Deputy Abbott was in possession. The Deputy has some 11 minutes left.
Extradition (Amendment) Bill, 1987: Second Stage (Resumed).
I was saying before the adjournment last Friday that Deputies across the House should be careful and wary in relation to the extent they oppose the safeguards which are built into the Bill before the House on extradition. I do not think that I was too unfair to Deputies opposite when I suggested that perhaps the only interest which they might be pursuing in relation to casting aspersions on these protections and safeguards would be an interest which was basically contrary to the interests of Irish citizens or, indeed, foreigners who might be resident in this country and who might be affected by the legislation.
The occasion should not pass without my saying that in the debate on this measure a certain amount of double think is arising, both inside and outside of this House. It is with some pride and sense of achievement that I can stand here as a Deputy supporting the Government on this measure to say that the Government are proposing measures which all of the citizens of this country would be able to avail of and which would ensure that they would have basic safeguards against the arbitrary use of a very severe instrument in the form of extradition. As I have said earlier, extradition constitutes a very fundamental change in the basic rights of a citizen and we must think very carefully before using it. The proposals in this Bill would ensure that these rights would not be interfered with without the adequate and thorough scrutiny of a law officer of the highest standing.
When Deputies supporting the Government on this measure are queried in relation to the views they may have and in respect of any debates in which they may have taken part so as to ensure that the safeguards would be built into the legislation, there are cries of ambivalence, of people being sneaking regarders, of people not being committed to the fight against terrorism and of people not having a true commitment to security. Yet, when we read in the British press about the debate on a similar measure in Britain we find that the House of Lords are putting forward the same views and pushing for the same protections which our Government and those Deputies supporting them are pushing for in this Bill.
An entirely different attitude is taken when describing the approach of the House of Lords. The newspapers also take an entirely different attitude in that the House of Lords are lauded for their concern for human rights and for their concern for their citizens.
Everything is placed in an entirely different perspective. I would like to think that this measure would be considered by this House independent of any partisan approach because the difference in the treatment of the debate in this House and the debate in the House of Lords is very stark indeed and there are lessons to be learned from it.
Finally, let me say that in regard to any misgivings which any Member of this House may have in relation to this proposed legislation, these misgivings will be catered for. They appear to be catered for by the willingness of the Taoiseach and the Government to have the matter reviewed at an early date and to keep an eye on how the measure will operate. It is envisaged also that the Attorney General will formally report back to this House. It is not possible for Members of this House to see each possible contingency which may arise in the future but if this House were to approach the proposals contained in the Bill in a spirit of generosity and allow for the fact that the thrust and intention of the Bill is to provide basic protections and safeguards for our citizens, the Bill will be put through. The beneficiaries will be the citizens of this country and legislation in relation to extradition will be enhanced rather than destroyed or made inferior in any way.
On those grounds I commend the Bill to the House and I congratulate the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice for their dedication to drafting a Bill which reflects the feelings and the philosophy of the country and the basic concerns of Deputies and citizens in regard to protections for our citizens.
I welcome the fact that the Taoiseach in his speech on Friday at the commencement of Second Stage recognised finally the need for a common European approach in combating terrorism and subversion. The European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism transcends Anglo-Irish relations and provides a comprehensive and coherent approach by European democratic nations to protect and defend democracy against those who through murder, mayhem and violence seek to impose their own political will on others. The European dimension to this issue was lost sight of by Fianna Fáil in the debate on extradition which took place in this House last year. In losing sight of that dimension the Fianna Fáil Party on Second Stage failed to vote in favour of the 1987 Extradition Act relating to the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, the Act which the Taoiseach now recognises as being a necessity to combat terrorism as we find it in the latter half of the twentieth century.
It is unfortunate that it took the disastrous events of recent weeks — the tragedy and horror of Enniskillen, the finding of arms on the Eksund and the atrocious kidnapping of Dr. O'Grady and the barbaric acts of his kidnappers — to bring the Fianna Fáil Party to a state of recognition of the need to confront and face up to the very difficult problems we face on this island in the context of terrorism and of the behaviour of the IRA, the INLA and other subversive and illegal organisations and to recognise the need for a common European front or common approach to this problem. Indeed, it is only appropriate at this stage in this debate to recognise that since this debate commenced last Friday there have been two important events.
At midnight last night the State formally brought into force the Extradition Act of 1987 which makes part of our domestic law our commitment to the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. That Act which Fianna Fáil in Opposition sought to oppose, which they had little enthusiasm for and which they regarded as being unworthy of passage through this House, has now been recognised by them in Government and by the Taoiseach as an essential statutory measure to assist this State in combating terrorism and as something we are obliged to implement in the broader European context of our mutual obligations and commitments to maintain democracy not just on this island but in Europe. The Taoiseach now recognises the implementation of this Act as being a tangible indicator to the other members of the European Community and democratic States outside the EC of this State's commitment to this area. Therefore, I welcome the fact that at midnight last night this Act became law and gave a domestic expression to our international treaty obligations in respect of the European Convention to which we became a party in March 1987.
In detailing the need for legislation of this nature with regard to terrorism the Taoiseach referred to the recent events I have just described and said that his approach was not simply a reaction to three events. He pointed out that the problems we have on this island have been with us for many years and that these were just a series of horrific events in what has been a history of subversion and terrorism on the part of groups who have sought freely to murder people of different traditions.
On Friday last the security forces finally succeeded in arresting the person who is the alleged leader of the people responsible for kidnapping Dr. O'Grady. As this is the first occasion since that event that I have spoken as Fine Gael spokesman on law reform, it is appropriate to say that we congratulate the security forces, the Garda and the Army, on their bravery last Friday and on the success of the actions they took. In doing so, let me say that the success of those actions and of the road blocks placed on that occasion leaves many questions which the Government will have to answer as to why similar back-up was not provided on previous occasions when individuals involved in the kidnapping were traced and tracked down and managed to get through road blocks that were undermanned through lack of resources provided for the Garda and Army. That is not to be debated on this Bill, but the Garda and the Army should be congratulated on their bravery and the effectiveness of the actions which they took on Friday last which are applauded by everyone in this State.
It is noteworthy that the 1987 Extradition Act relating to the suppression of terrorism has now become law. This Extradition (Amendment) Bill before us has only a very limited relationship to the Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism which is now part of our law. I intend to point out that limited relationship and the inherent problems the Bill can create in the entire extradition process not just with regard to those who are alleged to have committed terrorist offences but with regard to the entirety of the extradition process as it applies between Britain and Ireland. The Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism has a European dimension, but the emphasis in the debate in this House this time last year was on the Anglo-Irish dimension, and the Anglo-Irish dimension of the extradition process is specifically affected by the Bill which is before this House today. It is curious that a Bill of this nature should be introduced by this Government given the historic contribution made by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Lenihan, to the enactment of our current extradition legislation.
It has long been recognised that our relationship with Britain demands that in the area of extradition there should be special relationships between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The reason for those special relationships was well articulated by the then Minister for Justice in 1963 when he introduced the Extradition Bill, 1963, and were repeated by Deputy Lenihan in 1965 when he was Minister for Justice. The need to provide special arrangements of a less complex nature between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was described in the following terms by the current Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey, when Minister for Justice in 1963. Having referred to the provisions in the extradition legislation which related to our relationships by way of extradition with other states, he returned in the debate, as reported in the Official Report, 29 January 1964, columns 137-8, volume 207, to the special arrangements that the Extradition Bill of 1963 laid down for the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. He said:
In the case of Britain and Northern Ireland, we have to keep in mind that we have complete freedom of movement and travel inside these islands and we should therefore in framing our arrangements keep that freedom of travel in mind. If justice is to be effectively administered inside these islands and at the same time we are to preserve this freedom of movement, then we must have some system in operation between us which is more immediate and effective than the rather cumbersome semi-diplomatic process of extradition itself.
It is for that reason we are establishing this arrangement with Britain and Northern Ireland — it can be regarded as a concomitant of freedom of travel in the three areas. It is a satisfactory arrangement, particularly since we have spelled out in the Bill all the offences which are excluded and the safeguards which are built in to protect the rights of individuals who may be concerned.
The Taoiseach as Minister for Justice in 1963 when he introduced what became the Extradition Act, 1965, recognised that due to the freedom of movement between this country and the UK and Northern Ireland because of the fact that passports did not have to be produced when borders were crossed, there was a need for an efficient, expeditious system of extradition which facilitated law enforcement in the Republic and in Great Britain.
This Bill before the House is introducing additional bureaucratic layers to the extradition procedure. If the Bill is serious in its intent — it is possible it may not be — it is introducing and constructing barriers to extradition which Deputy Haughey when Minister for Justice refused to provide, and Deputy Lenihan when Minister for Justice refused to provide them also. Both of them in their contributions to the debate on that Extradition Bill regarded such barriers as undesirable in the context of the fight against crime in the totality of these islands. In this Bill a new procedure is introduced which may or may not be seriously intended.
The procedure to date has been referred to by the Taoiseach as one whereby the Attorney General will check all warrants received by way of extradition to establish whether there is a clear intent to prosecute on foot of those warrants and whether the intention to prosecute is founded on the existence of sufficient evidence. It appears that members of the Fianna Fáil Party think that under this Bill the Attorney General will examine every warrant. Perhaps he will, but equally it is worth stating that he does not have to examine any warrants at all. Maybe this Bill is merely a political facade, a sort of three card trick in the political domain whereby you pretend that the Attorney General is going to exercise powers which in reality the Government intend will not be exercised.
That is an unworthy comment.
As the Bill is currently framed, if the Attorney General shows no interest in any warrant, if a warrant is referred to the District Court following the Garda Commissioner endorsing it, if there is no communication from the Attorney General at all, the Bill provides that it will be accepted and assumed by the District Court that no direction has been given at all by the Attorney General, the direction, of course, being not to extradite. The Attorney General has a negative role. He can veto an extradition if he examines the warrant and issues a direction, but he has a discretion. He does not have to examine every warrant.
As this Bill is currently framed he may take it into his head to examine one or two warrants. He may as a matter of practice examine all warrants. He may, though, examine no warrants at all and, as the Bill is framed, if he examines no warrants at all a district justice must accept that there is no direction to be issued by the Attorney General to prevent extradition and it appears that the Attorney General's entire role as the Bill is framed becomes irrelevant.
There is the possibility that this Bill has no serious intent at all. On the other hand it may have a serious intent. It may be the intention that the Attorney General will interfere with the extradition process. It may be the intention that the Attorney General will examine every single extradition warrant that comes to this country from Great Britain or Northern Ireland but the Bill does not explain when he will do so. The Garda Commissioner currently would get a warrant from the British authorities and if the warrant is in order it is endorsed by the Garda Commissioner. It is then relied on by the Garda for the purpose of arresting someone alleged to have committed an offence in Great Britain.
I should like the Government to clarify when the Attorney General will be exercising these powers? In what circumstances will they be exercised? Will there be an internal Government memo specifying the types of offences that the Attorney General should watch out for in the context of warrants? Will there be an internal Government memo which says if it is an ordinary crime — if somebody is being sought for a burglary or an embezzlement or a simple unpolitical murder — the Attorney General need not bother himself about it at all? If it is something involving "the lads"— the IRA, the INLA — will the Government memo say that the Attorney General should examine it? The Bill gives no guidelines as to what intervention, if any, the Attorney General will take or as to when he will take it.
When the Garda Commissioner receives a warrant should he, before he endorses it to enable the arrest of a person sought in the warrant, phone up the Attorney General's office and find out in the context of each warrant if the Attorney General has an interest in the particular alleged offender referred to in the warrant? I do not now the answers to these questions. If this Bill is seriously intended to provide so-called protections it fails to spell out the procedure to be applied by the Attorney General in deciding whether he should intervene to examine warrants. It fails to spell out what the duties of the Garda Commissioner are. The Garda Commissioner can telephone the Minister for Justice, the Taoiseach or the Attorney General to find out if he can enforce a particular warrant.
This Bill not only fails to provide protection but fails to spell out how it will be operated in practice. No contribution made yet in this House by any member of the Government party has indicated how it will operate in practice. If the intention is that the Attorney General should vet every extradition warrant let us hear someone from the Government side say that. I want someone to explain how the Garda Commissioner will operate under the Extradition Act of 1965 when he receives a warrant. Will he send it by courier to the Attorney General's office? Will he speak personally with the Attorney General? How long will he have to wait to see if the Attorney General will issue a direction? Can the Attorney General sit on a warrant for a week, a month, six months, a year or three years? There is no obligation in the Bill prescribing how long the Attorney General needs to consider the position before he decides whether to issue a direction.
If the Garda know the whereabouts of someone charged with a horrific murder in Northern Ireland or Great Britain and know that if they move swiftly they can arrest that person on foot of a warrant obtained, must they sit back and wait to see whether the Attorney General issues a direction? How long must they wait? Will they wait until the person alleged to have committed the offence has gone underground and disappeared or will they be put into the appalling position which we saw on television screens last week when Mr. Kane was followed by groups of gardaí waiting for warrants to come into their hands?
There is no clarification in this Bill as to how this new procedure will operate, what effect it will have on Garda powers how it will affect the efficiency of the extradition system, how the Attorney General will exercise his functions or when he will do so. If this measure is seriously intended, if it is not merely intended to be a statutory measure that will never be acted upon, it could hold up endlessly the extradition process. It could throw the whole efficiency of the extradition process into complete disarray. The Government should come clean and tell us what instructions will be given to the Garda Commissioner and the Attorney General with regard to the operations of this measure if it is enacted into law.
Let us assume that the Attorney General will operate the powers the Bill gives him. There are other problems. What does the Bill mean when it refers to the Attorney General having to be assured that an intention to prosecute is founded on the existence of sufficient evidence? What will be regarded as sufficient evidence?Will this constitute a pre-trial finding by the Attorney General that someone whose extradition is sought is to be presumed guilty of the crime alleged instead of presumed innocent until proven guilty? Could it be that this provision, instead of providing a protection for an accused person, would cause pre-trial prejudice?
If someone who is extradited is found innocent of an offence in circumstances where the Attorney General thought there was sufficient evidence to convict him, what will be the position of the Attorney General? Will he have to resign because he mistakenly extradited someone whom the courts subsequently found to be innocent of the offence alleged because the courts in England or Northern Ireland found there was an insufficiency of evidence? To protect his own position will the Attorney General, before agreeing to the extradition of anyone, have to ensure that guilt can be proved against that person beyond reasonable doubt?
I do not know what is meant by sufficiency of evidence and the Government have not spelt out yet what is meant by that phrase. How is the Attorney General to determine whether there is a sufficiency of evidence? Will he have to seek witness statements from those who will be called at a trial of an alleged offender and will he have to examine them? What will happen if the accused provides him with statements from his witnesses to establish that there is not a sufficiency of evidence? Will he have to engage in a judicial determination, hearing both sides? If he makes a decision without hearing what the person whose extradition is sought has to say, will it be that the exercise of his functions will be unconstitutional, not because he is exercising a judicial function, but because he is failing to give someone at risk of extradition a right to be heard in the determination of his fate regarding sufficiency of evidence? This whole concept brings total confusion into the extradition process.
I want the Government to spell out in what circumstances it is expected that the Attorney General will be regarded as having a sufficiency of evidence. If he receives an affidavit from the British authorities confirming that there is sufficient evidence to establish a case against someone will he accept the affidavit, as such affidavit would be accepted in the context of the extradition arrangements between this State and the United States of America? Is this whole requirement as provided in the Bill no more than a badly drafted inept piece of legislation throwing our extradition laws into confusion? Is it something more dangerous? Is it something more insidious? Is this requirement a subtle way of ensuring that, in respect of those who are no longer exempt from extradition — due to the political offence protection being removed by the Supreme Court and the situation — now being copperfastened by the coming into force of the Extradition Act, 1987, this political exemption will be revived by the Attorney General under the legal camouflage of insufficiency of evidence? If this provision is not to be used as a legalistic back door to surreptitiously reintroduce the political offence exemption, why is the Taoiseach so definite that it must be the Attorney General who performs this function?
