Wednesday, 10 October 2007
Dáil Eireann Debate
9. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the action he will take on foot of the report of the MacEntee inquiry into the State’s response to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 1974; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18786/07]
10. Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach the action he will take arising from the report of the MacEntee commission into aspects of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20156/07]
11. Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach if he has raised or intends to raise with the British Prime Minister the report of the MacEntee commission into aspects of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20157/07]
I received the final report by the Commission of Investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 from the sole member, Mr. Patrick MacEntee, SC QC, on 12 March last. Under the Commissions of Investigation Act, I was obliged to consider certain legal issues prior to publication. As such, I sought advice from the Attorney General, who considered these issues and advised that the report should be published in full. Accordingly, I brought the report to the Cabinet and published it on 4 April. The Government has considered the findings of the report carefully.
Although they relate to a difficult period in the past, Mr. MacEntee’s findings with regard to shortcomings and omissions are a matter of serious concern. It should also be acknowledged that he found considerable improvements in administrative practice since that time. A full review has now been carried out of all systems and procedures in the relevant Departments and agencies to ensure that the failures found by Mr. MacEntee do not occur in the future.
In chapter 11 of his report, Mr. MacEntee stated that for legal reasons he was unable to report on one significant aspect of his terms of reference specifically relating to why the Garda Síochána did not follow up on a lead they had regarding a man who stayed in the Four Courts Hotel. Following dissolution of the commission of inquiry, the relevant confidential information remained subject to legal privilege. Its archive was transferred to my Department, where it is in secure storage.
Based on the legal advice of the Attorney General on this point, the Government decided to seek voluntary withdrawal of claims of privilege from those agencies, both here and in Britain, which provided the confidential material to the commission so that it could be shared with the relevant authorities in this State. Agreement has now been obtained from all those agencies and my Department has forwarded this documentation to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Garda Síochána for appropriate consideration.
Deputies are aware that I and my officials have consistently raised these issues with the British authorities, including at Prime Minister level, and will continue to do so. I recognise that victims’ issues and dealing with the past are difficult, but it is important that we find a way to resolve this and allow people move on with their lives.
The total amount spent by the commission of investigation is €2,632,702. This amount breaks down as follows: €1,756,533 on legal costs; €351,410 on support staff; and €524,759 on set-up and administrative costs of the offices of the commission.
Deputy Enda Kenny: Is the Taoiseach aware of how unhappy the Justice for the Forgotten group is at the fact there was little discussion or substantive investigation into what is contained in the report with reference to the man in the Four Courts Hotel? Is he aware that any evidence available to the State was made available in this regard? Will the Taoiseach comment on whether it is a State security matter?
The subcommittee which dealt with the Barron report last November recommended an Oireachtas debate should take place on collusion referred to in the report. Obviously, it would have been preferable if that debate had taken place before the election but that did not happen for whatever reason. Is that a matter to which the Taoiseach will give consideration in the future?
In regard to his comments about continual interaction with the British authorities, a matter we have raised on many occasions, is the Taoiseach happy that they have supplied all the information they can in respect of this matter? Has he spoken to the Prime Minister, Mr. Brown, since his appointment as British Prime Minister, on the issue of whether there are outstanding documents or material that could be provided by the British authorities in order to bring this matter to a final conclusion?
The Taoiseach: In relation to the man who stayed in the Four Courts Hotel, I have, as outlined in my reply, forwarded the relevant material to the appropriate authorities for their consideration. Regarding Justice for the Forgotten, there have been comprehensive examinations and all the work regarding Mr. Justice Hamilton, Mr. Justice Barron’s report, the commission of investigation and the examinations here in the House has been completed to the best of everybody’s ability.
It was only recently that I saw that information regarding the issue I mentioned in the reply. I will give my own political view on it; I do not want to get into the legal realms. I do not think we should look at it with enormous interest. In my estimation, it is not very substantive. That is purely my political view; it is for others to offer a legal view. Obviously, I cannot say what it is — given what it is — but I had not seen it in previous work when it was finished. I have just seen it in recent times but it is no more substantive than many other things I have seen in these reports. I do not know whether it is of any relevance at all, but that is a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions. Politically, I do not think it is of huge interest because we are talking about a period 34 years ago. If there are any leads on these issues, they are not there.
