Wednesday, 15 May 1996
Dáil Éireann Debate
136. Miss Harney asked the Minister for Justice the discussions, if any, she has had with the British Government regarding proposed legislation to deal with the verifications of decommissioned arms. [9198/96]
138. Miss Harney asked the Minister for Justice the legislation, if any, being drafted by the Office of the Attorney General to deal with the verification of possible arms decommissioning by paramilitary organisations in the future. [7668/96]
Legislation will be necessary to give effect to the recommendations in the report of the international body made to the Irish and British Governments on  22 January last. Work on the preparation of legislative proposals on decommissioning of arms, including the question of an arms amnesty, consistent with the terms of the recommendations contained in the body's report, is under way in my Department. Those proposals are being prepared in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General. My Department is also liaising with the Northern Ireland Office, which has responsibility for this matter within the British system.
Mr. O'Donoghue: Will the Minister comment on reports that under the proposed legislation security forces on both sides of the Border will be permitted to conduct forensic examinations of weapons and explosives handed over by paramilitary groups? Does she accept that such a proposal would not be conducive to either ensuring decommissioning takes place or a lasting settlement?
Mrs. Owen: The legislative proposals are being prepared on the basis of, and will be consistent with, the terms of the recommendations in the Mitchell report. The international body recommended that armaments made available for decommissioning, whether directly or indirectly, should be exempt under law from forensic examination. The legislation will provide accordingly.
Mr. O'Donoghue: May I remind the Minister that indications to the contrary emanated from Government sources less than two weeks ago? When does the Minister envisage this legislation being published? Can she see any realistic prospect of decommissioning, however desirable it might be, in advance of a settlement?
Mrs. Owen: No indications of that sort emanated from the Government. The Taoiseach clarified that a number of times in the Dáil. He indicated that legislation on matters of this kind inevitably raises very complex issues in a legal system such as ours which requires all  legislation to be consistent with constitutional requirements. I am not responsible, nor is the Taoiseach, for comments in newspapers, whether they are true or false. Issues which may not be immediately apparent inevitably arise as we investigate the means of bringing in legislation. With regard to the timing of the legislation, I can assure the Deputy the legislation will be available as soon as it is required in the process which is now going forward.
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