I move: "That the Seanad do now adjourn."
Adjournment under Standing Order 29. - Ireland-UK Extradition Arrangements: Motion:
Matter under Standing Order 29, motion to adjourn the House, as raised by Senator Ross. The normal practice is that the Minister is given 20 minutes to reply to the debate which is limited to one and a half hours. In essence, Members have one hour and ten minutes with the Minister having 20 minutes in which to reply. The matter raised is the collapse of the extradition arrangements between Ireland and the United Kingdom.
I am very grateful to have this opportunity to raise a matter of such public importance at such short notice. It is a credit to this House that we have been given the chance, which is rare, to have a relevant and immediate debate on this particular matter. It is relevant because, as we all know, of the release of Mr. McVeigh from Portlaoise yesterday. but it is relevant also because the history of extradition in this country and the recent history in particular has been very tortuous and very difficult one for all of the political parties, and this should be understood. This matter was raised in the Seanad in 1982, when the parties in this House found great difficulty in dealing with it, for emotional and historical reasons. It was especially difficult for the Government party in 1987 when they amended the 1965 Act to deal with this particular subject.
I should say that this is not an effort to pillory in any way the actions of the Government in this particular case but rather a genuine effort to point out the real difficulties which exist on this subject, a symbol of which is what happened yesterday. This case is just one in a long line of extraordinarily embarrassing cases, to say the least, for this country. It is fair to remind the House of the case less than two years ago of Evelyn Glenholmes, who, in a farcical situation was released from the District Court, then rearrested, then released and then escaped, and who has now disappeared without trace. Yesterday's case has alarming similarities to the Glenholmes' case. The most worrying aspect of it is the fact that Mr. McVeigh, who is wanted for very serious crimes, is still at large.
A lot of what happened yesterday is important not in the essence of the complications of the case but because of the perception abroad of what happened and, indeed, the perception in Ireland of what happened. The interpretation of the event in the UK — I have not read the tabloids — is to me quite disturbing.The Guardian, a very moderate newspaper, leads this morning with the headline “Irish court bars terror extradition”. That is an emotional headline. It appeals, unfortunately, to the worst prejudices and instincts of the British public. The Daily Telegraph has a similar headline: “Utter dismay over freeing of bomb suspect.”The Times editorial this morning goes into great detail in coming out against this particular decision and the political significance of it. It is worth looking at a newspaper with such a history as The Times has, it is worth seeing how this is perceived abroad. It says that “the agreement on extradition which was reached between the two Governments in the last four or five months after long negotiations has singularly failed its first test”. That is fair enough. That is what The Times said. I am quoting one perception abroad of what has happened and I do not necessarily support their point of view. What I am trying to point out is the crisis of perception which exists in England and further abroad about what has happened here. What the editorial in The Times says is that Ireland is not keeping its side of the bargain and that is an opinion which we must recognise is widely held abroad. We on both sides of the Irish Sea are in very great danger of undermining each other's courts system.
Members of all parties in this House have been long and loud in their continuous undermining and criticism of cases in the United Kingdom, especially those which involve Irish people. Many of these statements are bred totally out of ignorance and prejudice and many of them have been linked to extradition. There was a motion in this House, which was withdrawn, in the name of Senator Mooney linking the Birmingham Six to extradition. Many of the statements made on the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four cases are bred out of ignorance and are made by people who are not aware of the facts in those cases. Similarly I am afraid that there is an effort by the British press to undermine the court system in Ireland in these cases. That is inflamed and encouraged by the less responsible elements of the British press.
Serious questions have to be asked about this case. I did not ask for the debate in order to criticise Government policy on this issue. There has been a genuine and real turnaround in sentiment by the Government in this case. It is difficult for Fianna Fáil, because of their highly historical roots, to implement issues like extradition but they should be commended for doing this. Having said that, we should look at this case and try to learn one or two lessons from it. The first question we should ask is: should these cases be allowed to continue to be heard in the District Court? It is fair that we should ask whether our district justices, as a whole or individually, are capable of dealing with these cases. I welcome the decision of the Government today to appeal to the High Court on this issue, which was the only avenue open to them. It is worth taking up the suggestion made in the Dáil this afternoon by Deputy Barrett of Fine Gael that perhaps the District Court should be by-passed in these sensitive and delicate cases and that they should be taken to the Supreme Court.
