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Tuesday, 4 July 2006

Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 2.30 p.m.




 Ceisteanna — Questions.

 Dublin-Monaghan Bombings.

 1. Mr. Rabbitte  asked the Taoiseach  if he has received a further interim report from the MacEntee Commission into the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings; if it is intended to publish this report; if a request for a further extension of the deadline for completion of its work has now been received from the commission; if it is intended to grant the request; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21786/06]

 2. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  asked the Taoiseach when it is expected that the report of Patrick MacEntee SC on the investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 and related matters will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22765/06]

 3. Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he has received a further interim report from the MacEntee Commission into the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings; when a final report can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22906/06]

 4. Mr. J. Higgins  asked the Taoiseach if he has received a further interim report from the MacEntee Commission. [23319/06]

 5. Mr. Kenny  asked the Taoiseach if he has received a further report from the MacEntee Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25546/06]

The Taoiseach:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, together.

On 26 April 2005, the Government appointed Mr. Patrick MacEntee SC as sole member of a commission of investigation to examine specific matters relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974, including aspects of the Garda investigation and missing documentation. This was in accordance with the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights which considered the Barron report on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.

As the House knows, I previously granted three extensions of the timeframe for the completion of the report, from 14 November 2005 to 31 January 2006, again to 28 February 2006 and then again to 31 May 2006. I also published the three interim reports from Mr. MacEntee and placed copies in the Oireachtas Library.

At the end of May, Mr. MacEntee informed me that more time was required to complete the inquiry to pursue a new line of investigation which has arisen. He therefore requested a further extension of the timeframe until 31 July 2006, which I have granted. He also provided me with a further fourth interim report, as required by the legislation. I have published that report and have placed copies in the Oireachtas Library. It is clear from this fourth interim report that Mr. MacEntee requires more time to pursue specific inquiries as there remain important opportunities to advance the investigation that might otherwise be lost. It is for that reason that I have granted the additional extension.

It is, of course, unfortunate that the victims and survivors of these terrible atrocities will have to wait a further period before the final report is available. However, I believe they will agree on the importance of Mr. MacEntee being allowed sufficient time to pursue any lines of inquiry that he deems relevant.

I am grateful to Mr. MacEntee for the work he has completed to date. As he is independent, I am not in a position to comment on his ongoing work.

Mr. Rabbitte:  We all agree with what the Taoiseach has said about Mr. MacEntee being given adequate time to make whatever investigations he thinks might be fruitful. I wish, however, to ask the Taoiseach a couple of questions. As he said, the commission of investigation arises from the unresolved matters on the Barron inquiry. I am reminded of a parliamentary question on 28 March to the Taoiseach and his reply in the House where he referred to a still outstanding report due from Mr. Justice Barron. He went on to say that this report had been received during February and that he hoped that consideration of it by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform would not take long. He advised the House that his manner of mediating it into the public domain would be to send it to the Select Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights. To the best of my knowledge, that has not yet been done. Given that the Taoiseach’s statement was on 28 March, perhaps he will tell the House why it has not been done and indicate the Government’s intention in the matter now?

Going back to the MacEntee commission and the four interim reports the Taoiseach has taken, are there circumstances where the Taoiseach would invite Mr. MacEntee to make another interim report in the matter of the missing files from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform? This was one of the areas into which he was to inquire. I do not know whether that part of the inquiry has been completed and, if so, will the Taoiseach consider inviting him to make an interim report on that aspect? In respect of the entities that have met the commission, as referred to in the May interim report, can the Taoiseach say if the meeting referred to in that interim report was with a former member of the British security services? Does the Taoiseach have that information and, if so, will he advise the House? Has the Taoiseach any information on whether it is probable that the latest extension to 31 July is likely to be met by the commission on this occasion?

The Taoiseach:  Regarding the first question, Mr. Justice Barron presented his final report to me in February 2006, as stated in the March reply to parliamentary questions. The report was considered by the relevant Departments and officials reviewed the report and held a meeting with Mr. Justice Barron to discuss the issues that needed to be addressed before the matter was brought before the Government. This was some time ago. Following that meeting, Mr. Justice Barron felt that certain revisions to the structure of the report were required. He undertook to make these changes and present a revised version of the report to me. I stress to the House that these revisions related to the structure of the report only, they did not in any way change the findings of the report. The final report was considered by the Government this morning and it is intended to bring a motion before the House later this week to refer the report to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights.

