DÁIL SELECT COMMITTEES AND JOINT COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS: STATEMENTS (RESUMED). - Select Committee on Legislation and Security.

First, I would like to state that it was a great honour for me to have been elected Chairman of the Select Committee on Legislation and Security at its first meeting in May.

There are three main topics I wish to refer to in my statement this afternoon. First, I will outline the background to the establishment of the committee. Second the work programme the committee has set for itself will be reviewed. Finally, will look forward to the tasks the com mittee hopes to undertake in the future, paying particular attention to general policy issues that have arisen in discussions and the powers needed to bring these discussions to a conclusion.

As Deputies are aware, all the legislative committees were established in accordance with the commitment given in the section of the Programme for a Partnership Government entitled, "Broadening Our Democracy". The programme contained a package of proposals designed to achieve fundamental reform in the way in which this Legislature operates. These reforms, including the new legislative committees, are intended to encourage the highest level of democratic partnership — via participation — in the tasks of producing legislation and formulating policies. Underlying all our efforts in this regard is the need to make the national Parliament relevant and capable of dealing with the problems of modern Irish society.

The Programme for Government envisaged a deadline of 31 January 1994 for the establishment of this and the other legislative committees, apart from the Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs. However, the committee was brought from the proposal stage to practical functioning within a period of four months. Arising from statements on the subject of Dáil reform in February, 30 Members were selected by the Committee of Selection and Orders of Reference were agreed on 7 April. I am sure Deputies will agree that all the committees, including the select Committee on Legislation and Security, took the minimum amount of time to commence operations.

Our first meeting was held on 4 May and since then we have had eight meetings, involving 20 hours of deliberations. These meetings have dealt with Estimates, Bills and general policy issues as well as defining our work programme.

Before I go into more detail about he objectives of the committee and its work programme, I would like to pay tribute to my colleagues in the committee for their constructive input into our deliberations on various topics. In particular, I would like to thank the convenors, Deputies Calley and John Browne(Carlow-Kilkenny) and the staff of the House for their assistance and co-operation. The committee system was put in place to facilitate a greater quantity and quality of participation by Deputies selected for membership. There is no doubt that both of these aims have been achieved. I would also like to thank Ministers, Ministers of State and officials of the Departments of Defence, Justice and Equality and Law Reform for the assistance provided at private and public sessions, in particular, meetings at which briefings were provided to members which worked well and helped members carry out their work in a informed way.

In reviewing the operation of the committees to date, it would be helpful to remind Deputies of the precise terms of reference set out for the Select Committee on Legislation and Security. All the committees have specific legislative tasks assigned to them. The Orders of Reference of the Select Committee on Legislation and Security state that our function was to consider specific issues relating to justice, law reform and defence comprising the Estimates for relevant Government Departments, the impact on equality of policy in these areas, Committee Stage of relevant Bills and such appropriate reports as were referred to the committee from the Dáil.

In assigning these tasks to the new committees, the original objectives were common to all the committees. First, it was envisaged that the new arrangements would provide Deputies with a formal structure conducive to the meaningful contributions from members towards drafting legislative and policy proposals. Second, the system was intended to speed up the process of the passage of legislation through the Houses, without simultaneously curtailing or inhibiting that constructive input, which members can and may wish to provide. Third, some Deputies expressed in February the necessity for the committees to enhance the accountability of Government, and especially Ministers, to the Members of the Dáil. In this way, the need to increase the accountability of Government to the electorate would, to some degree, be met.

Since its first meeting, the work programme of the Select Committee on Legislation and Security has, in accordance with its Orders of Reference included consideration of the relevant Estimates and Committee Stage of relevant Bills. However, our work programme has not been restricted to those matters. We have also had meetings on general policy matters relating to our brief in the areas of justice, equality and law reform and defence issues. I will return at a later stage in my statement to the subject matter and outcome of these meetings.

As its initial task, the committee considered the Estimates for a number of Votes, covering almost £930 million of public expenditure. It dealt with these Estimates at three separate meetings, at which Estimates under the aegis of the Departments of Defence, Equality and Law Reform and Justice were considered. In each case, the Minister, in one case accompanied by his Minister for State, attended together with officials. The consideration of the Estimates took 13 hours of public session, with contributions from almost every Deputy attending, on issues relating to defence, army pensions, equality and law reform, justice, the Garda Síochána, courts and prisons. Many worth while points emerged during our discussions of the Estimates. The quantity and quality of Members' contributions attest to the participative nature of this committee's work. The Estimates were reported to the Dáil on 21 May 1993.

