Thursday, 20 October 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Quinn: I wish to share time with Deputies Carey and Gormley. The fact that they are from different parties is an indication of the cross-party concern at what amounts to the snatching of an Irish citizen outside this jurisdiction by the United States. I refer to the arrest on 7 October of Seán Garland on a visit to Belfast, his remand under trial the following morning on foot of a warrant executed to the US Embassy in London, where the authorities purport to extradite him back to the US to face charges which have not been presented directly to him.
I do not dispute the legality of the charges or the right of any federal administration in any part of the world to pursue charges if they so choose. My concern is that — I am delighted that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is here — if the US Government wanted to serve a notice of extradition and charges to Seán Garland, it could have just as easily done so through Irish courts in this jurisdiction. The fact that there is distorted legislation which gives unfair advantage to the US over citizens’ rights in the UK, in my view and in the view of many people, including a list of trade unionists who wrote to The Irish Times two days ago, puts a very different interpretation on all of this.
Mr. Quinn: The presumption of innocence, as the Minister rushes out of the House, belies his partisanship in this matter. What is at issue is the right of an Irish citizen to enjoy the protections of the Constitution of this State. It is my view and the view of many others who have listened to the case that, irrespective of the merits of the case, the rights of the citizen in question have been denied. I ask the Minister of State now present to convey the concern to the US ambassador and the US authorities.
Mr. Carey: I join with Deputy Quinn and Deputy Gormley in supporting this motion. The facts, as they have been outlined, are clear. The fact it has taken five months for this warrant to be enforced and, furthermore, that it was enforced in Belfast raises important questions. The fact that a president of an Irish political party was arrested in this manner on the first night of a party conference raises questions of human rights. Human rights, such as the protection of freedom of debate, freedom of movement, etc. are enshrined in our Constitution. I do not understand why this action was undertaken in this manner.
Deputy Quinn commented on the need to engage with the authorities in the United States. I have just come from a short meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and representatives of the Workers’ Party, where we impressed upon the Minister the need to address these issues through appropriate avenues with the United States authorities. I do not wish to speak further except to state that I strongly support the case which has been well articulated by Deputy Quinn.
Mr. Gormley: There has been much hype about this case. A “Panorama” television programme has been broadcast and I understand that a “Spotlight” television programme has been shown five times. It features a figure looking remarkably like Mr. Garland walking through the streets of Moscow, apparently up to no good. If we were to believe these reports and other newspaper reports, Mr. Garland stands accused of attempting to undermine the currency of the United States.
I am disturbed by the comment murmured under his breath by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform as he departed the Chamber. We need more than that because if such a serious figure was involved in such high level criminality, the Garda Síochána would know all about it, as would the Independent Monitoring Commission which published its report yesterday. Despite this, as far as I understand it, the Workers’ Party has received a clean bill of health. I have not heard about the Official IRA for many years and yet this man stands accused.
As Deputy Quinn noted, the reason he was arrested in Belfast is because the standard of proof required there for an extradition is of a much lower order than in this jurisdiction. In the wake of the attacks of 11 September 2001, the United States has little time for civil liberties unless it involves one of its own citizens. Presumably that explains why it has not signed up to the International Criminal Court. The presumption of innocence until proven guilty is the corner stone of our legal system. While Mr. Garland may have political views of which the United States, Deputy Quinn, Deputy Carey and I do not approve, that is not the issue. The issue is justice. As Irish parliamentarians and as Europeans we cannot afford to abandon those hard-fought principles of justice for a legal system devised by George W. Bush.
Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Mr. Treacy): I am pleased to respond to this motion from three respected Members of this House representing three different political parties. Mr. Sean Garland was arrested by the PSNI in Belfast on 7 October 2005. At the time of his arrest, Irish officials at the British-Irish intergovernmental secretariat in Belfast were immediately contacted and subsequently sought clarification from the British authorities as to the basis for his arrest.
Mr. Garland was provisionally arrested on foot of a request from the United States Government for his extradition. The request for extradition was made on the basis that Mr. Garland is the subject of an indictment filed on 19 May 2005 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The United States authorities want Mr. Garland to stand trial on counterfeiting charges.
Mr. Treacy: Yes. He must remain in Northern Ireland. Mr. Garland has been instructed to reside at an address in Northern Ireland pending the receipt of appropriate documentation from the United States authorities to support the extradition request. I understand that the said documentation must be forwarded to the authorities in the United Kingdom within 65 days of the date of the initial request for extradition, that is within 65 days of 4 October 2005.
Mr. Garland has since contacted Irish officials in the British-Irish intergovernmental secretariat in Belfast. Assurances have been given to Mr. Garland that the case will continue to be monitored by the Government and that Mr. Garland had the same rights as any other citizen in that respect. I acknowledge that he is a private citizen of this nation and that he is the president of an Irish political party.
As Deputies are aware, the upholding of the rights of Irish citizens arrested outside this jurisdiction is an ongoing part of the work of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Our officials work to ensure that Irish citizens are in no way treated in a discriminatory manner and that they are provided with appropriate legal assistance at all times. Mr. Garland is fully entitled to due process and to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
I can confirm Deputy Carey’s statement that within the last hour, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, immediately after a meeting of the National Forum on Europe, along with Deputy Carey and Deputy Joe Higgins, has met representatives of the Workers’ Party and has discussed the situation. I can also confirm to the House that a request was made to the Minister to raise this matter with the American authorities. Deputy Quinn has already raised that question and I can confirm that the Minister has given a commitment that this matter will be raised with the American authorities immediately.
Deputies will also understand that the Irish Government does not have the power to interfere in legal proceedings that take place in another jurisdiction. Such matters are for the courts alone to decide upon and, as such, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on the details of the case at present.
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