I would like to preface my remarks on the Bill by saying that Labour is not soft on terrorism but we are concerned that justice is not only confined to most areas of the law but to all areas of the law. History shows that we are very consistent in matters of law, in trying to protect the innocent. That goes no matter what the investigation is. In order for us to deliver on this attitude of ours we seek to ensure that no Irish citizen will be extradited unless there is a case to answer and that hearings on the matter of extradition should take place before a judge in open court so as to afford the defendant the opportunity to challenge the warrant or the prima facie evidence. We are at a loss to know what is wrong with the supplying of a book of evidence. It is not a book of evidence that we want to sell on O'Connell Street or on O'Connell Bridge or to publish in our daily papers. We need it for a real reason and that reason is to prove why an Irish citizen has a case to answer in another jurisdiction. That is no less than is required by many other states. In this respect the United Kingdom has not given up their right in that particular area.
Our own Government when in Opposition in 1975 opposed bitterly the criminal law jurisdiction legislation because they felt it was drastic emergency legislation and the question posed by the present Government, when they were in Opposition, was whether a democracy can invoke drastic emergency legislation and still remain a democracy. The questions now posed by the Labour Party on this matter is if it is not a drastic step in legislating to give to a person who attends Cabinet meetings, that is to say the Attorney General, some of the power and authority normally reserved for the judiciary; is it not a drastic move to allow a person who attends Cabinet meetings to take on a function that could lead to the disbandment of the natural division of Government from the judiciary by simple evolving legislation? Supreme Court judges understand their role in seeing that the State laws do not contravene the word and spirit of our Constitution and up to now we have made no effort to restrict the power of the Supreme Court in these matters. I do not want to suggest that this Bill offers a challenge to that role because my belief is that the Bill will be tested in the Supreme Court one way or another. If it is not referred to it by the President before signature, the first case under it will be tested. I believe the latter will be the case. The point I am trying to make is that there will be as many interpretations of what the Attorney General's power is in this matter as there are lawyers in the country. This being the case the safer road to travel is the one of prima facie where the many lawyers would have to deal with the evidence presented to them rather than have a ball at the Attorney General's and the Government's expense. I suggest that the decision by the Government to give such power and authority to a person who attends Cabinet meetings, namely the Attorney General, is a dangerous road to travel because, I repeat, the precedent that upsets the division between Government and judiciary is not a good precedent and who is to say that it cannot be extended irrespective of the good will of the present Government, that it cannot be changed by other Governments or other people in the Fianna Fáil Government? As far as we are concerned in the Labour Party every citizen has a right to a law that has checks and restraints. If you remove a function which rightly belongs to the courts and give it to an attender at Cabinet meetings, I believe you automatically remove these checks and restraints in their full sense and it is only when they are there in their fullest sense that every citizen can be given the protection to which he is entitled.
It may well be argued that there are safeguards in the Bill before us. I doubt if they could be described as totally effective checks and restraints in the sense that one process will be openly displayed by the courts but the other will be a sealed-in thing. I do not think the checks and restraints will be there. I am a little puzzled as to why we got away so fast from the prima facie concept since Britain still holds on to it. I must say that, like the others, I view the British system of justice as it applies to Irish men and women not in a vitriolic way or with hatred but I have to look at it with a jaundiced eye. I am certainly not anti-British. I am anything but that. Therefore, I am all the more concerned, since Britain holds fast to this prima facie idea, about our safeguards for the innocent. We must see that they exist. There is a little bit of hypocrisy there on the part of the British Government. They want, on the one hand, to retain their own right to prima facie evidence in matters of extradition and, at the same time, they want to make sure we do not give any more protection to the citizen who may face a hostile court or a hostile press or something else that might jeopardise his chances of being acquitted if he is innocent.
It is an extraordinary thing that the British have a requirement with every country except Ireland for prima facie evidence before they extradite their citizens. It is also interesting to know the UK have not signed the 1965 European Convention precisely because they wanted to keep their own prima facie requirement. Their attitude seems to be that what is good enough for others is not good enough for them. However, we are talking about our citizens and what we should do in the best interests of our citizens without British interference. What I am worried about is that if the proposal becomes law it would appear to many of the Irish public as an abdication on the part of the Government of their duty to defend the rights of Irish men and women both at home and abroad. That is not a nice thing to have going about.
The Bill has not provided the required and, to some extent, even the minimum safeguards for Irish citizens before they are extradited. It proposes an unacceptable non-judicial forum which amounts to a gross perversion of our judicial process. We call ourselves a Republic but we have not got around to a truly republican criminal justice system and we have a contradictory attitude to terrorism in support of this position. I would point out that extradition within the United Kingdom is still conducted much as it was prior to the limited independence we now enjoy. It is a simple endorsement of warrants and arrests. The history of our extradition procedures demonstrates our unwillingness to construct an indigenous truly republican system of justice.
