Private Members' Business. - Irish Nationality and Citizenship (No. 2) Bill, 1994: First Stage.

Tuesday, 31 May 1994

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 443 No. 4

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An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  In connection with the Irish Nationality and Citizenship (No. 2) Bill, which is being opposed under Standing Order No. 92, the House will now hear an explanatory statement, not exceeding five minutes in each case, from Deputy Michael McDowell, the Member proposing the motion for leave to introduce, and from Deputy Pat Rabbitte, the Member opposing the motion.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Will the Chair explain the structure of the debate?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I will call two speakers only, the proposer and the opposer — Deputies McDowell and Rabbitte. The only motion before the House is that leave be given to introduce a Bill, in effect, that the Bill is allowed to be printed and circulated. The motion to introduce the Bill is of limited scope especially as Members have not yet seen it.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a [913] Bill entitled an Act to amend and extend the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts, 1956 to 1994.

The Bill includes the following: where a certificate of naturalisation was given in the past in respect of an investment in this country, the Minister should publish in Iris Oifigiúil the details of all such investments within one month of the passing into law of this Bill. It has been suggested in newspapers that is redundant. That is not the case as the Minister made clear today. She considers this to be a private and confidential matter and I propose that it should be made public.

On future naturalisation, where the name of the person who is naturalised is published in Iris Oifigiúil the nature of the investment in cases where it is an investment naturalisation should also be published. The third feature of the Bill is to make it mandatory on the Government, where a certificate of naturalisation has been made in respect of an investment in a company in which a member of the Government or a person connected with them has held any beneficial interest, to require that matter to be declared in public. This is not redundant as section 14 of the Ethics in Public Office Bill would not cover the matter the House dealt with today.

Section 5 requires people who are naturalised by reason of investment to make a declaration of loyalty to the nation and fidelity to the State in court. Under section 16 the Minister is entitled at present, although I understand it is not the practice, to dispense with that requirement. Section 15 permits any of the provisions in that section to be relaxed at the discretion of the Minister in the case of someone who has Irish associations.

The sixth provision is one I will amend in view of the revelations made by the Minister. It deals with the naturalisation of two named persons. I understand from the Bills office that the Bill in its present form leaves something to be desired. I will have the happy opportunity to regularise the provisions in section 6 in order [914] to comply with the facts as we know them and the rules of the House.

“Investment” is given a wide meaning in the Bill because it is expressly intended to cover the acquisition of any interest, legal or equitable, in any company, firm, business, land or assets for any consideration and also includes any business loan or credit facility.

I seek leave to introduce the Bill and hope it will be debated on Second Stage. I hope on that occasion the Minister for the Environment will have an opportunity to elaborate on the questions he had so much difficulty with at the end of the last debate.

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  The Deputy should not worry about me; he should worry more about himself.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Deputy is a paragon of virtue. He is full of it.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I oppose the printing and circulation of this Bill because I do not like the notion of citizenship being revoked. If it is granted it ought not easily be revoked. However having listened to the arguments made by Deputy McDowell and what transpired during the last debate there is much substance behind the Bill.

The scheme which is the subject of the Bill is a lousy one. A majority of Members believe that to be the case. If it were a legitimate business scheme to secure investment from abroad it would not be open to the potential conflicts of interest which this scheme manifestly is open to. I note Deputy Cowen shakes his head. I read a document into the record which is a typical contract prepared by an international lawyer inviting investment in the scheme. It is riddled with loopholes and is open to corruption. It invites potential conflicts of interest and ought to be dramatically and radically changed.

When the scheme was introduced some Members made very strong arguments that should be the case. For example, let us look at the Tánaiste's remarks in today's issue of The Irish Times. He said [915] his understanding was it required a substantial investment, an element of residence and that there be significant job creation. In this case we have not clarified — the Minister has not helped us — if there was any kind of investment not to mention a substantial one. It appears to be a package of soft loans. There is no evidence that preferential shares on a redeemable basis were purchased by the investor. I do not want to question whether the job creation we were told was associated with the investment transpired.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It did transpire.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  One cannot rebuke the arguments made by Deputy McDowell that there ought to be transparency about the investment, the amount and who handled it.

I am concerned that the Bill be circulated and debated on Second Stage because it raises fundamental questions which this afternoon's debate did nothing to clear up. It was the most remarkable contribution made by a series of Ministers I have heard.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  A remarkable contribution from the Opposition.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Deputy Cowen went out of his way to put one point on the record — the due process of law was adhered to.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Has the Deputy a problem with that?

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I never alleged there was one.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Deputy said there was corruption. There is no evidence of that.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  No, I said it was open to corruption. No other Minister, including the Minister for Justice, sought to reply to any of the pertinent questions. The Minister for the Environment is especially vulnerable in that he took it on [916] himself to recommend the character and suitability of the investor.

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  Is the Deputy casting aspersions on it?

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I am merely saying the Minister had an opportunity——

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  Is the Deputy or is he not?

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  ——for five minutes today to tell the House how he came to be in a position to recommend this investor, that he knew him intimately and so on. He did not avail of the opportunity to tell the House how be became involved.

Having listened to the argument put forward by Deputy McDowell there are compelling reasons why the Bill ought to be published and debated on Second Stage. The Minister chose to give information that had nothing to do with the pertinent issues which this case gave rise to. Since Ministers seem to be too concerned about the election they might be willing in a post election climate to address the serious merit of this Bill and the need for the radical overhaul of a scheme which is open to corruption——

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  There is no evidence of that.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  ——and invited a conflict of interest for all potential Ministers.

Mr. M. Smith: Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  It is open to doing good, and it has done good.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  That may be——

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  There is no evidence of corruption.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  It has been very good for Albert.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  That is being small minded, a small minded little man.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Is Deputy Rabbitte opposing the Bill?

[917]Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Having regard to the debate, I will withdraw my opposition.

[918] Question put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 56.

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

CLASS="CP">Níl

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, David.
Aylward, Liam.
Bhreathnach, Niamh.
Brennan, Matt.
Brennan, Séamus.
Broughan, Tommy.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Burke, Raphael P.
Callely, Ivor.
Costello, Joe.
Cowen, Brian.
Davern, Noel.
Dempsey, Noel.
Doherty, Seán.
Fitzgerald, Brian.
Fitzgerald, Eithne.
Fitzgerald, Liam.
Flood, Chris.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Haughey, Seán.
Higgins, Michael D.
Hilliard, Colm M.
Jacob, Joe.
Kavanagh, Liam.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Kenny, Seán.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Lawlor, Liam.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
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.
Power, Seán.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Reynolds, Albert.
Ryan, Eoin.
Ryan, John.
Ryan, Seán.
Shortall, Róisín.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Stagg, Emmet.
Walsh, Eamon.
Walsh, Joe.
Woods, Michael.

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

Question declared lost.


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