Ba mhaith liom ar dtús ráiteas pearsanta a thabhairt anseo i dtaobh freagraí a thugas ar 25 Deireadh Fómhair ar cheist a chuir an Teachta Gay Mitchell maidir le cás an Athar Smyth. The matter I want to refer to arose in the course of a reply to a supplementary question and concerned the reason for the delay in processing the warrants in this case in the Attorney General's office. On the basis of information supplied to my Department by the Attorney General's office, I referred to the fact that the nine warrants received alleged offences on a variety of dates between 1964 and 1988 and I went on to state: "I also understand that this case was the first in which provisions had arisen for consideration by the Attorney General's office since the enactment of the 1987 Act." That reply was based, as I have said already, on information supplied to my Department, and, as will be clear from the context, had reference to the provision made in section 50 (2) (bbb) of the Extradition Act, 1965. This provision resulted from an amendment made by the Extradition (Amendment) Act, 1987. The provision, in a nutshell, is to the effect that the High Court may direct the release of a person in respect of whom an application for extradition has been made if, by reason of the lapse of time since the commission of the offence specified in the warrant and other exceptional circumstances it would, having regard to all the circumstances, be unjust, oppressive or invidious to deliver him up. My specific information from the Attorney General's office, which is the only office where such information could be provided to my Department, was that the Smyth case was the first in which that particular provision had arisen since the enactment of the 1987 Act.
I have now had confirmation from the Attorney General's office, as a result of a detailed examination of previous cases which was carried out by the present Attorney General, that the information I was given, and which I then transmitted to this House, was wrong. I will come shortly to the circumstances in which the new information became available and when but, first, to facts themselves.
The factual position is that the provisions of the 1965 Act, to which I have referred, had, as already stated by the Taoiseach, been considered by the Attorney General in the context of an earlier case in 1992. I was not aware of that fact when I made my statement to the House. My information was specifically to the contrary. I therefore wish to apologise to the House for that error which, I trust, this House will accept was completely inadvertent on my part.
There is a second matter on which I owe an explanation to the House. The reason that the new Attorney General proceeded to re-examine all the details surrounding the Smyth case was that, at the Taoiseach's request, I asked him specifically to do so on Sunday evening last. On Monday, the Attorney General contacted me by phone and advised me that an important piece of background information which had previously been given to me about this case was incorrect. There had, as the Taoiseach has stated, been a previous case, in 1992, when the Attorney General considered the provisions of section 50 (2) (bbb) of the 1965 Extradition Act. I asked the Attorney General to come immediately to join myself and other Fianna Fáil members of the Cabinet who were meeting together at that time.
The information of the Attorney General went beyond a simple "yes" or "no" to the question as to whether the relevant section of the Extradition Act had been considered in the past. It was considered, as the Taoiseach has said, though there might be debate as to whether it had been considered to the extent that would have been necessary for the purpose of the Smyth case. The Attorney General's view, as I understood it, was that whatever might be said about the depth of consideration given to the section in the past, it could not be said that the section had not been considered.
The previous case, that is the 1992 case, was not relevant to the handling of the Smyth case itself, nor to the totally inexcusable delay in that case except to the extent that it had not been mentioned to me when I was preparing my reply to Deputy Mitchell's question on 25 October. Had it been mentioned to me, I would have known that one vital piece of information I received from the Attorney General's office as justification for the delay in handling the Smyth case was without substance. I was advised, by the Attorney General's office, that the delay in the Smyth case was partly attributable to the fact that this was the first case in which the section I have mentioned fell to be considered. That piece of advice given to me by the Attorney General's office was factually wrong.
Although the information provided was, as the Taoiseach has stated, of a technical nature, and was made known to other Fianna Fáil Cabinet colleagues at the same meeting, it was my particular responsibility as Minister for Justice to insist that a reference to the previous case should have been included in the Taoiseach's speech. I apologise to my colleagues and the House for this omission on my part but hope the House will recognise that there could be no sensible basis for seeking to conceal that information deliberately — it would be utterly stupid of anybody to do so deliberately.
It might be said that it was deliberate or that there was a wrong motive if the position was that either the Taoiseach or I or any member of the Government were coming into this House with the aim of justifying the delay which arose in the Attorney General's office, but the essential message in the Taoiseach's statement yesterday was to do the opposite. The existence of the previous case did no more than what the Taoiseach was doing in his statement, that is, to acknowledge fully that there was no justification for the inordinate delay that took place in the Smyth case. I apologise to the House for this error of omission, but I trust that Members will accept that no explanation for the omission makes any sense other than it was a genuine error.