The Taoiseach has said that it is a matter of principle to him and it is a matter worth calling an election about for the Attorney General to exercise this function. Yet we were told at the commencement of the Taoiseach's speech with regard to this measure that there were two essential tags to this Bill. He said that the purpose of the Bill was to provide safeguards; to ensure that someone whose extradition was sought would be prosecuted in a neighbouring jurisdiction, not merely held for questioning; and to ensure that there was a sufficiency of evidence against him. The matter of principle should be the principle that there should be safeguards provided for Irish citizens if that is the concern of the Government. That is where the principle lies. Why is it a matter of principle that it is the Attorney General who determines that issue? I do not understand how that is a matter of principle. Why is it not the Director of Public Prosecutions or the District Court? In the context of current extradition law, it is the District Court to which every person whose extradition is sought must go before they can be extradited following a warrant being received and an alleged offender being arrested by the Garda. Why is it not the DPP or the District Court who have this function? Is it because the DPP, as an individual, and the courts, in their constitutional function, are independent of the Government?
The Attorney General has a constitutional function.
Is it because the Attorney General has a constitutional role that he is appointed by the Taoiseach of the day. The Attorney General is, in effect, the Government's legal adviser. He is the creature of the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach can control what the Attorney General does. The Attorney General is a political appointee who has certain independent constitutional functions——
So are judges.
——but it is the Taoiseach who has the right to hire and fire the Attorney General of the day. The Taoiseach cannot fire the Director of Public Prosecutions and he cannot fire district justices. Why is it that apparently there is this desire, as a matter of principle, to ensure that this ill-defined and unexplained power that is being conferred is a power exercised by the Attorney General rather than a power exercised by the Director of Public Prosecutions or a power exercised by the District Court? It is very curious because in the context of a related provision in the Extradition Act the Taoiseach, when he was Minister for Justice, made a very interesting comment. What has been lost sight of in the debate to date is that the Minister for Justice, under Part III of the Extradition Act, 1965 — that Part of the Act which relates to extradition between Great Britain, Northern Ireland and this State — also exercises powers which are conferred on him by the Act but which so far as I now have never been exercised in practical terms. Under the 1965 Extradition Act, the Minister for Justice can issue a direction to prohibit the extradition from this State of any person who he believes is being extradited for a political offence. The Minister for Justice has an overriding power to do that under the 1965 Act and he can do it without reference to the courts. Curiously it appears that even if the Supreme Court rules that someone can be extradited for an offence that the Supreme Court regards as not political the Minister, under the 1965 Act, can still stop that extradition because he regards an offence as political. That is a power conferred on the Minister for Justice by the 1965 Act, just as this Bill confers a power on the Attorney General.
In 1963 when the Extradition Bill was being debated, the then Minister for Justice, Deputy Haughey, now the Taoiseach, referred to this power conferred on the Minister for Justice during the course of the Second Stage debate. In the Offical Report of 29 January 1964 he said: "The Bill speaks exclusively of the Minister for Justice", just as this Bill speaks exclusively of the Attorney General.He went on to say:
...but in this regard the Minister for Justice would act only on the advice and instructions of the Government. When the Minister for Justice would decide that it either was or was not a political offence, that decision by the Minister for Justice would be taken on the facts of any particular case coming before him. In the case of any warrant coming for decision as to whether or not it should be endorsed for execution it would be taken on the facts of the case and in accordance with the procedures laid down in the Bill.
It seems to me to be equally clear in this Bill that the Attorney General would be acting on the advice of the Government. Is that why this is a matter of principle and that it is the Attorney General who exercises these powers as opposed to the Director of Public Prosecutions or the courts?
It is no secret that members of Fianna Fáil do not like the idea of extradition. It is a curiosity that out of the 57 members who reportedly contributed to the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party meeting, a large proportion of them seemed to be talking about preventing any extradition at all. They appeared to be blissfully unaware and ignorant of the fact that, in effect, extradition has operated between this State, Great Britain and Northern Ireland since the foundation of the State and formally under legislation established since 1965 by this House. Extradition to Britain or Northern Ireland of ordinary criminals is apparently of no concern to Fianna Fáil. The ordinary criminal is not someone who excites the passions of the Fianna Fáil Party in the context of extradition. It is the extradition of the super Republican heroes of the IRA, the Provos and the INLA that some members of the Fianna Fáil Party, and indeed Deputy Blaney and apparently others, do not like. It is the extradition of the green men of violence to Great Britain or Northern Ireland that excites the political erogenous zones of members of Fianna Fáil to a climactic degree. When this Bill is passed what will happen when those on the Fianna Fáil benches who find this area of extradition law unacceptable, who do not want to see the likes of members of the IRA extradited to Northern Ireland, raise that at a parliamentary party meeting and tell the Taoiseach he will lose their support unless the Attorney General is directed not to allow the extradition of particular individuals? I do not understand why the Taoiseach should leave himself a hostage to fortune in that way by conferring this power, if it is seriously meant, on the Attorney General.
We are told that this Bill is being adopted to ensure, in the context of people extradited, that there is a clear intention to prosecute and to ensure that there is a sufficency of evidence. The Taoiseach in his speech stated that since 1965, 733 people have been extradited from this State to Great Britain and 156 to Northern Ireland. I challenge the Minister for Justice or the Taoiseach to name those people extradited since 1965 who have not been prosecuted. If the suggestion is that people are being extradited for purposes other than prosecutions, can they name how many of those numbers of people who have been extradited to Great Britain and Northern Ireland have not been prosecuted for the offences for which they have been extradited?
The Taoiseach should also name those he believes have been extradited from this State where there has been an insufficiency of evidence for the purpose of processing a prosecution, because we are talking about bringing in safeguards which we are told are so urgent that this Bill has to be rushed through this House by Thursday evening. These safeguards, if they are real, are apparently to ensure that the British authorities do not extradite people in circumstances where they do not intend to prosecute or to provide protection for Irish people against extradition where there is an insufficiency of evidence. How many of the hundreds and hundreds of people who have been extradited pursuant to these arrangements since 1965, 900 approximately, have been extradited and not been prosecuted and which of these in recent years does the Taoiseach believe has been extradited due to an insufficiency of evidence?
In the context of extradition, we have seen a number of cases in the past four years in which the courts have dealt with the issue of political offences. The McGlinchey and Shannon cases have been referred to already in this debate. In both of those instances people were extradited from this State for allegedly committing horrific crimes of murder. Ultimately both people extradited were found not guilty by the Northern Ireland courts. Is the Taoiseach saying that neither of those extraditions should have taken place because there was not a sufficiency of evidence? Under this particular power how would the Attorney General have dealt with the extradition of Mr. McGlinchey and Mr. Shannon? Would he have refused to extradite them or would he have extradited them?
I ask the Government and in particular the Minister for Justice, if he intervenes in this debate before it closes, to state how he would specifically envisage the Attorney General exercising the powers conferred on him by this Bill in the McGlinchey case and the Shannon case, in which ultimately both people extradited were found not guilty. If the Attorney General had extradited Mr. McGlinchey or Mr. Shannon and they had been found not guilty, in the context of his exercising the powers which this Bill confers, would he have had to resign? What would have been his position as the independent law officer of the State?
This Bill introduces a dangerous and unnecessary procedure in the extradition process. It is taking extradition out of the judicial and into the political domain. It has been argued by some that it is conferring a judicial power on the Attorney General and that may be the case. The exercise of that power may ultimately be held to be unconstitutional and, indeed, that particular aspect of the Bill should be considered by the Supreme Court by way of a reference under Article 26 of the Constitution. Not only is it conferring on the Attorney General a judicial function, or an apparent judicial function, but it is bringing extradition into a political domain in a way I believe will ultimately damage Anglo-Irish relations and the Anglo-Irish Agreement.It is providing a smoking gun or a political Exocet that will either deliberately or unintentionally torpedo the Anglo-Irish Agreement, so successfully concluded at Hillsborough. It will result, if the Attorney General exercises his powers in ongoing rows between the two jurisdictions over sufficiency of evidence.
If the procedure is operated bona fide and someone accused of a terrorist offence is not extradited, a refusal to extradite would be regarded as this State harbouring terrorists. A refusal by the Attorney General, who is seen to be a political appointee, will be used to justify the allegation by enemies of the State that we on this side of this island are harbouring terrorists. It will provide the Unionists with a new stick to beat us and with the first coherent example of an unwillingness on this side of this island to co-operate in the extradition of those alleged to have committed horrific acts in Northern Ireland. I am not saying that such a power could not also be misused or that such allegations could not also be made falsely if the DPP or the District Courts exercised the powers the Bill confers, but such charges would have no credibility where an independent public prosecutor or constitutionally independent courts exercise them.
There are other curious elements in the Bill. It provides that the Attorney General will report to the Government on the exercise of his powers. Why should the Attorney General not report to the Dáil with provision in the Bill to enable a debate to take place on the contents of the report when the Attorney General's report is laid before the Dáil so that if the Attorney General ultimately operates these powers there is an accountability to the Dáil as to how these powers are operated. It is unacceptable that they should be secret powers exercised behind closed doors in relation to which the Attorney General makes an annual secret report to the Government. It is undesirable that the Attorney General should exercise these powers but if he exercises them it should be done only in the context of reporting to both Houses of the Oireachtas and not simply to the Government. As the Bill is framed at present, the Attorney General's report will be a secret report which, I assume, the Government will refuse to make publicly available or refer to the House on some spurious security grounds.
Another curious provision in the Bill is the lapse of time provision. There is a provision in the Bill which seeks to amend the Act that came into force at midnight whereby if, due to a lapse of time since an offence was committed as specified in the warrant the view is taken that it would be unjust, oppressive or invidious to deliver someone up pursuant to a warrant, they will not be delivered up. Curiously, in 1965 Deputy Lenihan the then Minister for Justice, refused to insert such a provision in the 1965 Extradition Act. What happens if in five years time those who are the perpetrators of the horrific bombing in Enniskillen are tracked down in this State and warrant is issued? Will this power be used whereby someone will say five years later that it would be unjust, oppressive or invidious to extradite them?
It is alleged that the Birmingham Six are not guilty of the offences for which they have been convicted. That matter is currently before the Court of Appeal in England and I am not going to comment on it beyond asking: what happens if after this Bill is passed other people emerge in this State who are the perpetrators of the horrors of the bombing in Birmingham for whom the British seek an extradition warrant? Will this provision be used to say that it was unjust, oppressive or invidious to extradite them at that stage? This provision, about which there has been little comment, introduces another unnecessary element into the legislation, something which was rejected years ago in the context of the Extradition Bill, 1965.
I want to conclude, a Cheann Comhairle, by listing what I see as all of the objections to this Bill. First, it may be unconstitutional. Second, it would provide, if operated in the way the Government intend, a new barrier to extradition. It will undermine the original purpose of the Extradition Act, 1965. It could undermine the credibility of our judicial process in that there is an implicit suggestion in the Bill that the judges cannot be trusted to exercise the powers conferred on the Attorney General.
Similarly, it undermines the position of the Director of Public Prosecutions because, apparently, he cannot be trusted to exercise these power either. It introduces unnecessary uncertainty and ambiguity into an area in which we should be seeking greater certainty and efficiency. It poses a threat to the constitutional role of the Attorney General in that he could be subject to political direction on a legal matter and find himself in an untenable position. It introduces a differentiation in the extradition process between this State and the United Kingdom with regard to terrorist activities which does not exist and will not exist under the Suppression of Terrorism Act in the context of the extradition of those to mainland Europe pursuant to the Act which came into force on midnight last night. It is a wholly undesirable, ill-conceived and badly drafted measure to release the Taoiseach from a political hook upon which he impaled himself 12 months ago. It is a measure which should be reconsidered, and not rushed through this House to be completed this week.
The events of recent weeks have created a deep anxiety in the public mind about the whole question of the security of the State, the safety of the lives of the people who live on this island and the general attitude to those who engage in acts of violence and subversion.
Any one of these events — the appalling bombing of the Remembrance Day ceremony at Enniskillen, the desperate acts of the kidnappers of Dr. O'Grady, the seizure of the Eksund and the information that a substantial quantity of deadly weaponry may already have reached our shores — would have raised the most serious questions in people's minds. When considered together, there is clearly a need for a response. We owe a debt of thanks to our security forces for their successes in this period. Tackling gunmen who are well-equipped and do not hesitate in the slightest to use their weapons is no easy task in any jurisdiction.The achievements of our security forces are all the more remarkable and courageous because the great majority of our gardaí remain unarmed.
These events have seized not only our consciousness, they have attracted attention throughout the world. It is vitally important that we should leave absolutely no room for doubt that we are determined in our opposition to terrorist violence and that we will take every lawful step within our power to end it.
Since independence, Ireland has been proud to participate in the community of nations. The impact of our contribution to the development of international relations is out of all proportion to our size and importance. In the particular area of European affairs, Ireland has been a founder member of the Council of Europe under whose auspices the Convention on Extradition of 1957 and the Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism of 1977 were drawn up and agreed for signature.
The Council of Europe is also the sponsor of the Convention on Human Rights which may be regarded as the strongest international instrument yet devised for the protection of human rights. What these separate Conventions show is that our security and our rights are closely bound together. In a democracy we must be as mindful of one as of the other.
The process of democracy will not stand of its own accord. By its nature it needs support and needs to be defended from attack. We support democracy when we vote. We also support democracy when we endorse the efforts of the lawfully elected Government of the day to deal resolutely with the threat which violence poses to us all, and in particular to democratic Government. I believe the Government deserve the support of the Dáil for our decision that the Extradition (Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism) Act, 1987 should commence today as envisaged in the Act itself, but that it should be amended to provide safeguards for our citizens in this new situation.
Extradition has long been a method which the European states have used to fight serious crime and we ourselves have been a party to the European Convention on Extradition for over 20 years. We implemented the Convention by means of the Extradition Act, 1965 which as Minister for Justice I introduced in this House. Section 11 of the Act states that extradition shall not be granted for an offence which is a political offence or an offence connected with a political offence. It has been for the courts to interpret that clause and it has always been within the right of the courts to place such restrictions as they thought fit on the meaning of political offence or an offence connected with a political offence, with one exception, which is the taking or attempted taking of the life of the Head of State or a member of his or her family. This offence was explicitly excluded from the meaning of political offence in the Extradition Act, 1965.
In recent years, the courts have taken the view that certain violent offences should not come within the exception of a political offence and have proceeded to order extradition in a number of cases. The views of other countries towards the political offence exception have been changing likewise. This change is reflected in the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism 1977, which has now been ratified by all states of the Council of Europe except Greece, Malta and Ireland.
The political exception provided for in the Extradition Act of 1965 reflected the norms of international law at that time. These norms are not static. They change and have been changing progressively in this particular matter of the political exception in regard to extradition. I would not, however, wish to give the impression that our reaction to recent events would have been different in 1965. Far from it. Twenty years ago we lived in simpler and much less violent times. If anything, our sense of shock would have been far greater. I think we can be certain that, in providing for an almost unlimited political exception in 1965, the Houses of the Oireachtas did not envisage that the violence we have witnessed subsequently on this island, and particularly in recent weeks, should come under the cloak of justifiable political action.
