Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 31 Jan 2007

Vol. 185 No. 18

Human Rights Issues: Motion.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann

noting that the members of Seanad Éireann have always condemned the CIA practice of prisoner rendition;

remembering that in spite of this, Seanad Éireann declined to set up an inquiry into Irish collusion in such rendition;

welcomes the report of the European Parliament committee set up to inquire into European complicity in such rendition;

alarmed by the unequivocal criticism of Irish Government practice contained in the report;

agrees with the findings of the committee that acceptance of diplomatic assurances is an inadequate way to defend human rights;

regrets the reported failure of the Irish Government satisfactorily to answer all questions put to it by the committee and calls on the Government to comply with the committee's request to set up an Oireachtas investigation into the manner in which the State has dealt with the issue of rendition at domestic, European and international level; and

pending the outcome of such an investigation calls for an immediate ban on the use of Irish airports and airspace by all CIA aircraft.

This is a well-attended debate, as they say in the local newspapers. I am sorry I must move this motion because there was a developing strong consensus in this country about foreign affairs up to four or five years ago. The period after the collapse of the Soviet Union left a world in which there seemed to be a real possibility that a superior set of ethical and moral values would emerge, not in any sanctimonious way or one that smacked of moral superiority.

Even if we acted as any sensible country would and said that in all choices, the interests of Ireland must come first, we would then hopefully have begun a debate on what the interests of Ireland were. I believe Éamon de Valera first expounded on the matter approximately 70 years ago when he stated the interests of a small country were in stability, international order and an international rule of law. I understood this was our position.

As with everything, including our personal lives, really difficult challenges to our value system determine whether or not we believe in things. Sometimes, the fact that we believe in something does not mean we live up to our standards and we can deviate from them and sometimes use ambiguous language. The experience of the world after the Second World War was that wars achieved very little and mostly did no more than delay an outcome that would otherwise have happened and in the process of delaying it, wreaked considerable human damage.

The second thing I thought we were going to work at was a very strong commitment to end the idea of an international arms trade once and for all. The third thing was that while there might have been a surviving military superpower or, as the French call it, a hyperpower, the ingrained values of democracy in the United States, which the people of that country take for granted, would prevail. They believe they live in the freest country in the world which has always defended freedom, democracy and human rights everywhere in the world. It comes as a shock to many decent Americans to discover the actual record. It is not as bad as others but is far from perfect. This was the context in which we operated and most of us in this country believed in it although we might have disagreed about details.

Something has happened over recent years, which is why this issue comes up again. We experienced the horror of the events of 11 September 2001, which were horrible, but there have been other horrors. It is not to diminish the extraordinary trauma of the American people after those events to say that other people in other states at other times have suffered awful trauma. Aeroplanes have been blown out of the sky by other terrorists. There had been bombings of public transport in Italy and, I believe, in France before the events of 11 September 2001. The response to the events of 11 September 2001 ought to have been and should continue to be part of a recognition of the need for states to deal with the use of violence as a political weapon via the targeting, directly or irresponsibly, of civilians, which is what terrorism is, in my opinion.

The fundamental value we were defending was the value of freedom. There is no freedom without the rule of law. Freedom is a wonderful concept that people like me advocated in a vague form with a slightly fuzzy head in the 1960s, but it is really only possible under the rule of law. The real tragedy, which is the nub of this notion, concerns how the country that most vigorously claims to be the defender of freedom and the rule of law scandalously abandons this commitment to facilitate the extraction of information by coercion — I believe this word is now used in its draft regulations — but what the rest of us know to be torture, finds willing allies outside the US and possibly within the EU to facilitate this and, in some cases, finds allies outside the EU to organise and carry out the job of torture for it. This is where the entire issue of rendition arose.

To the citizens of Europe, as they have expressed their views through Parliament and the European Parliament, rendition is among the most grossly offensive activities that a country which claims to be governed by civilised principles could practise. It ranks with Abu Ghraib and the extraordinary tolerance of the vulgar abuse of the former Iraqi dictator as he was about to be executed. It is among those things that people see as offensive to the values we stand for and incompatible with them to the extent that no matter how grave the emergency might be perceived to be, it can never be justified.

