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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 4 Mar 1954

Vol. 43 No. 7

Consular Conventions Bill, 1953—Committee and Final Stages.

Section 1 put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:—

In sub-section (4) to delete "21" and to substitute "31."

This is an amendment the purpose of which is to give to the Houses of the Oireachtas more time than the Minister prescribes in the sub-section. By sub-section (4) of the Bill, every Order must be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made, and if a resolution annulling such Order is passed by either House within the next 21 days following, it shall be annulled. I suggest that we should have more than 21 days, and I think 31 days would be merely adequate. I think that 21 days would be altogether too short and that an Order of this importance, conferring certain rights, should be given due notice, and a due opportunity should be available to a member of the Oireachtas to make an effort to have it annulled. In saying 31 days, I think I am being quite reasonable.

Senators will have noticed that Senator O'Reilly quoted no precedent at all for this amendment. There has been a great number of Bills passed by the Oireachtas and in not one of them has a longer period than 21 sittings days been given to annul any Order made under them. The period of 21 days does not represent 21 calendar days; it means 21 sitting days and that period covers a great deal of a calendar year as far as the Seanad is concerned. I feel that the Seanad should within the year make up its mind as to whether it is going to annul an Order or not. Twenty-one days might be only a couple of calendar months as far as the Dáil is concerned, but it would be most of the year in the case of the Seanad. Whenever an agreement is made with another Government to give these powers, privileges and immunities on a reciprocal basis, we should know within a reasonable time that the convention under which they are given is not going to be annulled.

I regret I cannot accept the Minister's reasons as a valid excuse for failure to accept my amendment. Frequently Ministers tell us: "There is no precedent for what you are proposing." The precedent in this case is 21 days. It is simply nonsense to put forward that kind of argument. There is no reason whatever why if 21 days were in every Bill that had a provision of this kind, we should henceforward tie ourselves to 21 days.

I quite appreciate that 21 days means more than 21 calendar days; nevertheless, it is no excuse to say we must have 21 days in this section because 21 days is what is in every similar section. The Minister has mentioned also that indication of approval is given to other Governments on matters of this kind. That is so but, of course, it is made clear to the other Governments that the approval is given subject to the Parliament passing or approving what has been provisionally done by the Government or by a Government Minister. It is not fair to expect the House to accept as a reason for not accepting my amendment the fact that in similar acts of Parliament only 21 days has been provided for. I believe the Minister should accept the amendment. I do not see how it can cause any inconvenience, great or small.

I agree to a large extent with Senator P.F. O'Reilly that simply because a thing has been done before it is not absolutely necessary that it should be done again. However, in an amendment like this I think the onus of proof is on the mover of the amendment to show cause why 31 days is preferable to 21. I entirely agree with the Minister when he says that 21 sitting days could cover the best part of a year as far as the Seanad is concerned. First of all, if it is agreed that time should be given for the consideration of any Order that may be tabled here, we are faced then with this question: How long should that time be? We will rule out, for instance, a week—seven sitting days would be altogether too short; on the other hand we will rule out two years as being preposterously long. It will be seen, therefore, that you must decide on some reasonable time.

The question as to the time that should be given was discussed quite a number of years ago and it has been generally accepted that 21 days is a reasonable period to allow for consideration of such an Order. If it is to be changed in any way the onus of proof is on the person who wants to change what has been the practice; in other words to show that the practice has given rise to inconvenience on the part of members of the House, that the time was inadequate for consideration. My experience in this connection has been that on no single occasion has an Order not been considered in this House because the 21 days have elapsed. In this case the mover of the amendment has made no substantial case for increasing from 21 days to 31 days the time within which an Order can be considered.

Amendment put and negatived.

Section 2 put and agreed to.
Sections 3 to 5, inclusive, put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:—

To delete the section.