In the past two decades, violent political movements have emerged using methods in furtherance of their objectives which would have been just as appalling to the honourable men and women who fought for Irish freedom in the past as they are to us. There are people in our midst who have shown that no act is too brutal or consequence too awful if they think that it will serve to advance or make propaganda for their campaign. Neither age, nor sex, nor occupation is a concern to these people.
Our security forces are co-operating fully with the security forces in the North to try to ensure that those responsible for murder and other violent crimes in Northern Ireland are brought to justice. Equally, I know that the security forces north of the Border are assisting us in every way possible to ensure that those who commit similar actions here are brought to justice. The capture of the Eksund and its cargo shows the extent of the danger and the conspiracy we are all faced with.
The recent appalling events occurred as a decision faced us in regard to the commencement of the Extradition (Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism) Act 1987. I must tell the Dáil that the Government are satisfied that if the Houses of the Oireachtas had proceeded, following the extraordinary events or recent weeks, to prevent the ratification of a Convention which nearly all of our neighbours in Europe have ratified, our action would not be understood. It would not be understood by our European friends and partners whose co-operation in the capture of the Eksund we gratefully acknowledge. It would not be understood by other friendly governments. It would not be understood in Britain. It would not be understood by very many on both sides in Northern Ireland. Most important of all, it would not be understood by the people we represent in this House. I am satisfied that there would be outrage in both parts of this island if we did not proceed.
What is the background to the European Convention on Terrorism which the present Act has incorporated into our domestic law? The Convention represents an attempt by the member states of the Council of Europe to join together in combating the new forms of terrorist violence which have arisen throughout Europe. It is not intended just to deal with violence which is committed in opposition to a European Government in power: it is also intended to come to grips with acts whose roots lie outside Europe — in for example, the Middle East. That is why Article I of the Convention provides that certain offences shall not be regarded as a political offence or as an offence connected with a political offence or as an offence inspired by political motives, and shall, therefore be extraditable.These offences include specifically the hijacking of an aircraft, an attack on the life or the liberty of an internationally protected person, kidnapping or the taking of a hostage, the commission of an offence involving the use of a terrorist-type weapon such as a bomb, a letter or parcel bomb, a grenade, a rocket, or an automatic firearm, or the commission of any such offence or participation in it as an accomplice. Article 2 of the Convention enables state parties to consider other violent offences to be also outside the political exception in certain defined circumstances.
The members of the Council of Europe have agreed in principle therefore, that the Article I offences at least shall not be regarded as in any way justifiable and that other violent offences may also be considered unjustifiable. That is essentially what the Act which commenced today provides.
It was recognised when this Act was being considered in the Houses of the Oireachtas in December 1986 and January 1987 that its unusual commencement provision had to do with a recognition at that time that sufficient progress had not been made on the issue of public confidence in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland to warrant commencement of the Act immediately. It is clear from the text of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and from the text of the accompanying communiqué that it was recognised by both Governments in 1985 that there was a problem of public confidence in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland and in the related area of the operations of the security forces.
The Government recognise that progress has been made. We welcome, for example, the ending of the supergrass trials which were such a controversial feature of the administration of justice in Northern Ireland in recent years. That certainly represents progress over the situation which obtained prior to the agreement when cases involving many defendants, facing charges which were frequently unrelated in time or place, were still being considered over long periods of time by a single judge, largely on the basis of the uncorroborated evidence of a supergrass.
We particularly welcome the changes made to the public order legislation in the North this year and the efforts which we have seen in the recent marching season to police marches, parades and other events in a more effective and fair way. There is still some way to go to secure public safety during the period of the marches and to implement the principle that parades and marches should not be permitted where local residents do not accept them. It is fair to say, however, that progress has been made and we welcome and acknowledge it. I believe we can acknowledge the changes which have been made to emergency legislation. For example, to require "reasonable suspicion" as a basis for arrest, to transfer the onus from the defence to the prosecution in the important area of bail and to better guard against the admission of confession evidence obtained by the threat of violence. A code of conduct for the RUC has also been introduced. These matters all represent worthwhile progress and there are other matters, which I have not mentioned here, in which we also see merit.
A number of these changes seek to put right problems which should not have been allowed to arise in the first place. However, they represent an improvement from the point of the view of the population in the North — in particular the minority population — and they are obviously welcome and desirable. We will, of course, be actively and strongly pursuing all of these matters with the British Government with a view to obtaining further progress in the provisions and operation of emergency legislation, in the administration of justice, in relations between the security forces and the community, in the area of prisons and in other areas where the rights of persons need to be strengthened. That will be an ongoing process under the aegis of the Anglo-Irish Conference.
I wish to repeat the suggestion made by the Taoiseach that we in each jurisdiction, withour reflection on either system, might do well to initiate a formal study of the special arrangements for handling terrorist cases in both jurisdictions to serve as a basis for further discussion between both Governments. The courts in Northern Ireland and the special court system here were, of course, set up many years ago to deal with what was then thought to be a short-lived campaign of terrorist violence. That assessment has not proved to be correct. In the circumstances, I would see much merit in the proposed study to ensure that our courts are put on a footing in the medium and long term to deal as democratic courts with the terrorist menace.
I should also wish to emphasise that the Government share the widespread concern about certain cases in Britain dating from the seventies where there is reason to believe that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred. However, in the light of the current hearing before the Appeal Court in the case of the Birmingham Six I would prefer not to make any further comment on this aspect at this time.
There is a determination, I believe, in the minds and hearts of our people that those who commit the terrible deeds of which I spoke earlier should be brought to justice. But there is an understandable hesitation also about sending people out of the jurisdiction to be tried elsewhere. Those feelings exist in every country, and not least in Great Britain. They exist very strongly here. They exist even between countries which have no political problem in their relationship remotely comparable to the problem of Northern Ireland. In giving effect to the new Extradition Act, therefore, we are also acutely conscious of the need to ensure that proper safeguards exist for any of our citizens who may be subject to extradition.
In practice, citizens who have been extradited, have been extradited to Britain and Northern Ireland. This is so because there has been no bar on the return of citizens of one jurisdiction to the other, which is not the case in Europe generally. It is also important to note that we have had a backing of warrants arrangement with Britain which is different from our arrangement with other European states. That arrangement, whatever it once reflected, now reflects the unique relationship between Britain and Ireland; that is a fact of life. I do not think it would be advisable to establish a new and more elaborate extradition arrangement at this point in Anglo-Irish co-operation, not just because it would lessen our capacity to act against terrorism, but because it would seriously inhibit the further development of our relations. However, as I have said the restriction of the political exception, brought into effect by the commencement of the Act today, does in my view require safeguards in the administration of the arrangement.
First, let me say that the Act which commenced today does not replace the existing legislation in the Extradition Act, 1965. It amends that legislation for the purposes of limiting the scope of the political offence in accordance with Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention which comes into operation today. The role of out courts which is already stronger in the operation of our extradition system than is generally the case among our European neighbours will be in no way diminished. All the procedures which are required under the 1965 Act in cases of extradition are retained. Any person whose return is requested will still be able to appeal to the courts and to contest the extradition request. The Act itself, in addition, makes provision that there is no obligation to extradite if a person can show that he or she would be prosecuted or punished on account of race, religion, nationality or political opinion or that his or her position might be prejudiced for any of these reasons. There is already a reciprocal provision in the British legislation.
Extradition cases, therefore, will continue to be decided by the courts on their merits and there is a safeguard for occasions where there is a question mark about a fair trial. The only cases in which there will be an obligation not to regard an offence as a political offence are the cases specifically provided for in the Extradition Act, 1987, pursuant to Article 1 of the Convention.
I appreciate, of course, that there is concern about the adequacy of the evidence which may lie behind a warrant for the return of a fugitive. First, let me say that it is the general expectation in Europe that in cases where a warrant is presented for the return of a person who is found within one jurisdiction, the evidence available to the requesting authorities in the other is sufficient to mount a prosecution. That expectation lies behind the Convention on Extradition of 1957 which dispensed with the prima facie requirement. I should add, of course, that the fact that there is evidence which is sufficient to mount a prosecution, does not mean there is evidence which will secure a conviction. There is a vital difference here which needs to be made clear.
The Government recognise, however, the public concern in this area. For legal reasons it is not practical to respond to this concern by the introduction of a requirement to prove a prima facie case in our courts. At the same time, the present Bill will provide an alternative statutory safeguard which, in my view, will meet the problem in a satisfactory and positive way.
This important alternative safeguard will mean that the Attorney General, the legal adviser to the Government, will form an opinion himself, having considered such information that he deems appropriate, that there exists a clear intention to prosecute and that this intention is founded on the existence of sufficient evidence. As the Taoiseach has said, it is the Attorney General's intendion to operate this procedure as efficiently and with as little complication as possible, while providing the necessary safeguards for the person whose extradition is sought. I believe the Attorney General is the appropriate person to consider every case. By doing so he will also be in a position to monitor the new arrangements and will report to the Government annually.
Let me emphasise — and I do this in response to Deputy Shatter — that the role of the Attorney General will not be a substitute for the present role of the courts. It will be an additional safeguard in the matter of evidence.
Under Article 30 of the Constitution the Attorney General is the adviser to the Government in matters of law and legal opinion. The Supreme Court in the case of McLoughlin v. the Minister for Social Welfare, 1955 Irish Reports, p.17, Judge Kingsmill Moore J. has said:
It is quite clear that the Attorney General is in no way a servant of the Government but is put into an independent position... While he is in office he holds and, if he is to do his duty and discharge his responsibilities, he must hold an independent position. He is specifically excluded from being a member of the Government, which again underlines his independent position.
That judgment arose from the judge's very positive interpretation of the role of the Attorney General, who is specifically written into Article 30 of the Constitution as the single, most important law officer of the State. The Government have also introduced important safeguards in the Bill in relation to the possible addition of further charges after extradition and to the issue of retrospection. These, we believe, respond fully to the concerns of public opinion on these issues.
I want to emphasise also to the House that the Government will be keeping the present Act under constant review. If it appears to us that its arrangements need to be modified in any particular way, in order to respond to deficiencies which may emerge, We will not hesitate to take whatever action is required.
We have a political framework with Great Britain which provides us with the means of promoting our objectives by peaceful means. The Anglo-Irish process which the Taoiseach initiated with the British Prime Minister in December 1980 involves the advancement of our relations by constructive and peaceful means. I believe the new extradition arrangement will strengthen that framework and bring new vitality to the relationship established between the two Governments. Those of us with political responsibility, North and South, must not let this opportunity slip. It is time for an act of faith in the relationships on and between these islands.
To paraphrase what the Taoiseach said at Bodenstown, it is incomprehensible that, when leaders of a divided Germany can meet and talk together, the two communities on this island, who have shared and suffered so much in common together, should still remain at arms length one from the other. This should and must not be allowed to continue. For the sake of all the people on this island, therefore, let all of us who are in a position to influence events resolve to ensure that next year marks the beginning of a new period of reconciliation, of dialogue and of political development in Ireland as a whole, North and South. In the light of recent tragedies, this would surely be an objective which would be worthy of all those who have lost their lives in the futility of the last two decades of violence on this island.
In this spirit, I commend this Bill to the House.
I would like, from the start, to outline the Progressive Democrats' approach to the whole issue of extradition and, in particular, this new Bill which was so hurriedly prepared for the Dáil last week.
We are unambiguously in favour of extradition for serious criminal offences between democratic countries. We have no principled objection to allowing the Extradition Act, 1987, to come into effect from today. We are concerned, however, about legal safeguards for Irish citizens extradited to Britain and Northern Ireland. We want to see a workable and safe extradition process being agreed by the Dáil arising from this debate. We believe that the Extradition (Amendment) Bill, 1987, fails on these two counts. It provides no real safeguard and, by putting a private barrier into the Bill, it could make extradition unworkable. Furthermore, we believe that the Taoiseach has been wrong in his whole attitude to the extradition issue since he came into office last February.
He told the Independent Deputy, Neil Blaney, during talks about the formation of a Fianna Fáil Government last March that he would allow the Extradition Act of 1986 "to wither away"— as Deputy Blaney so graphically stated in the Dáil last Friday. The Taoiseach assured the British Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher, at his first Anglo-Irish meeting in June that the Extradition Act would take effect from December.
Following the concern expressed by my party, and other Opposition parties, in September that the Government were not pursuing the link between the coming into force of the Extradition Act and changes in the administration of justice in the North, under Article 8 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Government changed their mind again. They sought the respectable cover from the Opposition parties to allow for the postponement of extradition.
This strategy was revealed when the Taoiseach, through his Press Secretary, accused Fine Gael and the Progressive Democrats of being unduly influenced by "the over and above the normal level of activity" by the British Ambassador in their attitude to extradition. The Progressive Democrats, at that stage, saw that the Government were looking for every excuse to postpone the implementation of the Extradition Act and do untold damage to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
It was after the atrocity at Enniskillen, the kidnapping of John O'Grady and the Eksund arms find destined for this country last month that the Taoiseach in his own words in his speech last Friday, noted and I quote: “The impact on public opinion has been profound, a mixture of anger, revulsion and sorrow and a deep underlying anxiety about what our society is facing in these disturbed times”. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, said today that there was clearly a need for a response. The response to the horrible crimes last month is the reason for the Government bringing the Extradition Act into force from today. The Extradition Act, 1987 implementing Ireland's ratification of the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism has come into effect from midnight.
The Government's twists and turns on the whole issue of extradition highlight the background against which the Taoiseach has brought forward the Extradition (Amendment) Bill, 1987 into this House for hasty debate and decision this week. This Bill of so-called safeguards has much more to do with placating the 57 outspoken backbenchers in the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party than it has to do with providing proper and workable legal safeguards for the Irish citizen.
If the Taoiseach had approached this issue consistently from the start, we believe that the Government could have taken the opportunity to consolidate the whole extradition code in this country. It dates back, in principle, to the Petty Sessions Act of 1851 and was based on the assumption that Ireland was a sub jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. The main extradition law in this country dates back to 1965. In the meantime, we have acceded to two international conventions — the Convention on Extradition in 1957 and now the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism.The Government missed a golden opportunity to consolidate the whole extradition process with all civilised democratic countries in a new Bill.
If the Government did not want to standardise our extradition code with all democratic countries, they could have taken the opportunity, in the spirit of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, to negotiate a proper bilateral treaty with the British Government.
The two Government's could have sat down together, within the context of the Anglo-Irish Conference, to work out a bilateral extradition treaty along the lines of the Irish-American Treaty of 1983 or the British-American Treaty from around the same date.
None of these things was done in a planned way because of the Government manoeuvrings on extradition all year. The Taoiseach, instead, came into this House last Friday with a hastily cobbled together safeguards Bill with the primary aim of satisfying his own backbenchers.
The Progressive Democrats believe that the Extradition (Amendment) Bill, 1987, fails on two counts. It proposes to give the Attorney General the discretion to direct that an extradition order shall not be endorsed. We have taken legal advice on this proposal and we are firmly of the view that it will be struck down as unconstitutional. It brings the Attorney General into the domain of exercising a judicial power. This he is not entitled to do.
Alternatively, if the Attorney General is only exercising an automatic administrative power — and the Taoiseach kept referring to the word "administrative" in his speech — the Attorney General is being given the power to exercise no real safeguards.
I now come to the nub of the safeguard matter. The proposal that the Attorney General should have an intervening power is an illusory safeguard. The Bill does not require the submission of warrants to the Attorney General. Therefore, it is open to the Garda Commissioner to endorse a warrant without reference to the Attorney General.