There is another matter in relation to the Smyth case to which I wish to refer, so as to get the record straight on the matter. Impressions which have been created concerning the role of the Department of Justice in the Smyth extradition case are misleading in that they proceed on the false assumption that the Department of Justice was in possession of some further essential information. I have been frank in all that I have said on the Smyth case in the course of this statement and I am going to be frank now — I have no reason for being otherwise. Deputy Bruton, who has called for my resignation, and Deputy Mitchell, who has persisted in misrepresenting the facts on this issue, will regret their words when they have heard the truth.
The factual position is as follows: as is normal practice in extradition cases, a copy of the warrants in the Smyth case was sent to the Department of Justice and to the Chief State Solicitor's office by the Garda authorities. However, the information contained in the warrants stated the name of the person sought, but without any reference to his being a priest; gave a previous Northern Ireland address only, and signified the offence by a reference to named persons, without giving their ages, and relevant provisions of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, indecent assault against a male and, in one case, a female.
There was no information available to the Department of Justice until the recent controversy arose to suggest that this was a case of child sexual abuse and there was and is no information available to the Department of Justice — to nail another plank in Deputy Bruton's case — as to which aspects of extradition law were being considered by the Attorney General in the Duggan case. There is nothing in the records available in my Department in relation to the Duggan case that would have shown that any issue involving section 50 (2) (bbb) of the 1965 Act was considered by the Attorney General as part of his examination of that case. The communication to the Garda Commissioner — which was passed to my Department — simply indicated that the Attorney General "has decided not to give a direction under section 44A (1) of the Extradition Act, 1965" and that the Attorney General was of "opinion [that] all four warrants are in order for endorsement in accordance with the provisions of the Acts". The warrants were subsequently endorsed and the person concerned extradited.
The requirement when extradition warrants are first received — and this applies in all cases — is for a determination by the Attorney General in respect of the functions imposed on him under the Extradition (Amendment) Act, 1987 and in relation to advising on whether the request meets the requirements of our law. No decision or action is required by the Minister for Justice or the Department of Justice in advance of the Attorney General's determination.
The procedure in all extradition cases, which was followed in this case, is to allow the legal issues which the Attorney General is required by law to consider to be dealt with in accordance with established arrangements — which include provision of such additional information as is necessary — for that purpose and in the manner judged best by the Attorney General's office.
No pressure would be brought to bear by the Department of Justice on the Smyth case, and it would be improper for it to do so, unless it became specifically aware of some special circumstances — as for example, a pending release from prison or the imminent departure of the person concerned from the jurisdiction — or pressure from the authorities requesting extradition. No such signal was received in this case by the Department of Justice.
There is one final lie which has been floating about within the past few hours which I now want to nail firmly also — the rumour mongers have it, I am told, that the Smyth file itself was on my desk at some point or other. That is a lie. All my Department got on the case were copy warrants. I did not see the file and it was never either on my desk or in my Department. I will welcome any form of independent inquiry that anybody here or outside wishes to propose in order to establish the facts.
Turning now to the motion before the House, it is beyond argument that this is a Government which has been delivering on its promises, will continue to do so and deserves every opportunity and encouragement to do so. The major achievements on the economic front and especially in relation to Northern Ireland are known. I am proud to have had a role in the developing peace process and I will return to that subject. First, I would like to mention developments which have taken place in other areas for which my Department has specific responsibility — the Garda Síochána and crime, prisons, courts, law reform and various other matters.
On the Garda side and the issue of tackling crime there have been major achievements. Last year the Garda Commissioner published a corporate strategy policy document for the years 1993-97 in line with the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government. The Commissioner's objective was to improve the performance and effectiveness of the Garda Síochána. I supported the Commissioner's move.
For my part, Deputies will be aware that I received the approval of the Government last December for a package of law and order measures which I am confident will make an enormous contribution towards tackling the existing crime problem. These measures, which, by any standard, amounted to a mojor initiative by the Government against crime, are essential to confront the criminals in our society who prey on law abiding people.