At present the committee is processing the Committee Stage of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill, 1993. A private briefing session on the Bill involving officials was held and all Members present felt it was a worthwhile exercise. The committee also met in public on this subject and the Committee Stage debate will continue tomorrow.

Many amendments to the Bill have been suggested to date by Members, and, once again, the number and quality of the amendments illustrate the useful and participative nature of this committee's work. The fact that some of these amendments have resulted in changes to the Bill is due to the Minister and members concerned.

Undoubtedly, other Bills will be referred to the committee. As yet, we have no firm indication of the future workload in this regard.

A wide range of topical and relevant issues may arise over the life time of the committee. These include forthcoming developments in family law, the civil legal aid scheme and the changing environment for the Defence Forces on foreign missions.

The committee has views on the topics it wishes to discuss, notwithstanding its current Orders of Reference. The work programme was discussed at a number of meetings and, in particular, issues relating to itsmodus operandi, terms of reference and powers. I will consider the issue of the powers given to the committee later.

Our attempt to review the role of the Defence Forces simultaneously highlights the potential for the committee to formulate and review policy and the constraints on it performing that function. Arising from the committee's consideration of the Defence Estimate, the Minister for Defence suggested that the committee consider the role of the Defence Forces. The Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Deputy Dempsey, participated in this exercise, which was held in private and the committee is grateful for his contribution. While further consideration of this matter at subsequent meetings may be appropriate and desirable, the committee felt that no useful purpose could be served by its continuing discussion on this subject because the Orders of reference do not explicitly envisage such an exercise. Neither do they allow the committee to invite, or summon if necessary, interested bodies or parties to these meetings. The committee views such participation as vital to its success in its wider role of policy formulation and review. The committee's deliberations on the role of the Defence Forces have led me to an inevitable conclusion: that the problems of the terms of reference and powers of the committee are inter-related issues. The committee would like to discuss issues of current public interest in the areas of its remit. However, as I stated, it does not have the explicit power to do so and neither does it have the complementary and necessary power of invitation.

I wrote on the committee's behalf to the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, drawing attention to its difficulties. His reply stated that the committee's views would be taken into account when the Orders or Reference were being amended. Having discussed this matter on three occasions, the committee would like to see these amendments put in place as a matter of urgency, so that it can undertake the tasks relating to general policy issues that Members are willing and prepared to perform.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Tá áthas orm go bhfuil deis agam labhairt faoin gcóras nua atá againn sa Dáil. Tugann na coistí deis dúinn labhairt faoin gcóras dlí sa tír agus na fadhbhanna atá ann. Cé go bhfuil deacrachtaí ag na coistí faoi láthair ó thaobh cead fianaise de tá súil agam go mbeidh leigheas ar an scéal agus go leanfaidh córas na gcoistí ar aghaidh gan trioblóid ar bith.

We have dealt with the Estimates for three Departments and this debate has given us another opportunity to discuss them. In general this debate could provide for more detailed discussion, as distinct from the Dáil, where legislation is frequently rushed through. The committee system will be beneficial to the Dáil, in particular to Opposition Members who can tease out matters, which would not be the case in the Dáil Chamber. The success of the committee system will depend to a large extent on the attitude of Ministers, those who have come before our committee so far — Deputies Andrews, Geoghegan-Quinn and Taylor — have been helpful and co-operative in giving information. If Ministers do not co-operate and are not willing to listen, Opposition Members will be wasting their time.

I was very jealous today when I heard members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs talk about the various ambassadors and so on they called before their committee. It is unfortunate that the terms of reference of our committee do not permit us to bring people before it. The chairman mentioned that matter in his report and I hope it will be addressed. It is important that a committee should be able to call on the expertise in its field. We all have our views but it is important that they are balanced. We all meet people who have dogmatic views in regard to what should be done in a certain area but it is important that such people do not monopolise one's time so that others who hold opposing views may be heard. I would welcome the opportunity to hear victims of crime, members of Mothers Against Drunken Driving or people advocating prisoners' rights as well as defence and justice experts who could give their views and allow us as legislators devise a fair and balanced line on legislation.

