Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Attorney General's Office.

Wednesday, 31 May 1995

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 453 No. 7

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  1.  Mr. D. Ahern  Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the progress, if any, that has been made regarding the review of the feasibility of splitting the two roles of the Attorney General, that of legal adviser to the Government and that of upholder of the public interest in the Courts of Justice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9677/95]

  2.  Dr. Woods  Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the progress, if any, he has made in implementing the main recommendations in the report of the review group on the Office of the Attorney General established by his immediate predecessor. [9684/95]

  3.  Mr. E. Ryan  Information on Eoin Ryan  Zoom on Eoin Ryan   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the communications, if any, he or his Department has had with the Attorney General regarding the attendance by or evidence of the Attorney General at the sub-committee of the Select Committee on Legislation and Security; and, if so, the nature of these communications. [9796/95]

  4.  Mr. S. Brennan  Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   when he expects to be in a position to take action arising from the delay of six months in dealing with a letter to the Office of the Attorney General on behalf of the victims in the Smyth case. [9820/95]

  5.  Mr. S. Brennan  Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the reason he did not seek a progress report on the Smyth case from the Office of the Attorney General during his five months in office in view of the fact that he is responsible for that office. [9821/95]

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  6.  Mr. Cullen  Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the status of the assistant secretary appointed by the previous Taoiseach as administrator in the Office of the Attorney General. [9856/95]

  7.  Mr. Cullen  Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the procedures, if any, he has put in place to deal with matters that arise at Cabinet meetings on which the Attorney General is unable to advise because of potential conflicts of interests. [9859/95]

  8.  Mr. Cullen  Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the reason he did not inform the Select Committee on Legislation and Security of the conflict of interest that arose after he had appointed Mr. Gleeson as Attorney General. [9860/95]

  9.  Mrs. O'Rourke  Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the person who is now dealing with the file on the Smyth case. [9861/95]

  10.  Mrs. O'Rourke  Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the matters on which the present Attorney General is unable to advise the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9863/95]

  11.  Mr. B. Ahern  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the current, pending or possible legal cases, if any, in which the present Attorney General will not be able to advise the Government. [9869/95]

  12.  Mr. B. Ahern  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the reason he did not have a copy of the letter of 14 November 1994 sent to him. [9870/95]

  13.  Mr. B. Ahern  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the reason he did not appoint an independent person to scrutinise the entire file of official A. [9871/95]

  14.  Mr. B. Ahern  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   when the Attorney General first learned of the existence of a letter from the victims of Fr. Smyth seeking compensation. [9875/95]

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  15.  Mr. B. Ahern  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the full salary of the Attorney General; and the extra costs that will be expended this year by employing external legal advice. [9880/95]

  16.  Mr. B. Ahern  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   when he will give an updated report to Dáil Éireann on the progress made in processing all aspects of the Smyth case. [9881/95]

  17.  Mr. B. Ahern  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the advice, if any, he is seeking from external legal persons; if it involves divulging the contents of State files or the transfer of any State files; and if due care is being exercised in this regard. [9882/95]

  18.  Mr. B. Ahern  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the reason he did not elect to use the services of the Chief State Solicitor instead of employing external professionals. [9883/95]

  19.  Mr. B. Ahern  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the reason he did not inform Dáil Éireann of the Attorney General's relationship with a key official in the Office of the Attorney General on the publication of the report of the Select Committee on Legislation and Security. [9884/95]

  20.  Dr. Woods  Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the person who handles and advises on matters in respect of which the Attorney General is now excluded at Cabinet meetings. [9887/95]

  21.  Dr. Woods  Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   when an independent legal adviser was appointed to advise on the handling of the Brendan Smyth file; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9888/95]

  22.  Miss Harney  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   if his attention has been drawn to the number of cases in which the Government will have to receive outside legal advice in view of a potential conflict of interest for its own law officer. [9889/95]

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  23.  Miss Harney  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   when he decided to assume particular powers of the Attorney General in order to deal with certain personnel matters in the Office of the Attorney General. [9890/95]

  24.  Miss Harney  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   if the letter from a solicitor acting on behalf of the victims of Fr. Brendan Smyth dated 14 November 1994 was contained in the files from the Office of the Attorney General which were forwarded to the lawyers dealing with the inquiry by the Select Committee on Legislation and Security in January 1995. [9891/95]

  25.  Miss Harney  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   the reason the Attorney General or any other Government representative decided not to disclose to the inquiry conducted by the Select Committee on Legislation and Security in December 1994 and January 1995 that there was a particular lawyer-client relationship between the new Attorney General and an official in the Office of the Attorney General. [9892/95]

  66.  Mr. Callely  Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely   asked the Taoiseach  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   if the file of papers and other documents prepared for the Dáil Committee on Legislation and Security contained the unanswered letter from the solicitor representing the victims of the Father Brendan Smyth affair; the persons who have read or are aware of the contents of the letter; the reason the information was not made available to the Committee on Legislation and Security; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10007/95]

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am taking Questions Nos. 1 to 25, inclusive, and 66 together.

I refer Deputies to my statement on these matters yesterday when I said I would be happy to meet the family who were victims of Fr. Smyth. I can now tell the House that I am putting arrangements in place to do this. It is important that I apologise on behalf of the Irish State to that family for the discourtesy [1684] done and the pain caused to them by the failure to reply to their solicitor's letter.

