Confidence in Government: Motion.

Wednesday, 16 November 1994

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 447 No. 2

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[316]The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I move.

That Dáil Éireann reaffirms its confidence in the Taoiseach and the Government.

I merely responded to the wish expressed here today, that I obtain the fullest information before I came into the House. Since I rose in the House approximately one hour ago I have not found any further evidence in response to the queries raised. Like others, I too am getting telephone calls asking me to check this or that and I suppose that is only to be expected in these circumstances. If any Member of the House has genuine information he should produce it. I do not mean wild allegations and Deputy Rabbitte did say that what he was speaking about would rock the foundations of this State. That is a very serious statement to make. It is incumbent on all of us to produce any evidence we have and I will not shirk my responsibility in trying to find out information for this House and for the general public.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  The Taoiseach is doing enough rocking at the moment.

A Deputy:  Deputy De Rossa tried to rock it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I made a statement in this House yesterday regarding the circumstances of the appointment of Mr. Harry Whelehan to the Presidency of the High Court. I also referred yesterday to my total commitment to public accountability and, on that basis, I make this further statement to the House.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Will the script be circulated?

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Will the Taoiseach circulate his script?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Please let us have an orderly debate. Members will [317] have an opportunity to intervene at the appropriate time.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I am merely asking the Taoiseach if he will circulate his speech.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I am sorry it has not been circulated but it will be shortly. I explained fully the circumstances of the case and I answered all questions fully and honestly on the basis of information then available to me.

In nominating the former Attorney General to this high judicial office, I was honouring the precedents established by successive Governments since the foundation of the State. In honouring this commitment, I dealt with Mr. Harry Whelehan on the same basis as I had dealt with people all my life in business and in politics, that is, my word is my bond. Having made that commitment, on the basis of long standing precedents, I felt duty bound to honour it.

The decision was made by the Government on the assumption that the legal advice from the chief law officer of the State was the full detailed information available, both in law and in fact, and was based on the fullest inquiries being made, as I had initially directed. When I appointed the new Attorney General, Mr. Fitzsimons, the Minister for Justice, on my behalf, requested him to conduct a full and detailed investigation of the file in the Smyth case and to report back.

The investigation carried out produced the information that the Smyth case was not the first to be considered under these provisions of the 1987 Act. At all times and in his report to the Government last week, the former Attorney General stated that the Smyth case was the first to be taken under the said provisions. This was given as one of the reasons for the delay in processing the case. The investigation by the new Attorney General, Mr. Fitzsimons, has shown that in an extradition case in 1992, namely Duggan, executed by the former Attorney General, Mr. Whelehan, the section 50 provisions were considered.

[318] At all times I and my colleagues in Government were told by Mr. Whelehan, in whom we placed our trust, that the Smyth case was the first in which those provisions of the 1987 Act had to be addressed. I would have expected that the most senior legal officer of this State to have known of the Duggan case of 1992 considering that he cleared the warrants for endorsement by the Garda Commissioner and that he would have made this information known to me and the Government. This information was not made known to me and the Government by the former Attorney General. Had my colleagues and I been aware of these facts last week, we would not have proposed or supported the nomination of Mr. Harry Whelehan as President of the High Court.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Rubbish:

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  The Opposition want facts and that is what they are getting. I am informed that the former Attorney General had forgotten about the Duggan case when he prepared and approved the report sent to me. I am informed that the official in the Attorney General's office involved in the preparation of the report was similarly not conscious of the existence of the case when the report was prepared. In fact, the official who dealt with the Duggan case did not remember it when requested to assist in the Attorney General's investigation.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  Explain how the Minister for Justice——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Order, please.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  She gets copies of it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  The file was turned up by another official who, in the course of the investigation, was putting together details of other extradition cases. However, the report was seriously misleading on this issue. If the former Attorney General was still in office he would have to account for this report.

[319] His responsibility would be particularly grave as he cleared the warrants in the Duggan case and his signature is on the relevant submission. If the Attorney General was still the holder of that office he would, in the circumstances, have no option but to resign. He would honourably accept responsibility for the fact that his report did not disclose that there had been a previous case in which the same question of law was considered and which was dealt with by him. Because it was not made known to us, and having considered all the circumstances, concerns and questions raised and following explanation of the concerns of the Labour Party. I want to clear up a number of matters.

Had the full information been made available to us our decision would have been different. I now accept that the reservations voiced by the Tánaiste are well founded and I regret the appointment of the former Attorney General as President of the High Court.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  You have some neck.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  If the House wants to do its duty it should listen to the facts. I also regret my decision to proceed with the appointment against the expressed opposition of the Labour Party. I guarantee that this breach of trust, a trust on which the partnership Government was founded, will not be repeated.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  Because you will resign.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I hoped that these assurances would form the basis of an agreement and I still hope it will.

Another issue has also arisen. The Attorney General, in the course of an exposition on various aspects of the case, referred in my presence on Monday to the existence of a case prior to the Smyth case — the Duggan case — which involved consideration of the lapse of time and of the same provision that arose in the Smyth case under the Extradition Act. 1965, inserted by the [320] 1987 Act by way of amendment by Deputy Seán Barrett, and left some technical legal papers on the matter with my private secretary. I was not supplied with speaking material to insert that into my speech referring to this point.

When I returned to my office after the debate last night there was a letter for me from the Attorney General emphasising the importance and significance of this case. I have now had a proper opportunity to consider its full implications which I have now given to the House. I have the letter I received yesterday evening which arrived during the debate in the House and I wish to put the full contents of it on the record of the House. It is dated 15 November 1994 and addressed to An Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, TD.

It states:

Dear Taoiseach,

The Minister for Justice requested me to prepare a reply to a question as follows: “was this the first time that the section was applied?”

I have done this and it is enclosed herewith. The reply is the best I can do. It does not in fact answer the question. The contents of the second paragraph is the case that is effectively made by a senior legal assistant who dealt with the case.

The reference to the fact that a number of the offences “dated from as far back as 1964” is correct. However, you should be aware of the fact that these offences are alleged to have been committed “on a date unknown between the 10th March, 1964 and 12th March, 1971.”

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Could we have a copy of the letter?

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  It is part of the Taoiseach's script but it is not included in it.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I do not wish to be difficult but I am expected to reply immediately the Taoiseach finishes.

[321]The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  We will get one for you. The letter continues:

Accordingly, it would not be accurate to say that they actually occurred in 1964.

The more recent offences occurred between 1st December, 1982 and 3rd December, 1988. If one takes the later of these dates it can be seen that the lapse of time between their commission and the date of issue of the warrants was just over four years. In my view no serious issue of delay could possibly have been raised under the section in respect of these offences. In addition I would say that it is my view that having regard to the nature of the offences an extradition defence based on delay would unlikely to have been successful in respect of the earlier offences. Having said that however I would concede that a legal issue arose in respect of the earlier offences in that the lapse of time involved was very considerable indeed.

The Smyth case is not the first time the section was considered. It was considered in the Duggan case though without any deep legal study or any research into the issue of delay being carried out. The facts of the Duggan case, however, in my view made such further research unnecessary. The delay involved was some four to six years. The Attorney General took the correct decision, in my view, in sending the accused back on this occasion

The problem about the Duggan case in the overall context arises from the fact that the delay in that case was from four to six years. As stated above some of the offences in the Smyth case were alleged to have been committed over a period ending in 1988.

In my view it would be absolutely incorrect to inform the Dáil that this was the first time that the section was considered. It was considered — though not in a profound manner in the Duggan case. It would also in my [322] view be similarly incorrect to say that this was the first time that the section was “applied”. It was not of course “applied” in this case in the strict sense of the term. It would be for the court to do that. Alternatively if the Attorney General had made a decision not to extradite Fr. Smyth then arguably this could be viewed as an application of the section.

Yours sincerely,

Eoghan Fitzsimons, S.C.

In the Duggan case the person concerned was extradited. I mention this specifically, and I hope that by reading into the record of the House this letter, a copy of which I will supply to all Members, there will be some appreciation of the complexities involved. While I was given initial information on Monday afternoon I asked for the full details. I was not in a position to give the full details here yesterday. When I returned to my office I had the full details and when I had looked at them I recalled the Attorney General to explain the implications of them. I have given the full facts to the House so that people will understand. Those are the full facts as I have them.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  They have been dragged out of the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I understand the perplexity on Deputy Bruton's face. This gives some idea of the length of time I had to spend looking at what was there.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Taoiseach had all the time in the world to examine this——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Order.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  Why did the Taoiseach conceal it yesterday?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Let us hear the Taoiseach without interruption.

[323]The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I concealed nothing yesterday, and I repeat “nothing”.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Why did the Taoiseach not tell us he was meeting the——

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I got the letter on my desk——

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  On Monday.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  ——yesterday afternoon.

A Deputy:  The Taoiseach got the document on Monday.

Mr. Yates: Information on Ivan Yates  Zoom on Ivan Yates  The Taoiseach must take responsibility.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Let us hear the Taoiseach without interruption.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I am putting the facts on the record of the House to the best of my ability. I am stating unequivocally that the letter was delivered to my office——

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  The Taoiseach is doing a hatchet job on everyone except himself.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  Please. This is a very serious and important issue——

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  It sure is.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  ——and the Deputies should understand this.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  The Taoiseach should have indicated to us yesterday that it was never——

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I have had a proper opportunity to consider the full implications of the information given to this House. The Minister for Justice will make a personal statement on this matter during the course of her contribution to the debate in which she will deal with all the relevant aspects of this matter in detail.

[324]Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  She has misled the House, and I have said so twice.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  The Deputy would know all about that.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  She did.

A Deputy:  A cover up.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputies must restrain themselves.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  As I said yesterday, we must all work to restore the spirit of partnership which is the cornerstone of this successful Government. As Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil, I solemnly commit myself to restoring that spirit of partnership and trust.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  We have heard this before.

A Deputy:  The Government is gone.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  This has been one of the most successful and hard working Governments of recent times.

Mr. Sheehan: Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  The Taoiseach did not think of that on Friday.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  Despite the difficulties of recent days it has been the first genuine partnership Government in this State. It has broken new political ground, bringing together two parties, Fianna Fáil and Labour, which have proven to be very compatible from a policy point of view.

Mr. Browne:  (Carlow-Kilkenny): They are now sitting apart.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  We negotiated the most ambitious and impressive Programme for Government that has ever been implemented. I am proud to have led this Government for two years in a fruitful partnership with the Tánaiste, Deputy Dick Spring, and his colleagues. They have made a tremendous contribution to all that we have achieved together.

[325] We have achieved major success on several key fronts. We have made the biggest breakthrough towards peace in Northern Ireland in 25 years. We restored economic confidence after the currency crisis and are now enjoying a high level of economic growth. We have negotiated an £18 billion National Development Plan with the EU over five years, which is the biggest investment plan in the history of the State. We have renewed and extended social partnership with the third national programme, The Programme for Competitiveness and Work, since 1987. We have streamlined Dáil procedures to make them more meaningful and the Government more accountable, and we have brought in many enlightened social reforms. It would be a tragedy if this work was interrupted with the programme only half completed and peace in the North not yet properly consolidated.

There is every reason for this partnership Government to continue until its task is complete. Good progress is being made in all major policy areas and the two parties in Government have been working together well and harmoniously. Most responsible opinion at home and abroad wish this administration to continue. There were surprisingly strong editorials to this effect in the London papers, The Independent and The Times yesterday.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  This is a revolution — Fianna Fáil reading The Times and approving of it.

Mr. Sheehan: Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  Dev would turn in his grave.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Let us hear the Taoiseach without interruption.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  The Times says we are all right.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Shatter should desist from interrupting.

[326]The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  The Belfast Telegraph, a moderate Unionist newspaper, has written that a downfall of the Government at this juncture would be disastrous.

This has been by far the most accountable Government in the history of the State.

A Deputy:  Says who?

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  Thanks chiefly to the efforts of the Chief Whip, Deputy Dempsey, we have instituted a regular fixed period for Taoiseach's Question Time, set up a more powerful committee system and improved the facilities and backup services available to legislators and the arrangements for raising topical questions. We have introduced an Ethics in Government Bill——

Mr. Sheehan: Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  What kind of ethics?

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  ——which requires the disclosure of interests, and legislation to regulate the political fund raising and electoral expenditure of political parties. I know of no precedent for the level of openness and accountability that I have provided as Taoiseach.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  As happened yesterday?

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I was the first to disclose all my private business in this House and I do not know anyone who has followed suit.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Sheehan: Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  The pet food factory is going well.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Let the interruptions cease.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I was the first to disclose all my business interests. I have [327] appeared on countless radio and television programmes in Ireland, Britain, America and elsewhere——

A Deputy:  Throughout the world.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Hawaii.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  ——to explain and promote the peace process and to sell Ireland as a good location for investment. The Deputies opposite begrudge me every minute I spent doing this.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  The Deputies opposite should show some respect.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I must insist that every Member participating in this debate shall get a good hearing.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  This partnership Government——

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

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I will hear no point of order. I consider this to be an unwarranted interruption. The Taoiseach is in possession.

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

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy will resume his seat.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  It relates to a matter about which we should be concerned in this House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Resume your seat, Deputy.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  On a point of order, when the Taoiseach is communicated in advance that the former Attorney General——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Doubtless Deputy Shatter will participate in this [328] debate. In the meantime he should restrain himself.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  We are entitled to know if this view has been expressed to the Attorney General.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  This partnership Government has created a thriving economy with the best prospects for years. We rapidly restored confidence after the currency crisis. Interest rates came tumbling down to their lowest level in decades. We face prospects of strong economic growth of around 5 per cent or more for several years ahead.

Some experts are inclined to cast doubt on the reality of the figures. As the international credit rating agency IBCA has put it in recent weeks:

Taken over long periods, the official growth figures will probably overstate things a little but not by a wide margin. They are unlikely to alter the essential picture of an economy which is catching up with its richer brethren, and which is the fastest growing in the European Union.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill  And which cannot create jobs.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  The flow of revenue from increased economic activity and the increase in the net numbers of jobs, currently running at 20,000-30,000 a year, cannot be denied and are confirmation of strong economic growth. Unemployment is currently some 30,000 below its peak when the Government took office in January 1993.

Mr. Sheehan: Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  They have emigrated.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  They are on job schemes.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  Virtually every other economic indicator is strongly positive: inflation is running at slightly over 2 per cent; we have a record balance of trade and balance of payments surplus; [329] Government borrowing is well under the Maastricht guidelines, and the debt-GDP ratio is steadily falling; inward investment is booming, as is tourism and we have been able to steadily reduce taxation.

It is not for nothing that we were, with Luxembourg, the only member state to escape censure at a recent Ecofin meeting. Our debt rating has been upgraded.

The conjunction of strong balanced economic growth, social partnership, strong European inflows and the peace dividend present us with the best economic opportunities in years. We have a partnership Government determined to make the most of this and to achieve a real and lasting breakthrough on both employment and prosperity. The change in the Government at this point would be a serious check to economic confidence.

This Government has made substantial progress in implementing the Programme for Government which is committed to enacting a wide range of legislation. In 1993, 43 Bills were enacted and already this year, 27 Bills have been enacted with a further 18 Bills currently before the Dáil and Seanad and a comprehensive programme planned for the remainder of this session. We have introduced and are in the process of introducing much enlightened social legislation.

Constructing a lasting and durable peace will be a long, difficult and challenging undertaking. Nevertheless, the cessation of violence by both sets of paramilitaries in the wake of the Joint Peace Declaration last December represents a major breakthrough, which has created great hope and renewed confidence, especially in the North of Ireland. It has removed much of the fear, and enables people to start leading normal lives, without fear of being caught by a bomb or a bullet.

The shooting dead of a post office worker in Newry last Thursday was a totally unnecessary human tragedy, and an aberration. It raised question marks, which needed to be clarified. I do not [330] believe from the reactions to date that the definitive political commitment to the success of the democratic peace process on the part of Northern Ireland Republicans is in any way diminished. I am glad it has been made quite clear that the cessation of violence includes all forms of armed action but the event underlines some of the real problems, of which the Government were always conscious, facing the consolidation of peace. Nevertheless, there is a widespread determination to remain on track for the removal of the gun from Irish politics for good.

There is overwhelming public support for peace, North and South. The deep-rooted tragedy of the last 25 years, which cost well over 3,000 lives and left thousands more maimed or bereaved, had gone on for far too long. The killing, from whatever side, was pointless and futile, and advanced no political cause. The greatest credit belongs to those in both communities, like the SDLP and Alliance, as well as church and community leaders who recognised that position clearly from the beginning. However we must also recognise that it required considerable personal and political courage on the part of the Republican and Loyalist leaders to persuade their respective paramilitary organisations to draw a line under the campaigns of violence and to opt for a purely political future. While we legitimately expect steady progress towards demilitarisation on all sides, we must try to avoid unrealistic or premature demands, which may only serve to undermine or delay the achievement of true peace. Whether we like it or not, we have to encourage responsible leadership within the communities, from which the paramilitary organisations spring.

My Government has shown responsibility in our handling of the peace process. Without relentless determination on our part, without the closest unity of purpose between the Tánaiste and myself, there would have been no Downing Street Declaration, no IRA [331] ceasefire, and no confidence in the stability or durability of the cessation of violence in the ten weeks since.

Let us look at what has been achieved so far in the ten weeks since the first ceasefire. We have established the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, and brought Sinn Féin fully into the democratic process. Its leader has publicly recognised at the meeting with John Hume and myself that a lasting political settlement cannot be achieved without Unionist agreement. Around 100 severed Border crossings are in the process of being restored. There has been some relaxation of security, in a way that benefits people going about their daily lives. All broadcasting restrictions have been removed in both islands.

Freedom to travel has been granted to both Republican and Loyalist leaders, with the lifting of exclusion orders and the granting of visas. Significant additional international aid from the European Union, the United States, and Australia and New Zealand has been obtained, mainly through the channel of the International Fund for Ireland.

A Deputy:  For the Government jet.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  An initial boost has already been given to trade, investment and tourism, especially in Northern Ireland. We have begun in this jurisdiction a review of prison sentences, but we were not able to proceed for the moment with a limited programme of early releases, while the implications and consequences of the Newry shooting are being carefully considered. The Tánaiste has also made further progress with the Framework Document, which will form the basis of political negotiations.

I would not accept that we have moved too fast or too precipitately in anything we have done. A dilatory or an indecisive wait and see approach on our part would have rightly attracted criticism for its lack of imagination. We [332] needed to underline the value and immediate benefits of peace.

The Framework Document, because it remains confidential until it is agreed, inevitably arouses fears of the unknown, especially within the Unionist community. They are perhaps influenced by memories of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

The Framework Document, except in so far as it relates to matters that are clearly for the two Governments, is a basis for future negotiations. There is no agreement in it on North-South institutions that will be imposed on the Northern parties without their consent. The main principles of self-determination balanced by consent are at the core of the peace process.

I would like to point out to the Unionist community that our approach to them has been entirely different from previous Irish Governments. Not only have we made it repeatedly clear that the Irish Government will not be party to any coercion of them but also, unlike the time of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, we have sought at the time the Joint Declaration was being negotiated to establish lines of communication both with the mainstream Unionist leadership and with the Loyalist organisations. These lines remain open.

Their input is reflected in the very substantial passages addressed to Unionists in the Downing Street Declaration, in the statement of rights which was forwarded to us from the Loyalist organisations and incorporated in paragraph 5 without significant alteration, and the paragraphs on building trust and reconciliation between the two traditions on this island.

Secondly, I have never expressed any hostility to a devolved Government in the North. Indeed, I recognise that it is probably an essential part of any peace settlement. Obviously, it has to be reestablished on an agreed basis, which it is recognised on all sides will include responsibility sharing. It also has to fit in with other essential elements of an agreed settlement.

We have made it clear from a very [333] early stage that we are not seeking the imposition by diktat of joint authority by the two Government over Northern Ireland. All we want is a democratic partnership with the Unionist community and the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland, not any form of domination over them. I believe that, if there is to be an agreed political settlement, it will need to include a substantial North-South dimension. We will be looking for agreement on North-South bodies with executive powers for two reasons.

The first reason is an entirely practical and pragmatic one. The latest Northern Ireland Economic Council report No. 111 states: “The peripherality, or perhaps more, the isolation of Northern Ireland is compounded by the comparative lack of integration with the Republic of Ireland.” It identifies the comparative lack of integration of manufacturing or of important industries such as food processing as a weakness.

There is a very clear case for integrating the promotion abroad of key economic sectors such as tourism and inward investment. It is quite true that at the moment we are competitors, but it is also true that the South fares much better than the North at present on both counts. My belief is that both North and South would benefit, but particularly the North, from combining our efforts and sharing out the promotion and the benefits equitably, and measuring our success by reference to the island as a whole. Such an approach requires courage and commitment on both sides and a willingness to override vested interest. It will be not just business but the unemployed on both sides of the Border that will benefit. There are of course many other areas, such as inland waterways, aspects of agriculture and the environment and transport, which would also benefit from a joint approach.

It goes without saying that the political representatives of Northern Ireland, Unionist as well as Nationalist, as well as those in authority in the South will have to oversee any such co-operation [334] that will need to be fully democratically accountable. There are many in both communities in the North that see the logic for many purposes of a single island economy or market within the Single Market of the European Union. Such an approach will also solve the desire of the Nationalist community in particular for institutional recognition of their Irish identity. Partnership within Northern Ireland must also extend to all sets of external relationships.

Implicit in the Downing Street Declaration and reflected in the framework document will be the clear desire of both Governments to remove any implicit threat of coercion. The British Government has declared that it has no selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland, and will not stand in the way of anything that the people of Ireland, North and South, may freely self-determine. Indeed, it will encourage any measure of agreement that can be reached. Equally, the Irish Government agrees that it would be wrong to attempt to impose a united Ireland without the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland. A balanced constitutional accommodation will reflect those realities on both sides. But we must be careful that in any changes we make that incorporate the principle of consent and remove any implied undemocratic right of coercion that we continue to uphold the birthright to membership of the Irish nation of everyone born on this island or of Irish parentage that is so precious in particular to Northern Nationalists.

