Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 23 Nov 2004

Vol. 593 No. 1

Ceisteanna — Questions.

Proposed Legislation.

Pat Rabbitte


1 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if the approval of the Attorney General was sought by his Department in regard to the subcontracting out to private firms of the drafting of legislation; the number of occasions on which such consent was given; if the Attorney General is satisfied with the drafting of legislation outside his office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22145/04]

Trevor Sargent


2 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if the Attorney General gave approval to the subcontracting out to private firms of the drafting of legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27998/04]

Joe Higgins


3 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if approval was given by the Attorney General to the subcontracting out to private firms of the drafting of legislation. [30191/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, together.

As outlined in a reply to a written parliamentary question on 29 September 2004, no legislation has been drafted for my Department outside the Office of the Attorney General so the matter of approval does not arise.

What is the Taoiseach's view of the subcontracting out of legislation to be drafted, whether that of his Department or other Departments, on the instructions of the Department as distinct from the Attorney General? Since the Taoiseach's answer to me, which I took to mean that legislation was not being subcontracted out, Deputy Burton told me that the Central Bank Bill was contracted out at a cost of €1.5 million. Subsequently, before it went through Committee Stage, the Bill had to go back to the Office of the Attorney General to be redrafted. Does that matter require consideration?

I draw a distinction between statutory instruments and Bills. The Office of the Attorney General is not opposed to statutory instruments being sent out for drafting. It has recommended a list of people who are appropriate for Departments to employ in that regard because there is much drafting to be done and the statutory instruments are regularly handled in this way by Departments.

It is very rare for Bills to be drafted outside the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. I asked my Department to check how many Bills were drafted outside that office over the five-year period since the beginning of 2000. There was not a great deal of checking to be done. Only two Government Bills, the Adventure Activities Standards Authority Bill 2000 and the Official Languages (Equality) Bill 2002, were drafted outside the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. While those Bills were drafted outside the Office of the Attorney General and that of the Parliamentary Counsel, both were drafted by a former official in the latter office. No Bills were drafted in private practice. It should be borne in mind that over the period mentioned, 226 Bills were enacted.

An outside firm with special expertise advises the Department of Finance on the regulation of financial services, which relate to the Bill referred to by Deputy Rabbitte. As part of that advice, the firm prepared a sample draft of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority Bill 2003. That was a substantial Bill with a large number of heads. The sample draft was presented to Government not as a Bill but merely as heads or the scheme of the Bill. The Bill itself was drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

The same situation pertained to the Unclaimed Life Assurance Policies Bill 2002, with an outside firm drafting the heads of the Bill for the Department in the form of a sample draft. The Bill itself was drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

These situations rarely arise. I have spoken on a number of occasions with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, the Attorney General and the two previous Attorneys General. They are not in favour of Bills being drafted by outside parties, a view I support. Their position is that whenever drafting is attempted within Departments or by outside agencies, the quality of the drafting is not of much use to them and is not satisfactory. They end up doing the drafting themselves. I do not wish to be unfair or uncharitable to the outside agencies, but such drafting is not satisfactory.

The Taoiseach seems to be saying that where primary legislation was contracted out, work was done up to heads of Bill stage and the drafting then done in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. Can the Taoiseach be more clear? He has expressed the matter in one way. Another way of putting it would be to say the quality of the outside work is not up to scratch and that the drafting must be done by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. That is my understanding of the position.

Regarding the Finance Bill to which I referred, I am informed by Deputy Burton that the cost of contracting out its drafting came to €1.5 million. That is quite a mind-blowing figure for a single Bill, no matter how substantial or complex. If the Taoiseach agrees with the Office of the Attorney General that there should be a coherence of style and uniformity, it would be desirable that his writ should run with line Departments.

I do not disagree with the Deputy but we should be clear about it. There are three areas to be considered. There is no problem with regard to the drafting of statutory instruments being done outside the Office of the Attorney General, provided the drafting is done by people recommended by that office and who are seen as competent to provide the quality of drafting desired.

The Office of the Attorney General believes there is merit in the heads of Bills being drafted by people with legal qualifications in the various Departments. There are a number of such people in the top six Departments competent to draft heads of Bills and the explanatory matters surrounding them. There are some outside the Departments who have also done such work. My understanding is that such work is far better done within the office than outside it.