I wish to make it clear that the steps which I have been obliged to take in this matter in respect of Mr. Russell, and which I recounted in detail to the House yesterday, give neither me nor I am sure any Member of the House any satisfaction. My feelings are summed up in an extract from Miss Justice Carroll's judgment in the unfortunate Ted O'Reilly case: “It's a sad state of affairs when a civil servant who has given honest and faithful service all his life finished his career in this manner”. I wish to repeat the comment I made yesterday: “My considered view is that Mr. Russell does indeed understand that he acted in error and does regret that. I believe that Mr. Russell did provide good service to the State during his career in a large number of cases”.

Returning to what I said yesterday and I trust said very clearly, I dealt in a measured way with Mr. Russell's case and the outcome of that measured approach stands in marked contrast to the unmeasured way in which the Fianna Fáil Government attempted to address the same issue when it tried to summarily dismiss Mr. Russell in the dying days of its administration and the similarly unmeasured way in which Mr. Ted O'Reilly was dealt with when Deputy O'Malley was Minister for Industry and Commerce. There should be no crocodile tears or politically motivated twisting of or ignoring the facts. Let us be clear that that is what Deputy Ahern and Deputy Harney — whose conduct has been a disappointment to me — are indulging in.

Mr. J. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh  The Taoiseach is lecturing.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The best form of defence is attack.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This behaviour cannot cloud the stark contrast between a measured approach with fair procedure in this case and the unmeasured hasty [1685] approach without fairness or due procedure in the Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats cases in similar situations.

A Deputy:  The Taoiseach should ask Deputy Coveney about that.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am surprised and disappointed at the way in which Deputy Harney approached and continues to approach this matter. She has direct access within her party to people who have the legal expertise to appreciate precisely the correctness of the approach the Attorney General and I adopted in three key areas: first, a fair procedure for and a settlement with Mr. Russell; second, the issues surrounding the appointment of the present Attorney General and, third, the issue of the sub-Committee of the Select Committee on Legislation and Security and the Attorney General's position before that committee.

I recognise that Opposition parties do not find it easy to accept that they were wrong, and they were in this case, in blowing up a political storm.

Mrs. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  So it is our fault.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  There are, however, serious issues arising from this case about the responsibilities of Ministers to this House which we can deal with in the public interest in an unbiased and mature way in the Committee of Procedure and Privileges, which, as I said yesterday, I would welcome.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  In private.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The committee can look, if it wishes, at the serious issues — which are not confined to the present case — of how to reconcile the conflicting requirements of adherence to legal codes of conduct, be they in relation to the handling of the possible disciplinary action or in relation to the confidential nature of lawyer-client relationships, with the requirements of due accountability of Ministers to the Oireachtas. I, [1686] in relation to the constitutional requirement of fair procedures, and the Attorney General, in respect of the need to respect client confidences, have taken a particular view weighted on the side of adherence to correct legal conduct, and I am certain we were and are correct. If I had taken a different view the outcome could have been very different.

I wish now to respond to a number of other matters raised yesterday. On the questions of why the Attorney General did not take a pro-active approach to the 14 November letter when he saw it and if there was a political responsibility to check that everything that should have been done was being done in regard to that letter, as I explained, the letter of 14 November was seen and noted by the then Attorney General, Eoghan Fitzsimons a month before the present Government was formed and the present Attorney General appointed. The Attorney General only saw this letter when he was reviewing the file for presentation to the Select Committee on Legislation and Security.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  He knew about its implications.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  His task then was to examine the file solely for the purpose of excluding matters which would reveal the identity of the victims, breach confidential communications between the two Attorneys General or prejudice a fair trail for Fr. Smyth who was facing further charges. There was nothing on file to indicate that the letter, which had been noted as seen by the previous Attorney General, was not being dealt with.

The reminder letter from the solicitors dated 10 January had not been received at the time of the review of the file for the committee by the Attorney General. When it was received it was not brought to the attention of the Attorney General for noting, as was at least done in the case of the 14 November letter which was brought to Mr. Fitzsimons. If that had been done ten or [1687] 12 days after the review of the file then the Attorney General could have taken action — he would have known that the earlier letter had not been replied to. However, that reminder letter was left on Mr. Russell's desk and was not brought to the attention of the Attorney General.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  How did it get there?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  On the question of why I made the revocation order in regard to personnel functions on Tuesday night. I had decided I would have to revoke the powers under the 1956 Act soon after being informed of the failure to answer the November and January letters and so informed officials of my Department. I had not come to any conclusions as to the exact day on which I would do this. I announced the decision on Tuesday night as otherwise the newspaper information, which I was told of that night, would have been partial and misleading.

On the question of what reform has taken place in the Attorney General's office, yesterday I circulated a short report for the information of Deputies on the rapid progress made in relation to the main recommendations of the review group on the Office of the Attorney General. Despite what some Deputies seem to think, wide ranging reforms have been initiated in the Attorney General's office in the past five months. A permanent head of administration will be appointed within six months. In the meantime, the Assistant Secretary on loan from the Department of Justice is carrying out the functions of a head of administration and doing so extremely well.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe: Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  Who put him there?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  These functions are as envisaged in the report of the review group and include assisting the Attorney General in the implementation of improvements in organisation, [1688] management, systems and procedures. The strategic management initiative for the Attorney General's office is being pursued by the Attorney General personally with the assistance of the Assistant Secretary referred to——

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Who ordered that?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  ——who was appointed by the previous Government.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Thank you very much for that.