This package provides for accelerated recruitment both of gardaí and civilians, fleet replacement, very substantial IT developments, already well under way, further development of community based measures in areas of disadvantage, measures to combat serious fraud, including the implementation of certain non-legal proposals of the Government's advisory committee on fraud, recruitment of an additional 50 probation and welfare officers and support staff, provision of additional probation and welfare facilities, and the appointment of extra judges and support staff.
The programme of civilianisation and the introduction of new computer systems is designed to reduce the amount of time members have to spend in the station doing paperwork. I have summarised the development as "Technology in the Office and Gardaí on the beat".
With regard to overall numbers the position is that operational strength of the force is now at its highest level ever, and this process is ongoing. In other words, we are not thinking simply of the option of throwing more and more Garda manpower at our problems. Given its crime levels and population size, this country is well resourced in terms of Garda manpower. What we are focussing on, by using technology, more civilians and so on, is making optimum use of existing resources.
As Minister for Justice, I have endeavoured to deal with crime in a serious, comprehensive and deeprooted manner. I have not engaged in rhetoric. I have put the stress on action and getting things done. I have set out to identify the causes of crime. Issues such as social deprivation and unemployment must be considered if we are to deal with crime in a serious fashion. Fighting crime can never be a matter solely of resources and legislation. The whole picture must be looked at.
I have set out to examine the role of the Garda in an ever changing society. To this end, I have established a research unit at the Garda College in Templemore to undertake practical and mission orientated research of relevance to a modern police force. The unit has been given the job of developing, expanding and implementing research programmes for the Garda Síochána, including criminological studies and studies of social change that particularly affect the role of the Garda. I have no doubt but that this unit will enhance the capability of the Garda in its fight against crime.
As Minister, I have placed the drugs problem at the top of my agenda. I have spared no effort in taking whatever measures are necessary to deal with this scourge. To this end, I am pleased to report that a number of substantial seizures have been made by the Garda this year. As I recently informed the House, 4,081 cases have been sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory as of 30 September. The drugs seized include heroin, cocaine, ecstacy tablets, cannabis, LSD and amphetemine powder. Arising from these seizures, prosecutions have been taken and more are currently in progress.
The measures I have taken are designed to make life tougher for drug offenders, and it is not just the pusher on the street who is finding life increasingly tough. An important part of the fight against drugs is to target the illgotten gains of drug dealers and traffickers. The Criminal Justice Act, 1994, contains provisions for the confiscation of proceeds of crime and deals with money laundering by criminals, including drug traffickers.
The Government is convinced that it must deal with both sides of the drugs equation — the demand side and the supply side. While law enforcement will tackle the supply of drugs, it can do little to stem the demand. For this reason the Government has placed great stress on demand reduction through education, prevention and treatment of those addicted.
Domestic violence is another issue which is of grave concern to me. This problem is one which receives the highest priority from myself and the Garda authorities. The Garda Commissioner earlier this year issued directions on the approach to be taken by the gardaí in incidents of domestic violence. These directions set out the manner in which investigations should be conducted and reported and state that where a power of arrest exists in respect of a domestic violence incident, that power should be exercised and the offenders charged.
Another example of the resolve of the Garda authorities to deal effectively with this issue is the establishment of the domestic violence and sexual assault investigation unit. The unit works in close contact with the Garda community relations section and liaises with organisations, both statutory and voluntary, which deal with violent or sexual crime against women and children. It also deals with the drafting of Protocol on the role of the Garda Síochána in these cases.
The Garda of course, plays the primary role in dealing with crime. It needs the resources, the people and the equipment to carry out the job. As Minister for Justice I have seen to it that it has these resources. However, Garda resources, crucial as they are, will not provide the complete answer to the crime problem. On the contrary, the Garda can only do its job effectively when it has the whole-hearted support of all the sections of the community. This is why schemes involving the community in the fight against crime are essential.
When launching a number of business watch schemes in recent weeks, I was struck at the positive way the commercial community is fighting back against crime. All this adds up to a community no longer passive in the face of crime. The schemes provide a structure and a solid foundation to this community involvement and in doing so cement the links between gardaí and community.
On prisons, I promised that I would publish a major policy statement, something which had not been done since the foundation of the State. It was a daunting task, dealing as it does with one of the most difficult and controversial areas of public administration. That commitment was fulfilled with the publication by my Department in June of this year of a document entitled "The Management of Offenders — A Five Year Plan".