Many difficult problems lie ahead. Their solution lies at least in part on building on and consolidating confidence in peace. Any reminders of paramilitary violence and the threat that it poses must be removed. Real progress can only be made on the outstanding issues of prisoners, policing and disarmament on all sides, and indeed on the political and constitutional aspects of a new settlement, if the peace is maintained unbroken. I believe both [335] communities are fully committed to the peace process and are excited by its potential opportunities. The Irish Government will continue to promote peace as the top of our priorities, with the co-operation of the British Government. The pace of movement will be dictated above all else by the full maintenance of peace on the ground. If and when there are setbacks, and apart from last week there have been virtually none, we must take any action that is appropriate and then try to move forward. We must ensure that the new era of opportunity is not allowed to fade. Both the Tánaiste and I are fully committed to that.

My colleagues will deal with all the other matters relating to the fine record of the Government. This partnership Government is by far the best Government available. It fully deserves the confidence of this House.

Earlier today there appeared to be a basis for agreement between the two parties. I still hope that agreement can be brought to finality and that the issue that caused it to be set aside will be cleared up after this House discovers that I produced all the records available to me in the context of the Attorney General's Office. I am well aware of the many other stories around. When I get further information I am prepared to come into the House and interrupt the debate to inform the House of it.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  You must be joking.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I have been handed a note stating——

Mr. E. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  How things are in Frankfurt.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  ——that another member of the staff of the Attorney General's Office has been contacted and he has no knowledge of representations.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  The flight from Hamburg has come home.

[336]Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  It is like giving out the football results.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  Could I finally appeal to those Deputies who are making these allegations——

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  What Deputies?

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  Not Deputy Kenny.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Be careful.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Allen, the Taoiseach is about to conclude his remarks. Let him do so without constant interruption.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  He said “Deputies”.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Allen, I asked you to desist.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  If they can, I ask them to assist in getting to the root of these unfounded rumours. That is all I can describe them as. I hope the issue that has divided the two parties in Government can be seen in the light that I have come into the House and given all the facts I can find in relation to the Smyth, Duggan or any other case.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Until tomorrow.

Mr. Ellis: Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  The Deputy should own up.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  That has been my position. I am not covering for anybody and have no intention of doing so. I treat everybody on the same basis. I would welcome information from any Deputy or Senator to allay the justifiable fears of the community regarding the offence of child abuse. None of us would defend such abuse and there is a responsibility on all of us to clear up the rumours. If any Member of the House can supply me with information I will be glad to investigate it and come in here with the full story——

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  The Taoiseach did not do that yesterday.

[337]The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  ——not part of it, and only when I have a full evaluated factual position given to me by my legal advisers.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Taoiseach has just engaged in merciless destruction of the reputation of other people in a desperate attempt to save his own skin. He effectively said that Mr. Harry Whelehan was not only unfit to be Attorney General but is most certainly unfit to be President of the High Court. He said that even though he insisted on appointing him last Friday. In his most amazing statement the Taoiseach stated that in view of the discovery of the facts in regard to the Duggan case that were not disclosed by Mr. Whelehan at the time, if the former Attorney General was still the holder of that office he would “in my view in the circumstances have had no option but to resign”. Why will the man who insisted on appointing Mr. Whelehan as President of the High Court not resign? If the Taoiseach had any honour or dignity he would have come into this House and announced his resignation. Instead he chose to do something which is constitutionally extremely dangerous. He chose to besmirch the reputation of a judge, a person who cannot be removed from office other than by impeachment, a person who will serve for life. The Taoiseach has besmirched his reputation in a vain attempt to save his own.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  A shame.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  What has happened in the past hour has done appalling damage to the relationship between the Legislature and the Judiciary. I have no idea what will be its consequence but I know it will be serious. The Taoiseach said yesterday that he was giving a full account of what happened in the Father Brendan Smyth case. Yet he admitted today that the new Attorney General had on Monday, in the course of exposition of various aspects of the case, in his presence, referred to the existence of a previous case, the Duggan case, which [338] involved consideration of the lapse of time and the same provision that arose in the Smyth case under the Extradition Act 1965. The Taoiseach told the House today that he knew on Monday that the explanations furnished by the Attorney General to the effect that this was the first such case were simply not true. He knew, when he rose in this House, that what he was giving here yesterday was not a full explanation. Yet he went ahead. Now he is endeavouring to blame his Private Secretary for not having drawn this matter adequately to his attention.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I did not say that.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  He did.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I said it was there when I returned to my office.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  He said he had left some technical, legal papers with his Private Secretary in this matter.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  Not at all, nonsense.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The implication is that his Private Secretary is not doing his job. It would appear to me that the Taoiseach is literally setting out to destroy everyone else so that he may save himself.

Not only the Taoiseach is involved in this issue. There is another Minister who, significantly, got up to leave the House immediately I rose to speak — the Minister for Justice. The Minister for Justice also stated in this House on 25 October, 1994, at column 520, volume 446, No. 3 of the Official Report:

I also understand that this case was the first in which provisions had arisen for consideration by the Attorney General's Office since the enactment of the 1987 Act.

The Taoiseach has now destroyed the reputation of the Minister for Justice by revealing that that statement was not true. He has brought to public attention [339] at last, under pressure, the existence of the Duggan case.

We all know that the warrants in both the Smyth and Duggan cases were furnished to the Department of Justice and to the Attorney General's Office. The Minister for Justice must have known about the Duggan case, because the war-about the Smyth case, because the warrants for both were furnished to her Department. She had at least the means of knowing that the statement she made on 25 October last to the effect that this was the first case of its kind was not and could not have been true.

The Taoiseach, safe in the knowledge that he does not have to do anything about it because Mr. Justice Whelehan is now beyond his power, has said that if he were still in office, Mr. Whelehan would have to resign. The Minister for Justice is a member of his Government.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Hear, hear.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Will she resign——

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  ——because she should? One resignation that should precede that of the Minister for Justice is the resignation of Deputy Albert Reynolds.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I said here in the course of the debate on the report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry — having studied in great detail the way in which the Taoiseach did his business as set out in that report, the way in which he took decisions involving millions of pounds at private meetings at which an official was not present, the way in which he gave some people large amounts of export credit and denied it to others for no apparent, objective reason, the way in which he connived in the law being broken in regard to the breach of the [340] authority of the Industrial Development Authority — that I believed that Deputy Albert Reynolds was not fit for high office. I hope some other Members of the House who voted confidence in Deputy Reynolds on that occasion, who did not agree with me that Deputy Reynolds was unfit for office, at least at the end of this debate, will come to the conclusion I did then. I recognise that it is easier for me to have said that than it is for some of those who must make the decision now. I am the Leader of the Opposition; some of those who must take the decision now are members of a Government. It is not easy for them to give up their offices and, I have no doubt, they are convinced they are doing good work but the end of the road undoubtedly has been reached this evening. It should have been reached on the report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry. I deplore that, on the debate on that report, both the Fianna Fáil and Labour Parties refused to allow the Taoiseach to be subjected to the sort of questioning to which he was subjected here last evening on this issue. Both Labour and Fianna Fáil went through the lobbies to vote against any intensive questioning of the Taoiseach on that issue. They voted to allow him make a general, single speech, justifying himself, avoiding most of the questions, and leave the House.

I have no doubt whatsoever that had the Labour Party agreed to the Fine Gael motion and allowed the Taoiseach be subjected to the level of questioning on the issues involved in the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry to which he was subjected yesterday, they would have come to the conclusion I expect they will reach this evening, that he was not fit for office. There is no doubt in my mind that everything set out in the report of that tribunal and the debate thereon shows that this man should not be Taoiseach.

I regret also that open-ended questioning of the Taoiseach was not agreed to by the Coalition parties in the issue of passports for sale. I appreciate that [341] the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs took the trouble to examine the files. I have no doubt about his truthfulness in saying that he found nothing wrong there but, had the Tánaiste studied the report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry as closely as I have, he would have seen that the manner in which the Taoiseach does business is one which leaves no trace on paper. The business is done orally, it is done on the telephone, it is done by the nod, the wink and the understanding; it is not done in a way that will leave any trace on a file. While I accept that the Tánaiste was right to look at the files, we were all wrong in not insisting that the issue be examined by a committee of this House where the Taoiseach, the Ministers and civil servants involved would have been subjected to the same type of sustained questioning that the Taoiseach was subjected to yesterday. I have no doubt that had that happened in regard to the passports for sale issue, the Labour Party would have come to the conclusion that the Taoiseach was not fit for office. They would have come to the conclusion I expect they will come to as a result of what we have heard tonight.

The event we are now contemplating is not one of which there was no warning. We were warned of it most eloquently — more eloquently than I perhaps can be on this occasion — by the Tánaiste. The Tánaiste said about Albert Reynolds, as reported at column 2314 of the Official Report of 5 November 1992: “This is the Taoiseach who talks about consensus, but who governs behind closed doors”. We have had an example of that. In this case the door was closed and the Labour Party were on the outside. Deputy Spring said, also on that occasion: “This is a Taoiseach who says, over and over again, that the buck stops with him, but who makes every effort he can to ensure that the buck lands in the lap of the civil servants who work for him on behalf of the State”. The Tánaiste had no reason to be surprised about what has happened. I do not know why he chose to make [342] Deputy Albert Reynolds Taoiseach after that, but that is another day's work.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I will tell you some time.

Mr. Yates: Information on Ivan Yates  Zoom on Ivan Yates  It will be good when we hear it.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is fair to say, however, that the characteristics we are talking about here are the characteristics of a whole party and not just of one person. Again I quote from the Tánaiste from the same speech of November 1992, column 2320 of the Official Report: “I believe one political party in this House has gone so far down the road of blindness to standards, and of blindness to the people they are supposed to represent, that it is impossible to see how anyone could support them in the future without seeing them first undergo the most radical transformation”. It is fair to ask the Tánaiste and the Labour Party if they believe that that radical transformation has taken place. I believe it has not. What is more, I believe it never will. Any party who is asking for the support of the people in an election has an obligation to say where they stand on that issue and if they believe Fianna Fáil is an acceptable partner for them in Government. That is the question to which people will want an answer and there will be no evading it. There will be no words that can be used this time that will prevent that answer being given, however reluctantly. After the next election, whenever it comes, my party will have nothing to do with Fianna Fáil. I want to know the position of other parties in this House on that matter. In light of what we have seen of the way the Minister for Justice and the Taoiseach have done their job today, of the manner in which the beef tribunal issue was handled by the previous leader of Fianna Fáil, by the present Taoiseach and by other Ministers of Fianna Fáil, of the way in which the passport issue was handled by the Minister for the Environment and other Ministers, if [343] Members of this House are unable to come to a view about whether Fianna Fáil have been adequately transformed by now and give a clear answer to that question, one can only assume that they are willing to go back into Government with Fianna Fáil after an election takes place. This time there will be no dodging that question; it will have to be answered. I believe Fianna Fáil has proved itself incapable of governing in coalition. This is not something that has occurred in the past six days. It is part of the ethos of Fianna Fáil that has manifested itself time and again since 1987 and earlier.

I now want to refer to another important matter. I believe this debate will be followed, probably later rather than sooner but inevitably, by a change of Government and it is legitimate for those in this House and in the country to ask where the next Government of this State will stand on the peace process. I have devoted my political life to reconciliation. I believe that politics is the art of reconciliation in practice. It is about bringing people together. My party is proud to have been the party that negotiated the Sunningdale agreement with the Unionists as well as the SDLP.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  With the Labour Party.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am sorry. That was a genuine omission. We negotiated the Sunningdale agreement with the Unionists and the Taoiseach sought to suggest today that he was the first Government to have treated the Unionists on that basis. That is not historically true. Equally our party, in Government with the Labour Party, made every effort, too, to involve the Unionists in the process leading up to the negotiation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. We have also sought an inclusive approach to this issue. Furthermore, as far so the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation is concerned, we intend to make that work. We intend to make it work for peace and reconciliation. We intend to use the [344] forum as an opportunity of consulting other parties in this House, whether they be in Government or in Opposition, about the issues which face us from time to time. We intend to make it a means for ensuring the stability and continuity in pursuing the peace process.

I will conclude by saying we need a new Government. We need a new Government first to advance the peace process on the basis of stability and genuine partnership and trust. We need a new Government that will have the ability to tackle the problem of unemployment at its roots, to reform the tax system and the social welfare system to ensure that they support in every way possible the creation of employment. We need a new Government to ensure that our nation's resources, natural, physical and human, are managed in a sustainable way and that we do not have a lifestyle which cannot survive into and beyond the next century. We need a new Government that will reform the institutions of this State to make every Member of this House who holds office truly accountable. We need reform to ensure that when the answers to questions asked in the House are not adequate the Ceann Comhairle can demand that a further answer be given. Only by that change will it be possible for us to ensure that the Government of the day is truly accountable.

We need a new Government which will devolve power in our society and remove the centralisation of power in the hands of a small group of people in Merrion Street, a concentration of power which is the breeding ground for allegations of corruption, for suspicion and the alienation of people who are not part of the charmed circle. We need a radically reformed State and I hope the result of this vote will lead us to have a Government which will achieve that.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I call Deputy Harney. I apologise, I call the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Spring.

[345]Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  He is still entitled to some recognition.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I have not tried that experiment yet.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Neither have I.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  On a point of order, the Taoiseach promised to circulate a copy of a letter he read and we have yet to receive it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  I am sure it will come in due course.

Mr. Sheehan: Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  So will Christmas.

A Deputy:  The Deputy should check his post box.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I assume Deputy Bruton's assertion that he will not go into Government with Fianna Fáil can be taken with the same validity and is imprinted in granite like his refusal to go into Government with Democratic Left in 1992. That position seems to have changed.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  Deputy Shortall went into that.

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

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I am still in the House.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  I will have a word with the Tánaiste later.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  It is entirely appropriate that I should in this House set out my considered response to the events of recent weeks and particularly to the events here yesterday and since. This is the correct and appropriate place for those who hold public office and are responsible for decisions of public concern to account for their actions and omissions.

The key issue, throughout this entire episode, has been accountability — the [346] right of the public to secure adequate explanations and the responsibility of the holders of high office to take responsibility for their actions.

At the outset, I have to say that semantic distinctions between responsibility and culpability, however interesting they might be in their own right, do not meet the needs of this case. If this House were to accept that a Minister would never be accountable to the Dáil without direct culpability on his or her part, the principle of accountability would wither away. Without accountability the value of a parliamentary democracy would be fatally undermined.

It is not part of my understanding of the principle of accountability that it only exists in the case of decisions already taken. In the particular horrific case of Father Brendan Smyth, it was a failure to take necessary and urgent decisions that led to a gross breach of responsibility to the public. Are we really to believe that Government or its agents are only accountable in respect of the things they have done, and never in respect of the things they should have done?

Again, I want to make it clear that I did not come into this House to seek an apology to the Labour Party or to me for the political actions of others. Politics is not about bruised egos and I have no interest in seeking either apology or flattery as a substitute for democratic accountability. If an apology is owed to anyone, it is owed to the victims of this priest, and to the parents and family members who have been hurt by his depravity over many years.

Let me also address the question that some seem to be asking — what does the Labour Party want? The question is being asked almost as if it were up to us to decide what others should say, or as if we were looking for some kind of reward for standing over the breach of public responsibility involved and the appointment of Mr. Whelehan to the High Court without accountability. Let me answer the question.

What the Labour Party wants is an [347] accounting, a true and fair accounting and nothing more than that. We were hoping yesterday to hear something that would convince us that it was right to prevent the Attorney General from explaining his actions before publicly promoting him. We were hoping to secure some kind of convincing explanation that the Attorney General's apparent attitude, that everything about this case was handled reasonably, could be reconciled with the actual circumstances of the case, or else an acceptance that the Attorney General's account was plainly wrong and grossly insensitive. We were hoping to hear some sort of admission that a serious error had been made in promoting the Attorney General to a place where he is immune from questioning despite the strongly held convictions of more than a third of the Government and that the people had been let down by a reckless and impetuous act. We heard none of those things.

I intend in my contribution to this debate to refer, first, to the issues arising in the handling of the Smyth case in the Office of the Attorney General, and by the former Attorney General himself; second, I intend to deal with the background to the appointment of the Attorney General as President of the High Court; and, third, I intend to set out how I will vote on the motion before the House when that vote is taken.

Even before I became aware of certain facts that I intend to deal with later, I have to say, with great regret, that I found the speech of the Taoiseach yesterday extremely disappointing in its failure to recognise that there has to be a higher level of responsibility for the actions of Government.

In the course of his speech, the Taoiseach, correctly, refused to excuse the failure of the Office of the Attorney General for its handling of the Father Brendan Smyth case. Unfortunately, the Attorney General, in his presentation to Government, did seek to excuse that [348] failure. In effect, he endorsed the handling of the case on entirely spurious and offensive grounds.

Yet even though the Taoiseach apparently now accepts that this matter was handled insensitively, with lack of appropriate urgency, that the delay was totally unacceptable, and that there were gaps and flaws, he knew all of that last Friday, when he apparently accepted the Attorney General's belief that it would be harsh to find fault with the way the case was handled. How else could he have proceeded to appoint Mr. Whelehan to the second most senior judicial office?

One has to ask, if the Taoiseach had made yesterday's speech last Thursday, would he still feel comfortable about standing over the actions of last Friday? Alternatively, and this I think goes to the heart of the difficulty, how is it possible to reconcile the entire detailed account of everything that has happened with the assertion, made by the Taoiseach in his speech, that the emergence of the Smyth case did not affect the Attorney General's suitability for high office?

In fact, to an outside observer, it must seem odd that the only difference the Smyth case appeared to make was to increase the urgency of making the appointment.

Even though the Taoiseach puported to account to the House for the events, he at no point addressed the issue of why it was not possible for the Attorney General to similarly account. As is now well known, there is a precedent for such an accounting in the handling of the Fr. Ryan extradition case. The Taoiseach barely mentioned this precedent and offers no explanation as to why it was not considered appropriate. He went on to say in his speech that he received no warning of our intention to leave the Cabinet room in the event of the appointment being made, and regarded our withdrawal as nothing more than an expression of dissent from the decision.

That assertion ignores the two letters the Taoiseach received from me, [349] together with the one he sent me, on Thursday last. I circulated copies of those letters with a statement. In the first letter I sent the Taoiseach, I made it clear that:

In the circumstances we have come reluctantly to the view that we cannot support the appointment of the Attorney General as President of the High Court unless and until a satisfactory explanation of these troubling events is offered by the Attorney General, personally or through you in the Dáil, in such a way as to allay the public concern.

In replying to that letter, the Taoiseach said:

... in an attempt to meet your concerns, I would propose placing before the Government in the morning the Attorney General's detailed explanation of the Brendan Smyth case, in order to allow any further questions. This is the only appropriate forum in which the Attorney General can be properly questioned. In addition I intend to propose to Government that the Attorney General's explanation be published immediately.

In my further letter, I said to the Taoiseach:

At the very least, I would expect that you would answer questions in the Dáil, in such a way as to allay public concern, before final consideration of any appointment being made.

That correspondence makes it clear beyond any misunderstanding that we could not accept this appointment prior to proper public accountability.

It is also worth noting that we withdrew from the Cabinet meeting when the Taoiseach terminated discussions of the Attorney General's report and called on the Minister for Justice to propose the appointment of the Attorney General as President of the High Court.

The Taoiseach in his speech said that he understood we were withdrawing only because:

[350] The Government procedures are such that dissenting voices at a Government meeting are not recorded in the Government minutes, whereas members of the Government absenting themselves may be recorded if they so request. It was for this reason that we took the view that, rather than staying at the table, our Labour colleagues were absenting themselves for this decision only, thereby recording their dissent.

In fact, while “Government Procedure Instructions” is an officially protected document, I can assure the House that it contains nothing whatever to this effect.

The Taoiseach also seems to imply by this remark that neither I nor my colleagues need take any accountability for the appointment of the Attorney General, since we were not in the room. Such an argument would clearly fly in the face of collective responsibility. I made it clear on Sunday last that of course we were collectively responsible for that appointment, even though we disagreed fundamentally with it, and that what we had to do was to decide whether that was the right position to be in.

It is further worth noting that if there was any misunderstanding about our intentions, ample opportunity existed to clarify the matter, even after we left the Cabinet room. Instead of doing so, the Taoiseach acted to ensure that the Attorney General became President of the High Court by 6 p.m. that day. It would be hard to see that as anything other than an attempt to present us with a fait accompli, even though I accept that the President would not be available on that Saturday or Sunday. All of this brings us back to the central question, to which there is no answer in the Taoiseach's speech — why was it necessary to proceed with the appointment prior to any form of public accountability being available?

In moving to the second part of the remarks I wish to make, let me say at the outset that it is true to say that I had, prior to the Fr. Brendan Smyth affair, [351] come to my own conclusion that in the interests of Government cohesion I would have to set aside my reservations about the qualifications of the Attorney General for this post. I never communicated any such view to the Taoiseach and was prepared to do so until certain reforms on which we had reached broad agreement were fully implemented. However, once I became aware of the Fr. Brendan Smyth affair, I would not and could not abandon those reservations prior to the exercise of public accountability.

It is however appropriate that I should say something about the reservations I had. I agreed to the reappointment of the former Attorney General at the time of the negotiations on the formation of Government. I never had any difficulty working with him, and did so on a regular basis, especially for example, in relation to aspects of the Anglo-Irish negotiations in which I am involved.

