Ceisteanna — Questions.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Enda Kenny

Question:

1 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Taoiseach the costs which have accrued to date to his Department in respect of the Moriarty tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16814/07]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

2 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the costs to his Department to date of the Moriarty tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18787/07]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

3 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach the costs accrued to date to his Department in respect of the Moriarty tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20158/07]

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

The total cost incurred by my Department in respect of the Moriarty tribunal from 1997 to 30 September 2007 was €29,748,614. This includes fees paid to counsel for the tribunal and administration costs incurred since the establishment of the tribunal. The total payment made to the legal team was €23,122,989 to 30 September 2007.

When is the Moriarty tribunal expected to conclude? It has been running for a very long time.

I note that a prominent businessman is seeking to restrict the chairman of the tribunal in the types of conclusions he can make in his pending report. The outcome of that challenge will affect the reports of all tribunals, including the Mahon tribunal which is inquiring into other matters relevant to the Taoiseach.

Mr. Justice Moriarty's second report will concentrate on payments to the former Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Lowry. When is that report expected and when will the tribunal conclude its work? Has the Taoiseach appointed anybody from his Department to liaise with the Mahon and Moriarty tribunals, given that both are dealing with relevant matters?

A significant body of work has been completed by the Moriarty tribunal with the publication last year of the first part of its report. While I am not privy to the day-to-day arrangements of the tribunal, I understand it should be able to commence preparation of its report in a matter of weeks. It is not possible, however, to indicate when the second part of its report will be finalised. My officials tell me it is hoped it will be completed within a matter of months. Recent media reports about possible further court challenges have not been substantiated by the tribunal which, as I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, is obliged to follow through on its inquiries. The chairman is anxious to conclude his work with all possible speed. I am also conscious of the ever-present potential for litigation that might impact on the timeline. This tribunal will not issue a report but my Department handles the fees and the accounts so there is liaison in that area. However, we have no involvement with the Mahon tribunal.

Does the Taoiseach have a view on whether the chairman should be restricted in the range of findings he might well give? A court case is pending on that but does the Taoiseach have a view on whether he should be restricted with regard to conclusions at which he might arrive? As the outcome of that case will affect the findings of all tribunals, including the Mahon tribunal, and I am aware the Taoiseach referred to this matter in previous questions, have the documents relating to the Battle of the Boyne site been forwarded to the tribunal for analysis?

I remind Deputy Kenny that the Taoiseach is only responsible in so far as he facilitates the budget from his Vote.

There have been several cases in the past decade relating to the tribunals and it is irrelevant whether I have a view. I have not made any submissions and am not privy to the submissions that have been made so I do not know what they contain. To the best of my knowledge all the files and records relating to the Battle of the Boyne were handed over to the tribunal in 1998 or 1999.

In a fortnight we will reach the tenth anniversary of the first sitting of the Moriarty tribunal, which was 31 October 1997. During those ten years various dates were given for the expected conclusion of its business. Has the Taoiseach any idea when the Moriarty tribunal will wrap up and present its final reports? Surely, given the passage of ten years, that is something which can now be indicated.

On the subject of another tribunal, but nevertheless relevant to this question, earlier this year a team of representatives from the Mahon tribunal, the office of the Attorney General, the Department of Finance and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government was established to examine the costs of the Mahon tribunal. Can the Taoiseach say if that report was presented to Government, as I assume it was? Did the findings of that team and its appraisal of costs have implications for the current and future costs of the Moriarty tribunal?

The Taoiseach will be aware that some people under investigation by the Moriarty tribunal are major tax avoiders who continue to avoid paying their fair contribution to the Exchequer through loopholes in the tax system. Some are applauded in the media and in other ways for their charitable work but they continue to refuse to pay money to the Exchequer in the form of taxes to provide for the essential services on which all of us depend in one way or another.

Taking the lessons from all the tribunals, and specifically with reference to the Moriarty tribunal, does the Taoiseach not believe legislation is now necessary to address the various abuses and means of avoidance employed by some whose status as non-resident is highly questionable at the best of times? Arising from the work of the Moriarty tribunal, should legislation be brought before the House to address these important matters?

