Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 20 Apr 1932

Vol. 41 No. 3

In Committee on Finance. - Vote 34—Prisons.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £54,165 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1933, chun Costaisí Príosún, na Fundúireachta Borstal, agus coinneáil-suas na nGealt gCuirpthe a coinnítear in Ospidéil Mheabhar-Ghalar Cheanntair (17 agus 18 Vict., c. 76; 34 agus 35 Vict., c. 112, a. 6; 40 agus 41 Vict., c. 49; 47 agus 48 Vict., c. 36; 61 agus 62 Vict., c. 60; 1 Edw. VII, c. 17, a. 3; 8 Edw. VII, c. 59; agus 4 agus 5 Geo. V, c. 58).

That a sum not exceeding £54,165 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1933, for the expenses of Prisons, the Borstal Institution, and the maintenance of Criminal Lunatics confined in District Mental Hospitals (17 and 18 Vict., c. 76; 34 and 35 Vict., c. 112, s. 6; 40 and 41 Vict., c. 49; 47 and 48 Vict., c. 36; 61 and 62 Vict., c. 60; 1 Edw. VII, c. 17, s. 3; 8 Edw. VII, c. 59; and 4 and 5 Geo. V, c. 58).

As regards this Estimate, I think it is only necessary for me to say that there is a net decrease of £8,092 for the current financial year as compared with the previous year. As in the case of the other Estimates, I have a number of particulars available for the information of the House, but although there is this decrease of £8,000 odd for the current financial year there is really nothing to be said that is not of a routine nature in regard to the Estimate.

Mr. P. Hogan (Galway):

I think I am in order in raising on this Vote a certain matter which is possibly within the knowledge of Deputies. The Minister will remember, I think, that a prisoner named Cornelius Healy was released from Maryboro', where he was doing a long term for shooting with intent. He was released, immediately after the Government had been nominated in this House, as a political prisoner—as a Republican prisoner. Well, some time recently in West Cork —I should have said in Cork—a certain man was very grievously assaulted. He spent three months in the infirmary. The State prosecuted a man called Spillane. Spillane got four months. He appealed against that sentence. The sentence was confirmed, with this modification, that to the four months was added "hard labour." He served the four months with hard labour. Afterwards, the man who was injured took a civil action for damages for £100. When the action came up for hearing Mr. Healy was in court. I am stating what I have ascertained are the facts. Healy was in court, sitting next to the defendant, while the action was at hearing. In the course of the hearing some interruptions occurred in court for which Healy was, rightly or wrongly, blamed. Anyway, on being removed from court he stood up and, turning to the jury, said, "I am a pal of Spillane's." The proceedings terminated, and the judge, when charging the jury, suggested that the full damages should be given, but instead there were damages given for £24. It was proved in court that the costs of the infirmary were about £20, and that the doctor's fees were something like £30. Yet the verdict, in spite of the judge's charge, was for £24. The Minister for Justice is a member of the Senior Bar and knows perfectly well the implications of a statement of that sort. I am aware that a letter appeared in the papers from Healy stating that he did not make the original interruption, but there is no contradiction and there cannot be any contradiction of this: that when he was being removed from court, rightly or wrongly, he turned to the jury and told them—this gentleman who was recently released from Maryboro' as a political prisoner—"I am a pal of Spillane's." I do not think I need make any comment on that because, as I say, the Minister for Justice is a member of the Senior Bar and is at least as well able as I am—he has had much more experience of legal procedure—to sum up the effect of a statement of that sort in the circumstances. I merely recite those facts as showing the sort of prisoners that were released by the Minister as political prisoners.

With regard to the matter that has been raised by Deputy Hogan, and the incident referred to, I think he is wrong in saying that the gentleman referred to ever belonged to West Cork.

Mr. Hogan

When I said West Cork I corrected that by withdrawing the word "west."

It was in the city of Cork it occurred. Apart from that, the particulars are as the Deputy has stated them, except that he forgot to tell the House that this gentleman threatens to come back to the court again at a future period. He is going to assert his rights to appear there. I am sure that if he does appear we can safely leave the matter in the hands of Judge Kenny.

The relevancy of Deputy Hogan's speech to the present Vote may, I think, be described as rather tenuous.

Mr. Hogan

Is not the relevancy of this entirely a matter for the Ceann Comhairle?

I thought not. I thought that the standard of conduct and of speech was set from the opposite benches. I will always expect correction from the benches opposite. At least I will try, I hope, to model myself on the gentlemen who sit on the front bench opposite. If I do that I am sure I will never merit a rebuke from the Chair. As I have already suggested, the relevancy of the observations that we have had from Deputy Hogan on this Estimate for prisons is rather tenuous.

Mr. Hogan

On a point of order. Am I entitled to raise this matter on the Prisons Vote?

Strictly speaking, the Deputy was out of order in raising this on the Prisons Vote. The Deputy should have raised it on the Vote for the Office of the Minister. The question of prisoners does not come directly into this Vote.

Mr. Hogan

What is the Ceann Comhairle's ruling?

That I allowed the Deputy to raise the matter, and that the Minister may reply to the point raised, but the matter should end there.

