Ceisteanna — Questions.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Enda Kenny

Question:

1 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Taoiseach the costs which have accrued to his Department in respect of the Moriarty tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29479/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

2 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach the costs accrued to date by his Department arising from the Moriarty tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29630/08]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

3 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the cost to his Department arising from the Moriarty tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34899/08]

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

The total cost incurred by my Department in respect of the Moriarty tribunal since 1997 up to 31 October 2008 was €33,768,417. For 2008, up to 31 October, the figure was €2,977,619. It is not possible, at this stage, to estimate the final costs.

In July the Minister for Finance issued a statement on behalf the Government that he planned to introduce public expenditure cuts of €440 million by the end of the year and reduce spending by a further €1 billion in 2009. It was hoped the Moriarty tribunal would have concluded its public hearings this year. It had its last public session in May. I believe there were only three public sittings this year, one in March and two in May. I understand the Government committed to review the operational costs of the tribunals of inquiry as part of the overall review of spending in order to minimise expenditure both in the remainder of 2008 and in 2009, which I support.

The Taoiseach will be aware that the €1 billion the Minister referred to as being saved in 2009 could be just about enough to cover the legal bills expected in the Moriarty and Mahon tribunals. As he is aware, both have been in existence since 1997 and have as yet to pay out the majority of their third-party legal costs. No one knows how large those legal bills will be and cutbacks will not prevent these payments having to be made.

What progress has been made since July arising from the Minister's comment? Mr. Justice Moriarty has made several comments that his report was expected to be published fairly soon and yet there is no evidence of it at all. Has the Government contacted the tribunal to establish whether it has completed all its public hearings given that only three took place this year? If so when can we expect the final Moriarty tribunal report to be published?

I am aware the tribunal is in the final phase of preparing its report. In response to inquiries from my Department in July the sole member indicated it was his intention to complete his work by the end of this year. I understand this timetable, although likely to be subject to a slight overrun, is more or less on schedule. As the Deputy said, the last public hearing was on 7 May and Mr. Justice Moriarty has commenced procedures for finalising his report. He has not ruled out further public hearings as a result of that process. He cannot predict. It could happen but one cannot be sure.

As I have said, in response to inquiries from my Department in July the sole member indicated it was his intention to complete his work by the end of this year. Assuming that the final procedural stages of the tribunal's work can be completed smoothly the role of the legal team is likely to diminish. As soon as submissions have been processed and considered the expenditure on counsel is likely to begin to reduce significantly.

I thank the Taoiseach for that. What elements of costs for the Moriarty tribunal have been paid out to date? It was decided in July that the legal counsel to the tribunal would no longer be paid once public hearings were completed. The Government informed the Departments to which the tribunals report that tribunal legal teams, including the €2,700 a day senior counsel, should be let go. Given that the Moriarty tribunal has not sat since May, can the Taoiseach confirm that legal counsel has not been retained by the tribunal since July as promised by the Minister for Finance? It was the view of the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, which I share, that the judges should work on their reports without the assistance of the legal staff who are on generous daily rates of payment. That could save the taxpayer up to a further €1 million. Can the Taoiseach confirm that legal counsel has not been retained by the Moriarty tribunal? Can he confirm that legal staff have been withdrawn on the basis of the comments of the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, that the judges should work on their reports themselves once the public hearings were completed? If that is not the case, why not?

I should make it clear that work is ongoing in the tribunal, although there are no public hearings. It relates to the statement made by Mr. Justice Michael Moriarty in his ruling on 29 September 2005. He stated:

While engaged in a fact-finding exercise I recognise that the tribunal is nevertheless bound by the principles enunciated inre: Haughey [1971] 1R 217. The procedures I have adopted to date have provided for representation for persons affected by evidence given at this inquiry or likely to be given at this inquiry. I also wish to make it clear at this stage that before reaching any conclusions on the evidence given at this inquiry I intend to enunciate a procedure whereby persons likely to be affected by any adverse findings will be given notice of conclusions, which if reached, would be adverse to them so as to enable them to make submissions in relation to those proposed conclusions. I would also envisage, so as to protect the interests of any such persons, that notice of any proposals to make any such adverse findings is given in writing and not enunciated in public, thereby protecting persons in respect of whom such conclusions might ultimately not be reached from the risk of the promulgation of any such adverse findings. I would also envisage that submissions in relation to any such proposed adverse findings would be addressed to the tribunal in writing so as once again to avoid unnecessary and potentially damaging publication. Depending on the circumstances, it may entail the recalling of certain witnesses for additional cross-examination as suggested by Mr. McGonigal.

