Other Questions. - Garda Operations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

8 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there are guidelines in place regarding the use by the Garda of agents and informers in either paramilitary organisations or criminal gangs; if he will give an assurance that no such agents or informers have been given sanction by the Garda to commit criminal acts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17152/03]

The type of matters referred to by the Deputy in her question are operational matters for the Garda Síochána. This said, I can assure the Deputy that the Garda Síochána operates in accordance with strict guidelines in such matters and in accordance with law and their duty to uphold the constitutional rights of all persons.

I thank the Minister for his concise reply. There have been many recent allegations, apparently well founded, particularly in relation to British military intelligence activities in Northern Ireland over the last 30 years. In a very recent case in Inchicore, Dublin, a man was shot dead while wearing a flak jacket and carrying a gun. It was alleged that he was a Garda informer or agent and that crimes had been committed in relation to which the Garda turned a blind eye to protect its informer. Whatever about the guidelines which may exist, is there some form of accountability so that, where gardaí become involved in the murky world of dealing with ordinary criminal or paramilitary organisations, they do not overstep the mark and the law is not allowed to be infringed just because there is a desire to achieve good end results? How does the Garda ensure somebody who is "handling" an informer or agent does not, under any circumstances, allow them to break the law?

There are, as far as I am aware, though I have obviously never read them, ethical guidelines as to how gardaí should deal with informers, informants and sources of information. That would have to be the case. However, I cannot elaborate, speculate or comment in any sense on the particular case to which the Deputy referred. I wish to make it very clear that An Garda Síochána, which is established under our Constitution and laws, must uphold the Constitution. There are no circumstances under which the Constitution, any perverse view of the interests of the State or law and order or whatever, would justify the servants of the State becoming involved in collusion or planning, authorising or sanctioning the commission of serious criminal offences for some ulterior motive. I am assured that is the case and I accept that it is.

I have no reason to doubt what the Minister stated is correct and every citizen would expect that to be the case. In so far as the murky world to which Deputy Costello referred interfaces with the Garda in its normal duties in terms of trying to elicit relevant evidence, I assume some kind of network of informants and surveillance or whatever has to be used. Does the Minister wish to elaborate on that?

The short answer is "No". I do not wish to elaborate.

Have such situations arisen?

Sorry, I am not commenting one way or the other. I will not elaborate.

In relation to Deputy Connaughton's point, the Temporary Release of Prisoners Bill is currently under discussion. One of the grounds being adduced by the Minister in that Bill as to the reasons for release of prisoners on a temporary basis is to assist the Garda in its inquiries. There is a suggestion that those inquiries may not be simply in relation to the crime for which somebody is in prison, but rather other offences in relation to which that person might be of assistance. There must be a network in terms of dealing with people who are agents for the Garda and there must be some structures of accountability. It behoves the Minister to find out the position. The type of stories emanating from Northern Ireland are horrendous and there are similar though much less serious allegations in circulation in the public arena in this jurisdiction.

While I did not wish to be short with Deputy Connaughton, I do not wish to go into this territory or speculate on matters of which I am not aware. However, I wish to emphasise that any police force in any society must have its sources of intelligence, but there is a clear line between having sources of intelligence and becoming party to the commission of serious criminal offences. To use Deputy Costello's phrase, it is not acceptable to turn a blind eye to the commission of serious offences involving serious injury to other persons or to allow criminal or subversive elements in our society to take or endanger life or endanger the constitutional rights of citizens. There is a clear line between those two situations and I am confident An Garda Síochána stays on the right side of it.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

9 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the investigation which has been held into the circumstances in which the Gardaí recently attempted to deport an individual to Ghana whereby they were refused entry on the grounds that they were alleged to be a Liberian citizen; the total cost of the operation; the steps being taken to prevent a recurrence of such an incident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17094/03]

The person concerned claimed asylum in the State on 27 March 2001, stating he was a Nigerian citizen. He failed to attend at the office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner for his asylum interview and became uncontactable. His asylum application was refused and on 21 August 2002 a deportation order was signed in respect of him. He failed to attend at the Garda National Immigration Bureau as requested to make arrangements for his removal and was thereafter classified as an evader.

The person concerned subsequently made another asylum application in the United Kingdom under a different name and claimed to be a Ghanaian national. On 18 December 2002 the United Kingdom formally requested Ireland to accept his transfer back to Ireland under the Dublin Convention. The request was acceded to and he was returned to Dublin on 19 February 2003, where he was detained in Clover Hill Prison pending his removal from the State. On 3 April 2003 a Nigerian consular official attended at the offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau to interview him for the purposes of issuing a travel document. Prior to the interview, the person concerned informed the Garda that he was, in fact, a Ghanaian national and not Nigerian as he had claimed earlier. He gave a different name to Garda and signed a statement to that effect. He also gave details of his address in Ghana and indicated he wished to return there.