Deputy Ó Caoláin raised a number of questions. Obviously, recommendations from all tribunals, including the Moriarty tribunal, are followed up. The Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Finance constantly examine areas of tax evasion and avoidance. They do this every year and in some years compile more detailed reports. The Deputy raised the question of tax avoidance. The Revenue Commissioners continually look at procedures which provide opportunities for this. Many tax shelters and reliefs have been closed off because it was felt they had served their purposes. The Deputy mentioned certain others.

The Deputy referred to the report on the Mahon tribunal made earlier this year. The figures for legal costs or third party legal costs given by me or my colleagues are the current tribunal costs. Until a tribunal has finished its work, the issue of third party costs does not arise. Those figures are for another day. The estimated cost of the Moriarty tribunal for 2007 in my Department is €10 million. Included in that estimate is the cost of publication of the report, some element of the award of legal costs, as well as administrative and legal costs. We do not know and are not in a position to estimate third party costs. In the case of the Moriarty tribunal, these matters will begin to be dealt with in the new year if the tribunal concludes in a matter of months, as I hope it will. The matter of third party costs must then go through a lengthy procedure which I am sure will continue on for a considerable time.

The Taoiseach has given no indication of when he expects the Moriarty process to conclude. I remind him that we are almost at the tenth anniversary of its first sitting. Can he shed any light on this area? What was the outcome of the review carried out earlier this year by the team appointed? Could the team's recommendations regarding costs in the Mahon tribunal be applied to current and future tribunals? In the light of his knowledge of the tribunals, does the Taoiseach believe legislation should be introduced to deal with appropriate matters highlighted by the various tribunals?

Approximately ten tribunals have been established in recent years. Recommendations by any of them are fully dealt with. The matters of tax shelters and reliefs and tax avoidance and evasion are constantly under review by the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners.

I understand it is the intention of Mr. Justice Moriarty to finish as quickly as he possibly can, subject to the procedures he is required to follow in his final report. The matter of third party fees will then be dealt with. I understand Mr. Justice Moriarty and his staff are anxious to finish their work in a matter of months.

As I understand it, the figure given by the Taoiseach in respect of the total cost to date of the Moriarty tribunal, which is almost €30 million, is in respect of administration of the tribunal and the legal fees paid to the tribunal's lawyers. Does his Department have a ballpark figure for what will be the likely cost, including third party costs, that may be made by the tribunal to those who appeared before it and, presumably, co-operated with it?

The Taoiseach and those speaking on his behalf have on a number of occasions criticised the legal fees and costs of tribunals. I note an increase in recent times in the Taoiseach's criticism in this regard. As I understand it, the legal fees were set and agreed by Government. In 2004, the then Minister for Finance, Mr. Charlie McCreevy, announced at a Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis that fees for tribunals were to be cut. He described these fees as astronomical and said it was a gravy train that had gone on long enough. We were promised in summer 2004 that the legal fees would be cut. We were again promised the fees would be cut from September 2006. We were then promised a cut in fees in respect of the Mahon tribunal from March 2007. On each occasion those deadlines arose, the Government bottled it and failed to reduce the legal fees. When is it intended to reduce legal fees for tribunals in line with what was announced previously, or is it ever intended to reduce the legal fees for tribunals?

Deputy Gilmore said I commented on or criticised the fees, but I do not believe I mentioned them since I last answered questions on the matter here. I made no reference to them whatsoever and the Deputy is incorrect in that regard.

The new rates have been applied in respect of a number of tribunals. The former Minister for Finance, Mr. Charlie McCreevy, had agreed with the tribunals and the then Attorney General on dates for the application of the new rates. A number of them took effect and there have been a number of new examinations since then. Of the two tribunals that have been running for ten years, in the Moriarty tribunal, now the Mahon tribunal, people were employed on the basis of a particular fee rate. It was extended on the basis of that understanding. The dates for completion of both tribunals have been changed — the Moriarty tribunal was due to finish last Christmas or last January. Others have also been extended and for that reason they were allowed to stick with the current rates. The Moriarty tribunal, which is the only tribunal with which I am dealing, is due to finish in a matter of months and therefore it should be allowed to continue with the current rates until its work has been completed.