He is currently in the middle of this procedure, putting possible findings to concerned parties and enabling them to reply. He is using his legal team to assist in the process. That the tribunal is not sitting in public does not mean work is not ongoing or legal counsel is not required.

I appreciate that and respect the rights of the individuals who would be so concerned. The Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, stated that once public hearings are completed, legal counsel on fee of €2,700 a day would be withdrawn. Legal staff would not be working on the report as it is a matter solely for the tribunal. We have only had three hearings in 2008 and in view of this does the Taoiseach have any evidence that public hearings have been completed? The question arising from the Minister's comments was that legal counsel should not be retained by the tribunal if public hearings have been completed. The same applies to legal staff.

It is not certain public hearings are completed. Depending on circumstances, the recalling of certain witnesses may be required for additional cross-examination in respect of the procedure in which he is currently engaged. It is less likely there will be additional public hearings but they are not excluded, depending on how the procedure in which he is presently engaged concludes.

It is time for it come to an end anyway.

I call Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.

Deputy Gilmore is before me in the order of questions.

Even Homer nods.

What is happening?

I thank Deputy O'Caoláin for the courtesy. What the Taoiseach has just told us is astonishing. This tribunal has gone on for 11 years and I do not know how many days of public hearings it has held. A report is now being written and the Taoiseach is telling us there could be another round of public hearings some time in the new year. It is remarkable. Has any other tribunal or inquiry proceeded in this fashion when compiling a report?

After 11 years one would expect it should be possible to present a report and not have to go back again to the people investigating to ask permission for the report's publication. It is incredible after 11 years, when we thought the final public hearings of this tribunal had concluded, we are likely to have another round.

In April 2004, the Taoiseach's predecessor as Minister for Finance, former Deputy McCreevy, told the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis that he considered the legal fees being paid to the tribunals to be astronomical, the gravy train had gone on long enough and he would reduce the fees. Various proposals were advanced as to what levels the fees would be reduced to. Shortly afterwards, the Taoiseach succeeded former Deputy McCreevy as Minister for Finance, so can he explain why all these false promises of fees of tribunal lawyers being reduced never materialised?

A scheme was introduced at one stage dictating that the fees of tribunal lawyers would be tied, in the case of senior counsel to High Court judges and in the case of other legal personnel to other benchmarks in the Judiciary. This was never implemented. In 2004 former Deputy McCreevy, as Minister for Finance, told the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis this would be brought under control so why was this never done?

There has been correspondence between Ministers whose various line Departments liaise with tribunals regarding some of these matters. Cases will be made in reply regarding the need for continuity and need to maintain counsel. In the event of counsel not being retained, resigning or not continuing with its work, the first reaction in this House would be Deputies Gilmore and Kenny saying we are interfering with the tribunal, trying to undermine it and attacking its integrity.

These are the facts.

It is true. It has happened.

These are the charges which have been made on the record.

Is the Taoiseach saying I made such charges?

The Deputies cannot have their cake and eat it. If that had happened, those political charges would be very robustly put. The chairpersons of these tribunals would make the case in reply regarding some of these and I presume that correspondence is on the record.

The protraction of the work of this tribunal has in part been due to litigation involving a total of four sets of proceedings instituted by individuals connected with the tribunal's work, illness of witnesses and further material which came to light in the course of the Ansbacher investigation carried out by the authorised officer. This new material, which had to be considered by the tribunal, necessitated almost a further year's work by way of private investigation.

The methodology used by Mr. Justice Moriarty, who despite the protraction of the proceedings has been painstakingly exact in his work, has been about trying to avoid a case where the tribunal would take even longer were he to take a different course of action. He is trying to keep to a minimum the public hearings and get to the facts. This is a protracted and intricate financial issue which required painstaking investigation and inquiry.