The second important point is that we should be able to counter the propaganda which will be made of this that the Government and, in particular the Fianna Fáil Party and the Taoiseach, are soft on terrorism. There is no doubt that this is what will be said — and I have not read the Northern newspapers today — in some of the less responsible British newspapers and Unionist newspapers today and tomorrow. It is vital that that prejudice and perception should be contered by the Government swiftly and immediately. Because of some of the noise they have made in the past, the Government are particularly vulnerable to that sort of accusation.
I hope the Minister will not just say that it was simply the decision of a maverick judge in Portlaoise yesterday and that it was a judicial decison with which the Government could not interfere, although they can imply their disapproval of this decision. It is absolutely necessary for the Minister and the Government to say this long series of catastrophes and disasters can be avoided in the future. The issue of extradition had become a farce. It is damaging Anglo-Irish relations to a degree which it should not be. This verdict, which was an extraordinary one, is simply one in a series of extraordinary verdicts by members of the District Courts. A system must be devised by all politicians in this House whereby the long rigmarole of technicalities can be avoided. Let there be no mistake about it, there will be more cases like this in the future. There is no point in pretending that this is the last case and that it will be appealed to the High Court and the Government may or may not win. The first question to be asked is: where is Mr. McVeigh now? This is very depressing. Mr. McVeigh should not be at large because he will probably go the same way Evelyn Glenholmes did and disappear. We want the Government to take action to avoid this in the future. The long series of technicalities should be ended. People who are wanted for serious terrorist crimes should not walk free because of technicalities.
The second point I want the Minister to consider is the amendment to the 1965 Act which was passed towards the end of last year. In future this amendment will be fraught with difficulties for the Attorney General. Even the best will in the world, the fact that every Attorney General will have to vet every case of political extradition will give rise to controversy in every single case that arises. We must devise a cleaner, more immediate and less ambiguous system whereby extradition can take place without the sort of disaster that happened yesterday which leaves us giving hostages to fortune and handing propaganda weapons to those who say we are soft on the IRA.
It is a bad day when a Member of this House questions the system of justice in this country. I am sickened that a colleague in the Seanad has put down a destructive motion for no other purpose than sheer, utter sensationalism. The people in the North who have struggled for years to reach common ground will give Senator Ross no credit for his sensational statement that the arrangements for extradition in this country have broken down. It ill-befits Senator Ross to make such a statement and to put a smokescreen about what the LondonTimes will say. This country has not survived on the praise and guidance it got from any newspapers printed outside it. I am surprised that Senator Ross recognises the value of the statements made by those papers. The only people who will rejoice as a result of Senator Ross's motion are those who still live in a cave and hold on to their tribal mentality. The only people who will quote Senator Ross are those who are deciding who their next victim will be and will hold court and make decisions in public houses. Senator Ross's motion will give people more justification to go out and murder some innocent victim.
I must protest. This is outrageous.
The Senator can protest as much as he likes but I am giving him the facts because I live nearer the grassroots than he does.
On a point of order, an accusation of that sort against a Member of the House is ——
Senator McGowan should refrain from making remarks about Godfathers.
I am responding to the motion in the only way I know how to respond to it. I am very angry because this is not the first time Senator Ross has made statements like this. I protested this morning when he tried to introduce this motion on the Order of Business. Senator Ross is on the same bandwagon every second week, and I doubt the sincerity attached to that. It is a tragedy when Members of this House are prepared to come in here and sensationalise a subject that is crucial and important to the lives of those people who are living on a knife edge in the North of Ireland. Senator Ross lives comfortably down here and it is very hard to stomach statements like that. He is concerned only with the press he will get from the LondonTimes.
In the interest of conducting the debate in a more balanced way, can I ask the Senator to refrain from mentioning Senator Ross. The motion deals with the question of the extradition arrangements between Ireland and the United Kingdom.