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

A Deputy:  We are testing the veracity of the Taoiseachs statement.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I am not saying anything; give me a break.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Cowen must restrain himself. Members will have an opportunity of asking questions shortly if they will hear the Taoiseach out.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  There is only 50 minutes for Question Time and the Taoiseach will keep talking.

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

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  With all the noise from the Fianna Fáil backbenches I will have no difficulty. The Deputy seemed to have no control over them yesterday. They were shouting one another down.

The professional staff of the office possess unrivalled knowledge, skill and experience in the field of Government law, and are highly professional and dedicated. Because of the nature of this work, this fact is rarely seen and acknowledged in public.

The problems of the office have not arisen in relation to the quality of legal advice or of draftsmanship. However, the ever increasing and varied demands of the office's work in recent years have [1689] given rise to the need for a major managerial reinforcement of the office, involving, in particular, the introduction of an enhanced and comprehensive system of information technology. These changes are now taking place. When they are complete the office will be fully equipped, by means of a major resource, which will still be embodied in its professional staff, to meet the demands being placed on it.

On the question of what arrangements I made for obtaining formal and independent legal advice, it was not appropriate in the case of Mr. Russell for me to use the services of the Chief State Solicitor. This is because Mr. Russell, a senior legal assistant, in the Office of the Attorney General was the Accounting Officer for the Office of the Chief State Solicitor. That is why an independent solicitor as well as an independent barrister had to be used.

Under the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, the Office of the Chief State Solicitor is a particular service assigned to the Attorney General. Counsel engaged by the Chief State Solicitor have access to State files — this is clearly necessary if they are to be briefed on a particular case. Of course professional confidence applies and this has never been breached. In relation to the particular matter at issue here today the question of access to State files by the independent legal advisers engaged by me did not arise. These advisers did not have any need to have access to any of these files.

The commitment in the Government's programme in relation to the feasibility of splitting the two roles of the Attorney General was made in the context of a review of the Ministers and Secretaries Act and this review is, as I stated yesterday, in progress. It can also be anticipated that the constitutional review group will wish to examine Article 30 of the Constitution relating to the Attorney General. My predecessor in reply to a parliamentary question on 18 October last from my colleague, Deputy De Rossa, as in reply to previous questions of that kind to him, [1690] stated that he had no proposal to alter the existing arrangements in regard to the functions of the Attorney General's office. In contrast, the parties forming this Government have agreed that the roles of the Attorney General required examination and this is being done. We will act, if necessary, on foot of that examination.

Neither I nor my Department had any communication or discussion with the Attorney General as to whether he should attend before the sub-committee of the Select Committee on Legislation and Security. As I stated yesterday, that decision was entirely his own.

In relation to the question of why was Mr. Gleeson dealing with the committee's request for documents, the committee made a request for documents to the Attorney General to which he was perfectly free to reply because he was not conflicted in any way. They did not seek legal advice from him. The committee's own independent legal advisers saw every document. The reasons for which documents required to be excluded were set out in correspondence to the committee and had no connection at all with the matter upon which Mr. Gleeson had advised Mr. Russell.

A Deputy:  That does not stand up.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  To irrelevantly break the confidence that arises from the fact of a consultation with a barrister, in those circumstances, would have been entirely wrong.

A Deputy:  He was protecting Matt Russell, he had a conflict of interest.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  In relation to the question, why did the letter go to Mr. Russell, all correspondence is registered and then referred to the legal assistant for allocation between the professional staff. The error was that at this point the letter was not referred to the Attorney General, under the guidelines which exist for sensitive correspondence, or allocated to another member of staff to [1691] deal with it in the normal way. That was Mr. Russell's error.

In relation to the question, why did correspondence continue to go to Mr. Russell, the senior legal assistant, Mr. Russell, was in that position when we came into Government. He is and was a senior legal assistant responsible for the allocation of all work on the professional side of the office. That is why all correspondence goes to him. To that end, all items of correspondence come across his desk. There was nothing unusual in this. What was unusual was that Mr. Russell decided to hold on to this particular correspondence, i.e. the posted copy of the letter of 14 November and the letter of 10 January, even through the file was no longer in his possession and even though he had been instructed that he was no longer to deal with the Smyth file. In other words, contrary to what is being alleged, he was no longer dealing with the Smyth file, but still, for some reason, retained those two items of correspondence which were relevant to it on his desk without informing the Attorney General, other than in the case of the letter of 14 November to which I have already referred.

