In any debate on the unfortunate saga of the implementation and use of the extradition laws between this country and our nearest neighbour, it is important on occasions to take an opportunity like this to reaffirm some basic principles that should apply.
Extradition is a device and a means used by civil society to attempt to confront trans-national terrorism. Terrorism, in whatever form, is unacceptable in our society and every opportunity must be made to defeat the ends and means of the terrorist. Terrorists are the enemy of democracy and wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary people, mostly working people, and the security forces. Extradition is a standard and usual method of dealing with terrorism across national boundaries. It is a long-standing process and must be allowed to operate effectively and speedily. There can be no support for the very isolated position that is often canvassed in the context of this debate, that there should be no extradition on any grounds or terms from this country, whether that argument is made on the grounds of the nationality of the person being sought or the nature of the crime alleged to have been committed.
No extradition from this country means that we become a partner to and a haven for some of the most determined and sinister killers that Europe — if not the world — have produced this century. Can anyone suggest, if the alleged perpetrators of the Enniskillen bombings are located on the Southern side of the Border, that for some jingoistic or warped reasons there should be no trial to deal with them? Extradition — it must be emphasised — has always been a feature of our criminal process, as long as it has been known to the law internationally. We have always engaged in it as a process of dealing with criminals and persons suspected of crimes elsewhere. It is not something that has been newly introduced as a phenomenon to deal with increasing terrorism at home.
The law is not new; it has been developed and must continue to be developed as circumstances require it. For this reason, no democrat or socialist could or should object to the provisions in the first of the two amendment Bills of 1987 which sought to introduce the provision of the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism into our domestic law. This development in the law was designed specifically to deal with the ever-increasing internationalism of terrorism, a phenomenon and a feature that is, sadly, now attributable to the most active terrorist organisation in the country, the Provisional IRA.
Extradition between the United Kingdom and Ireland plays a significant role in the efforts of both countries to deal with the cancer of terrorism. For that reason, it plays a particularly sensitive role in Anglo-Irish affairs. A special effort must always be made, therefore, by the Administrations of both countries to ensure that when an application for extradition by one country or the other is made it is dealt with in the most efficient, professional and highly regarded way possible. It must be remembered that Mr. McVeigh's case was the first major test of recent additions to our extradition law as represented by the two amendments in 1987. For that reason, it is particularly regrettable that the application was not successful.
It must be underlined by anyone making a contribution that it is clearly seen that the reasons for it not being successful are not that the evidence was not there but that it was poorly presented in court during the hearing. The failure of the application requires serious questions to be asked of the level of professionalism or commitment being devoted to applications of this kind on both sides of the Irish Sea. Little will be achieved by accusations backwards and forwards between the two countries as to who is at fault. The history of extradition between our two countries has been marked by failures and mistakes on both sides. What is particularly worrying in the Minister's address to the House today is that nothing he said to the British Attorney General — in any exchanges that have taken place at Government or ambassadorial level since the decision — indicate that there is an appreciation of what went on during the proceedings, or a recognition that what was available was presented as well as possible and that what was said between those parties would be reflected in a response from the Prime Minister of the UK or any other leading politician who might seem to make remarks on the case and its implications for Anglo-Irish affairs.
Very strong comments have been made, North and South and in Britain, about the outcome and implications of the case for Anglo-Irish affairs. Our Government must take all necessary steps to ensure that those matters are put right without delay and that the record of the House is reflected, in some reciprocal way, in statements from the Prime Minister, if she so desires, on the matter.
There is clearly a deficiency at two levels in applications of this kind, a seriousness of intent in the preparation of the applications and ensuring that no mistakes are made. We all lose when these applications fail and the only person who wins is the terrorist and the organisation to which he or she belongs. In the aftermath of these decisions it is quite clear that there are people on both sides in the two countries who are prepared to build on and exploit failures or difficulties when they arise. There is a clear failure of understanding of the processes and a failure of understanding of the efforts being made to ensure that the terrorist finds no haven within our jurisdiction. There is a common belief abroad that there are hundreds of these people running around this country. That is not so and if they are being sought abroad it is for questioning only. We must emphasise that this jurisdiction or any other jurisdiction will not support the notion of extraditing people for questioning only.
The other major issue that arises is particular to the case and has to be commented on, that is, the quality of the presentation of evidence with regard to the identification of the person sought. I join Deputy Taylor in making what point I can on this, that it is and should be of no surprise to any official or law officer involved in the process of extradition to suggest that a requirement would be made in court of proper identification of the person involved. The question fundamental to a court — and it is one of the basic questions asked — is, is the person named and sought in the warrant the person standing in the dock of the court?
It has been clearly indicated that there was no member of the British police force available who could in any way suggest that that was the person sought and named in the warrant. It is not good enough simply to say that and leave it at that. In the first instance how was McVeigh suggested? Was a conclusion drawn in the British investigation to suggest that he was wanted and could be made answerable for the crimes involved? Somewhere in the corpus of evidence assembled by the British in the investigation of the crime there must have been something that would have suggested that Mr. McVeigh could be connected with that crime, by fingerprint, by civilian or other witness or by some other means. That must have formed part of the provisions of the Amendment Bill of 1987 and included in the memorandum furnished to the Attorney General. Consequently, there must have been available to the authorities, both in Britain and here, a means of introducing evidence in court here to establish clearly that McVeigh was the person needed and wanted on the warrant, who could be linked to the crime and identified as the person named.
For what it is worth it is my view that the district justice reached a correct decision, took a decision that could not in any way have taken anyone involved in the process of extradition by surprise. In my experience it is a central feature of all extradition applications. Similar cases in which I have been involved as a practitioner have involved police officers or other witnesses, including civilian witnesses, or experts on fingerprint identification, attending hearings in District Courts on a regular basis in Dublin or elsewhere to satisfy the justice sitting that the person in the dock was the person named in the warrant, the person connected with the whole process and investigation. That is what is central.
The Worker's Party have never been happy with the amendment introduced in the second Bill of 1987. We have always argued that there should be a full investigation by the District Court here in all extradition proceedings through the process known as the establishment of a prima facie case. This House has not seen fit to support that idea but nonetheless has given support overwhelmingly to the extradition laws as they now stand. It is the duty of all of us to ensure that those laws are implemented in full, without hitch, error or mistake. In any review of the law consequent on the McVeigh case it is necessary that comprehensive machinery be put in place in both jurisdictions to ensure that nothing similar will recur.
The final point that must be made is this, that the mess surrounding the McVeigh case — and it can only be described as that — simply did not begin or end in court yesterday. The method by which the man was released from prison, the ham-fisted attempts to try and detain him outside the prison, involving a collision of efforts on the part of the Army on the one hand and prison officers on the other leaves much to be desired. At this point a prison officer has been suspended because of his failure to obey an order to run across the fire of armed security on the roof of the prison firing after McVeigh. There was the fiasco on the streets of the town yesterday when Garda took it upon themselves to seek to apprehend McVeigh, again without any authority. That is something that cannot be allowed to go without examination or investigation.
This has been a sad saga in the whole of the operations of the extradition laws. On the part of a party and people concerned to ensure that extradition works and is effective, we urge the Minister to ensure that all steps are taken so that what has happened in the course of this sad affair will never be repeated in our courts or elsewhere.