Wednesday, 24 April 1996
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: The arrangements and procedures applying in the Office of the Attorney General in relation to extradition are as I set out in reply to a parliamentary question on 8 February 1995 but they have been complemented since 18 September 1995 by a computerised case-tracking system.
These arrangements and procedures are that the Attorney General is notified, in writing, immediately every request for extradition is received in the office and that he is given details of the request. A computerised case-tracking system supplements, and may eventually replace, the written notification to the Attorney General. The system, which incorporates a special alert notice for extradition cases, enables the Attorney General to check the progress of any extradition case. The combination of these two systems enables the Attorney General to be personally aware, at all times, of all extradition requests and to monitor their progress.  I am satisfied with these arrangements, which are kept under constant review.
Miss Harney: In the most recent extradition case in which faulty documents were involved, can the Taoiseach say whether they were checked in the Attorney General's office before the case was proceeded with?
The Taoiseach: That particular case is the subject of a parliamentary question addressed to the Minister for Justice. I am not in a position to give the House specific information as to particular documents that may or may not have been received in the Attorney General's office but I can say with certainty that the problems that arose in that case did not arise in the Attorney General's office.
Miss Harney: While accepting that the problems did not arise in the Attorney General's office the Taoiseach did say there is an alert system in that office that allows him to personally check and monitor all applications for extradition. That being the case — in the specific case I mentioned — were the relevant documents checked and was any monitoring done on behalf of the Attorney General?
The Taoiseach: That matter will be the subject of a comprehensive reply by the Minister for Justice after the relevant inquiries have been completed — including the responsibility of all the various offices in the matter — to the best of her ability to collate and present. It would be best to allow the Minister for Justice to answer that matter in detail. The Attorney General's office was not in any sense remiss in its handling of the case, a matter for which I am accountable here on this occasion.
Mr. B. Ahern: I take it the Taoiseach agrees that the Irish Government cannot be blamed for any errors in extradition warrants issued by the British authorities and, if so, I am delighted to know that. Will the Taoiseach say in general whether it is the view of the Attorney General's office that in cases that can be prosecuted under the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act, 1976, that happens?
The Taoiseach: This question relates to the procedures for dealing with extradition applications as distinct from others not involving extradition. That is a separate question which does not involve extradition and I suggest he tables a separate question.
The Taoiseach: I have no reason to believe that there was any omission on the Irish side but the matter is the subject of a separate parliamentary question to the Minister for Justice. This question tabled by Deputy Harney relates solely to the procedures in the Attorney General's office, which I have outlined. I have further stated I am satisfied there was no failure to apply appropriate procedures in the Attorney General's office which contributed to the difficulties that occurred in this case. As to the difficulties elsewhere and the attribution of any responsibility for those between different jurisdictions and offices, that will be the subject of a detailed parliamentary reply from the Minister for Justice. I suggest to Deputy Ahern, as I have already to Deputy Harney, that he await that reply.
Mr. R. Burke: In his original reply the Taoiseach referred to the fact that the Attorney General was notified, in writing, that there was a computerised case-tracking system, an alert notice system and a checking of progress and that the Attorney General continues to monitor all extradition cases throughout five different phases in his office. Surely the case-tracking system monitors more than the dates on which such extradition applications are received in his office and when they are dealt with. From my term of office in the Department of Justice, I know that any such tracking system would also have monitored the accuracy of documentation and so on. Instead of awaiting a comprehensive reply from the Minister for Justice, does the Taoiseach agree, from a national viewpoint, it is important that he avails of this opportunity to assure the electorate and international opinion — since there was much misrepresentation of the position of the Irish Government authorities on this matter — that no error occurred on the part of the Irish authorities in the handling of this case as far as documentation was concerned? It is very important that we clarify our position on this matter.
An Ceann Comhairle: I have an obligation to safeguard the rights of Members, especially in respect of tabling questions. If there is a question tabled on this subject to the Minister for Justice we should not anticipate it. I cannot permit queue-jumping, which would be unfair to the Deputies concerned, and I will not tolerate it.
The Taoiseach: As Members well know, parliamentary questions for oral reply by another Minister on a subsequent day do not appear on today's Order Paper. However, it is the case that a question has been tabled, will be answered and — as the Ceann Comhairle correctly said — if answered now  would involve an element of queue-jumping. Apart from that, the important thing is that a comprehensive reply is given on the matter, and that will be given. As I said in response to Deputy Burke, which I reiterate, I have no reason to believe that there was any error or omission on the Irish side on this matter that contributed to any of the difficulties but that matter will be fully addressed.
As to the position of the Irish Government being misrepresented in this and other related areas, this is something to which all Irish Governments become used and is not something that occurs solely outside this jurisdiction.
Miss Harney: I want to draw the attention of the House to the different procedures followed. My party had tabled a number of questions over the past few weeks on the second mobile telephone licence which were ruled out of order yesterday on the basis that the matter had been raised on the Adjournment last week.
We seem to follow different procedures for different issues, as it suits. It is not satisfactory for the Taoiseach to refuse to answer a question today on the basis that it will arise when oral questions will be answered, which is in about two weeks' time. That is not satisfactory.
The Taoiseach: Nor is there any inconsistency as far as my dealing with this matter is concerned — both as to how I have dealt with similar cases and as to how my predecessors dealt with similar cases.
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