On the outside work — and the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority Bill 2003 was an enormous Bill — the office of the Parliamentary Counsel states that the distinction between a Bill and the heads of a Bill is important in the context of the Cabinet and Oireachtas procedures, as it sees them, and that the heads of a Bill are merely an outline of the policy objectives a Department wishes to achieve. The office of the Parliamentary Counsel holds the view that it is not involved in the preparation of the heads of Bills because policy formulation is a matter for Departments. If the policy formulation of the heads of a Bill is drawn up either inside or outside the office, the office of the Parliamentary Counsel lives with that. Without putting a tooth in it, that office would say that when one goes further than that, the quality of the work done by those outside is not up to a penny. I know there are people outside who will argue that it would say that, but in fairness to the people in the office of the Parliamentary Counsel, many of whom are beyond retirement age and many of whom have expertise both in this country and outside it, they do a specialist job. They do not believe we can give the work out.

Over the years I have asked why that is the case, and I am sure Deputy Rabbitte has experience of this too. While somebody can draft a Bill and even draft a Bill from the heads of a Bill, that does not give us the legislation. A parliamentary draftsperson must go back to God knows when — perhaps to the 1940s — to check the compatibility of the Bill with legislation in the 1940s, maybe with a Bill in the 1950s, amending legislating in the 1960s and perhaps cross reference the Bill with a Finance Act. The office feels that outside people do not do that to any quality. Experience over a long period and with many Attornies General seems to vindicate their position.

Can I take from the Taoiseach's reply that the Office of the Attorney General does not approve of outsourcing, and on an individual basis is not asked for its approval in advance of outsourcing? When legislation which has been outsourced is returned in draft form, is the Taoiseach satisfied there is a sufficient number of staff to make sure it does not progress in a flawed state? I think his colleague, the Leader of the Seanad, Senator O'Rourke, referred to the State Airports Bill as legally flawed and suggested that it had been drafted outside the House — by a leading firm of solicitors — and that that might be one of the reasons. This indicates that there may be a problem of staffing in the office of the Attorney General.

The Taoiseach said previously in a reply that there were seven vacancies. Can he give us an up-to-date position since four vacancies on the drafting side were referred to? There was an 8% increase in the Estimates for staffing. Is that one of the areas the Taoiseach proposes to resolve because it may put an end to outsourcing if there is an adequate number of staff in-house?

I do not wish to be repetitious but I have been told there were only two Bills outsourced in the past five years, and not too many before that. In a period when the House enacted 226 Bills, only two were sent out. Those two Bills were sent to a former official of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel so, in effect, someone who did not understand the system did not draft a Bill. Statutory instruments have been frequently sent out, as have heads of Bills, including the case Deputy Rabbitte cited. It is not liked and where Bills have been sent out, the office believes it ends up, to a large extent, having to do the work again.

Drafting legislation is a slow process. It is a professional job and it takes a long time for someone to acquire the expertise. Some of the people in the office have been abroad but are now working in this country. I think there are approximately 13 people in the office and there might be one vacancy in that area of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

I understand there are some 13 draftsmen in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and one vacancy. It is a specialised job in this country and elsewhere. The draftsmen frequently work contract hours and stay on in the role. A number of them are elderly and it is very much appreciated that they stay on. Although I am no legal expert, their role involves a gifted talent. Any politicians in any jurisdiction will tell you that they are treasured people. That is why they are asked to stay on and we are in the same position.

To which two Bills has the Taoiseach referred?

The two Bills were the Adventure Activities Standards Authority Bill 2000 and the Official Languages (Equality) Bill 2002. These were the only Bills in the past five years that were drafted outside the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. Both were drafted by a former official of that office.

I am relieved the Attorney General is not attempting to lead an MBO. There is a significant backlog of legislation in the Government's promised list and the usual response from the Taoiseach to queries about when this legislation will be brought forward is that there is yet no date. Does the Taoiseach agree that this points to a significant shortage of staff at the drafting stage? Admittedly, we would have been much better off if some of the legislation brought forward by the Government had never seen the light of day. I do not want to tempt fate. In regard to progressive or necessary legislation, however, the Government should be providing for sufficient staff in the office to ensure there is no backlog or unnecessary pressure on the existing staff. The outsourcing of work would then be unnecessary.