If Senator Ross put down the motion, Senator McGowan is entitled to reply to it.
I have allowed some latitude there but Senator McGowan will have to stop naming the mover of the motion.
With respect because Senator Ross is the mover of this motion I have to name him in my response. I cannot respond to the motion in any other way, because I am angry. The Senator said people will believe the Taoiseach is soft on criminals, but of course, he would like to imply and lead them to believe that the Taoiseach is soft. That is the angle he is portraying and projecting and he has never done anything else.
Hear, hear, it is not the first time he has done it.
He has always portrayed and projected this angle.
On a point of order, I said exactly the opposite.
The Senator has never done anything else except try to project that the Taoiseach is soft on criminals.
I said exactly the opposite.
This angers any reasonable person who knows what the problems in the North are.
May I ask Senator McGowan to make political charges only and try to keep away from the personal charges? There is plenty of scope for political charges in the motion.
I am not interested in attacking personalities; I am interested in refuting a motion by Senator Ross which contributes nothing to the situation in the North of Ireland. The ordinary people in the North of Ireland are sick to the teeth of kite-flyers, sensational motions and do gooders. Every politician in the South has a solution to the North and it is time somebody spoke up for the people who do not have a voice and want to say: "we are sick to the gullet of listening to people like you putting across sensational motions and trying by innuendo, to stamp a political brand on the Taoiseach and Government which is not true and does not exist". The Fianna Fáil Party, of which I have been a lifetime member, have a clear cut policy and will not allow Senator Ross to brand them by innuendo, smokescreen, or anything else in this House or the other House. The Taoiseach is totally consistent and we will not allow Senator Ross's motion to go unchallenged.
I think that 95 per cent of the people totally support the court structure in this country. It ill-becomes Senator Ross or any Member of this House to question the Taoiseach and his intentions. I am sorry if I get angry but it is my response to an irresponsible motion. It does the House no credit; it does Senator Ross no credit; and it should be thrown out.
At least it woke Jack up.
The only person this debate does no credit to is the last speaker. It was the most unfortunate and extraordinary outburst I have heard in my time in this House.
With regard to the basic assumption that "we" will not let Senator Ross bring in a motion like this, who are "we" in this case? Who has the right to stop a perfectly legitimate and fair motion coming before this House? With regard to the statement that this is no place to question the system of justice in this country, I believe, it is absolutely the correct place for questions to be asked about a system of justice and it is our duty and responsibility to ask them.
I listened with growing disbelief to the long series of personalised attacks on Senator Ross. If Senator Ross's motion is clumsily worded, that is his business. I do not agree with his motion as it is worded but he had every right to raise this question here this evening and he did so in a perfectly fair and orderly way. He did not question the Taoiseach. He said, and it is fair to say, that there is a perception in Britain, fuelled by enemies of this country, that the Taoiseach, the Government and the Irish people are soft on terrorism and that this State is a haven for terrorists. That is an imputation that has wide currency in Britain and it reflects on every one of us in Irish public life. Every one of us resents it and this House is the place to refute it and put the truth on the record. I hope that, when the last speaker thinks of what he has said, he will withdraw the charges of bad faith against Senator Ross and, in particular, he will withdraw the extraordinarily hurtful and damaging charge that what Senator Ross said could well be used by, I presume, members of the UDA and the UVF to justify what they are doing and to go on their errands of killing. That is the most outrageous, hurtful and damaging accusation I have ever heard made against any Member of this House and I certainly hope it will be withdrawn before the evening is over.
At a cooler level, the history of extradition and the relations between our two countries has been one of the most difficult and tangled elements in all of the things that happened between the two countries. What has happened over the past number of years has done no good for either of us and a great deal of good for the common enemy — the terrorists from both sides whom we all want to see out of public life and out of business. In the past, the failures on extradition have largely lain on the British side. The British and, in particular, the British media have great difficulty in understanding that we have a Judiciary which is independent of the Government and Parliament; that if members of the bench exercise their judgment in a strange way, that is their right so long as they are within the law. There can be differences on the interpretation of the law but it is not the business of the Government or Parliament to interfere. In the past we heard Members of Parliament in Britain — and read in some of the leading newspapers — waxing eloquently and accusing people of bad faith when the separation of powers was simply being exercised, as was intended in our Constitution.
