Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 8 Dec 1999

Vol. 512 No. 4

Ceisteanna–Questions. - Dublin and Monaghan Bombings.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin


1 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he has received a further submission from the Justice for the Forgotten group on the need for a public inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. [25137/99]

John Bruton


2 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on any further submission he has received from the Justice for the Forgotten group since he last answered parliamentary questions on the subject. [25907/99]

Ruairí Quinn


3 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach his response to the latest submissions he has received from the Justice for the Forgotten group regarding its call for an inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974. [26070/99]

Tony Gregory


4 Mr. Gregory asked the Taoiseach if he will review the need for a full public inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in view of the detailed submission he has received from the Justice for the Forgotten group. [26072/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, together.

I received a submission from the Justice for the Forgotten group the week before last. The submission is currently under consideration.

On a point of order—

Question No. 1 is in the name of Deputy Ó Caoláin.

Thank you, Deputy. I call Deputy Ó Caoláin.

On a point of order, Sir—

Members are offering on a point of order, Sir.

I will hear Deputy Shortall but if the House is disorderly I will not take points of order.

On what basis, Sir?

On the basis that the House cannot be run properly if the House is disorderly. We will proceed with the business. I will hear Deputy Shortall.

Thank you, Sir. We need order in the House. I ask you to give direction in relation to Standing Orders. If it is alleged that a Member misleads the House—

We have dealt with that matter. We are taking Question Time—

What do Standing Orders say on this matter? I would like you to give me direction on this.

I will give you direction. If you have a serious allegation to make against any Member of the House you should do it by way of substantive motion. I call Deputy Ó Caoláin.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle—

The practice of the House is that—

The practice of the House is that Question Time commences at 2.30 p.m. and is not interrupted for such matters.

You are being extremely partial in your rulings, Sir.

I will not accept that. Deputy, do you withdraw that remark?

It is a constant outrage in this House.

There is a long standing precedent that Question Time is not interrupted by other matters.

There is also a long standing precedent of impartiality by the Chair.

Mr. Quinn: There is no precedent for a budget being rewritten within seven days and the announcement being made in this way.

Deputy Shortall, do you withdraw your remark? If not, I ask you to leave the House.

This is the sovereign Parliament of the Republic of Ireland and the budget belongs on the floor of this House.

Deputy Shortall, do you withdraw your remark?

I withdraw the remark—

That is satisfactory. We will have no more of this nonsense.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, as guardian of our—

Deputy Bruton, I am about to suspend the House. This is Question Time. If Members have matters to raise which are related to the budget they may do so later in the day.

I am offering—

Deputy Quinn, I have heard you—

You might have the courtesy, Sir, to listen to what I have to say.

I have heard you, Deputy Quinn. I call Deputy Ó Caoláin.

I am offering you a parliamentary procedure which might facilitate this impasse.

There is not an impasse. The impasse is that you are continuing to interrupt.

The impasse lies with a budget being rewritten and privately announced to the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party and not on the floor of the House. My request is that the Minister for Finance come into the House and announce his U-turn. That is all.

It is obvious that you wish the sitting to be suspended. The House is now suspended until 3 o'clock.

Sitting suspended at 2.40 p.m. and resumed at 3 p.m.

We were discussing Question No. 1.

Could I briefly, Sir, in the interest of order, suggest that the Taoiseach might consider—

I would prefer not to go back to this matter.

This is Question Time.

I am trying to be helpful.

You are not being helpful.

I am endeavouring to be helpful.

There is a longstanding precedent that there are not any interruptions at Question Time. It is purely for the purpose of taking questions.

There is also a longstanding precedent that budgets are outlined to the House.

If you would please allow me—

It is my intention to suspend the House until 4.15 p.m. if Deputy Quinn insists on disrupting the business and not allowing the House to continue its business.

I am trying to be helpful—

I have called Question No. 1. The Taoiseach answered it and I am calling Deputy Ó Caoláin to ask his supplementary.

Please, Sir, allow me as the leader of one of the parliamentary parties in this House—

Deputy Quinn, we have dealt with that matter and—

I am going to offer a constructive solution.

We do not need any solutions, constructive or otherwise, at this point. This is Question Time.

I am suggesting that—

This can be dealt with at another time. We are not dealing with it at Question Time. Does Deputy Ó Caoláin have a supplementary question? If Deputy Quinn continues to interrupt the House—

On a point of order.