In regard to the current procedure of finalising his report, I am not suggesting it is likely there will be public hearings. I cannot rule out a public hearing and I cannot say for certain there will not be one. It is unlikely if the current procedural stages of the tribunal's work can be completed smoothly. There will be no more if this comes about and we are in the final stages of this process.

Ultimately, this is not a court of law. The findings must be such that they cannot be challenged subsequently in court or not have the required effect. Mr. Justice Moriarty is ensuring the constitutional rights of all concerned parties are not in any way compromised. The question of constitutional and natural justice comes into play when an adverse finding is made against a person. It must be put to the person concerned. Mr. Justice Moriarty is ensuring the work stands the test of time and subsequent scrutiny.

I have two points to make. First, as I recall it, the McCracken tribunal made adverse findings and it did not beat about the bush in making these and submitting them to the Dáil. In its earlier reports, the Flood tribunal made adverse findings about people. I do not understand why the procedure the Taoiseach has outlined is being followed so rigorously in the case of the Moriarty tribunal and why it cannot submit a report to the House. It is not a report for the courts, it is a report to the House. It was the Oireachtas that established the Moriarty tribunal and it is to the Oireachtas that it reports. I do not understand why it cannot submit that report without the prolonged process the Taoiseach has described.

Second, it is laughable for the Taoiseach to suggest to the House that the reason the fees of tribunal lawyers have not been reduced was that he was afraid to do so because of what Deputy Kenny or I might say about it. That is nonsense. The same is true of his suggestion that it could not be done in case tribunal lawyers might up and leave the tribunal. There has been a pretty big turnover of tribunal lawyers at both tribunals over the years. The Government did make a number of decisions that the fees of tribunal lawyers would be reduced.

Whatever about paying the lawyers who work on the tribunal itself, the big bill here will be the third party costs when they come to be awarded. Does the Taoiseach expect that those third party costs will be awarded on the same basis and the same level of fees as has been paid to the lawyers who have been working for the tribunal itself?

It is a matter for Deputy Gilmore if he wishes to criticise the procedures that are being adopted by the sole member of the tribunal. Regarding third party costs, the work of the tribunal following the publication of the report, apart from the winding down of the administration, will entail mainly dealing with issues of costs. The extent of any third party cost process will depend on the findings in the report. Any orders for cost made will entitle a party in whose favour an order has been made to lodge a bill of costs with the tribunal's solicitor. The ultimate sanction for costs to be paid to any party in whose favour a bill has been made will rest with the Department of Finance. The process of awarding costs can be lengthy and may not be completed in 2009. It is impossible to say what the final cost, including third party costs, will be for the tribunal. The tribunal has made no rulings in this regard and has consistently told us that to give any indication of what the total amount might be would allow inferences to be drawn,which could infringe upon the rights of the parties involved.

At the start of the month the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform indicated the total cost of tribunals of inquiry to date had reached €355 million. Can the Taoiseach confirm if that is the case, and is he able to break that down in regard to the Moriarty tribunal, which is the critical focus of this series of questions? Can he give us an indication of the total cost of the Moriarty tribunal to date?

Does the Taoiseach share my concerns that the serious cost and duration of these series of tribunals of inquiry have of themselves fed into the argument against establishing tribunals of inquiry into matters that in the opinion of many in this House, including me, and many concerned citizens should have been inquired into and that the experience out of this series of tribunals of inquiry has given rise to the argument against them? I refer, for instance, to the terrible tragedies faced by women at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, both in regard to the Neary case and the symphysiotomy scandals. None of those matters has been addressed in any substantive way. The truth has never been properly sought out and established and the long periods of silence on the part of many who were exposed to the facts of what was actually happening. None of that has been established. Does the Taoiseach not share general public concern and alarm at that?

As various Government speakers indicated previously on a number of occasions the costs and duration of tribunals can be curtailed. Given what has already been said about the failure to enact already stated intent on the part of the previous Taoiseach to curtail costs, what steps are the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform taking to ensure tribunals of inquiry that are necessary are set up and that the issues of cost and duration are properly addressed in advance?

