That Dáil Éireann:
–bearing in mind the serious public concern about allegations that members of the Garda Síochána in the Donegal Division engaged in unethical and criminal behaviour;
–noting the decision of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in November, 2001, to request Mr. Shane Murphy, SC, to conduct an independent review of all the relevant papers and the progress on the investigations into these allegations generally with a view to the Minister receiving expert independent advice as to whether there are measures that might now be taken to bring matters to finality sooner rather than later;
–noting that having completed his review, it is the opinion of Mr. Shane Murphy, SC, that a tribunal of inquiry represents the only comprehensive method of inquiry to resolve outstanding issues of fundamental public importance;
–mindful that a number of criminal proceedings have been instituted arising from some of these allegations, and mindful of the ongoing investigation into the death of Mr. Richard Barron, and not wishing to prejudice these or related criminal proceedings;
resolves that it is expedient that a tribunal be established under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts, 1921 to 2002, to inquire urgently into the following definite matters of urgent public importance:
(a) The making of extortion and hoax telephone calls to the home of Michael and Charlotte Peoples on 9 November 1996 and the subsequent Garda investigation into that complaint;
(b) Investigations in relation to the death of Mr. Richie Barron of Raphoe, County Donegal on 14 October 1996 with particular reference to the arrest and treatment of persons in custody in connection with that investigation, the progress, management and effectiveness of the Garda investigation with particular reference to the management of informants;
(c) Allegations of harassment of the McBrearty family of Raphoe, County Donegal and of relatives, associates and agents of that family by members of the Garda Síochána subsequent to the death of Mr. Barron including the issue and prosecution of summonses relating to offences alleged to have occurred between 28 October 1996 and 28 September 1998;
(d) The circumstances surrounding the arrest and detention of Mark McConnell on 1 October, 1998 and Michael Peoples on 6 May 1999;
(e) Complaints that some gardaí in County Donegal may have been involved in hoax explosives and bomb-making equipment finds (in particular discoveries on 11 September 1993, 19 November 1993, 11 January 1994, 14 March 1994, 4 June 1994, 13 June 1994 and 18 July 1994) and a review of the management and investigation of these issues;
(f) The circumstances surrounding the arrest and detention of Frank McBrearty Jnr. on 4 February 1997 and his subsequent prosecution in the Circuit Criminal Court in relation to an alleged assault in December 1996 on Edward Moss with particular reference to the Garda investigation and the management of both the investigation and the role of the gardaí in the subsequent prosecution;
(g) Allegations relating to the Garda investigation of an arson attack on property situated on the site of the telecommunications mast at Ardara, County Donegal in October-November 1996;
(h) Allegations contained in documents received by Deputy Jim Higgins on 25 June 2000 and in information received by Deputy Brendan Howlin on 25 June 2000 that two senior members of An Garda Síochána may have acted with impropriety;
(i) The circumstances surrounding the arrest and detention of seven persons at Burnfoot, County Donegal on 23 May 1998 and the investigation relating thereto;
(j) The effectiveness of the Garda Síochána Complaints inquiry process vis-à-vis the complaints made by Frank McBrearty Snr. and his family between 1997 and 2001;
and to report to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and to make such findings and recommendations as it sees fit in relation to these matters;
and further resolves that–
(I) the tribunal shall report to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on an interim basis not later than four months from the date of establishment of the tribunal and also as soon as may be after the tenth day of any oral hearings of the tribunal on the following matters:
(a) the number of parties then represented before the tribunal,
(b) the progress which will then have been made in the hearings and work of the tribunal,
(c) the likely duration (so far that may then be capable of being estimated) of the proceedings of the tribunal,
(d) any other matters that the tribunal considers should be drawn to the attention of the Houses of the Oireachtas at the time of the report (including any matters relating to its terms of reference),
(II) the inquiry shall be completed in as economical a manner as possible and at the earliest possible date consistent with a fair examination of the matters referred to it;
(III) all costs incurred by reason of the failure of individuals to co-operate fully and expeditiously with the tribunal should, as far as it is consistent with the interests of justice, be borne by those individuals;
(IV) the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform shall within 14 days of receipt of any report from the tribunal either apply to the High Court for directions regarding publication of the report or arrange to have it laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.