The point is that we are not outsourcing. One cannot simply advertise for positions in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and get people with sufficient competency to fulfil that role. Such people are recruited whenever they become available. There is usually a vacancy or two in the office and some excellent staff who are beyond retirement age are continuing to provide the service.

From the House's point of view, I can not recall when we were stuck for legislation. It is generally the other way around. There are Bills at various stages on the Order Paper and after the budget next week, the resources almost of a full-time person will be required for both the Social Welfare Bill and the Finance Bill for a long period of time. Other legislation also requires time. It is a matter of prioritising. The House is putting forward by a multiplier significantly more legislation than it did five, ten, 15 or 20 years ago. It is becoming more productive all the time in terms of legislation.

National Security.

Trevor Sargent


4 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the recent work of the high-level group established within his Department in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22475/04]

Pat Rabbitte


5 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if the high-level group established within his Department in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks is still functioning; if he will report on its recent work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23383/04]

Enda Kenny


6 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the recent work of the high-level group, established under the aegis of his Department, to monitor developments in the United States terrorist atrocities of 11 September 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24128/04]

Joe Higgins


7 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach when the high-level group established by his Department in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks last met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24150/04]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin


8 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if it is proposed to maintain in 2005 the high-level group established within his Department in the wake of the atrocities of 11 September 2001 in the United States; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29971/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 to 8, inclusive, together.

The national security committee, which is chaired by the Secretary General to the Government, comprises representatives at the highest level of the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Defence and Foreign Affairs, and of the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces. The committee meets as required and will continue to do so in 2005. In addition, its members liaise on an ongoing basis to monitor developments which might have national security implications, in particular in the international arena. It is concerned with ensuring that the Government and I are advised of high-level security issues and the responses to them, but not involving operational security issues.

Are the Taoiseach and the high-level committee aware of the opinion clearly expressed by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the United States civil rights campaigner, that the ongoing involvement by Ireland in the war in Iraq through its making available Shannon Airport for United States troops is putting Ireland "in the line of fire"?

Has the high-level group made any recommendations on the use to which Shannon Airport is being put? Will the carrying of unspecified cargo, which is neither searched for weapons nor inspected for compliance with air safety and fire regulations, be addressed? Does the Taoiseach consider it would be proper to make sure that this matter is addressed to avoid any risk to the people or directly to Shannon? Will he act on the Minister of Defence's statement that he would not be happy if people were being brought through Shannon who may be unaccounted for or who may be being brought through in a way that transgresses international human rights agreements, for example, being brought through on their way to Guantanamo Bay? Will the Taoiseach take hold of this issue and address the concerns expressed by Reverend Jesse Jackson, which are shared by many people here, that Ireland is, effectively, in the line of fire as a result of the activities that continue to take place at Shannon?

The Deputy is aware, as I pointed out shortly after the events of 11 September 2001, that the Government set up the Office of Emergency Planning to co-ordinate the work of the various emergency services in preparing contingency plans. The task force on emergency planning is chaired by the Minister for Defence. It meets frequently to assist and consider these issues. I will not comment in detail on its work. It primary role is advisory and to examine any issues about which it is concerned. The issue raised by the Deputy is not one about which it is concerned. There is no change in the position regarding the Shannon stopover and we should not talk up that issue.

Reverend Jesse Jackson was in with me and before he left the country a few days later, he contacted me to tell me that what he had stated on this matter had not been accurately quoted, what was reported was not his view and that he considered it mischievous that his views were being used in such a way.

What I said was a direct quote.

Whatever Jesse Jackson felt about the way he was quoted, is the Taoiseach saying that the advice from the high-level group is that the ongoing facilitation of American troops to Iraq through Shannon is not a factor in the considerations here? For example, how is it that people in captivity can be transferred from Iraq to Cuba without going through Shannon Airport? The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is on record as saying that he would be concerned if that were in fact happening. It would appear that it is happening and that we are not minded to establish the truth or otherwise of that claim. In the event that this is the situation, is the Taoiseach saying the national security committee is saying it is not a factor in its weighing up of any potential threat to the security of this country?

