I thank the Minister for allowing me the opportunity to raise a sensitive issue concerning Paul Barrett from Market Hill in Fethard, County Tipperary, who is detained in prison in Lille, France.
The story of Paul Barrett goes back to 7 March when a truck he was driving was impounded by the French authorities. He was allowed home and left the truck behind him. A week later he was contacted by his employer who told him the truck was to be collected in France. Paul Barrett was arrested by French police on his return to France on 14 March when he arrived to collect the truck and he has been detained in France since then. Last Friday he was brought before a magistrate. Documents that were required for the investigation were to be provided by the Government to the French authorities. That is my understanding but I need clarification on the matter. To his horror and that of his family and all belonging to him he was put back in prison.
I and others have listened to the family talk about the case in recent months. They are in a state trying to find out what is happening to their son. I have a letter which he wrote from prison some hours after the case was heard last week. I have never read an account of such a frightened person in a letter from anyone. A person in detention in a prison in another country is bound to be frightened. Mr. Barrett is worried about his representation in particular. Much of what I say I have heard from the family which is highly respected in the community. I have known them for a long time. They are extremely worried about their son. They are concerned about the handling of the case by the solicitor, which is not to their satisfaction. That concern is expressed in the letter which Mr. Barrett's mother handed to me in my constituency office this morning. The reason I raise the matter is because those people are living in fear. They are extremely concerned about the representation their son is receiving. His mother said she is extremely concerned that her son will come home in a box. As a representative of the Government the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, has a responsibility to this man.
I did not refer in my contribution to the implications of the case or how the truck came to be there and what was in it. My concern is the individual involved and the human aspect of the case. The Government has a responsibility to this young man. Usually when we raise matters on the Adjournment we do not get an answer. I accept that officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs have been in contact with the family, but someone in the Government needs to take the case firmly in hand to give Mr. Barrett his legal right to choice in terms of being properly represented. If the Irish Government has documentation on Mr. Barrett, it should be sent to the French authorities. The French courts will be in recess in two weeks and this will mean he will be in prison until next September.
I am thankful for the opportunity to raise this very sensitive matter. In the absence of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Martin, who has met the family in question, I want the Minister of State, Deputy Roche, to do everything he can, in spite of the ongoing frustration, to save the young man's life. His mother, brothers, sisters, father, everyone belonging to him and the people of the Fethard area are extremely shocked at what is happening and believe he is innocent. The Government has a responsibility to help him.