Thursday, 1 June 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
5. Mr. Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he will take to address the failure to investigate fully all the circumstances of a case (details supplied) with a view towards having all the facts made public and ensuring that any person responsible for wrong doing may be made accountable for their actions. [15748/00]
As I said in the House on 1 April 1999, I decided at the time that official level inquiries should proceed, conducted in such a way as not to jeopardise the upcoming judicial review proceedings. An inquiry was instituted by the Chief Justice which resulted in a report forwarded by  the Chief Justice to the Attorney General who passed a copy to me. A departmental inquiry was carried out into the involvement, if any, of officials in this matter and a report was provided to me. The Chief State Solicitor's Office carried out an internal inquiry.
The Government approved the release of the Hamilton report to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights. My Department also forwarded a copy of the departmental report to that committee. I have also explained to the House that, on the basis of various contacts which took place at the time, the DPP was of the view that a criminal investigation would, in all the circumstances, be premature and that view was shared by the Garda authorities.
Since that time, the outcome of the investigations I have mentioned have not only been in the public domain but have also been available to the Garda authorities and the DPP. It is a matter for the Garda authorities to decide in any case whether, on the basis of the facts and information available to them, there ought to be a criminal investigation. It is a matter for the DPP to decide, on the basis of any Garda investigation file that may be presented to him, whether anyone should be the subject of a criminal prosecution. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has no role nor can he or she intervene in that process and the Deputy will agree that this is as it should be.
The position in this case, as in any other case, is that if any specific allegation of criminal conduct is made to the Garda authorities and if the person making the allegation can provide the Garda with a credible basis for making that allegation, the matter will be investigated. It is my understanding that to date no such allegation has been made.
Mr. Flanagan: Can I take it from the Minister's official reply that the last act in this debacle was the appointment by the Government of one of the major parties involved in this affair, former Mr. Justice O'Flaherty, to a position of some importance well outside the jurisdiction of this State? Is the Minister saying this was the last chapter in this debacle? I put it to the Minister that the application of the rule of law in this affair was so flexible as to be seriously compromised. Is the Minister saying he has been satisfied that the impartiality of the courts has in no way been compromised?
Mr. O'Donoghue: I am saying I did my duty to the level best of my ability and as clearly and honestly as I possibly could. The Chief Justice is the chief law officer of the land and he was asked to carry out the inquiry. He brought his conclusions to the Government, they were considered and the Government took what it considered was appropriate action. There was little more I could have done – I did what I had to  do. If Deputy Flanagan or anybody else is of the view that there should be a Garda investigation then I suggest they produce their reasons for that to An Garda Síochána and I have no doubt the matter would be investigated.
Mr. Flanagan: Does the Minister accept he has a responsibility to ensure an element of public confidence in the judicial system and in the administration of law? The Minister is quoted as having said in the House that there was an element of “stated misbehaviour” on the part of Mr. O'Flaherty. I ask the Minister to elaborate on exactly what was that stated misbehaviour. This happened over a year ago and we still do not know. Is the Minister satisfied as to the nature of this misbehaviour? Was it taken into consideration by the Minister when he associated himself with this promotion – the final chapter – last week? What was the misbehaviour?
Mr. O'Donoghue: Following his investigation the Chief Justice presented his conclusions and made the position quite clear according to what he believed. The Government, through the Secretary General, subsequently wrote to the two judges concerned and both resigned; that is well known. The matter was investigated by the Chief Justice, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Office of the Chief State Solicitor. Reports were made available and put in the public domain. I feel I did my duty – of that I am certain.
Mr. O'Donoghue: —and its consequences, asked why three such eminent figures in our system of criminal justice became involved in this set of circumstances. Mr. Justice Hamilton's report outlines the facts as he discovered them. As we know, he brought forward his conclusions on the undisputed facts—
Mr. O'Donoghue: —in resolving this issue and we will be bringing forward a comprehensive programme of changes and reforms of the system to ensure, as far as possible, we will never again have a recurrence of this kind of event.
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