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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 13 Feb 1991

Vol. 405 No. 1

Adjournment Debate. - Dublin Castle Conference,

I would like to thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter on the Adjournment this evening.

Many people both inside and outside this House were shocked and astonished to discover that the Government had seen fit to extend to Monsieur Le Pen and his grouping in the European Parliament the facilities at Dublin Castle for the purpose of a meeting to be held yesterday, today and tomorrow. When I first learned of this matter I hoped it had happened by accident and that when the matter was drawn to the attention of the Government the arrangements for Monsieur Le Pen to use the Castle would be cancelled but that did not happen.

It is outrageous that these facilites were made available to this group. We cannot prevent any political grouping from visiting Ireland if they wish but the Government and State have no obligation to provide the facilities of Dublin Castle to a political grouping whose politics are abhorrent to the overwhelming majority of Irish people. According to Monsieur Le Pen gas chambers used during the Second World War were just a detail or minor point in the history of that war. Jean-Marie Le Pen has been convicted of inciting racial hatred in France and members of his party have been convicted of charges of murder, assault and arson. He leads in the European Parliament a Right wing group of neo-Fascists whose politics are designed to breed fear, racism and anti-Semitism and who seek to gain political advantage by exploiting the prejudices of the weak within France and other member states of the EC.

I do not believe that Irish taxpayers thought that the millions of pounds spent refurbishing Dublin Castle would result in that building, which was identified during our European Presidency as having a central role to play in the Government of this country, being made available to such a group. I ask the Minister to explain how this group were afforded this facility. I ask him to assure the House that such a facility will not again be afforded to this grouping. I ask him to reject the statement reported to have been made by the Government presss office last week when in an effort to explain this arrangement, they are supposed to have said that as the Socialist group in the European Parliament had been given this facility there was no particular reason Monsieur Le Pen and his group should not also be given it. It is absolutely outrageous to compare the Socialist group in the European Parliament, whether or not the majority of the Members of this House agree with their politics, who are committed to democratic policies throughout the European Community with this group of neofascists who are at the opposite end of the political spectrum and who are trying to return Europe to the politics of the thirties, politics which brought chaos and discredit on many European countries.

I hope the Minister will give me a reasonable response. I appreciate that, unfortunately, this meeting is now taking place and it may be too late to cancel the facilities now; there is only one day left during which the facilities will be available to Monsieur Le Pen, but I ask the Minister to give us an absolute assurance that the Government procedures to determine what groups can use Dublin Castle will be reviewed. I also ask for an assurance that this group will never again be given access to this facility.

I ask the Minister, on behalf of the Government, to apologise to the Irish people for the error which was made. Many people are deeply offended that this group were allowed to use Dublin Castle. It has been reported in the newspapers that many members of the Jewish community have expressed concern at this action but I can tell the Minister that it is not only members of the Jewish community who are concerned. The phone in my home has been hopping since this issue became public knowledge. Many people find it inexplicable that Dublin Castle was made available to this group. I hope the Minister will confirm in his reply that such an event will not be repeated and that no such facility in any Government building will be made available in future to a grouping of this nature.

The Office of Public Works manage the conference facilities at Dublin Castle on behalf of the State. Bookings of the conference facilities are arranged through that office.

On 3 December 1990, the conference and protocol office of the European Parliament contacted the Dublin Castle conference office seeking to book facilities for 12, 13 and 14 February 1991 for the technical group of the European right. A tentative booking was taken and, following clearance by the Department of the Taoiseach, the booking was confirmed.

As Members will appreciate, the conference facilities at Dublin Castle are available on a commercial basis, for non-governmental use. The technical group of the European right are a recognised group of parliamentarians who are paying the commercial rate for the facilities.

Other European Parliament representatives with various political affiliations have previously used the facilities. As Deputy Shatter said, these included the European left and the socialists. Acceptance of bookings does not imply that the Government subscribe to the views of any particular group. It makes no difference whether they are left or right wing.

The Minister has not dealt adequately with the issue. They will let Sinn Féin use Dublin Castle next.