The set fee to be paid under the new rates will be based on the current annual salary of a High Court judge plus 20% in respect of pension contribution with related payments being made to other legal staff, including barristers and solicitors. The specific annual remuneration packages at the rates applicable in 2005 were, for senior counsel, €1,008 per day and, for junior counsel, €672 per day, which is two thirds of the senior counsel rate. There was also a rate for solicitors and others. That is the 2005 rate, not the current rate, which is approximately 40% of the maximum current rates paid to the tribunal counsel. These rates have been brought in for other tribunals for some of the new examinations that have been taking place under the new tribunal legislation, but the old rates were left for the teams that were in place on the basis they had been on those rates for several years. That position is always under review, but in the Moriarty tribunal, the one I am dealing with, the consideration is that the existing rates will be allowed to be applicable until the end of its work on the basis this is only some months off.

To what tribunals do the new rates apply? What are the current daily rates at the Moriarty tribunal?

I do not have the full list of rates for tribunals. The MacEntee tribunal which has just concluded and which was set up under the commission legislation, worked on the new rates, as did the tribunal dealing with the Buchanan case in Northern Ireland and a number of others.

I do not have the current daily rates for the Moriarty tribunal, I just have——

Turn it upside down.

——the charts. I know how much is being paid to each individual per annum. I do not have the rates but I can give Deputy Gilmore the current figures. The rate is 40% of the 2005 rate. In 2005, the rate was €1,008 a day, so the Deputy can work that out.

What is the ballpark figure for the total cost, when the third party costs are calculated? Will the Taoiseach give us the figure because the percentages will confuse us all?

Perhaps if I give the Deputy the ballpark figure, it will confuse him more.

Frankly, I am not prepared to speculate. I have heard all types of figures. I just do not know.

Does the Taoiseach have any figures on which to go?

The only figure I have in my Estimate is €10 million, but in the words of——

Is that just for this year?

That is the figure. When that figure was published in the Book of Estimates, an individual who rang my Department said he assumed it was for him.

And it probably was.

Freedom of Information.

Enda Kenny

Question:

4 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Taoiseach the number of freedom of information requests received by his Department since January 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16817/07]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

5 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the number of freedom of information requests received by his Department since June 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18788/07]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

6 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach the number of requests received by his Department under the Freedom of Information Act 1997 in the first eight months of 2007; if he will provide comparable figures for the same period in respect of each year since 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19882/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, together.

I propose to circulate in the Official Report the information requested by the Deputies on the statistics regarding freedom of information requests received in my Department.

All FOI applications received in my Department are processed by statutorily designated officials in accordance with the 1997 and 2003 Acts and, in accordance with those statutes, I have no role in relation to processing individual applications.

Freedom of Information Applications Received in the Department of the Taoiseach

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Total

2002

20

12

14

10

10

9

10

8

7

13

15

18

146

2003

21

29

30

10

11

7

13

6

4

2

6

3

142

2004

1

8

2

4

1

5

3

3

0

12

1

5

45

2005

2

3

1

2

2

7

6

5

5

16

5

7

61

2006

9

1

4

7

6

4

4

5

5

3

3

3

54

2007

14

1

8

4

2

6

9

10

1

I note that the Standards in Public Office Commission made a request for the power to appoint an inquiries officer into allegations of wrongdoing without a prior public complaint and that the request was shot down.

A report from the Office of the Ombudsman, Ms Emily O'Reilly, described the consequence of the increase in fees for freedom of information requests as breeding a culture of secrecy. Why has there been a refusal to accept the Ombudsman's comments? The fees for requests under the freedom of information legislation is the highest in the developed world. In view of the general fall in the number of requests for freedom of information, will the Taoiseach reconsider the level of fees charged? In view of the Ombudsman's comment on the culture of secrecy, does the Taoiseach intend to relax those regulations somewhat?

How many Departments accept electronic payment for requests under the Freedom of Information Act? That is something that should surely be technically achievable today. When an appeal is successful, why does the successful applicant not get his or her fee refunded? If someone pays money to make a request that is turned down, but appeals the decision and the appeal is then granted, that person is deemed eligible to receive the information yet he or she must still pay. Is there any chance of having a refund of fees for those whose appeals are successful?

It is done by different countries in different ways. It is not correct to say that we are expensive when compared with other jurisdictions. It is not done in exactly the same way by other jurisdictions, but on examination of the totality of what is done, there are very high fees in some countries.

The extension of the Act to public bodies is an ongoing process that has been undertaken by the Department of Finance. Last year the Act was extended to cover another 137 bodies, which means it now covers 520 bodies in total. Arrangements are currently under way in the Department of Finance to prepare an extension of the Act. It covers a broad section of the public service and bodies practically everywhere are covered.