I have, I think, made it clear that I would not have been at all unhappy to see him promoted to ordinary membership of the High Court at any time that he wished and that a vacancy existed, always assuming, of course, that the issues with which we are dealing now had been properly accounted for. However, I took the view throughout all my discussions with the Taoiseach — discussions which I initiated well before the end of last year — that the two most senior positions in the Judiciary required appointments which would reflect very high skills and a substantial vision. I felt throughout, and feel still, that at the very least, an Attorney General with no judicial experience should be prepared to “serve an apprenticeship” as an ordinary member of the High Court before aspiring to the presidency. It is worth noting, and it is a point of which I think the Taoiseach is well aware, that the former Attorney General is in fact the first such holder of his office to have been appointed as President of the High Court.

The Taoiseach quoted in his speech [352] Professor Basil Chubb, to justify his assertion that by custom the Attorney General is always offered any vacancy to the High Court that arises during his term of office. However, in the course of preparations for the ethics Bill, my office was supplied with a speaking note prepared for the Taoiseach by the Cabinet Secretary at the time of the appointment of the former Attorney General, in order to assist the Taoiseach in advising the Attorney General of his terms and conditions of employment.

That speaking note makes it unequivocally clear that:

appointment as Attorney General does not imply any commitment whatever, on the Government's part, to subsequent appointment to the next, or any, vacancy on the judicial bench.

In fairness to the Taoiseach, I have to say that when I brought this speaking note to his attention, he told me that he had not used it when appointing the former Attorney General, and I believe that. Of course, this speaking note could not be expressed any other way. Our Constitution reserves the right of appointment of members of the Judiciary to the President of Ireland, acting on the advice of the Government. An appointment to the Bench cannot be in the gift of any one person, or be seen as a right by any person.

Any promise or condition of employment which guaranteed an appointment to the Judiciary, thereby pre-empting the free and unfettered decision of the Government in the matter, would clearly have to be null and void. Fortunately, and despite impressions to the contrary, no such conditions of employment exist. It would also be true to say that it was not until very late in my discussions with the Taoiseach about judicial appointments — discussions which I had initiated in the latter part of the last year, because of my interest in ensuring that such appointments would receive the maximum consideration — that I was made aware of any promise made by the Taoiseach to the [353] Attorney General in respect of the Presidency of the High Court. At a number of points in our discussions, we sought and received advice from the Attorney General about different options and scenarios that we were considering. It was not until very late indeed in the course of those conversations that I was advised that the Attorney General wanted the office of President of the High Court, and that the Taoiseach had offered it to him. I have often wondered when that request or offer, whichever it was, was in fact made.

Notwithstanding all of that, I had, as I have said, come to the conclusion, prior to the Smyth scandal, that the interests of Government cohesion demanded that I set aside my reservations about the appointment, but I cannot stand over an appointment made in the absence of accountability. I will always believe that the Attorney General himself had an obligation and a duty to answer questions in the public domain prior to any appointment. He chose not to exercise that option, and the Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil members of the Government, despite any misgivings they might have had, chose to support that refusal. I could not.

This brings me to the third part of what I wish to say, and that is to explain how I intend to act and vote in this debate. This has been a good Government, as the Taoiseach said yesterday and again today. I am proud to stand over its record in many respects. We have done much to develop and strengthen the economy, and have established a record of good and careful management. There are signs every day that the strengthening of the economy is reflected in more jobs and greater confidence. At the same time, we have done much to undo the damage inflicted by previous administrations on essential public services. Those who have been housed, or who have found essential health treatments more readily available, or who have seen the major improvements in our education system, or who have been part of the new [354] excitement in the world of arts, music and film, can all testify to that. Those who have benefited from the huge list of reforming legislative measures that has been enacted in the Government's short life will, I believe, readily acknowledge that this has been a Government that has made a difference.

In no other area of the life of our country has the impact of this Government been more profound than in relation to Northern Ireland. From the moment we came into office, the Taoiseach and I committed ourselves to make the movement towards peace and reconciliation the first priority. Nobody can deny that the Taoiseach has been unremitting in his determination to bring people in from the margins on this issue and to persuade those who had previously disdained democratic politics to give peace a chance. This strategic approach was the bedrock on which the peace process was built, and it is to the Taoiseach's credit that he preserved from beginning to end, with a single-minded determination to achieve the laying aside of arms.

The peace process is not now as fragile as some commentators would have us believe. The decision of the British Government to open preliminary discussions with both Sinn Féin and the political representatives of the Loyalist paramilitaries, and to do so in the near future, has given the process added impetus and ensured that there is still room to build, but, of course, political instability in the Republic of Ireland is not a desirable basis on which to proceed. I have always believed that our democracy is strong enough to withstand such temporary difficulties, just as I believe there is no leader in this House who would not be willing to carry on the work started by the Taoiseach, in the spirit in which he started that work, if the necessity arose. That would be nothing less than our bounded duty.

Throughout all this, my own relationship with the Taoiseach has survived a great deal of hard work, carried out together, and a number of disagreements. Whether we are talking about [355] the Structural Funds negotiations, the tax amnesty, the handling of the beef tribunal report, the passports affair or, indeed, other controversies which attracted less publicity, I do not believe that anyone can argue that these issues were approached by us, by me or the Taoiseach, in a spirit that threatened the cohesion of the Government. It would never be my wish to do so. I have found the last couple of weeks the most difficult of my political life, and the decisions I have had to make the most painful.

Before outlining those decisions, I must outline the events of the last number of hours.

Early this morning, I was advised that new information had become available to the Taoiseach and his Ministers. This information consisted in broad terms of the following — the Taoiseach referred to this in his address: the new Attorney General had found in his office evidence that a previous case, very similar to the Smyth case, had been handled by the office in a totally different manner to the way in which the Smyth case had been handled. This other case, which had also arisen during the tenure of the previous Attorney General, had involved an ex-monk. It had involved allegations of sexual abuse in another jurisdiction, allegations that related to a period some time ago, and a request for extradition on foot of those allegations.

That previous case had been dealt with in an extremely expeditious way. The issues of law had been teased out very quickly, the matter had been placed in front of the Attorney General very quickly, and the warrant had been endorsed by the Attorney General. In other words, the system worked. There was no breakdown and the “normal” method of operation had resulted in a quick and expeditious extradition. The issues of law referred to as arising for the first time in the Smyth case had in fact been dealt with before.

In addition to being given these facts, I was also informed that the Taoiseach [356] and the Minister for Justice were now satisfied that they had been seriously misled by the explanations of the Attorney in the Smyth case and that there were no grounds for believing that the fault in that case lay in the system in operation in the Attorney General's office. I was informed that both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice were prepared to come into the House and to lay out all these facts for the information of the House. The Taoiseach, on foot of this, was prepared to say to the House that he now deeply regretted the decision to appoint the former Attorney General, and the manner in which it was done, and that he now accepted fully that my reservations about this appointment were correct.

On foot of these assurances and undertakings, I indicated that I was prepared to support the Government in any vote in the House. In my judgement, this would be necessary in order at the very least to enable this matter to be fully investigated and decisions to be made about the next steps that needed to be taken in view of the former Attorney's misleading explanations about the way in which his office dealt with extradition cases.

However, following all these discussions, I decided to speak to the present Attorney General about these issues, in order to clarify aspects of the case to which I have just referred. I asked the Attorney General if he would inform me when he advised the Taoiseach about these matters. He told me he had done so on Monday — that is to say, before the Taoiseach made his statement to the House yesterday.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Shame.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  It was immediately apparent that the Taoiseach should have included this vital information in the statement he made to the House yesterday, if he wished to give a full explanation of all these events. Had he done so, it would have completely altered the thrust of his speech, and had a profound [357] effect on the subsequent debate and questioning.

He described the handling of the Smyth case as the consequence of “a system developed for past conditions failing to cope with present realities”; he asserted to the House that he “had asked tough questions” about the system; he said that he regarded the Attorney General's explanation as “a record of system failure, and as something showing the gaps, the flaws, and the liabilities that had to be tackled”. None of this, and a great deal more, is possible to reconcile with the new information available to the Taoiseach, but not given to the House yesterday.

Having made this discovery, I went with some of my colleagues to meet the Taoiseach shortly before noon today. I outlined to the Taoiseach what I had discovered and the implications of that discovery.

Before concluding I thank my Government colleagues for their efforts and dedicated work in achieving our objectives outlined in the Programme for Government. I wish them and their families who suffer a lot in the business of politics and public life well for the future. For the reasons I have outlined it will be obvious to the House that neither I nor any of my colleagues can vote confidence in the Government at the conclusion of this debate. All my Labour colleagues in Cabinet and all Ministers of State who are members of the Labour Party will resign from their offices before the vote is taken. The House is entitled to nothing less from us.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Shakespeare said, in Hamlet,“There is something rotten in the State of Denmark”. Far be it for me to change his words but there is something really rotten in the State of Ireland. There is also an appropriate quote from an English poet: “The well measured truth that tells the blacker lies”. The well measured truth according to the Taoiseach has told the blacker lies. He has come into the House today like Dr. Frankenstein and sought to [358] destroy the monster he created. His speech yesterday led to the newspaper headline “Reynolds defends Whelehan's integrity”. Yesterday, he blamed the system, in the past different civil servants and today the monster he created — the former Attorney General who did not tell the truth, the person who now holds the second most senior judicial office in the State and has considerable power. He holds it because the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, wanted him to fill it.

Many ordinary people are asking why did the Taoiseach risk so much, the downfall of his Government, tainting the Judiciary and destroying the institutions of the State, in order to appoint Mr. Harry Whelehan President of the High Court. Yesterday the Taoiseach quoted precedent. He quoted from Professor Basil Chubb's book as follows:

By custom the Attorney General, a political appointee, who is the Government's legal adviser and state prosecutor, is always offered any vacancy to the High Court that occurs during his term of office.

He went on to say that he underlined “the word any, which clearly includes the Presidency”. He did not however quote the leading authority in this field, Professor J P Casey who had this to say at page 177 of his book The Office of the Attorney General in Ireland:

As regards the Presidency of the High Court, this Office, too, has had six holders; only two, Maguire and O'Keeffe, were ex-attorneys and, again, neither was appointed directly.

Whatever about the pre-1924 position it would be difficult to argue in any circumstances than an incumbent Attorney had any prescriptive claim to succeed to either Office.

We did not have to reply to Professor Casey; we have now been told by the Tánaiste that in a speaking note prepared for the Taoiseach by the secretary to the Government he drew attention to this fact.

[359] I said that we probably belong to a rotten State but I wish to single out one person for praise this evening, the present Attorney General, Mr. Eoghan Fitzsimons. When his name was mentioned as the person likely to be appointed Attorney General by the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, I heard many people say that he was far too straight ever to be appointed and that he had no chance. He was appointed and I thank him in particular for insisting that the truth be told this evening, even at this late hour, by the Taoiseach. As the Taoiseach said, the present Attorney General told him on Monday that there was a precedent, the Duggan case. Yet, the Taoiseach blamed someone else because it was not included in his speaking note.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  Nonsense; do not be so patronising.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  He said in his speech:

Another issue has also arisen, the Attorney General, in the course of an exposition on various aspects of the case, referred in my presence on Monday to the existence of a previous case, prior to the Smyth case, the Duggan case, which had involved consideration of the lapse of time....

He did not blame himself for failing to bring this to our attention yesterday, he blamed a civil servant —“I was not supplied with speaking material to insert into my speech referring to this point”.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  An auto pilot Taoiseach.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is pathetic that the person who should be accountable for what has happened, the person who holds the most senior political position in the State, the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, has once again come into the House and, like a drowning man, grabbed on to something to try to save himself. There were many who thought the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef [360] Industry would bring down the Taoiseach. They are right because the beef tribunal caused this problem. I agree with what Deputy Rabbitte said yesterday: Mr. Harry Whelehan had to get the job, no matter what the consequences, because he, as Attorney General, protected this Taoiseach by taking the Cabinet confidentiality case.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Outrageous.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  That is a fact and the only reason Harry Whelehan was appointed President of the High Court.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  High standards.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  A pay-back for services rendered.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  This is a substantive motion and, therefore, political charges are deemed to be quite in order but Deputies should be warned not to go over the top with such allegations.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  We are understating them.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  The Chair should not be defensive as his days are numbered. Let us hear the Deputy.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  The Deputy should not refer to the Chair in that fashion.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Do not be defensive, the Chair should not be protecting the Government——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  The Deputy should not refer to the Chair in that fashion.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  ——in its dying moments.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I merely make political charges and I thank the Chair for allowing me to do that.

I want people to be aware of the serious issue with which we are dealing.

[361] Four of Fr. Smyth's victims are members of an ordinary family in west Belfast and when they became aware of the child sexual abuse against four of its members they went to the RUC who took two years to investigate the matter and prepare its files. The RUC sought the extradition of Fr. Smyth, sent the files to the Garda Síochána and the warrants were passed on to the Department of Justice, the Chief State Solicitor and the Attorney General. While the files sat idly in the Attorney General's office a priest from the Norbertine Order went to the family and implored them to drop the case. The pressure became so bad that one of them, a 21 year old girl, almost committed suicide. The family approached Cardinal Cathal Daly and after that Fr. Smyth voluntarily returned to face trial.

I want people to be aware of the serious nature of the case that has led to this no confidence motion — somebody's life was almost destroyed. I do not believe that Harry Whelehan, the then Attorney General, who was responsible for the procedures in place in his office should have been appointed to any judicial office after that fact became known. It is a sad reflection on this House that earlier today rumours were put out by senior people in Fianna Fáil to the effect that a very leading church person was involved in representations to seek to stop the extradition.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Nonsense.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is a pity the Taoiseach did not see fit to condemn those very senior people who were putting out those rumours. I am delighted that the reputation of Cardinal Daly and others will not be destroyed to protect the political life of some people. There are certain standards beyond which nobody should go to preserve his own political career.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Do not preach to me about standards.

[362]Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  The Minister would not know what they are.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  In his speech the Taoiseach said that if he had been aware of the Duggan case — in other words if the former Attorney General had told him the truth — Mr. Whelehan would never have been appointed to the position last Friday and would have had to resign as Attorney General. He went on to say:

If the former Attorney General was still the holder of that office, he would in my view in the circumstances have had no option but to resign. He would be honourably accepting responsibility for the fact that his report did not disclose [the matter in relation to the Duggan case] the fact that there had been a previous case,

The Taoiseach is saying that if he did not resign it would be dishonourable. Who is responsible under the Ministers and Secretaries Act for the office of Attorney General? Who else should resign? The Taoiseach feels the Attorney General should have resigned but he did not give us the full facts yesterday even though he was told them on Monday. Should he consider resigning?

Let me outline some facts about the Taoiseach. I will start with the beef tribunal.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Demonisation.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  As Minister, Deputy Reynolds exposed the taxpayers to liabilities well in excess of £100 million. I am quoting from the beef tribunal report.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The raison d'etre of the Progressive Democrats.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Who was held accountable for that? Nobody — perhaps Ms Susan O'Keeffe when she comes for trial early next year. The authority of the IDA was usurped when the Taoiseach was the responsible Minister but who was held accountable for that? [363] Nobody was held accountable because it did not suit the person who should have been held accountable and he then became Taoiseach. In September 1991, when Deputy Reynolds was Minister for Finance, an intermediary approached C & D Pet Foods to offer a £1.1 million investment by the Masri family; on 5 November he was dismissed from Government and on 5 February 1992 he became Taoiseach.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Did Deputy O'Malley ever hear of Diamond Engineering?

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  In March 1992 an investment of £1.1 million was made in the Taoiseach's family company by two citizens.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  I did not give the people a passport.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Masri's invested £1.1 million in the Taoiseach's family business. They never registered any security for that loan.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Hypocrite.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Deputy Cowen is not behaving like a Minister.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Deputy Harney should be allowed the same level of order afforded to other speakers.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  They never registered any security for that loan with the Companies Office, because if they had everybody would have been able to see the file. Not many people wondered why that was the case but we discovered recently that a State bank had acted as security.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  At the request of the Taoiseach.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  This Taoiseach, in particular, and perhaps some of his associates seem to believe that Ireland should [364] be run for the interests of a few people and if they are being looked after that is in the national interest. What other companies had access like the Taoiseach's family business? When the Masri case was raised in this House, our questions were ruled out of order and Deputy McDowell had to prepare a Bill and arrange with Deputy Rabbitte to oppose it——

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  His new friend.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  ——to have the issue discussed in this House. Is that a Taoiseach who is accountable? He said at that time he had not been involved in his family business for 14 years yet, under sworn evidence to the beef tribunal, he said that between 1983-87 he had been so active in C & D Pet Foods he knew a great deal about the food industry and he knew so much about export credit insurance he could dismiss the official advice.

In April he said he had not been involved in his family business for 14 years but he told the beef tribunal he had been involved up to 1987. Which is the truth?

When I hear the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Cowen, heckling I can only say they are the heckles of someone who is desperate.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  BIFFO.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Taoiseach said that the former Attorney General and the person who handled the file forgot about the Duggan case, Deputy Cowen forgot about his shares — a great many are suffering from forgetfulness over there. They need to be reminded that when they are caught out, they should not push civil servants out to take the rap.

The Taoiseach: Information on Albert Reynolds  Zoom on Albert Reynolds  I never did.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I mentioned yesterday that the Taoiseach said if he had taken the advice of the Civil Service the peace [365] process would never have happened. He downs the civil servants to take credit for himself and he puts them out when he is not prepared to take the blame.

It is easy for the Taoiseach to say that he lives by standards. One person's standards are perhaps different from other people's standards but there are basic community standards, basic values by which ordinary people expect us to live. Those of us who represent the people in this House are honoured and we have a duty to live and work by normal decent values. People do not want saints in the Dáil or as Taoiseach; they want ordinary people who are prepared to adhere to ordinary standards and they want people to take the rap and the responsibility when they get it wrong.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  That excludes the Progressive Democrats.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Taoiseach in his speech today referred to honouring the commitment. He said: “In honouring this commitment, I was dealing with Harry Whelehan on the same basis as I had dealt with people all my life in business and politics ... that is, my word is my bond”. The Taoiseach's word is not his bond because the Secretary of the Government told him there was no precedent for the appointment of Harry Whelehan to the Presidency of the High Court, as the Tánaiste has said. On Monday of this week, the new Attorney General, Eoghan Fitzsimons, told the Taoiseach about the Duggan case but he did not tell us about that yesterday.

Is the Taoiseach's word his bond? He has sought all along, since this controversy arose, to blame other people. Yesterday it was the system, today it is the monster he created himself and in a very cowardly attack — because that is what it is — he says that Harry Whelehan should have resigned if he was Attorney General and he should not have been appointed. Of course, there is nothing he can do about that now. I wonder did he ask Harry Whelehan today to resign. Has he been asked to resign in view of [366] the circumstances outlined by the Taoiseach?

I think ordinary people will say there is one other person who must resign and that must be the Taoiseach. Albert Reynolds, because he is responsible and accountable. If he believes in openness and accountability, he has no option but to resign.

Democracy is a very fragile thing and sometimes many people take it for granted. They do not do that in other countries and I want to outline what happens in other countries in relation to matters such as this. Poul Schluter, the former Premier of Denmark, resigned in January 1993. Why did he resign? It was not because he did anything wrong himself but because he stood by his Minister for Justice who had misled Parliament. That is why he resigned. Brian Burke, the former Premier of Western Australia, was jailed for two years because he fiddled £8,000 of election funds. What would have happened to Brian Burke if he was in Ireland and had exposed the taxpayers to the loss of over £100 million?

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  He would have been promoted. He would be made Taoiseach.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  He would be Taoiseach of Ireland.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  He would be the first Progressive Democrat to get jail for——

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  And there are several other examples of British politicians who resigned when they misled the House.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  We are all crooks.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I wonder will the Minister for Justice do that and whether the Taoiseach who stood by her is even considering that. It is only two years ago since the Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, brought down his first Government. He went to the beef tribunal——

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  No harm, either.

[367]Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Minister Cowen does not believe it was any harm but there are people who have respect for the institutions of this country——

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  So have I and I will not be lectured by Deputy Harney.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  ——for the Executive, for the Judiciary and for Parliament.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  So have Fianna Fáil people.

Mrs. Doyle: Information on Avril Doyle  Zoom on Avril Doyle  Minister Cowen has respect for the planning system, as we found out.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Taoiseach went to the beef tribunal and accused one of his own Ministers, the Leader of the other party in his Government, of perjury, of lying under oath. We are sometimes told he did not say “perjury”. He was given 13 or 14 opportunities by Mr. O'Malley's counsel in cross examination to withdraw or clarify those charges and he chose not to do so. He deliberately set out to destroy that Government and to cause a general election.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  What did Deputy O'Malley say in July?

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Perhaps he may have learned a lesson in the general election but whatever lesson he learned during the campaign is long since forgotten. The price that had to be paid to Harry Whelehan was so great——

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Deputy can hand it out but she cannot take it.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  ——that the Taoiseach was once again prepared to destroy another Government and to taint the Judiciary in order to preserve himself.

I do not believe that that is credible and I do not believe that most ordinary people will accept it is credible. The Taoiseach should look at those fine examples in other democracies where they do not take these things for [368] granted. They know that democracy is a fragile thing and that we need eternal vigilance to ensure it is preserved. It is an honour to represent people and a great honour to serve in Government.

There are many fine examples of people who have served in Fianna Fáil Governments and in this and the last Government and I know many of them are deeply ashamed of what is happening. To keep one person in office, the Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, is now prepared, for the second occasion in just two years, to bring down his own Government.

Reference was made by the Taoiseach to the peace process and I have given him due credit for the enormous role he played. That peace process, however, also involves a reconciliation process and reconciliation can only be built on the basis of trust and openness. If people are not trusted, if they are not open and accountable, they can never bring about reconciliation. Many people have been watching our deliberations over the past few days. I believe all politicians are on trial and, as I said yesterday, the lesson from the Cork by-elections is that many people are dissatisfied at what passes for politics in this House. Are we seriously to accept that the Taoiseach is going to put himself above all those interests, the preservation of our fragile democracy, the preservation of his Government, the future of the Judiciary and all the matters to which I referred earlier?

