Written Answers. - Northern Ireland Issues.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

282 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the current position in relation to a murder inquiry (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19869/00]

We have raised the Deputy's detailed questions with the British authorities through the framework of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and we currently await a response. I would be happy to furnish the details to the Deputy when they are received.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

283 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the current position in relation to a Border crossing that has not been reopened (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19870/00]

I would like to thank the Deputy for bringing this important issue to my attention again. I very much appreciate her continued interest in the full re-opening of the Muff border crossing and am anxious to be as helpful as I can in resolving this matter to the satisfaction of the local residents.

As the Deputy is aware, the problem of re-opening the road on the Derry side relates to a disputed question of land ownership and access. Despite ongoing contact and dialogue between the relevant property owner, Derry City Council and the Department of Regional Development, which has responsibility for roads in Northern Ireland, it seems that the matter has not yet been satisfactorily resolved.

I wish to reassure the Deputy of my ongoing interest in this case. My Department will continue to monitor developments and will avail of every opportunity to encourage the appropriate Northern Ireland authorities to find a solution to this matter which facilitates the full reopening of the cross-Border road.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

284 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the current position in relation to a murder inquiry (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19871/00]

Rosemary Nelson was brutally murdered in a car-bomb attack in Lurgan on 15 March 1999. This murder was an attack on a dedicated and committed defence lawyer and human rights defender. It also represented a fundamental assault on the legal system itself.

On 29 March 1999, the Deputy Chief Constable of Norfolk, Colin Port, was appointed to lead the investigation into her murder, an investigation which is still ongoing. Colin Port has made several public appeals for information and made arrangements to be contactable directly. I sincerely hope that this investigation will be successful in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Officials from my Department remain in close contact with the British authorities in relation to the investigation. They also maintain close contact with human rights organisations, both at home and abroad, with members of Rosemary's family and with other interested parties.

A number of human rights organisations as well as Rosemary's husband, Paul, have called for an independent judicial inquiry into all the circumstances surrounding the murder.

I am conscious that it is now 18 months since Rosemary's death. Since then, the Government has repeatedly emphasised that the investigation must be thorough, transparent and independent, and be seen to be so. The central concern in relation to the current investigation is that it should be structured and operated in such a way that all potential witnesses or those with relevant information can feel free to come forward, and I would encourage them to do so at the earliest possible opportunity. We consider the investigation to be the essential starting point for any possible future inquiry. It is essential that the truth be established into all the circumstances surrounding the murder of Rosemary Nelson. The British Government have made clear that no option has been ruled out in relation to this case and I welcome that.

The Government will continue to monitor the progress of the investigation very closely and, in this context, will keep under active review the question of calling for an independent, public inquiry.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

285 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the current position in relation to a murder inquiry (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19872/00]

Robert Hamill died on 8 May 1997, following an attack in Portadown. RUC officers were in the vicinity at the time. Six people were charged in 1997 in connection with his murder, five of whom were released. One person was charged with causing an affray but not murder. Following an RUC investigation into the actions of RUC officers on the night in question, which was supervised by the Independent Commission for Police Complaints, ICPC, the DPP decided not proceed with the prosecution of any of the RUC officers involved. The RUC Chief Constable is currently considering, under the supervision of the ICPC, whether or not disciplinary action against the officers in question is warranted. The RUC file on the case remains open.

On 7 June last, the coroner decided not to proceed with an inquest because of concerns for the safety of certain witnesses, whose evidence would have been crucial to a complete account of the circumstances of Mr Hamill's death.

On 7 June 2000, the Taoiseach met Prime Minister Blair and, in the course of the meeting, they discussed the Hamill case. The following day, he met with members of the Hamill family. Afterwards, the Taoiseach stated that the case was a matter of urgent public interest and that the issues of concern involved must be resolved in a manner which would command the confidence of the community, through an independent, judicial public inquiry. The Government continues to monitor closely developments in Mr Hamill's case and to pursue its concerns actively with the British authorities.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

286 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the allegations in the print media (details supplied) in relation to collusion between paramilitaries and soldiers in murders committed in the Six Counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19886/00]

I am aware of the reports that have appeared recently in newspapers regarding allegations of collusion between paramilitary organisations and members of the security forces in murders committed in Northern Ireland. These allegations relate to a number of murders, including that of Pat Finucane. In relation to the Finucane case in particular, the Taoiseach called for a public inquiry last February because of the serious allegations which surround it.

The Government takes a very serious view of these and all such allegations of collusion. We have raised our concerns about the recent allegations with the British Government through the mechanism of the British Irish Intergovernmental Secretariat and are awaiting a reply.