Since 11 September 2001 everybody is conscious of the level of terrorism in a range of countries for a variety of reasons. The arrangements that have pertained here for the past 45 years are not new and do not add anything to the precautions that are being taken. Those precautions would be taken in any event. We are all aware there have been a number of concerns about what international terrorists are up to and how they operate. There are all the protections and security provided by Interpol, Eurojust and all the other agencies that co-operate with the Garda and the Army, but that position is not changed because of the arrangements that have been in place for the past 45 years.

We are now the most defenceless country in Europe. Is there a document which sets out Ireland's national security policy? In the wake of the atrocities of 11 September 2001, a number of statements were made by the Government. It was stated, for example, that the elite Army ranger unit would be considerably strengthened. That has not happened. No extra finance has been given to G2, the military intelligence wing, which has a unique understanding of Middle East complications and difficulties. What is the situation with regard to these issues?

Is the Government's approach to emergency planning not very fragmented? There is the national security committee, the Office of Emergency Planning, the task force on emergency planning and the interdepartmental group under the control of that task force. If, God forbid, someone decided to fly a plane into the country on a suicide mission, the Taoiseach would have to make the crucial decision to call in the RAF to shoot it down. Is the Taoiseach happy that the streamlining of national security issues is sufficiently well informed and professional and would, in all circumstances, enable him to make that decision correctly? Is there a danger that he would underestimate the importance of such an event or that his information might be flawed? Is he happy that he could deal with such a critical emergency?

In considering modern terrorism and security issues, one can never know what someone might do or whether threats will be carried out. The interdepartmental group, which is an advisory group under the chair of the Secretary General of my Department, is the first port of call for feeding in information which comes from various quarters. It exchanges such information. It is a very tight group, consisting of the Secretaries General or appropriate officials from the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Defence and Foreign Affairs, the Garda and the Defence Forces. If the group needs anyone from another area he or she is invited to participate. That group is advisory.

Following the events of 11 September 2001 it was believed that we should have an office of emergency planning to co-ordinate the work of the various agencies. There are several agencies — not all are represented on the national security committee — which do whatever is necessary to prepare contingency plans. The Minister for Defence answers questions on that matter although much of the committee's work is confidential. The committee meets frequently, considers that role, examines information and liaises with Eurojust, Interpol and the other groups.

Possible crises and ongoing work are dealt with by those two groups. They come under the aegis of my Department and I am kept abreast of their work. I do not deal on a daily basis with the Office of Emergency Planning. That is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The Minister for Defence, through the Office of Emergency Planning and the task force on emergency planning, oversees emergency planning generally to promote the best possible use of State resources and to ensure compatibility between different emergency requirements. The possible amalgamation of the management of emergencies into a single agency was raised in a report of the Emergency Planning Society which was presented to the Government some months ago. Substantial costs would be associated with this approach and a number of the agencies argued as to whether or not this would be the best thing to do. In a small country it is not difficult to bring people together. The problem is that there are different types of emergency, which require different skills, resources and experience. If one is dealing with a marine oil pollution incident it is a very serious issue, but it is entirely different from reacting to the only crisis we have had in this country in recent years which was the foot and mouth outbreak. It is for this reason that primary responsibility remains with the relevant agency but all of them can pull together when required to do so.

Approximately 23 or 24 groups were involved daily on the foot and mouth campaign. On marine issues there may be seven or eight groups and, therefore, having them all together would be unnecessary. The foot and mouth experience was a good example where people came together from their respective agencies on a committee that worked very well. It was initially chaired by myself and then by the former Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Joe Walsh.

Until the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Department of Defence, the Defence Forces and the Garda Síochána see it otherwise, I think the current arrangement works very well.

Will the Taoiseach comment on the Government statement, following the attacks of 11 September 2001, concerning the expansion of the elite Army ranger unit?

Given the pressure of political circumstances applying to the entire Middle East, does the Taoiseach not think that G2, our military intelligence unit, which has an extensive understanding of the complications of Middle Eastern politics, should be properly funded and resourced?

In the Taoiseach's discussions with various groups, have reports of personnel associated with al-Qaeda operating in Dublin been brought to his attention? Has that matter been dealt with to his satisfaction?

