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 Header Item Report on Murder of Pat Finucane (Continued)
 Header Item Septic Tank Registration Scheme

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

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  4 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] In essence, there has been a breach of an international agreement between our two countries. This matter remains a point of disagreement between the two governments, but more than that, it compounds the hurt the Finucane family has experienced as a result of the absence of an inquiry. The failure to have an inquiry will also create a lack of confidence and reduce the confidence that has developed in recent times following reports on Bloody Sunday and so on. It also undermines confidence in the relationship between the two governments, a relationship that is critical to the overall peace process.

How does the Tánaiste propose to pursue this breach of an international agreement? What is the nature of the engagement between him and the British Government with regard to pursuing a full public inquiry into this particular murder? What steps does he propose to take to bring this about and to get the British Government to fulfil its part of the agreement?

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams No more than anybody else here, I have not read the full report. However, I was briefed on it by Paul Maskey, one of our MPs, who went to London and had prepublication notice of the report. Let us not mess about with this. I commend to the Taoiseach and to every Teachta Dála here the book written by Frank Kitson which deals with counterinsurgency operations in some detail. To paraphrase him, he says the law should be a weapon to get rid of unwanted members of the public. He set up counter gangs. They set up the UDA and modernised the UVF. They imported weapons and worked with the old apartheid regime in South Africa and brought in a huge amount of weapons.

With respect, I find it remarkable to stand here and listen to the Tánaiste say that David Cameron has shown remarkable determination to get to the truth. He has done no such thing. He tore up an agreement - an agreement Sinn Féin did not concede to at the time, because it fell far short of what the Finucane family wanted. He tore up an agreement made with the Irish Government in Weston Park. The British Government will only face up to these issues if it has no other option. When Tony Blair was faced with the huge campaign on the issue of Bloody Sunday, he had no other option but an inquiry, particularly when he read the report put together in co-operation with people in Derry and the Irish Government of the day.

We cannot behave as a junior partner on this. The relationship between this part of the island and successive Governments with Britain has been that of junior partner to the British Government. I ask the Tánaiste, as I have consistently asked the Taoiseach, to launch a diplomatic initiative in the USA, in Europe, at the UN on the Finucane family case. It is not enough to say we support the family. We must take the case and develop a campaign, using the goodwill we have internationally and using our status as having the most successful peace process in modern times. I commend that approach to the Tánaiste.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore More than 3,500 people died during the Troubles and every man, woman and child who died left behind relatives and friends who mourn the loss of their loved ones to this day. I have met many of those relatives, as have other Members, and we all know the pain they endure and the accommodation they have been asked to make for peace. We should not lose sight of the fact the majority of victims of the Troubles were murdered by republican and loyalist paramilitary groups. There is no hierarchy of loss or grief and no acknowledgement or apology by those responsible for the loss can undo the wrong that was done. On a day when the murder of Pat Finucane has been recalled so vividly, for Geraldine, Katherine, Michael and John, we should be mindful of the many thousands of relatives of victims across Ireland who grieve the loss of a loved one.

As I have said, certain cases raise specific concerns about collusion and, therefore, about confidence in the administration of justice. The murder of Pat Finucane is one of those cases. The Government's view and position, favouring a public inquiry, is underpinned in this House by an all-party motion, which was agreed in 2006, which recalled the agreement of Weston Park, took note of Judge Cory's findings of collusion, commended the Finucane family for their courageous campaign and called for the immediate establishment of a full, independent, public, judicial inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. That is the position the Government is advancing.

I will discuss the de Silva report with Secretary of State Villiers and with Deputy Prime Minister Clegg. The Taoiseach has already spoken with Prime Minister Cameron on the issue. It is important this House maintains what has been a clear all-party position on this, which is to seek a public inquiry. The Government will press the case for that public inquiry at every opportunity.

Septic Tank Registration Scheme

Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy: Information on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Zoom on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy I was prompted to raise this issue as someone who lives in a rural area, a small parish in the foothills of the Slieve Bloom mountains in Offaly, who has a septic tank to deal with waste water. Therefore, I am only too well aware of the importance of ensuring that properly functioning waste water systems are in place. I am also cognisant that the deadline for registration of septic tanks is 1 February 2013. It is because of this I wish to bring this matter to the Minister's attention.

A number of people have contacted me with regard to their concerns that if they are required to carry out remedial works or replace their septic tanks on foot of an inspection, they will not be able to afford it. I am particularly concerned about people on low incomes and the elderly. Clarity in this area has been very difficult to establish, due to the misinformation being circulated by many Opposition Deputies and active campaigning against the registration of septic tanks in many rural areas. This has left people on low incomes and the elderly, whose septic tanks may have been installed decades ago, worried about the costs involved in replacing them if required. Incredible sums have been bandied about, up to €20,000, which I believe is incorrect.

I have always believed this issue is a matter of public health and that it is not be of rural Ireland being under attack again, as many people would have us believe. Most people I know who own a septic tank have it desludged regularly in the interest of its proper functioning, and, more important, in the interest of protecting the water table to ensure there is clean drinking water for everyone. If we have clean drinking water, we have clean water for all other uses, such as for agriculture.

I am aware that three years ago, the European Court of Justice ruled that Ireland had failed to adopt the necessary legislation to comply with Articles 4 and 8 of the EU waste directive relating to domestic waste water being disposed of in the countryside through septic tanks or other waste water systems. This ruling highlighted deficiencies in our legislation regarding the disposal of waste water. I know the Minister has been determined to protect our water, as well as to achieving compliance with the waste water directive. I hope the many years of neglect in dealing with the matter by previous Administrations will not expose our State to EU fines as a result. In fact, there has been quite an amount of hypocrisy involved in this issue, with some people who were in government at the time leading the anti-registration charge over the past year.

I believe a scheme of financial support should be put in place for the upgrading of septic tanks, whether for repair or replacement. As a member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, I know that compliance with the directive has been an issue of concern. This was highlighted to the Minister when this matter was discussed by the committee. The Minister has stated clearly he will keep an open mind on the issue of possible financial support, despite our poor financial situation. I sincerely hope he is making every effort to put such a scheme in place to assist people who need it if and when their tanks are inspected and they need repair or replacement.

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan I thank Deputy Corcoran Kennedy for the opportunity to address this issue. The House will be aware that the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 provided for the establishment of a new system for the registration and inspection of septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems. The 2012 Act augments the duty of care placed on the owners of on-site wastewater treatment systems, under section 70 of the Water Services Act 2007, to ensure that their systems do not endanger public health or the environment.

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