While the issue of fees is a matter for the Minister for Finance, there has been no change in fees since the 2003 Act. The Minister has made it clear that he has no plans to review the fees. The current system of fees introduced more than four years ago followed a review of the Act introduced almost ten years ago. The fee is €15 and the estimated average administrative cost at that time for processing each application was €425. The estimate will have changed in the interim four years due to salary costs. Nobody can argue that this fee is unreasonable or that it discourages FOI requests. There is no charge for the time undertaking in making a decision on the FOI request, even though this is quite expensive. Most other jurisdictions have a charge for the time that goes into the processing of a decision. It is not in the up front cost, but is added in later and that makes the cost much higher than ours. After we brought in the original Freedom of Information Act, there was a huge demand for information. The number of requests declined in 2002 and 2003, but there was a 30% increase in 2005 from the previous year. That upward trend has continued.

An internal appeal costs €75 while an appeal to the Information Commissioner costs €150. There are €25 and €50 reductions for medical card holders. Appeals concerning personal information are entirely exempt from fees, so if the issue is related to someone's own circumstances then that person pays nothing at all. A person who appeals to the Information Commissioner receives a preliminary decision, which is a fairly good indication of the final decision. Even at that late stage of the process the person seeking information can withdraw the appeal and obtain a full refund of fees. About 30% of appeals made to the Information Commissioner are withdrawn. People see what way things are going and they pull back. The whole thing is sympathetically dealt with and there has been no decision to look at costs at this stage. If there was such a decision, the Department of Finance would probably go the other way.

I refer to the requests received since January 2007. What is the nature of the cases that have been refused by the Department of the Taoiseach? Are they commercially sensitive or do they pertain to aspects of national security in which that Department might be involved? Under what circumstances would an applicant for a freedom of information request be turned down by the Department? Although I had thought I would get him out this year, the Taoiseach has been in office for a good few years. He has been in office for a while. According to his analysis, do such refusals fall into certain categories that are apt to be, or appropriately, refused? The Taoiseach should comment in this regard.

The significant majority of requests to my Department, that is, approximately two thirds, or more than 60%, are from journalists. Approximately 25% are from business interests, while Oireachtas Members have submitted 5% of applications. Normally, there are refusals in respect of requests that are not appropriate or for which there is no information. Very few are security sensitive or pertain to that issue. Sometimes the list contains a partially reported request. This is because of the information that was available.

I refer to the extensions made under the 2003 Act. Although it was thought it would make a big difference at the time, there has been very little. I refer to certificates issued under section 25 which are made mainly by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and which do not apply to my Department. Very few are made. I understand approximately three section 25 certificates have been issued across the entire system, none of which has been issued in my Department, and they were security related. However, this tends not to be the case in my Department.

Does the Taoiseach agree that more must be done to inform citizens of their right of access to information from his and other Departments? For example, the Information Commissioner confirmed recently that next of kin had a right of access to the medical records of their deceased loved ones. Does the Taoiseach agree this constitutes an essential right for there to be a degree of public confidence in the health service?

In her report earlier this year the Information Commissioner also stated every public body should draw up and implement a comprehensive records management policy and urged that this should be seen as a priority. She also stated there should be consistency in searches for records by public bodies and that a checklist should be used for this purpose. In respect of the Taoiseach's Department, her report stated decision letters, when issuing, should always set out the requestor's right of review and appeal and include detailed information relating to the nature and locations of the searches carried out. Will the Taoiseach inform Members whether the Information Commissioner's recommendations made earlier this year have been implemented in his Department and whether there has been similar application in other Departments?

While I cannot speak for other Departments, the reports of the Information Commissioner are followed up in my Department. To the best of my knowledge, they are implemented in all cases but certainly the advice is followed. The charter for dealing with the public that was discussed in the House last week sets out the regulations and the procedures to be followed in making every effort to give information in a fully comprehensive way. The Deputy inquired whether a checklist was used. While I am unsure whether a checklist is used, the charter is followed. The designated civil servants deal fully with freedom of information matters in each Department. In my Department any issues raised have been followed up comprehensively.