In his speech yesterday the Taoiseach said that he would not stay in Government at any cost. He said:

I have sought to achieve certain goals which may be summed up as peace and prosperity in this country. I have no attachment to office for its own sake. I have always set myself high standards and I would rather sacrifice office than the basic principles of good Government.

I do not accept the Taoiseach believes that. He was prepared, in relation to the Structural Funds, to divvy up the famous £8 billion — which was never in the [369] bag — in order to get into this Government. He is now prepared to do the Dr. Frankenstein on the monster he created in order to preserve his position as Taoiseach. Despite what we have heard from the Tánaiste — and the Labour Party will obviously withdraw from this Government — the Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, is putting himself above the interests of this country and, I suggest, above the interests of his own party. I know many members of his own party do not agree with how this matter was handled.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The Deputy should not lecture us.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Deputy Bruton and others referred to what might happen tomorrow when this motion is defeated. The discretion is the President's and hers alone. The responsibility of all political leaders and parties in this House is to play their part if so requested and if a dissolution of the Dáil is refused to put in place an alternative administration. All parties must be flexible and constructive and must be prepared to compromise. That is what the people who have elected us expect and they are entitled to expect no less.

I want to give an assurance on behalf of the Progressive Democrats that I and my colleagues will do that. It is important that the people have an opportunity to put in place a Government formed on the basis of trust and openness, a Government where there is cohesion. Policies are obviously a fundamental matter but regardless of the policies, the system or the committees, if there is not any trust and if one is not dealing with honourable people in an open and honest way, we cannot have good Government.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Tell me about it.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  That will be the fundamental hallmark of the negotiations that take place so far as the Progressive Democrats are concerned. We will deal with people we believe we can deal [370] with, openly and honestly, in the interests of the people we are honoured to represent.

I said earlier this week that Harry Whelehan should resign as President of the High Court. What I heard today from the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste confirms that he should do so. He will be in the position for over 20 years but for as long as he is President he will seriously taint the Judiciary and erode public confidence in it. He will have enormous powers. He will decide which judges will hear which cases. He will have new powers under the Courts and Court Officers Bill. He will influence which judges will be appointed in the future. He will sit on constituency revisions and deputise for the Chief Justice if he is not available. If the Chief Justice is not available he will sit on the Presidential Commission. Given his record and what we heard today, Harry Whelehan should not remain in that office. Even if we have an election or a new Government we have no way of removing him from office unless for stated misbehaviour as a judge or because of incapacity through mental health or whatever. The option to resign is his alone. I hope he exercises that option. It is a sorry state of affairs that he was prepared to accept an appointment with all the risks attached.

The Taoiseach should take responsibility for this sorry mess and resign. He did not give us the facts yesterday or today given the Tánaiste's outline of what happened when the Labour Party Ministers left Government last Friday. The Taoiseach seemed to think the Labour Ministers were leaving to register their opposition but the Tánaiste has made it clear that they had five hours of discussion and the Labour view was quite clear. Yet the Taoiseach expects us to accept that incredible scenario.

The reason the Taoiseach is prepared to say these things, is as in the past, that he wants to save himself. He said yesterday that he did not want to hold onto office at any cost but that is not so. If there is an election following on the happenings in the House today and [371] tomorrow the responsibility lies with one man and people will say that no man, no matter who he is, should put himself above the interests of the House and country we are proud to represent.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Us again.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Taoiseach alone has caused this sorry mess and he should do the honourable thing he would have required of the former Attorney General. He must resign and stop putting himself and holding onto office before everything else.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  Given the astonishing revelations by the Taoiseach in opening the debate any remaining shred of credibility surrounding his judgement is gone and given the Tánaiste's announcement of his and his Labour colleagues' resignation from Government he clearly has no option but to resign. What is extraordinary is that he did not offer to resign in the course of his speech. The Taoiseach stated:

However, the report was seriously misleading on this issue. If the former Attorney General were still in office he would have responsibility as Attorney General for his report. His responsibility would be particularly grave as he has cleared the warrants in the Duggan case and his signature is on the relevant submission. If the former Attorney General were still the holder of that office, he would, in my view, in the circumstances have no option but to resign. He would be honourably accepting responsibility for the fact that his report did not disclose the facts that there had been a previous case in which the same question of law was considered and which had been dealt with by him.

He further states:

Another issue also has arisen. The Attorney General, in the course of an exposition on various aspects of the case, referred in my presence on Monday to the existence of a previous [372] case prior to the Smyth case — the Duggan case — which involved consideration of the lapse of time and of the same provision that arose in the Smyth case under the 1965 Extradition Act.....

He does on to excuse the fact that he did not refer to the information he had on Monday in the speech he made yesterday by saying: “I was not supplied with speaking material to insert into my speech referring to this point”. If it would have been the honourable thing for the Attorney General to resign for having misled the Government surely it would be honourable for the Taoiseach to resign having deliberately misled the House yesterday. Having been told on Monday there was a second case——

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  He did not deliberately mislead the House.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  The Deputy does not agree? It is in the Taoiseach's speech where he states “another issue has also arisen. The Attorney General, in the course of an exposition on various aspects of the case, referred in my presence on Monday to the existence of a previous case” and he goes on to detail the Duggan case. Yet, he came into the House and gave an excuse. He said one of the reasons the Smyth case was delayed was it was the first case dealt with under the 1987 Extradition Act. He expects us to believe it would be honourable for the Attorney General to resign but not apparently for him to do so when he deliberately misled the House.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  He did not deliberately mislead the House.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  He did.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  No, he did not.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  He knew the facts on Monday and misled us yesterday. He led us to believe that he did not know another case had been dealt with [373] under the Act yet he admits today that he knew. How does the Deputy disagree that he should resign?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I will reply later in the debate.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  The Deputy has no answer.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Your party will have abandoned the pair of you by that stage.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  What do you know about Fianna Fáil? Your seed, breed and generation were anti Fianna Fáil.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  You are dead meat.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  You would not know Fianna Fáil if it hit you in the face.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  Never in almost 14 years in this House have I witnessed events as bizarre and unprecedented as today's happenings. The Government is in absolute disarray, with the two sets of Ministers sitting apart in the House, unable to arrive into the Dáil on time, the Government Whip failing to turn up for Whips' meetings, the Minister for Justice conspicuous by her absence from the House despite the clear interest of her Department in the matters at the heart of this controversy, rumours sweeping the House of imminent resignations from the Cabinet, and the Government seeking adjournment after adjournment while it attempts to cobble together a deal to save it from the wrath of the electorate.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  What about the rumours you spread this morning?

Mr. E. Byrne: Information on Eric J. Byrne  Zoom on Eric J. Byrne  What about the rumours you spread?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I never spread a rumour in my life.

[374]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy without interruption.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  Most of today's proceedings were transmitted live on television. Deputy Cowen does not like free speech and he does not like opposition. He will get a taste of it.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I will take you on at the hustings any time.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  It is not like the past when the public had to wait until the following day to read newspaper accounts of proceedings; they can now follow events as they happen. They can spot evasion; they can see equivocation and can recognise today's events as demonstrating a Government in a complete shambles.

What is now clear to everyone is that the decision to appoint Mr. Whelehan as President of the High Court has been one of the most serious misjudgements ever made by a Taoiseach and one of the worst decisions ever taken by a Government. On the Taoiseach's admission, a person who is manifestly unsuited to hold high legal office has been appointed to the second most senior judicial position in the country. The President of the High Court normally sits under the symbol of the State, the harp, but Mr. Whelehan will serve out his term of office, however long that may be, with a major question mark over his head.

Let us not forget what this controversy is about: it is about an Attorney General who failed utterly to carry out his duties in a satisfactory manner, whose negligence may well have put further children at risk of serious sexual abuse, and the Taoiseach's insistence that he be appointed to the Presidency of the High Court.

The Taoiseach's speech represents the ultimate in political cynicism. From a virtually unqualified defence of the role of Mr. Whelehan in this affair just 24 hours ago, the Taoiseach now confesses that the report the Attorney General gave to the Cabinet and which the [375] Taoiseach passed on to the House yesterday was seriously flawed and misleading in a number of crucial respects. The implication of the Taoiseach's statement this evening was that Mr. Whelehan was either a fool or a liar.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  He never said he was a liar.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  The Taoiseach said if he knew last Friday what he now knows, Mr. Whelehan would not only not have been appointed to the Presidency of the High Court but he would have been expected to resign as Attorney General. The Taoiseach has followed the tradition set by his predecessor as Leader of Fianna Fáil in throwing loyal followers to the wolves. The only difference in this case is that Harry Whelehan is protected from the wolves.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  You are wolves.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  When the appointment has been made he cannot be removed from office by the Oireachtas for something of which he is accused prior to his appointment.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  I would not be so sure about that.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  If Mr. Whelehan does not resign then he will serve as President of the High Court for more than 20 years. What does that say about the integrity of our judicial system? The question the Taoiseach must now answer, and which he failed to address in his speech, is: if Mr. Whelehan's appointment was wrong and should not have been made what will he do to have that appointment unmade?

Those who sit in our courts have enormous powers. They not only determine in many cases whether an accused person will go to jail, they also have the power to strike down legislation passed by this House. What are the citizens of this State to make of a man sitting in [376] judgment on such matters who has been indicted by the Taoiseach as being unfit to hold office?

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  And this within hours of his appointment.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  What are Mr. Whelehan's colleagues on the Bench to make of the appointment and the subsequent gutting of him by the Taoiseach?

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Personal integrity is not——

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  If Mr. Whelehan's appointment as President of the High Court should not have been made then those who insisted on making it, despite the questions hanging over him, in the absence of half the Cabinet and the entire Labour Party membership stand indicted of one of the most serious errors of political judgement since the foundation of the State.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Hear, hear.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  Can anyone recall an issue of such magnitude on which the Taoiseach admitted being so completely, utterly and disastrously wrong? It is unthinkable that the Taoiseach should remain in office and inconceivable that any other party could facilitate him remaining in office.

Others bear their share of responsibility for this disastrous affair. In my contribution yesterday I pointed out that the warrants had been sent to the Department of Justice at the same time they were received by the Attorney General's office and asked why nobody in the Department of Justice had thought it worthwhile to inquire what happened to the warrants and why no progress had been made in processing them. Given what we have learned this evening, the questions for the Minister for Justice, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, take on an added importance.

Against the background of this affair there is now an emerging consensus [377] among the majority of people that Fianna Fáil must be removed from office. The public had endured more than seven years during which Fianna Fáil has been in Government on its own, in coalition with the Progressive Democrats or the Labour Party, and each has been worse than the other. Fianna Fáil believes that it is the natural party of government. Whatever about its honourable roots the evidence of recent years is that it is not now suitable for Government and will require a substantial period in opposition to undergo a process of political rehabilitation. The record of Fianna Fáil in Government since 1987 has been characterised by political arrogance, scarcely concealed contempt for the public and a toleration of unacceptable standards in public office.

We still do not know whether the outcome of today's proceedings will lead to the fall of the Government but we do not know that the consequences——

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Who wrote the script for the Deputy? Whoever it was got it wrong. They have given away the fact that someone writes his scripts for him.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  It is astonishing that the Minister, who always speaks from notes, should say something like that.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  Unlike the Minister, I do not have a barrage of well paid advisers and script writers.

We know that the Government will fall but we do not know if there will be a general election or whether efforts will be made to form a new Government. Democratic Left will ensure, in so far as it can, that Fianna Fáil does not remain in office but will go into Opposition whether as a result of the formation of a new Administration without a general election or as a result of a general election.

The tawdry Whelehan affair is a fitting epitaph for a Government which promised much but delivered little. The Government, which promised to restore [378] confidence in the democratic process, perhaps did more than any other recent Administration to undermine public confidence in the democratic system. This Coalition, which promised greater openness and participation at all levels, battened down the hatches and attempted to deny the public information to which it was entitled, a new low typified in recent weeks by the efforts of the Attorney General to block the Comptroller and Auditor General from publishing information he had compiled on the operation of the tax amnesty——

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Hear, hear.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  ——and the admission by the Minister for Defence that he had doctored a reply to a Dáil question regarding the cost of the Government jet.

This Administration pledged to ensure the highest standards in public life but the reality of its record was a toleration of political sleaze — political nepotism, a Taoiseach who did not know that wealthy Arabs had invested more than £1 million in his family firm and a Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Cowen, who has now left the House — perhaps for good——

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  It would certainly be for the better.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  He will be back.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  ——who forgot that he had shares in a mining company whose application for a mining licence was being considered by his Department.

The Labour Party cannot evade its share of the responsibility for the disastrous performance of the Government but primary responsibility must rest with Fianna Fáil. All too often the Labour Party was prepared to look the other way, to turn a blind eye and to leave unasked the questions that needed to be put. It was only when it came to [379] the nomination of Harry Whelehan that Labour discovered its conscience and voice. The Taoiseach miscalculated in pushing ahead with the appointment of Mr. Whelehan but perhaps this is not altogether surprising if he thought he could get away with it, given the docile and compliant attitude of the Labour Party on virtually every other issue of principle to have emerged during the lifetime of the Government.

Labour made its first mistake when it agreed to the nomination of Harry Whelehan as Attorney General in January 1993 despite the reservations it had about him arising from his handling of the X case and his conduct in regard to the beef tribunal. Labour not only accepted the scandalous amnesty for tax crooks in embarrassed silence and ducked the issues raised by the passports for sale affair but the Tánaiste helpfully provided a political alibi for the Taoiseach by inspecting the file and saying everything was fine. Labour went along with privatisation and the taxation of social welfare unemployment and disability benefits. It accepted the humiliation heaped on it by the manner in which the Taoiseach broke his agreement with the Tánaiste and leaked highly selective extracts from the Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry, designed to put the most favourable possible spin on the highly damning conclusions of Mr. Justice Hamilton. Despite its pledge to improve ethics in public office, to judge from the silence Labour clearly regarded the holding by Minister Cowen of shares in Arcon and the manner in which a crucial document relating to safety of the mine was altered as matters of little consequence.

Given these events and what we now know about the Whelehan affair, will the Tánaiste indicate to the House at some stage in what way Fianna Fáil has reformed, changed or been radically transformed from the picture he painted of it in October 1992 as a party which “has gone so far down the road of blindness to standards and of blindness to the [380] people they are supposed to represent that it is impossible to see how anyone could support them in the future without first seeing them undergo the most radical transformation”? The only way Fianna Fáil can undergo that radical transformation is in Opposition.

Minister for Finance (Mr. B. Ahern): Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have listened carefully to the contributions of the Taoiseach and the other party leaders. As a member of Fianna Fáil and Minister for Finance I wish to refer to the part we played in Government during the past two years. We delivered an effective economic programme while our policies ensured that we are well placed to take advantage of the upturn in the international economy. We have low inflation, stable industrial relations, high growth rates, low interest rates and, based on all the recent surveys, growing employment. While these economic points may not figure large in the House this evening the majority of citizens regard them of prime importance in terms of their everyday lives.

This partnership Government has delivered a programme over the past two years that has been extraordinarily beneficial for the country. Our policies mean that we are well placed to take full advantage of what is happening in international markets. Low inflation and high growth rates, which are predicted by the ESRI, OECD and other independent surveys to remain so until the end of the decade, will help to deal with the number one difficulty of this Government — and I am sure of future Governments — of high unemployment. Confidence in this country has been at its highest level for years. The people will understand that we have to try to pursue these policies regardless of what happens in this debate.

I want to put before this House the achievements of this Government to date, in the economic stewardship of the country and the success we have had in ensuring the firm fiscal foundation and sound planning which are critical to sustainable job creation. We have stated [381] time and again that we recognise clearly that unemployment is the scourge of our times and that we should identify the root causes of unemployment in our society. We have said that we would devise strategies to combat unemployment and create employment and that we would focus incentives on people who wanted to develop business, on areas that needed rejuvenation and on organisations that would localise the drive for employment from the ground up. We have said that we would lower as far as possible the burden of taxation on employment, employees and employers.

Key decisions of my own and other Departments have been analysed and assessed for their employment potential and content. It is no coincidence that from January to October this year we have had the highest ever fall in unemployment figures for that period; it confirms that the benefits of the Government's employment strategy are being realised in real jobs. I mention this because the provision of many solid jobs, one of the key aims of our partnership Government for the past two years has been successful. Nothing must distract governments of the future from implementing the plans and programmes that have been successful in this area. I wish to outline briefly the vibrant economic background that is the springboard of our present economic growth.

In the Programme for a Partnership Government we undertook to promote a high level of economic growth, consistent with the maintenance of low, single figure inflation, so as to create the greatest possible employment demand. We also indicated our intention to maintain firm control of the public finances, keeping the budget deficit within the Maastricht Treaty limit of 3 per cent of GDP and ensuring further reductions in the debt-GDP ratio. This budgetary stance was seen as an essential underpinning to economic growth and the creation of sustainable jobs.

There are excellent prospects ahead for the economy. As to growth, the [382] economy will have expanded by 8.5 per cent over 1993 and 1994 combined, a considerable increase in output over such a short time-span.

Growth in 1993 was based on a very solid export performance. As the year progressed, domestic confidence picked up and domestic demand began to contribute more to overall economic expansion. This pattern has continued into 1994 and is forecast for 1995. Sales of motor vehicles are up 27 per cent on 1993 in the period to end-September. It is also evidenced by the strength of non-garage retail sales which are over 3.5 per cent on 1993. It has spilled over into investment, as witnessed by the major surge in residential construction: it now seems that construction investment will be 6.5 to 7 per cent up on last year. Rising sales of goods vehicles point to an expansion in productive investment.

On the inflation front, too, this Government has delivered. The Government wishes to stress the importance of low inflation. It is not a matter of wanting to minimise wage increases or welfare or other income growth, it is quite the opposite. The aim is to underpin competitiveness and future prospects of still faster employment gains. Low inflation gives confidence to investors and ensures that Irish output can increasingly penetrate overseas markets. Employment growth follows. Low inflation also means that moderate wage growth can translate into real increases in purchasing power. These are the policies which we followed and which have worked.

The deficit will remain comfortably below the Maastricht Treaty threshold. That will bring our debt ratio down appreciably at the end of the year. As the debt ratio falls, the burden of ongoing debt-service on the economy will also be reduced and the basis for future growth will be strengthened. These achievements have been singled out for praise in many locations. I hope these policies will continue to be pursued.

It will be clear from what I said that the economic policies in train, under the [383] partnership Government, have paid off, even in a short period of less than half of the life of the Government. It is equally important to realise that they will continue to do so. The judgement of the European Union and the OECD is that, in 1995, Ireland will see another year of strong economic and employment growth. That view is also common among private forecasters here at home. It confirms that the policies which this Government has adopted are the right ones and must be pursued.

In our Programme for Government during the past two years we said that the key to our whole approach would be to develop a strong sense of partnership throughout the economy, in our society and in our community, a partnership that would be dynamic and creative. Among the main priorities of the programme were the following: to have more people working; to create greater equality in our society including equality for women, and the elimination as far as possible of social disadvantage and poverty; to encourage local initiative — an area in which the Taoiseach has worked hard to give effect to the county enterprise boards — and to develop and support a full cultural life throughout the country. We have acted energetically in pursuit of all these priorities.

Since the key to our whole approach is to develop strong partnership throughout our community we aimed from the start to develop social consensus. We achieved that consensus in the Programme for Competitiveness and Work, a programme which was completed less than a year ago. Hopefully that programme will continue. The success of its first year of operation is clear.

We looked at the proposals in the Programme for National Recovery and the Programme for Economic and Social Progress and tried to build on them. I hope that the Programme for Competitiveness and Work will be completed for the benefit of the social partners.

We have provided £30 million to the [384] health agencies to reduce waiting lists. This was a priority we said we would deliver on. This initiative has brought about dramatic improvements in this area. We have undertaken to have the Child Care Act fully operational by the end of 1996. We have already put in place new service developments that will cost £20 million in 1995. We have provided substantial additional money for services for the mentally handicapped, the elderly and for the dental services.

In education we have retained primary teachers in the sector despite the rapid fall in primary pupils. This has allowed us to make dramatic progress in reducing class size. The benefits of smaller classes have been targeted particularly on schools in disadvantaged areas. As well as keeping control of the finances and strong fiscal policies we have had an opportunity to assist the economy to grow and provide essential services.

In social welfare we have increased child benefit from £15.80 to £25 for third and subsequent children in a family. We have provided large increases in funding for the social housing programme. Under this programme, 6,000 were housed in 1992. In the current year, this will have increased by 50 per cent to about 9,000 and is likely to be somewhat higher, based on the estimates, again next year.

This Government has taken a serious view of the crime problem and the Minister for Justice has prepared a package of measures to tackle it.

The Government recognises that job creation of the conventional kind, no matter how vigorously pursued, will not provide a full answer to our unemployment problem. Our programme for Government envisaged a community employment programme, with the aim of giving over 30,000 people an opportunity to participate and come off the live register.

We have acted on the recommendations of the Culliton report, taking on board the factors that affect output and productivity. We have put a new [385] emphasis on developing indigenous industry and, in particular, on building up small and medium sized indigenous industry. We have radically restructured the industrial development agencies and recently the Minister for Tourism and Trade, Deputy McCreevy, announced changes in Bord Fáilte.

In the area of the commercial State bodies we have looked at how we can make the State sector more efficient and to assist it in whatever way we can. We provided resources for Aer Lingus, Irish Steel and others. We are not prepared to have an inefficient State sector. We have worked hard to use resources productively by introducing major strategies. That has worked well up to now and I hope whatever Government is in power in future will continue to implement those strategies in the context of Aer Lingus, Irish Steel and others, companies in which we were prepared to commit taxpayers' money to help the management and workforce to provide viable plans.

It is increasingly clear that an efficient and up-to-date telecommunications system is crucial to the competitiveness of every sector of our economy. It was brought home forcibly to me recently that the International Financial Services Centre would not have been so successful if successive Governments had not invested heavily in telecommunications and that centre can prove to be an even greater success in the years ahead. The Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications has been considering how best to further develop our telecommunications network in the years ahead.