We are discussing Committee Stage of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill and it appears that a person who has one or two pints and might stagger on his or her way home could be arrested. Such people are being put into the criminal class although they are not a danger to anybody. My colleague on another committee discussed rural life and the fact that people might drive four or five miles to a local pub to have two pints after work. When this legislation is enacted such people will be allowed only one pint if they intend to drive. I must be careful not be seen to defend drunken driving because 99 per cent of people are against it but a balance must be struck in this regard. A person who has two drinks and drives home four or five miles is not a danger to himself or to anybody else although in advocating leniency where alcohol is concerned one could be branded as supporting drunken driving, which I am not. In an effort to make everything perfect we must ensure that we do not trample on the rights of others. I heard a well known playwright state on the radio yesterday that people should not drink and drive but get a taxi or walk from the pub. That is possible in cities and towns but not for people living four or five miles from the nearest pub. Therefore, we must get the balance right.

In advance of some of our meetings we have been briefed by civil servants. It is important that civil servants tell us the inside story as we are being told only half the story at present. I support the plea by other speakers that Opposition Members should have resources for research and advisers because civil servants will brief us in accordance with Ministers' wishes. It is important that a different viewpoint is put forward to counterbalance Government proposals. Government advisers do not have a monopoly on knowledge, regardless of their number, and, therefore, Opposition Members should have resources for such expertise. However, I thank the civil servants for their courtesy and assistance in briefing us during our meetings.

Defence and Marine affairs are dealt with by the same Minister through different committees. Perhaps Marine matters should be dealt with in our committee so that spokespersons and Ministers are not running from one committee to another. I am surprised that although our committee deals with equality and law reform the Matrimonial Home Bill has not come before us for discussion. I do not know who decides on the allocation of Bills for the committees but if the Minister answerable to our committee deals with law reform and equality matters the Bills for which he has responsibility should be taken in our committee. The fact that we have not been allowed to deal with the Matrimonial Home Bill is a slight on our ability and I hope that will not continue to be the case.

Deputy McDowell stated that we are having a seance here and talking to one another but the absence of Ministers takes from this debate. If we have sessions such as this in future, it would be wise for Ministers to be present even allowing for the fact that they are discussing the disbursement of a great deal of money today. Their absence takes from the importance of the debate because this appears to be merely a committee meeting in public.

I concur with the views of a number of Deputies that, to a large extent, this is a pretence and a waste of time. It is disappointing that, apart from lining up here this morning at the commencement of business, Cabinet members and Ministers of State have been absent from this House all day and have made no contributions to the discussions on the committee system. It is regrettable and reflects the attitude of the Government to the system.

When this Government took office six months ago, change, ethics and reform were to be the hallmarks of its term in office. It was to broaden democracy and legislators were to play a more meaningful role in the legislative process. Six months later there has been little change and no real reform. We have not had the so-called ethics in Government Bill and the Government's decision not to hold the two by-elections has been a narrowing of democracy. The Government because of its huge majority has shown a disturbing arrogance in regard to this House and the people we represent after only six months in office. The largest party in this House, which represents 38 per cent of its membership, has lost five members since the election and it must share a large part of the blame for not implementing many of the changes in the Programme for Government.

In relation to the Select Committee on Legislation and Security, of which I am a member, it is disappointing that the Matrimonial Home Bill was not discussed at that committee. That was because business had to be found for the Select Committee on Social Affairs. There are four Bills before the four select committees. The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill is before the Select Committee on Legislation and Security, the Aviation Authority Bill is before the Select Committee on Enterprise and Employment, the Matrimonial Home Bill has been sent to the Select Committee on Social Affairs and the Road Traffic Bill is before the Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs. Business seems to be organised to make it appear that these committees are working effectively and that has lead to the Matrimonal Home Bill being taken away from this committee.

