I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together and apologise for the misunderstanding.
There have been three separate reports into this tragic accident. The air accident investigation unit of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport conducted an inquiry and published its report on 24 January 2012. A coroner’s inquest was held in May 2012 into the deaths of the two crew members. The third investigation was a military court of inquiry which was convened on 26 July 2012 and produced its report on 17 January 2013. The findings of the court of inquiry are consistent with earlier investigations held by the air accident investigation unit and the coroner’s inquest, namely, that the probable cause of the accident was the spatial disorientation of the instructor who was piloting the aircraft in conditions of poor visibility at the time. It is agreed in all of the reports that the cadet bore no responsibility of any kind for the accident. As the convening authority, the Chief of Staff has indicated that he is in agreement with the proceedings and findings of the court of inquiry and that it complied with the terms of reference set.
Defence Forces regulations provide for military courts of inquiry. A court of inquiry may be convened to investigate any issue affecting military personnel, equipment or property which a convening authority considers necessary to have investigated. The primary duty and responsibility of a court of inquiry is to ascertain the truth concerning the matter under investigation. The members of a court of inquiry shall be held responsible for failing to report any irregularity coming to their notice in the course of their investigations. The findings and recommendations of all courts of inquiry are confidential, in accordance with Defence Forces regulations. The Minister has discretion to direct that the full court of inquiry report be made available to interested parties. In this instance, the former Minister for Defence, Deputy Shatter, provided the families with a copy of the report of the court of inquiry. The Chief of Staff, in the context of the report of the court of inquiry and in accordance with the provisions of Defence Forces regulations, can add any comments, criticisms or other remarks which, in his or her opinion, are relevant to the matter under investigation.
The former Minister for Defence received a series of correspondence from the family in which allegations were made in respect of a wide range of issues to do with this tragic accident, including the conduct of the court of inquiry. Legal advice was sought from the Attorney General, and the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, having considered the matters in the context of that legal advice, was satisfied that further investigation into any issues relating to this tragic accident was not warranted.
The family was informed accordingly. I have met the family on a number of occasions, as they are from my constituency. The previous Minister and officials from the Department also met the family to afford them the opportunity to discuss their concerns.
At the most recent meeting between the family and both the Secretary General and the Chief of Staff on 6 June last, an approach to address concerns raised by the family was discussed. This matter is currently being progressed following the meeting. In this context the Taoiseach, in his role as Minister for Defence, has not arranged to meet the family.
I would like to once again extend my sympathies to the families of the deceased.