Governments are rightly judged on their tax record and we made many changes in that regard. In the Programme for Government we set out a platform for major change and achieved much in a two year period. We made substantial progress in extending the process of tax reform and lowering tax rates. A whole raft of incentives was introduced specifically to deal with business creation, small start-up enterprises, [386] family business and the problems of small and medium sized companies. They cover new and substantial assets, reliefs in capital acquisitions tax, a special 27 per cent capital gains tax rate for shares in unquoted trading companies, extension of roll-over reliefs under the capital gains tax for business investments, extension of VAT accounting on a cash receipts basis and a new urban incentive scheme. In some of those areas we made a first step and in others a second step in 1994 and in all of them we outlined areas where improvements can be made. I hope progress continues in that area because those incentives were widely welcomed by the social partners, the business community, IBEC and the ISME Business Association.

In our Programme for Government we made it very clear that we wanted to be in a position in which we could participate in economic and monetary union at the outset and derive a fair share of the benefits of the Single Market. To that end, we committed ourselves in our programme to basing budgetary policy on the overriding requirements of the Maastricht Treaty and reaffirmed that in the Programme for Competiveness and Work. The past two budgets were framed strictly in accordance with the criteria laid down in Maastricht, not just because Maastricht dictated but because in the view of both parties in Government this was right for policies adopted here, and much was achieved as a result.

The Programme for Government stated that the Government would develop a vigorous third banking force. Through appropriate restructuring of State banks, including the TSB, we can increase competition to the benefit of the overall economy, especially for small and medium sized companies. Earlier this year I appointed consultants to advise on all the options available to the Government. Having studied their report I was ready to put a memorandum before Government recommending a course of action designed to [387] advance the objective set out in the Programme for Government. This is a crucial development for the future of competition in Irish banking and I am sure Members will agree that a continuation of the present uncertainty would not be in the best interest of the parties concerned. I hope the proposals in that memorandum, which have been worked out over a period of seven months, will be followed through.

The Government is engaged in the preparation of important legislation to modernise and strengthen the regulation of the financial system, namely, the Stock Exchange Bill and the Bill to regulate investment intermediaries. The Government of the Central Bank will in future report to a committee of this House and bank charges will not be considered in my Department but by the Director of Consumer Affairs.

On financial matters generally, the objective of exchange rate and monetary policy continues to be price stability. I hope future Governments continue to implement that policy because it was supported over the past few years by Members of the House, it has led to a well managed economy and, together, they provided the basis for low interest rates. This has greatly benefited borrowers and mortgage holders, both nominal and real interest rates fell substantially in the past two years and the key one month interbank rate is now 5.25 per cent. This gives us an opportunity to build on the strength of our economy. A 20 year mortgage of £40,000 now costs about £1,200 per annum less than it did before the currency crisis. Credit rating agencies have supported our financial position by improving the status and standing of credit rates.

The Tánaiste and the Taoiseach referred to the differences of the past few days and the Taoiseach quoted from a letter of 15 November submitted to him by Eoghan Fitzsimons, the newly appointed Attorney General, which states:

[388] The Smyth case is not the first time that the section was considered. It was considered in the Duggan case though without any deep legal study of or any research into the issue of delay being carried out. The facts of the Duggan case however in my view made such further research unnecessary. The delay involved was some four to six years. The Attorney General took the correct decision in my view in sending the accused back on this occasion.

The problem about the Duggan case in the overall context arises from the fact that the delay in that case was from four to six years. As stated above some of the offences in the Smyth case were alleged to have been committed over a period ending in 1988.

In my view it would be absolutely incorrect to inform the Dáil that this was the first time that the section was considered. It was considered — though not in a profound manner in the Duggan case. It would also in my view be similarly incorrect to say that this was the first time that the section was “applied”. It was not of course “applied” in this case in the strict sense of the term. It would be for the Court to do that. Alternatively if the Attorney General had made a decision not to extradite Father Smyth then arguably this could be viewed as an application of the section.

I reiterate the point made by the Taoiseach that we had sought that information. The Minister for Justice asked for it on Monday and the letter is dated 15 November. Nothing incorrect was done. It was not a clear matter. It had to be clarified and when it was the Taoiseach put it on the record. That is a correct understanding of what happened over the last two days.

We are coming to the end of the first year of the Community Support Framework which we negotiated and completed. Needless to say, when arguing about a plan involving many billions of [389] pounds of Structural Funds, there are bound to be difficulties. However, the Community Support Framework is completed and published, and details of the operational programmes are nearly all circulated. The community initiatives are completed and as a result of the work of this Government we will benefit from massive resources under all headings over the next four or five years. We started negotiations in Edinburgh and plans have been made up to 1999.

The resources available under the Community Support Framework for Ireland 1994-1999 along with Cohesion Funds, which will amount to 1.3 billion ECU, will be devoted to transport and environmental projects, separate from the other projects I have mentioned, which will be of substantial benefit to us in the years ahead. The Community Initiatives and Cohesion Fund package represent the largest investment we have ever received, translating into a net employment increase of approximately 15,000 jobs, minimum, over the 1994 to 1999 period. That target has been criticised as being too low but we made a realistic assessment based on a macro-economic analysis and on studies undertaken by the ESRI. It is my belief that those targets will be achieved and that the overall impact of those funds will be to increase exports, encourage value-added industry, new small businesses, increased tourism revenue, cost savings in transport, a more efficient energy and communications infrastructure, a well educated, skilled workforce, to which huge resources are being allocated under the European Social Fund, a better environment for us all together with a strong rural economy. We perceive all of these to be integral policies.

Agriculture will benefit enormously, as will forestry and fisheries, under the same programme. The new tourism programme will greatly enhance that sector's prospects. All of these programmes will build on the solid base of the last programme and the work we have completed for others to take up. [390] Another key component of the Community Support Framework is represented by the measures targeted at improving the competitiveness and efficiency of our economy by investing in a general upgrading of our infrastructure.

Transport in Dublin will be transformed by an integrated package of measures recently announced, for example, an improved environmental infrastructure covering water supply which will enormously improve the quality of life of our citizens. The benefits of all of those programmes will be spread nationwide.

Investment in human resources has been one of our main priorities and will continue to be so. Special measures in this respect will focus on improving access to and quality of education and initial training, in addition to science and technology services, particularly preventive measures to reduce the high rate of school leavers, increasing competitiveness and preventing unemployment by ensuring that our workforce has the necessary skills to meet the challenges of a changing economy.

All of these measures which have been negotiated or completed cannot be changed because all must receive commensurate Exchequer finance for the period up to 1999. Whoever will be responsible in the future will find that all these programmes have been well negotiated, well balanced, well thought out, based on strategic studies undertaken over many years.

With regard to local initiatives, the Taoiseach has put much effort into the establishment of the country enterprise boards, who have a strong role to play not alone in generating local enterprise and other developments but in targeting specific disadvantaged communities. Aid will be provided to the county enterprise boards to generate small enterprise at local level and to Area Development Management Ltd., the financial intermediary, that will aid the development plans of disadvantaged areas and local development groups.

The development plans for the [391] Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland also have been recognised in a motion passed in this House about three years ago to which Deputy Currie tabled an amendment. We have followed through since their establishment and have involved the Northern authorities fully in all of those discussions, in INTERREG and the other operational programmes, to which there is access jointly on the part of the Republic and Northern Ireland. I am confident that INTERREG II will build on the success already achieved. In this respect the European Commission has given an indicative allocation to Ireland of some £72 million for the North-South INTERREG over the period to the end of this decade. It should be remembered that, when the Northern Ireland allocation is included, we are talking about significant increased investment in the Border region.

Over the past 25 years the sad litany of death and destruction in the North has been a daily reminder to ourselves and the world at large that ancient enmities can continue to destroy our daily lives. It was a blight on our country. In many dark moments it appeared that it might continue forever, that this blight was moving from generation to generation. That was the view taken in this House. Today, North and South, we speak of the tremendous prospects of the peace dividend, one that will create its own economic momentum, generating growth which was for so long stunted by violence. That has been achieved thanks to the tenacity of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the work undertaken during the term of office of this Government with Mr. John Hume, Mr. Gerry Adams, the British Prime Minister, Mr. John Major, and others. We can look at a peaceful vista and begin to examine all types of creative possibilities to help knit our two communities together in common pursuits and endeavours. Whatever may happen, it is my hope that the number one priority of any future Government and [392] Opposition would be to continue to build on that success.

The importance of that work should not be under-estimated in any sense. It is only fair to put that success on record, particularly when one hears some critical comments. Today's Belfast Telegraph, an organ normally for moderate Unionist opinion, which is often critical of the Irish Government, commented on the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, as being personally committed to the present peace initiative and his work in that respect, saying that one might sum up his downfall at this crucial juncture as disastrous. That was their view. I know that all sides in the House would claim to be equally committed to peace. It has been difficult to achieve and efforts must be acknowledged.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  Does the Minister think the Taoiseach should continue this evening?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Minister is about to conclude and should be allowed do so without interruption.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Deputy Mitchell can decide tomorrow which way he will vote. No doubt he is aware which way everybody on this side of the House will vote tomorrow.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  Would the Minister answer the question truthfully? Does he think the Taoiseach should leave?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Jim Mitchell will have an opportunity of speaking in this debate. In the meantime he should restrain himself.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Within two years this Government has delivered the largest part of the most comprehensive programme for Government in the past 30 years. This country is on the move economically. This, accompanied by the progress made on the North, constitutes two great success stories. The policies of the partnership Government have achieved that progress. Some of the [393] comments and naked opportunism of the Opposition should not be allowed detract from the success we have achieved. Whatever happens, I hope those policies will not be put in jeopardy.

The electorate will make their judgements on those genuine successes. We can feel absolutely happy that, within this short period, the Government has delivered successful policies. These policies will continue no matter what happens because those programmes have already been negotiated. The policies of the partnership Government have achieved growth which can be built on. This country deserves to continue to progress. It would be my hope that the policies of the partnership Government will be fully implemented. The Programme for Competitiveness and Work builds on the achievements of two previous agreements.

There has been now seven years of consensus involving the trade unions, employers and farmers which has formed the basis of the stability and fiscal achievements attained. It is my belief that the policies we have pursued and the programmes negotiated will withstand scrutiny and I am proud of the contribution of Fianna Fáil members.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  The essential points in this debate have been made already. They have been made by the outgoing Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, and Deputies John Bruton, Harney and De Rossa. The contribution of the Minister for Finance reminded me of the heading on a comment in The New York Times last week on the result of the recent US mid-term elections which read: “It was not the economy, stupid”. If the Minister for Finance had remembered that in making his wordy and rather disingenuous comments, he might have saved himself the bother of uttering the rather pedestrian propaganda he has just put forward.

If there is any feeling of honour or decency left on that side of the House, the Taoiseach, should already have gone to the Phoenix Park to tender his [394] resignation and seek a dissolution of this House, because he is damned — he is damned from his own mouth and from the mouth of the Tánaiste. It is clear from what we heard in this House that yesterday and today the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, withheld from this House central key material facts about the issues before us. He did not mention any of them apart from a brief reference to the Duggan case and he is to be condemned utterly for that. He came into this House yesterday and today and withheld from us knowledge in his possession directly relevant to what we were discussing. That came out, Sir, only because we had this debate, because of the determination of Deputy John Bruton and the Fine Gael Party to provide a means by which this House could express itself and give its view on what has been happening.

There was criticism from the Fianna Fáil side yesterday of the action that we undertook to make sure that this House would have an account rendered to it. However, that protest by Fianna Fáil was unsuccessful and we now have an accounting before this House, and what an accounting it has been. I would like to make the point, Sir, because it is something that the parties in this House and the electorate outside should remember, that we tried to have the same accounting in the debate on the beef tribunal and that attempt was blocked by the parties in Government, Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party.

The Taoiseach's statements yesterday and today in this House can only be described as having been carefully crafted to hide material facts. For a time yesterday the Taoiseach put on the garb of injured innocence. He asked us if it was credible to suggest that a Taoiseach would deliberately bring down a Government, forgetting that one of his predecessors did precisely that in 1989. He spoke of misunderstanding the Labour Party's position, of not being aware of its reaction to his actions last week. I am not sure, Sir, if we can believe that semblance, that appearance of injured [395] innocence, but if that really is the explanation for the way the Taoiseach conducted himself in the last week then it is even more appalling than the other interpretation because it presents a picture of a Taoiseach who goes on making decisions without the slightest sensitivity to or consideration of the effects of those actions on another party in Government with him, on his own party or on the political system that he is supposed to be working in and that he should be defending. One of two things is true, either the Taoiseach, is the injured innocent and has taken appallingly stupid action without knowing what the effects would be or he deliberately set out to create the effect he has created here now. If he had any decency he would by now be in the Phoenix Park handing in his resignation. He should go and he should go now, and there should be no further ado about it.

I feel a bit sorry for the Deputies in Fianna Fáil sitting there at the back trying to pick over the entrails of what has been going on.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  Who is the new Leader?

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  Are they electing a new Leader up there? I feel sorry for the Deputies in Fianna Fáil, some of them decent people, who have to try to defend that. I am sorry for one or two of the Ministers in Government who, apart from the actions of their own party, are making an honest effort to do their job. It has been difficult for them, this Government has been in office for almost two years and in that time we have seen a succession of scandals and controversies without parallel in any other two year period in the history of this State, certainly in the 13 years that I have been in this House. We have had the scandals of the beef tribunal and the passports for sale. We have had the scandal — and it is rightly called a scandal — of the actions this Government has taken on the tax amnesty. We have [396] the still unanswered questions by Minister Cowen about the proposed mine at Galmoy, and the outrageous attempt at widespread and large scale public deception in the claim that there was £8 billion available to this country in Structural Funds.

How has the Government lasted this long in the face of that succession of scandals, controversies, deceptions and attempts to mislead the people? It has lasted for two years because the Labour Party kept the Fianna Fáil Party in Government for the whole of that period. I will not say that the Labour Party did that willingly or happily, quite the contrary. One of the constantly recurring spectacles of political life over the last two years has been Deputy Kemmy on the plinth trying to explain the latest cave-in by the Labour Party, the latest clipping away of its principles, the latest swallowing of the Labour Party's pride. The Labour Party has not been happy about it. They have not been willing partners in it and, God knows, there are plenty of people on the Labour Party benches who make no secret of the fact that they were acutely uncomfortable with what was being done, with what they were being obliged to come into this House to defend week after week. However, they did it, and they bear a part of the responsibility for that endless procession of scandals and controversies. It goes back, to the major error of judgement by the Labour Party when it put Fianna Fáil — led by Deputy Reynolds — into Government. As a result of that major political blunder it had to bear its share, and they complain sometimes more than its fair share, of responsibility. As far as I am aware, neither Labour Party Ministers nor Deputies were directly involved in the sale of passports issue, for example, under the highly suspicious circumstances that we have seen, nor do they bear any part of the responsibility for the sharp practice in relation to export credit insurance in the time when the Taoiseach was Minister for Industry and Commerce, or for the questions that are [397] still outstanding about the Galmoy mining controversy. However, even when Labour Party Ministers and Deputies have not themselves been directly involved in the sharp practices that went on, they have to bear part of the responsibility for keeping in office a Government that was plagued and dogged by all these controversies, by a Fianna Fáil Party that acted in a way that brought these controversies about in the first place.

However, to be fair and to keep the record straight, let us say that Ministers and Deputies of the Labour Party were directly involved in some of those matters. The Leader of the Labour Party, the Tánaiste, was at the very least an unwitting patsy in the type of deception in which the Government engaged in relation to the European Union Structural Funds. Deputy Spring, was sent to make the claim and then to explain to us why it was not after all £8 billion. The figure seemed to shrink week by week until we had the spectacle of the Government having to come back in here having published a national plan to tell us there was a little error and the figure was not anything near £8 billion. The Labour Party did all that and its Ministers and Deputies were directly involved in the tax amnesty scandal and how it was written into our legislation. Ministers of the Labour Party went along with that in Government and all its members voted that measure through this House, although I know from my contacts with Labour party Deputies that a great many of them were very uncomfortable about it. Let the Labour Party not say it has always been the Teflon party of this Government and the Labour Party has had to bear an unjust proportion of the blame, because it deserves some blame for the events that have brought us to the point we are at tonight.

The cardinal error of the Labour Party was to put the Fianna Fáil Party and Deputy Reynolds into Government after the 1992 election. It is not as if it can plead exculpatory ignorance [398] because it knew what it was getting into. It was described in glorious technicolour by the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, in November 1992 in this House. No words were strong enough and no term of approbrium was bad enough to describe Fianna Fáil and the outgoing Taoiseach. The Labour Party knew what it was getting into, who it was dealing with, the type of party Fianna Fáil was then and the type of Taoiseach Deputy Reynolds would be. It has to answer for that. The Tánaiste and Labour Party Deputies who went along with the decision to put the Fianna Fáil Party and Deputy Reynolds back into office must accept their part of the responsibility for that. It is clear tonight that the Leader and Deputies of the Labour Party agree with me, Deputy O'Malley and the surviving members of the Progressive Democrats on what we told them before, that if one description of Fianna Fáil is true, it is that above all, it is not a party with which to coalesce. That was clear in November 1992, after the 1992 election and in January and February 1993 and the Labour Party is admitting that only tonight. Its error was to agree to put in that Government in 1993.

Another error admitted by the Labour Party tonight, was agreeing to the appointment of the Attorney General in 1993. It is fine for the Tánaiste to say here that there were other considerations in his mind that made him put some of his reservations on the backburner for a time, but his party agreed at the material moment to put Fianna Fáil and its Leader, Deputy Reynolds, back into office and then to appoint as Attorney General, a person who has turned out to have been incompetent in the Office as has been amply demonstrated here today. In the intervening period — and Labour Party Deputies will be even more eloquent about this than I as it matters a little more to them than to me — a long litany of insults and humiliations were offered to the Leader, Ministers and Deputies of the Labour Party. The Labour Party has only itself to blame. It voluntarily went into that Government. At the beginning of 1993 [399] it decided not to take a different route, not to have a different type of Government and it can have no cause to complain now at what has been happening.

It is all very well to recount my lack of sympathy with the Labour Party for what has happened but what about Fianna Fáil? It is now beyond doubt that Fianna Fáil must be made accountable for what has been happening, for the series of scandals it generated. It must be made accountable for the absolute contempt with which it treated the political process in this country, for a long period, but especially over the last few years. There is a view among some members of Fianna Fáil that the end justifies the means. Any means that can be used is justified if the party reaches its objective. That has been amply demonstrated by the history of that party. Yesterday and today we saw that the Taoiseach thought any means would be justified to keep Fianna Fáil in Government and Deputy Reynolds in the Taoiseach's office. He was well and truly caught out. We tell the public that, because they have a right to know about it and the exact meaning of what lies behind it. I am not saying every member of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party takes that view. I know they do not. I will say nothing about people present as comparisons would be invidious but there are decent people in the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party. They are trapped and would not get elected without the Fianna Fáil tag and they hate the tag around them. The three Fianna Fáil Deputies present know that is the case as well as I do and two of them, who shall be nameless, are among those whom I would call the more decent people in the Fianna Fáil Party. However, they do not have a right to complain and I have been looking——

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  The Deputy should indicate the name of the Deputy he is omitting.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  If Deputy Callely wants to volunteer, that is his privilege if the [400] cap fits. This evening I met Fianna Fáil Deputies, who, along with the two Deputies sitting beside Deputy Callely would not merit the description “gurrier”. Deputy Callely merits it very well.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  We are very proud of our party, the Republican Party, which is the largest nationalist and political party in this country.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  The Deputy, without interruption, please.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  I met Fianna Fáil Deputies in the later part of this evening who are sick and gloomy because they know there is no defence against the charges that will be put to them. They know perfectly well that the Taoiseach has been caught most flagrantly with his hand in the political till as no Taoiseach ever was caught before. He richly deserves that because he went out and courted it and judgement is coming upon him at this stage.

During the past few days we heard a good deal of talk about the peace process and how worried people are that any change in Government might affect it. We all have to be careful in what we say about this but some things must be said very clearly because they will be matters of public debate — I hope on the doorsteps. The Fianna Fáil Party is a welcome latecomer to the idea of a peace process. That is welcome, one only has to check the record to know that. I was not in the House when the Sunningdale Agreement was negotiated and I am not sure if any Deputy here was, but Fianna Fáil did not show a great attachment to a peace process at that time. I was a Member of this House when the Hillsborough Agreement was negotiated and I remember the attitude of Fianna Fáil to it at that time. It sent one of its members to the United States to try to undermine it and its members expressed worry — from the mouth out, I think — about the possible constitutionality of that agreement and it was [401] embarrassed — but it was to its credit that it got on with it — when it found itself in Government having to operate it.

Fianna Fáil is a very late contributor to the peace process and nobody in any other party needs lectures from Fianna Fáil about peace processes. Some of the Fianna Fáil Party did more than they took credit for to cultivate the habits of mind and the attitudes required to start a peace process. Its former Leader, Charles Haughey, also did more than he claimed credit for in creating the groundwork for a peace process. I do not know whether he will ever speak about it, but I believe he was afraid to talk about it because his own party would disown him if they knew the full meaning of what he did. I always thought it was a great pity he did not claim more credit because if he had we would be further along the road in the peace process today. It would also have helped if Fianna Fáil had, ten or 15 years ago, any such commitment to the peace process as it talks about now.

A pathetic attempt was made today by the Taoiseach to claim that the current activity is the first attempt by a Government here to build up or maintain links with Unionists — Deputy John Bruton has already debunked that claim. I found it very difficult to keep my patience listening to Deputy Reynolds making that self-serving comment, remembering that in this House not very long ago he thought he could use the description “Unionist” as an insult to the Leader of my party. What sort of commitment is that to a peace process? I am glad he is committed to it now and that the process is rooted properly in our political system. It does not depend on Fianna Fáil for its life, it has a wider life than it ever had in Fianna Fáil and there is a far greater emotional, political and real commitment to the peace process in other parties than in Fianna Fáil. Let nobody say there is a danger to the peace process from a change in Government.