The Bill dealing with sexual offences is a very important Bill, and is reforming legislation to update the law in relation to decriminalising homosexual acts. However, there were problems in relation to the provisions concerning prostitution. I regret that following protest, there was only a two hour debate here on that Bill on Committee Stage. It was a Bill which should have been sent to this committee also. I regret the attitude that I detect from this Government that if an issue is controversial, difficult or sensitive it will be rushed through the House as quickly as possible and will not be teased out through the committees in the way it should. If the committees are to be effective they must discuss in detail, slowly but painstakingly, the legislative measures that are being introduced in this House.

For example, would it not have been better if this committee had been able to discuss last week the outcome of what has become known as the Lavinia Kerwick case? A copy of the judgment in that case could have been made available to the committee. Members would then have had an opportunity to study it and, consequently, we might have had a more balanced and reasoned debate. Instead, the debate on that whole issue took place outside this House and in the media, as is so often the case. That is our fault, it brings this House into disrepute when the real debate takes place elsewhere.

We must re-examine the terms of reference of all the committees. The terms of reference of the Select Committee on Legislation and Security in particular are so narrow that they limit our capacity to deal with the issues of the day. A major loophole in the terms of reference of that committee is that it cannot invite the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, or summon other witnesses, to appear before it. If this committee is to be effective it should be able to invite, for example, the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, sectoral division heads of the Garda Síochána, representatives of the Irish Association for Victim Support, the Incorporated Law Society, the Bar Council and the civil liberties groups that have concerns in relation to the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill. If the committee is to be effective its members must be able to meet these groups and hear their concerns so that we can take on board those concerns in the contributions we make on that Bill on Committee Stage. The committee will not be effective until we have the power to invite interested groups to appear before them. Like Deputy Browne I also envy the powers given to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and, as I suggested at our committee, I want the Chairman at the earliest opportunity to seek a review of the terms of reference in order to allow for the invitation of guest speakers.

I believe also that Ministers and Ministers of State should be accountable to the committees. There is no accountability now in this Dáil. Question Time is a farce. Invariably, Minister after Minister comes in here with three, four and five page answers to basic questions which allows virtually no time for replies to supplementary questions. Ministers are very adept at dodging answering the real questions. We need a committee system such as that in the United Kingdom and in the United States where not only Ministers and others responsible for areas of legislation are answerable to committees but also where people such as ambassadors and attorneys general must go through close scrutiny before a committee of Congress. It is appalling that there is no accountability here. Why should we not be allowed to summon Ministers before a committee to answer for their actions or inactions as the case may be? The fact that the Minister only attends for debates on legislation or Estimates is another major anomaly in the committee system and one that is leading to it being totally ineffective.

I wish to turn now to an issue on which I do not speak very often because I do not believe in distinguishing between men and women. People should be elected on the basis of their ability and their capacity to represent. That is what electing a Member to this House is all about but any assembly, whether a legislative one or otherwise, whose members do not represent a fair gender balance, cannot be wholly objective. For too long this House did not have a fair representation from the female population of this country. We have only elected 55 women to Dáil Éireann which represents an average of a little more than two in each of the 27 elections. The Dáil elected 20 women, the largest number ever. Following the election this was heralded as a major breakthrough for women in politics. I share that view but let us examine what has taken place since then. The Dáil, by its decisions, has not taken on board that major breakthrough by women in politics here in the last election. We have a male Ceann Comhairle and a male Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Four committees of this House have no woman representative, the Committee of Public Accounts, the Joint Committee on Commercial State-sponsored Bodies, the Joint Committee on Standing Orders and the standing Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.

The standing committees, for which the chairpersons and convenors are being remunerated, do not have a woman holding the posts of convenor or chairperson. In fact, the only committee whose chairperson is a woman is the Joint Committee on Women's Rights. An examination of the representation on the committee reveals, for example, that the Joint Committee on Women's Rights has 59 per cent female membership, the Select Committee on Social Affairs has 33 per cent, select Committee on Enterprise and Economic Strategy and the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs each have 3 per cent and the Select Committee on Legislation and Security has 9 per cent. Are women merely to deal with issues of divorce, contraception, health and education? Are we not to have views and a right to participate in areas such as crime, the economy and foreign affairs? The British-Irish Parliamentary Tier, which was referred to earlier by Deputy Leonard, has no woman member.