This raises four extremely important points about the alleged safeguards being introduced by the Government: (a) there is no requirement that the Garda Commissioner refer a warrant to the Attorney General; (b) there is no requirement that the Attorney General consider every case; (c) there is a presumption that if a direction is not given by the Attorney General it was not required to be given, and, (d) since there is no obligation to refer to the Attorney General but, presumably, some cases will be referred to him, who decides that any case will go before the Attorney General?
Is it the Taoiseach or the Minister for Justice who will decide which extradition cases go before the Attorney General? Is it appropriate that the Taoiseach or the Minister for Justice should be the person to make such a decision in the light of certain events in 1982?
The House will recall that in 1982, with or without the connivance of the Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice took certain steps in relation to certain matters without the knowledge of the Cabinet. Will the same thing now happen on extradition cases?
Will this proposed power now being given to the Attorney General and dressed up as a safeguard for Fianna Fáil backbenchers mean that people well disposed to this Administration will get their cases reviewed whereas those of a different political colour will not have them reviewed?
The Government have drawn up this Bill in such a convoluted manner that it is difficult to get around the treble negatives and assess the full implications of the Bill. I would ask the Government to clarify during this debate who will decide whether a case will go before the Attorney General. This is an extremely important point.
I now turn to the substance of the Bill. The Bill, in essence, purports to provide that the Attorney General should be the person who will evaluate whether there is sufficient evidence in each case for an extradition warrant to be endorsed for Britain and Northern Ireland.
Leaving aside the constitutionality of this matter, Progressive Democrats contend that the Attorney General is not the correct person to make such an evaluation.He is, after all, the politicallyappointed legal adviser to the Government of the day. He would be subject to hire and fire at the whim of the Taoiseach and Government of the day. He would be open to representations and lobbying from Ministers and Deputies in this House. And, after all of that, he is supposed to exercise in secret his new function on the sensitive issue of extradition.
We believe that even if the Attorney General could enter into the judicial domain, he is not the proper person to be exercising a safeguard in secret.
For these reasons, we are opposed to the giving of extra powers — which we believe to be unconstitutional — to the Attorney General in this Bill. We will be voting accordingly.
The Progressive Democrats have devoted a great deal of time to examining the implications of this Bill. We are in favour of safeguards. We believe that workable extradition and legal safeguards are both absolute requirements. They impose on us the fulfilling of duties to our own citizens and to other countries as well. We do not believe that the Government have struck the correct balance.
This party proposed that a full prima facie requirement should be inserted as a safeguard into the Extradition Act last year. We now understand, in the light of the actions of two successive Governments, that to do so unilaterally would damage relations with Britain and would be outside the ambit of the Convention on Extradition which we ratified 30 years ago. This desirable objective cannot, therefore, be attained unilaterally at this late stage. It could well, however, have formed an essential part of a bilateral arrangement with Britain if this matter had been addressed prudently from the start of this year. That cannot now happen.
In the light of this situation, we, as a parliamentary party, spent a considerable time examining safeguards that would make extradition workable so that we, the country most affected by terrorism in Europe, could ratify the Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. We came up, in the end, with the only workable formula.
We think that, short of the full-blown prima facie requirement, the most desirable safeguard to protect the liberty of the citizen who is being extradited is along the lines of that contained in the two treaties negotiated between Ireland and America and Britain and America a few years ago.
The Washington Treaty of 1983 provides, in section 4, that when the request for an extradition relates to a person who has not been convicted, it shall also be supported by the original or an authenticated copy of the warrant of arrest, or equivalent order, issued by a competent authority of the requesting State; by the original or an authenticated copy of the complaint, information or indictment; and in the case of a request emanating from Ireland, by a statement of fact, by way of affidavit or statutory declaration, setting forth reasonable grounds for believing that an offence has been committed and that the person sought committed it.
Our proposal for a real, workable legal safeguard, therefore, is that the defendant should be allowed to go before a district justice, in open court and that the district justice would be supplied with a short set of facts from the country requesting the extradition. It would not be required to produce the full book of evidence as would be the case with prima facie. The person concerned would not be allowed to call witnesses so our proposal would not obstruct the extradition process or make it unworkable. At the same time, it would allow the person sought for extradition to go before an open court in this country and avail of a judicial process. That is infinitely preferable to a secret arrangement with an Attorney General.
This proposal is workable and could have been accepted by the British, in the spirit of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, had it been on the agenda of the conference earlier this year. The proposal is already contained in a treaty which the British themselves negotiated with the USA. It has the advantage of retaining the matter before the district justice who would be the person making the order for extradition anyway. We have struck the right balance between a real safeguard for the citizen and workable extradition which will allow us to fulfil our obligations to the international community.The Government can still do likewise, given time.
We are opposed to the proposal from the Fine Gael Party that the Director of Public Prosecutions should evaluate warrants instead of the Attorney General.The DPP is an independent civil servant of the State who is not open to the same representations and political pressure as a short term political appointee. But, the proposal to have the DPP instead of the Attorney General would run into the same constitutional problems: a non-judge would be exercising judicial powers. For reasons of constitutionality, we are opposed to it. It is a short-sighted proposal which will not overcome the basic difficulty which we have pointed out in this Bill.
The Attorney General, or the DPP, as non-judicial persons cannot exercise judicial powers. The difficulties with giving the DPP this power cannot get over the inherent invalidity of asking a non-judicial person to perform a judicial function. We will oppose the Fine Gael proposal to alter the words "Attorney General" in the Bill and substitute "Director of Public Prosecutions".
I would now like to set this new Bill in the context of current Anglo-Irish relations. The accession of this country to the European Convention on the Supression of Terrorism is linked in Article 8 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement to certain unspecified changes in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. This link is also evident in paragraph 7 of the joint communiqué issued by the two Heads of Government the day that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed at Hillsborough. We have fulfilled our obligations set out in the Anglo-Irish Agreement and I now call on the British Government to act, with understanding, to fulfil their obligation.
It was difficult for this party, in the light of the statement made by me at our National Conference in early October that we would postpone the coming into force of the Extradition Act if there were not changes in the administration of justice, to take the decision we are taking today. Ireland has now acceded to the European Convention on the Supression of Terrorism since midnight. We, in the Progressive Democrats, made a fundamental judgment that we would do more damage to the Anglo-Irish Agreement by not acceding to the Convention that we would by acceding to it and placing the moral obligation on the British to come forward with more changes in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland.
We have made a mature judgment and we trust that the British will bear this in mind at future meetings of the Anglo-Irish Conference. We will be encouraging the Government to press the British Government to reciprocate by taking a fundamental look at the working of the courts and the justice system in the North in the near future. I appeal to the Government to look again at the Bill which they have brought so hurriedly before the Dáil. It is fundamentally flawed. That has been made clear by speakers from the Opposition parties. The safeguard this Bill proports to provide is illusory. It is noteworthy that the two Departments most concerned with the preparation of the Bill, the Attorney General's office and the Department of Justice, could not provide officials to give the technical briefing on the Bill to political correspondences last week. This task had to be done from outside the House. This is a sorry comment on the Bill.
The Dáil can produce better safeguards as it goes through the various Stages of this Bill. I appeal to the Taoiseach and Government to draw on the consensus among speakers on each side of the House and change the proposal for an evaluation by the Attorney General. If this proposal is unconstitutional — and we believe it is — the whole extradition process to Britain and Northern Ireland could be struck down in the courts with it. This Bill is inextricably woven into section 3 of the 1965 Act. If it is unconstitutional, the whole extradition procedure to Britain and Northern Ireland would collapse with it. In that way, the Taoiseach would end up fulfilling his promise made to Deputy Blaney last March that "extradition will wither away". That outcome would be catastrophic for this country in the current climate.
I hope the Taoiseach and the Government will reflect again in the interests of providing real safeguards for Irish citizens.In the event that the Government persist with the Bill in its present form, I hope the President will refer the Bill to the Supreme Court for an evaluation.
It is unfortunate that this debate is taking place against an unparalleled background of violence and brutality. This is taking place against a background which includes the massacre at Enniskillen, the mutilation of Dr. O'Grady and an attempt to import 150 tons of arms into this country, with allegations that four other arms shipments had already arrived here. This background quite rightly produces a massive wave of revulsion and hostility towards the people committing such outrages. Against such a background it is difficult to plead for safeguards and for civil liberties.Many people feel that hanging would be too good for people guilty of such crimes.
Extradition is perceived as a weapon in the fight against terrorism and many people feel that all weapons available must be used in that fight. Opinion polls have reflected public concern in recent times. Of course, the answers given in opinion polls are valid only in the context of the questions asked. With extradition being perceived as a purely legal means of fighting terrorism, it is hardly surprising that a majority of people favour it. If the question asked did not refer to "extradition" but referred to handing people over to the courts which convicted the Birmingham Six, it is unlikely that there would be the same response.
I have personally encountered people, reputable, intelligent, concerned, lawabiding citizens who are in favour of extradition but against handing persons over to the RUC or to British courts. I see that as what I would describe as perception, symbol politics, totally unrelated to real politics. It is an unfortunate ambiguity in people's minds but it exists. While public opinion will oscillate, inevitably and understandably, in the light of the most recent atrocity or latest miscarriage of justice, there is a duty on us here in this House to consider the whole complex question logically and dispassionately.
Extradition is the means whereby civilised countries prevent their territories becoming a haven for fugitive criminals from other jurisdictions. The need for extradition predated terrorism. It is as necessary to prevent our country becoming a safe haven for drug pushers or thieves as it is to prevent it becoming a safe haven for terrorists.
Extradition is always a two-way process.One could hardly expect another country to expend its resources on capturing and returning persons wanted here unless we were willing to reciprocate. Without international willingness to enter into and enforce extradition arrangements, the ease with which international travel can now be undertaken would ensure that crime would almost always pay. Therefore, to suggest that there should be no extradition as an emotional reaction to some miscarriage of justice in a country with which we have an extradition agreement, as at present, is both deliberately missing the point and dangerous. To call for "no extradition" is, in fact, to call for a withdrawal from the community of civilised nations.
However, to extradite a person is a very serious process which should not be lightly undertaken. In this country we value the liberty of the individual and protect it under the Constitution. Under our system of law a person cannot be remanded in custody by our District Court for a period greater than one week without his or her consent, or a District Court will not send an accused person forward for trial to the Circuit Court on bail, let alone in custody, unless it is satisfied there is sufficient evidence against him or her to justify that step. For serious offences it is necessary, before a prosecution is undertaken, that the Director of Public Prosecutions or, in some cases the Attorney General, is satisfied that there is a case against the accused.
The extradition of any person involves placing him or her outside the jurisdiction and protection of our courts, handing him or her into the custody of a police force, into the power of courts over which we have no control and which are not restricted by the safeguards provided in our Constitution. It is an ultimate step. Once a person has been handed over there can be no changing of minds as far as he or she is concerned. Should that trust implicitly reposed by us in that foreign police force and those foreign courts not be honoured it might teach us a lesson but it would be of little consolation to the person at whose expense the lesson was learned.
The proponents of easy extradition are as mistaken as the opponents of any extradition. Easy extradition has about as much merit as capital punishment. The "beam them up Scottie" school of extradition is about as plausible as the "hang 'em and flog 'em" brigade. Where extradition is concerned our duty is to strike the right balance between international obligations and our respect for civil liberties.We must not become a haven for those guilty of crime committed abroad. Neither can we deny any Irish citizen alleged to have committed offences abroad an equivalent degree of protection as that to which he would be entitled had the alleged crime been committed in Ireland. This is effectively true today; apart from the direct victims of their murderous violence the Provisional IRA have other victims to their credit.
There are countless innocent Irish people living in Britain who are, by virtue of birth, immediately suspect in the wake of any IRA bombing campaign on that island. The whole population of the Six Counties is and has to be denied the right to jury trial by virtue of the activities of the IRA and the loyalist murder operators.The Diplock courts are most definitely unsatisfactory, particularly in their one-man format, but trial by jury in the present climate may not be an alternative.One only has to look at the trials by jury of the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven to see the reason therefor. None would suggest that the perpetrators of the Birmingham Six pub bombings or the Enniskillen massacre should have a safe haven on this part of the island. On the other hand it would be clearly appalling if, on the basis simply of a warrant alleging such an offence, any Irish citizen were handed over to face such a trial as that which convicted the Birmingham Six. There has to be safeguards.It is simply unacceptable that we are willing, on the basis of the law as it stands at present, to send any Irish citizen anywhere on any old basis.
The provisions of the Bill are intended to provide safeguards. If enacted, our extradition process will be commenced only if the highest law officer in the land is satisfied that those requesting a person's extradition have a clear intention of prosecuting, as opposed to interrogating, and that there is sufficient evidence against him or her to justify that extradition.Those who attack this proposal on the grounds that it will complicate the extradition process are, in fact saying that an Irish citizen, alleged to have committed crimes abroad, has none of the rights he or she would have if the offence was alleged to have been committed here. It is my respectful opinion that such a view is unworthy of serious consideration.On the other hand, there has also been criticism expressed about the proposed role of the Attorney General, it being construed as giving him a judicial or extra judicial role and that, therefore, his role would be unconstitutional.
I have heard my respected constituency colleague, Deputy Geraldine Kennedy, make the case on behalf of her party. She is absolutely entitled to make the case she has made but I would suggest that the law is about interpretation, that illegal actions are about plaintiffs and defendants, the accused and the prosecution.There is always that tension between the legal advice she has received on the one hand and that I am about to place on the record of the House. She may be right: on the other hand, the legal advice at my disposal may be correct. In the final analysis she may have a very good point in having the suggestion made that the case should be referred to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality.Before the State or anybody else goes to that expense I might draw the attention of the House and anybody else interested to the views expressed by Mr. Hugh O'Flaherty, Senior Counsel — a leading constitutional lawyer — in The Sunday Press of 29 November 1987 when he spoke about the intent of the Bill:
...In a sense, this may be a stronger protection than having the matter considered by a court; a court can act only on the documents that are before it. The Attorney General will have other means of checking the facts and the background to the case.
Under a caption "Safeguards of new Act" he had this to say:
He scrutinises all cases and, thus, a dossier is built up; trends can be observed and this may have advantages over a situation where cases may be heard by distirct justices throughout the country and who, as I have said, would be confined to the particular documents put before them. It has to be said, too, that the new Act provides additional safeguards. All the old safeguards that the matter has to go before the District Court; that the suspect's rights have to be explained to him; his right to repair to the High Court to seek habeas corpus— all these are preserved. The argument that the Attorney General's role is unconstitutional—
and this is the point:
—would seem to be without foundation since the Supreme Court has held in the Shannon case that there is no constitutional need for the legislation to provide for a prime facie case. The legislation is experimental—
—another very good point made by this leading barrister:
—but it is worth a try. If it does not prove satisfactory, then something else can be tried.
There are two schools of thought in this — first, that there should be no safeguards and, secondly, that there should be safeguards. We have to provide safeguards. It is very difficult for me to understand, having been across the Border on many occasions, involved in elections on behalf of my good friend, Séamus Mallon of the SDLP during the past number of years and having found the temper and feeling of the legal unrealities in the Six Counties, that anybody would want to extradite a person from this jurisdiction to that jurisdiction without safeguards. On the other hand, I have had relatively close associations with the Federation of Irish Societies in Britain. I wish to pay particular tribute to its President, Mr. Séamus McGarry, an Irishman who should be given some recognition by the Government for the work he is doing on behalf of our people in Britain. He is doing a magnificent job and is giving great leadership, a balanced, good, decent leadership of the very highest integrity, to the Irish population in Britain.