I understand that the file was locked away on the direction of Attorney General Fitzsimons during November and when the file came back, after the work had been done on it for the sub-committee for extracting documents, it was again locked in the safe of the deputy legal assistant, not Mr. Russell's.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  So no one was handling it.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It was not being dealt with by Mr. Russell and he had been so informed. There was no active correspondence on it and no activity on that file——

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  It was in a safe.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  ——other than the letters which were not replied to——

[1692]Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  You should resign for that statement.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  ——which were not put on the file but were retained by Mr. Russell in his office.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  You should resign for that statement.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Order, let us not erode the precious time available to us to hear the Taoiseach and to ask supplementary questions. May I advise the House that I shall be proceeding to deal with priority questions at 3.30 p.m.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  His error in that connection was that he did not pass the letter of 10 January to the Attorney General as he should have done.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Who had the key of the safe?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  In relation to the question of why, if the procedure that all sensitive and important cases and, in particular, extradition and child abuse cases were to be brought to the attention of the Attorney General, did that not happen in this case? The procedure did in fact work in this case to the extent that the faxed copy of the letter of 14 November was brought to the attention of the then Attorney General, Mr. Fitzsimons, who, as I have pointed out, noted it, assuming it would be replied to.

His, Mr. Fitzsimons', recollection is that he agreed with Mr. Russell that the claim was not a sustainable one and that he understood that it would be sent to the Chief State Solicitor for reply. That did not happen and no reply was issued. Mr. Russell's reasons for not dealing with that letter in the usual way, and with the letter of 10 January, were given in my statement yesterday. In so far as the letter of 10 January is concerned, it should have been brought to the attention of the present Attorney General and failure to do so, while it [1693] might be explained by Mr. Russell in terms of how he understood the original letter was to be dealt with, was a breach of the procedures and in error.

Finally, I must place on record that the Attorney General and his office carry out, to the highest standards, a very large and constantly growing volume of demanding legal work, requiring the exercise of individual skill and judgment and a capacity to undertake responsibility which is rare and probably unique in the public service.

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  What about the Goodman files?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  In so doing they provide an essential service for the Government in the form of legal advice on all aspects of law relevant to the activities of the Government in the domestic and international spheres, in the drafting of a large volume of complex legislation, and in the conduct, through the Chief State Solicitor, of litigation on behalf of the State.

On the question of why the Government agreed to arrangements for what has been described in the media as a golden handshake which Mr. Russell will receive on his retirement, it needs to be made absolutely clear that much of the greater part of Mr. Russell's retirement benefits, of which so much has been made, are an entitlement of his by virtue of his long years of hard work in the public service and are entirely unconnected with the circumstances of his agreed retirement next Monday night. I have already put on record why I believe it was right to agree to these terms without which it would not have been possible to resolve the case by agreement.

In this context I am conscious that I have also been criticised here by some Deputies for treating Mr. Russell in a manner which they consider to be unduly harsh. The background to the decision which the Government reached on my recommendation was as follows: Mr. Russell had served in this office for [1694] over 20 years, with great skill and commitment; the view of the previous Attorney General, Harry Whelehan, that it would be a harsh judgment, made with the benefit of hindsight, to attach blame to the manner in which the extradition case was dealt with, had to be taken into account too.

Mr. Russell had apologised publicly for the neglect of the Fr. Smyth extradition case when he appeared before the Dáil sub committee. He also apologised personally and in writing to Attorneys General Mr. Whelehan and Mr. Fitzsimons in November last. Further, the lack of a proper management system in the Attorney General's office under previous Attorneys General, taken in conjunction with the increased work load in the office over the past 10 years or so was also a relevant factor in assessing Mr. Russell's position and his eligibility to be allowed to retire with somewhat greater benefits than he would if he had been compulsorily retired. The situation which arose could not be attributed solely to Mr. Russell because successive previous Attorneys General must also share responsibility for the overall management of the office and for the less than effective management style practised up to the end of last year.

I am aware of a number of departmental secretaries who had direct experience of working with Mr. Russell over the years, who if called upon to give evidence in any contested disciplinary case could only attest that, with the exception of the handling of the Fr. Smyth case, Mr. Russell has always given excellent service, often at short notice.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Careful now.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The view was put to me that Mr. Russell has also been readily available to deal with urgent legal problems referred to him by either the Government or the Department of the Taoiseach in an effective and professional manner notwithstanding his ever increasing workload.

[1695]Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  It is Mr. Gleeson we are interested in.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  We all know what you are interested in and it is not either justice or fairness. The only thing that people on the other side of the House are concerned about is themselves.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Let us hear the Taoiseach's concluding remarks.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Finally I must place on record ——

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  A Second Stage speech.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This was a very difficult and complex matter which required great care in order to ensure justice for all concerned but also required that where errors were made the source of those errors should be identified and accountability should be exercised in regard to them. Those complex matters have been dealt with effectively by me in a fair way.