This is where this issue arose. I give Senator Norris credit for being the first person to raise this issue. He raised it in terms of identified flights and aeroplanes and the times of their passing through Shannon Airport in particular. At the beginning, people in this House simply asked repeatedly for the information that was available to be made known. For at least a year, if not longer, obfuscation from the Department of Transport was the perpetual response. It was only when other investigating agencies outside this State began to assemble irrefutable information that there was a dawning of interest, which was not simply found on this side of the House. Sincere Members on the Government side, whose sincerity I accept, began to see that there was an issue of profound moral importance.

We got to the stage where we agreed on the creation of an all-party committee to investigate the information that was available. I said at that first informal meeting that I wanted an all-party committee on which there was a Government majority because I wanted a report which reflected a consensus of views and because I believed there was a widely held consensus about the unacceptability of these things. Then the all-party committee disappeared. We discovered the European Parliament, to its credit, had set up a special committee to investigate this issue and its report was published recently. This report was and ought to be an embarrassment to many of the governments of Europe. In defence of our own position, whether by design or by accident, we are not as culpable as others. Nobody was kidnapped on our territory.

Nobody is saying we have a scrap of evidence that any person on the way to or from one of these torture chambers was in an aeroplane that landed in Ireland. Nobody ever suggested that. It would be a great pity if the Minister of State were to devote a significant portion of his speech to the fact there is no evidence, because nobody suggested there was. What we suggested is that aeroplanes that are manifestly linked with these activities were given the full facilities of Shannon Airport. When we knew these aeroplanes were being used for such appalling practices, why did we not attempt to find out if there was forensic evidence proving people had been detained forcibly on those aeroplanes? We claim to believe in the supremacy of the rule of law.

The committee of the European Parliament that investigated the issue released a draft report. The response — mostly from the Government side — was that it was only a draft report and we should await the final report. When the final report was produced it was a poor reflection on many of the countries of Europe and it contained conclusions which are and ought to be an embarrassment to anybody living here. That is unfortunate for a country that used to stand for the highest of principles. The judgment of the committee is that the Government did not co-operate fully with it.

The report stated there was a significant number of flights. Since then the Government has been having fun identifying a couple of flights it claimed could not have been what they were alleged to be. The reason the committee may not have been right about these details is that it was not given enough information in time, in the same way we were refused that information. The information was clouded in confusion.

In another example of confused information, two different versions were given of whether the Garda has the right to search an aeroplane. One version was stated publicly and another privately. Which is true? The Government stated it asked the US authorities if prisoners were transferred through Shannon Airport and they said "No". All they ever said is that nobody went through Shannon Airport. We then discovered a prisoner in shackles who was a member of the US forces passed through Shannon Airport. We were told that was a mistake.

The Government still chooses to believe the unsubstantiated, non-evidence based assurances of senior members of the US Administration. The committee of the European Parliament concluded the Government should not rely on diplomatic assurances as these matters were far too serious. It also suggested we should now do what the Human Rights Commission suggested and set up an Oireachtas committee to investigate this matter. If Seanad Éireann had done what we had asked it to do, and what the House originally needed to do, we would not be subject to that criticism now.

The motion simply repeats what has been said in the committee. The amendment is so extraordinary Senator Norris almost got a fit of apoplexy about it on the Order of Business today. Perhaps he was right because it seems to say all manner of extraordinary things. It commends the Government for its full co-operation with the work of the committee, even though the Government has been criticised by the committee for not giving its full co-operation. We now have a situation straight out of "1984" or perhaps "Alice in Wonderland" where the truth is what we say it is. The committee stated the Government did not co-operate but the Government is clapping itself on the back for its co-operation. It is a great pity this motion has to come before the House. It is an even greater pity the good name of a country that has a courageous record of standing up for human rights has been tarnished by the silly ineptitude of a Government trying to curry favour with what is now perhaps the most discredited regime that has presided over the United States in 50 years.

I second the motion. I support every word uttered by my colleague, Senator Ryan. The report last week of the EU committee has raised again an issue which is a matter of great concern to a large body of the public. While it may not seem like the most pressing issue to some people, it goes to the heart of a matter of fundamental importance, how we conduct ourselves as a sovereign State, especially in terms of how another state gets to use our facilities during a war.