This five year plan frankly sets out the difficulties facing the prison system and policy for the management of offenders in the years ahead and indicates where we stand as regards implementation of the Whitaker report. While it would be presumptuous to expect universal approval for such a document I am satisfied that this five year plan has been widely welcomed by a very broad range of informed opinion. It clearly sets out attainable and realistic objectives for the development of the penal system.
The five year plan includes the provision for 210 additional prison spaces, an increase of about 70 in the number of probation and welfare staff mainly for supervision of offenders in the community, new management structures, the introduction of the concept of positive sentence management, the improvement of prison services, new draft prison rules and a new draft code of discipline for staff. I have every reason to be satisfied with my achievement in producing so innovative a document which as I have said has no precedent in the history of the management of offenders in the Department of Justice.
Under the five year plan for the management of offenders, I have identified and planned a programme of refurbishment and improvement works to be carried out up to 1999. To achieve this programme, I have signalled a financial requirement of £11 million per annum over the next five years. This represents an increase in expenditure of almost 40 per cent over the current level of provision for this work.
I am particularly happy that I have put in place a specific commitment to provide new custodial facilities for women. This is a unique opportunity to provide proper custodial facilities for women offenders. A number of crucial parameters for the design has been agreed. Essentially it will be designed on a domestic scale. Offenders will live in small, self contained living areas — like terraced houses in appearance — and generally with single rooms. The design will allow for the grouping together of offenders with similar needs and also for separation, where necessary, of different categories. A wide range of facilities will be provided. Security measures will be modest and unobtrusive and inherent in the design. Bars, gates and fencing will not feature to any extent. Most importantly, the design will be flexible, so that differing needs emerging in the future can be met.
One particular important element of the facility relates to the provision, as part of the complex, of a pre-release residence. The full proposals, when implemented, will represent an exciting, radical approach from what most people would see as the norm. I am looking forward to seeing them come to fruition. Detailed planning will proceed as a matter of priority, with a view to having the new facility completed and in operation by late 1996.
In talking about offenders I should also like to refer to another major development which indeed has direct relevance to matters discussed in this House in recent days, that is the treatment of sex offenders. We are also conscious of the trauma and damage caused in the community by various forms of sexual abuse. I have made every effort to encourage the Garda Síochána and other interests to tackle the problem with vigour and I am satisfied that-real progress has been made in raising the consciousness of the community about this tragic problem.
One of the particular matters which I had to face was how to manage imprisoned sex offenders in a constructive way to try to discourage re-offending on release and offer greater protection to the public. I decided to set up a professionally led and structured sex offender treatment programme which is now running in Arbour Hill prison. My work in this regard provides further evidence, if evidence were needed, of the importance this Government attaches to the task of tackling the problem of sex offending in the community. It is a difficult and deeply disturbing problem, not just here but internationally, and we will do all in our power to tackle it by all the means at our disposal.
Since my appointment as Minister for Justice I have taken steps to make the courts more accessible and more user-friendly and I have tried to reduce costs to the users of the courts. I would like to outline some of these steps to the House. A major area of concern is the inadequacy of court accommodation. In many cases the facilities necessary for persons coming before the courts, members of the legal profession and courts staff are grossly inadequate. A review of all existing accommodation has been undertaken and priorities have been established for the provision of new courthouses where necessary. In addition other courthouses have been earmarked for maintenance and refurbishment. This refurbishment programme is designed to continue so that by the turn of the century all our major court venues will have modern well equipped facilities to meet the demands being placed on the court service.
The small claims procedure was introduced in the District Court in December 1991. The procedure gives people a means of processing small claims, inexpensively, quickly and with a minimum of fuss. The procedure is consumer orientated and provides ordinary people with easy access to the courts and an effective means of obtaining redress. Following the successful operation of the pilot scheme over a period of two years I extended it to all District Court venues in December 1993. In addition, I extended the scope of the procedure to include the non-return of rent deposits and minor damage to privately-owned property. I have given a commitment to increase the monetary limit on claims from £500 to £1,000 by annual instalments of £100 commencing in 1995.
Of course of particular concern to me are the delays which have been occurring in disposing of criminal, civil and family law cases in the courts. I announced to the House in the course of Second Stage debate on the Courts and Court Officers Bill, 1994, I intended moving an amendment on Committee Stage to provide for an increase in the maximum number of judges which may be appointed to the High, Circuit and District Courts by two, seven and five respectively. The appointment of these 14 additional judges will help to eliminate the delays that are being experienced in the hearing of criminal trials and family law cases and other civil actions in these courts.