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Not in a political way. The Taoiseach used civil servants and hid behind them.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Behind their skirts.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This contrasts with the way in which the previous Government attempted to deal with Mr. Russell and the ineffective way in which another Opposition party, when in Government, attempted to deal with the position of another official. In this case, despite constant and politically motivated barracking from the Opposition benches, this Government in a united way has dealt with two difficult crises this week. We have done it fairly, and effectively. We stand united in the decisions we have taken and have shown a significant contrast, in our activity in this matter, with the ineffective panic that was displayed by the Fianna Fáil Party when [1696] trust having broken down between it and its colleagues, it attempted to deal ineffectively with a situation with which I dealt effectively this week.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I will call Deputies in the order in which their questions appear before me on the Order Paper. I call first, therefore, Deputy Dermot Ahern who is giving way to Deputy Bertie Ahern.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Taoiseach said yesterday and again today that the Attorney General had seen the file that included the letter of 15 November and presumed that it had been replied to in the normal way and that there was, in the Taoiseach's words, nothing in anything he saw to suggest this normal courtesy of replying to the letter had not been complied with. Is not the fact that he saw nothing, precisely the point? Would the Taoiseach not accept that it is standard administrative practice in all Departments to attach the reply to the letter and that the absence of the reply on the file should have alerted him to the possibility of negligence? Apart from that, did the Attorney General not make any inquiries about the substantive response that would be sent then or later to the family of the victims? I have to remind the Taoiseach again that in the programme, A Government of Renewal the Government took office on the solemn understanding that it would carry through the reorganisation already planned by its predecessors in the wake of the Brendan Smyth case. The programme stated that it would be a priority of the Government to re-establish confidence in the Office of the Attorney General to ensure that there was no breakdown in the future.

The Taoiseach in his concluding remarks said he believes that when people make mistakes they have to be sought out and dealt with. In three months he has been successful in that, I concede. He has fired three people. He fired one Minister of State because his office sent out budget material too [1697] quickly, he fired another because he made a 'phone call that he should not have made.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I had hoped that we would proceed by way of parliamentary questions, that the questions would be brief and succinct and that Deputies would have regard to the time factor involved.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I will be brief.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  There are 25 questions to be dealt with and eight Deputies involved. Let us ensure equity and justice.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have tabled nine questions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I appreciate that.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  A second Minister was fired because he made a 'phone call that he should not have made while the third person was fired because he inefficiently dealt with letters.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Is that how the Deputy describes it?

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  He inefficiently dealt with the letters and left them on his desk. I will speak for another ten minutes if the Taoiseach wants me to but the question I want to ask him is, based on his performance, what does he say about an Attorney General who up until a few weeks ago did not bother to deal with the file which led to both him and the Taoiseach coming into office and who did not bother to check what had happened to it? The Taoiseach did not answer this question yesterday and has not done so today either. Perhaps he will do so now.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  He is a pal.

(Interruptions.)

[1698]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The reason for my mirth is the ineffectiveness of the questions being put.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Answer the question.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Deputy's first question was reasonable——

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I thank the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  He asked if it would not be normal, if a letter appeared on the file, to expect that the reply would also appear on the same file, that the Attorney General when examining the file would see the reply and, if not, that the alarm bells would be ringing and that he would ask a question.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  What about the answer?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The answer is that in this case threats of litigation addressed to the Attorney General's office are not replied to by the Attorney General's office and therefore the replies would not appear on the file in the Attorney General's office. In the normal course those letters are referred to the Chief State Solictor's office for reply.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  All that the file stated was that this letter had been noted by Mr. Eoghan Fitzsimons.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  The Taoiseach should move after that.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The noting of the matter by the Attorney General, which was proper, would normally be followed by the letter being sent to the Chief State Solicitor's office for reply.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  And noted on files.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This would not appear on the file in the Attorney General's office but rather on the file in the [1699] Chief State Solicitor's office. What happened in this case — Deputies should listen and learn — is that Mr. Russell did not pass the letter, as would be normal in respect of any letter threatening litigation, to the Chief State Solicitor's office for reply. The letter was retained by him on the desk. The present Attorney General was not made aware of it and there was nothing on the file to suggest to him that the reply had not been issued. There was nothing on the file to suggest that the letter had not been passed, as would be normal, to the Chief State Solicitor's office from whence the reply would issue.

(Interruptions).

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Deputy Ahern made what I consider to be a rather strange statement. In referring to Mr. Russell's departure from the scene he said that he had done so because “he inefficiently dealt with letters”. If the Deputy thinks that is the only reason Mr. Russell had to be dealt with he does not understand this case. As I outlined yesterday, there were three reasons I wrote to Mr. Russell seeking explanations as to why I should not exercise the power of compulsory retirement: first, the delay in dealing with the extradition file; second, the case for reorganisation in his office and his position with it and; third, his failure to reply to particular correspondence in a controversial matter and to draw that correspondence and the lack of a reply to the attention of the Attorney General.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Those are the three matters on which I was obliged to take action in respect of Mr. Russell, not because, to use the Deputy's ill chosen words, he inefficiently dealt with some letters.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  Why did the Attorney General not reply?