In the body of the initial reply I gave the cost to date of the inquiry about which the questions were tabled. The cost to date up to 31 October is €33.768 million.

More generally, a former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform introduced the Commissions of Investigation Act, which can be a more appropriate means of dealing of some of these matters. The tribunals of inquiry legislation dates back to the 1920s. There is no doubt that in the context of due process and the procedural requirements in Irish law even for tribunals of inquiry, quite apart from the courts, are quite rigorous and painstaking, and are fully availed of by those against whom allegations have been made. Commissions of investigation are a means of addressing issues of public interest in a more urgent and timely fashion.

There have been other non-statutory inquires and reports were drawn up by various chairpersons that dealt well with issues. Ms Justice Maureen Harding Clark's report on the Neary situation was an excellent example of what can be done without the need for all of the accoutrements that come with a tribunal of inquiry. This House must be careful in determining if matters of public interest should be dealt with by way of an outside inquiry and that it should be done as expeditiously and as quickly as possible with reference to the taxpayers of this country as well.

Go raibh maith agat. The Taoiseach should note that I do not believe there has been serious address of all of the contributory factors to the neglect at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in regard to the cases I mentioned, namely, the unfortunate victims of Mr. Neary and the symphysiotomy scandal. While I and party colleagues have difficulties and concerns regarding the Tribunals of Inquiry Bill currently going through the Oireachtas, nevertheless, when that does complete its passage can the Taoiseach indicate to the House if there will be an examination of the number of issues on which tribunals of inquiry or other means of inquiry have been sought? I mentioned the hospital cases. I also refer to the murder of my party colleague, an elected member of Buncrana Town Council and Donegal County Council, the late councillor Eddie Fullerton, who was brutally murdered in his home. Despite the indication of the Taoiseach's predecessor of an interest in the matter, no steps have been taken to try to establish the full facts and the truth of that case.

I am sorry, Deputy, but we are discussing the costs of the Moriarty tribunal.

The Deputy has gone way beyond the ambit of that. He cannot move into different territory.

I am making the point that the costs of the Moriarty tribunal and other experiences have been used as an argument against taking appropriate steps in other cases, so therefore it has a direct impact. I am asking whether, on the passage of the new Tribunals of Inquiry Bill, further consideration will be given to these other matters.

With regard to the responses the Taoiseach has given regarding the ongoing retention of the services, at some significant cost to the taxpayer, of legal advisors who are or have been engaged in the Moriarty tribunal, is it the case that the process of public hearings has been completed? The Taoiseach has posed a question as to whether this is the case. Nevertheless, the report is being compiled by the sole member. Does the Taoiseach not accept that there is valid public concern over the extent of the ongoing cost of the retention of a significant number of legal experts, and that this requires intervention by the Government in order to establish their purpose and role? Surely there is a question in this regard to be addressed in the public interest and in the interest of restoring confidence in the tribunal of inquiry method of addressing major issues. Will the Taoiseach inquire as to the need and justification for the continued retention of people who are clearly associated with the work of the tribunal at a significant cost, and given that there is some doubt as to the validity of their ongoing claims?

The Taoiseach, on the cost of the tribunal.

All I can say to the Deputy is that the Oireachtas, when establishing tribunals, must be mindful of wide and comprehensive terms of reference pertaining to matters of great intricacy and complexity which in some cases require worldwide searches in order to reach conclusions. This is the case in respect of some of the issues we have asked the sole member of the Moriarty tribunal to investigate. The view that we can operate without expertise or employing people to answer the questions that arise should comprise a prominent part of the debate that takes place before we establish such tribunals. From my recollection of the setting up of many tribunals such as the Moriarty tribunal, I understand that view did not gain much currency in the relevant debates. While it is important to investigate matters of public interest, it is only afterwards that people start to hold this view.

Under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act we asked the sole member of the Moriarty tribunal to inquire into matters of urgent public importance, yet, for a range of reasons I outlined in previous replies, we are still awaiting the final report. There are reasons for this and I do not criticise the sole member in this regard. The reasons include the requirement for co-operation of witnesses before a tribunal.