In the past we have had to endure taunts about this State being a haven for terrorists when all of us know that our gardaí and our courts act as diligently as they can to ensure that there are no terrorists in this part of the country and that those against whom there is a case will be apprehended and tried in the proper way. In the past extradition has been used as an excuse by policemen, especially in the North, and politicians for their own failures to bring people to justice. It was easy to say: "There are 60 or 100 people in the Republic, in Dundalk or wherever, and if only there was extradition we could bring them to justice".
We knew then and we know now that in most cases it was a question of evidence not being available and that extradition was a smokescreen behind which they could hide. People in Britain did not recognise the often legitimate fears we had about the possibility of a fair trial for Irish people, especially for those who had been tried in advance by the media and in particular by the lower end of the British media. On our side there was also a pervading sense of double thinking and a failure to face up to our responsibilities. In the past we took the easy way out on questions of this sort and in the process ensured that people against whom there might have been a case to answer in a British court were not brought to face justice in those cases. There was ambivalence on our part — the sneaking regarder lives among us still. There was a great deal of ambivalence on our part and a failure of will to face up to a very real problem.
It looked as if that problem had been sorted out in recent times until we came to yesterday's cockup. It was our cockup yesterday, not a British one. In the past most of them were on their side, when they had not gone to the trouble of having papers properly sworn and had not gone through the proper procedures; but yesterday's cockup was fairly and squarely ours. I say to Sentor Ross, on the question of the British media, that I would disregard the lower end of the British media because no one can hope to get a fair hearing in that arena, not just Irish people. An English cricket captain, an English politician or any English public figure are fair game at that level of debased gutter journalism. There is nothing we in this House can do about it, no more than those who suffer more directly in Britain. But I was appalled this morning at the reaction of the so-called quality papers. I believe they went over the top. They did not look sufficiently into what happened yesterday. I reject from this side of the House any charge of bad faith on the part of the Government, any insinuation of interference by the Government or that the Government are soft on terrorism. As an Irish person I reject all of those charges; and, if they are made, they are made unworthily.
Having said that, there are two questions which arise out of yesterday's shambles. First, was it simply a perverse and inexplicable decision by a lone ranger district justice who acted according as he saw the law and to his own rights? It would not be the first such decision by this district justice who has something of a reputation on the bench for being rigid and slightly eccentric in some of his decisions. Perhaps he is entitled to be that; and, if yesterday's case had been licensing laws or driving, it might have made page three of theEvening Herald. But, because it was a case of world headlines we now have this result. Senator Ross and Deputy Barrett in the Dáil made a very good point, and one that is worth following, as to whether or not cases of this type should be moved immediately to the Circuit Court — not as Senator Ross said, to the Supreme Court — for the initial hearing. Most of us would have more confidence if that happened.
A more important question, and one which I hope the Minister will answer, was the very direct charge made by the British Attorney General and many British politicians in statements in the House of Commons today that there had been a major error of judgment on the part of Irish law officers, a failure of advice by our law officers to their British counterparts, specifically that the British law officers were told that there was no need to send people over to this country for the process of identification because that was covered, there was no need, this was something which could not arise and, consequently, even though the British were prepared to send over the officers the district justice required to have in court, they were advised that it was not necessary. If this is so there is now, for the first time, a major question to be answered about the administration of this procedure in this country.
I do not impute bad faith to anybody in this. If a mistake has been made then it is incumbent on the Government to find out exactly what happened. It is even more important that the Government go public on this, even if individuals have to be hurt, that they go public as quickly as possible on the detail of what went wrong. As Senator Ross very rightly said, our international reputation has been damaged. Maybe, it has been damaged, in part by a British press suffering from the indignity of last Sunday's defeat. Maybe there is some sense of evening the balance here — stranger things have happened. Certainly, the reaction and the sense in which our credibility has been called into account is something which has to be addressed head on. The only way to do it is by our Government giving as full and frank an account of what happened as possible and then taking immediate steps to ensure that something of this sort never happens again.