My reason for moving this amendment is to see that a class is not further extended. As the law stands, Ambassadors, Ministers and persons having ambassadorial rank have complete privilege and are immune from the laws of the country to which they are attached. That is well founded and perhaps the law is there for a very good reason. If it were sought to pass that law to-day, some persons would oppose it while others would take the strong view that it should be passed, that Ambassadors and persons of high rank representing their king or president should have immunity from proceedings against them in the courts of the country to which they are accredited.

I do not quarrel with the position, but I see no reason why we should extend that privilege to consular officers in regard to entry into consular offices. There is no reason why there should be any restriction on the entry of the Garda Síochána, or of any person seeking to execute a legal process against a consul, into the consulate. The position to-day is that such a process can be executed in a consulate and the premises can be entered for that purpose. Why are we seeking now to say that the law will no longer be allowed to operate? What reason can the Minister give for saying that the law hitherto enforced must be changed and that we must now provide that a consulate must not be entered for the purpose of executing a legal process?

I do not know why the immunity that a Minister or an Ambassador enjoys should be extended to a consular officer or his place of business. The Minister may say that some years ago, in 1950, the Government of the day signed a convention with another country, the United States of America, and that we should give effect to that convention by this Bill. Again let us be clear. In signing the convention subject to legislation, our Government does not definitely bind us, but makes it clear, as does the other country, that the convention is signed subject to the Government being successful in negotiating legislation to give it legislative effect. Therefore, we need not be in the least bit concerned. The Minister seemed to be a good deal worried about this. The convention was entered into on the distinct understanding that it would come to an end if the Oireachtas did not give effect to it by the necessary Act.

This particular section is entirely revolutionary. At the moment there is no restriction on entry into consular offices. Now the Government thinks we should give them a particular immunity. It must be borne in mind that an under-sheriff or county registrar seeking to recover the amount of a judgment obtained against a consul, which the consul would have been bound to pay in the case provided at sub-section (4) of Section 7—that is, in a case in which a consul had entered into an agreement not expressly on behalf of his Government and was thereby made amenable to the law— would be met by sub-section (6), which provides that he may not enter the consulate premises with a view to levying the amount of that judgment unless the officer gave his permission or the Minister gave his permission. I am quite sure that if a consul allowed a judgment to be obtained against him he would not be very anxious to allow the county registrar in to levy the amount of the judgment. It may be said then that the Minister would give his consent. Why should anyone, having obtained a judgment of the court, have to go to the Minister, when there is an officer of the court there, the county registrar or under-sheriff? At present that officer can act, but if this section is passed, he will not be able to act. This section gives immunity to a consul which in my opinion is not deserved and for which the Minister has not made a case.

I think the Senator has not addressed himself properly to this matter. Every word he said would be in order if this were a one-sided arrangement. The Senator will see that the definition section, Section 1 of the Bill, says that a consulate means "any building or part of a building which is exclusively occupied for the purposes of the official business of a consular officer". That is a very clear definition. The provisions in the section which the Senator wants deleted will not apply under Section 2 "save to such extent as they are so applied by Order under this section for the time being in force". The Minister makes an Order. Section 2 (2) says:—

"Whenever the Government are satisfied that, in a consular convention country, powers, privileges and immunities similar to those conferred by any of the provisions of Sections 3 to 11 are conceded in respect of the State, the Government may by Order apply all or any of these provisions in respect of that country."

To take an example, the Government of France decides not to give certain privileges; then this country follows suit and denies those privileges to consuls of France here, as they are denied to our consuls in France.

There is a further provision in sub-section (3) of Section 2 that, even after such privileges are given to a consulate, if the Government concerned withdraws some of the immunities or privileges the Government here will have the right to revoke the Order granting privileges and immunities. I submit that the section should stand. It is an enabling section. It enables the Government here to accord immunities and privileges to a consulate here that will be accorded to our consulates in any country with which we have diplomatic relations.