There is little point in this Government talking about gender proofing legislation and appointing up to 40 per cent of women to State boards if we do not show example in this House and if we do not take on board the fact that there is a substantial minority who have a right to at least equal representation on all of these committees. In particular, the onus must rest on the larger parties because a smaller party, one with four members or one with ten members finds it difficult to have representations on the number of committees that have been established. The onus must lie particularly on the Government parties who have shown scant regard for the female members of those smaller parties and who have not shown any recognition of women by appointing male chairpersons and male convenors.

I wish to pose a number of questions in relation to the committees. I understand there is remuneration for the chairperson and the convenor but I would like to know what other persons on the committees are being paid. If the parties are to be effective on these committees they need assistance by way of back-up and research. For example, I am dealing with two Bills in this House at the moment, the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill and the Matrimonial Home Bill. In particualr, the Matrimonial Home Bill is an extremely technical and difficult one dealing in the main with conveyance. It is wrong that Members of this House who are not members of Government are not provided with research facilities nor with an allowance to allow them engage outside help. This must change if the committees are to have a meaningful role, if they are to be effective, if they are to be more than talking shops and if they are to tease out legislation in a meaningful, radical and reforming way.

To a large extent the first six months have been a piloting period for those committees, to see how they would work. I am glad they have been set up but let us not take any consolation from the fact merely that they exist and let us not assume that because they exist they are effective. We must radically change their terms of reference, we must make Ministers accountable and we must have legislation brought in through those committees at a very early stage so that there can be real and effective change. Finally, I hope that all Bills will go before the committees and that those that are contentious and sensitive will not be rushed through this House in order to avoid debate or overcome some temporary political difficulty.

It is probably too early to make a judgment on any of the individual committees we are reviewing here today. However, it is early enough to form the conclusion that the establishment of committees does not constitute Dáil reform. Our procedures are quaint, archaic, belonging to the 19th century. At best we are subjected to some kind of adaptation of the early years of this State when there was, perhaps understandably, a wish to restrict the input of Members of the House and, in particular, the input of Opposition parties into the work of the Executive. What we have is an institution seen by the public as being out of date, out of touch and unable to deal with the day-to-day problems people face.

For Members of this House to have to come here day after day without being able to raise topical issues which are on the front pages of the newspapers and are the top items in daily news bulletins, the subject of discussion in public and private houses throughout the country, is nothing short of a disgrace. We will have to do more than simply establish committees in order to get Dáil and institutional reform. We will have to get to the root of the way this country is run, to the relationship which exists between public servants, public representatives and the public they represent and serve. It would be churlish to suggest that the establishment of the committees does not represent an improvement. I acknowledge the improvement which gives us a taste of what could be achieved and of a better way of doing public business.

Consideration of the Estimates in committees is certainly an improvement. Estimates are now subject to a greater degree of scrutiny but there are two aspects of that which need to be re-examined. I found it strange that at each of the Estimate meetings we had not only the Ministers and their respective programme managers, but a whole army of senior civil servants who were unable to participate. We need to have a system whereby the members of the committee can engage in dialogue with senior public servants charged with the responsibility of managing the public finances in the various Departments. It is absurd that we found ourselves disussing Estimates which had been determined and which we could not change, most of which had been spent. We were discussing the Estimates when half the money in them was committed and spent. When the draft Estimates are prepared by the Department they should be put before the committees for examination so that our input is not simply a public relations exercise in transparency but is meaningful and will result in something being achieved.

I agree with the comments of the chairman of the Select Committee on Legislation and Security in regard to the need for the committee to be able to summon and invite people to attend meetings. There seems to be an attitude, which we probably inherited from the days of British rule and from the British parliamentary tradition, that matters of security are somehow cloaked in secrecy and cannot be the subject of discussion. That kind of culture appears to be behind the thinking that has led to that committee being unable to invite persons to attend. If a local authority can invite senior garda officers to discuss matters of security and crime prevention I do not see why a committee of this House cannot invite the Garda Commissioner and senior garda officers to discuss similar issues. The Assistant Commissioner has attended meetings of Dublin local authorities to discuss these matters. If we are so hidebound by British tradition, I cannot see why at a time when the British have decided it is in order for the head of MI5 to hold a press conference, we as committees of Parliament cannot invite persons to discuss matters of concern with regard to security and crime prevention.