With regard to the British Prime Minister, she first made allegations when the issue was starting to come before the Dáil. Obviously that did not help proceedings and it certainly got the backs up of certain people. What make sit worse, of course, was that she was both wrong in detail and she was also wrong in the sense that it had an effect on the debate. It was a gross interference in the procedures of our sovereign Parliament. She might have been better occupied I think in looking back to the defective warrants and the defective procedures that were used by her own security people in matters of extradition rather than attacking the Government when they were in the process of putting this Bill through. I would not like anyone in this House or in the other House to stand up and attack something that was going on in the House of Commons. It is wrong and she had better be told that.
What I am worried about most of all is I think that they seem to want us to take an attitude that they themselves have. For example, when the question of McGlinchey arose the attitude was: "Don't we all know he is guilty?" This would seem to be the British mentality and I think they would like us to adopt that mentality also. We cannot adopt that attitude. In fact, we went very very far indeed in the Coalition Government between 1973 and 1977. There was a package of legislation brought in covering all aspects of law but particularly having regard to dealing with the question of cooperating with the Brits in the sense of dealing with the matter of terrorists coming before justice, that is to say the guilty ones. We almost suspended on those occasions Article 40 of the Constitution. We did not quite get around to it but we very nearly did. We asked the Garda and our Army to associate themselves with the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Bill, 1975, and we introduced in that Bill a very general debate which covered civil rights in a wide sense.
We certainly did a lot with regard to improving the relationship between the two States. Even though we were not just doing it for Britain alone, at the same time, they were to be the main beneficiaries. We introduced a Bill on that occasion that contained many paradoxes and affected civil liberties in our own country in the sense that it was wide and was merely part of a package.
I do not know how far you can go. I can understand the reaction to the cynical and barbaric situations that arise out of terrorism and the bloody-mindedness of people who perpetrate these atrocities. I can understand the feeling when somebody abandons a briefcase and blows people to kingdom come. I can understand that person can be permanently damaged by opening an envelope. I can understand the reaction to what happened at Brighton, in the Abercorn case, at Harrods and Enniskillen. The situation was equally bad when one thinks that in the case of Harrods they were dealing with children being brought to see Santa Claus; the timing was deliberate and was carried out with very clear minds. The only reason that was not followed up with further atrocities of the same nature was because it was not a success in the sense that the public turned against them and it generally backfired.
You can understand the feelings we have here, the revulsion we feel at the sectarian killings. We can understand the car bomb, somebody putting a backup detonator in it so that when there is an attempt to defuse it, if the building is not damaged it will get the people who are trying to defuse it. We can understand all of that, and have the greatest sympathy for the victims and be very condemnatory in our attitude to it. It is an easily understood emotion but in the final analysis our job — not the job of Britain or anyone else — is to protect Irish citizens in the first instance. If somebody has to be extradited into Ireland he will have got the protection of his Government and the procedures laid down to justify bringing people into this country to be tried. That would all have been provided for them by their own Governments.
Therefore, it is our Government who are concerned and our Government have not only dealt with the whole question of the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act and another package of measures to assist in the matter of curbing terrorism but we are also participating in the suppression of terrorism with 35 other states, and they go from Austria to the Soviet Republics. They not only condemn terrorism internally but they condemn international terrorism and they describe it as endangering or taking innocent human lives. We are in league with most of the countries on the question of human rights and fundamental freedoms. There are certain areas of human rights which we have not put right ourselves yet, but I am not talking about that; I am dealing mainly with the area of dealing with terrorism, and people who commit crimes and sufficient evidence exists for them to be tried in other jurisdictions.
We can understand that resolute measures have to be taken by us to combat terrorism. Quite frankly, I cannot see where the prima facie provision would not satisfy all needs. After all, if the evidence is there that somebody should be brought to justice or put on trial for terrorism or other crimes, then so be it. All of the things we have done would not fall by the wayside, they would still be in existence; they would not be put to one side. The Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act would still be there; it has not been repealed as yet. The whole matter of our being involved with 35 other nations in the suppression of terrorism would not be put to one side and our expression of determination to take measures for the suppression of terrorism would not be put to one side, nor would the amount of money we spend on security etc. be put to one side if we wanted a prima facie case established before we extradite people. It would not stop us from making sure that people refrain from indirect or direct assistance to terrorists or subversives of any description or to other activities designed to overthrow regimes of another participating State.
I, frankly, cannot understand, when it comes to the question of protecting your own, why we do not look at the way other nations protect their nationals. We are quite entitled to do it. We are in the business of looking for fundamental freedoms: we are in the business of peace, justice and well-being; we are not trying to take away from anyone else and we have, in fact, by the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Laws we have introduced and the money we spend on security, lessened the tension between Ireland and Great Britain. I think we have strengthened stability. We are in a situation where there is a viable and lasting arrangement and by which we will in fact have a viable and lasting attitude towards dealing with our problems by peaceful means in the future.
All the measures I have mentioned here were designed to increase confidence in the security we have. We have the right, if we have achieved all those things, to say to anybody, no matter who they are that a citizen is a citizen, whether he be a McGlinchey, an O'Toole or any other person and he should not be exposed to trial unless there is sufficient evidence produced to our judiciary to establish that he will in fact be put on trial if extradited.
