asked the Minister for Education if he intends to reconstitute the City of Limerick Voca-gannon tional Education Committee; and, if so, when the necessary legislation will be introduced.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Limerick Vocational Education Committee.
As I stated on 8th June last in my reply to the Deputy's previous question in relation to this matter, I intend to reconstitute the City of Limerick Vocational Education Committee in due course. It is possible that I may be in a position to introduce the necessary enabling legislation during the next session of Dáil Éireann.
Would the Minister indicate to the House and to the citizens of Limerick that in view of the programme that has been arranged and set afoot by the disbanded vocational committee, it is now asking too much of one man who is sent down by him to run the affairs of the Committee to handle a programme which amounts to something in the region of £2 million? Will the Minister take immediate steps to reconstitute this vocational educational committee in order to save himself the embarrassment of handing it over to the Taca consortium?
asked the Minister for Education if he is now in a position to state the exact costs of the sworn inquiry into the affairs of the City of Limerick Vocational Education Committee; and how he intends to apportion these costs.
I have had the accounts submitted for expert examination and I am at present considering, in the light of the advice tendered to me by the experts, what costs may be allowed. I hope to reach a decision in the matter in the near future.
With regard to the apportioning of the costs, I would refer the Deputy to my reply on 21st June last to his previous question in this matter.
Could the Minister indicate to us what he means by the near future?
How long is shortly?
This is a serious matter. Coming to a decision in this matter is a serious business. The Minister is the determining authority in relation to the extent of the costs incurred, and I have a discretion as to the costs I will allow. In exercising that discretion, I will have regard to many points such as: was the person in the inquiry a necessary party; was it reasonable that the person should have legal representation; were the costs necessarily incurred and are the amounts now claimed reasonable? In my judgment, having regard to the report on the inquiry, I have to consider whether it is equitable that the person should be indemnified against the cost. These are all matters of great importance and I have not yet decided what costs, therefore, I will certify.
Surely the Minister is aware that nobody could be at that inquiry without legal representation? That was one of the provisions of the inquiry. Will the Minister take into consideration also, and examine in detail, the costs incurred by the people sent down from his Department?
All relevant factors will be taken into consideration. If the Deputy had listened, he would have heard me say—and I repeat—that I will have regard in exercising my discretion with regard to the extent of the costs to whether the person was a necessary party and whether it was reasonable that the person should have legal representation.
Would this qualification apply to witnesses called officially by the Department of Education?
It would be obviously logical that they would be entitled to costs.
Do I take it that in regard to their expenses the Minister would not have to sit in judgment on them?
It would be reasonable to assume that if they were called by the Department I would allow reasonable costs. I will be fair in this as far as possible. There is a responsibility here. There are very substantial claims on behalf of the solicitors and barristers there.
Arising out of the Minister's reply, particularly in relation to whether a party was a necessary party to the inquiry, surely that was a matter that should have been determined as a preliminary matter by the person conducting the inquiry?
My recollection here is that it was announced by statutory notice in the press in accordance with the appropriate section of the Vocational Education Act, 1930, that all interested parties who were members of the public and who considered that they could contribute something to the inquiry by giving evidence were invited. I think that that should cover the point mentioned by the Deputy.
Then I take it that all parties who appeared were "necessary parties"?
That would be a reasonable assumption, but I am simply setting out the different points I will have to take into consideration before I certify the costs.
The parties who were allowed to give evidence at this public sworn inquiry were accepted as such by the deciding officer who was sent down from the Department. Why exclude these now, their evidence having been heard and accepted by the inspector sent down for the inquiry?
I do not say that I am excluding anyone, nor have I accepted any evidence. Evidence is tendered, not necessarily accepted.
The Minister is accepting that officers called from the Department were a necessary party?
That would be a reasonable assumption.
I am suggesting to the Minister that he makes available to the public the findings of the commissioner he sent down for the sworn inquiry.
There are a lot of people who spouted about vocational education in Limerick who had not the guts to appear before the inquiry.
The Minister's party was the major Party in the vocational committee and not one of them had the guts to appear at the inquiry.
Councillor Joseph Liddy appeared for many hours.
Councillor Liddy was there through leave he had taken from his company, but he did not give evidence at the inquiry.
Question No. 46.