As with all these reports, what delayed issues, apart from restructuring and layout, was that the report covered quite a number of attacks. Mr. Justice Barron put an omnibus end to his report, which included not only Dundalk but also referred to other attacks by loyalist paramilitaries, for example, the Castleblayney bombs, the Dublin Airport bomb and other bombings in the State. It also included a number of attacks in Northern Ireland, on the Miami showband, the Rock Bar, Keady, Donnelly’s Bar, Silver Birch, the Reavey and O’Dowd families in south Armagh and the murders of Seán Farmer and Colm McCartney. He also referred to the explosion and murder at Baronrath bridge in County Kildare. It is a fine report and includes many aspects that were not in the previous report. He has made structural changes.

The cause of much of the delay was that there were a number of names mentioned. Mr. Justice Barron has redacted a number of them, but not all. Subject to correction, there are approximately 15 names of people involved and these will be published in the final report. At least the report says they were involved.

On the MacEntee report, I understand the aspect about which Deputy Rabbitte inquired, the Garda investigations and the files on it, the investigative work is complete and I understand that Mr. MacEntee’s recommendations are also complete. I have not seen them, but I understand he will make recommendations. To the best of my knowledge, I can confirm, from what I know from my officials who have been dealing with this, that the individual involved is of British intelligence, but I am not certain about his precise role. I understand that the investigative work of the commission is substantially complete, but some legal obligations must be fulfilled before the report is finalised.

To answer the Deputy’s last question, I might receive a formal request for another extension, but I gather that will only be to complete the work beyond 31 July. We should have the report in the early autumn. I understand Mr. MacEntee wants to complete it and get on with other work. He wants to see it through in this session. In response to a question asked earlier, the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights suggested Mr. MacEntee should look at some other aspects of different work, but I understand he does not want to do that. He wants to finish this job that he undertook to do rather than become engaged in other issues. He feels this is his responsibility and wants to finish it before the holiday and report to us.

Mr. Rabbitte: I do not want to unnecessarily probe a delicate area, but can the Taoiseach say any more about structural changes? It strikes me as a slightly unusual practice to accept a report from Mr. Justice Barron and for Department officials to recommend changes as to structure. Were there other changes or was factual matter questioned in that regard? I presume my tabling of the question and the Cabinet considering the matter at their meeting this morning is entirely a coincidence. When did the Taoiseach receive the report? He will be aware of the debate in the House about a number of reports such as the Barr report, the Dalton report, the O’Sullivan report and the Barron report, all of which are publishable at the caprice of the Government some time during the recess. It would have been preferable if these reports had been made available while the Dáil was formally in session. When did the Government receive the revised version, the original of which was received last February? If the Government approved it at a Cabinet meeting this morning, is it intended to put it into the public domain before the House rises?

The Taoiseach:  The only changes made related to the structure of the report. The last module was solely about the Dundalk bombing. However, in the course of his work, Mr. MacEntee had come across these other issues. It was suggested that rather than producing another report, it was best to structure the report to include all these issues. This has resulted in a change to the layout of the report. This created some delay in producing the report but most of the delay was caused by the issue of the redaction of names. I understand not all the names have been redacted. Fifteen names remain in the report and this took some consideration.

I promised the committee rather than the House that I would publish the report so that it could be included in the September work programme of the committee. It will be published immediately so that the committee will be able to have that hearing. This will be the final report of this committee. I thank the committee for faithfully dealing with all the reports through its hearings. The committee hearings have given the families an opportunity to hear these issues being debated and brought to as near a conclusion as it is possible for us to achieve. Many of these issues are more than 30 years old. This House has done its best to have them investigated and to gather as much data as possible in order to bring the issues into the public domain. I do not know what more we can do with regard to these issues.

The Deputy asked a question about the Barron report.

Mr. Rabbitte:  I asked in particular whether the report was likely to come into the public domain before the House formally rises.

The Taoiseach:  I promised the committee that I would try to move it directly to the committee. It has been cleared by the Cabinet this morning and the procedure is that it will be sent directly to the committee.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  In what format will the MacEntee report be published? It is markedly different from the Barron process. Will it be referred to the Oireachtas committee in the same way? What vehicle will be utilised for its delivery and to enable public scrutiny? Will the Taoiseach inform the House when he expects the report to be published?

The Taoiseach indicated in his response to Deputy Rabbitte regarding the Barron report into the bombing of Dundalk in December 1975 in which two civilians, Hugh Waters and Jack Rooney, were killed, that this report will now be presented to the Oireachtas committee for its attention. While the Dáil is going into recess this week and the committees process continues during the course of this month, does the committee intend addressing the report substantively over the period before the committee process concludes this month? Will the Taoiseach give the House some indication as to when the detail of that report will enter into the public arena? That will clearly not happen as a result of it going to committee in the first instance. When will it complete the process of working through the report, as has been done with previous Barron reports?

Has the Taoiseach followed up in any way on the unanimous decision of this House to call on the British Government for a full public inquiry into the murder of Mr. Pat Finucane? Has the matter been communicated to the British Prime Minister?

