Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Provincial Assemblies.

153.

asked the Minister for Justice what action the Government proposes to take regarding the reported setting up of provincial assemblies, for example, "Dáil Uladh" and "Dáil Chonnachta".

The implication in the question is that these are illegal assemblies and that those taking part in them, many of whom are readily identifiable, are committing a criminal offence. It is not for me, or for the Government, to express publicly any view as to the legality of any particular assembly or as to whether identifiable people are committing offences. If the Deputy believes that the law is in fact being broken in this regard by identifiable people, there are various possible steps open to him— for instance he could communicate his view to the Attorney General.

This is a serious matter. Does the Minister not consider that the so-called assemblies, are, in fact, attempting to usurp the lawful jurisdiction of Dáil Éireann? It is the intention of these people to set up so-called Sinn Féin courts to try Irish citizens. Does the Minister propose to do anything about it?

The present situation with regard to the bodies or organisations referred to by the Deputy is that they have not set out to act, so far as I can see, as parliaments or to try to exercise any legislative function. If, at any future time, their activities are such that they commit a breach of the law——

It is no wonder we have no law and order. The Minister is a disgrace to the position he occupies and should resign.

(Interruptions.)

The Minister should not conspire with those who fear a general election. This is our country and our people's country and the Minister for Justice should be concerned about this.

This is our Parliament and the people's Parliament.

The Minister has been asked a question. Would Deputies please allow him to reply?

How can the Minister expect the Garda to enforce law and order if he behaves in this manner?

The answering of the question I was asked would entail my expressing an opinion as to whether or not a particular action or activity is a breach of the law. I am precluded by virtue of the office I hold from stating in public whether or not a particular action by a particular identifiable person is or is not a breach of the law. That is the reason for the form of my reply. I want to make that clear. I do not want to be misrepresented by people inside or outside the House. It is not my function to prosecute. I cannot make public statements that named people are committing an offence. If I were to do this in reply to a Parliamentary Question or otherwise I would immediately prejudice the taking of proceedings against such a person. In spite of very definite feelings and views which I privately hold I am precluded from expressing them in order that, if necessary and appropriate, proceedings can be taken against such people. Unfortunately, one of the results of this restraint on me in expressing my view about this matter is that I may leave myself open to misrepresentation. I have been subject to that for a long time.

In view of the fact that these people have set up these bodies purporting to be legislatures and in view of the fact that under section 6 (1) of the Offences Against the State Act every person who acts in this manner commits an offence and is liable to up to ten years penal servitude, if the Attorney General fails to take action to prosecute in these cases what steps will the Minister take to ensure that the law is enforced? Will he recommend the removal of the Attorney General from office?

It is a matter for the Attorney General to decide whether a prosecution is to be made. It is not a matter for me.

How do we get the law enforced?

Such evidence as may be available will be furnished to the Attorney General or to the appropriate officials.

If the Attorney General fails to act in circumstances where action is required, would the Minister suggest his removal from office?

In view of the statements made I wish to ask permission to raise this question on the Adjournment.

The Minister is being misrepresented already.

(Interruptions.)