[1700]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I want to ensure that the precious time available to us is utilised in as fair and equitable a manner as possible. There are 25 questions on the Order Paper in connection with this matter and eight Deputies involved. While I am conscious of the fact that some have tabled more questions that others I want to call all eight Deputies but they must be brief, relevant and succinct.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  What about the answers?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I have heard Deputy Bertie Ahern who has tabled nine questions but I would ask him to have regard to the other persons, including his colleague, Deputy Dermot Ahern who is now offering.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Question No. 1 on the Order Paper is in my name but in his long dissertation the Taoiseach failed to answer it. The Programme for Government contains a commitment to review the question of the division of the Office of the Attorney General. Would the Taoiseach answer the question? There has been constant conflict as between the role of the Attorney General as legal adviser to the Government and as protector of the common good. I cite the abortion debate and the beef tribunal as examples.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  That should be sufficient.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  There was also conflict in relation to the role of the Attorney General vis-à-vis Mr. Russell prior to his appointment——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I ask for brevity, otherwise I cannot call the Deputies in question.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  —— and vis-à-vis the victims in the Smyth case.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I tell the [1701] House again that I shall be proceeding to deal with other questions at 3.30 p.m.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  When the Taoiseach meets the victims, as well as giving them an apology, will he give them an undertaking that the State will pay the compensation they justly deserve?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I cannot permit the Deputy to utilise an unfair amount of the time involved.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The victims can see that people are being paid off for political mistakes while they are getting nothing.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  This is not good enough and unfair to the other members involved.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  If the victims say anything to me of a confidential nature I will not disclose it here, as happened last night.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Taoiseach will not give them any commitment; he is paying other people off.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  On a point of order, I did not realise when I spoke yesterday that the Minister for Equality and Law Reform asked me if I had permission to say what I said. It was not confidential.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I accept that. I will meet the victims and convey an apology on behalf of the State for the additional trauma they have suffered by virtue of the delay in dealing with correspondence. I will also refer to the delay which occurred in the extradition case although my party was not in Government. I will present an apology in regard to both matters.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  What about compensation?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  On the question of compensation, the State's money is not mine.

[1702]Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  It was yesterday. Taxpayers' money was used to fund the package.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The State's money does not belong to me. I am only able to give commitments about State money in accordance with the laws made by this House.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  What about the golden handshake?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am not in a position, on a selective basis, to promise compensation to an individual victim and not to others.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  Ex gratia.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Any decisions about compensation will have to be decided if and when the victims' solicitors actually get around to issuing proceedings. It is worth noting that on 14 November a letter was received, which was seen by Mr. Eoghan Fitzsimons, from the solicitors in question saying they would institute proceedings within seven days.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Did the Taoiseach hear “Morning Ireland” this morning?

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  They expected courtesy from the Attorney General.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I would be interested to see the basis for that claim when proceedings are instituted. If the victims produce a claim which is valid and legally binding, in accordance with existing law, it would have to be met in a fair way. There is no provision for paying claims which are not founded on a genuine legal base. When I meet the victims tomorrow, or whenever I meet them, I will not engage in legal negotiation with them. I will simply convey an apology on behalf of the State for the delay in regard to the extradition file and in answering the correspondence.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  It will be a PR exercise.

[1703]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Deputy Dermot Ahern said that I did not answer his Question No. 1. Therefore I will read the extract from my reply which deals with that question.

The commitment in the Government's programme in relation to the feasibility of splitting the two roles of the Attorney General was in the context of a review of the Ministers and Secretaries Act and this review is, as I stated yesterday, in progress. It can also be anticipated that the Constitution Review Group will wish to examine Article 30 of the Constitution relating to the Attorney General. My predecessor in reply to a parliamentary question of 18 October last from my colleague, Deputy De Rossa, as in reply to previous questions stated that he had no proposal to alter the existing arrangements. In contrast [I have already stated this on two occasions] the parties forming this Government have agreed that the roles of the Attorney General [the respective roles and division thereof] required examination and this is being done. We will act, if necessary, on foot of that examination.

That is the answer to Deputy Ahern's question, which he did not hear.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Chair has a difficulty in facilitating Members at this time. I want very much to call the Members who have tabled questions. If it satisfies the House I invite the Members who have not already interjected to ask a brief question and leave five minutes at the end, at 3.25 p. m., for the Taoiseach to reply. Otherwise we will not get through all the questions.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I do not accept that. It is not possible for me to answer questions piled one on top of the other. I will take questions one by one.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I will not be able to reply to a series of individual questions [1704] in five minutes. I suggest, Sir, that you proceed in the normal way, allowing each Deputy to put his question, and I will reply.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I repeat for the benefit of the House, in accordance with the procedures of this House, I or the Leas-Cheann Comhairle shall deal with priority questions at 3.30 p.m. Deputies should utilise the time as best they can and let fair play be seen to be done.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Will the Taoiseach say who was responsible, since December, for the Smyth file? Was it the Attorney General? What steps did the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste or the Minister, Deputy De Rossa, take since December, given that they were aware that the Attorney General was compromised and they had a special responsibility and duty to make sure the file was removed, to ensure that action was taken on this file and that the victims were looked after?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The only action that required to be taken on the Smyth file was, first, to reply to the correspondence from the solicitors and, second, to divide up the file and the documents thereon for passage to the committee. There were no other outstanding matters on the Smyth file. As we know, Fr. Smyth had left the jurisdiction and had been taken into custody. There was no extradition warrant outstanding in this case because he was already outside the jurisdiction. There was no active matter in respect of Fr. Smyth other than the two matters concerned.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  There was the Taoiseach's investigation.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Who was responsible? The Taoiseach should answer the question.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I will if I am allowed. In regard to where the file was ——

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The Taoiseach told us it was in a safe.

[1705]Mr. Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  He answered that question.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  He should answer the question on who was responsible.

Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  (Limerick East): How can he answer when Deputies continue to interrupt?