—the Chair has no option but to suspend the sitting until 4.15 p.m.

On a point of order, rather than suspending the House as you suggest, could I suggest that you—

If Members continue to interrupt, Deputy Gormley, the Chair is left with no option.

It would be more constructive—

I call Deputy Ó Caoláin.

On a point of order, I am trying to get some order here because clearly—

The order is that Members resume their seats and allow Deputy Ó Caoláin—

—-my colleagues in the Labour Party are concerned about what has happened today. The Chair should take on board—

That is not a point of order, Deputy Gormley. I have called Deputy Ó Caoláin.

Deputies Quinn and Stagg rose.

You are not going to get order—

If the Members have decided that they are going to orchestrate disruption in this House, the Chair has no option but to suspend the sitting until 4.15 p.m.

There is no such decision.

I call on Deputy Ó Caoláin to put his supplementary question.

Deputy Quinn, we are not discussing this matter now. It can be discussed at some other time but not now.

I am trying to be courteous. I will not press the point at this time.

He is trying to be helpful.

I welcome the Taoiseach's response to my question. Given the new submission from the Justice for the Forgotten Group and its compelling and moving testimony before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, will the Taoiseach indicate when a final decision will be made by the Government on whether a public inquiry will be held? Can the survivors and the bereaved of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings expect such a development in advance of the 26th anniversary of the massacre in the coming year?

On an associated matter, will the Taoiseach comment on the discovery of a highly sophisticated listening and tracking device which was concealed in a vehicle used by my party's president, Gerry Adams, and its chief negotiator and current Minister for Education, Martin McGuinness, during the course of the Mitchell review? Will the Taoiseach raise this matter with the British Government and ascertain what knowledge it has of this operation?

Will the Deputy also condemn the bombs that were planted under cars? He never did that in his life.

Hear, hear.

We have received a further report and correspondence from the relatives. These are being examined and that will be completed as soon as possible. Legal representatives on behalf of the relatives presented this recently and I hope to be able to respond to them quickly. They are, by and large, legal points. As I said on previous occasions, the Government hopes at an early date to appoint a legal representative to examine these matters. We decided not to proceed with that until we examined it and came to an agreement or understanding with the relatives. The current position is that the submission made by them in the past week is being examined.

On the second matter, I have just heard about it. I will look into it.

What progress has been made on the issue of taking evidence in regard to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings from persons who might be outside the jurisdiction?

There is no progress. We were asked by the relatives to delay setting up the legal representative until they made their submission. It took them some time to do that, longer than they anticipated, and we have to respond quickly to it. I would like to be in a position to appoint a legal representative immediately after Christmas to commence that work.

In relation to justice for the forgotten, and I am referring to the Opposition parliamentary parties, a meeting took place elsewhere in this building relating to changes in the budget. Is the Taoiseach prepared to avail of an offer I wish to formally make—

Deputy Quinn, I do not wish to go down that road. We are dealing with Questions Nos. 1 to 4 on the Order Paper.

I am talking about the forgotten elected representatives—

Has the Deputy got a question on the Order Paper?

—and the new measures in the budget.

Please do not interrupt me, Sir, and let me finish my point.

Deputy Quinn, you must show respect to the Chair.

Are you speaking as chairman of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party or—

That is outrageous.

There is a conflict of interest.

I ask the Deputy to withdraw that remark about the Chair.

Deputy Quinn knows the procedures.

I ask the Deputy to withdraw that remark about the Chair or leave the House.

I asked you a question, Sir, and if you had the courtesy—

I am asking you to withdraw that remark or leave the House.

—to answer it, then I—

I am asking Deputy Quinn to withdraw that remark.

I asked you a question, Sir.

The Chair is impartial and will continue to be impartial—

Then please let me finish my question.

The Chair will implement—

Let me finish my question—

Will you withdraw your remark? The Chair will continue to be impartial and implement Standing Orders as agreed by Members of this House. If Members are not satisfied with Standing Orders, there is a means of changing them. Will you withdraw that remark please, Deputy Quinn?

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, on a point of order.

I am on my feet, Deputy Stagg. Please sit down. Deputy Quinn, will you withdraw that remark?

Sir, I did not make a remark. I asked a question—

You made a remark about the impartiality of the Chair. I am asking you to withdraw that remark and then we can continue.