An Ceann Comhairle: The issue does not arise on this question.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:  Has the Taoiseach done so? Would the Taoiseach propose any further action in order to give effect to that decision?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I would prefer if the Deputy dealt with the question. A number of Deputies are offering.

The Taoiseach: There was some criticism that I took all these inquiries together, so I took a full session on the Finucane case here two weeks ago. I will not say anything further on the matter today. There is nothing new to add.

On the independent commissions of inquiry, first we went through the reports under the late Mr. Justice Hamilton and then Mr. Justice Barron. I am very grateful for their work in bringing justice to the victims of several of these horrific atrocities. As has been stated by Deputy Rabbitte, we have referred three reports to the Oireachtas committee, which has in turn done a very commendable job in hearing evidence, not least from the bereaved and families. It has reported promptly with clear recommendations, and that has been very helpful.

We will refer the fourth and final report into the Dundalk bombing of 1975 to the committee very shortly. I mentioned related matters, such as attacks on the Miami Showband; the Rock Bar, Keady; Donnelly’s Bar, Silverbridge; the Reavey and O’Dowd families; John Farmer and Colm McCartney; and at Ballinrath bridge in County Kildare. It is a matter for the committee, but the intention of the committee is to work on these in September, to the best of my knowledge. It is a matter solely for the committee.

We have acted on the recommendations of the Oireachtas committee on matters that are entirely within the remit of the Government or public bodies within the State. One of those is the commission of investigation into the 1974 bombings under Mr. Paddy MacEntee. When the work is complete we will address the recommendations from the second and third reports relating to the 1972 and 1973 bombings and the Ludlow murder.

Appropriate action may be taken by Ministers and the Garda, and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may need to recognise and address shortcomings identified in any reports. On some very important issues, the co-operation of the British authorities is essential. The committee has recognised that, and the Government has been issued all appropriate means in its efforts to ensure co-operation. I have raised the matter with Prime Minister Blair and the Northern Ireland Secretary on many occasions. All of this has led to Mr. MacEntee’s ongoing work and his requirements for extensions.

With regard to Deputy Ó Caoláin’s question on timing, it is my intention to publish the report as soon as possible after I receive it. Under legislation I am required by law to consider certain issues prior to publication. These involve requesting legal advice from the Attorney General and submitting the report to the Cabinet prior to publication. The timescale involved between the receipt of the report and publication is impossible to estimate in advance. I wish to publish the report as quickly as possible.

Mr. Sargent:  I am reluctant to ask questions about the reasoning behind the extension of the MacEntee commission except to state that the expectations are high for the publication by the end of July.

The Taoiseach has stated that the Barron report has been seen by different Departments and is now, following Cabinet discussion, going to committee. Is this the route the Taoiseach expects the MacEntee report to take? Does he envisage that by the end of July, the report will be parked or brought to committee? What is the process by which the Taoiseach would like to see the information released?

Has the Taoiseach any estimate to date of the legal costs involved in the Barron and MacEntee inquiries?

The Taoiseach:  I do not have the details of the reports, from the Hamilton report right through to the Barron reports. I gave the figures quite recently. I will make them available again to Deputy Sargent as we come to the end of the process for the period.

To date, the costs of the MacEntee commission are €1.27 million. That breaks down as €786,000 on legal costs, €175,000 on the costs of support staff and the balance - €309,000 - on the costs of set-up, administration of the offices and the workings of the commission. These are still low costs in terms an inquiry and it is almost at its end.

The procedure is not the same as that of the other reports where there was consultation with all the Departments. Under the inquiries legislation, I am to consult the Attorney General and to bring the report to Cabinet. It is not the same kind of investigation as the other one and there should not be a delay. I would hope to get it quickly.

This would be the end of the fourth report of the Hamilton-Barron session, which has gone on for a considerable number of years and which deals with and ends all those issues in our jurisdiction. The MacEntee report really ends all that we set out to do on the 1974 issues. Bringing that report to the committee should allow the committee finish its work this year.

The investigations into the other areas which we had agreed under Weston Park have already commenced, although not in open session. The work is going ahead on Judge Smithwick’s report into the Breen and Buchanan murders.

We will have effectively brought to an end all our work from this House and then the remaining issues from Weston Park go in to the formal issues outside of the House. That would finish our engagement in the process.

Mr. Kenny:  The Taoiseach has dealt comprehensively with the MacEntee commission. When will the Barron report be published? It was expected this week.

The Taoiseach: I have received no formal request for another extension but it is the view of my officials dealing with this area that I am likely to receive one, although not for long and merely to complete the work of the report. As I understand it, Mr. MacEntee SC wants to end, before his holidays, this task that he kindly undertook. If I do not get it by the end of July, I expect that we should get it some time in August.