With regard to the Attorney General, another worrying feature, to my mind is that it is a kind of a partial trial because it is not in the open. I do not know what the procedure will be; I do not know whether in fact the Attorney General who attends the meetings will have to sit down and tell the Cabinet what is happening. Therefore I am a little puzzled about all this, whether he will weigh up the evidence and make up his mind. It is a partial trial when somebody goes before the courts anyway but at least that partial trial is to weigh the prima facie evidence. If there is evidence given to the Attorney General and if it is not prima facie evidence then, one can say, if the Attorney General makes a decision that the person should be extradited, that what has happened is that there has been a partial trial of an Irish citizen who did not have the right to challenge. That is a tremendous denial of a human right and it is heading in the direction of the Government taking on a function which is at present reserved for the Judiciary. I would like to understand more about the rights of citizens to challenge warrants and what, if any, sort of accessibility to the courts defendants will have or what redress will be available to them? If there is redress, will it come too late or what will be the situation? I am not so sure myself about the whole thing. The safest way for me to put it is that the ordinary working-class people of both Britain and Ireland would more readily understand it if one of their fellow beings were brought before a court and all the evidence that could be built up was there against him and that there would be an assessment of his position by a trained court in the open. Then, and only then, the Irish and the ordinary English citizen would be happy that this person was being dealt with in a fair and just way. The main thing about it would be the fact that he had the right to redress in open court and the right to challenge.
A further worrying feature about it is that we had problems in the trade union movement down through the years. Laws change, Governments change, people in Government take different roads; different things happen, things evolve. Change is a thing in itself, Therefore, it is ongoing and this means that somebody is going to get an idea along the line that perhaps he is not happy with the trade union movement or some other body. I will pick the trade union movement as it is the largest and most widespread in that sense. In the course of trying to deal with the Acts that cover trade unions this question of Cabinet power and authority exercised through the Attorney General, or some other person, might become more or a reality than we realise.
We have had difficult situations in the trade union movement. We have had various instances down through the years. One will remember the educational company, the Irish Union of Distributive Workers, etc. One will remember the problems regarding what is now the Marine Port and General Workers' Union. I cannot remember the name of the case. I think it was the Irish Seaman's Union. There were difficulties in all of these areas. Very difficult judgments had to be made and I am always fearful when dealing with the question of something going to extremes and having to be dealt with. For example, someone might consider it very extreme to have secondary picketing if the picketing got out of hand. We saw what happened in England. There are these dangers; so, naturally we are concerned about them and naturally we are concerned when we are talking about citizens. Whether a person is a trade union member or a person who is suspected of being a terrorist, as long as he is a citizen and is on this side of the water, he is entitled to all the protection the law can afford. The best protection he can be given is the right to have prima facie evidence presented against him and a right to challenge it.
Somebody mentioned the Director of Public Prosecutions. I have nothing against the Director of Public Prosecutions as such. There is a degree of secrecy surrounding that office which does not make people very happy — often it is the other way round. People want to know why the Director of Public Prosecutions did not prosecute people, why he did not let trials go on. There is no way any citizen has any right to know why a trial did not go on, or even get information about it. I would not be hung up on the idea that the Director of Public Prosecutions would be a better choice in this instance, because that office — not the person — by its very nature has caused confusion in the minds of many people. We are inclined to think of people being able to read, that everybody has a good education and can understand everything. That is not always so. People can be confused and are confused. Anybody who goes into any of the pubs and hears a debate starting will know that some of the ideas expressed are amazing. The beliefs people hold are astonishing. Sometimes they may not have a detailed argument about it but the reaction is that, if the Director of Public Prosecutions has not prosecuted somebody, he must be onto a good thing. That is the mentality of some people.
When dealing with the question of citizens and the rights of citizens one must be above board. It has got to be seen, it has got to be heard and it has got to be understood that they are getting a fair crack of the whip. Ordinary people are the majority and it is much better that they should understand what happens. They can understand that a person can be brought to court, evidence presented against him and that he has the right to challenge that evidence through legal representation etc. But in the absence of that provision we will not do justice to this matter at all. I do not think the President will send the Bill to the Supreme Court but there will be as many interpretations as there are lawyers in the country and I think we will see the first case we try to deal with being sent to the Supreme Court. The legal people will have a ball. That is how it appears to me at the moment.
I am not against people trying to reach compromises that seem fair. There is nothing wrong in a compromise provided it is for a good reason. You are compromising all the time. If you say you are going to the pictures and somebody else says: "No, you are coming to dinner with me", you are compromising. So we are into the compromise business as a nation; that is our nature and it is a good thing. Therefore, I am not being critical of Ministers in the sense that they had to find an accommodation for their own people. Let us be blunt about it. If I were in a tricky situation I would be looking for an accommodation, and I would make no apology to anyone.
I can understand that the Government can have difficulties, that they have to find an accommodation and that it is not easy to do this. At the same time, we have to bear in mind that we are dealing with this grave question of human rights, which is very, very wide. We are not legislating here for ministerial good. That is not what it is about. We are not legislating for the good intentions of Ministers. We are legislating here for Irish citizens who will be put on trial in another jurisdiction and may not get the best deal because we did not have sufficient regard to the difficulties they might face, and did not give them the absolute protection claimed by other jurisdictions for their citizens.