I withdraw the remark. I will proceed, and will the Chair please, as a Member who was elected to this House at about the same time as myself—

That is why I expect you to ask questions that are relevant to the questions on the Order Paper.

—accord me the courtesy of formulating the question before you hand trip me in relation to it. That is all I ask.

Is it relevant?

It is entirely relevant to the forgotten, Sir—

Questions Nos. 1 to 4?

—and it is addressed to the real leader of the party, and that is not you, yet.

Thank you for the proposal.

It is not you, yet. It is still addressed to him.

He is trying to hand trip from the sideline.

Will the Fianna Fáil Party avail of the 17 minutes available to the Labour Party at 8.30 p.m. during the budget debate to enable the Minister for Finance to address the House on the budget changes? That is my question.

Deputy Quinn, that is not relevant to Questions Nos. 1 to 4.

It is entirely relevant to the forgotten elected representatives—

It is not relevant to Questions Nos. 1 to 4. I call Deputy Gregory.

Will the Taoiseach help to defuse this situation?

There is nothing to defuse. This is Question Time.

The Taoiseach could help to defuse this situation.

I have called Deputy Gregory and I will call Deputy Bruton when it is his turn.

It is my understanding from previous replies by the Taoiseach that the difficulty until now has been the need for a detailed assessment of all evidence. In addition to the report and the submission from the relatives' group, surely the meticulous report that is available in Garda headquarters could form a basis for a public inquiry? Does the Taoiseach accept that what the relatives see in the private inquiry is simply another tactic in a long line of them by the State to cover up an appalling injustice? Does the Taoiseach accept that many of the relatives want to see the veil of secrecy lifted and that the only way this can be achieved is through a full public inquiry?

I share the Deputy's concerns that we get to the truth of these matters, and I have endeavoured to assist the families in doing that. However, I think the relatives accept that all advice suggests that an enormous amount of data is not available. The best way forward legally which has been highlighted to me, and I have raised it in the House on a number of occasions, is for an eminent legal person to be appointed to conduct an inquiry of all existing data held in Garda headquarters, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and wherever else. That person would then try to see if, on the basis of the information, the public inquiry sought by the relatives could be initiated satisfactorily. At present, such data does not exist.

I agree with trying to lift the veil of secrecy and appointing a legal person. I have already said I consulted with the relatives on that issue. I have tried to find a high profile person who can devote his or her time and commitment. All relevant data in the State and anywhere else would be made available to that person. The relatives have done a great deal of work since April in working with us and helping us in this, and I acknowledge that. However, a person is needed to go through all the relevant data to see if there is a basis. Otherwise – all my advice points to this and it is something with which I think the relatives' solicitors agree – calling a public inquiry at this stage and trying to set it up with broad and sweeping terms of reference will achieve nothing and will not do justice to those who were killed and murdered by the bombs in those terrible days in May 1974. Neither would it reach any conclusions. That is the advice.

We are trying at this stage to examine the relatives' submission on a legal basis to see if they have an alternative. If there are other matters on which my legal advice is different, I will report to the House on that. If not, we will appoint an eminent legal person to engage in the sifting process.

Like the Taoiseach, I want the full truth about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. However, does he accept, as I do, that the principle should be parity of esteem among all victims of violence? Does the Taoiseach agree that 40,000 people have been injured by violence in Northern Ireland, of whom 3,600 have lost their lives, that there is anxiety that there be transparency in regard to responsibility, for example, for the deaths of Inam Bashir and John Jeffries who were murdered by the IRA in a bomb in London, and that transparency should apply to all bombings by the IRA, the UVF and other organisations? Does the Taoiseach agree that we in this jurisdiction have come in for criticism where it has been suggested that we have applied different standards to those convicted of the killing of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe than we would wish to see applied to those who killed people in the other part of Ireland where we take a more lenient line? Does the Taoiseach agree that, while we must get to the truth of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, we should not be partitionist in our sympathy or in our desire for transparency and truth and that we should consider whether there is a need for truth as well as reconciliation in regard to all acts of violence?

I do not disagree with that. It is how it is best done. There has been some criticism but I have talked to many of the groups and examined these issues. When the Government asked the former Tánaiste, Mr. John Wilson, to examine the needs and concerns of those who had suffered as a result of violence associated with the conflict in Northern Ireland, it specifically asked him to examine the needs and concerns of families of victims of major outrages. That included Dublin and Monaghan. His recommendations have been accepted by the Government and some of the issues he put forward will be specifically included in the terms of reference.