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  On a point of order, Deputy Woods asked a straight question: who was responsible for the file? The Taoiseach should answer that question.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I will answer it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  If interruptions cease we might get answers.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  At the direction of Mr. Fitzsimons, the file was in Mr. Plunkett's safe. The problem is that the correspondence received by Mr. Russell was not associated with the file, was not put with the file and was not sent to the Chief State Solicitor's office for reply.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Who was in charge of the file?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Therefore it never formed part of the Smyth file.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Since the Taoiseach came to office who has been responsible for the file?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Responsibility for not replying to that correspondence rests with the person who received it, who did not pass it to the Attorney General, who did not pass it to the Chief State Solicitor's office and as a result of whose omission the letters were never replied to.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Who was in charge of the file?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  For the purpose of my investigations there was no necessity for me to have access to the Smyth file as [1706] Mr. Russell had already made an admission in the Official Report of the sub-committee that his conduct in the matter had not been up to the standard the Attorney General would have a right to expect. That, in itself, was sufficient to ground a consideration of whether disciplinary action was required. There was no need for me to review the file and I have not seen it.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Who was in charge of the file?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Is the Attorney General responsible—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Sorry, I am calling Deputy Eoin Ryan for a brief relevant question.

Mr. E. Ryan: Information on Eoin Ryan  Zoom on Eoin Ryan  The Taoiseach said the Attorney General decided not to appear before the sub-committee of the Select Committee on Legislation and Security. Did the Taoiseach discuss with the Attorney General the implications of the Attorney General appearing before the committee and it being discovered that there was a conflict of interest?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  As far as I remember, the Attorney General told me that he was in the process of going through the file with a view to deciding on the aspects of it that could be sent to the full committee and the remaining aspects that would have to be sent to the committee's independent legal advisers to decide whether the matter concerned was prejudicial on grounds that it contained the names of victims, it interfered with extradition procedures or it would prejudice a future trail. He also told me, I think after he made his decision, that there was no basis or need for him to appear before the committee. I did not ask him to or give him any advice on whether he should do so; that was his decision, but he did inform me of it after the event.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Will the Taoiseach [1707] say whether the Attorney General discussed the matter with Mr. Russell at any stage during the five months? Apart from reviewing the file from a specific point of view, should he not have satisfied himself, in discussion with Mr. Russell, that this explosive case was being properly dealt with in those five months? Has the Taoiseach information on whether the Attorney General lived up to his duty in running the office by specifically inquiring from Mr. Russell whether the case was proceeding satisfactorily? The committee was not told about the matter. Why was it not possible for the lawyers to tell the lawyers advising the committee about the conflict of interest on a lawyer basis? Would that not have been a possibility if the Taoiseach was genuinely interested in informing the committee about the position from a legal point of view? Is it not now clear that an official has been made a scapegoat while the Taoiseach and the Attorney General escape scot-free?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  We are having some repetition.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It might be helpful to the House and to Deputy Brennan if I were to read from the code of conduct which governs barristers' relationships with their clients and the requirement of confidentiality.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  Is that the same as for Ministers and Ministers of State?

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Did the Attorney General discuss it with Mr. Russell?

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  This is appalling.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I refer to paragraph 3.4 (a) of the relevant provisions of the code. A barrister has a duty not to communicate to a third person information entrusted to him by or on behalf of his [1708] lay client and not to use any such information to his client's detriment or to his own or another client's advantage.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  This is a waste of time.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Did the Attorney General discuss it with Mr. Russell?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This duty continues at all times after the relationship of the counsel and client has ceased and after the death of his client and subsists unless he has the consent of his client to make such a communication or it is necessary to make such communication when answering accusations against him by his client.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Was the consent asked for?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The position is that it would have been improper for Mr. Gleeson to reveal that to lawyers acting for a committee which was investigating, among other things, Mr. Russell, his former client. If he had done that he would have been prejudicing the interests of his client by breaching client confidentiality.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  If the Taoiseach knew that what did he do about informing the committee?

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Every witness was entitled to the option of independent legal advice.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The House should recognise that to have placed Mr. Russell in that position before the committee by prematurely revealing that information would have prejudiced the subsequent actions which I was able to take.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Did the Attorney General discuss it with Mr. Russell?

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  The Chairman of the sub-committee read out the terms before each witness gave evidence.

[1709]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The situation would have been that an officer of the State had revealed unnecessarily and without any requirement to do so compromising information regarding Mr. Russell, namely that he was not so sure of his position when the previous Government attempted to summarily dismiss him but had to take legal advice. I believe that revelation would have been seen in any court afterwards discussing any decision I took in respect of Mr. Russell as prior prejudicing of his position by the disclosure of client confidential information.

Mr. S. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan  Zoom on Seamus Brennan  Did the Attorney General discuss it with Mr. Russell?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  If Deputies opposite, many of whom have legal qualifications, do not understand the requirement of client confidentiality, then I do not believe they have a well developed sense of civil rights.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  That is balderdash and Mr. Gleeson knows it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  In the interests of equity and justice I call Deputy Harney:

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  I am the next speaker on the list.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  That may be so, but I am in control here now.

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  This is total nonsense.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  If the Deputy had been sitting alongside the Progressive Democrats he would have got in.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Why did the Taoiseach employ lawyers? He sent letters to Mr. Russell, but he did not accept the disciplinary powers? Is it not the case that he did not do that because we would have all had to know about the conflict of interest? When did the Taoiseach become aware that letters were not answered and when did he first contact [1710] Mr. Russell? Does the Taoiseach accept political responsibility for what happened in the Attorney General's office since he took office?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I will deal with the last question first. Of course I accept political responsibility and that is why I have been answering questions on the matter for the past three days.