I have also been involved with various cases, including the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and the Annie Maguire case. I know that those cases have nothing to do with extradition because they occurred in the British jurisdiction but, at the same time, I could not envisage an extradition from this jurisdiction to the British jurisdiction without safeguards.The British are at present trying to drop the prima facie element. They made an effort to railroad the Bill through the British House of Lords in the past three or four weeks when their Lordships in their wisdom quietly suggested that the prima facie element should be retained in the legislation before them. Obviously the proposing Lord, on behalf of the British Government, withdrew it quietly and presumably went back to No. 10 Downing Street for further instructions.
This whole process would more or less find full support in a proposal that we have public accountability on the operation of the Act and its safeguards. What I mean by public accountability is that the Government of the day produce an annual analysis or report by way of statistical information and place it on the table of the House or make it available in the Library to help convince people of this Government's openness on the issue. I know there has been a sneering reference to those of us who happen to be backbenchers in the Government party, the question of placating those of us who have a very strong point of view on extradition without safeguards. I have never shirked criticism, in Government or out of Government, of whatever issues that arise. This openness was very evident on the parliamentary party meeting and four or five Ministers of State spoke.
To suggest that in some way these safeguards are a knee jerk reaction to the views expressed at the parliamentary party meeting is totally unfair. On the one hand Fianna Fáil are being narrow and isolationist and, on the other hand, they are criticised for being too open. I do not think we can win. To prove the genuineness of the openness of the Fianna Fáil Government, the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party and the Fianna Fáil organisation on this whole issue, I propose to the Minister who is dealing with this matter that some form of accountability be made to the Dáil on an annual basis so that we can clearly see how the Extradition Act is working and to leave no doubt in the minds of people who would have genuine fears about what the Government are doing at present. Those fears should be allayed by the production of a full analysis of how the Act has operated with the safeguards as proposed at present.
Another area which I would like to comment on very briefly is the role of the Attorney General. I know the Attorney General, who cannot be in this House to propose his own case because he is not an elected representative of the House. I want to reassure him that the views expressed here in this debate are not a personal attack on him as Attorney General, because he is a man of the very highest integrity, but rather it is a general view expressed by Government and Opposition of the Office of Attorney General. He should not feel under any personal attack by virtue of views expressed for or against his role on extradition.The Attorney General is being given an administrative as opposed to a judicial role. He is not being given a role in the judicial part of the extradition process. The Bill provides that his consent is necessary before the process is commenced. His role vis-à-vis whether a specific extradition process should commence is no different from the role of the DPP in deciding whether the criminal prosecution process is to be commenced in any particular case. Certain offences, for example, fishery offences in our territorial waters, are still the role of the Attorney General and not that of the DPP.
The new role of the Attorney General is no more judicial than the role of the Minister for Justice under section 44 of the 1965 Act which states that the Minister for Justice can direct at any stage that a warrant should not be endorsed in the first place or that an extradition should not proceed if he is of the opinion that any of the reasons whereby the High Court can refuse it applies to the case in question. The advantage of providing an administrative as opposed to a judicial safeguard is that the technical differences which exist between our law of evidence and that of the various "British jurisdictions" will not be permitted to prevent the extradition of persons against whom there is a bona fide case. The Bill provides safeguards, not loopholes.
Another valuable safeguard is provided in section 2 (1) (b) of the Bill. Effectively, it gives the Minister and the High Court power to direct, under section 50 of the 1965 Act, that an extradition should not take place by reason of the lapse of time since the commission of the alleged offence. This will prevent any unfair retrospective application of the change in definition of a political offence which came into effect at midnight last night on foot of the 1987 Act. Both the Minister and the High Court will now be able to prevent any extradition which in their view would be unjust, oppressive or invidious by reason of the lapse of time since the commission of the offence.
In addition, the Bill provides that the Minister may, if he thinks it necessary, formally introduce the rule of speciality into our extradition arrangement with Britain and Northern Ireland, which is provided under section 3 of the 1987 Act. This is the rule of international law whereby a person who is extradited can only be prosecuted for the offence on which his extradition was sought and granted. In fact, no person extradited from this country to Britain has ever been prosecuted in breach of the rule. But the Bill gives the Minister power to formally bring the rule into effect should there be any abuse by the British authorities. The effect of the Minister's order would be to allow extradition only if the British changed their law so as to prevent prosecution in breach of the rule. That is the case for the safeguards. Of course, there is the possibility of a constitutional challenge, but I am certain that the Government would welcome such a challenge as an indication of the bona fides of those people who are concerned about the safeguards set out in the Act.
In relation to the Eksund affair, the O'Grady kidnapping and the Enniskillen massacre, I did not have the opportunity to speak in the recent short debate in the context of security; I was not requested or required to speak on that occasion. It is opportune now to make the type of speech I would like to have made at that time.
First I would like to pay particular tribute to the Garda Síochána for the performance of their duties in the recent past. There has been a lot of criticism of the Garda, but we should remember that it is basically structured as an unarmed force. The induction facilities are, to say the least, not good enough and the responsibility for Garda training, in the final analysis, lies with the politicians and not the Garda; in that respect we should take responsibility for any lack of efficiency the Garda may appear to have. Despite this we cannot deny the role of the Garda in recent weeks. They had nothing to do with the Eksund affair but they had a lot to do with the Dr. John O'Grady rescue. Let us be fair to the Garda in regard to their record in kidnap cases. They realeased Dr. Tiede Herrema; they released Ben Dunne Junior; they released Don Tidey; they released Jennifer Guinness and they released Dr. John O'Grady. I think, with the greatest of respect, that is a record second to none, and something that has not been adverted to in all this controversy.
I would also like to pay tribute to the gardaí in Dún Laoghaire; the Garda station in Dún Laoghaire was the headquarters for the rescue of Dr. John O'Grady and they did a superb job. In paying tribute to the gardaí in Dún Laoghaire I would like to mention Sergeant Spring and Detective O'Connor. Sergeant Spring, who I coincidentally saw the night he was shot at, happily only had damage done to the side of his head and I hope he has recovered from it. Detective O'Connor had a bad time of it and is hopefully on the way to recovery. I wish them well and thank them for their courage.That is what the Garda Síochána is — a courageous force of unarmed men based on the concept of an unarmed Garda force.
I congratulate the Garda on their apprehension of Dessie O'Hare who, by any standards, gives the fox a bad name. Taking account of all this, the Garda have a record that we should be grateful for. Of course, a lot remains to be done with the structure of the Garda Síochána. Nobody denies that and they would not deny it themselves. But the responsibility for this lies with this House and the Government of the day. Of course there should be an officer corps, extended training and a modern management approach. But the exigencies of security and the concern properly felt by the people may result in that being left for another day. But when the security situation does settle down, when the economic condition of the country improves, then the Garda Síochána could be effectively modernised towards the end of this century with its proud record intact.
As far as the Enniskillen massacre is concerned, it was a huge tragedy done in the name of some perverted philosophy, certainly not done in my name. I have heard people say they are ashamed to be Irish. I am not ashamed to be Irish, quite the contrary. I am proud to be Irish. What I am ashamed of is that atrocities like the O'Grady kidnapping, the Eksund affair and the Enniskillen massacre are done in my name. I am ashamed of the people who commit these acts in my name. I am ashamed of the Provisional IRA as much as of Loyalist murder gangs, and I come from a very strong and proud Republican background. I am not ashamed to say that I am a Republican who wishes to see the unity of this country in time. It may not happen in my lifetime but I want to see it done by consent and by peaceful means, through co-operation with the SDLP, through the Anglo-Irish process. I am a supporter of the SDLP and of the Anglo-Irish process. I see good in all these associations and have no difficulty with them at all. This may be slow and we must be patient but we may, through those processes, bring about a reconciliation of the hearts and minds of the whole island of Ireland.
I have to pay tribute to the religion which could bring Mr. Wilson to forgive us all for what happened to his daughter. It is a magnificent religion that allows a man to express himself in the manner in which he expressed himself on the murder of his daughter in Enniskillen. It is a wonderful religion that inculcates that sort of forgiveness in a person and that religion should be proud of an individual like that who can express such wonderful sentiments.
I have been involved in the Birmingham Six case which is now coming to an end. I have been over on a number of occasions to act as an observer on behalf of my party and myself as one who has been involved in the case for quite a number of years now. No later than Friday last I visited the six in their cell in the Old Bailey and I am glad to say they are very hopeful. My concern is that their hopefulness is not misplaced. My concern is that the outcome of the case will be positive, that the first-class team of defence lawyers will achieve the success they deserve in this clear miscarriage of justice against those six people who have now been in prison for over 13 years. I just want to let the House know they are in good spirits and appreciate what has been done for them on this side of the water. Three Saturdays ago I visited Paul Hill and Gerard Conlon in Longlartin, which is a maximum security prison two hours outside London, to assure them that we would continue to press for a review of their case despite rejection by the British Home Secretary in January last in the British House of Commons when he allowed the appeal before the Court of Appeal of the Birmingham Six. We undertook to see his two colleagues in the Guildford Four case, Carol Richardson and Paddy Armstrong, in due course. Our concern for the Maguire case is ongoing. Of all the cases, that has probably been, if one can have degrees of miscarriage of justice, the most serious miscarriage of justice; those people were treated very unfairly. When one looks at and hears the forensic evidence regurgitated before the Court of Appeal by Dr. Skuse, one can understand one's doubts about the efficacy of forensic evidence in the hand of such an individual.
I should like to mention one case which I undertook to mention which is still ongoing, although it may be a little sensitive in the context of this debate. If so, I am sorry but I must discharge an obligation given and that is the case of Martina Shanahan. I received a full dossier from, I believe, one of the finest lawyers it has been my privilege to meet, Ms. Gareth Pierce who is the solicitor for the Birmingham Six. If she expresses her concern, it is a legitimate concern. She has expressed a legitimate concern about the treatment of Martina Shanahan.
Martina Shanahan, as the House knows, was one of the three people detained and remanded for being in or on the property of Mr. Tom King, the Northern Secretary. Ms. Pierce expresses her concern under a number of headings, one being the conditions at court and another the criticisms of the court hearings and the conditions for travelling to court. She is also concerned about the conditions at the place of Martina Shanahan's detention at Risley. She goes on to set out the complaints about the conditions which she said speak for themselves, that it is, in her experience, impossible for any prisoner charged with such an offence to be considered on his or her own merits for the determination of prison conditions. At least one prison governor has complained to Miss Shanahan's solicitor, in relation to other Irish republican prisoners, that he has no credibility with Irish prisoners because they remain as category A prisoners until the day they leave prison, whatever their behaviour.
Very briefly, I should like to digress and ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs particularly to ask the British authorities, through Mr. Tom King or the Anglo-Irish process or whatever, at this stage to lift the category A status of Paul Hill and Gerard Conlon. The men have been incarcerated now for long enough. I have been in Longlartin on a number of occasions and I must say for the prison authorities that they are most co-operative.They are embarrassed, because they must sit there in your presence when you are dealing with a category A prisoner.They would much prefer to send me and others into a room with the prisoners on our own to have a quiet chat and get on with the business of continuing to conduct and construct the campaign for their release. In the meantime, the deputy governor, who is a decent man, and his colleagues have to sit in our presence, much to everybody's embarrassment.That category status is an irritant and it is an unfair category for people who have been in prison since 1974. You can imagine how they feel spiritually, mentally and physically, 13 or 14 years on in their incarcerated state. I am asking that the Minister for Foreign Affairs consider urging the British Home Secretary or the Northern Secretary to have a look at the prison category status of the Guildford Four.
The Shanahan case is another kettle of fish and Ms. Pierce, in her document to me, goes on to state that Martina Shanahan faces the prospect of up to nine months or a year before a trial at which she will almost certainly be acquitted of the charge brought against her. In that time it would be expected she would physically and mentally deteriorate. She is suffering already from obvious signs of strain. Her family are likely to face enormous debts to pay for weekly travel to allow for any human contact. Her solicitor is in as much contact as possible but distances are considerable. After each court appearance at present her solicitor is requesting a joint conference with her co-defendants and their solicitors to try to make some form of human contact. Ms. Pierce concludes that Martina Shanahan is the most severely disadvantaged prisoner in the entire United Kingdom prison system, infinitely worse off than convicted prisoners who are provided with work, exercise and other facilities which are given to prisoners in custody. Ms. Pierce goes on to say that Martina Shanahan is, of course, innocent in the eyes of the law but that she will not do justice to herself or her case if she appears for trial broken or dented in mind or body. She faces trial in almost impossible conditions in any event, because of her prejudicial pre-trial treatment.
That brings me to another concern that must be expressed in all these matters relating to the trial of Irish people in the British jurisdiction, namely, that there appears always to be a huge intimidatory presence in a trial of an Irish citizen in Britain. In the Shanahan case, Martina Shanahan is effectively convicted before she has even gone through the due process.The British have a dreadful habit of producing helicopters overhead, snipers on rooftops, the shrieking of sirens and so on, in the lead up to the introduction of an Irish accused person into court. That is unfair.
In advance of any such hearing, such a person is entitled to be presumed, and the public are entitled to presume, he is innocent. Given every opportunity, as we know, the British gutter press, in particular, are prepared to assume that all Irish men who arrive on the British mainland are guilty of something or other. In that climate I would be concerned about the treatment of Irish prisoners both in court and in British prisons. I ask the Minister seriously to consider the case of the "King Three", for the want of better words, I believe they will not be found guilty of the charges on which they have been accused. In the meantime, they are entitled to the dignity of the presumption of their innocence and they are not being given that opportunity because of the manner of their treatment by the British authorities.
I have outlined graphically and as shortly as I possibly can, in the context of a rather lengthy document which I received from Ms. Pierce, solicitor for the Birmingham Six, the treatment of Martina Shanahan. That treatment is not good enough and I ask the authorities to examine it as a matter of some considerable urgency.
I should like to draw the attention of the House——
On a point of order, when will I be called to speak in this debate?
I have no such indication. The only information I got was that Deputy Kelly was the next speaker.
I should like to start by calling the attention of the House to the political history of this Bill before us. We are, I think, willing to some extent on both sides to give an amnesty to one another in regard to "political offences", of a purely political kind, that have been committed in the past. Although if I wanted to I could stand on a barrel and twist the tail of Fianna Fáil for a couple of hours on end about their former record in this whole area, I am going to forebear. The conditions with which we are dealing are far too serious and nobody recognises that more promptly, and I believe fully and sincerely. than the Fianna Fáil Ministers themselves. Nobody could doubt that Deputy Lenihan, Minister for Foreign Affairs when he spoke here this morning meant every word he said.
I hope I shall be forgiven for going back over the relatively recent history behind this Bill, in order to show why I have no misgivings about supporting, in general terms, the Government in this.
In saying that I know I will give some displeasure to my colleagues — and I hope I will not be thought self-important if I say my own humble position is one which forbids me to take a line about a legal Bill which I do not genuinely believe — but I think the Government deserve to be helped in the situation in which they now find themselves, although I do not overlook the fact, that if we go far enough back, they have brought many of the difficulties upon themselves.
It seemed to me a couple of months ago that the Bill which the last Government rightly put through this House with the intention of giving effect to our obligations under the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism was not going to be allowed to come into force. I suspected, as many people suspected, that the Taoiseach and the Government were shifting around trying to find a convenient political point from which to launch an assault on that Act and prevent it from coming into force; but events overtook them. I am not going to go back over those events because they have been mentioned by nearly every speaker. The bombing at Enniskillen, the arms find on the Eksund and the horrifying kidnapping of Mr. O'Grady overtook them, and I cannot blame the Government for changing their minds. They would be less than human if they did not. If there was any sneaking intention on the Fianna Fáil benches to prevent the Act giving effect to the European Convention coming into force, they are behaving in a fully human way in changing their minds about it.
