This section will allow the Government to pay pensions to the three people concerned. Nobody would deny a person a pension if he or she had worked for it and if incapacity forced him or her to leave a job, as provided for in the 1961 Act. However, these three people are not leaving their jobs due to reasons of incapacity as we understand it, such as ill health. The Minister said last night it is time for us to accept this reality and to move on from this episode, as if it were an episode of "The Riordans". This was not just an episode. It goes to the operation of our justice system in a fundamental way.
In his report, the Chief Justice said Mr. O'Flah erty's intervention in relisting the case was in the spirit of humanitarian interest. If so, why was Mr. O'Flaherty so unwilling to come to an Oireachtas committee and explain his humanitarian motives and why he felt he had to help someone for those reasons? If the Chief Justice felt Mr. O'Flaherty did what he did for humanitarian reasons, I cannot understand why he will not come to the committee. Mr. O'Flaherty clearly understood what the Chief Justice meant and was willing to come before the committee before he resigned. As Deputy Higgins said, he was not willing to do so afterwards. That defies logic and clarity. Why was Mr. O'Flaherty willing to explain his humanitarian motives when a judge and yet, when no longer a judge, he said his lips were sealed and that the Constitution forbade him from attending the committee? If ever there was a contradiction, this is one. If he claims the Constitution stopped him, it would have been a much more relevant argument when he was still a judge than when he resigned.
Mr. Kelly had a good reputation as a judge in the Circuit Court and in his short time in the High Court. I am disappointed he felt he could not explain his motives to the committee. If his motives were good and if, as he tried to explain in his correspondence with the Chief Justice, there was nothing wrong with his handling of the case, what was he afraid of? What was he afraid of from Deputies O'Sullivan, Barnes and Jim Higgins as well as the other committee members? What did he have to hide? We are getting no explanation and must sail into the sunset with the Biblical quotation "For now we see through a glass, darkly" in mind.
We will never know what happened and fundamental damage has been done to the system of justice. If an ordinary people are not happy with what happens in court, they will say they did not speak to the right person. They will say they did not have the right dog to take for a walk or meet a judge in the right park, which is unacceptable. I am not saying people have a basis for saying this, but they will say so, and we have heard it already. My post has increased greatly since the Sheedy case, with letters from people who believe that not everything was done in cases that concerned them and colleagues have told me the same has happened to them. I do not understand why these judges were so reluctant to appear before the committee. It is a pity, given the service they gave to the State, that they have allowed this dark cloud to remain over the justice system by not coming clean.
I am critical of the Government because we heard the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform say they wanted to give time to those concerned to give explanations. Suddenly, however, it is time for us to accept this reality and to move on from this episode, in the words of the Minister. Why the change of face? Why did the Tánaiste say on the Order of Business that she would demand answers when there is not a sign of a Progressive Democrat for this debate? There is no sign of an objection to this happening without our knowledge. That is why the Opposition is so angry with the Government.
When this was announced on 20 April, the Government had agreed to the pensions but there was no mention of the fact that the law had to be changed. I had already consulted the 1961 Act and could find no reference to a mechanism whereby people leaving their jobs for reasons other than incapacity could be given pensions before reaching pension age. The Minister of State slipped a line into her speech that night when she said the Minister had outlined the severance terms to which the Government was and is prepared to agree. The sentence continued, ".and which would be brought before the House in due course for approval." It took the Opposition to ferret out the fact that this needed new legislation and the Government had to come to the House afterwards with its hands up and say "Goodness me, we forgot to tell you we need legislation." The Government assumed the House would rubber stamp this legislation before the committee or before the ink was dry on the Chief Justice's report. It was trying to pull a fast one, which is the only way I can describe it, and that has added to the sense of disquiet generated by this case.
Deputy Power referred to how awful the Opposition was for criticising the judges, given the pain their families have suffered. I understand the pain the three families have suffered and it was difficult for them to live through what they did. However, none of this would have happened if a young mother had not been struck down and killed by a car taking off and landing on the roof of the car she was in, injuring her children and leaving her husband bereft of his wife and his children bereft of their mother. That is what we should remember.
We feel some sympathy for the families of the judges because the cases gained a great deal of publicity, but they must accept the consequences of their actions, just as politicians do. A woman is dead and a young man who took too much drink and caused the accident received an appropriate punishment. Following legal advice he succeeded in having the sentence reviewed and his term of imprisonment shortened. He then tried to give the impression that his legal advisers had acted without his knowledge in seeking a review of his sentence. I do not believe a solicitor could take such an action without informing his client. The young man subsequently went back into court and, in 90 seconds, had his sentence suspended. The woman is still dead. The man is still without his wife and their children will grow up without the help and support of their mother.
We are now subjected to the Government telling us to face reality and to move on from this episode. It will not be time to move on until the Government does its job and finds out from the judges why they did what they did.
I have some sympathy for the county registrar, Mr. Quinlan, who misguidedly tried to protect a Supreme Court Judge. The power of a Supreme Court Judge is illustrated in the way the county registrar did not tell all the facts to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on three separate occasions and left the Minister within a hair's-breadth of giving wrong information to the House. As a former Minister for Justice, I know how appalling it is to come into the House wrongly briefed or not fully briefed. Nevertheless, on a human level, I can understand Mr. Quinlan's actions. He was trying to protect a Supreme Court Judge, who now owes Mr. Quinlan an apology for placing him in the position of feeling obliged to remain silent and not say who had asked him to relist the case. Why did Mr. Justice O'Flaherty find it impossible to come to the Select Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights after he had resigned when it had been so easy before. Perhaps he thought that by doing so he could have saved his job. For the sake of his reputation and of his family, who must have suffered greatly, he ought to have appeared before the committee. Was he casually walking in the park? Did someone suggest that he walk in the park at that time? These questions have not been answered and many rumours and innuendoes have been repeated.
It is not sufficient for the Minister of State, Deputy Wallace, to quote St. Paul. We need a Pauline conversion. The Government must realise that it has promised the House that information and an explanation would be forthcoming. There is a danger that this can happen again.
I realise that the pensions will be the only ones of their kind. They have been granted, not because of sickness of incapacity, but because of actions which were inappropriate and, in one case, bad for the course of justice. Is the Minister concerned that in granting these pensions for very specific reasons we have created a precedent? We will find it very difficult to refuse similar pension arrangements to judges or senior civil servants who wish to return to private practice or retire early. An assistant secretary who has not actually been found guilty of misdeeds may choose to save himself and his family embarrassment by retiring. How can he or she be refused a similar pension arrangement? If a higher civil servant is obliged to retire because of incapacity, six and two thirds years are added to his or her pension payments. A civil servant who is only 45 would not qualify for a pension. This Bill has created a precedent and I do not believe the Govenment has sufficiently examined its implications.
I know of no other instance when three people who were found by the Chief Justice and the Minister to have acted inappropriately had a Bill passed to accommodate their specific needs. We remember the controversy which surrounded the passage of legislation to accommodate the Goodman difficulties in the summer of 1993. We are now discussing pension legislation for three people who have not been able to explain what they did, why they did it and what were their motives. Their motives may have been benign but we do not know, because they will not tell us.
Deputy O'Kennedy, who is a barrister, must hear what is being said in the Law Library. This case has left a cloud over the legal system. The Director of Public Prosecutions has had to repeat his direction to people acting for the State not to enter into behind-the-scenes discussions or deals. Justice must be seen to be done.
I wish the Minister had not rushed this legislation through the Oireachtas before the Committee's recommendations had been examined.