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 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2014 (Continued)
 Header Item Children First Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed)

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 840 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams] We would not be in this situation had the Government taken the advice of Opposition Members, including Deputies Wallace and Clare Daly, as well as members of Sinn Féin, such as our spokesperson, Deputy Mac Lochlainn.

It was the trial of four gardaí in respect of the assault of Anthony Holness in Waterford in February 2010 that started all this. The judge in the case ruled that recordings could not be used against the accused. She also said the practice of Garda stations recording incoming and outgoing calls was in breach of the law. However, it is the Ian Bailey case that is the real context for this scandal. The former Minister for Justice and Equality and the Government had known since early 2012 of a critique by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions of the initial Garda investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. That critique effectively destroyed the premise of the entire investigation into the murder of that poor woman, causing grave difficulties for her family and friends. Could I have the Taoiseach's attention for a moment? Despite this, the Government continues to defend itself in a civil case taken by Mr. Bailey and his partner, Jules Thomas, at a huge cost to the taxpayer. Every day it is costing the taxpayer a huge amount of money. Surely austerity, if not justice, would dictate that this was not a good use of public funds. Could the Taoiseach tell the Dáil how much this is costing and whether it is a good use of public moneys?

This is now an international story. The French authorities have been allowed to visit this jurisdiction to examine evidence provided by our authorities - evidence that we ourselves know is flawed. While the commission's terms of reference will include an examination of whether there is evidence of unlawful Garda activity towards Mr. Bailey, the evidence of such unlawful activity in other cases has been known since 2001.

The State has much to do - none of us can take satisfaction from any of this - to restore public confidence in the administration of justice, in the Garda and, if I may say so, in politics. I was struck by Deputy Ó Fearghaíl's comment to the effect that nothing had changed. I believed he was going to add "since we were in power". Nothing has changed. We have a job of work to do to restore public confidence, not just in justice and the Garda, but also in how the Oireachtas is governed. This investigation can play a part in that work, but it cannot be the only action taken by the Government.

I support the moving of the Supplementary Estimate. If I may, I will seek answers in some other way to my questions on the cost of the State's defence, etc.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace I am sharing time with Deputy Clare Daly.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett That is okay.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace I know of the difficulties faced by Gráinne McMorrow, senior counsel, in the most recent statutory investigation under the Commission of Investigation Act 2004. Ms McMorrow was appointed in 2007, but her report was only published by the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, a week ago, seven and a half years after the horrific death of Mr. Gary Douch while in the care of the State. I can only imagine the additional and unnecessary distress and trauma caused to Mr. Douch's family by the delay. It appears that the State's conduct was a primary factor in that delay - there were delays in providing important documents, primary evidence was destroyed and there was a long delay in payment to Ms McMorrow for her work. Last June, it was noted that she had not been paid in more than three years, most of which time was during the lifetime of the current Government. It is a pity that under the 2004 Act any commission must be dependent on the Minister of the day to sanction its expenses.

Given the fact that the remit of the Garda tapes inquiry dwarfs that statutory investigation, it is difficult to see how Mr. Justice Nial Fennelly will be able to complete his extensive investigation in just six months. Will the Taoiseach confirm whether the commission will consider publishing Mr. Justice Fennelly's conclusions on a volume-by-volume basis, as occurred in the case of the Morris tribunal? The Government might update the House on the publication date for the report arising from the Cooke paper review, which merits inclusion in these terms of reference and a statutory investigation.

The former Minister has been in possession of the Ombudsman for Children's report into possible Garda misconduct for more than six weeks but has not yet confirmed a publication date. How soon does the Government intend to publish this?

The entire episode of the alleged bugging of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, merits a full, independent inquiry. The people of Ireland are concerned about it. The Garda Commissioner and the Minister are gone. The Government needs to use this situation as an opportunity to start afresh and to do policing in the way it should be done. There are many challenges and problems, but we have not addressed them properly. It will stand to the Government if it addresses them now in an honest, transparent and accountable way.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I formally ask the House to agree to the sharing of time, as there was no provision in the order. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly The Taoiseach concluded by saying that the commission would investigate serious matters that have important implications for the Garda and our justice system. That is at the heart of the matter. It is true to say that this is only one commission of inquiry into one aspect of a number of serious concerns about justice and policing that have been raised. We all welcome it. The Taoiseach has confirmed that on foot of the Guerin report, which we have not seen, there will be a commission of inquiry, but we do not know whether the Cooke report will similarly recommend a further commission. Perhaps we need to stand back and ask whether the establishment of three, four or five commissions is the way forward. Should we instead take a holistic approach? At the root of this situation is the fact that the changes that were promised and the measures that were implemented following the Morris tribunal to ensure Garda accountability and an end to the blue wall of silence have not worked. We know this and have been highlighting it for the past while. This is the issue we need to examine.

Regarding the tapes controversy, let us face it: it was not a secret that recordings were being made. Maybe people did not know what the recordings were for, but a public tender was involved. It is not credible that the Prison Service did not know that prisoners' telephone calls were being recorded. People involved in the service have told me that they were aware of it. As such, I find it difficult to believe that people high up in the Department of Justice and Equality did not know.

We have the ongoing tragic infringement of the human rights of Mr. Bailey and Ms Thomas, whose families have been devastated. Obviously, the unsolved murder has been devastating for the family of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Given the heartache that Sergeant Maurice McCabe has been put through, I want to recognise his role. For five years, he single-handedly sought to put a spotlight on this issue. We should take cognisance of the fact that he approached senior gardaí more than once. His claims and allegations were rubbished and dismissed and he was ostracised and treated poorly by people who are still in the upper echelons of the Garda.

We need a holistic approach. I wonder whether €2 million is enough. These are austere times and no one wants to spend money. Compared with 50 staff for the banking inquiry, though, it is not a great deal of money. Perhaps we should elicit the goodwill of individuals such as Professor Dermot Walsh and other policing experts to undertake a holistic review instead of engaging in commission after commission.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I thank the Deputies for their contributions on this.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Go raibh maith agat.

  Vote put and agreed to.

Children First Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed)

  Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle May I share time with Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan? I might take up to ten minutes and the Deputy can have the rest.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle I welcome the opportunity to contribute on Second Stage of the Children First Bill.

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