It is notable a survey conducted by Amnesty International and Lansdowne Market Research showed that 76% of respondents thought the Government should be checking US flights through Shannon. This confirms my view that at some level, whether we like it or not, the public does not fully trust or believe assurances from the US Government or diplomatic sources when they state Shannon Airport is not being used for the transportation of prisoners or for rendition purposes.

The use of the word "rendition" is symptomatic of an element of this entire debate, the use of words in a confusing or incorrect way. We are talking about a breach of international human rights law. As my colleague Senator Ryan stated, Ireland has been the proud upholder of democratic values and has sincerely tried to spread the word about democracy around the world. The effective kidnapping of so-called suspects and their incarceration in Guantanamo Bay in the manner in which they are held undermines the stated value of democracy and offends countries around the world for whom democracy is held sacred, including Ireland.

Ireland and the USA have had an excellent relationship at many levels, political, historical and economic. It pains many people to find themselves in a situation where they are concerned about how the US is conducting itself on this issue, and especially how the Government is conducting itself in this regard. This is an important matter for us as a sovereign State. Many people feel we need to assert ourselves in order that our values are not undermined by our involvement, at whatever level, in the activities of the US Government in the matter of rendition. That is why a parliamentary inquiry on behalf of this sovereign State is so important. It is a pity the initial all-party consensus on this matter and the concerns expressed by Members of this and the other House from all parties was not acted upon but allowed to effectively die on the vine. An Oireachtas inquiry is the best way to restore public confidence in our ability to conduct our affairs on the international stage. If such an inquiry were to take place it could have the effect of allaying public concern on the matter. Let us have an inquiry because what we have at present is suspicion and concern and the element of not knowing.

In response to the publication of the draft EU report the Taoiseach asked last week to be shown the evidence. We cannot be clear on evidence when we do not have a system where our authorities automatically check out what is happening with CIA planes landing at Shannon. We know the Garda has acted on complaints and, as Senator Ryan has said, there has been one incident where a US military officer, under arrest for theft, was transferred by use of military personnel from Kuwait to the US, via Shannon, which was illegal. The ambassador apologised for it but called it a misunderstanding and said that was the reason for it happening. This has been highlighted as an example of what we do not know and what we only find out by accident.

There was also the report, in The Irish Times in May 2006, that an aircraft technician saw a detainee shackled to the floor of a US plane at Shannon Airport in 2005. This claim was made by Edward Horgan, a former Army officer and anti-war campaigner, and was based on information he received from a third party. This kind of drip-drip information adds to public concern and the sense that at some level we are willingly used by the US in the matter of CIA flights using Shannon Airport.

I was one of many thousands who protested on more than one occasion at Shannon Airport on the issue of the war against Iraq and, in particular, concern about the use of Shannon Airport for the landing of military aircraft on its way to Iraq. There is no doubt that concerns still exist among Irish people about the use of Shannon Airport for military flights. That is not precisely the subject matter of the debate today but it is important to implement a ban on CIA aircraft using all Irish airports. This would probably be the most effective way of restoring public confidence alongside a parliamentary investigation. It would be hugely important to act against the background of our long-standing and good relationship with the US. We would also establish our position as a sovereign State in the matter of human rights at home and particularly our concern and commitment to human rights on an international level. We cannot stand idly by and pretend it is not a matter for us. It is a huge issue for us. It is a moral issue as well as a political and human rights issue and is one that can no longer be ignored.

I commend the draft report from the EU. It is no secret that our colleague, Proinsias De Rossa, MEP, has played a major role in drawing up the report and has made a huge contribution to it.

That explains it.

We speak the truth and people do not want to hear it. That kind of response——

Will the Senator conclude?

——does not help the debate. Initially we had an all-party approach. This is a matter of major concern to Members across the Houses of the Oireachtas——

That is not true.