How could you possibly refuse to activate a Bill such as that, and not allow it to come into force, with the kind of situations which these events and a long list of other events produced? Before these events occurred it seemed to me that the Government were making an effort to get off this hook; and the thing which convinced me that I was right in thinking that was what I can only call the Taoiseach's absurd assault on the British Ambassador whom he accused of overdoing the arm-twisting with members of the Opposition. Speaking as one who has not had his hospitality, and whose opinion he presumably does not think worth conciliating, I do not believe any of my colleagues in my party would permit himself, no matter how much entertainment he was offered, to have his arm twisted in regard to a matter of this kind or in regard to any other matter where his public duty was concerned. I am sure the same is true of members of the Progressive Democrats, the Labour Party, The Workers' Party and even Deputy Blaney. I imagine he is the least accessible Member in this House to being won over by British hospitality; but I had better include him or he might have a grievance.
The Government have shifted their ground. I cannot blame them for doing so because changing of minds in response to developments with awful human dimensions is right and they should be helped to change their ground. They evidently were trying to get themselves into the position where this Act could be allowed to come duly into force on 1 December and they faced, apparently, a certain degree of revolt on their back benches. The only way that revolt could be stilled, and I hope I am not giving offence by saying this, was by promising an extra safeguard. If this safeguard was in itself objectionable, I would be in full cry against it; but I have to say, and I am sorry if I give displeasure to colleagues, that I do not see anything objectionable in it. As a matter of fact, in general terms, I am all for safeguards in the extradition process. I do not want to cause resentment on the other side of the sea by saying this, but there is substance in the feelings which have been expressed in this House often enough about the British and the Northern Ireland judicial and administrative arrangements where criminal law is concerned.
I am not going to go over the ground that Deputy Andrews went over. I also want to disclaim that I necessarily agree with everything he said in that context. There is ground for being uneasy about the treatment people get either from the courts, the police or while in prison when they are in any foreign jurisdiction. I can recall that a little over ten years ago, during a period when Deputy Garret FitzGerald was sick and when I was Parliamentary Secretary inter alia in his Department, I was given the job by the Government of taking advantage of an official attendance at a funeral in London to call privately on Merlyn Rees — here I am talking about the Liam Cosgraveled Government — to express the Government's lively concern about the way in which, we understood, Irish prisoners were being treated in British jails. I did that without publicity. Nothing appeared in the newspapers about it, because we did not wish to abrade the skin of people with whom we were trying to do business. We were trying to do it quietly and thereby, perhaps, more effectively.
These things cannot and ought not be forgotten. I have always been uneasy about extradition to any jurisdiction over which, necessarily, we have no control; but the European Convention puts us into a different situation. This Convention puts us under obligations of European size, and, as the Taoiseach said in his opening speech, it will make us above all people the object of derision and of incomprehension to our European neighbours, since we suffer more from terrorism than they do. Why should we be the heel-draggers in this trans-national process of putting down terrorism? Therefore, I have a political disposition to helping the Government in allowing this Act to come into force and to stay in force. Since I see nothing in principle objectionable in the measure they propose, namely the insertion of an extra safeguard, I cannot oppose them.
Since I am on my feet I had better go through some of the matters which have been mentioned to explain, in case anyone suggests that I have not given the matter any thought, why I feel, with the greatest of respect, that the apprehensions expressed about the involvement of the Attorney General are not well grounded. The main apprehension bears on his involvement in what is said to be a "judicial process" or in the "exercise of a judicial function". I must frankly tell the House and admit to it that there is no area of constitutional law as grey as this question of what is a "judicial power" or what is the exercise of a "judicial function".When is a function such that it can only be properly exercised by a judge, and when does it stop short of that importance and so as to be still exercisable by someone who is not a judge? There is no more difficult area in constitutional law than that.
In the early days these cases usually centred on the functions of the Land Commission. Case after case since about 1930 has centred on this problem. It is no nearer a definitive solution now than it was then. The best that can be said is that there are rough guidelines for deciding what is a judicial function. The simplest and clearest of these guidelines are ones expressed over 20 years ago in the case of McDonald v. Bord na gCon. In that case Mr. Justice Kenny made an attempt to define what is a judicial function, and the Supreme Court provisionally accepted his criteria. I will read them, if I may, to the House; they can be found in the Irish Reports of 1965 in the pages subsequent to page 217.
He said the characteristic features of an administration of justice were (1) a dispute or controversy as to the existence of legal rights or a violation of the law; (2) the determination or ascertainment of the rights of parties or the imposition of liabilities or the infliction of a penalty; (3) the final determination, subject to appeal, of legal rights or liabilities or the imposition of penalties; (4) the enforcement of those rights or liabilities or the imposition of a penalty by the court or by the executive power of the State which is called in by the court to enforce its judgment; and (5) the making of an order by the court which as a matter of history is an order characteristic of courts in this country.
My own feeling is that the functions which it is proposed to attribute to the Attorney General under this Bill do not correspond at any point to the description of a judicial function given in the Bord na gCon case although in this area which is so difficult and uncertain nothing is final. I do not in any way want — as Sherlock Holmes used to say — to stake whatever little reputation I have on the prediction that the Supreme Court is not going to shoot down this Bill — or Act if it becomes law — at some future stage. It may do so. As former Deputy Jack Lynch said when he was Taoiseach: "The courts have become so adventurous nowadays that it is a brave man who will predict what they will do in the constitutional area". I do not want to appear any braver than Jack Lynch when he was asked whether he was sure he was doing something constitutional when he was introducing some measure here. It is possible that I am wrong about this, but for what my opinion is worth I do not think the function which it is here proposed to give the Attorney General is judicial in character.
In particular, I think the best of the five guidelines suggested by Mr. Justice Kenny ought to be the uppermost one: what has been characteristic of courts in this country down the years? If we are trying to decide what is a judicial function and what is not, that is the only safe guideline. It is rather indefinite in some respects and brings us back to the days of the Free State and beyond that to the days of the British. But the important point here is that there is no evidence that the Government presided over by Deputy de Valera, or this Dáil which approved the draft Constitution, or the people outside, intended any substantial change in this area. There is not a pick of evidence anywhere in the Constitution debate which took place in this very Chamber just over 50 years ago that any substantial shift in the judicial function was intended by Article 34 or Article 37. Essentially, as I read those Articles, it was intended to keep matters as they had been, but to make special provision for the operation of semi-judicial, semiadministrative bodies like the Land Commission in an area where administrative authorities have in practice to operate. You cannot have the Supreme Court sitting on every land acquisition.
That is a respectable point to make. Since there is no evidence of any intention to change the pre-existing pattern; on the contrary, since the Constitution specifically says in Article 50 that, so far as they are not inconsistent with the Constitution, the laws in force heretofore were to be preserved — since all considerations of prudence, convenience and fairness were in favour of the preservation of the status quo, even when there is, so to speak a chemical revolution here as there was in 1937, we are not far out in saying that the easiest and simplest way of telling what is a judicial function and what is not, is to say that this is the kind of function which down the years in this State, in the Irish Free State and under the British before that, has typically and characteristically been performed by our courts, while some other kind of function has typically and characteristically been performed by a board, a Minister, a council or some kind of statutory authority. I am not offering that as a clear guideline, but as a rough and ready layman's guideline which is very often a better one than lawyers are able to think up. It has the authority of Mr. Justice Kenny and the tacit approval of the Supreme Court behind it — which is not to say that it will not be overruled or departed from — but I am reasonably happy with it.
I would start out by assuming that this function of the Attorney General is not all that clearly a judicial function, as I have heard said from some of the benches on my side. I am sorry to personalise this, but I feel that I will not be giving value for money, if I do not make these things clear. In particular two PD spokesmen, both enjoying rightly the respect of the House in other ways, perhaps in all ways, have given reasons over the last couple of days against this measure of a legal kind which, with great respect to them, I think are misconceived. I heard an interview given by Deputy Desmond O'Malley on Sunday. While it is difficult to be sure you are doing justice to somebody if you have only a memory of what he said on radio or television, I believe he said that the function here attributed to the Attorney General was judicial and, therefore, impermissible constitutionally.If I understood him correctly he said that the Supreme Court had ruled lately that the act of returning somebody for trial — an act not all that different from what we are talking about here; of course it is different but it is a workable analogy — was a judicial act and was impermissible if performed by the Attorney General or by the DPP. I beg the Deputy's pardon if I am misquoting him, but I understood him to say that. I am afraid that is a misunderstanding of what the Supreme Court said, unless I misunderstood it.
The case to which I take it he is referring is Costello's case, which departed from what the court had said in Shanahan's case over 20 years previously. That decision of the Supreme Court, I think quite rightly, was to the effect that the Attorney General — nowadays the DPP — had no constitutionally permissible function in returning someone for trial whom a district justice had previously, in consequence of a preliminary examination, decided there was not enough evidence to return for trial. It was the element of setting at naught the act of a court that was impermissible, not the act of returning for trial in itself. The Supreme Court in the very case which Costello's case departed from had said, in a dimension which was not in the later case questioned — in 1964 in the Shanahan case, one of the cases arising out of the Shanahan Stamp auctions prosecutions — speaking through the mouth of Mr. Justice Walsh — who is still a member of that court, a most senior and influential member — that there could be no constitutional objection to the Oireachtas providing that a prosecution on indictment before a jury, the most serious of all prosecutions, could be instituted by the mere administrative act of an Attorney General — the DPP did not exist in those days. I am quoting Mr. Justice Walsh. The case is the State (Shanahan) v. Attorney General, in the 1964 Irish Reports, page 239:
It would be within the powers of the Oireachtas to provide by legislation that persons may be put on trial on indictment preferred by the Attorney General without any preliminary investigation and sending forward for trial by the District Court.
The case has been overruled, but not on that point. That still stands as a dictum, as far as I know not disapproved afterwards by the Supreme Court or any judge of it.
In other words, our apparatus here whereby there is a preliminary investigation first in the District Court, followed by an indictment on trial, is not constitutionally necessary. It is an extra safeguard that somebody should be before the District Court first, which court decides whether there is a case to justify putting the person on trial, but the Constitution does not require it. It would be within the terms of the Constitution, even though you and I might not like it — we might prefer the old system — for these Houses to enact a law which provided that even a jury trial could be initiated with no preliminary investigation, merely on the certificate or order of the DPP. That is within the powers of these Houses.
I am not advocating it or saying that I want to see it, but I believe it is, as the Supreme Court said, within powers of these Houses. Therefore, unless I am doing him an injustice, and I do not intend such a thing, I believe Duputy O'Malley misunderstood the decision he purported to quote and there is no objection to a DPP or an Attorney General returning somebody for trial provided that that Act does not have the effect of overthrowing a judicial decision previously taken in regard to the very same subject-matter.
It seems, a fortiori because this seems to be a stronger case, that the Attorney General under this Bill is not purporting to have someone tried; that still remains to be determined. He is doing a less drastic act altogether. It seems to me, therefore, that on the argument of Deputy O'Malley there could be no problem about the Attorney General forming a view on whether the spread of evidence — about which he has information — is enough to warrant forming the intention to prosecute. I heard — I tried to find it in the paper this morning but it does not seem to have been reported — Deputy McDowell quoted on the news this morning as saying, and I think I heard Deputy Kennedy repeat, in more elaborate terms a little while ago — I confess I was looking something up and I did not give what she was saying my full attention — I think she did say this under four heads, that the Bill entitled the Garda Commissioner to bypass the Attorney General altogether and to leave him out of this process.That is what I understood Deputy McDowell to be reported as saying on the news this morning.
That, with respect to the two Deputies and not in any sense pretending to be infallible on such a point, I think is an entirely wrong reading of the Bill. The Bill says as clearly as it can be said that the Attorney General must be given a chance, in every extradition application, to give a direction that a warrant be not endorsed.
It would have been well if the Government, instead of introducing this amending Bill, had produced a Bill for an entire consolidated Act. I have put together with scissors and paste the various sections from two Acts and a Bill in order to get a connected, text and the result is not pretty. I sympathise with the Deputies who have not thought of using scissors and paste in trying to manage this Bill, and the things which it amends, in one case for the second time. I make allowances for the shortage of time, but it certainly is not an easy Bill with which to work.
As I understand the situation, under section 43 of the 1965 Act the commissioner is to endorse the warrant for execution issued abroad but he is to endorse it "subject to the provisions of this Part". Into this Part there are interpolated, by the Bill we are dealing with, several new sections, including this discretion for the Attorney General. The consequence of that is that the commissioner must have regard to the other provisions of that Part of the Bill, and if he fails to have regard to them he is behaving illegally. In so far as his actions may deprive somebody of his rights he is behaving unconstitutionally. A layman would understand that very well.
A Garda Commissioner who says: "Listen, lads, we will get this man out of the country and not bother giving the Attorney General a chance to look at the case at all", would be doing something flagrantly unlawful and patently unlawful under this Bill, because the duty of the Garda Commissioner is exercisable only subject to the provisions of the whole of that Part of the Bill, which will now include this discretion of the Attorney General. Before he has jurisdiction to endorse that warrant he must be satisfied that the rest of that part of the Act has been complied with. He cannot be so satisfied if the Attorney General has had no opportunity to consider whether or not to issue a direction that the warrant be not endorsed.
I do not want to go on and on about this because it is a legal point and one can be as easily wrong as right. I only want to tell the House my own clear opinion that Deputy McDowell and Deputy Kennedy, if I did not misunderstand them, are quite wrong on this point. The Commissioner has absolutely no right to by-pass the Attorney General, and every instance of seeking extradition will have to be, under this Bill, laid before the Attorney General so as to allow him to decide whether there is enough spread of evidence to justify the authority in the other jurisdiction in forming the intention to prosecute. He cannot be by-passed.
May I ask the Deputy the time limit within which the Attorney General must consider the matter and issue a direction or not issue a direction?
The Bill does not contain a time limit, I should think if the authorities of the State are anxious to afford extradition they will find it in their interest to get the Attorney General's view as quickly as possible. I see no interest on the part of the Garda Commissioner or of anybody else in delaying it, but I think Deputy Fitzpatrick is right. I was not aware that he was listening so carefully to what I was saying. He is right, there is no time limit that I can see, but I have not had a chance to look at the Bill under that aspect.
There are a few other points which I want briefly to mention which are in a general way relevant to the whole question of this legislation. I should like first of all to agree — I could not in conscience do anything else but agree — with what I heard Deputy Andrews say a while ago. As I said at the start — it is difficult for me because in the past I have been as blood-shot a controversialist as anybody here, but I am trying to amnesty the Fianna Fáil Party as well as I can from the things which they have done and said in the past, and to start with a clean sheet. To be fair to them I have not noticed them being especially mean, begrudging or ungenerous in their references to the Government which preceded them. That is something new and I hope it will contribute in a way that is deeper than is easily seen to the development and evolution of politics.
Deputy Andrews is right in pointing out that the purpose of the Bill — on the face of it — is not as an extra oppression of the person wanted for extradition but as a safeguard for him, and I have no objection to there being as many safeguards as we can decently put in, consistent with our obligations under the European Convention. It is only fair to colleagues to remind the House that when Deputy Dukes was putting the Bill to give effect to that Convention through the House last year and was being asked then about a prima facie requirement he said, and I think he was quite right, that he could not insert such a thing without effectively attaching a new condition of our own to the European Convention. We have signed this Convention and we have got to give effect to it. We cannot import a completely new condition into it. That is a reasonable argument, and from that point of view one could perhaps say that the present Bill is objectionable. One could say that the Irish alone among the signatory nations are giving their own Attorney General the right to consider whether there is a reasonable spread of evidence sufficient to support a prosecution.I do not know whether this point has surfaced much during the debate; but that certainly would be something in which there might be some substance. Deputy Dukes quite rightly made that point last year. Apart from that point, the Bill is intended as an additional safeguard and not as an engine of oppression.
