Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Death of Fr. Niall Molloy.

2.

asked the Minister for Justice if he proposes to set up a public inquiry into the death of Fr. Niall Molloy.

8.

asked the Minister for Justice if he will hold an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Fr. Molloy.

12.

asked the Minister for Justice if he will institute an inquiry into the circumstances of the death of a person (details supplied).

13.

asked the Minister for Justice if he intends to hold an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Fr. Molloy.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 2, 8, 12 and 13 together.

The method prescribed by law for inquiring into the circumstances of a death such as this is a coroner's inquest, which of course is a sworn inquiry. The holding of an inquest is mandatory in any case where the coroner is of opinion that a death may have occurred in a violent or unnatural manner or suddenly and from unknown causes and I have been authoritatively informed that arrangements are in train to have an inquest held in this case. The date is already fixed, at least tentatively, for 24 July.

Is the Minister aware that when in the House on a number of occasions I tried to raise the question of what I would call inconsistent decisions by the Judiciary and gave notice to the Chair that I wished to raise this matter on the Adjournment I was informed that the question of an independent body to monitor the performance of judges was a matter for new legislation, and under those circumstances I should like to ask the Minister if he proposes to set up a body to monitor the performance of judges in view of——

That is a separate question. The four questions the Minister is taking together call for the setting up of an inquiry.

I should like to ask the Minister if he proposes to set up an inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Fr. Molloy in view of the considerable level of public disquiet arising from the court decision and in view of the opinion around at the moment that there seems to be one law for the rich and one law for the poor.

That is not in order. The Deputy has brought the court decision into this and is elaborating on it. I should like to ask him not to do so.

I tried to get around this in a responsible way by asking the Minister could he tackle this problem by setting up such a body and the Chair ruled me out of order.

No. I pointed out to the Deputy that that is a separate question. There is no question on the Order Paper about that.

When I raised this matter on the Order of Business last week the Chair said this was a matter for legislation but now I am being told it is a separate question.

The four questions the Minister is talking call for an inquiry into a death and the Deputy wants to ask, as a supplementary question to them, if the Minister will do something to monitor court decisions. That is a separate question.

I will put a straight question to the Minister: does the Minister at this stage propose to hold a public sworn inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Fr. Molloy in view of the considerable level of disquiet?

As I pointed out in my reply, the law provides that in cases like this there should be a public sworn inquiry, that is, an inquest. I have told the House that the date of the inquest is already fixed for 24 July.

Will the Minister set up a tribunal of inquiry due to the many unanswered questions of fact, of a forensic, medical and financial nature, and the widespread public disquiet engendered thereby and given that the deceased's and perpetrator's possessions were handed over without being sent for forensic testing?

I can only repeat what I said at the outset: that the law provides in cases of this kind for a sworn inquiry, which is the inquest. The Deputy, and the House, will be aware that any issues that appear to be relevant to the case in question can be pursued at a coroner's inquest.

Under the circumstances I do not think that would satisfy the disquiet that is around the country about this case. I am asking for a tribunal of inquiry, not a public inquiry, to be set up to look into the facts surrounding the case. What will be examined at the inquest will be different and I am sure that all the information required will not come out unless there is a tribunal of inquiry. Will the Minister address himself specifically to my question?

I have addressed myself specifically to the question and said that the law provides in cases like this for a public sworn inquiry, otherwise known as a coroner's inquest. I do not think it would be right for me, or the House, to anticipate in any way either the conduct of the inquest or verdict or conclusion that might be reached by that inquest.

Does the Minister find it unusual that the inquest will be taking place 12 months after the tragic death of Fr. Niall Molloy and after the court case has been held and a verdict handed down? Will the Minister tell the House who has ordered the inquest?

I would not find it at all unusual that the inquest is taking place following the court case to which the Deputy has referred, because an inquest cannot be held when criminal proceedings are pending. There is no significance whatever to be attached to the timing in this case. The holding of the inquest is required by Statute and the coroner in the case has a statutory duty to make the arrangements for the inquest which, as I have reported to the House, he has done in this case.

Would the Minister feel it worthwhile for the DPP to refer the verdict of the court to the Supreme Court for judgment in relation to——

That is out of order.

