Since last week the Labour Party has consistently argued for the closing off of this loophole. For that reason when the Government was persuaded to deal with it this week, last night we facilitated it being taken, which is the reason for us not voting against the Order of Business. However, we have not yet seen the Bill and there will be little time to look at the issue. I urge the Tánaiste to cause the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to make it available as soon as possible. What the Minister said in the private briefing to the justice spokespersons yesterday was quite different to what he said in the Seanad. This is part of the difficulty. The Tánaiste has referred to the plight of the victims, but there has been very little mention of the families or the victims up to now. I know of a particular case which was pending and where the action is now stayed and will not proceed, and no contact of any kind by the Health Service Executive, appropriate personnel or anyone else, has been made with the family involved. Can the Tánaiste say if a list of the families involved in this debacle has been compiled, or a list of the victims affected by the circumstance where the historical cases are now likely to walk free? Has the Tánaiste any idea how many cases are pending? Why has contact not been made?
The mother of the young girl in the case of Mr. A told Gerry Ryan on radio yesterday morning that it took two years for anybody from the social services to make contact with her. I am entering a plea to the Tánaiste on behalf of the families and victims that whatever resources are available to the State in the area of counselling and advice will be made available to them immediately. Those people are left in fear and uncertainty and cannot know from what has gone on in this House over the past week what the position is the of the Government. The Government has frequently left the impression that it is more concerned about protecting its members than about protecting children. As the Cabinet Ministers differ, the position of Government changes from one day to the next. Legislation is a matter on which haste should be made slowly, according to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform last week, and there was supposedly no gaping hole. He then met the spokespersons on justice and offered them a menu of suggestions, and an hour later entered the Seanad to say he had broadly agreed with the spokespersons on the shape and character of the legislation. That is not acceptable.
The Tánaiste is standing in for the Taoiseach, who takes responsibility in this House for the Attorney General. Given that it is the role of the Attorney General to protect our Constitution, can the Tánaiste say how it can credibly be suggested that the Attorney General was not aware of a case of this gravity concerning the Constitution? The Tánaiste told the House yesterday or the day before that the Attorney General and the DPP had joint carriage of this case. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has been briefing against her since then, to the effect that she was mistaken. Whether it is true that the case was one of joint responsibility, and that there was a de jure and de facto distinction as the case progressed, surely the Attorney General ought to have been aware of this. Will the Tánaiste say if he was aware? If he was not aware, I suggest he was not doing his job.
As the Tánaiste knows, in the case between the appellant and applicant, the first named in the title was Ireland, the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions. That is the normal description of such cases and it reflects the normal function of the Attorney General. Accordingly I ask the Tánaiste to take this opportunity to reassure people about the role of the Attorney General in this matter because parents and citizens are concerned to know the truth. They find it very difficult to believe this situation could not have been anticipated by the Government. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform told the Seanad last night that it was impossible for him to anticipate the outcome of the case and have legislation ready. That is complete and absolute nonsense. The suggestion he put forward was that it would pull the rug from under the people defending the case. That is complete and arrant nonsense. Given the gravity of what is involved, amending legislation ought to have been in preparation in the event of the section concerned being struck down. That was not done. What is now being prepared, and only after a mother and father of all battles in this House and outside it, is legislation which we still have not seen.
I would like the Tánaiste to say to the House what action she causes to be taken in respect of the families and victims and to advise us on the role of the Attorney General.