It is only fair to say that in the aftermath of the beef tribunal, we were told we must be very slow to engage in such a process again, yet we engaged in a plethora of tribunals. It was a decision of the Oireachtas to do so and that is the way it is. However, we must take into account the fact that public hearings are not necessarily the only way in which matters of importance can be investigated. They are sometimes, but not necessarily always, appropriate. The tribunals of inquiry legislation that was brought through the House by former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell, constituted a very clear effort to find an alternative way to investigate such matters in a more expeditious and less costly manner.

Let me return to a question I asked the Taoiseach already. I understand Mr. Justice Moriarty said we are now finished with public hearings and that there will be no more. It makes a mockery of the statement of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, if we are likely to have more public hearings because subjects of the tribunal might challenge its findings. The sole member announced that there would be no more public hearings, yet, on the basis of what the Taoiseach said, this might be a possibility. The Minister for Finance said that once the public hearings are ended, senior counsel should be withdrawn, resulting in a saving of €2,700 per day. He stated the legal staff of the tribunal should not serve any longer and that the judge should get on with the work of writing the report.

I agree with the Taoiseach's comment to Deputy Gilmore that this House has a number of options in respect of carrying out these kinds of investigations. There are a number of examples of such options that worked very well. One may have to deal with the constitutional requirement in order to allow for some form of such work, but that is a matter for another day.

The sole member of the Moriarty tribunal stated we are now finished with public hearings and the Minister for Finance stated, as a consequence, senior counsel and legal staff should be withdrawn, but this does not seem to have occurred. The public finds this very hard to understand given that the Government has made a decision on the withdrawal of vaccination for 12 year olds at a cost of €10 million.

The Taoiseach is not answerable for the activities of the tribunal.

I understand but, in respect of the costs——

The cost is another matter.

——the Minister for Finance was correct when he stated senior counsel and legal staff should be withdrawn once public hearings are ended. Has this been done according to his instruction in view of the sole member's public statement?

The Taoiseach, on the cost.

As I stated, the sole member indicated it is his intention to complete his work by the end of the year. The timetable is now to be subject to a slight overrun but it is more or less on schedule. As soon as submissions have been processed and considered, the expenditure on counsel is likely to begin to reduce significantly. This is the position of the sole member and we must abide by it in the interest of ensuring there is no unnecessary interference or undermining of his final work at this stage of the proceedings. It is a question of acknowledging his position. I am not suggesting it is likely there will be further public hearings but that, in the interest of being exact, it could happen if an issue arose from the interaction between the legal teams.

Can the Taoiseach state how many legal staff are currently being retained by the Mr. Justice Moriarty and the average daily cost of retaining them?

I do not have the exact number but I will obtain it for the Deputy.

Deputy Shortall should note her question was a statistical one.

The daily rate applicable to senior counsels on the Moriarty tribunal is €2,500 per day.

What is the total daily cost at present?

I do have not that figure as it was not requested in the question.

Can the Taoiseach provide both of the statistics I require?

There is not an exact daily cost. There are three senior counsels. I will have to obtain the information on the number of junior counsels.

I would appreciate that.

Sorry, there are two senior counsels, three junior counsels, one legal researcher and one solicitor on the Moriarty tribunal.

On the Taoiseach's statement that the tribunals were established by the Oireachtas and that the Oireachtas always has options open to it, does he recall that when the Moriarty tribunal had been established for a short while, an issue arose over an alleged payment made to former Minister Ray Burke? This side of the House proposed that Mr. Justice Moriarty be allowed to have another module to investigate the allegation. The then Government, led by the Taoiseach's predecessor, rejected that proposal and insisted instead on setting up a separate tribunal to examine all planning matters. It turned out that there was some irony in this decision. Regardless of what the tribunals have discovered, it might have been less costly had the Burke allegation been investigated by way of a separate module of the Moriarty tribunal, as originally proposed on this side of the House.

I cannot recall the exact arrangements at that time. The general point I make remains. It is not always the most appropriate way by which matters of public interest can be investigated.

International Terrorism.

