Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Mountjoy Prison Visiting Committee.


andMr. Tunney asked the Minister for Justice the number of members of the visiting committee of Mountjoy Prison, Dublin who have been removed from office; and the names and addresses of those who replaced them.

No member of the committee was removed from office. However, three persons who served on the committee appointed for the year 1973 were not asked by me to serve again on the 1974 committee.

I have asked the following persons who did not serve on the 1973 committee to serve on the 1974 committee: Mr. Luke Belton TD, Mr. Dan Browne and Mr. Peter Shanley.

With regard to the addresses, it has never been the policy to make these public as this would increase the likelihood of the members being importuned by friends or relatives of prisoners seeking favours for them.

Can the Minister say who the persons he has not reappointed are? Would I be correct in saying that Deputy Luke Belton is the Fine Gael TD; that Mr. Peter Shanley is the Fine Gael Cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire Corporation and that Mr. Browne is a well-known supporter of the Coalition Government? In addition, would the Minister inform me when the committee last met?

I have not got the names of the persons who were not invited to serve again. On this visiting committee there were two Deputies, one of whom was Deputy Tom Fitzpatrick and as the principle of political representation was there I did not want completely to disregard it. However, I felt that inevitably this side of the House should be represented on the visiting committee. The other Deputy was Deputy Celia Lynch and I left it between Deputy Tom Fitzpatrick and Deputy Celia Lynch as to which of them would remain on so as to make room for this side of the House to be represented. Deputy Fitzpatrick very gallantly offered to retire.

I have not the names of the other two gentlemen I did not request to serve again. The persons who replaced them are well qualified to serve on this committee. Mr. Peter Shanley is an academic of some distinction and will bring a new point of view for the first time to the visiting committee.

If Deputy Andrews acknowledges that he should have acknowledged it in his supplementary instead of casting doubts on hisbona fides. Mr. Dan Browne is a well known figure in the trade union movement and I expect that he will be able to contribute greatly to what is one of the biggest problems in settling prisoners, securing employment for them. They are the reasons why those people were picked.

I do not want in any way to question or abuse the personal character or the merit of these individuals. My only point was that these are well known supporters of the Coalition Government. For some reason the Minister seems to be very sensitive about that.

The Deputy is making a statement.

I hope the Minister can tell us now when the committee met last and also what are the functions of this committee.

These are questions that the Deputy should put down.

I cannot give the date of the last meeting. The functions of the committee are to be found in the Prison Regulations and in the Prisons (Visiting Committees) Act, 1925. So far as political affiliations are concerned, Deputy Andrews should know that still serving on the committee are the chairman of a Fianna Fáil Cumann and a secretary of a Fianna Fáil Cumann. He should know also that one member of the committee was a candidate for election to a committee of the Fianna Fáil Party at their recent Árd-Fheis. These people have not been removed from office.

Would the Minister not agree that this committee have not met since December, 1973? Why have they not met since then?

The Deputy should have put down that question.

As I have told the Deputy already, I do not know the date on which the committee met last.

The Minister should know. He is not doing his job. The buck stops with him.

If the Deputy tables a question, I shall answer it.

Deputy Tunney, for a final supplementary.

It would appear to me that the supplementary was relevant to the question. Would the Minister agree that since December last there are prisoners in Mountjoy who are described in the prison as being on report, that their cases cannot be heard and that they have not had their right of address to the committee during that time? This is not a satisfactory position.

That is a separate question.

Now that the Deputy has drawn my attention to the situation matters can be speeded up.