I am glad that in the last few days there has been a change in the approach [402] of the Government to one on the major issues of the peace process. It is a tragedy that it took a murder in Newry to bring nearer the top of the agenda the question of what happens to Provisional IRA and Loyalist-Unionist arms. I was delighted when some months ago I read that the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, said that this issue must be dealt with properly before there could be any substantive discussions. I waited for two or three weeks before I saw a report that the Taoiseach agreed with the Tánaiste. I was delighted that happened because I believe they were right in putting that issue in that part of the hierarchy of issues to be dealt with. However, I have been sadly disappointed to find since then that the issue has been allowed to slide down the agenda.

We saw last week the result of allowing the issue to slide so far. The Minister for Justice, who is in the House, knows exactly what I am talking about because she had to change feet very fast last week, and rightly so, in one of the actions she was undertaking as part of the pursuit of the peace process. It is a pity that happened because of a murder — that murder may have taken place partly because this issue was not kept high enough on the agenda in the present process. Let Fianna Fáil not try to pretend it is essential to the peace process. I am delighted Fianna Fáil believes in the peace process. I am delighted that party, which for so long looked the other way, is now taking such a view, but that party does not own the peace process, it is not the only party that can carry it through; it will be carried through with Fianna Fáil in Opposition.

Where do we go from here? After the events of the last week and the debates here of the last two days, the Fianna Fáil Party will have to account for itself to the public. I was one of the people who believed until this evening that if a general election was held in the short term, Fianna Fáil might be among the parties that would gain a few seats, but I do not believe that any more. When the public [403] realises the significance of what was said here this evening by the Tánaiste they will recoil from Fianna Fáil, from a party that has been led by a man who is capable of doing what the Taoiseach did in this House yesterday and today, concealing from this House key information, ditching his Minister for Justice — he denied her yesterday — and ditching the man he appointed as Attorney General and promoted to President of the High Court. The electorate deserve the opportunity to recoil — they are the only people who can apply that sanction.

The electorate deserve an opportunity to call the Labour Party to account, to give the Labour Party their view on the essential fundamental error it made after the 1992 election, to tell the Labour Party — many of them voted for that party — how much they disagee with the decision it took how much they dislike and now, I think, despise the Government the Labour Party put in place. The people deserve the opportunity to do that. This House has the opportunity to pass the motion of no confidence before us, but that is only the prelude; the people have the right to the rest of the say.

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn): Information on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Zoom on Máire Geoghegan-Quinn  Ba mhaith liom ar dtús ráiteas pearsanta a thabhairt anseo i dtaobh freagraí a thugas ar 25 Deireadh Fómhair ar cheist a chuir an Teachta Gay Mitchell maidir le cás an Athar Smyth. The matter I want to refer to arose in the course of a reply to a supplementary question and concerned the reason for the delay in processing the warrants in this case in the Attorney General's office. On the basis of information supplied to my Department by the Attorney General's office, I referred to the fact that the nine warrants received alleged offences on a variety of dates between 1964 and 1988 and I went on to state: “I also understand that this case was the first in which provisions had arisen for consideration by the Attorney General's office since the [404] enactment of the 1987 Act.” That reply was based, as I have said already, on information supplied to my Department, and, as will be clear from the context, had reference to the provision made in section 50 (2) (bbb) of the Extradition Act, 1965. This provision resulted from an amendment made by the Extradition (Amendment) Act, 1987. The provision, in a nutshell, is to the effect that the High Court may direct the release of a person in respect of whom an application for extradition has been made if, by reason of the lapse of time since the commission of the offence specified in the warrant and other exceptional circumstances it would, having regard to all the circumstances, be unjust, oppressive or invidious to deliver him up. My specific information from the Attorney General's office, which is the only office where such information could be provided to my Department, was that the Smyth case was the first in which that particular provision had arisen since the enactment of the 1987 Act.

I have now had confirmation from the Attorney General's office, as a result of a detailed examination of previous cases which was carried out by the present Attorney General, that the information I was given, and which I then transmitted to this House, was wrong. I will come shortly to the circumstances in which the new information became available and when but, first, to facts themselves.

The factual position is that the provisions of the 1965 Act, to which I have referred, had, as already stated by the Taoiseach, been considered by the Attorney General in the context of an earlier case in 1992. I was not aware of that fact when I made my statement to the House. My information was specifically to the contrary. I therefore wish to apologise to the House for that error which, I trust, this House will accept was completely inadvertent on my part.

There is a second matter on which I owe an explanation to the House. The reason that the new Attorney General proceeded to re-examine all the details [405] surrounding the Smyth case was that, at the Taoiseach's request, I asked him specifically to do so on Sunday evening last. On Monday, the Attorney General contacted me by phone and advised me that an important piece of background information which had previously been given to me about this case was incorrect. There had, as the Taoiseach has stated, been a previous case, in 1992, when the Attorney General considered the provisions of section 50 (2) (bbb) of the 1965 Extradition Act. I asked the Attorney General to come immediately to join myself and other Fianna Fáil members of the Cabinet who were meeting together at that time.

The information of the Attorney General went beyond a simple “yes” or “no” to the question as to whether the relevant section of the Extradition Act had been considered in the past. It was considered, as the Taoiseach has said, though there might be debate as to whether it had been considered to the extent that would have been necessary for the purpose of the Smyth case. The Attorney General's view, as I understood it, was that whatever might be said about the depth of consideration given to the section in the past, it could not be said that the section had not been considered.

The previous case, that is the 1992 case, was not relevant to the handling of the Smyth case itself, nor to the totally inexcusable delay in that case except to the extent that it had not been mentioned to me when I was preparing my reply to Deputy Mitchell's question on 25 October. Had it been mentioned to me, I would have known that one vital piece of information I received from the Attorney General's office as justification for the delay in handling the Smyth case was without substance. I was advised, by the Attorney General's office, that the delay in the Smyth case was partly attributable to the fact that this was the first case in which the section I have mentioned fell to be considered. That piece of advice given to me by the Attorney General's office was factually wrong.

[406] Although the information provided was, as the Taoiseach has stated, of a technical nature, and was made known to other Fianna Fáil Cabinet colleagues at the same meeting, it was my particular responsibility as Minister for Justice to insist that a reference to the previous case should have been included in the Taoiseach's speech. I apologise to my colleagues and the House for this omission on my part but hope the House will recognise that there could be no sensible basis for seeking to conceal that information deliberately — it would be utterly stupid of anybody to do so deliberately.

It might be said that it was deliberate or that there was a wrong motive if the position was that either the Taoiseach or I or any member of the Government were coming into this House with the aim of justifying the delay which arose in the Attorney General's office, but the essential message in the Taoiseach's statement yesterday was to do the opposite. The existence of the previous case did no more than what the Taoiseach was doing in his statement, that is, to acknowledge fully that there was no justification for the inordinate delay that took place in the Smyth case. I apologise to the House for this error of omission, but I trust that Members will accept that no explanation for the omission makes any sense other than it was a genuine error.

There is another matter in relation to the Smyth case to which I wish to refer, so as to get the record straight on the matter. Impressions which have been created concerning the role of the Department of Justice in the Smyth extradition case are misleading in that they proceed on the false assumption that the Department of Justice was in possession of some further essential information. I have been frank in all that I have said on the Smyth case in the course of this statement and I am going to be frank now — I have no reason for being otherwise. Deputy Bruton, who has called for my resignation, and Deputy Mitchell, who has persisted in misrepresenting the facts on this issue, [407] will regret their words when they have heard the truth.

The factual position is as follows: as is normal practice in extradition cases, a copy of the warrants in the Smyth case was sent to the Department of Justice and to the Chief State Solicitor's office by the Garda authorities. However, the information contained in the warrants stated the name of the person sought, but without any reference to his being a priest; gave a previous Northern Ireland address only, and signified the offence by a reference to named persons, without giving their ages, and relevant provisions of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, indecent assault against a male and, in one case, a female.

There was no information available to the Department of Justice until the recent controversy arose to suggest that this was a case of child sexual abuse and there was and is no information available to the Department of Justice — to nail another plank in Deputy Bruton's case — as to which aspects of extradition law were being considered by the Attorney General in the Duggan case. There is nothing in the records available in my Department in relation to the Duggan case that would have shown that any issue involving section 50 (2) (bbb) of the 1965 Act was considered by the Attorney General as part of his examination of that case. The communication to the Garda Commissioner — which was passed to my Department — simply indicated that the Attorney General “has decided not to give a direction under section 44A (1) of the Extradition Act, 1965” and that the Attorney General was of “opinion [that] all four warrants are in order for endorsement in accordance with the provisions of the Acts”. The warrants were subsequently endorsed and the person concerned extradited.

The requirement when extradition warrants are first received — and this applies in all cases — is for a determination by the Attorney General in respect of the functions imposed on him under the Extradition (Amendment) [408] Act, 1987 and in relation to advising on whether the request meets the requirements of our law. No decision or action is required by the Minister for Justice or the Department of Justice in advance of the Attorney General's determination.

The procedure in all extradition cases, which was followed in this case, is to allow the legal issues which the Attorney General is required by law to consider to be dealt with in accordance with established arrangements — which include provision of such additional information as is necessary — for that purpose and in the manner judged best by the Attorney General's office.

No pressure would be brought to bear by the Department of Justice on the Smyth case, and it would be improper for it to do so, unless it became specifically aware of some special circumstances — as for example, a pending release from prison or the imminent departure of the person concerned from the jurisdiction — or pressure from the authorities requesting extradition. No such signal was received in this case by the Department of Justice.

There is one final lie which has been floating about within the past few hours which I now want to nail firmly also — the rumour mongers have it, I am told, that the Smyth file itself was on my desk at some point or other. That is a lie. All my Department got on the case were copy warrants. I did not see the file and it was never either on my desk or in my Department. I will welcome any form of independent inquiry that anybody here or outside wishes to propose in order to establish the facts.

Turning now to the motion before the House, it is beyond argument that this is a Government which has been delivering on its promises, will continue to do so and deserves every opportunity and encouragement to do so. The major achievements on the economic front and especially in relation to Northern Ireland are known. I am proud to have had a role in the developing peace process and I will return to that subject. First, I would like to mention developments which have taken place in [409] other areas for which my Department has specific responsibility — the Garda Síochána and crime, prisons, courts, law reform and various other matters.

On the Garda side and the issue of tackling crime there have been major achievements. Last year the Garda Commissioner published a corporate strategy policy document for the years 1993-97 in line with the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government. The Commissioner's objective was to improve the performance and effectiveness of the Garda Síochána. I supported the Commissioner's move.

For my part, Deputies will be aware that I received the approval of the Government last December for a package of law and order measures which I am confident will make an enormous contribution towards tackling the existing crime problem. These measures, which, by any standard, amounted to a mojor initiative by the Government against crime, are essential to confront the criminals in our society who prey on law abiding people.

This package provides for accelerated recruitment both of gardaí and civilians, fleet replacement, very substantial IT developments, already well under way, further development of community based measures in areas of disadvantage, measures to combat serious fraud, including the implementation of certain non-legal proposals of the Government's advisory committee on fraud, recruitment of an additional 50 probation and welfare officers and support staff, provision of additional probation and welfare facilities, and the appointment of extra judges and support staff.

The programme of civilianisation and the introduction of new computer systems is designed to reduce the amount of time members have to spend in the station doing paperwork. I have summarised the development as “Technology in the Office and Gardaí on the beat”.

With regard to overall numbers the position is that operational strength of the force is now at its highest level ever, [410] and this process is ongoing. In other words, we are not thinking simply of the option of throwing more and more Garda manpower at our problems. Given its crime levels and population size, this country is well resourced in terms of Garda manpower. What we are focussing on, by using technology, more civilians and so on, is making optimum use of existing resources.

As Minister for Justice, I have endeavoured to deal with crime in a serious, comprehensive and deeprooted manner. I have not engaged in rhetoric. I have put the stress on action and getting things done. I have set out to identify the causes of crime. Issues such as social deprivation and unemployment must be considered if we are to deal with crime in a serious fashion. Fighting crime can never be a matter solely of resources and legislation. The whole picture must be looked at.

I have set out to examine the role of the Garda in an ever changing society. To this end, I have established a research unit at the Garda College in Templemore to undertake practical and mission orientated research of relevance to a modern police force. The unit has been given the job of developing, expanding and implementing research programmes for the Garda Síochána, including criminological studies and studies of social change that particularly affect the role of the Garda. I have no doubt but that this unit will enhance the capability of the Garda in its fight against crime.

As Minister, I have placed the drugs problem at the top of my agenda. I have spared no effort in taking whatever measures are necessary to deal with this scourge. To this end, I am pleased to report that a number of substantial seizures have been made by the Garda this year. As I recently informed the House, 4,081 cases have been sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory as of 30 September. The drugs seized include heroin, cocaine, ecstacy tablets, cannabis, LSD and amphetemine powder. Arising from these seizures, prosecutions have [411] been taken and more are currently in progress.

The measures I have taken are designed to make life tougher for drug offenders, and it is not just the pusher on the street who is finding life increasingly tough. An important part of the fight against drugs is to target the illgotten gains of drug dealers and traffickers. The Criminal Justice Act, 1994, contains provisions for the confiscation of proceeds of crime and deals with money laundering by criminals, including drug traffickers.

The Government is convinced that it must deal with both sides of the drugs equation — the demand side and the supply side. While law enforcement will tackle the supply of drugs, it can do little to stem the demand. For this reason the Government has placed great stress on demand reduction through education, prevention and treatment of those addicted.

Domestic violence is another issue which is of grave concern to me. This problem is one which receives the highest priority from myself and the Garda authorities. The Garda Commissioner earlier this year issued directions on the approach to be taken by the gardaí in incidents of domestic violence. These directions set out the manner in which investigations should be conducted and reported and state that where a power of arrest exists in respect of a domestic violence incident, that power should be exercised and the offenders charged.

Another example of the resolve of the Garda authorities to deal effectively with this issue is the establishment of the domestic violence and sexual assault investigation unit. The unit works in close contact with the Garda community relations section and liaises with organisations, both statutory and voluntary, which deal with violent or sexual crime against women and children. It also deals with the drafting of Protocol on the role of the Garda Síochána in these cases.

[412] The Garda of course, plays the primary role in dealing with crime. It needs the resources, the people and the equipment to carry out the job. As Minister for Justice I have seen to it that it has these resources. However, Garda resources, crucial as they are, will not provide the complete answer to the crime problem. On the contrary, the Garda can only do its job effectively when it has the whole-hearted support of all the sections of the community. This is why schemes involving the community in the fight against crime are essential.

When launching a number of business watch schemes in recent weeks, I was struck at the positive way the commercial community is fighting back against crime. All this adds up to a community no longer passive in the face of crime. The schemes provide a structure and a solid foundation to this community involvement and in doing so cement the links between gardaí and community.

On prisons, I promised that I would publish a major policy statement, something which had not been done since the foundation of the State. It was a daunting task, dealing as it does with one of the most difficult and controversial areas of public administration. That commitment was fulfilled with the publication by my Department in June of this year of a document entitled “The Management of Offenders — A Five Year Plan”.

This five year plan frankly sets out the difficulties facing the prison system and policy for the management of offenders in the years ahead and indicates where we stand as regards implementation of the Whitaker report. While it would be presumptuous to expect universal approval for such a document I am satisfied that this five year plan has been widely welcomed by a very broad range of informed opinion. It clearly sets out attainable and realistic objectives for the development of the penal system.

The five year plan includes the provision for 210 additional prison spaces, an increase of about 70 in the number of [413] probation and welfare staff mainly for supervision of offenders in the community, new management structures, the introduction of the concept of positive sentence management, the improvement of prison services, new draft prison rules and a new draft code of discipline for staff. I have every reason to be satisfied with my achievement in producing so innovative a document which as I have said has no precedent in the history of the management of offenders in the Department of Justice.

Under the five year plan for the management of offenders, I have identified and planned a programme of refurbishment and improvement works to be carried out up to 1999. To achieve this programme, I have signalled a financial requirement of £11 million per annum over the next five years. This represents an increase in expenditure of almost 40 per cent over the current level of provision for this work.

I am particularly happy that I have put in place a specific commitment to provide new custodial facilities for women. This is a unique opportunity to provide proper custodial facilities for women offenders. A number of crucial parameters for the design has been agreed. Essentially it will be designed on a domestic scale. Offenders will live in small, self contained living areas — like terraced houses in appearance — and generally with single rooms. The design will allow for the grouping together of offenders with similar needs and also for separation, where necessary, of different categories. A wide range of facilities will be provided. Security measures will be modest and unobtrusive and inherent in the design. Bars, gates and fencing will not feature to any extent. Most importantly, the design will be flexible, so that differing needs emerging in the future can be met.

One particular important element of the facility relates to the provision, as part of the complex, of a pre-release residence. The full proposals, when implemented, will represent an exciting, [414] radical approach from what most people would see as the norm. I am looking forward to seeing them come to fruition. Detailed planning will proceed as a matter of priority, with a view to having the new facility completed and in operation by late 1996.

In talking about offenders I should also like to refer to another major development which indeed has direct relevance to matters discussed in this House in recent days, that is the treatment of sex offenders. We are also conscious of the trauma and damage caused in the community by various forms of sexual abuse. I have made every effort to encourage the Garda Síochána and other interests to tackle the problem with vigour and I am satisfied that-real progress has been made in raising the consciousness of the community about this tragic problem.

One of the particular matters which I had to face was how to manage imprisoned sex offenders in a constructive way to try to discourage re-offending on release and offer greater protection to the public. I decided to set up a professionally led and structured sex offender treatment programme which is now running in Arbour Hill prison. My work in this regard provides further evidence, if evidence were needed, of the importance this Government attaches to the task of tackling the problem of sex offending in the community. It is a difficult and deeply disturbing problem, not just here but internationally, and we will do all in our power to tackle it by all the means at our disposal.

Since my appointment as Minister for Justice I have taken steps to make the courts more accessible and more user-friendly and I have tried to reduce costs to the users of the courts. I would like to outline some of these steps to the House. A major area of concern is the inadequacy of court accommodation. In many cases the facilities necessary for persons coming before the courts, members of the legal profession and courts staff are grossly inadequate. A review of all existing accommodation has been undertaken and priorities have [415] been established for the provision of new courthouses where necessary. In addition other courthouses have been earmarked for maintenance and refurbishment. This refurbishment programme is designed to continue so that by the turn of the century all our major court venues will have modern well equipped facilities to meet the demands being placed on the court service.

The small claims procedure was introduced in the District Court in December 1991. The procedure gives people a means of processing small claims, inexpensively, quickly and with a minimum of fuss. The procedure is consumer orientated and provides ordinary people with easy access to the courts and an effective means of obtaining redress. Following the successful operation of the pilot scheme over a period of two years I extended it to all District Court venues in December 1993. In addition, I extended the scope of the procedure to include the non-return of rent deposits and minor damage to privately-owned property. I have given a commitment to increase the monetary limit on claims from £500 to £1,000 by annual instalments of £100 commencing in 1995.

Of course of particular concern to me are the delays which have been occurring in disposing of criminal, civil and family law cases in the courts. I announced to the House in the course of Second Stage debate on the Courts and Court Officers Bill, 1994, I intended moving an amendment on Committee Stage to provide for an increase in the maximum number of judges which may be appointed to the High, Circuit and District Courts by two, seven and five respectively. The appointment of these 14 additional judges will help to eliminate the delays that are being experienced in the hearing of criminal trials and family law cases and other civil actions in these courts.

In addition I have established a committee under the chairmanship of the President of the Circuit Court to examine and report on the number and boundaries of the existing Circuit Court [416] circuits with a view to the elimination of current delays and preventing such delays arising in the future.

In relation to the area of giving evidence in the courts in criminal matters, procedures have been put in place to facilitate victims appearing in our courts and to emphasise the impact of crime on the victim. Under the Criminal Evidence Act, 1992, I made the necessary regulations for the introduction of an audio visual system in certain cases, including sexual offences cases, to enable witnesses under 17 years of age to give evidence and be cross-examined outside the courtroom setting. The video-link is being monitored very closely to assess its effectiveness and it is intended, depending on the volume of cases, to implement the system in a number of provincial courts at a later date when the system in Dublin has been fully monitored and assessed.

I am also making special provision for separate waiting areas for victim support in all court refurbishment programmes. There are many court users such as witnesses and jurors who may have formed the impression that courts are an unfriendly place or they may have been frightened or intimidated at the thoughts of having to go to court in the first place.

In line with my policy of making the courts more user-friendly I have requested my Department to prepare a range of information leaflets for the benefit of adult witnesses, child witnesses, the parents of child witnesses, personal applicants for probate, jurors and so on. These leaflets will explain what happens in court and what the functions of the various people are and in general will try to allay fears people might have at the prospect of attending court. The first of these leaflets should be available for issue to the public early next year.

Probably one of the most important developments in relation to the courts — arguably since the foundation of the State — is of course the new Courts and Court Officers Bill which is now on Second Stage in this House. I will be [417] dealing with this measure at length in the course of its passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

This Government's record of achievement in the area of law reform has been impressive by any standards. Deputies — on all sides — have been generous in acknowledging the breadth and quality of my own record of achievement on this front. I would like to mention some particular reforming measures. First, there was the Criminal Justice Act, 1993, which I believe for the first time places proper emphasis in statutory form on the plight of victims of crime. Unduly lenient sentences can be appealed, the court may order payment of compensation to the victim, and there is an obligation on the court before passing sentence in certain cases, including crimes of sexual nature, to consider specifically the effect of the crime on the victim.