Enda Kenny

Question:

4 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. [29483/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

5 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach if the interdepartmental group established in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks to monitor the threat of terrorist attack is still functioning; the work programme of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32376/08]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

6 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach when the National Security Committee last met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37594/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 to 6, 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 or any of its proceedings. The committee is chaired by the Secretary General to the Government and comprises representatives, at the highest level, from the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Defence and Foreign Affairs, 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 which might have national security implications, in particular in the international arena.

We have very little time so there can only be one supplementary question from each questioner.

What is the situation in respect of searches of aeroplanes at Shannon Airport of persons involved in terrorist activities, or suspected of terrorist activities?

Is the Taoiseach aware that in the past six months there have been a number of reports about al-Queda cells operating in Ireland? What evidence of this is available to the Taoiseach and the Government?

Is the Taoiseach aware that MI5 has set up a new headquarters in Northern Ireland? Is the Government in contact with MI5 with regard to suspected terrorists living in Ireland?

Some years ago the Taoiseach's predecessor commented on reputed al-Queda cells operating in Dublin. In March of this year three people were arrested in Tralee as part of a suspected Islamic terrorism unit in County Kerry that was under Garda surveillance. Can the Taoiseach inform the House with regard to what happened after that information was brought to the attention of the Government through Garda surveillance?

We are all aware of the aftermath of 11 September 2001 and other more recent outrages, and of the scale and the threat posed by international terrorism. Although there are no grounds to suggest that Ireland is at particular risk, security services maintain a high state of vigilance. They are also in regular contact with other security services and there is an ongoing exchange of information and intelligence through fora such as Europol and Eurojust. It would not be appropriate to speculate on whether there are persons active in this country whose activities are linked to international terrorism except to assure the Deputy that the Garda Síochána closely monitors the security situation on an ongoing basis. This includes any activities that might pose a threat to international security.

Has the National Security Committee addressed the issue of dissident republican groups? Does it liaise and co-operate with the international monitoring commission in Northern Ireland in respect of that matter? What is the assessment of the National Security Committee of the threats posed by dissident republican groups, in this State or throughout the island?

Would the Taoiseach consider, or has the Government considered, the possibility of extending the remit of the National Security Committee to address the threat posed to the safety of people in this country from organised gangland-type groups? Does he see any possibility of a role for the National Security Committee in co-ordinating the work of the respective security agencies and intelligence agencies of the State in cracking down on gangland crime?

The National Security Committee does not deal with operational matters which are dealt with by the security services or the Garda Síochána. Having dissidents or any terrorist or paramilitary activity under surveillance is something in which the Garda is thankfully expert and has been successful. People will know that the Garda continues to ensure that such suspects do not engage in any nefarious activity that would be a threat to life or property. This is an ongoing issue that the Garda Commissioner and military intelligence watch all the time.

Concerning the gangland issue, this is an operational matter and is dealt with by the Garda in liaison with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, on an continuing basis. The National Security Committee does not deal with those specific matters which are operational issues.

Does the National Security Committee address security arrangements between this country and other jurisdictions? For instance, will the committee, if it has not already done so, address the expressed view of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Scrutiny which published a report last Monday? The report indicates the committee's concern at the EU Commission proposal to have the personal details of all airline passengers furnished to the security authorities in other jurisdictions. Has the Taoiseach had the opportunity to note the report and will he give his own view with regard to the Oireachtas committee's opinions as expressed on Monday?

The National Security Committee was established as a high level forum for mutual awareness and consultation on issues in the area of security. It provides for exchange of information and collective assessment on an ongoing basis. The nature of the committee's work precludes me from giving any more detailed description of its proceedings, with regard to when it meets, etc. Concerning any matters that arise in the new situation in which we live, I support all security and co-operation measures between countries as a vital means of protecting our own citizens and others.

Deputy Pat Breen will offer a final and brief comment.

How often does the National Security Committee meet? Does the Taoiseach think that the full customs and protection facilities to be provided at Shannon Airport next year will add to our security worldwide?

It is not procedure to discuss when or how often the National Security Committee meets. It meets as required. The pre-clearance facilities to be provided at Shannon Airport are excellent for the airport. I hope they will provide for many more people using it in the future.