In addition I have established a committee under the chairmanship of the President of the Circuit Court to examine and report on the number and boundaries of the existing Circuit Court circuits with a view to the elimination of current delays and preventing such delays arising in the future.
In relation to the area of giving evidence in the courts in criminal matters, procedures have been put in place to facilitate victims appearing in our courts and to emphasise the impact of crime on the victim. Under the Criminal Evidence Act, 1992, I made the necessary regulations for the introduction of an audio visual system in certain cases, including sexual offences cases, to enable witnesses under 17 years of age to give evidence and be cross-examined outside the courtroom setting. The video-link is being monitored very closely to assess its effectiveness and it is intended, depending on the volume of cases, to implement the system in a number of provincial courts at a later date when the system in Dublin has been fully monitored and assessed.
I am also making special provision for separate waiting areas for victim support in all court refurbishment programmes. There are many court users such as witnesses and jurors who may have formed the impression that courts are an unfriendly place or they may have been frightened or intimidated at the thoughts of having to go to court in the first place.
In line with my policy of making the courts more user-friendly I have requested my Department to prepare a range of information leaflets for the benefit of adult witnesses, child witnesses, the parents of child witnesses, personal applicants for probate, jurors and so on. These leaflets will explain what happens in court and what the functions of the various people are and in general will try to allay fears people might have at the prospect of attending court. The first of these leaflets should be available for issue to the public early next year.
Probably one of the most important developments in relation to the courts — arguably since the foundation of the State — is of course the new Courts and Court Officers Bill which is now on Second Stage in this House. I will be dealing with this measure at length in the course of its passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas.
This Government's record of achievement in the area of law reform has been impressive by any standards. Deputies — on all sides — have been generous in acknowledging the breadth and quality of my own record of achievement on this front. I would like to mention some particular reforming measures. First, there was the Criminal Justice Act, 1993, which I believe for the first time places proper emphasis in statutory form on the plight of victims of crime. Unduly lenient sentences can be appealed, the court may order payment of compensation to the victim, and there is an obligation on the court before passing sentence in certain cases, including crimes of sexual nature, to consider specifically the effect of the crime on the victim.
The Criminal Procedure Act, 1993, provides new procedures for dealing with miscarriages of justice. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993, and the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act, 1993, modernised the law in the areas they covered and recognised that in this day and age there are certain matters that are no longer properly the business of the criminal law.
One of the measures to which I gave particular priority was the preparation of new legislation in the area of public order which culminated in the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994. This measure now gives the gardaí and the courts an effective and up-to-date basis on which to deal with the type of behaviour which has been the source of great concern to many people. I am happy to be able to tell the House that a measure of the effectiveness of the Act can be gleaned from the fact that, since it came into operation last April, more than 3,000 prosecutions have been initiated under it.
Another major piece of criminal law reform is the Criminal Justice Act, 1994 which I mentioned earlier in the course of my comments on drugs. In areas related to the criminal law we have also had the Extradition (Amendment) Act, 1994 and the interception of telecommunications and other messages has also been put on a modern statutory footing.
There have also been substantial developments in what I might refer to as the civil side of law reform within my Department. The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1994 corrected a difficulty which had arisen affecting some thousands of people in relation to their claim to Irish citizenship. The Solicitors (Amendment) Act, 1994, which is a monument to the work of my able and highly competent junior Minister, Deputy O'Dea, represented a major overhaul of the legislation regulating the profession and contained a wide range of measures in the interests of the consumer of legal services.
In addition to the ten Bills in my area of responsibility over the past couple of years I also have two Bills before the House at present. The Refugees Bill provides a modern and transparent basis for determining applications for refugee status. The Courts and Court Officers Bill, 1994, was discussed in this House only recently and I hardly need to remind the House of the detail of its provisions. However, it is one of the most significant legislative measures introduced in this area since the foundation of the State and will bring about much needed and fundamental reforms.
By any standards what I have outlined represents a major programme of worthwhile legislative reform and it would seem that this record provides a substantial and convincing basis for confidence in the Government's efforts in this regard. In this context I would like to pay tribute not only to my colleagues in Government for their support in advancing this programme but also to Deputies on all sides of the House — particularly the Opposition Justice spokespersons — for the generally constructive approach which they have taken to these measures.
