Tuesday, 9 May 2006

Questions (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

1 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach the action which will be taken arising from the report of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights on the report of the independent commission of inquiry into the murder of Séamus Ludlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13426/06]

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Trevor Sargent

Question:

2 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach the actions the Government will take following the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights for the establishment of a commission of investigation and a possible public inquiry into the 1976 Séamus Ludlow killing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13457/06]

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Pat Rabbitte

Question:

3 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach the action he intends to take arising from the report of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights into the death of Mr. Séamus Ludlow; if it is intended to act on the committee’s recommendation that a commission of inquiry be established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14449/06]

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Pat Rabbitte

Question:

4 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach when it is intended to publish the outstanding report received from Mr. Justice Barron into certain incidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14450/06]

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Enda Kenny

Question:

5 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the action he intends to take in response to the report of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights on the death of Mr. Séamus Ludlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16016/06]

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Joe Higgins

Question:

6 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach the steps he intends to take following the report of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights concerning the establishment of a commission of investigation into the murder of Mr. Séamus Ludlow. [16030/06]

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Trevor Sargent

Question:

7 Mr. Sargent asked the Taoiseach when Mr. Justice Barron’s outstanding report into certain incidents will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16185/06]

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Oral answers (11 contributions) (Question to Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 7, inclusive, together.

I welcome the publication of the final report on the murder of Séamus Ludlow, which was published by the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights on 30 March last. The publication of the report represents another significant milestone in the investigation of this brutal murder. I am aware that the joint committee has made a number of recommendations, including that a commission of investigation be established to investigate certain aspects of the case. The Government will examine the joint committee's final report and its recommendations in the coming period. Mr. Justice Barron's final report into the Dundalk bombing of 1975, which also refers to other loyalist attacks around that time, is being considered by the relevant Departments. As with Mr. Justice Barron's other reports, it is envisaged that the report on the Dundalk bombing will be sent to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights for consideration.

I have no doubt the Taoiseach will join me in condemning the brutal sectarian murder in Ballymena of young Michael McIlveen and extending sympathy to his family, condemning all sectarian acts and calling on all political leaders to use whatever influence they have in their respective communities to help to root out this terrible scourge.

Did the Taoiseach raise the joint committee's report on the murder of Séamus Ludlow with the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, when last they met? Did the Taoiseach apprise the British Prime Minister of the joint committee's views, including its strong criticism of the failure of the British authorities to co-operate in this and all other cases of collusion? If so, what was the British Prime Minister's response?

Is the Taoiseach aware that the Pat Finucane Centre and the Justice for the Forgotten group have uncovered files in the Public Record Office in London which indicate clearly that people at the highest level in the British Government had some knowledge of the extent of the collusion between the Ulster Defence Regiment and loyalist paramilitaries? It is recorded in the files that, as long ago as 1973, 15% of the members of the UDR were active members of loyalist paramilitary groups. Is the Taoiseach aware that the files show that even though the British Government knew about the facts I have recounted, it approved the extension of the role of the UDR by giving it a significantly increased intelligence role?

Why have voluntary organisations, such as the Pat Finucane Centre and Justice for the Forgotten, been able to uncover such critical and important material, whereas the various representative agencies of this State and the different inquiries which have embarked on this work appear to have failed to do so? Is the Taoiseach aware the documents show the British Ministry of Defence in 1974, the year of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings — the 32nd anniversary of which will be tomorrow week — agreeing to the extension of that intelligence role? Does the Taoiseach agree that the uncovering of these documents demonstrates clearly the British Government's lie to the effect that it had nothing further to offer to the various inquiries this State has initiated into acts of collusion, not only as regards Dublin-Monaghan, but the many other incidents that we have mentioned here time and again?

On the Séamus Ludlow inquiry, I have at all times kept the British Government totally informed over the years, under the process set up for the review by the late Mr. Justice Hamilton and later by Mr. Justice Barron report, the various Oireachtas reports on it and now the MacEntee investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, which is ongoing. In the case of Mr. Justice Barron's review there were individual meetings with representatives of the British system in uncovering, seeking and examining documents, as I reported to the House, some weeks ago. Mr. PatrickMacEntee, SC, under his commission of investigation, is pursuing relevant matters arising from such documentation with British representatives as well. Everything possible has been done to try to pursue these matters.

As regards the Deputy's question about the recent media reports of possible collusion in certain cases, including the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, as I have said many times, these are serious matters. They have been considered by the late Mr. Justice Hamilton and by Mr. Justice Barron, and now by Mr. MacEntee. The reports into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974, the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973, the report into the murder of Séamus Ludlow and the work being done by the commission of investigation into certain aspects of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings all raise questions on the issue of collusion. This issue has repeatedly come up and has been discussed since 1974, as this Deputy and every other Member of the House knows.