The Taoiseach should indicate what tangible improvements have been made since 11 September 2001. What has happened, if anything, in respect of national security that is to the benefit and comfort of the people of the nation following decisive Government action?

There is now an office of emergency planning under the Department of Defence, which was not there heretofore and which feeds into all agencies and groups. In addition, the taskforce on emergency planning also feeds into that group. Under the aegis of my own Department, there is a group to which I referred earlier, including the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Department of Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces. There is a cross-link between both groups — one is advisory and the other deals with specific matters that arise.

As Deputy Kenny knows, considerable capital resources have been put into the Department of Defence over the past five Estimates to update equipment, as well as providing additional training skills and expertise. I cannot answer precisely what all those projects are; it is a matter for the Minister for Defence. I know from the Chief of Staff, however, that the Defence Forces have been engaged actively through those units. In particular, our rangers are highly thought of in the United Nations. They were asked to work on the Indonesian border during the difficulties in East Timor. They are highly skilled and their equipment has been improved dramatically.

There is considerable co-operation on the movement of people associated with al-Qaeda. While I am not briefed on these issues weekly, I am aware of the intelligence work by the Garda Síochána, and externally, on a number of individuals. Considerable effort, both by the Garda Síochána and the Army, has been put into Middle Eastern groups operating both here and elsewhere. There are not significant numbers involved but security-wise a substantial effort goes into that now.

As part of its brief, does the National Security Committee have a political role in advising the Government on how aspects of foreign policy or actions the Government might take might lay the people open to an increased chance of an outrage by groups using terrorist methods? How often does the committee report to the Government? For example, has it indicated how the obliteration of Fallujah and the huge anger that has caused in the Arab and Moslem worlds might allow some groups to feel they should go around the world and quite wrongly seek revenge on ordinary people?

Has the National Security Committee a role in how the Shannon facility is used, which the Government affords to the United States military to assist in its occupation? Has the committee made inquiries as to whether prisoners being spirited from the Middle East have stopped there on the way to President Bush's gulag in Guantanamo? The Taoiseach might also give us his on reaction to that matter. Should it not be absolutely clear given the strong indications that this is happening, which would be an absolute outrage, that all US military airplanes or airplanes on duty related to the US military should be checked when they stop at Shannon to ensure the Government is not facilitating the kidnapping of suspects and their illegal relaying to Guantanamo?

The committee has no political role. The committee does its utmost to protect and safeguard the country from a defence and security point of view. It exchanges information. It is not involved in the politics of the matter, nor is the office of emergency planning which constantly tries to ensure the State is protected and to oversee emergency planning generally. Therefore, the questions raised by the Deputy do not arise.

On aircraft that wish to stop — and do stop — coming from anywhere in the United States and going to any destination, not just to Iraq, as they have traditionally done for four and a half decades, they must seek the permission of the Minister for Transport in the case of civilian aircraft and the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the case of foreign military aircraft. Following the 1959 letter, there are concessions on that matter. Successive Governments have followed the arrangements agreed in 1959 by the Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Frank Aiken, on security issues during the time of the Cold War. Those procedures still pertain and do not mean that the aircraft need to be checked on each occasion. However, rules are laid down.

Has the remit of the high level group changed in any way since 11 September 2001, for example regarding the situation currently pertaining in Iraq? Has the high level group reviewed the Government's policy of facilitation of US military forces at Shannon Airport since it was established? Shannon Airport is now being used as a staging post or perhaps Ireland is being used as an aircraft carrier for US forces travelling to and from their war in Iraq. As recently revealed in Department of Transport documentation, can the Taoiseach confirm that the people through the Government and Exchequer are subsidising access to the war on Iraq for the US forces to the estimated tune of €6 million so far? Is this position continuing?

Will the Taoiseach explain how he can reconcile that subsidisation of the US war in Iraq with his stated position, following the march by tens of thousands of Irish citizens in this city, that he was personally opposed to the invasion of Iraq? How does he reconcile what is happening at Shannon Airport and the use of Irish taxpayers' money in this way in the context of the daily horrific scenes in Falluja and other locations in Iraq and of the cruel murder of Margaret Hassan? Will the Government consider adopting and reflecting the view of the overwhelming majority of Irish people on the US-British war in Iraq and clearly indicate to the US authorities that we are no longer available to facilitate or subsidise their ongoing military actions in that country?