This is a matter on which personally I do not agree with Senator O'Reilly. I take a rather different attitude. It is perfectly proper and a good thing that public attention should be drawn to these provisions by a discussion. Senator O'Reilly generally takes the view that we ought not to extend what might be called consular privileges. I take a different view. I think it is a good thing that they should be extended provided they are extended mutually, as is provided for in the Bill. I find difficulty in seeing any serious danger, particularly in this case where, if there was any abuse, the Minister has power to authorise a Guard to go into the consulate. I imagine the number of consulates that come under this definition will be comparatively small.

I suppose it is because I am a manufacturer and trader—not, certainly, because I in any way want to lessen the value of having diplomats here—but I rather feel in the case of a small country that it may be to our advantage to strengthen the position of consuls, particularly, as is provided in this case, when they are our nationals. I, therefore, would be very unwilling to vote down any provision which would enable us to strengthen the position of our consuls abroad.

Although Senator O'Reilly is perfectly right in saying that we are not in any way bound by an agreement made, it is equally true that one must think twice before voting for something which would make an agreement made with another country invalid. I would not for a moment vote for something that was wrong simply because it was an agreement, but one must be careful because what may seem perfectly reasonable to us might be interpreted abroad as something which was directed against a country and the reasons which are behind Deputy O'Reilly in this matter might not be appreciated. I am not able to support the Senator.

In regard to what Senator Hearne has said, I quite appreciate the nature of the buildings and premises covered by the word "consulate". It could be that a consul might remove to a consulate the only assets which a sheriff or under-sheriff could recover and then we would be thrown back, if this section goes through, on the consul's consent or on the Minister's consent. I do not think that anybody with an order of a court of competent jurisdiction should have to go to a Minister to seek enforcement of that court order.

Again, Senator Hearne has made the position quite clear that this section will affect only consuls, consular officers and consulates of countries which accord us similar treatment. I have never heard of any claim from any Government Department or any consul of ours that he was in difficulty or had been in difficulty because there was not legislation of this kind to assist him in getting the privileges that will flow to our consuls abroad if we pass this legislation. I do not know that our consuls have been in any great difficulty as the law stands at the moment. As far as I know, no Minister for External Affairs has made the case that, because of the lack of legislation of this kind, our consuls in other countries were in difficulty, that they could not do this and could not do that because this legislation was not in existence. I do not think that what Senator Hearne has said affects the position. We are now extending rights and privileges for which there is no reason, for which no claim has been made, for which certainly no claim has been made publicly.

Senator O'Reilly is wrong when he says that no claim has been made publicly for the matters which are covered in this section. In Article 10 and Article 11 of the Consular Convention, which was signed in the United States of America, provision is made that American consuls here will get certain privileges and immunities in the performance of their functions. The Government here at the time agreed to grant them these immunities and privileges in the performance of their consular duties. I think they were right in doing it because it means that our consuls in the United States of America get the same and equal rights and privileges in the United States of America in the performance of their consular duties.

Almost every solicitor in the country and a great number of families, particularly in the western parts of the country, are interested in the activities of our consuls in the United States of America. We cannot ratify this convention, according to the accepted practice, until we are in a position legally to fulfil the terms of the agreement. If we were not to ratify the convention there would be grave disappointment and great trouble would be caused to many of our citizens who want our consuls to fight their cases in the American courts.

We are not extending the same immunities to consuls as we extend to full diplomatic representatives. We only grant to consuls the immunities and privileges set out here in regard to the premises which they use as a consulate. The Senator will see in the definition clause of the Bill that "consulate" means any building or part of a building which is exclusively occupied for the purposes of the official business of a consular officer. In the case of a diplomat, the immunities and privileges cover him in all his acts and all the premises which he uses or occupies. In the case of a consul, the privileges and immunities cover the building which he uses as a consulate and cover him only when he is carrying out the functions of a consul. There is the provision here, which has been agreed to, that in certain cases a member of the Garda Síochána, or other person, acting in the execution of any warrant may enter the premises if he gets the consent of the Minister —that is, the Minister for External Affairs—but in no other case.