I think this is also relevant and is not altogether without some interest in regard to the Attorney General's powers. He has a far more drastic power, namely that of declaring that in his opinion the ordinary courts are insufficient to secure the administration of justice and, by that declaration, to justify the Government in bringing the Special Criminal Court into being. That power of the Attorney General was assailed as long ago as 1940 or 1941 by a prisoner called McCurtain who had been tried and sentenced by the Special Criminal Court.
The case made for McCurtain was that the Attorney General was exercising a judicial power which did not belong to him in purporting to decide that the ordinary courts were inadequate. He was shot down by Mr. Justice Gavan Duffy, with whom the Supreme Court subsequenly agreed. I mention Gavan Duffy's name for the reason that he was the judge, of all judges, who was most sensitive to an invasion of the judicial power. He was the judge who amazed the Fianna Fáil Government of those days by striking down the Sinn Féin Funds Act as being an invasion of the judicial domain. Even Gavan Duffy, pernickety though he was, did not see anything in this function by the Attorney General amounting to an infraction of the properly judicial area.
Another misconception — I believe it is a misconception — I want to mention to the House is this. It is not the law, even if perhaps it should be the law, that every single invasion of personal liberty has to be preceded by a judicial determination.That is not correct. If it were correct there could be no such thing as an arrest without warrant, whether by a member of the police or a private citizen. If it were correct there could be no such thing even as an arrest with a warrant; because a district judge or a peace commissioner, who issues an arrest warrant, does not have to review the entire evidence on which the sworn information is based. If it were the case that there could be no arrest and that personal liberty could not be infringed in any way without a judicial determination first, these things would not be possible.
I admit that the question of the boundary is very difficult. At present when a proceeding intended to prosecute someone leaves the hands of the administration and enters the hands of the Judiciary, it is difficult to decide whether one bit is too long or the other bit is too short. It is an unnatural or troublesome junction, like the junction of the steel blade of a knife with a bone handle. It can come loose and cause problems of all kinds. Sometimes the blade is too long or the handle is too long. Perhaps that is a homely comparison, and I do not know whether it is of any use, but it is intended to show that you are dealing with two very different kinds of function. In the process of detecting a crime, finding someone you suspect and collecting enough forensic or other evidence to justify you in charging him and bringing him before a court. There is a transition between the purely governmental operation of the police and the judicial function of holding a trial and deciding whether the suspect is guilty. There is always going to be a rubbing discomfort in the interfacing of those two areas. I do not deny it and as I said before I do not predict that this Bill will not subsequently run into trouble. I think I am at least right in saying that some deprivations of liberty, the instances of which I have just given, take place without any judge in any court having decided beforehand that it should take place after considering the evidence relating to the possible prosecution.I want to make two more points.
Some of the arguments against the involvement of the Attorney General relate to his exercising his function "behind closed doors". I protest against that cliche simply as a matter of linguistic aesthetics. What use are doors if you do not close them? The purpose of giving discretion to any official, whether the Attorney General, a planning authority or anybody else, is that they will do their business properly and efficiently. You cannot do that if you have the public breathing down the back of your neck. The old stuff about "open government" is trendy rubbish, instantly dumped by whoever gets in when he finds himself actually having to do the jobs which formerly he thought should have been done in a goldfish bowl. As things stand, the Director of Public Prosecutions could make up his mind, perversely enough no doubt, to charge Deputy Kennedy or myself with murder. That proceeding, totally unjustified and loony, would take place behind closed doors. He must make some decisions in private in consultation with his own advisers. All the operations of the DPP's office which result in very serious prosecutions take place "behind closed doors." If there is nothing in our system which renders that impermissable or objectionable, what makes it objectionable that the Attorney General can sit down behind those closed doors and consider whether there is enough, in the dossier furnished to him from the North of Ireland or British police, to justify him concluding that their intention to prosecute is genuine, that there is enough there to give them a fair change of making a charge stick? I cannot see that distinction.
I want to try to remove another misapprehension.It is not correct to say that the office of the Attorney General is a political office; at least it is not correct to say it in the sense in which that expression has been employed in this debate. He is, of course, a political appointee and he must be, if a Government are to be happy with him, somebody with much the same political opinions and background as the Government. Otherwise, he cannot sit at Government meetings and be more or less au fait with what a Government are doing or what problems they have. To that extent, of course, he is political. He is appointed by a Taoiseach who is not going to appoint one of his bitterest opponents and he will leave office, as I did, when the Taoiseach goes out of office. The Taoiseach can fire him or request his resignation in the meantime. But during his tenure of office he is not a political creature in the sense in which he is now said to be; and I do not believe that any Attorney General since the State was founded behaved in that way. He is supposed to be independent and he has always considered himself as independent and I do not believe that any Attorney General would ever allow his professional or official judgment to be bent or twisted in response to a political exigency expressed to him by his Taoiseach.He would have said: “look, Taoiseach, I am here to give you advice and to advise the Government on the legality or illegality of what you are doing. My advice is as follows and I am not going to certify otherwise.” That certainly is how I would have behaved if I had been there long enough for such a matter to present itself. I have never heard the suggestion from any side that an Attorney General of any political persuasion behaved otherwise.
I want to finish on that note by citing to the House what three judges of the Supreme Court said in the one case in which the function of the Attorney General was discussed at great length. It is a case which has avoided classification in many indexes because the head note to the case does not mention this aspect of it. Nevertheless, it is the leading case on the Attorney General's functions. It is the case of McLoughlin v. the Minister for Social Welfare and it is reported at page 1 of the 1958 Irish Law Reports. The court was divided but not on the point I am talking about here. The Chief Justice of the time, Conor Maguire said that the Attorney General “exercises executive power under the authority of the Government while he retains in the day to day decisions he has to make the independence which he has always enjoyed.” Mr. Justice Kingsmill Moore said: “It is quite clear that the Attorney General is in no way the servant of the Government but is put into an independent position.” Mr. Justice Cearbhall O'Dalaigh said: “Whatever room for debate there may be as to the position of the Attorney General prior to 1937 it can, in my opinion, no longer admit of argument since the enactment of the Constitution of Ireland that the Attorney General is not, in the discharge of his functions as public prosecutor, subject to the directions of the Taoiseach but is an independent constitutional officer.” I realise that Deputies who make the opposite case are not operating from malice or deliberately distorting a position but that corresponds with my understanding of the office. I do not believe that the present incumbent of the office would or could possibly have the faintest intention to allow that independence to be reduced. So far as that aspect of the matter goes I must declare myself as not sharing the apprehensions I have heard expressed. I apologise if I have given displeasure to colleagues. I would find it harder to forgive myself if I had either not spoken on this matter or had spoken in a sense which I did not believe.
I want to open my remarks by stating that it is purely as a non-legal person I am making my contribution.There is an old saying that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. It is with a genuine sense of trepidation that I follow so many eminent contributors. It has been interesting to listen to the various debates. I would like to congratulate Deputy Kelly for the point he made towards the end. It was good to hear a very eminent professional say that he could be as legally wrong as legally right. There have been contributions from people during the past few days who brooked no arguments, legally or otherwise. They gave final statements on issues and it was good to hear that opened up a bit today.
Some questions have been raised and some comments have been made, political and otherwise. I would like to comment on the fears and the concerns of non-legal people, of the vast majority of people. I have read the transcripts of the discussions from last December and they have helped me to judge the consistency or otherwise of various individuals and groups. Those transcripts show very clearly that some people, in particular two of the Opposition groups, have changed their ground and attitudes quite a lot. They may have done so to embarrass the Government, politically but I am not sure. However, nasty comments were made by individuals which I would like to comment on later.
I think there is total confusion in the public mind on the legal position on extradition and where we stand in regard to it. I would like to spell out a few points as I see them. We have had extradition since 1965 but many people seem to be ignorant of that fact. Quite clearly, people have been extradited up to the present. The Extradition Act, 1965, had certain safeguards including the political offence defence. I believe there has been a constant nibbling away at the basic safeguards and particularly since the decision of the former Chief Justic O'Higgins, a total air of mystery appertains to that defence. I will not quote from his judgment on the case but it was certainly so vague that it left no defence as had been previously the case within the Act. People are concerned. The confusion has been added to by some mistakes with the warrants and other slip-ups. I do not know whether Acts are written with the intention of confusing the public, but it appears that there is an attitude of confusing the public and thereby keeping them ignorant and happy.
The European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism which came into force today adds further to the confusion in the public mind. The Criminal Jurisdiction Act has not been used widely, but it is still quoted regularly when people get up to speak. This again adds to the confusion. We have various safeguards built into the Acts, such as the 15 day right to appeal to the High Court, which is obviously included, the order of habeas corpus, a direction for release, couched in the language of the legal profession, including Members in this House, but which is totally confusing to the public. It is against this background of a conglomeration of rules, regulations and test cases that we are discussing the present Extradition Bill.
I immediately join with all previous speakers when I state clearly I do not want to protect any guilty person, and under no circumstances do I want a haven for terrorists. However, I want to see a reasonable level of protection for an innocent person. I believe the simplest way to do this is to write down clearly explicit instructions on the steps that are to be taken when a warrant is issued or measures taken to extradite a person. I have debated my case at the parliamentary party level in Fianna Fáil and I will refer to that later. As a non-legal person. I want to see fairly simple rules laid down, rules I can understand, and which I could explain to somebody if a case were brought to me.
We have listened to long debates of a legal nature, with arguments about the implications of and protections in the Bill. We have heard a few mischievous digs at the political implications of the role of the Attorney General, which I will refer to later. At the end of the debate, I would venture to say that even those who contributed to the debate will find that the situation is more confused than ever. Again, I thank Deputy Kelly for his contribution because I have heard conflicting statements here from very eminent people.
I would like to see a situation whereby people would not likely be transported to face what is a dubious standard of justice, or as most of us would see it, a bias against the Irish in mainland Britain. It has been said we are prisoners of history with 800 years of history behind us and that we are only imagining it but I do not think that is so. I do not want to quote again the cases which were used as examples in this situation, but I would refer to the implementation of the Prevention of Terrorism Act where we can look for guidelines on how British justice will affect the Irish in Britain. The figures are horrendous to put it mildly. There has been no respect shown for Irish citizens under that Act. The number of cases are legendary as was quoted by Deputy Andrews this morning when he went into the details of some of the people held. It is frightening for the ordinary Irish citizen to feel they could face that situation without being guilty of any crime whatsoever. People have been and are being lifted under the PTA. We need to build in every possible safeguard and, at the same time, establish that we will not be a haven for terrorists. It is a very difficult path to walk. I believe the Minister has listened very carefully to arguments from all sides of the House. I am quite sure he has referred back to the discussions of 4 and 16 December 1986 in reaching his decision on this issue and presenting this Bill.
I would not like to get bogged down in any legal arguments but the arguments against the involvement of the Attorney General have taken up practically all the time. My simplistic approach would be that if the Bill were to be tested to be unconstitutional so be it. Let somebody take a test case when the time comes, as many other Bills have been tested. Various tomes and books were brought forward to prove whether the Attorney General had a right or not under the Bill. I will contribute to the argument by quoting — for a geographical balance more than anything else — a UCC law faculty lecturer, Mr. David Gwynn Morgan — who states:
the Attorney General's duty in the field of extradition is not very different from the task performed by his Office for centuries and now performed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, namely to determine whether to prosecute a person for any ordinary crime before the Irish Courts.
There are pages and pages of conflicting points of views. If we took cognisance of all the quotations we would never bring in any law.
The first challenge would probably decide whether the Act was constitutional.People may say we should have this decided beforehand but it is all part of the legal process. There is an entitlement, just as there is an entitlement to go before the District Court, to appeal to the High Court and so on. My approach as a person without legal training would be to say, let it be challenged.Likewise a case has been made along the way that the British would not like what we are doing and I would say pretty much the same thing: if they do not like it that is too bad. We are a sovereign State and I do not make any apologies for stating my point of view. I want to protect Irish citizens and if some other country does not like it that is just too bad. I think we have gone as far as we can to meet the international needs, the European needs and the local needs on terrorism but we must safeguard our own people. We should not apologise for that.
There is a suggestion that a person who worries about the safety of Irish citizens, particularly in relation to the British scene, is conniving in some way with Provos or terrorists. That is an attack on constitutional republicans that must be put down, otherwise we will have to forget coming into this House. I will look for safeguards for Irish citizens and make no apology for it.
I take the point made by Deputy Kelly when he states that the involvement of the Attorney General would be an extra safeguard. I am looking at it again in that light. Taking his advice on the legal position, I must than ask those who did not have a firm stance on this issue last December what their objection is to an extra safeguard, if it is not due to political connivance. What has changed since 16 December when it was said that we must co-operate with Europe and Britain to stamp out terrorism? One objection which has been raised is that this does not go far enough and is not plain enough. I totally disagree.
I wanted an assurance that there would not be extradition for questioning, which would be intolerable. I have that assurance.The specialty aspect was adhered to in the past, particularly in the McGlinchey case. When he was acquitted he was brought back here and I wanted to ensure that that system would remain. I am worried about the wording of the retrospection clause, although I accept that it is the best possible wording. Most important of all is the fact that there must be sufficient evidence to support the case. When this point was argued last December it was construed as an attempt to slow things up. I do not accept that. The people who argued for safeguards were genuine in their concern and they are still genuine. There has been no change in the Fianna Fáil stance. We still say that evidence must be produced to support the case and we want our system to deal with these matters in the best possible fashion. We must welcome the extra safeguard, but I do not want to become bogged down in legal niceties.
If we are to remove the legal smoke clouds which have been thrown up to confuse the public, Opposition spokespersons must be asked to say what has changed since December. Why are they now saying that this is not satisfactory? They say on the one hand that it does not go far enough and on the other that it is too extreme and that no case could be brought. Do they agree or not to an extra safeguard in this process? If they are not simply trying to wrong-foot the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice they should agree that we need all these safeguards and vote accordingly.
During this debate Deputy Sean Barrett referred to me as a reckless Fianna Fáil backbencher. I object strongly. If asking for the advice of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice on any issue and making suggestions to them as a non-legal person, while taking cognisance of the dubious standards of British justice, makes me a reckless backbencher, I would welcome that description. I am sure, however, that this is not what Deputy Barrett was referring to. It was a disgraceful slur on people who wish to make a contribution within their own party. The same man had been saying a month earlier that nobody would be listened to within the Fianna Fáil Party. I will not accept such remarks from anybody, no matter how long he has been a Member of this House or what standing he has achieved.
Deputy Taylor spoke about changes in the Fianna Fáil position. I looked as carefully as possible at the December debate in an effort to find the Labour position but I failed to pin down a firm stance. Perhaps they felt as part of the Government that they had to agree with the Minister for Justice in everything he said. Deputy Taylor referred to the Fianna Fáil Party meeting. Like Deputy Barrett, he spoke about the great number of Deputies who contributed at that meeting. Is this a good or a bad point for Fianna Fáil? Are people to be shut up or asked to contribute? I believe members of all parties should be encouraged to contribute. I believe the Labour Party have changed their stance. It appears from my reading of the debate that they were quite prepared to allow the ratification of the European Convention with absolutely no safeguards. Now we are told that the present Bill does not go far enough in respect of safeguards. Surely that is a total contradiction and does not give Deputy Taylor the right to criticise Fianna Fáil people who make points within or without the parliamentary party.
