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STRICT EMBARGO 1.00pm April 5, 2002
1. The Mini-CTC Sub-Committee yesterday afternoon agreed its Interim Report. The Report has been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and published.
2. The Interim Report makes no findings of fact or recommendations in respect of the mini-CTC contract, the Knockcroghery works or the Esat deal.
3 The Interim Report informs the Houses of the Oireachtas that the Sub-Committee’s inquiry regrettably cannot now be completed. We would stress that non-completion of the Inquiry is due to forces and events outside our control. These forces and events are in the main in the legal realm and have acted to delay and then to interrupt our work. Principal among them is the outcome and consequences of the High Court judicial review in the case of Maguire and Others v Ardagh and Others ("the Abbeylara decision") and the impact of that judgment, delivered on our Inquiry. This was the second time that the High Court made an Order directly affecting the functioning of the mini-CTC Inquiry. Our best hopes have not come to pass and our worst fears have been realized. The great risk that emerged – that the legal timescale might not match the parliamentary – has crystallized.
4 The form of declaratory order made by the High Court in its first Order affected the ability of our Sub-Committee to continue its proceedings, even though we were not parties to Maguire v Ardagh. Equally, until, in this respect at least, reversed – whether on appeal, by statute or by constitutional amendment – the Abbeylara decision will affect every future committee seeking to inquire into matters liable adversely to affect the good name of third parties – regardless as to whether the powers available under the 1997 Act are sought to be used. This is an enormously significant development, in the view of the Sub-Committee a restriction even, on the functioning of the National Parliament.
5 The Interim Report further advises that due to uncertainty over the legal personality of the Houses of the Oireachtas it may be the case that with the dissolution of the Dáil its own case, McDonnell v Brady & Others, which has yet to be given a date for hearing, may fall moot. This would be an unwelcome outcome. The Report considers a number of options available to ensure that this does not happen and we believe that the views of the Attorney General should be sought on this aspect and they should be available to the Houses of the Oireachtas.
6 The Houses are also advised that if the High Court is correct in its judgement in the Abbeylara case, there is a strong case that the Standing Orders of both Houses relative to Private Business (which govern the Private Bill procedure) are invalid and that all legislation passed under that procedure is constitutionally vulnerable.
7 In the circumstances that exist the Sub-Committee has resolved:
1. That the Sub-Committee confirms its continuation in existence after the adoption of the Interim Report and until its dissolution of the 28th Dail;
2. That the Sub-Committee may if it sees fit in the circumstances make a report or reports subsequent to its Interim Report.
8. We know that the cost paid to date for the inquiry is in the order of €1.56m. This is an incomplete figure and is not final. The Sub-Committee held public sittings for 26 days as well as numerous private sessions – in all 102 meetings and a combined total of two hundred and thirty five hours.
For the full text of the report see Sub-committee on the Mini CTC Signalling Project
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