To be brief—I think we discussed this matter before—if we are going to ratify the American Convention, this clause is necessary. I believe we should put ourselves into the position that we can ratify the Convention and carry out its terms.

May I draw the attention of the Senator to a matter of procedure? The question which I have put on the section is: "That the section, or the section as amended, stand part of the Bill." The Senator shall, therefore, proceed with amendment No. 3 on which the question will be: "That the amendment be agreed to". That, of course, will be followed then by the general question, on the section which I have indicated. Perhaps the Senator will now proceed with the amendment?

On a point of order. In the event of amendment No. 3 being carried, the question then will be: "That the section, as amended, stand."

To make matters easier, I will not press amendment No. 2. I move amendment No. 3:—

In sub-section (2) to add a new paragraph as follows:—

(d) An under-sheriff or county registrar for the purpose of levying execution for moneys payable by a consular officer or consular employee, under an order, judgment or decree of the courts of justice made in a civil action arising out of a contract concluded by such officer or employee in which he did not expressly contract as agent for his Government.

The Minister, before he sat down, told us that everything would be all right in the long run because the Minister had the power to give his consent to the entry and that, therefore, that should end the matter. I suggest now that the Minister, in his own interest and in the interests of his Department, should not come into this at all. Where a judgment of a court is obtained against a consul, the county registrar or the under-sheriff—the person authorised by statute to execute that judgment against the consul—should have power to enter anywhere—the consulate, within the meaning of the Act, or any premises where the consul is at business or resides, in order to give effect to the judgment of the courts.

Once a decree has been obtained against such a person the whole position alters. He is the subject of a court order and there should be no question of his endeavouring to evade payment of the amount due on foot of that order. It might be that a person in the position of a consul might feel tempted—with a view to claiming privilege for his goods—to remove his goods from his residence, say, to the consulate where he would be protected against seizure by this section. I do not say that that is very likely to happen but I think there is the risk that a person with the rank of consul, against whom proceedings were instituted and against whom a judgment was made, might be tempted to remove his goods from his residence to the consulate and, once they were in the consulate, under the section as it is here, the consulate would be privileged from entry and the under-sheriff or the county registrar would be unable to levy the amount of the judgment.

The Minister will say: "That is quite all right. I can step in and give my consent." Why should we have to go to a Minister if we have got an order of a competent court? Why should we again have to go through proceedings with a view to having the judgment enforced? I think the amendment is reasonable and it has been drafted with a view to meeting what might be objectionable to the Minister. Therefore, I think it should be accepted.

If a consular officer were to do what Senator P.F. O'Reilly has described, if he were to remove his private goods into the premises of the consulate, surely the Minister would, in a case like that, bring the matter to the notice of his Government? I think this matter is being discussed as if consular officers were not the employees of foreign Governments. They are, and, in the light of common sense, it must be looked at in this way. If a consular officer proceeds to behave in a manner which is flagrantly dishonest, and if he tries to evade his responsibilities, the citizens who suffer as a result of his actions could, I think, rely on the Minister to take appropriate action. To suggest that a county registrar or an under-sheriff should have the right to enter consular premises to levy on foot of an execution order is going very far. If we were to enact such a provision, it could be regarded as an insult to persons appointed by foreign Governments.

I think that the answer which has just been given is the correct one to Senator P.F. O'Reilly and I have very little to add to it. Senator Hartnett pointed out that if a consul were to behave in this fashion he would be behaving dishonestly and would not be a fit and proper person to represent his country here.

The question of diplomatic immunity —and we are talking now about what is the normal diplomatic immunity in relation to consuls in the course of their activities as consuls—has a very long background. I think that, even without any Act of the Oireachtas on our part, we would be bound, in accordance with the terms of the Constitution, to extend to diplomats their full immunities and privileges and to consular officers their limited protection. It is laid down there that we will act in these matters in accordance with international law. This Bill is merely spelling out what is the ordinary accepted international law and practice in regard to officers coming from other countries such as the type of officer in the consular offices we are discussing here to-night.