I regret very much the comments made by Senator McGowan. I think in all fairness and honesty that people put motions down for debate because they are matters on which they feel strongly. I must say initially that I disagree fundamentally with the views of Senator Ross on this issue, on extradition and on Anglo-Irish affairs, but nevertheless I would defend his right to put down such motions. It is unfortunate that such personal comments were made and I hope Senator McGowan will perhaps see fit to make a statement on that before the end of the debate, without in any sense talking about his basic political arguments.
Another person who needs to be defended is the district justice in Portlaoise. He has been called various names all day and I think this is completely and utterly wrong. He did not tell the British Government that they did not need law officers over here. Nobody asked his opinion on the matter. The man interpreted the law as he saw it. He interpreted the law to the extent that the evidence he felt was required was not presented in court. People should clearly understand that if evidence is not presented in court the district justice may not say "I will adjourn the court because of lack of evidence." A lack of evidence means that a case is dismissed or finished, and it is unfair to blame the district justice for what happened at that time.
The British themselves do not have any great record on extradition. People have very short memories if they do not recall that it took almost two years to extradite the football hooligans of the Heysel Stadium disaster back to Belgium to face trial and that it went to the House of Lords and the Law Lords before they allowed it to happen. We have nothing to be afraid of on this issue. I say to my colleague, Senator McGowan, in all justice and fairness, that less than seven months ago in this House I heard a colleague of his party stand up here and say that he would not extradite a dog to England. That is the kind of statement that leads to the misunderstanding, misapprehension and misinterpretation that Senator Ross referred to. On that basis it is fair to make those kind of references.
The fiasco we saw yesterday and the response to it are not really a criticism of the district justice in Portlaoise or of the people who are trying to apply the law; it really is a product of panic politics. I said so at the time and I will continue to say so. It is an appalling piece of legislation. It will never work no matter what bits of elastoplast are stuck to it to solve the problems it has. It will not work as it is presently formed. It is the simple fallout, the emotional synergy of the last atrocity. We have seen this time and time again. This flawed legislation has followed in a fine tradition. After the Dublin bombing incident we brought into effect the most repressive legislation, which has been misused ever since. After the Birmingham bombs we introduced the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which was every bit as bad. After the Enniskillen tragedy we had this appalling piece of legislation, the Extradition Act. None of those pieces of legislation has ever proved its worthiness. Of course the reason for this is that they were cobbled together by a Government with the best of intentions.
I accept and firmly underline that the Government's intentions were honourable, that they have continued to be honourable on this issue since they came into office and that they have made every effort to deal with this problem. However, they have dealt with it very badly indeed. It is flawed because they have attempted in the drawing up and presentation of the legislation to placate some of the different groups in their own party, the media, the British Government and many other interest groups who are putting pressure on them. They attempted to find some middle line to satisfy everybody. It is no way to put legislation together. It will never work that way. We need to look at the basic fundamentals of crime and punishment. The fundamental duty of Government is to ensure that people stand trial for crimes of which they are accused, wherever they happen to be committed.
On a point of information, could I ask the Minister under what Act was this attempted extradition being made?
The 1965 Act.
The points being raised by Senator O'Toole about Acts which have been passed in the past 12 months have absolutely no relevance to this debate.
It might come as a surprise to Senator Lanigan that the Act to which he referred to was amended over the past 12 months. This may be new to you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, but I am sure the Minister will underline that fact when he comes to it.
The amendments of last year have nothing whatsoever to do with the case.
I am replying to the point raised by the Leader of the House that the legislation to which I referred was not dealt with last year. I am making the point that this legislation was discussed last year. The whole business of extradition was discussed last year. This is typical of the way this problem has been approached. We take one small area and we try and fix it for today; another problem comes up tomorrow and we will put sticking plaster on that again. It is no way to approach a problem. I do not take from the Government's commitment on the issue but I do not accept that the way they have approached it has been in any sense effective. Even when people are charged with crime in another country this Government have a duty to see that people stand trial. They also have a duty to protect their citizens. Therefore, extradition agreements are not just necessary, but they are a moral requirement on a responsible Government and let us have no doubt about that.
