the Minister in making these decisions. The Government, in April and before the present difficulties blew up, agreed that in future the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Finance, Justice, Enterprise and Employment and the Industrial Development Authority will specifically be asked to give advice on all of these cases. With regard to residence, I have made it clear that the requirement is that applicants display an intention to reside in the State for a reasonable period of time and that they do this at the time of the application. There is no mechanism whereby we can actually bind somebody by contract to spend all of his or her time in this country. We do the next best thing, that is — and here again I am referring to successive Governments — to require them to purchase a residence. That is what the family concerned in this case did.

Neither I nor the Government have any difficulty with the idea that procedures should be more formal or that there should be more rules. However, I want to underline again that the Government operated properly in accordance with the arrangements that are already in being.

As to whether there were or are any fees paid to brokers who submit applications for naturalisation on behalf of applicants, that may well be the case; but, again, I am sure that any fair-minded person will recognise that, whether they approve it or not, this is a completely private transaction outside the control of the Government There are certainly no [908] State funds paid to the people concerned, but what may or may not be paid for services of any kind provided by persons in the private sector is something of which I have no direct knowledge, If Deputy Bruton or anybody else believes that somebody has acted improperly in taking payments for submitting applications to my Department, let him say so directly rather than leave something in the air which, however unintentional it might be, appears to attach a smear to my Department, to any Minister or Department or to the private individuals who have been granted naturalisation in the past.

On the various questions concerning the Taoiseach's interest in the company, which is the subject of the investment, Deputy Bruton has already given eloquent testimony to the Taoiseach's honesty in matters of this kind when he acknowledged, quite fairly, that the Taoiseach had been open and frank in making disclosures concerning his business interests.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  The Minister does not recognise sarcasm.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  The Taoiseach has been open and frank in this instance also. Deputy McDowell's contribution was of a different order. It was evident from what he said that he has found himself in the middle of a swamp that he now wishes he never entered. I believe Deputy McDowell did not know that we were dealing not with a husband and wife but with a mother and son and that the husband, whose name is plastered all over the newspapers, is not an Irish citizen.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  The Minister plastered it in the newspapers.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  I believe it came as a total surprise to him to hear that my Department was so strict in its application of the Irish associations requirement that it refused naturalisation to a man who was allegedly on some sort of inside track and told him he would [909] have to make his own investments. Deputy McDowell could not think of what he could possibly say when confronted by this fact and was reduced to the incomprehensible and totally illogical observation that it was lower than low for my Department to insist that this individual make his own substantial investment while he appears on the other hand to be implying that the family got what I call inside track treatment simply because they made a substantial investment in a particular firm.

The Deputy seeks to make much of the fact that I said at some point — I do not know whether he is right — that the naturalisation application was granted in 1990.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  I did not say that.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  I hope he will at least have the decency to accept that if I made that error — as I said, I do not know whether I did — it was an error and nothing more, and I have frankly outlined the position in the House today.

[910]Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  I said the investment was made in 1990.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Deputy should listen.

Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Deputy McDowell made outrageous allegations, implying that there was something inappropriate or underhand about the fact that my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Smith, supported this application. It is odd he should have made this remark, given that Deputy Bruton openly acknowledged, as could many Deputies in this House, that there is absolutely nothing underhand or sinister about the fact that a person outside the Department of Justice, including other Ministers, might support applications of naturalisation.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Did the IDA recommend the investment?

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  On a point of order——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  The Deputy may not make a point of order, the Chair is putting the question.

Question put: “That the words proposed to be deleted stand.”

The Dáil divided: Tá, 61; Níl, 34.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, David.
Aylward, Liam.
Bhreathnach, Niamh.
Brennan, Matt.
Brennan, Séamus.
Broughan, Tommy.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Burke, Raphael P.
Byrne, Hugh.
Callely, Ivor.
Costello, Joe.
Cowen, Brian.
Davern, Noel.
Dempsey, Noel.
Doherty, Seán.
Fitzgerald, Brian.
Fitzgerald, Eithne.
Fitzgerald, Liam.
Flood, Chris.
Fox, Johnny.
Gallagher, Pat. [911]Power, Seán.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Reynolds, Albert.
Ryan, Eoin.
Ryan, John.
Ryan, Seán.
Shortall, Róisín.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Haughey, Seán.
Higgins, Michael D.
Hilliard, Colm M.
Howlin, Brendan.
Jacob, Joe.
Kavanagh, Liam.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Kenny, Seán.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Lawlor, Liam.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
McCreevy, Charlie.
Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
Nolan, M. J.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Leary, John.
O'Rourke, Mary.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
Pattison, Séamus. [912]Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Stagg, Emmet.
Walsh, Eamon.
Walsh, Joe.
Woods, Michael.

CLASS="CP">Níl

Bradford, Paul.
Bruton, John.
Clohessy, Peadar.
Connor, John.
Crawford, Seymour.
Creed, Michael.
Crowley, Frank.
Cullen, Martin.
Currie, Austin.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Doyle, Avril.
Dukes, Alan M.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Flanagan, Charles.
Gilmore, Eamon.
Harney, Mary.
Harte, Paddy.
Hogan, Philip.
Kenny, Enda.
Keogh, Helen.
Lowry, Michael.
McDowell, Michael.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Molloy, Robert.
Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
Owen, Nora.
Quill, Máirín.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Shatter, Alan.
Timmins, Godfrey.

CLASS="CP">Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and B. Fitzgerald; Níl, Deputies Rabbitte and O'Donnell.

Question declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.


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