Perhaps Senator P.F. O'Reilly would look up a reference that I have got here in the British Year Book of International Law, 1929. There is a report on an English case—Engelke v. Musmann—which was decided by the House of Lords in 1928. This case was reported on by Sir Cecil Hurst and he had this to say:—

"The question of the right of a particular individual to diplomatic status is thus now to be included among those on which the decision rests with the Executive Government and not with the courts, just as it does on the question whether a particular Government is to be recognised as the Government of the country where it is established. A moment's consideration will show that there are advantages in allowing the decision on the point to rest with the executive authorities. The existence of diplomatic privileges may always lead to abuse. With the growth in the numbers of the corps diplomatique in a capital such as London or Paris, questions must arise from time to time requiring tactful handling, if trouble is to be avoided. On the one side there is the representative of a foreign State, jealous of any encroachment on the liberty of himself and his colleagues to carry out their mission. On the other, a Government responsible for seeing that its nationals are not prejudiced by any abuse of these privileges. It is clearly better that the discussions which may be necessary before the question at issue in connection with some particular diplomatist can be adjusted should take place in the tranquillity of a Government office rather than in the publicity of a law court. If this is so, however, it is necessary that the solution which is reached between the foreign representative concerned and the official with whom the case is discussed should prevail. The head of the foreign mission could scarcely be expected to discuss the question with a representative of the Executive Government, if the solution arrived at were liable to be reopened in the courts.”

That may cover slightly more than the point raised by Senator O'Reilly, but it does emphasise that the method of approach to the settlement of difficulties with diplomats or with consular officers who have a limited protection is different from that which the State adopts in the case of its citizens, or of ordinary individuals coming from other countries who have not got diplomatic immunity or privilege.

It has been recognised in all countries that, when a diplomat is accredited from abroad to another country, that country must protect him in his immunities and privileges. If he abuses them in regard to his treatment of a member of the community among whom he goes to reside, the remedy is not to the courts, or even to Parliament, but to the Minister for External Affairs, who is in charge of the Department in contact with these officers. In some countries — indeed, in most countries — they go so far as even to prevent discussion of such matters in either House of Parliament. We here will have to recognise that if we want our consuls to get the immunities and privileges abroad that will enable them to work effectively on behalf of our people, we will have to give reciprocal rights and privileges to the representatives of these countries while they live amongst us. It is necessary that we should have our consuls abroad, and it is necessary that other countries should have consuls here, in order that they may develop trade and give assistance to their nationals in promoting the purchase and sale of goods in this part of the country. Senator O'Reilly may rest assured that, if this section is left alone, there will be no reasonable cause of complaint.

I should like to know what the Minister would do if he were informed, this section being law, that a consul against whom there was a judgement had removed his goods to the consulate and thereby obtained protection from the sheriff. Would he give consent to the entry?

I would consider the case very carefully.

That would not give very much satisfaction.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 6 agreed to.

We will deal with amendment No. 4 when amendment No. 5 has been disposed of.

I move amendment No. 5: —

To add a new sub-section as follows : —

(5) This section shall not exempt a consular officer or consular employee from any liability for any claim for damages for negligence.

By virtue of this section, neither a consular officer nor a consular employee will be liable in proceedings of any kind to any person in respect of acts performed by him in his official capacity, these acts falling within the functions of a consular official in international law unless his Government requests or assents to the proceedings. One of the effects of the section, in my submission, would be that, if a consular officer, driving from his office in the course of his official business to meet the Minister for External Affairs, were involved in an accident and injured a person, that person could not successfully institute proceedings against the consular officer. The same would apply in the case of a chauffeur, if a chauffeur, instead of a consular officer, were driving the car. If I am right in that, and I think I am, a serious position will have been created. You will then have the position that a person who suffered injury as a result of the negligent driving of a motor car by a consular officer or consular employee, driving in the course of his business, will be penalised to the extent that he will be unable to recover any damages from the employee or the official, unless the appropriate Government requests or assents to the proceedings. The latter, I should say, is extremely unlikely.