Most of the criticism in the North has been about what is perceived as the difference between the line we have taken on the Bloody Sunday and Pat Finucane cases. I understand that. If my father, brother or mother were killed, I would take exactly the same view. We cannot ignore any of these issues. I do not disagree with that.

There should be no religious or political distinction as to either the motivation of the perpetrator or the position of the victim.

I accept that. None of the groups, of which there are many now, or their representatives is looking for public inquiries, rather recognition and understanding. Most of them know about what happened. When one meets these people, the terrible thing is that they are reasonably clear in their mind about what happened or at least have come to that conclusion. I have no evidence to say whether these facts are true. Many of the groups have made up their minds.

In the case of Bloody Sunday, the case was put together and the work done by the previous Government. We have had the Ludlow case which has been put forward for a long time and we have examined that. The Dublin and Monaghan bombings were the greatest atrocity in the Republic during the Troubles, and that is why I have paid more attention to them, but that is not to ignore the difficulties or circumstances of any shootings, bombings or murders. We cannot afford to segregate our views on these issues.

I wish to be associated with the comments of the Taoiseach and the Leader of the Fine Gael Party. On the Dublin and Monaghan issue, the group I met also met the Taoiseach, and my information is that on 9 October following a meeting with the Taoiseach, it rejected his proposal of a private legal inquiry. Has there been any advance on that position? Where does the Taoiseach now place this issue? Is there an impasse or a way forward which he believes would be acceptable to the parties involved? In the last sentences of his previous contribution the Taoiseach said that what these people want is recognition as much as anything else. Bearing in mind the data available to the Garda Síochána, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and others, in what sense can we as a sovereign state respond to that need or requirement, emotional or otherwise?

My remark was not addressed to that group. They are not satisfied with the response of understanding. They seek a public inquiry and that is their stated position. If it is of use to them, I would like to achieve that.

Regarding 9 October, they asked for a month and, while it took a little longer, we now have their legal submission which is being examined. A small group of officials from various Departments are examining that along with the Attorney General.

It is still under consideration?

Yes. I will deal directly with the group. I promised I would do that before we progress, if we can find a basis to progress.

The advice available to me still states that to frame broad and sweeping terms of reference for an inquiry into the events of May 1974 would serve no one's purpose. The data must be examined and we have offered for a senior legal person – it would have to be someone of high standing and acceptable to all – to examine all the available information. The relatives continually raise the fact that because information from Garda files was used in a TV programme some years ago, much more records must exist. I cannot competently state what exists, but the legal person will be allowed look at all—

Surely the Taoiseach has ascer tained precisely what files are in the possession of the Garda.

I think I have previously stated in the House that what I have been told is held by the Garda and what was used in that programme is not necessarily the same. Far more documentation seemed to have been used in the programme. The relatives claim they were told this data came from Garda files. The data did not officially come from Garda files, so I cannot solve that dispute. The evidence used in the programme came from somewhere and the best way of proceeding is for a legal person to examine everything that is officially held by the State and other evidence, including the submissions collected at a fair amount of expense and enormous effort by the relatives. We may be able to have movement if a legal person does this. I do not think it can be solved in any other way.

I wish to point out that Deputies Currie, Joe Higgins, Crawford, Ó Caoláin and Gregory are offering and I would like to make time for their questions if possible. However, there is less than 15 minutes remaining for Taoiseach's questions. I call Deputy Sargent.

Bhí mé i measc na daoine a bhí buailte le cheann amháin de na buamaí í mBaile Átha Cliath ach ní raibh mé gortaithe. Tar éis an fiosrúchán príobháideach, dúnta seo, an mbeidh fiosrúchán poiblí cosúil leis an cheann maidir le Bloody Sunday agus ar nós an Moriarty tribunal agus an Flood tribunal, mar sin atá ag teastáil?

B'fhéidir go mbeidh. The issue is whether the legal person provides us with a case which will say that is possible. I know it is difficult for the relatives, but there is no point in setting up a public inquiry if it is not felt there is a sufficient basis of evidence both inside and outside the State. That is why we need somebody to examine everything which exists before we make a decision. The matter has drifted and drifted and the longer it goes on the more difficult it becomes. I have no reason to have any argument with the relatives. I have sat down with them on numerous occasions over the years, as have Deputy Gregory and other Members, and I know the torment they have been through. Deputy Quinn has obviously met them recently. For them it is still as if it happened yesterday.