I will respond briefly. I know the Taoiseach answered only with reference to his Department as it is the Taoiseach's Question Time, but he mentioned that he cannot speak for any other Department. Is that because of the restriction of Question Time to matters pertaining to his own Department, or is it the case that, although he is the Prime Minister, he actually does not know whether any other Department has followed up on the recommendations of the Information Commissioner?

In relation to the issue of decision letters, can the Taoiseach confirm to the House that it is the practice in his Department to include the information recommended by the Information Commissioner? In other words, do the letters clearly outline the searches undertaken and specify the locations in which these searches have been carried out?

The reason I do not have information on other Departments is that I am not the member of the Government designated to deal with FOI. The entire system is regulated by the Department of Finance. However, every Department, including the Department of the Taoiseach, must follow the guidelines set down in this area. In my Department, each section has designated officials, separate from the political system, who follow the recommendations of the Information Commissioner.

Can the Taoiseach tell us how many FOI applications were made to his Department to date this year?

In her commentary on the Freedom of Information Act and how it is operating, the Information Commissioner drew attention to seven other countries which have similar FOI legislation to that of Ireland. She pointed out that in none of these countries is a fee charged for an internal review of a decision, which corresponds to an appeal in our system, and that in only one jurisdiction is a fee charged for an appeal to the Information Commissioner. Is it not the case that the fees payable in Ireland — €15 for an application, €75 for an appeal and €150 for an appeal to the commissioner — are designed to discourage people from applying for information under the Act?

Over the past few years the Department has averaged around 50 cases per year and this year the number will rise again. In 2004, 2005 and 2006 there were 45, 61 and 54 cases, respectively, and this year so far there have been 55, so there are already more cases than there were last year. The final figure probably will be around 70.

When the FOI system was first introduced, the Department dealt with around 140 cases per year, but at that time the system was being used by companies to obtain information for business reasons. That is partly the reason for the introduction of fees. Other countries have different systems. When considered in terms of the amount of effort, commitment and time allocated to FOI requests, I do not believe the fees are excessive. It should be noted that if a request is about one's self, for example, personal information or family records, there is no charge. It is only when the request is in a different area that the fee is applied. It is a fair system and I do not believe it is expensive.

Is the Taoiseach telling us that €15 a throw will dissuade companies from making FOI applications?

It does stop people from making "trawling" requests across several Departments, which was common at the start. Rather than making targeted requests, they submitted large numbers of requests in order to dig up information that could be used commercially. When the fee of €15 per request was introduced, they were persuaded not to do this.

National Security Committee.

Enda Kenny

Question:

7 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Taoiseach when the interdepartmental group established to monitor the threat of a terrorist attack will next meet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16818/07]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

8 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if the interdepartmental group on State security, established following the 11 September 2001 atrocities, is still functioning; the role of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18789/07]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

9 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach if the interdepartmental committee on State security, established in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA, is functioning; the last occasion on which the committee met; when the next meeting is planned; the Departments represented on the committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21545/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 to 9, inclusive, together.

Having regard to the confidential nature of the work of the National Security Committee, it would not be appropriate to disclose information about the dates of individual meetings nor any of its proceedings.

The committee is chaired by the Secretary General to the Government and 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. It is concerned with ensuring that I and the Government are advised of high level security issues and the responses to them, but not involving operational security matters.

The committee meets as required and will continue to do so. In addition to their meetings, the members liaise on an ongoing basis to monitor developments that might have national security implications, in particular in the international arena.

It is about two years since the Taoiseach confirmed in the House that there were a number of personnel in this city who were linked to cells of al-Qaeda and at that time he indicated that these persons were under observation. Is that still the case or have they left this jurisdiction? Is there evidence of their being involved in fringe activities or other activities in so far as terrorist attacks are concerned?

The Taoiseach did not indicate the dates of meetings, but on 30 June last persons drove an SUV which was on fire through the entry doors of the arrivals hall of Glasgow Airport. Did the committee dealing with security consider such an eventuality in Dublin or elsewhere? Had that situation in Glasgow been somewhat worse there could have been serious loss of life. Was consideration given to that by the committee?

As I often asked, what position are we in now were news to be transmitted to the Taoiseach's Department or the security committee that an aircraft from another country was on its way here with serious intent of destruction? Have we the capacity to prevent such an occurrence were it made known to us? Would we have to call in the RAF or how would such an eventuality be dealt with——

Send out Willie.