The Ghanaian Embassy in London was contacted by the Garda National Immigration Bureau and, on being supplied with relevant information and a photograph, they issued a travel document to facilitate his removal to Ghana. The removal was commenced on 15 April 2003. Two members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau escorted him to Ghana via Amsterdam. On arrival in the capital, Accra, the person indicated to his escorts that he was in fact Liberian. He also informed the Ghanaian immigration officials of this, whereupon he was refused leave to enter Ghana, notwithstanding the presentation of the travel document issued by the Ghanaian Embassy in London. The Garda escorts requested that the Ghanaian Embassy in London be contacted but this facility was refused. The Garda escorts were left with no option but to take back the deportee on the return flight to Amsterdam and subsequently onward to Dublin. The GNIB believes the person to be the holder of a Ghanaian passport and efforts are continuing with the Ghanaian Embassy in London to have him accepted in Ghana.

Figures are not yet available in respect of the Garda costs associated with the operation. However, the cost of the two air tickets is likely to be in the order of €6,100 when the bill is received. The person concerned deliberately misled the Garda and the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner as to his true identity and nationality. I am determined that this should not succeed as it would send the wrong signal that deportation can be avoided by simply being disruptive and would create further difficulties for the Garda in the already problematic task of enforcing deportation orders.

Every effort is made by the GNIB to ensure reception of deportees in destination countries. However, as the present case shows, this cannot always be guaranteed on arrival. The number of such cases where this type of situation arises is very limited. Where travel documents are required, the GNIB arranges for these with the particular embassy before removal is commenced. This sometimes means an interview of the deportee by a consular official before the documents are issued.

I have thought of adding new criminal offences for misleading members of the Garda Síochána, but there is a school of thought that it is the right of refugee applicants to either mislead or deceive the organs of this State as to the circumstances of how they got to Ireland. It is frequently the case that all personal documentation is destroyed to facilitate the making of bogus claims. The Deputies will appreciate that it cannot be the case that the State backs down in the face of behaviour of this kind. As is clear from the facts of this case outlined to the House, every reasonable step was taken to ensure that this behaviour would not be rewarded, and it is my intention to ensure that it will not be rewarded.

Acting Chairman

As we have had a comprehensive reply from the Minister, Deputy Costello's supplementary question will have to be brief.

The Minister's answer was very long, but I would dispute whether it was comprehensive. This saga is a case of the Keystone cops. Gardaí brought the deportee to one country, found he was not a citizen of that country and then brought him here and put him in Mountjoy where he had to be promptly released by the governor, and he is living somewhere in Ireland. It seems incredible that we cannot determine whether the country of origin of this individual is Ghana or Liberia. What will happen when the Minister introduces new amendments to the Immigration Bill, he will deport many more people and the costs involved will escalate?

I find it strange that the Minister could only tell me the price of the tickets which were astronomical. Two tickets cost—

Three tickets cost €6,100. He was not able to indicate the other costs involved. That would involve a simple totting up of the expenses incurred. I would have thought it would have been a simple matter for officials in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to find out the information on costs I requested in my question.

The Deputy has heard what happened. I do not know to what other costs he is referring.

There was a plane involved.

No, there was not. They were scheduled flights.

There were hotels involved.

I doubt it, except perhaps in Amsterdam.

Did they not stay anywhere overnight? Did they come straight back?

Yes, the person was put on a return flight and had to come back.

The Minister told us that he was not able to come up with the costs involved.

Perhaps what the Deputy who tabled the question was hunting for were attributed costs of time and so on involved in the whole operation.

The costs are only one small aspect of the question. The real question is how could something such as this happen. It makes the Department look ludicrous.

It does not make the Department look ludicrous, it makes the Department look as if it was going through due process.

Without proper information.

The Deputy asked a question to which he will get an answer. If a person deliberately attempts to pervert the whole process by claiming to be a Nigerian national when he or she is not and throws away his or her documentation, it is very difficult to disprove that person's claim, especially when he or she melts into the background and never gets to the interview stage with the staff of the refugee applications commissioner. When this man was found and apprehended he had gone to Britain and commenced a second apparently fraudulent claim on foot of a different claim as to his nationality. He was sent back to Ireland, made a claim and arrangements were made with the Ghanaian Embassy for his return to Ghana.

Where is he now? That is the important point.

Deputies may find it surprising that there is not an indefinite time to detain people in these circumstances.

Who is paying for this person to stay here now?

The Deputy may be interested to hear that one of the proposals that will be brought before this House in the near future is the power to extend certain detention periods. Under our existing laws we do not have the right to detain people in camps or in prisons simply because we cannot ascertain their true identity. If the Deputies opposite are arguing for that, I ask them to table amendments to the forthcoming Bill and I will consider them.

What we are arguing is that the Minister and the Department made a major cock-up.

The Deputies are posturing as usual.

It is dangerous for the Minister to say that in this House. He should be careful.

They are trying to pretend to some of their trendy friends that they are liberal on the issue, but at the same time—

The Minister should not go there.

—they are asking me do I not feel foolish because we give due process to people in these circumstances.

Acting Chairman

On that note, Question Time is finished.

Written answers follow Adjournment Debate.