For them it did.

I understand that. All the advice, both inside and outside the House for some considerable years, has been that this is the best way forward. I do not think we should ignore that advice given that it is a legal and judicial case. I do not think the legal representatives of the relatives are at odds with us. They feel a sifting done by a legal representative might form the basis of just a cover-up. I have done my best to try to explain that is not the object of the process. I cannot predetermine the outcome of that sifting process.

Is the Taoiseach aware that those of us who attended the meeting of the Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights were enormously impressed by the case made by the relatives and those who attended on their behalf? Is he particularly aware that we were impressed by the evidence given to us? We had an opportunity to cross-examine the people. We were very impressed by the evidence given by the producer of that Yorkshire Television programme and by Don Mullen.

A question please, Deputy.

Is the Taoiseach aware that we were impressed, particularly by the evidence of Don Mullen who did so much in relation to Bloody Sunday in Derry? Is he aware that Don Mullen and the producer of the Yorkshire Television programme both said they believed there is sufficient evidence in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to warrant a public inquiry? Has the Taoiseach called for, seen or will he now call for anything on file in the Department to be made available so that this contention can be tested?

I think I have answered that. Yes, I know everybody was very impressed. I have had a number of meetings, including meetings with the entire group of about 50 relatives.

The Deputy raised the issue of the evidence in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I do not have the competence to assess such evidence if it exists. It is necessary for a legal person to sift through that-—

Has the Taoiseach seen the files in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform?

No, I have not, because I make a practice of not going near any files in the Department. I am not going to start—

Has the Minster for Justice, Equality and Law Reform examined the files?

I do not intend looking for files from the Department during my political career.

If we are seriously interested in the matter, as I believe the Taoiseach is, why have the files not been examined?

I ask Deputy Currie to resume his seat. We must have order during Question Time.

(Dublin West): I hope there will be a public inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. Will the Taoiseach say all the relevant information on the bombings, which may be considered confidential by the Irish security forces or the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, will be made available to the inquiry? While there may be information in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, many people believe there is much more information in the hands of leading personnel in the British security forces. Has the Taoiseach at any stage discussed with the British Prime Minister the knowledge of security personnel in Britain? Will he discuss it with the Prime Minister and will he ask him to direct the leading personnel of the security forces in the North and Britain to make available all the information they have, particularly as it might have involved the connivance of some security personnel in the outrage?

The answer to both questions is yes. When the legal representative is going through the sifting process, all information – everything that is available in the State – should be given to him or her. I have discussed a number of these cases, including the Séamus Ludlow case, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and cases raised with me by many of the victims' groups in the North who represent loyalist and Protestant groups – it is almost a standard item on agendas. These are two-way investigations. In some cases we have evidence while in others they have evidence, and I have said that we will co-operate on such matters.

I, too, would like all the evidence to be provided and we should do whatever else we can for the families of the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. We will never forget that day in the history of Monaghan. Is the Taoiseach aware of the suffering many other families are going through? Recently I met a family who still live with the trauma of the murder of the late Senator Billy Fox. Is there anything we, as a Parliament, can do to ensure that the sufferings and trauma of such people are recognised? I appreciate that the former Minister, John Wilson, is doing what he can, but there needs to be greater recognition of such families who have suffered quietly over the past 25 to 30 years and relive the trauma every day.

Hear, hear.

I do not wish to repeat what I said earlier in reply to Deputy Bruton but it still stands. The chairman of the commission, John Wilson, recommended that consideration be given to holding, on an annual basis, a day of remembrance for victims. This has been raised by all the groups of various denominations and persuasions in all parts of the island. There is a strong view among the parties in the North that, whatever about it being held on an annual basis, there should be a day of remembrance early in the new millennium.

There is no debate about the fact that suffering and pain is universal in regard to all that we have been through. It is important that I put it to the Taoiseach—

A question, please, Deputy.

Does the Taoiseach agree that contrary to the premise of Deputy Bruton's contribution, the key difference, although I accept it is not unique to this tragedy alone, is that the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in May 1974 bore all the hallmarks of a British intelligence operation in this jurisdiction, therefore bearing the thumbprints of the British Government with all that implies?