We were told by Senator Hartnett a moment ago that we did not seem to know what we were talking about, that we should know that Governments see that their consular employees and their consuls act properly. I do not know whether they do or not, but, no matter how well intentioned Governments may be, a consular employee or a consul may perhaps do something that would not meet with the approval of a Government.

These things having been done, I do not know if Governments would give their consents to proceedings against the consuls. Many years ago in this country a person in a higher post than that of consul pleaded, in respect of a road traffic accident, his diplomatic immunity. By virtue of that plea the person who was injured in the motor accident was unable to take any proceedings against that person. His Government, despite what Senator Hartnett told us, did not seem unduly concerned about the plight of our citizen. It was only when that person left the country in the ordinary way and his immunity lifted in so far as his insurance company was concerned that the person who was injured was able to take any steps to contest the claim.

Even when the gentleman had left and when the person injured brought the proceedings the insurance company which then contested the proceedings sought, if you please, to continue to establish that the immunity of the person concerned continued. However, the courts held otherwise and the person's claim was met. I mention that to show to the House that instead of what Senator Hartnett suggested being the case it would appear that Governments, Ministers or consuls would not be unduly alarmed or concerned over a case of that kind.

I would say, of course, that in the case of gross misconduct a Government might be very worried and would take steps to deal with it but I am not satisfied that the position is, as Senator Hartnett indicated, that we should not have any worry whatever, that immediately a consular employee or a consul does anything that is not quite right his Government will step in and assist us in every way possible. I think that is just plain unadulterated baloney.

There is no reason whatever why we should give to consuls and, if you please, consular employees, the privilege that an Ambassador has. I must be quite clear — the privilege whilst they are engaged on consular work. I do not see why we should give them the privilege which would enable them to say, despite their recklessness, they should not be made amenable for any act which they did in the course of their duty.

I have no doubt that the Minister will tell us that really there is not very much reason to worry for the reason Senator Hartnett gave us and also for the reason that we have a Road Traffic Act, 1933, which obliges most motorists — I think, perhaps, that diplomats would be outside the Act and that they would not be obliged to insure — to insure and that, therefore, third parties would be covered against accidents such as I mention. Then, we may be told that all these people will explain quite clearly to us that they are going to insure their motor vehicles and, therefore, we should have no difficulty. Very well, but suppose an insurance company says: "If the consul does not rely on his privilege I think we will do it," it may then mean that we will have to have another Act to see that other people do not plead privilege of this kind. No. Let the immunity that obtains for Ministers and people of that status by all means prevail, but why in a case of this kind should we extend it to consuls?

Certainly let us preserve the archives of the consuls as we have provided already but I do not see why we should go out of our way merely, apparently, to give our own consuls the same rights abroad, to give this privilege to consuls in this country, and I should be amazed to learn that consuls here have asked for this privilege.

Perhaps, I might shorten the discussion if I pointed out that the consular convention between Ireland and the United States, signed in Dublin on 1st May, 1950, provides in Article 11, sub-section 5 that all motor vehicles owned by the sending State or used by the consul or owned by the consular officer or employee must be adequately insured by policies against third party risks. Therefore, a large part of the speech which Senator O'Reilly has just delivered has no relevance to this particular Bill. Under this Bill, we are giving not full diplomatic immunities and privileges to consular officers but certain immunities and privileges covering them in the course of their official duties. One of the things excluded from the ordinary run of diplomatic privileges is this right to insist that they will be covered by third party insurance, that they will insure against third party risks.

Supposing somebody forgot to renew his insurance?

Suppose an ordinary Irish citizen who was not worth anything except the old car he was driving forgot to renew his insurance?

It is a real possibility. It has happened.