With your permission, and with the gracious permission of Deputy Hogan, I will be eventually allowed to deal with the matter also. I have said that the relevancy was rather tenuous, because I desired to provide some sort of extenuating circumstances for the very flimsy nature of my contribution in reference to it. My knowledge is very slight. It has been derived entirely during the last few minutes. I did not even read of this occurrence in the newspapers, but, as I understand it, and I think Deputy O'Neill's speech confirms what I said, Healy made, or was alleged to have made, some disturbance in court. He was at once brought before the presiding judge to be dealt with for contempt of court. I understand that the Circuit Judge judicially considered this whole matter and came to certain conclusions. I understand that his final decision was to acquit or release—use whatever words you like—Healy. If that is so, I am rather in doubt as to how far it is proper for me to say anything at all in the matter. The matter has apparently been dealt with by a judge of competent jurisdiction, and in so far as I may deal with it, I hope Deputy Hogan, with his very large experience, will not suggest that every wrong verdict, whether given by a jury, or by a judge, is to be a matter for which I must stand up and answer. The administration to which Deputy Hogan belonged, of which he was a Minister, is responsible for the statute which enabled this jury in East Cork or West Cork or wherever it was, to try this case and bring in this verdict. The Deputy, with his colleagues, is responsible for the statute which gives the right of appeal.

Mr. Hogan

Which gives trial by jury—I thought it was before our time.

The action was tried by a jury, pursuant to the Courts of Justice Act, 1924. The statute set up a method of trying the action. The jury may have gone wrong or they may have gone right—I do not know. The percentage of verdicts of juries open to criticism may, perhaps, be comparatively large—I do not know, but it seems to me that we cannot advance matters much further by discussing here in the House, the rights or wrongs of a verdict of at least nine members of a jury of twelve.

Mr. Hogan

The Minister is dodging the point. I have to use the word "dodge." He has dodged the point. Whether the jury did justice or not is a minor point. I am raising this question and I am putting it to the Minister that whatever may have been the effect of this entirely illegal and intimidatory action of this man, this was the sort of man who was released as a Republican prisoner. The judge has no responsibility for that, or the jury, but the Minister has, and I wish to draw the attention of the Dáil to the subsequent action of this person who was released as a Republican prisoner.

The Deputy is not, I hope, under the impression that Cornelius Healy was suffering a sentence of penal servitude for life, at the time he was released.

Mr. Hogan

I never said so.

It is only a question of time. I merely accelerated the release of this prisoner. Unless you kept him in jail for life, what guarantee is there that he will not be guilty of some unseemly act, if you let him out? Any prisoner, on the expiration of his sentence, or on remission of his sentence, may do something reprehensible like that, but if he does, there is available for him the same court that is available for the Civic Guards. If he trespasses criminally, let him be dealt with as a criminal. If he trespasses civilly, let him be sued. That is the way to deal with Con Healy or anybody else who outsteps the law in any way. I fail to see, as I said before, how we can get it any further in this House, and if the making of that statement is dodging, I am afraid I have a double dose of original sin.

Was Healy released on licence or did he receive an unconditional pardon?

Mr. Hogan

Before the Minister answers that—was he released before his time had expired?

I will answer Deputy Hogan's query first—he was released before the expiration of his sentence. In reply to Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney's inquiry, he was not released on licence; he was released unconditionally. Whether the form of his release took the technical form, which the Deputy will appreciate, of a pardon, I am not, at the moment, in a position to say. If the Deputy is interested as to the exact form, and will make an inquiry, I will answer it.

Am I to understand that there is no revocable licence? In other words, the Minister has put it out of his power to have this man reincarcerated, no matter how badly he behaves.

I have put it out of my power to relegate Cornelius Healy back to prison to suffer the unexpired term of the sentence that he was suffering. I have not put it out of my power to keep Cornelius Healy, or anybody else, in prison, who is put in prison for any offence that he commits. If Cornelius Healy is sent back to prison by a judge, he may find it very difficult to induce me to let him out again.

Not if it is a political offence.

Mr. Hogan

Might I ask the Minister if Cornelius Healy attempts to intimidate a jury, that there is no alternative except to take him before another jury. Is that right?

I feel that I should not be called on to give these impromptu opinions, but, speaking impromptu, and in the presence of several members of the legal profession, I think there is abundant jurisdiction to deal with a man who has been guilty of what is alleged against Healy. I do not know whether he was guilty of it or not, but if he was, there is abundant jurisdiction to deal with him summarily by a judge, without the intervention of a jury.

Does the Minister say that the conditions of release of the man are such, that in the event of his conviction before any other court of competent jurisdiction, the ordinary provisions of law have been abrogated, so that he will not now have to serve any remnant of the sentence he has failed to serve?

Let me repeat my answer to the very specific and exhaustive inquiry put by Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, that Healy has not been released on licence. I am sure that Deputy Finlay appreciates the implications of a release on licence. He has been released unconditionally, and I am quite sure that Deputy Finlay quite appreciates the results and implications of an unconditional release, as contrasted with a release on licence, in regard to which Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney made his inquiry.

Vote put and agreed to.
The Dáil went out of Committee.
Progress reported, the Committee to sit again on Thursday, April 21st.