In regard to the way Bills are considered by the committees, it is true that Ministers appear to respond more positively to Opposition amendments in the context of committee discussions than in the more traditional form of debate in the House. That is a good thing but the way the Government has handled and presented legislation this year has meant that the committees have been unable effectively to deal with it. Early in the session we had little or no legislation to deal with and towards the end of it we had a glut of legislation being rushed through Second Stage for consideration by the committees so that the committees could be seen to have something to do in the month of July. One of the problems with that is that it creates a sense of rush.

The public order Bill has been the subject of criticism about the way new offences are defined and there are concerns about civil liberties and so on. That has resulted because the legislation was rushed through the committee. I received a communication from the Law Society to the effect that the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill, 1993 was published on Friday, 25 June and by Friday, 2 July, one week later, the Second Stage of the Bill had been completed in the Dáil. The Law Society made the point that that was rushing legislation which needed more throught and consideration. The committee also has a problem in being unable to invite bodies like the Law Society to attend to give its views on legislation. A whole range of lobbyists and special interest groups communicate their views on legislation to Deputies and to political parties. It would be preferable if they could be invited to appear before the respective committees to put their views.

The way the legislation is prepared for the committees does not reconcile with the promise we were given when these committees were being established. On 18 February, the Minister of State, Deputy Dempsey in informing us about the establishment of the committees said the Government envisaged that there would be close co-operation between Departments preparing legislation and the committees. The Minister of State said that before Committee Stages of Bills private briefing sessions would be held between the officials of the relevant Department and Members of the committee. I welcome the fact that there are briefing sessions held before Committee Stage begins. That is progress, but it is not what we were led to believe on 18 February would happen, that the committees would be involved at an early stage when Department are preparing legislation. How is that promise to be implemented? We certainly cannot be involved at an early stage if legislation is published on a Thursday evening, the Second Stage debate is completed the following Tuesday and the Bill is rushed into committee the following week.

If the committees are to play a meaningful role in the debate on legislation and in the formulation of policy, they will have to be involved in the preparation of legislation at an earlier stage. I suggest when a Bill is being prepared — as we are aware, legislation is promised — that the heads of that Bill should be laid before the committee so that the civil servants in drafting it, and the Government in considering it, will be aware of the views of the committee in the same way as Departments are invited to express their views on legislation being prepared.

I welcome the opportunity to make a brief contribution. The Select Committee on Legislation and Security has worked well and on each occasion there was a good turn-out of members, on average 80 per cent of members attended each meeting.

I congratulate the chairman, Deputy Wallace, for the efficient manner in which he chaired the meetings, always ensuring that the debate was relevant to the matter under discussion. I also congratulate the various spokespersons for their contributions which, like the contributions of all other members, were most impressive and constructive. I am pleased to be a member of this active committee, the members of which are encouraged by the chairman to articulate their views.

I hope that many more private briefing sessions will be held on Bills as these are of help in teasing out the various issues. In this regard I compliment the civil servants who briefed us and this process should be continued in future.

I am satisfied that the new committees have a great future. I congratulate the Government and the House for establishing them.

On my behalf and on behalf of Deputy Browne we wish the chairman of the new committee well; he has done his best to be impartial and I hope that under his chairmanship the committee will go from strength to strength. The jury is still out on the committee system but I hope it goes from strength to strength because, as a Legislature and House of Representatives we have failed in the past.

As a Legislature and committee, effectively we are asked to comment or amend a Bill which is produced by a Minister but, for "Minister", read "civil servants". In effect, therefore, we do not legislate, we endorse or marginally amend reports which are not compiled by a Minister but by civil servants. It has been the case for some time that civil servants or a civil servant within Government Departments — in this case the Department of Justice — who are part of the permanent Government write the law, which is wrong.

Not only should Members of this House have the capacity to drastically amend Bills and given sufficient time to review them, they should have the capacity to introduce Private Members' Bills at the committee on matters of concern to us. The committee in turn should have the power to decide, perhaps following a discussion with the Whips, how many Private Members' Bills should be taken in a given period; in other words, as a Legislature we should have the power to compel the Executive to comply with our wishes as representatives of the people.

