Wednesday, 31 May 1995
Dáil Éireann Debate
1. Mr. D. Ahern asked the Taoiseach 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 asked the Taoiseach 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 asked the Taoiseach 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 asked the Taoiseach 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 asked the Taoiseach 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]
7. Mr. Cullen asked the Taoiseach 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 asked the Taoiseach 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]
17. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Taoiseach 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]
19. Mr. B. Ahern asked the Taoiseach 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]
22. Miss Harney asked the Taoiseach 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]
23. Miss Harney asked the Taoiseach 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 asked the Taoiseach 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 asked the Taoiseach 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 asked the Taoiseach 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]
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  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.
The Taoiseach: This behaviour cannot cloud the stark contrast between a measured approach with fair procedure in this case and the unmeasured hasty  approach without fairness or due procedure in the Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats cases in similar situations.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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,  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.
The Taoiseach: 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  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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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,  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——
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  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,  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.
The Taoiseach: 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  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.
An Ceann Comhairle: 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: 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  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.
The Taoiseach: 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  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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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  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: 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: 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  quickly, he fired another because he made a 'phone call that he should not have made.
An Ceann Comhairle: 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: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: This would not appear on the file in the Attorney General's office but rather on the file in the  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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
An Ceann Comhairle: 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.
An Ceann Comhairle: 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: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
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.
An Ceann Comhairle: 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: I will not be able to reply to a series of individual questions  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: 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: 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: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: For the purpose of my investigations there was no necessity for me to have access to the Smyth file as  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. E. 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: 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: Will the Taoiseach  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?
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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  lay client and not to use any such information to his client's detriment or to his own or another client's advantage.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
Miss 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  Mr. Russell? Does the Taoiseach accept political responsibility for what happened in the Attorney General's office since he took office?
The Taoiseach: 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 ——
The Taoiseach: 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 ——
The Taoiseach: —— 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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
The Taoiseach: 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——
The Taoiseach: Immediately on hearing that I contacted my officials, as I  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.
The Taoiseach: ——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.
The Taoiseach: 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.
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