The taking of an action against Sellafield by the State itself has been and remains a very complex and difficult legal matter. It would be highly irresponsible of me or the Attorney General to commence such a case without having the crucial element on which grounds for legal redress by the State relies, namely firm scientific evidence.
The Deputy will be aware of the State's general approach to the current high court action taken against BNFL by the County Louth residents. This was outlined in the Minister for the Environment's answers to Questions Nos. 28, 53, 71 and 120 of 13 November 1996.
Following the Supreme Court decision of 24 October 1996 the ministerial committee on Sellafield met and the proposals were brought to Government leading to the decision to offer State financial assistance and other support for the residents in respect of specific items of scientific investigation, research and other work to be identified and to seek agreement for the removal of the State as the defendant from their action. This general approach still stands.
An interdepartmental working group, subordinate to the ministerial committee on Sellafield, was also set up and is continuing to assemble and provide the County Louth residents with all available documentation in Departments and the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland to assist them in their case against BNFL.
As I said on many occasions, detailed consideration continues to be given to all options for legal redress but a sustainable legal case which relies on sound scientific evidence is, of course, a vital element in this matter.
Sellafield will remain a priority for this Government and it is committed to taking all feasible action open to it to secure the objective of the eventual closure of Sellafield. Concerns about Sellafield will be highlighted and pursued in every appropriate international forum at every opportunity.