I know. The provision in the agreement between ourselves and the United States, which we propose to ratify and which we are placing ourselves in a position to ratify and carry out our undertakings, is that any United States consul or consular employee here will insure himself against third party risks. We are granting him the right to stay here and perform his functions on that basis. The same thing will apply to an Irish consul operating in America. He must insure against third party risks.

A lot of what the Senator said, even in regard to full diplomats, is out-of-date. The Senator was talking about some case, as far as I can identify it, which occurred, perhaps, 14 years ago. I am informed that the difficulty arose not on the part of the diplomat but on the part of the insurance company. The insurance company, although it had undertaken to insure the gentleman against third party risks, wanted to slide out of its commitments because he could plead diplomatic immunity. Nine years ago, the Department of External Affairs, on the instructions of the then Minister for External Affairs, had conversations with all these insurance companies.

I have a long list here of insurance companies which agreed to write into the certificate of insurance with the insured diplomat that they would not compel him to raise his diplomatic immunity in the case of an accident involving an injury to a third party. The insurance companies have agreed that all diplomats here will have the right to have this clause inserted in their policy: "Notwithstanding that the insured is or may be entitled under the privileges accorded to the Diplomatic Corps to refuse to submit to the jurisdiction of the courts in connection with any claim against him, it is hereby declared and agreed that the company will not call on the insured so to refuse." I understand that the difficulty in the case referred to by Senator O'Reilly arose because the insurance company insisted that the diplomat concerned should raise this difficulty, but that case is about 14 years old.

In relation to the section as a whole, I want to point out that it is needed in order to enable us to carry out clause 11 of the consular agreement we made with the United States. We do not propose to give any foreign officials here any more immunity than our officials get in the country from which they come.

I fully agree with the idea of implementing the terms of this consular agreement, but I think what is worrying Senator O'Reilly is that there should be some safeguard for citizens when they suffer damage or loss. It has not been made clear at any stage by the Minister, nor is it made clear in this Bill, what happens in the case of a citizen who suffers loss, perhaps very great loss, as a result of this consular immunity we are giving.

I understand — and I would like the Minister to tell us whether it is right or not — that the Minister, in fact, has some powers to compensate citizens if they suffer loss or damage through any consular or diplomatic personnel claiming immunity. I think that is what is worrying us. If there was some existing way whereby a citizen could be compensated for loss sustained, then there would not be any need for any of these amendments, and this measure would be accepted quite freely by everybody.

I wish to ask the Minister if the convention to which he refers as being agreed upon between America and Ireland has been implemented by any other Government. We are not speaking here about American consuls alone; we are speaking about consuls generally, and the reason we desire some clarification of the position is that consular or diplomatic immunity has been claimed and Irish people have suffered as a result. We think there should be some provision in order to ensure that no Irish citizen would suffer because a foreign consul failed to face up to his responsibilities. Would the Minister tell us if Section 11 has been implemented by any other Government?

I am afraid in following Senator O'Reilly into the broader question of diplomatic privilege, I failed to impress on the Seanad sufficiently that in this particular case we are dealing with consuls. This Bill refers only to consuls and in that connection all motor vehicles, marine vessels and aircraft owned by the sending State and used by the consul or by a consular officer or employee will be adequately insured by policies against third party risks. Therefore, apart altogether from the general question of what immunities and privileges consular officers will have here, they will not have the privilege of not insuring their motor vehicle, marine vessel or aircraft against third party risks, and so, citizens will be fully covered. I feel that consular officers coming here will live up to the instructions which they will receive from the United States Government, that is, to act within the powers and functions which are conferred upon them by the United States and that they will act in accordance with the agreement which the United States has made with this country.

Might I ask the Minister what can be done supposing, through inadvertence, a vehicle has not been insured? That is more than a mere possibility and I would ask the Minister to tell us what course he could advise a citizen to take in the case of a consul who did not observe the terms of that convention. I would also ask him if he is perfectly satisfied that the proviso inserted by the insurance company in the third party policy would be valid to prevent the company from raising in a court of law the point that the insured person was entitled to privilege and therefore could not be sued. I am not satisfied.