The purpose of this motion is to enable the establishment of a tribunal of inquiry to examine the matters set out in the proposed terms of reference. I thank Members of the House for agreeing to deal with this matter before the Easter recess.
The Garda Síochána has served this country exceptionally well from the foundation of the State and the majority of members, including those based in Donegal, have done so in a professional way and with the greatest of integrity. This State owes a great deal to the Garda Síochána, which has stood as a bulwark of democracy, often in the most difficult of circumstances. Members of the Garda Síochána have been called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice in the service of the public. Despite the gravity of the matters we are discussing today we should not lose sight of that fact.
In our discussions today, I am constrained in what I can say regarding aspects of the terms of reference because, as the House is aware a number of court proceedings remain to be dealt with and I do not wish to say anything which might affect those proceedings.
In the early hours of 14 October 1996, the body of Mr. Richard Barron was found on a roadside in Raphoe, County Donegal. Once again I express my deepest sympathy to the family of the late Mr. Barron and express my particular regret that this case has not yet been brought to finality, despite the passage of time and intensive Garda investigations. The Garda investigation is ongoing. The finding of the remains of the late Mr. Barron set in train a chain of events which have led to today's draft resolution being laid before the House.
I do not intend nor would it be appropriate for me to outline the details of the Garda investigations, the details of criminal proceedings, the details of civil proceedings, the details of disciplinary proceedings or the details of complaints made to the Garda Complaints Board. It is enough that I say that all of the papers held by various bodies were examined, at my request, by Mr. Shane Murphy, SC, who was nominated to me for appointment by the Chairman of the Bar Council, and following his examination, reported that "a Tribunal of Inquiry represents the only comprehensive method of inquiry to resolve out standing issues of fundamental public importance". I and the Government are grateful to Mr. Murphy for his work which will be of assistance to the tribunal in its work. I also again thank Judge Frederick Morris who has agreed to chair this tribunal.
When dealing with parliamentary questions or motions in the Dáil on alleged misconduct by gardaí in Donegal, I have consistently stated that it is a matter of great concern that individual members of the Garda Síochána might be implicated in wrongdoing. It is essential for the reputation of the force that any alleged wrongdoing by members is investigated thoroughly and, if well founded, appropriate disciplinary or criminal proceedings should be initiated. I have consistently pointed out that individuals have a constitutional right to the protection of their good name and a fair trial. An integral part of our justice system is the presumption of innocence and the right to due process and I would not be party to any attempt to breach those rights by arbitrarily condemning individuals or trying to prejudge the outcome of proceedings.
I have not been against the principle of a public inquiry but establishing a tribunal of inquiry is not something to be undertaken lightly. On 7 February 2001, in response to a parliamentary question, I made it clear that I had an open mind as regards setting up a tribunal. I stressed that I wanted to see the truth of this matter determined. I said that I wanted to see public confidence in the Garda restored. However, the question I posed then went to the heart of the problem, how do we do this in an open and transparent way without interfering with potential civil and criminal proceedings? I also said at that time that I could understand the point that the completion of individual inquiries could still leave a concern that the bigger picture had not been addressed or that it had not been addressed in a way that deals with the issue of public confidence. I said I was of the view that the nature of the Donegal problem is such that it requires some form of comprehensive review that will examine and report on all aspects of the matter.
I also said on that date that the current arrangements for dealing with complaints are not satisfactory and need to be revised. I said I was looking at the possible establishment of new processes which would not only deal with complaints against individual members but would address wider issues of the type raised by the occurrences in Donegal. I made it clear that I had not ruled out the option of a public inquiry but I was not convinced at that time that it would necessarily be the best way of dealing with the matter.
On 23 May 2001, I again referred to the problem of possible prejudice to criminal proceedings and advised Deputies that I was seeking the advice of the Attorney General. His advice confirmed that holding such an inquiry at that time could prejudice the civil and criminal proceedings which had been instituted as a result of the alleged misconduct and that, on the basis of the information then to hand, the best course was to let the criminal and civil proceedings run their course. If matters were not fully ventilated during those proceedings, then a tribunal of inquiry could be set up.