There has been no change in the terms of reference. I am not involved in the day to day work of the advisory committee. It is always looking at new threats and militant groups because there is always concern about new groups in the Middle East that surface on an almost monthly basis. Intelligence is exchanged on an ongoing basis but the terms of reference of the committee have not changed.

There has been no change since 1959 in the position on the stop-over facilities used by US forces. It is not a matter of justifying it, the position has been the same for half a century, with Ireland making available to the US landing and overflight facilities. That period covers many crises and military confrontations where the US took military action without specific UN endorsement, such as in Kosovo and Vietnam. We have never withdrawn or suspended those facilities during that time and I do not see the situation any differently now.

Have we always subsidised it?

If the Deputy wants to pursue that matter, he should put questions to the Minister for Transport. I do not have the figures.

The Taoiseach might know.

On the issues of concern to the Deputy, there are no difficulties with Shannon that feed into the wider system. Flights from the United States and elsewhere also land in German bases. The House is well aware that the position when the war started, when there was no UN resolution, was that we believed there should have been a resolution and have consistently supported Mr. Kofi Annan at every level. The position has moved on in the European Union and elsewhere and countries have taken a different approach. A UN resolution is in place so the position is not the same now as it was then.

Does the Taoiseach know whether prisoners are being transported from Iraq to Guantanamo Bay by the Americans?

Would the Taoiseach prefer if the UN had given a clear mandate for the invasion of Iraq through a second resolution? Would that have made his decision on Shannon easier? The Government found it difficult to say to the American Government that we would continue to make Shannon available. It would have been easier for the Taoiseach to do that if the United Nations had been in a position to give a clear, unequivocal second mandate, as happened in 1990, with the first invasion of Kuwait.

Does the Taoiseach have information about the number of overflights that did not land in Shannon which have been approved by the Government? As some Members have mentioned Iraq, does he have any confirmation that the body recovered there recently was actually that of Mrs. Margaret Hassan?

I would again like to ask the Taoiseach if he will instigate measures that confirm there is not a breach of international law taking place with the transfer of suspects from wherever to Guantanamo Bay through Shannon Airport. There is enough illegality as regards the war in Iraq without it taking place in this country as well.

Will he confirm whether the spending of between €5 million and €10 million over the next six months on a national security system at Irish ports is in response to any particular heightened threat, in terms of terrorism, or whether it was planned all along? The expert committee to draw up a blueprint to deal with a biological threat has not met for over a year. Has that matter been resolved? Is the biological threat now seen as non-existent or has there been a falling down on the job in that a meeting has not taken place?

In reply to Deputy Rabbitte, I have no information whatsoever about prisoners being moved to Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere.

Why are the planes not being searched?

The Taoiseach, without interruption.

Approval has been sought in that regard as per the schedule used for that purpose from both the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Transport. However, I have no information about prisoners. I do not have the number of overflights, but I am sure Deputy Kenny is aware that nowadays, with long flight capability, many are going to Germany, and are also overflying France, incidentally.

On the UN resolution the answer is "Yes". There is no doubt about that, as regards any of these conflicts. I have said this to President Bush——

As I was saying to President Bush.

——across the table in Hillsborough and in the White House. It was not something he wanted to hear, perhaps, the first few times, but in any event we made that point very clear. It is a lesson for the future. As regards any of these conflicts, all the divisions within the European Council, the hostilities and difficulties in parliaments could have been avoided, I believe, if sufficient time had been given. I will not change my view on that. Ireland had done good work on the first resolution. I am not taking any credit for that because it was done by officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs. It represented a good effort and good work could have been done on the second resolution too, which could have avoided many of the difficulties experienced.

I hope it is a lesson for the future. I know the UN needs to be reformed and that there are issues to be resolved regarding vetoes, boycotts, etc. Having said that, however, I believe it could have been achieved, and was achieved later on, even in difficult circumstances when the war had started. People still sought a unanimous resolution.

On the security at ports, that has much to do with drug-related issues as anything else, but it is improving. I have no formal confirmation on Mrs. Margaret Hassan, but I fear that this could be the case. I believe the Deputy is aware of the difficult circumstances that surround this question. It has not been confirmed, but I believe it is Mrs. Hassan.