Mr. N. Treacy: Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  The Taoiseach was dragged in.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That is an exercise of political responsibility and accountability. As Taoiseach I am proud to be accountable to the House for Mr. Dermot Gleeson, Attorney General.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I could not find a man of whom I would be more proud to be accountable to this House than Mr. Gleeson and that includes even the eminent gentleman sitting beside Deputy Harney who might well be eligible for appointment to that job at some stage in the future ——

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  It may not be easy to get a seat in Dublin south west.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  —— if he does not become a High Court judge before that. The Deputy should not worry, the new boundaries will suit us fine.

On the question of why I employed independent lawyers, I answered that question several times.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Why did the Taoiseach not assume the powers?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The advice I received from the independent lawyers is that the assumption of the formal powers is the last step in the process before formal disciplinary action is initiated.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  The Taoiseach had to make up his mind.

[1711]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I had to be in a position that there was a case to answer before I would initiate disciplinary proceedings. The process I went through between February and May was one of examining the legal advice, in other words, what powers I had to deal with the matter if there was a case to answer. That was a subject matter of much of the legal advice. Considering the balance of justice in terms of Russell's position, I had to look at the extenuating circumstances ——

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  Before the Taoiseach had any function in the matter he did all the judging.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Before I took formal responsibility for the matter concerning a position of legal action, I had to establish that there was a case to answer.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  The Taoiseach had his mind made up.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Anybody who understands our legal system will understand that the first step is that one must establish if there is a case to answer ——

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  The first step is to decide whether the Taoiseach made up his mind.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  —— then if there is a case to answer there is a proceeding which involves a judicial process. There is not a judicial process unless there is first a case to answer. The first part of the exercise up until the time I withdrew authority from Mr. Gleeson to deal with personnel matters was a process in a period when I was establishing to my satisfaction that there was a case to answer.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  The Taoiseach had no official function to do that.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I established there was such a case and as a result assumed the powers myself by order.

[1712]Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Why did that happen at 9 p.m. on Tuesday night?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Following that, I initiated the formal process of getting an answer from Mr. Russell on the three reasons I cited as to why he might be compulsorily retired.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Why did the Taoiseach assume the powers at 9 p.m. at night?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That is the reason for the sequence of events.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  At 9 p.m. the Taoiseach said to a journalist that he would give partial coverage of events the following day. How did he know about that?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  As far as the shouted questions from Deputy Burke are concerned, if he refers to my reply he will find that I answered his shouted interventions fully already. I am happy to answer them again.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  He did not respond to them.

Mr. Cullen: Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Will the Taoiseach accept that far from taking political responsibility ——

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  On a point of order, the Taoiseach did not say when he found out the questions were not answered.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I was getting so much help from Deputy Burke that I was distracted from answering questions.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  Does the Taoiseach ever answer a question he is asked?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I want to answer Deputy Harney's question.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  It will be the first question the Taoiseach has answered all day.

[1713]The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Deputy Burke, this is a school debating society standard.

Mr. M. McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell  Zoom on Michael McDowell  When did the Taoiseach know that the letters had not been replied to?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I knew they had not been replied to when that became public knowledge, not sooner. I was unaware that those letters had not been replied to.

Mr. J. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh  He ignored the file.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  For six months the Taoiseach did nothing.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  Despite his programme for Government.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  He is a hypocrite.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I remember precisely what happened on the occasion.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  That is a word that cannot be used, it is an unparliamentary remark.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Deputies will recollect a story in that excellent organ of public opinion, the Irish Independent, with which I have had some quarrels in recent times. I read in that paper a reference to the fact that this correspondence had not been replied to, a reference to interests in the matter expressed by Deputies McDowell——

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  The letter was on the file and it should have been taken out of the safe.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  ——and O'Donnell. As a result of that information I first became aware that correspondence had not been replied to.

Mr. O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  The Taoiseach was in charge of the file.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Immediately on hearing that I contacted my officials, as I [1714] said in my reply today, and said that I believed I would have to make a formal revocation that the amount of the evidence was now such that there was a case to answer.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  The Taoiseach had the key to the safe.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  When did the Taoiseach first make contact with Mr. Russell?

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I did not make contact with Mr. Russell until after I had revoked the powers——

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  Until after 9 p.m. on Tuesday night.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  ——and I did so by means of a letter which set out the reasons I believed he should be compulsorily retired. In line with the requirements of natural justice, I asked him to reply in writing by the following Tuesday.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Taoiseach allowed him to go on holidays and called him back.

The Taoiseach: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  As Deputies are aware, through his lawyers, he requested an extension until Friday. In the meantime negotiations took place between the two sides and we reached an amicable agreement on his voluntary retirement under the provisions of the legislation to which I referred.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  After Mr. Brian Dowling wrote to the Taoiseach.

Mr. J. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh  One hundred and thirty-eight thousand pounds later.

Mr. Cowen: Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  So much for accountability and transparency.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  That disposes of questions to the Taoiseach.


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