It is not out of order.

The Director of Public Prosecutions is an independent statutory officer created by an Act of Parliament. He is independent of the Minister and the Minister is not responsible to the House for his actions.

The inquest could have been held before charges were laid. In this case charges were not laid for some months after the events in County Offaly took place. Will the Minister state why the inquest was not held? Further, will the medical evidence of Dr. Harbison be available and taken as evidence at the inquest when it takes place in July?

As the Deputy knows, and as the Chair has pointed out to the House, I have no function in relation to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Therefore, the timing and the laying of charges or the pursuit of a case is entirely a matter for the DPP and not for me. Subject to correction, I would have to say I do not think it would be proper for an inquest to be held while criminal proceedings were pending. I am glad to have this opportunity of making the point to the House, which I made in my original reply, that the law provides for a public sworn inquiry into cases of this kind, that is, a coroner's inquest. Any information and all information that may be relevant to the case can be brought before that inquiry and any questions and all questions that may appear to be relevant to the case can properly be brought before that inquiry and can be examined.

I am not trying to question the decision of the Chair. My earlier question regarding a body to monitor the performance of the Judiciary was said by the Chair to be a separate question. In fact, I put down that question for today and it was ruled out of order on the grounds that it was a matter for the Judiciary. Yet the previous ruling by the Chair——

The Deputy is now questioning the ruling of the Chair.

The Chair has now said it is a matter for legislation.

I ask the Deputy not to wrangle with the Chair on a decision made by the Chair.

Deputies can get very frustrated.

If the Deputy wishes to come to the office of the Chair we can discuss the matter.

In view of the strong feelings expressed by relatives of Fr. Molloy who have met many Deputies, will the Minister consider meeting them in order to discuss many of the questions raised by them about the performance of the Garda and some of the legal profession?

I can assure the Deputy that with the best will in the world — and I am asking the Deputy to accept that — I would think it highly improper and imprudent of me to meet any group of persons to discuss the questions the Deputy has raised, particularly in view of the fact that an inquest was pending.

Is the Minister aware that already there has been a court case about this death and that there was widespread dissatisfaction after that case? Is he asking us now to believe that satisfaction will result from the inquest that is to be held without having a tribunal of inquiry to satisfy the public?

I am tempted to answer that question by asking another but it might be a disobliging question that the Chair might find disorderly. I can only repeat what I said to the Deputy earlier in response to a question, namely, that it would be wrong of this House to prejudice in any way either the conduct or the conclusions of the inquest.

I may have to bring up this matter after the inquest.

In view of the unfair allegations made in the House in relation to interference with the Judiciary in the administration of justice in this case——

That is a separate question.

It is relevant.

The Chair is in a difficult position here if he intends to hold the line. If I yield in one direction I will have to yield in another.

Does the Chair not consider the question to be relevant?

It is a separate question.

I respect the ruling of the Chair.

Will the Minister state if the Attorney General has had discussions with the DPP in relation to the events that took place in the court regarding this case?

That is another question. I am calling the next question.

It is relevant to the question of a public inquiry.

It is trying to open up what happened in court. Apart altogether from the Constitution, Standing Orders and so on, it would be a very bad day for Ireland if the decisions of the courts were to be reopened and thrashed out across the floor of the House in an impromptu manner.

I invite the Deputies opposite to examine again the statute which sets out the functions of the DPP.

As I understand the statute, the Attorney General has the power to confer with the DPP to satisfy himself and thereby to satisfy the Government and to make a statement if he so wishes that everything has been in order in the conduct of a case. Deputy Leyden was trying to ascertain if the Minister had conferred with the Attorney General——

That is also a separate question.

That is the one method that exists in the Office of the DPP to give reassurance to the public in relation to a case. That is the point the Deputy was trying to make.

The Deputy should not make a speech about it.

I wish to emphasise again for the benefit of the House that an inquest has yet to be held. It is a public sworn inquiry provided for by law. If Deputies would reflect about that for a moment they would rapidly come to the conclusion that in the case we have not yet gone through all the steps laid down by law in relation to a case like this. I ask the House to reflect on that.