We have a duty to see to it that people who are charged with serious crimes stand trial. The problem with this legislation is that it does not do what it was intended to do and it will never do it by simply trying to fix it up on a day-to-day basis. It is time that we looked fundamentally at the question of extradition and had a full debate on it. We should bring in legislation which will deal with all the probabilities and possibilities of extradition. We should not leave legislation which is open to any loose interpretation of a district justice here or an Attorney General there. I appeal to the Government to look at the whole legislative area governing and covering extradition and to bring in one single Act which will deal with the difficulties of yesterday and the difficulties which have been seen already and those that are likely to arise in the future. This we have so far failed to do.
I wish to make it clear that it is unreal to speak about the decision in the extradition proceedings concerning Patrick McVeigh, which took place in Portlaoise District Court yesterday in terms which refer to the collapse of the extradition arrangements between this country and Britain and Northern Ireland. I share the sentiments expressed by Senator Maurice Manning when he said the wording of the motion was clumsy to say the least but I am not taking away from the Senator in any shape or form his right to have a discussion on any topic at any time.
There is no basis whatsoever for what is suggested in Senator Ross's motion. Indeed, the backing of warrants procedure which we operate with Britain and Northern Ireland remains in place even now and will continue to be operated. The finding of the court yesterday was that it had not been established to its satisfaction that the person before the court was the person named in the warrants. I want to make it perfectly clear, because there is confusion about this aspect of the case, that this issue concerning identification did not arise — I say this having regard particularly to the comments of Senator O'Toole — from any provision of the Extradition (Amendment) Act, 1987. These proceedings are taken under the provisions of the Extraditon Act, 1965. The identity of the person before the court is an issue which could have been raised at any time since that Act was put on our Statute Book.
The British warrants before the courts identified the person whose extradition was being sought as being Patrick McVeigh of Portlaoise Prison, County Laois, formerly of 18 Forrest Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland. The British authorities had informed the Irish authorities that no police officer was in a position to make a personal identification of Patrick McVeigh as the person concerned with the alleged offence. Evidence tendered before the court included evidence that the person before the court was the only Patrick McVeigh in Portlaoise Prison at the relevant time and that that person had previously given his name and address as Patrick McVeigh of 18 Forrest Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland. These facts were not challenged.
The evidence tendered to the court to identify Patrick McVeigh as the person named in the warrant was in accordance with the established norms. It was for this reason that the British prosecuting authorities were informed that further evidence of identification was not required. Since yesterday's decision the Attorney General has been in touch with his opposite number, the British Attorney General. The British Attorney General expressed his deepest concern at the result of the application. He agreed that the decision not to call evidence of the British police officers was, in the circumstances of this case, entirely as he would have expected in the light of experince in previous extradition cases. Both the Attorney General and the British Attorney General have agreed to consult on the implications of their decision.
The District Court decision of yesterday, if upheld, would set a precedent as to the kind of evidence which would be required in future in such cases. It is accepted right across the political spectrum in this country, particularly in both Houses of this Oireachtas, that extradition is part of the normal machinery of legal co-operation between civilised States. That is accepted between us and our nearest neighbours and between us and our friends and neighbours in Northern Ireland. As we have stated on numerous occasions, the Government are committed to having proper and effective extradition arrangements with other countries. We are determined to make every effort to ensure that the legislation and procedures in place are clearly workable.
Of course, the Government are very deeply concerned that the issue which has arisen as a result of yesterday's court proceedings should be resolved. I wish to inform this House that the most effective action open to the State has been taken and an appeal by way of case stated will be taken to the High Court against the decision of the district justice. I know that members of all parties would agree with me that we have to remind ourselves that under our Constitution our courts, are totally independent in the exercise of their judicial functions and subject only to the right of appeal. Then their decision must be accepted.