Work has also been under way in my Department on a series of other worthwhile measures. I shall mention just a few of these. Work is at an advanced stage on a Bill to allow Ireland to ratify the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. Priority is also being given to the preparation of a new juvenile justice Bill which will involve repealing the Children Act, 1908 and replacing it with modern and comprehensive provisions in this area. Other measures in the course of preparation include a Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and legislation in the areas of criminal insanity and fraud.
My Department is also responsible for a range of matters which I have not been able to cover such as data protection, censorship of films and videos and so on. One area I would like to mention briefly is the Land Registry which has a staff of more than 500 people and in which developments will take place which are worthy of mention.
The Programme for a Partnership Government in January 1993 contained the commitment that the Government will bring forward legislation to improve the service provided to the public by the Land Registry and Registry of Deeds by converting them into a commercial semi-State body.
An interim board has been appointed to assist and advise me in preparing the registries for reconstitution. Vesting will take place as soon as the practical steps needed to prepare the registries have been taken and the necessary legislation can be prepared and enacted.
The Government decided in November 1992 that part of the operations of the Land Registry is to be transferred to Waterford city. Arising from this decision, I established a study group in July 1993 to examine the problems arising from decentralisation and to make recommendations as to how the Government decision is to be implemented with minimum disruption to the operations of the Land Registry. The indications at this stage are that the transfer of 150 staff to Waterford will take place in the second half of 1996 and the process of getting the staff for Waterford in place is under way at present.
It is appropriate that I should conclude by mentioning the peace process and certain matters associated with that process for which my Department has responsibility. It has been my privilege to have had an involvement in that process. Who could have imagined just one year ago that so much could be achieved so soon after the awful tragedies of the Shankill Road bombing and the Greysteel massacre of October of last year, which threatened to plunge this island into ever increasing violence and tragedy? Indeed, thanks to the determination of this Government in working with others in the pursuit of peace, we can now look forward to the real prospect of a true and lasting settlement of the conflict on this island. The momentous and historic developments of the past 12 months — the Downing Street Declaration and the Provisional IRA and loyalist cessation of violence — will stand forever as major landmarks on the road to permanent peace and as achievements for which this Government and the Taoiseach and Tánaiste can rightly claim a great deal of credit.
There is still a need for further work and effort to rid us forever of paramilitary violence. The onus now must be on measures to consolidate peace, the achievement of which will add greatly to the prospects for successful negotiation of a lasting political settlement on this island.
The Government — and likewise the British Government — has made it crystal clear that there are far too many guns and bombs within both communities on this island. Such weaponry has no place in a peaceful Ireland. It must be decommissioned and put beyond use and the Government is already working to this end. Irish and British officials are meeting to consider the issues involved with a mandate to report back to the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister. This important work must continue without interruption if we are to bring it to a successful conclusion.
The record of achievement in my area of responsibility, as in other areas, has been, as I said quite impressive.
There is one issue which I wish to bring to the attention of the House. Earlier today, when it become apparent that the question of the non-inclusion in the Taoiseach's speech yesterday of the additional new material about the Duggan case was crucial to the survival of this Government, I offered my resignation as Minister for Justice to the Taoiseach. I took this step for the following reasons. When the additional information became known to me and to other Fianna Fáil members of the Government last Monday, I felt, rightly or wrongly, that as Minister for Justice I should have ensured, as I said, that the Taoiseach included that new information in his speech. I greatly regret not having done that.
The new information had nothing to do with the handling of the Smyth case. It had precious little to do either with the substance of what the Taoiseach was saying because, as I explained, the very thing the Taoiseach was doing in his statement was saying that the delay was inexcusable. Nevertheless, I thought it the right and principled course to offer my resignation. The offer stands. It is a matter for the Taoiseach alone to make his decision on that offer.
I am saddened by implications from the Opposition benches that I set out to mislead. There is nothing about my record in this House to suggest that I take a dishonest or a cowardly course. There has been much speculation about my absence from the House today. I was absent because I had to consider a very serious issue. The issue was whether my presence in Cabinet presented an obstacle to the continued operation of what has been an excellent Government. Principle seemed to require, in my judgement, that I remove the obstacle. I took the principled course.
Tá muidne sa Rialtas ag tnúth go mór le clár an Rialtais seo a chur i gcrích in iomlán. Molaim do Theachtaí an Tí seo tacadh le rún leasaithe an Rialtais.