I do not want to follow the Senator into the general question again. When the clause which I read out was written into the policy and agreed to by an insurance company of standing, I do not think it would be departed from. I believe the insurance company would live up to it and the diplomat concerned having insured himself against third party risks, would not be likely to raise a plea of diplomatic immunity and the insurance company could not force him to do it. He is covered by the terms of that clause written into the policy.

On the question as to what will be done in relation to consuls — and it is consuls we are speaking about in this Bill — I would point out that the agreement between ourselves and the United States Government is that consuls will insure all their vehicles, boats and aircraft against third party risk. If a consul did not take steps so to insure, he would be breaking the agreement and he would be committing an offence for which he would be held accountable by his own Government. I am certain it was not for fun that the United States or that we in this country asked that this should be written into the convention. I am sure that both sides will live up to it. The consuls employed by both sides will have it in their book of instructions that immediately they open up an office they are to insure their vehicles and any other type of craft that they use.

What is the position of other countries? In this Bill the Unites States is not mentioned specifically. Are there other countries with which we have consular conventions? If not, what effect has this Bill upon them?

The whole Bill gives the Government power to conclude a consular convention with any country provided that country gives us reciprocal immunities and privileges. The American agreement is the only one outstanding at the moment. As soon as this Bill is through, the convention will be brought forward in the usual way for ratification.

In the few words I said, I asked the Minister if any powers exist under which he may pay compensation to people suffering loss through negligence other than by boats, cars and aeroplanes, which are specifically dealt with. Are there not other forms of negligence? Has the Minister power to give compensation to a citizen in such cases?

That was one of the things which would come in on this section, even on the amendment. I feel there should be some provision in the Bill for the Minister to do such a thing. Unfortunately, this House has not the power to frame amendments which are of a money nature, but I would like to get the point in on this stage. Perhaps it can be arranged by the Minister himself to provide for that contingency.

I have already made it clear that I am in favour of the Bill, that I do not want to alter it, and particularly that I do not want to do anything that would prevent the ratification of a convention. I have been asked by several people outside — it may be due to the discussions here or elsewhere — exactly what would happen in certain imaginary cases. I am sure that if I were Minister I would decline to answer as to what I would do in a set of circumstances which did not immediately arise. However, there are certain principles which apply to any Minister for External Affairs. I take it that the present Government policy would be in any new convention to insist on similar provisions with regard to motor-cars, and so on. That is quite clear from his speech and we must assume that that is so. On the assumption that the Government of the day will act in good faith in matters of this kind we have to give them these powers, and I am sure there is no way out of it.

There is one matter on which the Minister was not as clear as I think desirable. Apart altogether from strict legal powers which the Minister may have, it seems to me that when we as a State give certain privileges to diplomatic or consular representatives which could under conceivable circumstances injure our own citizens—now-adays it is a very rare occurrence indeed — it is a specific duty of the Minister for External Affairs to do everything in his power to reduce the loss to the Irish citizen and to give every assistance which he may be able to give, having regard to the circumstances at the time. I would go further and say that if there were a case in which the amount involved was serious it would be the duty of the Oireachtas to step in, because of the privilege we have given. However, that is no reason why we should not give the privilege and make consular conventions. It should go out that we would expect the Government of the day to take that particular citizen under its wing because of the circumstances and because State action had deprived him of certain rights. The State should do everything in its power to see that if the rights could not be given the person concerned would get some compensation or assistance. That was not quite clear from the Minister's speech. I think it should be his policy and the policy of the Government.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 4 not moved.
Section 7 agreed to.
Sections 8 to 13, inclusive, agreed to.

I should have informed the House earlier that amendments Nos. 6 and 7 in the names of Senators O'Donnell and McQuire, respectively, have been ruled out of order. Intimation to that effect was conveyed earlier to the Senators concerned.

Sections 14 and 15 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Agreed to take the remaining stages now.
Bill received for final consideration and passed.