Deputy George Birmingham described the Bill as shabby and tatty. The motives for the introduction of the Bill were questioned. There were many references to approaches to the Attorney General and I will deal with this matter in the context of Deputy O'Malley's comments. His comments amazed me, coming from somebody who has been here so long and who held such a high position, particularly in the years 1970 to 1973 when he would have been in touch with the Attorney General and others.
In describing the work of the Attorney General, and telling us how he could be approached, he referred to darkened rooms, people sneaking in back doors and made other derogatory remarks. I do not know if he was drawing on personal experience but I find it incredible that a person who outside the House would attack those who say anything against the institutions of the State should descend to this level. I expected better from him, a former Minister. I was shocked to hear that description.
It is obvious that that description was thrown out for political reasons. I am sure the only Attorney General he was referring to was the holder of that Office during a Fianna Fáil administration. I was pleased to hear Members on both sides of the House defending previous Attorneys General. I do not know if the Deputy I referred to dressed up his description for public consumption, if he meant what he said or if he was simply putting forward the standard anti-Government attack, but irrespective of his reason he should withdraw his reference to the Attorney General and how that Office is run. Such snide and sneaking attacks bring the institutions of the State into disrepute.
A number of the contributions amounted to no more than a political attack on the Government. I am pleased that today we have returned to debating the provisions in the Bill, the need for them and the difficulties that may arise when they are implemented. I am a reasonable person and I make no apologies for being a constitutional Republican.We should never apologise for being Irish, as Deputy Andrews said, although some people have attacked us in that regard. I want safeguards I can understand and it is important that those who are making decisions in regard to the extradition of citizens have a proven track record. I am happy that everything done under this measure will be subject to review. It is unfortunate that the fact that the annual report of the Attorney General in regard to extradition will be brought before both Houses of the Oireachtas for review has been skipped over.
Deputy Kelly in a subtle way asked the Minister to let the British know that the House in adopting this measure can change its views or rescind the measure. It is important to have an annual review to keep track of what is going on. If there are mistakes — it is important to remember that people are not infallible, even those in politics — we should be able to deal with them at the time of our annual review. I appeal to Members not to vote against the measure for purely political reasons or from an anti-Government motivation. Deputy Andrews referred to the recent kidnapping and the criticisms of the Garda. I should like to take this opportunity to say that the least beneficial thing that could happen to the Garda at the outset of their investigations was to have a trial of the Force by the media. At that time members of the Force were risking their lives investigating that kidnapping. It is shocking that during that event gardaí were questioned as to why they took certain action before they had completed their investigations.That is not good enough and did not benefit anybody. It was not good entertainment, was not good for the public, the Garda or for law and order. While such a programme might mean interesting viewing for some people, at the end of the day it did not do any good for the Garda.
I am satisfied that the provisions in the Bill will provide safeguards for those whose extradition is being sought. The ordinary Joe Soap does not want to be confused by legal terminology and he has to accept the word of certain people that the provisions are valid and necessary. I accept that view and I recommend that the Bill be passed by the House.
Deputy Spring and Deputy Blaney rose.
I appreciate that Deputy Blaney has offered several times and I am aware that the Ceann Comhairle has indicated that he hoped Deputy Blaney would be called some time on Tuesday. However, as the Labour Party have only had their spokesman contribute to the debate and their Leader has not contributed I am sure Deputy Blaney will appreciate why I am giving priority to Deputy Spring.
May I ask if the Chair has any list or party pattern that the Chair is calling from so that I can get an idea of when I am likely to be called?
We do not have anything of that nature. The Deputy will accept that as the day advances, and when the consideration given to bigger parties has been satisfied, consideration will be given to those who are not members of any of the major parties.
I regret that Deputy Dennehy has left the Chamber without hearing my contribution. In my view he was looking for the best of both worlds. He seemed to have difficulty in understanding what has changed in the past 12 months in relation to the parties who then formed the Coalition Government but ended his contribution by pointing out that last year Deputy Kelly reminded the Government that things change all the time and that in those circumstances legislation should be constantly reviewed. I accept that Deputy Dennehy prefaced his remarks by saying he was a layman delving into very difficult legal terminology but he must understand that with the introduction of any new legislation there is a certain amount of experimentation involved. What we try to do is shape the rules for civilised society and, obviously, that will be subject to changes at all times. In the past 12 months I have had an opportunity of studying and observing the administration of the British system of justice in greater detail and I should like to put on record a number of points in regard to this.
There has been a great deal of debate about the contents of the Bill inside and outside the House. I was very anxious that the House should have an opportunity of debating this issue, as is its entitlement. I regret a great amount of the debate has been founded on a total misconception of the powers of the safeguards we have been told are in the Bill. I listened last Sunday to a discussion on radio about the Bill. It involved the leader of one of the parties in the House and I got the impression that the person involved, and the person interviewing, operated throughout on the assumption that the Bill imposed certain obligations on the Attorney General and that individual warrants could only be proceeded with if the Attorney General agreed to them. This assumption is entirely inaccurate.
Lest some people take umbrage at my statements I should like to preface my remarks by saying that the present office holder, a fine upstanding lawyer, and former Attorneys General have served the State well. That should not muzzle us when we are looking at new obligations which are being given to the Office of the Attorney General, irrespective of who the office holder is at any given time, or irrespective of what political party he is associated with. In this Bill the assumption is entirely inaccurate. It imposes no obligation whatever on the Attorney General. It gives him the power to stop a warrant. There is no sense in which the Attorney General must exercise that power; there is no obligation on him to get involved at any stage in the proceedings.
I make this point even though it was made by the Labour Party spokesman, Deputy Taylor, but unfortunately to date it would appear that this point which I consider to be of fundamental importance when it comes to understanding this Bill, has not been emphasised enough. I want to stress this misunderstanding of the role being given to the Office of the Attorney General.
Obviously the Bill must be looked at in context — in the context of the overall 1965 legislation, in particular in the context of the sections immediately preceding these new powers, and in the context of the practice of extradition procedures generally.
Section 43 of the 1965 Act obliges the Garda Commissioner to endorse an extradition warrant for execution, provided certain minimum things have been complied with. Section 44 empowers, not obliges, the Minister for Justice to refuse to endorse that warrant if he believes it should not be endorsed. Several grounds are specified for his refusal to endorse a warrant — if a political offence is involved, or an offence under military law, or a revenue offence. He has the power also, under the section, to refer any question in his mind to the High Court and the High Court may, if the question is referred to them, refuse to endorse a warrant on the same grounds.
Within the existing legislation, there is no obligation on the Garda Commissioner to consult the Minister and there is no obligation on the Minister to consult the High Court. There is no obligation on any of the three parties to refuse to back a warrant, no matter what the offence is. In fact, the Garda Commissioner must back a warrant irrespective of the offence involved and the Minister can stay out of the proceedings entirely.
The consequence of all this is to be seen in the history of extradition proceedings since the Act was brought in 23 years ago. Upwards of 1,000 people have been the subject of extradition warrants from the United Kingdom and from Northern Ireland in that time. The Minister for Justice has not intervened once in all that time to refuse to endorse a warrant and this has happened despite the fact that there have been a number of occasions when his intervention would have led to a warrant being refused, that is to say, on those occasions when a political offence was involved. In every case where warrants were refused on the grounds of a political offence they were refused by the High Court after an application by the suspect himself under section 50 of the 1965 Act.
To summarise, the 1965 Act contains a power for the Minister for Justice to refuse to endorse a warrant. It has never once been used. It was put in as a safeguard, but it never worked. The reason it never worked is that it was a power and not an obligation. Ministers for Justice down through the years would have had different reasons for declining to exercise that power. One reason would be that they were never asked to do so by the Garda Commissioner or anyone else. Another reason would be that individual Ministers would have seen an involvement by them as politicising the process. Yet another would be that an intervention by the Minister — who is, after all, a member of the Government — could be upsetting to the "Government to Government relations" that the Taoiseach referred to in his opening speech.
Whatever the reason, the fact is that one of the principal safeguards inserted in the 1965 Act was never used. It is ironic in the extreme that the Minister for Justice who inserted a safeguard in 1965 is now the Taoiseach who wishes to insert a safeguard in 1986. Regrettably the 1965 safeguard was an illusion. Will the 1987 safeguard be an illusion too?
The similarities between this new safeguard and the old one are striking. In both cases, the power is given, but not the obligation. In both cases, there is no mechanism for precipitating any involvement.In both cases, even in the case of an intervention, the exercise of power is entirely discretionary and in both cases, the reasons for not getting involved at all are equally valid.
If this Bill is passed in its present form, Attorneys General in the future will have to decide if an intervention by them would be seen as the politicisation of what is essentially a judicial process. They will have to weigh up the consequences of their intervention against the possible diplomatic fall-out, for example, and the consequences for relations between the Government he serves and the Government of the United Kingdom.
In short, no doubt the reasons Ministers for Justice never intervened in the extradition process, despite having the power to do so, seemed overwhelming to them. Exactly the same reasons apply to any other politically-appointed officer of the Government. For all these reasons, I believe that if this Act is passed, the safeguards allegedly contained in it will never be activated.
I hesitate to speculate that the British authorities know that or that they have been given quiet assurances that this legislation will not disturb the process in any way. But I am quite certain that the British authorities will be fully aware that the equivalent safeguard already present in the Act has never been activated in the entire history of the Act.
To say, therefore, that the safeguards inherent in this Bill are an illusion is probably understating the case. It has all the appearance of a piece of legislation which was designed solely for the purpose of offering shelter to those Fianna Fáil backbenchers who have hang-ups about the whole principle of extradition.
There is another vital point that arises in this connection. The last Government, in their consideration of the arrangements necessary to ensure safeguards of a civil libertarian character, secured certain arrangements. These arrangements were secured by way of agreement with the British authorities. They placed an obligation on the British Attorney General to confirm in writing to the Irish Attorney General that a warrant had only been sought because the British prosecuting authorities were satisfied that there was a clear probability of a prosecution based on a sufficiency of admissible evidence and that all relevant requirements had been complied with. I emphasise that those arrangements were put in place by agreement, and they involved the British authorities undertaking particular obligations.
Has this safeguard now disappeared? Is it now the position that there is no obligation on the British Attorney General to do anything unless the Irish Attorney General intervenes? Since there are overwhelming reasons to believe that the Irish Attorney General will never intervene, as I have pointed out, it now appears to be the case that the Government have allowed a real and practical safeguard to wither, in favour of a safeguard which is totally illusory. How can the Government or the spokespersons describe this action as responsible?
We will be putting forward amendments on Committee Stage which will have the effect of writing in real safeguards to the legislation which the Labour Party consider very necessary. Those amendments will include what we regard as the minimum safeguard necessary, namely, that the courts will be asked to endorse warrants on the basis that there is a case to answer. The question will be asked, no doubt: why after all these years is it now necessary to introduce safeguards that were introduced in 1965?
The 1986 Act which comes into operation today limits the operation of one of the safeguards inherent in present legislation by limiting the definition of a political offence. This in itself is welcome to anyone who believes, as I do, that naked terrorism should never be allowed to masquerade as political action. But the change that is coming about must make us look carefully at the need for the protection of basic civil liberties and human rights — and one of the most basic of those rights is the right to a fair trial for any citizen, in this instance obviously for Irish citizens. Concern about the right in particular has been amplified by the conduct of the Birmingham Six hearing. I make no secret here that the conduct of that hearing, so far as I can make a judgment from carefully following the reports from the Old Bailey, leaves a lot to be desired. It confirms me in the view that extradition is a very serious process, a process which must be taken very seriously.
The difficulty here is that we are extraditing our citizens to a jurisdiction where many of them feel there is a danger that they will not receive equal treatment before the law. I do not want to comment on whether this perception is based on reality, but in all my contacts with Irish citizens living in Britain, and they are many, I have to say that there is a very real sense that they are likely to be treated as third-class citizens by the British judiciary. I have lived and worked in Britain myself — and been glad of the opportunity to do so — and I understand that perception very well. There are, of course, times when the perception is stronger than at other times, but it is nevertheless the case that our citizens expect — and they are entitled to expect — that we will take special care in relation to any foreign jurisdiction where there is a doubt about the issue of equal treatment before the law.
I do not ever want it said of our jurisdiction that it is a haven for terrorism. I know that is not true and we should all be grateful for the efforts of the Garda in recent weeks — and for many years past — in combating terrorism and ensuring that this State is not a haven for terrorists and never will be.
When we talk about safeguards, we must ensure that the safeguards implemented in our legislation dealing with the extradition of suspects to other jurisdictions will mean that the rights of Irish citizens are not treated in a cavalier fashion. Obviously we must extradite but we must insert real, viable safeguards into our legislation governing extradition and that is what the Labour Party will seek to do on Committee Stage.
The introduction of this Bill by the Government is a clear recognition of the urgent need to protect and safeguard Irish citizens from being offhandedly and casually handed over for trial to a foreign power, specifically to Britain and Northern Ireland. This is consistent with the stance taken by Fianna Fáil since Ireland first signed the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism in February 1986. We made it quite clear at that time that, in conjunction with the coming into being of the Convention, adequate safeguards must be included in our extradition legislation.
There have been three much publicised occurrences in the weeks leading up to this debate, one in our own State, one in Northern Ireland and one off the coast of France. I speak, of course, of the O'Grady kidnapping, the Enniskillen bombing and the Eksund affair. The carnage that occurred in Enniskillen must be condemned by all civilised people. No right thinking person could condone the taking of human life in this cold, callous and bloody manner. The events surrounding the O'Grady kidnapping were equally repulsive and one's blood runs cold to even contemplate the mental and physical suffering which this unfortunate man experienced in captivity but however unjustifiable and regrettable these events were, they must not per se be the reason for or the motivation behind decisions taken by this House regarding the serious issue of extradition.
The Irish people have memories spanning centuries of such atrocities perpertrated on them by the English. Such dwelling on the past serves no useful purpose today but it is significant that our people have a basic, in-built mistrust of England, a lack of credibility in her justice and an inherent awareness of her anti-Irish prejudice. As far back as 1877, in a speech in Manchester, Charles Stewart Parnell said he believed that you may go on trying to conciliate English prejudice until the day of judgment and that you would not get the breadth of his nail from them. He said we will never gain a single sixpenny worth from them by conciliation. There is ample evidence to suggest that the same prejudice to which the great Parnell referred 110 years ago still obtains to this very day.
It is against this background that the safeguards included in the Bill must be considered and brought into law, not only for the protection of those who may be the subject of extradition warrants but for the peace of mind and reassurance of the Irish people as a whole. Much has been said and written about the need for improvements in the administration of justice and in the security system in Northern Ireland. However, the many calls for the introduction of these improvements appear to have fallen on deaf ears. Despite the lack of response to these demands and the absence of any formal commitment in this direction, the British Government continue to expect us to row in with the extradition without demur.
Much British pressure has been applied to ensure that we will implement extradition and the more simple and facile our mode of implementation the better they would welcome it. They have already voiced their aversion to what we are proposing to do, stitching into our legislation appropriate measures to ensure the protection of innocent Irish citizens. This attitude is extremely difficult to reconcile with their own track record in the area of extradition. Britain down the years has had a reputation of being one of the most difficult countries in the world from which to secure fugitives, even those of non-British origin, not to mention their own citizens. However, we must also consider this entire matter in the context of our European involvement and the high hopes our citizens hold for future economic benefit with our European partners. We have already taken a decision not to remain economically isolated. We decided to take the necessary measures to ensure that the massive European marketplace will be available to us in future years. Could we now, as has been suggested, seriously consider not ratifying the European Convention?