However, neither the criminal nor civil proceedings advanced very quickly and there was real concern, which I shared, over the length of time it was taking to bring the various inquiries and proceedings to finality. In addition, the decision of Mr. McBrearty and his associates to withdraw from the Garda Complaints Board a number of complaints they had made was a cause of concern. It is a matter of great concern to me that individual members of the Garda Síochána have been implicated in wrongdoing. In this regard, my guiding principle has been that it is essential for the reputation of the force that any alleged wrongdoing is investigated thoroughly and appropriate disciplinary or criminal proceedings taken.
I also want to see public confidence restored in the Garda, in so far as it has been adversely affected by the matter. We have an excellent police service. Let us be clear about that. The majority of men and women of the Garda Síochána daily carry out their job in the most exemplary manner. We should not forget this.
When we debated this matter last November, I made the point that this is a complex matter. I stated that the law which provides for due process cannot be shaped or moulded to fit the mood of the time. Rights must be respected. Due process must be protected. These are the fundamental principles which are the foundation of our legal system.
The Tribunal of Inquiry Acts, as amended by the Bill I introduced, provide the necessary mechanism to address these concerns. It is now a matter for both Houses of the Oireachtas to decide on the tribunal's remit, safe in the knowledge that the tribunal will be able to do the job it is called upon to do. I am absolutely convinced that to have tried to set up a tribunal without fully teasing out the very complex issues posed by the interplay of criminal trials, civil proceedings and the capacity of a tribunal to effectively operate would have resulted in a legal quagmire.
I now turn to the proposed terms of reference which are both definite, as required by the legislation, and comprehensive. They include: the making of extortion and hoax telephone calls; the investigations in relation to the death of Mr. Barron; allegations of harassment of the McBrearty family; complaints that some gardaí in County Donegal may have been involved in hoax explosives and bomb-making equipment finds; the circumstances surrounding the arrest and detention of Frank McBrearty junior; allegations relating to the Garda investigation of an arson attack on property situated on the site of the telecommunications mast at Ardara, County Donegal; allegations that two senior members of the Garda Síochána may have acted with impropriety; and the effectiveness of the Garda Síochána complaints inquiry process vis-à-vis the complaints made by Frank McBrearty senior and his family between 1997 and 2001.
I have already explained why I do not want to go into too much detail on the actual terms of reference. I urge other speakers to be careful when making their contributions on the issue. There are however one or two points I wish to make. The terms of reference are specific but they are carefully drafted to ensure that the tribunal of inquiry is not restricted in the scope of its inquiries. Furthermore, while the primary purpose of establishing the tribunal is to get at the truth, we must also look to the future. We must not only establish if something went wrong, but why it went wrong and what can be done in the future to prevent it happening again. For that reason, I emphasise the power of the tribunal to make recommendations as it sees fit. The recommendations of the tribunal may be of particular value in maintaining public confidence in the Garda Síochána.
The tribunal is asked to report to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I think it appropriate that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform be the person to determine, in the first instance, whether the report contains material that might pose a threat of prejudice to criminal proceedings, making it prudent to refer the report to the courts for a direction regarding publication.
Section (I) provides that the tribunal shall report to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on an interim basis, not later than four months from the date of establishment of the tribunal and also as soon as may be after the tenth day of any oral hearings of the tribunal on the following matters: the number of parties then represented before the tribunal; the progress which will then have been made in the hearings and work of the tribunal; the likely duration, so far as that may then be capable of being estimated, of the proceedings of the tribunal; and any other matters that the tribunal considers should be drawn to the attention of the Houses of the Oireachtas at the time of the report, including any matters relating to its terms of reference. This is a standard provision and need not detain us.
Section (II) provides that the inquiry shall be completed in as economical a manner as possible and at the earliest possible date consistent with a fair examination of the matters referred to it. Section (III) provides that all costs incurred by reason of the failure of individuals to co-operate fully and expeditiously with the tribunal should, as far as it is consistent with the interests of justice, be borne by those individuals. Section (IV) provides that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform shall on receipt of any report from the tribunal either apply to the High Court for directions regarding publication of the report or arrange to have it laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.
The allegations that have given rise to this res olution are matters of great public concern. We need to establish, once and for all, what happened in Donegal and to determine the truth of these allegations. I believe that the tribunal, as provided for in this resolution, will be able to effectively discharge this obligation without prejudicing various criminal proceedings which have already been instituted in relation to the alleged misconduct. I commend the motion to the House.