Before concluding, I would like to take up a few points which were made specifically during the course of the debate. Senator Ross referred to some previous embarrassing extradition cases in particular the Glenholmes case. I am sure the Senator will recall that embarrassment in extradition cases in the past has been by no means confined to the authorities in this jurisdiction. Indeed I would like to refer to the McGlinchey case where conviction was not secured and where he was returned. I would like to refer to the Shannon case where no conviction was secured, the O'Reilly case and the Glenholmes case itself, and let us all again recognise the fact that extradition is a difficult and complicated business and mistakes or mishaps do occur and can occur and not just in this particular area. Let us remember another case that we were very concerned about last August week-end when we were trying to extradite somebody to this country.
We must all do our utmost to ensure that the procedures work properly and effectively and that is what this Government is going to do. I have noted what Senator Ross and Senator Manning have had to say about cases being dealt with in the High Court. Senator Ross can rest assured that the Government will be very active, as we must be, and very effective, as we must be, in countering propaganda that some people may seek to make out of yesterday's case. Allegations that this country is soft on terrorism are so patently at variance with the facts that they are scarcely deserving of an answer. Successive Governments have made a very heavy and very costly commitment to legal and security co-operation to counter terrorism on this island. In more recent times the very intensive operation to search for arms is a major recent example of the level and expense of that co-operation. Where extradition is concerned we have gone much further than many of our European partners in restricting the scope of the political offence exception. There were no allegations of softness on terrorism made some weeks ago when extradition of a leading INLA figure to Britain was refused by the courts of another prominent EC country on the grounds that the question was a political one. There were no outbursts in the tabloids. Like Senator McGowan and every other Senator in this House and Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas, I do not think we are going to be influenced by the scare headlines of the tabloids but I would be concerned with the more serious papers. I regret the tone and attitude adopted this morning; perhaps during the course of the day that tone has cooled down considerably and it was encouraging to note that the discussion in the House of Commons today was on a fairly level and even tone also.
I heartily endorse what Senator Manning had to say about misapprehensions and misrepresentations that there have been in the past about this country's commitment to the fight against terrorism. I know that because I have had to meet it on the ground and I have had to deal with it. I know that my predecessors had to do it and my successors will have to do it, and all parties in different Governments have all done a skilful job in that regard. Senator Manning suggested that the British Attorney General had said or was reported as having said that there was an error of judgment made by the law officers in this jurisdiction about evidence of identification that should be tendered in court. I am advised that the British Attorney General did not actually make the particular statement that was attributed to him. Certainly he did not say that there was an error of judgment made. In actual fact, as I have already said, he was quite satisfied with the situation as it was.
But it had been attributed to him.
I accept that. In situations like this we all know that often truth is the first victim. I understand that the British Attorney General said in the House of Commons today that the advice received from the Irish authorities about identification did not occasion surprise because it was consistent with the requirements previously made by the Irish courts. That is a direct quotation from him. I am glad to be able to put that officially on the record.
I am not going to reply to the political charges of Senator O'Toole. I am not going to talk about and deal with suggestions of "panic politics", "flawed" pieces of legislation and things like that because I am not here to lecture the Senator. I have not got the time nor indeed would he have the patience to take it from me nor indeed is this the forum for it. But the legislation we are talking about is the legislation that was brought in here and enacted by both Houses of the Oireachtas in 1965, and there were no bombings in the streets of Dublin at that particular time that forced the Government of that day to do as the Senator suggested.
I would only say to all Members of the House that because of the seriousness of what is involved in this type of issue we must be very careful how we approach it. I sat here for days, as Members know full well during the course of the debate on the Extradition Bill at Christmas. We sat for very long hours. There were things said by Members that I did not agree with but I think in the end of the day we got good legislation that will work and will be effective. I am quite satisfied about that. Once a motion has run away, whereas we want to have a proper, full and worthwhile discussion, it is very easy to be sidetracked, and in saying that to Senator Ross perhaps we would not have allowed ourselves to be sidetracked if the Senator had come to me for a little advice on how to frame the motion. I am delighted to have the opportunity of informing the Senators, in particular those responsible for the motion of what the situation is really and, please God, all of us in all parties in both Houses will be able to ensure that our best efforts will continue to counter terrorism and subversion wherever it might be or on whatever side of the political divide it might be.
The Seanad adjourned at 7.45 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 15 1988.