If the Deputy asked if I believe that all the information that is available in the British establishment has been given to us, I certainly would not answer “yes” to that question. If the Deputy asked whether we have we all the information we are going to get from the British authorities, I would answer “yes” to that question. After the considerable efforts of Mr. Justice Hamilton, Mr. Justice Barron and Mr. MacEntee, we are unlikely to see any further information. With the help of numerous Secretaries of State they did ultimately change their position and gave far more information than they were giving in the first place. They moved substantially from their position. Any other information is probably in the hands of MI5 or MI6 and I do not see how we will get it.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: It is now 12 months since the Oireachtas sub-committee made the recommendation of a full debate in both Houses of the Oireachtas on the issue of collusion. The Taoiseach has not responded to the earlier question from Deputy Kenny. Will he be specific on when that debate will be accommodated? I have raised this matter over the summer recess and since then with the Chief Whip, who can confirm that is the case. I believe the matter needs to be accommodated with some urgency.
Having read the MacEntee report, does the Taoiseach hold the view that the Government and Garda response at the time raises very serious questions? I have heard him articulate his concerns on this whole area and I am of the view that gross incompetence is not enough to explain what happened, given the seriousness of the failure to properly investigate and the disappearance and destruction of records pertaining to the tragic events of 17 May 1974. What action does the Taoiseach propose to take in this regard, given that I have heard him articulate on a number of occasions his particular concern in relation to that whole area of the investigation or, more correctly, the failure to properly investigate all that pertained to that issue?
Following the appointment of the new British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has the Taoiseach raised with him the failure of the British Government to properly co-operate with the series of inquiries by Mr. Justice Hamilton, Mr. Justice Barron and Mr. MacEntee? Has the Taoiseach acquainted him with the extent of the failure of the British authorities to properly co-operate with a commission appointed by this Parliament and its failure to co-operate throughout which has not only impeded but stunted the potential of those commissions of inquiry to
properly get to the full detail that must be available?
Has the Taoiseach had the opportunity to raise with Mr. Brown the other pressing issues under the umbrella of collusion, for example, the murder of Pat Finucane, which the Dáil has unanimously agreed warrants a full inquiry?
Having met the family of the late councillor Eddie Fullerton of Buncrana and Donegal councils, has he any intent to initiate a full public inquiry with cross-jurisdictional application into that particular murder?
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Following the publication of the MacEntee report, the Taoiseach stated that there should be a broader debate on the issue of collusion. The Justice for the Forgotten group is particularly anxious that this debate should take place. What are the plans in that regard?
Last week, the Garda Commissioner announced that he was establishing a cold case type arrangement within the Garda to re-open and examine approximately 200 unsolved murders. Will the Dublin-Monaghan bombings come within the remit of that cold case arrangement and be subject to re-examination by the Garda on that basis?
The Taoiseach: Obviously, issues around the Finucane and other cases are continually raised with the British Government. At a meeting just before the summer I raised these issues with the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.
There is no substantive discussion on collusion in the MacEntee report. It was the clear view of the Oireachtas committee that the issue of collusion could only be properly addressed by an appropriate inquiry in the UK. As regards a Dáil debate, I have always had serious concerns about a number of atrocities that happened in the State during the 1970s, including the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. That is why I asked the late Mr. Justice Hamilton in the first place and then Mr. Justice Barron to look at all of these incidents. As the House will be aware, the Oireachtas joint committee report which dealt with these issues made some stark findings and painted a very disturbing picture. As I said when I published the MacEntee report, I fully support the call for a debate in the Dáil and Seanad and I am happy to do that whenever the House agrees to do it.
In regard to the other issues raised by Deputy Ó Caoláin, in the context of all the reports including the MacEntee report about that period, as I said in my reply, findings in regard to shortcomings and omissions are a matter of serious concern. The situation has improved. We have asked the Garda to ensure these kinds of issues never happen again, where whole files and records went missing. Deputy Ó Caoláin has alluded to what I said many times before. I cannot and never will understand how a file on something like the Dublin-Monaghan bombings which happened in May 1974 was closed in August 1974. All I can do is ensure that the procedures in place now, and for some years, will never allow for the lack of records and recording of procedures to happen again and that any of the recommendations made by the late Mr. Justice Hamilton, Mr. Justice Barron or Mr. MacEntee are implemented. They throw considerable light on the circumstances of the time and are helpful to the families. They do not solve everything as we know, regrettably. I believe we have done a good service in the last number of years in all these reports which have really now come to a conclusion.
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