The Criminal Procedure Act, 1993, provides new procedures for dealing with miscarriages of justice. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993, and the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act, 1993, modernised the law in the areas they covered and recognised that in this day and age there are certain matters that are no longer properly the business of the criminal law.

One of the measures to which I gave particular priority was the preparation of new legislation in the area of public order which culminated in the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994. This measure now gives the gardaí and the courts an effective and up-to-date basis on which to deal with the type of behaviour which has been the source of great concern to many people. I am happy to be able to tell the House that a measure of the effectiveness of the Act can be gleaned from the fact that, since it came into operation last April, more than 3,000 prosecutions have been initiated under it.

Another major piece of criminal law reform is the Criminal Justice Act, 1994 which I mentioned earlier in the course of my comments on drugs. In areas related to the criminal law we have also [418] had the Extradition (Amendment) Act, 1994 and the interception of telecommunications and other messages has also been put on a modern statutory footing.

There have also been substantial developments in what I might refer to as the civil side of law reform within my Department. The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1994 corrected a difficulty which had arisen affecting some thousands of people in relation to their claim to Irish citizenship. The Solicitors (Amendment) Act, 1994, which is a monument to the work of my able and highly competent junior Minister, Deputy O'Dea, represented a major overhaul of the legislation regulating the profession and contained a wide range of measures in the interests of the consumer of legal services.

In addition to the ten Bills in my area of responsibility over the past couple of years I also have two Bills before the House at present. The Refugees Bill provides a modern and transparent basis for determining applications for refugee status. The Courts and Court Officers Bill, 1994, was discussed in this House only recently and I hardly need to remind the House of the detail of its provisions. However, it is one of the most significant legislative measures introduced in this area since the foundation of the State and will bring about much needed and fundamental reforms.

By any standards what I have outlined represents a major programme of worthwhile legislative reform and it would seem that this record provides a substantial and convincing basis for confidence in the Government's efforts in this regard. In this context I would like to pay tribute not only to my colleagues in Government for their support in advancing this programme but also to Deputies on all sides of the House — particularly the Opposition Justice spokespersons — for the generally constructive approach which they have taken to these measures.

Work has also been under way in my Department on a series of other worthwhile measures. I shall mention just a [419] few of these. Work is at an advanced stage on a Bill to allow Ireland to ratify the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. Priority is also being given to the preparation of a new juvenile justice Bill which will involve repealing the Children Act, 1908 and replacing it with modern and comprehensive provisions in this area. Other measures in the course of preparation include a Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and legislation in the areas of criminal insanity and fraud.

My Department is also responsible for a range of matters which I have not been able to cover such as data protection, censorship of films and videos and so on. One area I would like to mention briefly is the Land Registry which has a staff of more than 500 people and in which developments will take place which are worthy of mention.

The Programme for a Partnership Government in January 1993 contained the commitment that the Government will bring forward legislation to improve the service provided to the public by the Land Registry and Registry of Deeds by converting them into a commercial semi-State body.

An interim board has been appointed to assist and advise me in preparing the registries for reconstitution. Vesting will take place as soon as the practical steps needed to prepare the registries have been taken and the necessary legislation can be prepared and enacted.

The Government decided in November 1992 that part of the operations of the Land Registry is to be transferred to Waterford city. Arising from this decision, I established a study group in July 1993 to examine the problems arising from decentralisation and to make recommendations as to how the Government decision is to be implemented with minimum disruption to the operations of the Land Registry. The indications at this stage are that the transfer of 150 staff to Waterford will take place in the second half of 1996 and the process of getting the staff for [420] Waterford in place is under way at present.

It is appropriate that I should conclude by mentioning the peace process and certain matters associated with that process for which my Department has responsibility. It has been my privilege to have had an involvement in that process. Who could have imagined just one year ago that so much could be achieved so soon after the awful tragedies of the Shankill Road bombing and the Greysteel massacre of October of last year, which threatened to plunge this island into ever increasing violence and tragedy? Indeed, thanks to the determination of this Government in working with others in the pursuit of peace, we can now look forward to the real prospect of a true and lasting settlement of the conflict on this island. The momentous and historic developments of the past 12 months — the Downing Street Declaration and the Provisional IRA and loyalist cessation of violence — will stand forever as major landmarks on the road to permanent peace and as achievements for which this Government and the Taoiseach and Tánaiste can rightly claim a great deal of credit.

There is still a need for further work and effort to rid us forever of paramilitary violence. The onus now must be on measures to consolidate peace, the achievement of which will add greatly to the prospects for successful negotiation of a lasting political settlement on this island.

The Government — and likewise the British Government — has made it crystal clear that there are far too many guns and bombs within both communities on this island. Such weaponry has no place in a peaceful Ireland. It must be decommissioned and put beyond use and the Government is already working to this end. Irish and British officials are meeting to consider the issues involved with a mandate to report back to the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister. This important work must continue without interruption if we are to bring it to a successful conclusion.

[421] The record of achievement in my area of responsibility, as in other areas, has been, as I said quite impressive.

There is one issue which I wish to bring to the attention of the House. Earlier today, when it become apparent that the question of the non-inclusion in the Taoiseach's speech yesterday of the additional new material about the Duggan case was crucial to the survival of this Government, I offered my resignation as Minister for Justice to the Taoiseach. I took this step for the following reasons. When the additional information became known to me and to other Fianna Fáil members of the Government last Monday, I felt, rightly or wrongly, that as Minister for Justice I should have ensured, as I said, that the Taoiseach included that new information in his speech. I greatly regret not having done that.

The new information had nothing to do with the handling of the Smyth case. It had precious little to do either with the substance of what the Taoiseach was saying because, as I explained, the very thing the Taoiseach was doing in his statement was saying that the delay was inexcusable. Nevertheless, I thought it the right and principled course to offer my resignation. The offer stands. It is a matter for the Taoiseach alone to make his decision on that offer.

I am saddened by implications from the Opposition benches that I set out to mislead. There is nothing about my record in this House to suggest that I take a dishonest or a cowardly course. There has been much speculation about my absence from the House today. I was absent because I had to consider a very serious issue. The issue was whether my presence in Cabinet presented an obstacle to the continued operation of what has been an excellent Government. Principle seemed to require, in my judgement, that I remove the obstacle. I took the principled course.

Tá muidne sa Rialtas ag tnúth go mór le clár an Rialtais seo a chur i gcrích in iomlán. Molaim do Theachtaí an Tí seo tacadh le rún leasaithe an Rialtais.

[422]Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  In reply to Question No. 31 in my name on 25 October 1994, the Minister for Justice led the Dáil to believe that the paedophile extradition requests in relation to Fr. Smyth were somehow sufficiently unusual to justify a seven month delay. Later that evening, I issued a statement to the effect that the Minister had not stated the true facts and that there had been a number of extraditions. The Minister replied in a statement the same evening accusing me of being disingenuous as she had been relying on the following formulation of words, a subterfuge in themselves: “I also understand that this case was the first in which provisions had arisen for consideration by the Attorney General's office since the enactment of the 1987 Act”. She indicated that these words meant that the delay referred to the unique nature of the offences and the time of their occurrence.

The following morning I sought an adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 30 to seek an explanation from the Minister for Justice. This request was denied. I took such a serious view of this matter that I — very unusually — wrote to the Ceann Comhairle on 27 October and, following his response, wrote again on 11 November pointing out that the Minister had misled the House. In a joint statement with the Fine Gael Leader I again stated this on 1 November last.

Two questions for written reply concerning this case were tabled by me to the Minister for Justice yesterday. Normally these replies would have been available at the end of Question Time yesterday. Uniquely I received them at 8 p.m. yesterday evening following repeated telephone calls from my office to the General Office. I realise the significance of this delay since it is clear that not only does the Attorney General receive extradition warrants but copies are also sent to the Department of Justice and the Chief State Solicitor's Office.

The Taoiseach informed the House [423] this evening that the Minister for Justice, on his behalf, had requested the new Attorney General to conduct a full and detailed investigation of the files in these cases and report back. It is clear that the Minister for Justice was aware not only of the new Attorney General's findings, as she has accepted tonight, but she had been notified in the ordinary course when the Duggan case in 1992 was instigated, yet she did not give that information to the Dáil. Information to the contrary continued to be used and criticism by those who sought to question her was besmirched.

The Taoiseach stated that the Minister would make a personal statement and she has now done so. She has followed the only honourable course since her position has become untenable. I wish her well. She was an able and energetic Minister and would have made a signal contribution to the criminal justice area if she had remained and broadened her approach. She is the victim of an attitude to accountability which is infectious and widespread in this Administration.

I note from her speech that she sought to include her Fianna Fáil colleagues in her culpability. She stated:

On Monday, the Attorney contacted me by phone and advised me that an important piece of background information which had previously been given to me about this case was incorrect. There had, as the Taoiseach has stated, been a previous case, in 1992, when the Attorney considered the provisions of section 50 (2) (bbb) of the 1965 Extradition Act. I asked the Attorney to come immediately to join myself and other Fianna Fáil members of the Cabinet who were meeting together at that time.

She further states:

Although the information provided was, as the Taoiseach has stated, of a technical nature and was made known to other Cabinet colleagues at the [424] same meeting, I believe that it was my particular responsibility as Minister for Justice to insist that a reference to the previous case should have been included in the Taoiseach's speech.

It is clear that the Minister is putting other Fianna Fáil Ministers on the spot. It is clear to the Tánaiste that those Fianna Fáil Minister at the meeting — not just the Minister for Justice — knew the Taoiseach was misleading the House yesterday. They should all tender their resignation and take the honourable course she has taken. It should be clear to the Tánaiste that he could not coalesce with any of the Minister who attended the meeting with the Minister for Justice and knew yesterday that the Taoiseach was misleading the House. They stood shoulder to shoulder with him. Not one of them can hope to form an administration in which the Labour Party or any other party could hope to serve. That is a central point which will not go away.

The Minister for Justice has been asked to carry the can. Every Fianna Fáil Minister who attended the Cabinet meeting to which the Minister for Justice refers is equally culpable. They sat there and sang dumb. They allowed the Taoiseach to mislead the House. The Tánaiste must make it clear that in no circumstances could the Labour Party coalesce with a Fianna Fáil Government whether led by Deputy Reynolds or any other Cabinet member who was at that meeting.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Do not be nervous.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  The Minister stated:

It might be said that it was deliberate or that there was a wrong motive if the position was that either the Taoiseach or I or any member of the Government were coming into this House with the aim of justifying the delay which arose in the Attorney's office.

That is not the point. The Taoiseach was justifying the appointment of Mr. Harry [425] Whelehan as President of the High Court and Fianna Fáil Ministers sang dumb. How could the Labour Party do business with those who treat parliamentary accountability in such a way? Accountability is at the centre of this problem.

Mr. J. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  Deputy Treacy could be Leader yet. He was not at the Cabinet meeting.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  We will be around for a long time.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  The Taoiseach gambled last Friday, as a result of the Cork by-election, that the Labour Party would not walk out. He gambled with the stability of the country, the peace process and on the Government continuing. He gambled that he could rub the noses of the Labour Party in it and that they would not walk out. He gambled tonight that his bluff would not be called and no one would dare to say what happened when the new Attorney General advised him on Monday. Tonight he gambled with the reputation of the President of the High Court. He tried to gamble with the reputation of his private secretary — which was reprehensible.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  That is not true.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  He gambled with the reputation of the Minister for Justice by saying she would come into the House and make a personal statement. If Deputy Spring had not disclosed that the Attorney General told him he had advised the Taoiseach on Monday what would have happened? Mr. Whelehan would have been embarrassed and the Government would have tried to get him to resign as President of the High Court. The Minister for Justice would have been sacrified and the Government under the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, would have continued on its merry way. He was happy to throw Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn that way and [426] Harry Whelehan this way as long as he could go down the middle. Even though he knew the Tánaiste had this information he gambled with the reputations of those people in a reckless throw of the dice to save himself. That is the most extraordinary, unstatesmanlike, selfish thing I have seen as a Member of the House.

The problem is one of accountability. It has become the order of the day for Ministers — I do not point the finger at anyone in particular — to mislead the House, not necessarily by putting information which may be technically correct on the record but the thrust of what they say is meant to give another impression. It is only when you read a written reply in great detail that you realise they have said something totally different or, by omission, you have been given to understand something which is not true. That has become accountability. It is time we considered having a contempt of parliament Act which would empower the Ceann Comhairle to deal severely with any Member of the House and, in particular, officeholders who mislead the House.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Or Members who make wild allegations.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  It should include civil servants who prepare replies for the House which are not accurate. Not only must they be technically correct, they must be factually correct. If a Minister wants to change the information let it be on his or her head.

We had an expensive beef tribunal chaired by the then President of the High Court. He said if proper answers had been given in the House there would have been no need for the beef tribunal. In other parliaments, when Ministers mislead the House, even inadvertently, they go back and correct the record but that does not happen here. They brazen it out to the end and consider themselves smart for doing so. It is that attitude which has brought about the collapse of the Government. If [427] people had been told the factual position truthfully and openly this whole mess would not have occurred.

Another matter which needs to be raised is that of collective responsibility. Nobody could stand over the way the decision was made last Friday — the Minister for Justice being called on to move a motion while half the Cabinet went out the door, all those in favour being asked to say aye and rushing to Áras an Uactaráin so that Harry Whelehan could be given his seal of office as quickly as possible. That is no way to conduct the business of the State.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  That is not exactly what happened.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  As far as I can make out, it is generally what happened.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  No, it is a perception the Deputy is giving of what happened. As the Taoiseach and Tánaiste told the House, those are not the facts of the case.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell  People can judge both versions of events. I am confident most people would agree that I have given an accurate account of what happened.

This cannot be regarded as collective responsibility. Ministers have been on strike since last Friday. Nobody has been running the Government. I have been a Member of this House since 1981 and today was the first time I saw a Ceann Comhairle sit in his Chair with neither the Taoiseach nor a Minister present in the House. I have read parliamentary procedure and often visited the Oireachtas before I became a Deputy and it never happened that they would not be in the House when the Ceann Comhairle entered. This is the product of an attitude of mind to accountability and collective responsibility which is amateur, unacceptable and undemocratic.

Would any other Taoiseach have [428] done this? Would the Taoiseach's predecessor, Charles Haughey, have done this? Even though we criticised him in Opposition he has to be given credit for having had style and a respect for Parliament. Why do we not insist that we are parliamentarians first? John A. Costello, who was Attorney General and a Taoiseach on two occasions, said that the greatest honour bestowed on him was to be elected a Member of the national Parliament of his country. When Parliament is treated in the way it was treated today we have failed as parliamentarians.

Tonight's development follows a series of issues which have scandalised the public. The beef tribunal scandalised the public in terms of the matters which were investigated, the way it was hampered in doing this and its costs. There are clear indications that had the principle of parliamentary accountability been in place Parliament could have dealt with these matters. On the first day this Dáil met to elect a Taoiseach I said to Government backbenchers that they should do something about taking power for themselves, “the Government gives us nothing, we have been given power by the people and we can do this.” I have been a Government backbencher and an Opposition spokesperson and backbencher and I know what happens in Government — busy Ministers are cocooned and become divorced from reality. The odd crumb is thrown from the rich man's table to the Lazarus-like backbencher who thinks he or she must be loyal and do as Ministers say. In a sense, Ministers are no more than a committee of this House and they are answerable to this House. For too long, and not just in this administration, the tail has wagged the dog and Parliament has almost become a committee of the Government. This means that very often decisions are made by civil servants and Ministers endorse what is decided. Effectively, we have Civil Service-made legislation and decisions which are endorsed by Ministers. Some Ministers put their imprint on legislation, which is a good thing, but for one [429] reason or another most legislation is drafted by civil servants and it goes through the House with perhaps minor amendments. What we have is Government by permanent administration, not by elected representatives and Members of the Dáil who are not in the Executive.

I want to contrast the way in which the Father Smyth extradition case was handled with the handling of the X case, where the Attorney General showed he was proactive by going to the High Court, and the case involving Cabinet confidentiality. The passport scandal deserves close scrutiny by Parliament. The Minister for Justice told the Dáil in June that the full address of the Masris was not known but that they had an address on Haddington Road. It took another parliamentary question on 25 October to elicit the information that the Department had been given the full address, which the Minister promised would be published in Iris Oifigiúil. Up to yesterday, this information had not been published.

This controversial passport issue was repeatedly raised in the House, yet the Government was tardy in dealing with it. This is not the only passport case which merits scrutiny but it merits particular scrutiny because the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Michael Smith, verified a document which stated that he intimately knew the applicants. He should outline to the House how intimately he knew these people and his involvement with people who made a £1.1 million investment in a company. I am not going to rehash all the points in this case as they are already on the record of the House. The Minister, Deputy Smith, has avoided answering any questions about this case, and he has serious questions to answer.

As I said, this is not the only passport case which merits close scrutiny. Efforts by way of parliamentary questions to elicit information on the naturalisation of 11 people supposed to be living in Clonee, County Meath, have met with no success. The naturalisations in December 1990 were not published in [430]Iris Oifigiúil until September 1992. It has been suggested that two of the people granted citizenship were involved in a bank scam believed to amount to $20 billion and are supposed to have paid $228 million to avoid prosecution. Who in the golden circle benefited from this passport affair and why, in such circumstances, can full information not be given to this House? This is a democracy and the public, through this House, has a right to know what is being done in their name.

These 11 people are supposed to have resided at the same house in Clonee but I understand they have not resided there in any meaning of the word. As far as I know, the house may be for sale. These 11 people with a questionable background in the United States banking system purchased Irish passports, yet they could not find their way around Ireland with a compass and map, would not be able to say whether there are four or five provinces and probably do not know the capital of the country. They are supposed to have lived at the same address in Clonee but they never resided there within any meaning of the word and certainly do not reside there now. Where do these people reside? Somebody in the golden circle got Irish passports for these people who, according to reports, paid $228 million to avoid prosecution in the US. This stinks to high heaven.

Selling Ireland abroad has been a constant theme of the Taoiseach to justify his unprecedented number of trips around the globe. There can be little doubt that the passports for sale system gives a totally new meaning to the term “selling Ireland abroad”. Instead of providing jobs for the unemployed in Ireland the sale of passports serves only to enrich a golden circle in the know.

This has been an extraordinary day, not a good day for Parliament in the way events have unfolded but a good day for Parliament in the way they concluded, in that the truth has come out at last. Those of us who said, as I said in this House, that the reply to Question No. 31 in my name on 25 October was [431] misleading, inaccurate and did not properly inform this House of the true events, have been totally vindicated within the rules of Parliament. I took the unusual step of writing to the Ceann Comhairle, not once but twice, on this matter. What has been said here today indicates that my meticulous pursuit of that point has been totally vindicated. It also indicates that this matter was pursued properly by the main Opposition spokesman on Justice.

I thank the Minister for Justice for her comments on my contribution to the Select Committee on Legislation and Security and to legislation going through the House. I return the compliment to her and say that she was, at all times, competent in the way she handled legislation. I hope she will be appointed to ministerial office again as she is an able Minister. I hope she will learn from the mistakes and I wish her well.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. N. Treacy): Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  For more than 12 years I have listened with interest to what was said in this House and I listened more particularly, during the past two days. I listened with great interest to Deputy Gay Mitchell. I am proud to be a parliamentarian and to have been elected by the people of Galway East on six occasions during the past ten years. Whenever the opportunity presents itself I look forward to going before the people again and to accepting their verdict.

Nobody has a monopoly of political wisdom management or skill. We acquire and develop these attributes — some people are born with them — as we gain experience. It is all very fine for Deputy Gay Mitchell to rehash old issues and throw mud again this evening. If he listened to some Fine Gael party members in his constituency he might not like what they would have to say. We can all jog our memories and reflect on incidents in the past and contributions made by people on behalf of others — anonymous or otherwise. We [432] can reflect on previous administrations in which the Deputy's party was involved and look at its contribution and how it arrived at decisions and how because of external pressure Cabinet decisions were changed — in financial matters, public service matters or whatever — in an effort to reach a conclusion, to serve the country and the nation. That is what every public representative is elected to do. Each person elected to Government does his utmost to serve his country to the best of his ability to improve the lot of the people.

During the past seven years I am proud to have been a Minister of State in three administrations, under the former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, and the present Taoiseach. On two occasions I was offered a higher office but I chose not to accept. I felt I could better serve the country and my constituents in my present role. I am grateful to those two Taoisigh who placed their trust in me. I did not seek office but I was asked to serve. Having served in six Government Departments I understand the responsibilities, demands and the exigencies of office, placed on us on a personal, private, public and political basis. Deputy Gay Mitchell has not yet served in any office in Government so he cannot have all the knowledge he presumes to have.

An elected representative carries a heavy burden in representing his or her constituency. Add to that, for any member of Government, the responsibility to serve the country and the Government. I am disappointed Deputy Mitchell is leaving. I at least gave him the courtesy of listening to his contribution. I understand the responsibilities and the pressure on a person who holds the highest office in the land. I acknowledge the unique, immense, historical contribution made to this country by the Taoiseach, a man of action, commitment and enthusiasm.

During the past 75 years we have had problems pertaining to the political scene in Northern Ireland. While every Government, Taoiseach, Minister and elected representative both North and [433] South did their utmost to contribute to progress one man, above all the others — the Taoiseach — was able to give credence and confidence to those who worked night and day, for a long period, to achieve peace in Ireland. He will go down in history as having brought peace to Northern Ireland. Due to his efforts I am optimistic for the future of Ireland.

We are all human, and people should put themselves in the position of the other person. It is human to err. It is easy to come into the House and castigate the Taoiseach, an open and honest individual who tells it exactly as he finds it. People try to abuse, downgrade and denigrate him but I acknowledge his immense contribution.