The Deputy knows the truth already, he does not need an inquiry.

A Deputy

A bomb is a bomb.

Murder is murder.

I would like to be in a position where we could examine the circumstances and evidence that is available. I urge Members who may have influence over the relevant groups to follow the agreement in the House that the way forward is to have a legal representative who will have full access to everything that is available. I have asked the television authorities and Yorkshire television if they would co-operate. I spoke to Don Mullen and asked one of the newspapers that has archival data if they would co-operate and they all said they would do so. The sooner we reach that position the better. We will try to look at the legal evidence and see if we can work from that. It is unlikely but I do not want to pre-empt anything. We will go through the process I promised the relatives and see where we get with it.

We are coming to the end of Taoiseach's Question Time. Three Deputies are offering. If they are agreeable, rather than selecting one Deputy, we will have three supplementaries and a final reply from the Taoiseach.

Does the Taoiseach agree that those who press for an inquiry should not devalue their case by purporting to have reached a conclusion on the outcome of the inquiry before it has commenced, as one Deputy seems to be doing? Does he also agree that there is a balance to be struck between two values, truth and reconciliation, and while in theory it is possible to have both it may be necessary to strike a balance between them? If that balance is to be struck it should be on the basis of a universal principle that regards all victims as of equal value and all pain as of equal concern. Does he agree that what we need is some mechanism for finding a process of truth and reconciliation in regard to all the violence that has occurred and that we should look at not only violence that has occurred in this jurisdiction which may have originated in another but also violence that has occurred in another jurisdiction that may, in part, have originated in this jurisdiction? We must apply universal human principles in this matter rather than taking a partial view.

In addition to the available evidence and information, including whatever television producers might have, will the Taoiseach consider offering to the groups involved, particularly the Justice for the Forgotten group, that a report be produced and referred to a committee of the House, decided on by us in line with the excellent quality and procedure established by the sub-committee of the Committee of Public Accounts in the case of the DIRT inquiry? In that way the clear need for some form of public inquiry, for which the Justice for the Forgotten group has called, would be met within the framework of this House based on whatever reports the legal inspector might produce. If such a public inquiry has not been contemplated by the Taoiseach, perhaps he might consider it on the basis that it would establish, as the Comptroller and Auditor General did, a paper track of file and report upon which questions could be posed and the matter could be dealt with. I offer that to the Taoiseach, in a positive and constructive nature, for consideration.

Does the Taoiseach accept that in his earlier replies he made the case for a public inquiry? It would seem self-evident that the only way to resolve the issue to the satisfaction of the relatives and the public is to have an inquiry and make public whatever evidence is in the Garda files. The real motivation of the relatives is to hear and see whatever evidence is available. As there are serious question marks over who was behind the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, whatever anyone in the House may say, and why apparently no action was taken against known suspects, will the Taoiseach give a commitment at this stage that, after whatever process he believes necessary, there will be a public inquiry so that whatever evidence exists, no matter how inadequate, is made available to the relatives?

As regards Deputy Bruton's point about human principles and truth and reconciliation, I have no difficulty with what he said, but he will recall that during the forum report and in later discussions the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission did not find much support among the groups. Perhaps some of the issues I mentioned earlier are a basis for acknowledging this. People have different views on it. They do not want to be forgotten. Most of them argue for a day of remembrance. Some groups looked for different inquiries and there are ongoing cases, such as the Pat Finucane case, that are being followed through by the CAG and other groups both in the North and South. While I accept Deputy Gregory's motivations, I cannot promise to have a public inquiry without seeing that there is a basis for it. There must be a legal report first. However, I would be attracted to examining Deputy Quinn's point. Deputy Gregory is correct in that we must do something to allay the concerns of the families.

Let us do it here rather than in Dublin Castle.

There is a case for that. I ask the House for its support in convincing the relatives to do the first part—

They might be convinced if they thought the second part would take place.

I will look at that but I am told by everybody – there are many groups, former Attorneys General and senior members of the Judiciary who have an interest in this case – that senior members of the Judiciary who have an interest in this case all agree on one aspect; if the sifting policy is done, we will never get anywhere.

If the what?

The legal sifting process of examining all the evidence in the Department of Justice, the Garda files and Yorkshire Television to see if there is substantive evidence to allow an inquiry to proceed.

They are all agreed this should be done first?

They are all agreed on that and I cannot ignore or pre-empt that.