——or prevented?

On the general situation, with issues such as that which occurred in the UK during the summer, the security committee, particularly the Garda and the Army, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Department of Defence, continually monitors these issues. Most of the information on an international level comes from Europol and Eurojust.

I do not want to discount the matter, but the general view of the committee, on many of its consultations and meetings with me is that, while it is exchanging information, it is looking at the collective assessment on an ongoing basis, and there is no particular threat to us whatsoever. There are, however, at any one time a small number of international individuals, in or out of the country, who are monitored. Some of those are here on a long-term basis and some of them visit, but they are monitored. They probably know they are monitored across the jurisdictions. They comprise a small hard core of people who are under observation throughout Europe and who travel extensively, not in this jurisdiction but throughout numerous jurisdictions. The numbers of known people are very small but they are kept under observation.

Increasingly, and this has been the case for a number of years, the assessments of this committee are internationally based. Obviously, we keep close contacts with the UK, not just on security issues but on broader issues. We have been extending our bilateral contacts not just on security issues, but on broader issues where our Secretaries General are in communication. More regular meetings will take place now under Prime Minister Brown's jurisdiction where they will meet with their counterparts in the UK not just on security issues, which obviously will be on the agenda also, but on other issues. They tend to meet twice a year but there is a constant exchange of information among the security authorities, including Europol and Eurojust, on various issues.

In his response to Deputy Kenny, the Taoiseach indicated that, in his view, there is no threat to us whatsoever. Does that also reflect the view of the interdepartmental group and has it examined in detail the security implications for the people of this country of the Taoiseach continuing to allow the use of Shannon as a staging post in the Iraq war?

Given that the US authorities are employing the services of what can only be described as private armies in the Iraq conflict, are they also being afforded access to the facilities at Shannon? For instance, does Blackwater, which has been associated with atrocities in Iraq, use Shannon as a throughway going to and from its engagements in Iraq? Although they are private companies, are they posing as civilians and being afforded the same facilitation as so-called regular USforces?

Has the Taoiseach ever raised with the British Prime Minister, now retired from that office, or the new occupant of No. 10 Downing St, the continuing threat to the people of this country from the presence of weapons of mass destruction on the neighbouring island of Britain, namely, its nuclear arsenal? There is a well-documented threat in regard to its civil nuclear facilities at Sellafield, to give but one example, but there is also presumably a threat to the safety of the people of this island from the arsenal of weapons of mass destruction held by the British Government in the name of the people of the island of Britain. Has the Taoiseach ever raised the concerns of the people of Ireland regarding the presence of such weaponry in close proximity to our population?

We have made overflight and landing facilities available to the US authorities for over 50 years. That covered many crises and military confrontations, several of which involved the US taking military action and most, but not all, of which had UN endorsement. I refer to Kosovo, Vietnam and other places. We have never withdrawn or suspended these facilities at any stage during that prolonged period. Our position, like other countries involved in this issue, is clearly understood by all sides. This does not pose a difficulty for us.

We have not only raised the issue of nuclear plants, but we have taken action on a number of fronts in the life of the previous Government under various UN protocols. We have continued the process of engagement at EU level since the last judgment in which the EU accepted it had a responsibility. We have won considerable support from the Nordic countries and others to take some of those actions, which we have extensively followed through over a long period. We will continue to make our views known. The increased inspectorate, the visits and all of the other controls that have been forced on the UK authorities arose from the various actions we have taken.

In his reply I understood the Taoiseach to say the number of suspected terrorists under surveillance is quite small. I am sure we are all relieved to hear that. However, if that is the case, why did the Garda need to make 10,000 applications for access to private telephone records in 2006? Will the Taoiseach explain how many additional requests were made by the Garda, which has the power to make such requests under the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005?

I am talking about the international dimension, not home-grown people who——

We have 10,000 requests at home.

While I am not in the justice brief, I know enough to know that any one case can take quite a lot of effort in a given year.

There were 10,000 requests to access telephone records.

The Deputy would need to see how some of these people operate. I am sure the Garda would gladly provide him with a security briefing at some stage.

On the international front, we are dealing with quite a small number of people. I am talking about those people moving around this country who are involved in international terrorism and who attract the attention of Europol and Eurojust, as distinct from those who are involved here.