Deputy Gay Mitchell rehashed several issues including the passports for sale issue. I would remind Deputy Gay Mitchell that it was his political leader, Deputy John Bruton, who, as Minister for Industry and Commerce, introduced the facility that enabled that system to operate. Similar systems operate throughout the world: in the United Kingdom, in mainland Europe and in the US. The system is to underpin investment, create incentives for industrial investment, financial investment and economic growth. One would think it was wrong for this Government to use the system but that it was OK for those who initiated it.

There have been references to trips abroad by the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Ministers. This is an island country. We are a small nation of 3.5 million people here and approximately 1.5 million in the North. How can we, on our own, with our small population create the resources so vital to forward economic growth? It is imperative that we attract foreign investment. We must have a Taoiseach who will lead by example and Ministers who will support him in travelling to different parts of the world whether in the context of the development programme for Structural Funding from Europe — a £20 billion development plan, the biggest in the history of our country — or in the context of attracting foreign investment from [434] Japan, the United States or elsewhere. That is what is expected from people in office.

On the other hand, we must look at the factual position. Our Army and, in particular, the Air Corps have given us loyal and distinguished service. Are we to prevent our Air Corps from providing the aerial flights vital to the management of affairs at Government level in an efficient and professional manner and from using their skills and profession in the service of our country? The business, the service and the professional personnel exist and we have a responsibility to perform at the highest level at all times on behalf of our country.

I am proud to have served in this Dáil and to have served my constituents and my country for the past twelve-and-a-half years. I am also proud of the people I represented, but if we are to take Deputy Mitchell's proposals — and indeed he has many — in totality we must recognise that, as parliamentarians, in every public utterance we make, whether under the privilege of the Dáil or in the open forums of public life, the onus is on us to act positively and responsibly, with respect for our fellow colleagues and with dignity in relation to the affairs of our country. Those who make wild statements and unfounded allegations to try to destabilise our country, the institutions of State and the political system provide no service to this House. People have made such allegations without substantiation over the past number of years and have not withdrawn them, but they have reflected no credit on themselves or this House.

I am confident the record of service by this Government to our people will be acknowledged when the opportunity presents itself. I wish all my political colleagues success in their future careers. As my colleague, Deputy Walsh, has come into the House I would like to share my time with him and with the Minister, Deputy Woods.

[435]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The time available to the Deputies will conclude at 10.11 p.m.

Mr. E. Walsh: Information on Eamon Walsh  Zoom on Eamon Walsh  I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, for sharing his time with me. I wish to put on record my views on the events which have unfolded regarding the appointment of the President of the High Court and the motion of confidence in the Government.

The central issues in this matter are accountability and responsibility. On the question of accountability, the public has a right to be given adequate explanations on issues pertaining to this House and, on the question of responsibility, persons who hold high office should take responsibility for their actions. Both of those elements were missing from the Taoiseach's speech.

I had hoped to hear an admission of responsibility from the Taoiseach yesterday, either on his behalf or on behalf of others, for the serious errors made in handling the Fr. Brendan Smyth case and in appointing to the presidency of the High Court the former Attorney General. He is now immune from questioning, thus preventing accountability to the nation. The haste with which he was appointed to this important office was nothing less than reckless. We must also consider the Taoiseach's claim that the emergence of the Smyth case does not affect the former Attorney General's suitability for high office. All the events bring us back to the central question, namely, why was it necessary to proceed with the promotion prior to any form of public accountability? We have not received answers in that regard so far.

The revelations by the Taoiseach tonight clearly indicate the unsuitability of Mr. Whelehan for the Office of the President of the High Court and seriously reflect on the judgment of the Taoiseach in making the appointment. The appointment of Mr. Whelehan to the High Court without public accountability and with the exclusion of Labour from the decision-making process was a [436] breach of trust between the partners in the Fianna Fáil-Labour Government. The Smyth case appeared to speed up the appointment.

In regard to the withdrawal of Labour Ministers from the Cabinet meeting last Friday, the Taoiseach tried to confuse the event by stating that he misread the signals from Labour despite contacts by the Tánaiste on two occasions on the previous night and the debate on Friday at the Cabinet meeting. That, with the previous misgivings expressed by the Tánaiste on this issue suggest that the Taoiseach's statement does not stand up.

The Taoiseach stated, “Had my colleagues been aware of the facts last week we would not have proposed or supported the nomination of Harry Whelehan as President of the High Court”. He went on to say: “If the former Attorney General was still the holder of that office, he would in my view in the circumstances have no option but to resign. He would be honourably accepting responsibility for the fact that this report did not disclose the fact and that there had been a previous case, in which the same question of law was considered and which had been dealt with by him personally”. Unfortunately, those events have led to the present difficulties.

I wish to put on record some of the work carried out by the Government in the past two years. This Government, with which I am glad to have been associated, delivered on its commitment to provide a hospital for Tallaght and that has made a significant difference to the people of Dublin south-west. Many other smaller projects were also delivered by this Government to my constituency resulting in the growth of a new town in Tallaght. Those factors contributed enormously to the welfare of my constituents. This Government carried out great work and it is regrettable that the events of the past few days have cut across it. I pay tribute to the Tánaiste for his great service to the country, particularly his actions of the past few days, he restrained himself on many occasions when others might have [437] reacted. By holding his counsel — and the manner in which he delivered his speech tonight — he enabled this House to deal in a dignified way with this serious problem.

Minister for Social Welfare (Dr. Woods): Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  This Government's two years in office have been characterised by hard work and achievement. When we published the Programme for a Partnership Government we set ourselves an ambitious agenda for social, economic and institutional development. At that time the Opposition was quick to suggest that that programme was simply aspirational and would never see the light of day. The past two years have seen an unprecedented legislative programme along with far-reaching policy innovations which will form the blueprint for this country's development over ensuing years. Within its short period in office the Government has shown its determination and capacity to implement this partnership programme.

Significant progress has been achieved over a wide range of areas, including Oireachtas reform. For example, four new select committees have been established, namely, Finance and General Affairs, Social Affairs, Enterprise and Economic Strategy and Legislation and Security. In addition, the National Economic and Social Forum has been established, breaking new ground in its wide-ranging consultative process. To date five reports have been published and the forum's deliberations have made major contributions to policy development. In the environment sector more than £1.2 billion is to be invested in national roads alone between 1994 and the end of the decade. Local authority housing starts have risen from 1,000 in 1992 to 3,500 in 1993 and 3,500 in 1994. In addition, there is a major programme of investment under way in tourism and ports unprecedented in the history of this State.

Government priorities are equality, protection of women and children in difficult marital circumstances, child care [438] and family mediation services which have been backed up with appropriate action. Funding of civil legal aid has been increased by over 50 per cent to £4.9 million. Legislation on family law, maintenance and domestic violence has either been published or is at an advanced stage of preparation

In my area of social welfare we have a proud record of social achievement characterised by a more pro-active approach to unemployment, placing the issue high on our agenda. In addition, the Government has taken a whole range of steps to complement our successful economic strategy, in turn leading to higher levels of employment. In the social welfare area we have taken a number of worthwhile initiatives aimed specifically at the long term unemployed. We have maintained the real value of social welfare payments and all weekly payments have now reached the priority rate of payment recommended by the Commission on Social Welfare. In addition, all new weekly rates are at least 90 per cent of the commission's main recommended rate.

For unemployed people we have introduced an innovative back-to-work allowance, giving unemployed people 75 per cent of their social welfare payments, plus their secondary benefits, while pursuing work opportunities in indigenous and voluntary/community sectors. Under this scheme 4,300 people are now employed, of whom practically 70 per cent are self-employed, while 6,200 jobs have been identified. We have introduced jobs facilitators in social welfare offices nationwide as part of our pro-active work supportive policies directed at the unemployed and nearly 7,000 unemployed people and lone parents are now pursuing second chance education. The PRSI exemption scheme is designed to render it more attractive for employers to take on additional workers from the live register and is working well.

The success of these initiatives must not be underestimated, representing, as [439] they do, the hard work and real achievement of this Government. We owe it to the long term unemployed to give them opportunities to benefit from the success of the Government's macro-economic policies. As Minister for Social Welfare I have been very conscious of this obligation. For example, in the case of the family, we have significantly increased child benefit, committed ourselves to further increases and have continued to improve and develop the family income supplement for families at work on low pay. In the case of employers we have put in place a range of PRSI supports and incentives, and have given them an £89 million incentive this year to increase employment.

The delivery of our social welfare services has been transformed for our customers with less frequent signing on for unemployed people, better information, new easy payment methods such as cheques, post drafts, electronic fund transfers and a household budgeting facility, all examples of the improvements we have implemented to provide our customers with the best service new technology will allow.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  Why does not the Minister speak about the motion?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  We have implemented a new survivor's contributory pension which for the first time includes widowers and a hugely successful students summer jobs scheme to help local communities and voluntary organisations.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  We are not interested in social welfare this evening.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  The Deputy never was interested in social welfare; that was his weakness, his problem in Fianna Fáil. That was his fundamental problem and is the reason he is a member of the Progressive Democrats. He does not care about people dependent on social welfare. I am glad to place that on the record. I am surprised that Deputy O'Malley criticises social welfare.

[440]Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  Would the Minister not speak about Deputy Reynolds, would he not defend him?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  We have initiated measures to tackle illegal moneylending and innovative schemes to support locally-based women's and men's groups.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  Would the Minister not defend Deputy Reynolds and Mr. Whelehan?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy O'Malley will have his opportunity to contribute.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  We have got the public finances in order, negotiated a successor to the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, the Programme for Competitiveness and Work, which captures the commitment of the national partners, working together in the national interest, and have published the National Development Plan, the largest, most ambitious programme of investment ever undertaken here. Indeed, that plan is more than just an injection of capital into the physical infrastructure of the country. It provides for investment in people, through training and education, and is developing new forms of community initiative and a local development programme for disadvantaged communities. All our citizens will benefit from the increased economic activity that will flow from this plan. In terms of legislative reform and development we have had enormous achievements.

With regard to Northern Ireland, the peace process constitutes this Government's greatest achievement with a whole generation throughout the country facing a peaceful Christmas for the first time. This momentous achievement has come about only because of the Taoiseach's and Tánaiste's shared commitment that the death and destruction which have plagued our island for the past quarter of a century could not be allowed to continue. They saw an [441] opportunity to break the cycle of killing, mistrust and division. The partnership Government had the courage to take the initiative for peace. The total commitment of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste has won through. Now these hopes and aspirations for peace have come to fruition. They have achieved what no other Government could do, their single-mindedness in the pursuit of peace and reconciliation being crucial to this whole process. Under the leadership of Deputy Reynolds as Taoiseach this historic development has taken place and the total commitment of both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to peace has won through. While Deputies on the other side of this House almost despaired, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste maintained a calm belief that peace was possible against the framework of the principles of consent and political development enshrined in the Downing Street Joint Declaration. The scope for mutually beneficial development on this island is now immense and the economic challenges can best be met on an island-wide basis.

There is a tradition within both communities on this island of promoting the welfare and protection of vulnerable members of our society. Contact between the voluntary and community sectors, North and South, has been well established over recent years and there are numerous links between organisations on both sides in relation to community development activity. Our work in this respect is only beginning. We cannot call a halt to this progress. This Government has been successful where it counts most. Making a difference in the lives of ordinary men and women is what we in public office are committed to and have done successfully over the past two years. Our policies are working; there is confidence in the business community, more enterprise initiatives are being taken and there is a new spirit of enthusiasm in the country since this Government took office.

I very much regret the Tánaiste's [442] decision not to continue in this Government since it has been a good Government and has achieved a great deal for people. This progress must be continued. On the Taoiseach's statements today, I should say he is a man of his word. As a businessman and in every contact and experience I have had with him he has kept his word. Certainly his word is his bond, something academics do not understand very well. When one does a deal with a businessman whose word is his bond, that is what really matters. That is what matters with Albert Reynolds.

There has been much criticism in this House today but few are prepared to say that were it not for him there would be no peace achievement at this time. He worked with the Tánaiste, with John Hume and others to bring about this peace, but it was his total and absolute commitment, his simplicity of approach, very often spurned and laughed at by people in this House who should know better, that makes the real Albert Reynolds who has achieved something which nobody could achieve in 25 years. Let that be recorded as part of the history of this House.

We could debate for many hours the technicalities of the issues which involved the Attorney General. It is an issue that would probably be better debated by a committee where one could go into the details and see the complexities and problems involved. I believe that the Taoiseach's oversight in not mentioning this other information was totally accidental on his part in dealing with the complexities of the work he was facing. I assure the House and the country that he is a man of his word. That has been proved again and again. I regret what has happened. It is a tragedy for a man who has shown leadership of a kind that others did not seem to understand.

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  I wish to share my time with Deputy Theresa Ahearn.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Is that agreed? Agreed.

[443]Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  In speaking to this motion of no confidence in the Government, it gives me no joy to have to say that the manner in which this has come about does no credit to the Government or its backbenchers. It has brought the image of politics in this country into disrepute. That is sad for the vast majority of Deputies of all parties who work so hard and try to represent the people who elected them to the best of their ability, Deputies who give a full commitment and who have no aspirations to high office except to come into this House and work for the people of the constituencies from which they were sent.

What has happened in this House over the last week to ten days is something for which the Government should apologise to the people. It came about because of an arrogance in the Government resulting from the vast majority held by the two Government parties over the combined Opposition. With arrogance comes sloppiness, carelessness and the attitude that it does not matter, that it can be voted down anyway. Despite the best efforts of the Opposition and the role played by Fine Gael and our Leader, Deputy John Bruton, in questioning and seeking answers, the Government decided to push matters to a vote knowing it had the power to defeat the Opposition.

This carelessness came to light early in the term of the Government in regard to the very important contribution from the EU Structural Funds. It was claimed that £9 billion was to be had; £8 billion was definitely there. When it transpired that that sort of money was not available and when the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Eithne Fitzgerald, was finally nailed down in this House, she said the figure was £6 billion or £7 billion. There is the recklessness and carelessness — £1 billion was neither here nor there. That vast sum of money would do so much to improve the lot of the thousands of people who are finding it so difficult to meet their everyday commitments. That attitude to housekeeping [444] ends in disaster. If I ran my home, or if the Minister ran his home or Department in that manner, of course we would be short at the end of the year.

That recklessness continued and showed in the arrogance of the Minister, Deputy Cowen, in his share dealing when he tried to tell us that he forgot all about £1,000 worth of shares. Is he trying to say that Deputies in this House are so vastly wealthy that £1,000 is neither here nor there? It certainly is in my household and in the homes of the vast majority of Deputies.

There was then the mining scandal involving development that would have been such a hazard had it been allowed to go ahead. The same Minister defied this House to question him and, in real bully boy tactics, challenged our fine spokesman, Deputy Phil Hogan, to come outside and say what he had said inside the Dail Chamber. Pub talk is not acceptable and it is a bad example to set. That is one example — I could go on and on — of what led to what has happened today, the withdrawal of one of the partners in Government because they could take no more. They should have known better sooner and they are equally to blame.

We now come to something that has been paraded in this House and that is so important in my constituency and right along the Border, that is, the peace process. There is an attitude on the part of Government Ministers and other Members of this House who are parading before the cameras and microphones outside the House that one man brought this about, and he himself has the arrogance to stand up and talk in the first person. That, of course, is the outgoing Taoiseach. He says always “I”. The plural “we” never enters his vocabulary. It was we the people who worked to secure that peace before the Taoiseach ever dreamt or thought it could be a reality.

I am proud of the role played by my party, proud of the former Taoiseach, Garrett FitzGerald, for agreeing the Anglo-Irish Agreement that brought [445] about the by-product of the International Fund for Ireland which has been of such benefit to the Border region and to Northern Ireland. Let us reflect on the attitude of the then Opposition party when that agreement was signed. They tried to scuttle it. They sent their spokesman for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Brian Lenihan, to try to scuttle that agreement which was of such vital importance to bringing about peace in this country and generating a fund that would help the Border counties that have lived in the shadow of violence. Compare that to the states-man-like attitude and the courageous approach that the Leader of my party, Deputy John Bruton, took when the hurried announcement of the ceasefire was made in sinister manner at 11 o'clock in the morning on the day the beef tribunal report was to be debated. Compare it with the courageous stand Deputy Bruton took when he complimented the Taoiseach on the role he had played in bringing that about, a man for whom he has not a very high regard but who he appreciated had played a very important role. However, there were more than Albert Reynolds involved in that negotiation. The role of John Hume can never be forgotten nor can the role of the Tánaiste, but it must be remembered that the attitude Deputy John Bruton took helped to cement that peace. We have the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation now and Deputy Bruton assembled the best team to represent the party in that forum. I do not say that because I happen to be nominated on it and am extremely proud to represent the six Border counties that are often left out of the equation when we talk about Northern Ireland at the peace forum. I do not want to detract from the role of the forum and the work it can and will do, but I was proud of the manner in which we approached the first two meetings of it as we were well prepared.

Members of the Government went on today about an old tune that I am sick of hearing. They told us that the economy of the country is in great shape, [446] that this is a good Government which has done marvellous work. They should try telling that to the 300,000 unemployed, to the young people who cannot get grants to go to universities or regional colleges and to the old people who cannot get a hospital bed, have hip or cataract operations or who want residential care because they do not have someone to care for them. Those people are being discharged from hospital the day after they are admitted, the message passed down from the authorities is to keep the beds empty because we cannot afford to look after the elderly or the young although it does not seem to be a problem for the Government to spend millions on foreign travel. During the summer the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste were hardly ever in the country. The only time they met was when one was leaving and the other was coming into the country, they merely waved hands. We know the relationship broke down and that the two were not on speaking terms at a vital time during the summer months when so much needed to be done. Yet, the Tánaiste who said that his party exposed what has been happening allowed a breakdown in relations to continue during the summer without making much effort to rectify matters. Granted, the Dáil was recalled during the summer recess to debate a very serious matter but matters have been allowed to drift and now the Government is, rightly, going out of office.

I have no doubt that Fine Gael will play a constructive role in the formation of a new Government by way of the present Dáil or by going to the country to seek a mandate. I have no difficulty in going to the country because I will be campaigning on the proud record of the Fine Gael Party and my party leader in constructive Opposition compared with the arrogance and deceit of the present Government. I wish to share the remainder of my time with my colleague, Deputy Theresa Ahearn.

Mrs. T. Ahearn: Information on Theresa Ahearn  Zoom on Theresa Ahearn  I agree with my colleague, Deputy Boylan, when he said [447] that the events of the past week have brought not just this Government but, unfortunately, this House into disrepute. So great and grievous is the damage that I must regretfully admit that Members will be lucky if they come out of this untarnished because we have never experienced such uncertainty, rumour mongering, innuendo and, sadly, deceit. In the House this week Deputies were treated like school children, subjected by the Government to simplistic, incomplete, misleading information and no answers to questions posed on different occasions.

Accountability has been the key word of all the inquiries made by the Opposition during the past few days but, sadly, we have not seen any. The Taoiseach and some of his colleagues, particularly the Minister for Justice, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, gave us lectures on the difference between accountability and culpability. They thought they were leading us a merry dance and that they could continue in office. In their arrogance, unprecedented in the history of this House, they thought they could conceal the facts of the Fr. Brendan Smyth affair from other Members of the House and the general public. They have danced around the issue like turkeys in a butcher's yard but their efforts have not been good enough. The events that have unfolded during the past few days have shown negligence in processing the warrants for the extradition of Fr. Brendan Smyth to face serious criminal charges in Northern Ireland. The Government ceased to function during the past week and, in reality, we do not have a Government. We will not have a Government which is fit to rule until we have a general election.

We must consider what the Taoiseach has been telling us since last Tuesday. On that day the Taoiseach entered the House with great solemnity, protesting loudly that he was laying the full facts of the case before us. He took hours of the time of the House repeating that we were hearing the full and unvarnished version of the story. What were the full [448] facts in the Taoiseach's estimation? He said there was a fault in the system and no human error. He said the system was wrong but assured us that it would never happen again. He assured us then that the structures have been changed, that the Office of the Attorney General would be completely restructured, but he stood firmly by his nomination of Mr. Whelehan as President of the High Court. He thought that would be enough to convince his Labour partners to stay in Government. That is one of the most cynical aspects of this whole sorry mess because the Taoiseach did not come into the House on Tuesday to outline the facts, he came in purely for one reason, to save his bacon. Despite all the crocodile tears the truth is that his priority was to save himself.

The Government has been talking about the fears of parents and children regarding the problem of paedophilia. It terms it a betrayal of innocence, family and honoured position and a betrayal of a national commitment to the innocence and vulnerability of young people. That is how the Taoiseach explained the matter on Tuesday. However, the proceedings on Tuesday were not about that, they were about keeping Fianna Fáil in Government and the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, in power.

Is it not fortunate that the proceedings on Tuesday were not enough to satisfy the Labour Party and despite the fact that we heard the full facts on that day, the Taoiseach then decided to dig deeper? Even fuller facts were suddenly discovered. Today, we had a series of adjournments while officials of the Taoiseach's Department consulted officials of the Office of the Attorney General. The Taoiseach added drama to the story by telling us that the staff in the Office of the Attorney General with the exception of two of its members, were interviewed over a 24 hour period. One was in California and the other was in mid-air between Macedonia and Frankfurt. That drama was an attempt by the Taoiseach to set up an elaborate smokescreen which was designed to [449] divert attention from the real issue that slipped out later in the day.

Today when the Taoiseach spoke on the motion of confidence, blaming the system was not enough, he needed a new scapegoat and he got one. He shocked the House by telling us that new information had come to light. This time Mr. Justice Whelehan was demolished by the Taoiseach. We heard about the Duggan case involving another priest. That case which was similar to the Smyth case was processed by the Office of the Attorney General during Mr. Whelehan's term in office without any difficulty. The Taoiseach was able to turn matters around and tell us he is now sorry he appointed Mr. Whelehan to his new post and that Mr. Whelehan had misinformed the Government on past extradition cases. He told us he would not have appointed Mr. Whelehan if he had known the facts surrounding the Duggan case.

Debate adjourned.


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