In relation to our role as the House of Representatives under the Constitution we have failed dismally. It is difficult to investigate current matters of interest and, indeed, even more difficult to investigate historic matters of interest. The Constitution states that the Executive is accountable to this House but we have almost reached the stage where this House is accountable to the Executive. In theory the Cabinet is a committee of this House, albeit the most powerful one but it holds all the cards. However, we have the power to change this. As a House of representatives, we should become an investigative committee so that we can investigate, for instance, the root causes of crime and the prison system to see why people are not rehabilitated. It seems that we have to depend on the views of one or two civil servants in the Department of Justice.

As a select committee it is our job to tackle crime, especially as old and feeble people are imprisoned in their own homes. I had a terrible experience last week on my way to a wedding in Galway. West of the Shannon I stopped to ask for directions in a remote area but the people were to afraid to come to the door. I thought this only happened in major urban areas. What has our society come to? It is up to us put our heads together, to free those people and to investigate to our satisfaction, not to the satisfaction of some civil servant, the root causes of crime and come up with a solution. It is also our job to tackle the questions of prison and criminal law reform but very often we give this job to the Law Reform Commission, civil servants and investigative committees.

I tabled a motion asking the House to agree, in view of the unsolved atrocities of the 1972 and 1974 Dublin bombings and the 1974 Monaghan bombing and given the media reports related to these atrocities over a number of years, to appoint a select committee to inquire into these murderous acts and resolve that the committee should report to the House with urgency. That is a matter which this House and its committees should investigate. It has been investigated thoroughly by journalists, not only for the "First Tuesday" television programme which was broadcast recently but in the print media.

Apart from the 1974 bombings I specifically mentioned the 1972 bombings. Twenty-one years after the 1972 bombings and less than 20 years after the Dublin and Monaghan bombings we should seek to put all the facts on the record of the House and pursue the truth, wherever it takes us. I was dismayed by the comments of Lord Tebbit in recent days but the best thing to do is to ignore them.

I would like to refer to an article by Mr. Jim Cantwell on the Dublin bombings in 1972 in which he states that the Government has been given evidence connecting the British Army's notorious SAS unit with the bomb blasts at Liberty Hall and Sackville Place on 1 December 1972 in which two busmen died. He said that a full dossier, compiled by the Special Branch in Dublin Castle, has been handed to the Government which contains information that two of four men, working under the code names of Fleming and Thompson, who stayed in the Belgravia Hotel in Belfast were in fact members of the Special Air Services section of the British Army and that they are wanted here in connection with the bombings. The article goes on to state that with the co-operation of the RUC the Garda Síochána established that a flat beside the Belgravia Hotel, in which Thompson and Fleming and two others also stayed, was rented by the British Army. It goes on further to suggest the way in which the people planted the bombs, how they were met at the Border after that dastardly act and to state that the RUC were surprised that the system clammed up. This was the forerunner to what happened in Dublin in 1974, less than 18 months later.

These matters have not been investigated in detail by this House. Two men were killed on 1 December 1972; they were blown apart when bombs placed at Liberty Hall and Sackville Place exploded. Eighteen months later, in one of the most horrific murderous acts ever carried out in the history of these islands 33 people were killed. This could only be equated with something that the Nazis would do. Those 33 people were blown to pieces in a savage way; unfortunately, they were the lucky ones because some of those who survived are still suffering from the effects of the tragedy.

It is wrong that these matters are being investigated by journalists. Even now, 20 years on, this House with the benefit of privilege should investigate these matters and others of that kind. We should pursue the truth in all matters. That is our duty as Members of this House. There is no point in blaming successive Governments. That is a cop-out because almost everybody on all sides of the House participated in Governments in those years. What have successive Dála done about this matter and what have we as Members of this House done about it? This select committee should take upon itself responsibility for investigating matters of this kind. I will be asking the House to empower a select committee, assisted if necessary by a special investigator, to use the privilege of the Dáil to put on record all the facts in relation to the 1972 Dublin bombings and the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings. If we take seriously our responsibility as legislators and as Members of this House of representatives we will have done a good day's work on behalf of the people of Ireland.

The Dáil adjourned at 3.55 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Monday, 20 September 1993.