As regards these and other important issues, the co-operation of the British authorities is essential. We have used all appropriate means in our efforts to ensure that co-operation, as I have reported to the House on numerous occasions. I have raised the matter with Prime Minister Blair in practically every meeting that I have had with him. I have asked officials to ensure that matters raised in the recent article are also considered. I have read the various issues in the newspapers mentioned by the Deputy and my officials will raise these matters again with the British. Most of the points covered in this article refer to collusion between the UDR and loyalist paramilitaries at the time. As the Deputy knows, these matters have been raised many times before, but we will raise them again.

I offer sympathy to the family of Michael McIlveen. When we hear about such a brutal attack and the killing of such a young person, there is a chilling sense of déjà vu, as we talk about the Ludlow murder in the House. Is the Taoiseach aware of the unhappiness of the Ludlow family about the Garda investigation? Members of the family do not believe that 30 years later it is possible to get a successful murder conviction. However, they are calling for a public inquiry. They want to know why the Garda did not travel to the North to interview suspects in 1979 and why the RUC took 15 months to pass on information to the Garda. Is the Taoiseach open to their views on that matter? Is he aware that it seems that while the Government does not have a problem in calling for a public inquiry outside the State, it seems to be reluctant to call for one inside the State in this type of situation?

From that point of view, will the Taoiseach meet with the Ludlow family to address those concerns and to ensure the circumstances of that dreadful killing are fully investigated so the reasons why evidence was not passed on and the questions that hang over the security forces on both sides of the Border can be clarified and people held to account?

There is time to take a question from Deputies Rabbitte and Kenny and then we will have a final reply from the Taoiseach.

With all due respect to the Ceann Comhairle, I know he is trying to accommodate me but I would prefer if answers to individual questions were given to the Deputy at the time they are asked. It is difficult enough to cope with the wiles and experience of the Taoiseach——

Then I will call the Taoiseach to reply to Deputy Sargent's question.

——without the Ceann Comhairle lumping everything in together.

It is to give Deputies Rabbitte and Kenny a chance because we will conclude at 3.15 p.m.

I know the Ceann Comhairle's motivation is the best but if time permits I would prefer to be allowed ask the question myself.

I have met different members of the Ludlow family a number of times and I know what was stated in the hearings before the committee. During their appearances before the committee the Garda Commissioner, Noel Conroy, his predecessor, Pat Byrne, and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform have all apologised for the failings of the State. I am aware the Oireachtas committee's report asserts that the treatment which the family of Séamus Ludlow received from the Garda was unsatisfactory. That is now part of the report.

I am also aware that a number of recommendations were made in the conclusions of the report, all of which will be examined, including that a commission of investigation be established to investigate certain aspects of the case. The Government will examine the final report and its recommendations.

I am also advised that the Garda acted immediately to instigate a re-examination of the case, which was recommended by the committee. I will not go through all the individual aspects of the report or it will take up all of the time available. They will be followed up and we will come to a final conclusion on this in due course.

I am not ruling out that we will examine the issue of investigations but I am careful not to have a full inquiry on every case relating to Northern Ireland. If we were to do that, I am not sure what purpose it would serve or what closure we would ever bring. Progress has been made on a number of good initiatives. The historic review group that has worked within the Garda, and the police ombudsman, in cases where there was collusion, have examined all of these cases to try to bring some assistance to the families and closure in as many cases as possible.

At Weston Park we agreed we would seek inquiries on certain issues. It was decided to give all the cases to Justice Cory to examine and that we would honour whatever decision he made on them. He has insisted that some cases, such as the Pat Finucane case, should be investigated. He also suggested that we should deal with the murder of the RUC officers. We undertook our responsibilities and we are following up on them.

The easiest thing for me to say with every single case is that we would have a full public inquiry. In truth, we know that in regard to the circumstances of what happened then it was a different world and a different place. While it is easy to be critical of what happened, people were obviously under pressure, and there were many events and issues.

I have stated this to the families on many occasions. It is not an easy thing to explain to families on behalf of the State. I am doing it 30 years later but I accept my responsibility. The fact is that I have met the families affected by the Dublin and Monaghan bombings on numerous occasions to explain the position. I have put this on the record of the House and the committee. I have explained to them that the official Garda report closed in early August of that year on the biggest atrocity apart from the Omagh bombing. It is not an easy one to explain but I stand over it and explain that is how it was. Going back to full inquiries into issues outside our jurisdiction will not resolve them. We have to be honest, and I have always tried to be fair and honest on these issues.