Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 12 Oct 1999

Vol. 509 No. 1

Other Questions. - Garda Investigations.

Eamon Gilmore


58 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the outcome of the search for the bodies of the nine people murdered by the IRA, known as the disappeared; the number of Garda man hours spent on the search to date; the additional steps, if any, being considered to find those bodies not yet recovered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19717/99]

Ruairí Quinn


77 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the role, if any, his Department has played in efforts to recover the body of a person (details supplied) who is believed to have been murdered and buried in France; the representations, if any, made to the French authorities to have the site excavated; if he has satisfied himself that the French authorities have received all appropriate assistance from Irish agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18659/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 58 and 77 together.

When I last answered questions in the House about this matter on 1 July the remains of three victims had been located. The remains of these persons – Mr. Eamonn Molloy, Mr. Brian McKinney and Mr. John McClory – have since been returned to their families for burial.

Despite extensive searching, involving the commitment of whatever Garda and other resources were necessary, no other remains were located. I should make the point that those searches generally went considerably further than would have been thought necessary on the basis of the information made available. In other words, all reasonable efforts were made to bring those searches to a successful conclusion. In making this point, I am sure all Members of the House will join me in paying tribute to the excellent work carried out by An Garda Síochána in this regard, not least for the sensitive manner in which they dealt with the relatives who obviously were going through a particularly harrowing time.

After 49 days of extensive searching an operational decision was taken to suspend the remaining searches and to assess the operation in the light of the information available. Discussions are ongoing between the gardaí and the Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains regarding the availability of any further information that would assist in the search for the remains of the victims. Any such information is being and will be assessed to see if it forms the basis for further action on the part of the gardaí. I take this opportunity to appeal to anyone who has information which could lead to the location of victims' remains to make this available to the commission.

While I do not have available to me the precise number of hours expended by the gardaí to date, and I do not believe there would be any substantial benefit to be gained by collating this information, it is beyond doubt that the necessary resources were made available both in terms of the gardaí and outside assistance to undertake the searches in question.

In relation to the matter raised by Deputy Quinn, I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 118 of 28 April 1999, No. 93 of 5 May 1999 and No. 248 of 11 May 1999. As mentioned in the responses to those questions, the remains in this case are those of the late Mr. Séamus Ruddy. Following appropriate consultations, on 23 March 1999 the Irish Central Authority for Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, which is part of my Department, forwarded an International Rogatory Commission to the French Ministry of Justice for assistance in locating the remains of Mr. Ruddy. The rogatory commission was issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions at the request of An Garda Síochána. The French Ministry gave approval in principle for the execution of the request on 15 April and, following subsequent contact between the gardaí and the relevant French authorities, a search was carried out on 5 and 6 May 1999.

The full co-operation of the French authorities was received at all stages and I want to place my appreciation of this on the record of the House. In addition, all possible assistance was afforded by the Irish authorities involved in the matter. An area which had been indicated as the place where the remains in question were located was excavated without success. The initial area of search was then widened and a much more extensive area was excavated, again, unfortunately, with negative results.

Recently the gardaí have received further information from the Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains on the possible location of the remains. This information is currently being evaluated in co-operation with the French authorities so that an agreed strategy for further action may be taken in the near future.

It is only right to acknowledge again the valuable work being performed by the Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains in dealing with this very difficult issue.

I will ask a number of supplementaries together for brevity. First, what specific efforts have been made by the Minister and his Department since the cancellation of the former searches to locate the bodies of victims? Second, what specific contacts and supports have been offered to the families of the victims to assist them during this traumatic and difficult time? Third, will the Minister give us his opinion as of now on his evaluation of the bona fides of the original information by the IRA on the location of victims? Fourth, is there any proposal to further amendment to the Criminal Justice (Location of Victims' Remains) Act, 1999, consequent on what we now know?

At this point there are no proposals to amend the 1999 Act. In regard to whether I accept that the information was given in good faith, I have said before in this House that it would appear to me that the information was given in good faith. Obviously time may have dimmed some people's memories but I have made it clear again and again that if people have further information they should, in all humanity, bring forward that information to enable us to continue with any searches which may be deemed appropriate on foot of the information being given to us. The difficulty is that the further information we require—

What about support for the families?

—is not in our possession at the present time. With regard to specific contacts, the position is that Mr. Wilson has been very conscious of that.

I welcome the Minister's affirmation of the bona fides and good intent of those who assisted in the location of the sites of the disappeared. Is it the case that further detail has been received by the Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains and, if so, will the Minister explain the current delay in the resumption of searches at specific sites?

As I have said, any information which is brought to our attention will be acted on. The searches earlier this year obviously went considerably further than would have been thought necessary on the basis of the information which was made available. In other words, all reasonable efforts were made to bring those searches to a successful conclusion. If there is new information in the possession of the Garda Síochána it will be carefully evaluated with a view to assessing if further searches would have a reasonable prospect of success, but the House will appreciate that given the disappointments many of the relatives have experienced in relation to the searches which have taken place, it would be wrong for any of us to say anything at this stage that might yield unrealistic hopes but I can say—

Acting Chairman

Thank you, Minister.

I ask the Minister to bear in mind that there are at least five others in addition to the nine disappeared mentioned in the question whom the IRA have not claimed, and they include Charlie Armstrong and Gerry Evans from Crossmaglen? Will the Minister give a commitment that unremitting pressure will be put on those members of the IRA who were responsible for those murders, some of whom ordered them and at least one of whom is now in a leadership position in Sinn Féin? May I join also in the praise the Minister gave to the Garda authorities? I had personal experience of their compassion, sensitivity and commitment while visiting one of the sites and I ask the Minister to pass on the commendation to the Garda authorities.

I appreciate Deputy Currie's intervention and I am on record as appreciating the interest he has shown in this matter over a prolonged period of time. Any additional information which people have would be most welcome. We have made it clear on a number of occasions at various levels of Government that it would be in the interests of everybody if people who have further information would make it available. Obviously, any such information would be utilised in accordance with the legislation now on the Statute Book and we must again remember the harrowing time being experienced by relatives of the victims. I met some of the relatives some time ago who are going through a great deal of distress and trauma, and it was truly a heart-wrenching experience.