——and one in which we can re-establish, by way of all party inquiry, all the facts, not just the myths, and place them in the public domain.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "noting that" and substituting the following:

"the Government have on numerous occasions voiced their complete opposition to the practice of so-called ‘extraordinary rendition';

the Government have responded urgently from the outset to allegations of extraordinary rendition, including by consistently raising the matter at high level with the US authorities from the very earliest stage, and through the Minister for Foreign Affairs' urging that the EU pursue the issue actively with the US;

the Government have in this context received categorical assurances, confirmed by the Secretary of State of the United States, of a particular clarity;

the Government have cooperated to the very fullest extent with the investigation carried out by the European Parliament's Temporary Committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners (TDIP Committee) and that the Minister for Foreign Affairs was one of only two Ministers for Foreign Affairs to agree to attend the TDIP Committee's proceedings;

contrary to the apparent misconception of the TDIP Committee, it is not for the Government to direct the work of the Oireachtas; that these issues have been extensively debated in both Houses of the Oireachtas; that Seanad Éireann has on two occasions voted not to institute a specific enquiry, and that on 14 June 2006, Dáil Éireann passed a motion supporting the Government's policy in this area;

commends the Government for its full cooperation with the work of the TDIP Committee;

emphasises that the TDIP Committee implicitly recognises that no prisoners were transferred through Irish territory in violation of the clear and categorical assurances received from the US authorities;

expresses serious concern about the opaque manner in which the TDIP Committee reached an inflated figure of suspicious aircraft;

rejects the TDIP Committee's unsubstantiated and misleading suggestion that the Minister for Foreign Affairs failed to answer all the questions put to him in relation to concerns that Irish airports may have been used by CIA aircraft travelling to or from extraordinary rendition missions;

regrets that the Report does not more fully examine practical ways in which extraordinary rendition might be deterred or prevented in future;

regrets in particular that the proposal by the Minister for Foreign Affairs that the Chicago Convention might be reviewed to take account of the enormous developments in civil aviation since its conclusion in 1944, so as to require the filing of more information about private civilian flights, is nowhere reflected in the Report;

favours continuing dialogue between the Irish Commission of Human Rights and the Department of Foreign Affairs on the international law issues involved, as proposed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Commission in July 2006; and

commends the Government for its policy of early and proactive engagement with the US authorities and for having taken appropriate and practicable steps to ensure that the territory and facilities of this State are not used for illicit purposes and especially not for human rights violations by any other state."

I agree with one premise that has been put forward by the other side of the House on this issue. All of us, without qualification, are concerned at what has been alleged to have happened and what seems to have happened in terms of abductions and kidnappings outside the rule of law. No one of us in this or the other House has a monopoly of concern on the rendition issue.

It is interesting that the theme of the contributions by the proposer and seconder of the motion is that somehow Ireland's reputation as a country that defends human rights has been tarnished. Perhaps I can put something on the record to answer that. The first report that appeared was a Council of Europe parliamentary assembly report, not a European Union one, which did not in any way implicate Ireland directly. It did state that aeroplanes had landed but it did not engage the Irish Government in complicity with rendition.

I commend the report to all Members, including the proposer and seconder of the motion, because it is far superior to the European Union report which followed on as an afterthought, in a turf war between the European Union and the Council of Europe, which implied that the Council of Europe represents only 46 member states across Europe and that the European Union is more important than the Council of Europe. I say that as a proud and privileged member of the Irish delegation.

Last week at the plenary session of the parliamentary assembly I had the honour of being unanimously voted as chairman of the human rights committee of the Council of Europe.

Hear, hear.

My strongest supporter and advocate was one Senator Dick Marty, the chairman of the legal affairs committee and the rapporteur who investigated the rendition.

I am delighted to hear it.

The Senator misinterprets what I am saying. In normal circumstances I would be reluctant to flaunt the election to a committee, irrespective of where it was.

He is a statesman.

I am putting it on the record in order to answer the specific charge that Ireland's reputation as a defender of human rights is somehow tarnished at international level and within Europe. I am providing an alternative argument that here was a man who was touted and referred to repeatedly by Senators Ryan, Norris and many others in this House. I have no difficulty with that because it was the report that was published at the time. One cannot now turn around and use the argument that somehow Ireland's reputation is tarnished at human rights level when the man who was the rapporteur in that report——

For Ireland.

——was one of the strongest supporters. With all due respect I would never interrupt the Senator in anything he has to say.

The Senator is welcome to do so.

I would be grateful if the Senator did not interrupt in this instance because this issue is highly charged, evidence of which we witnessed earlier. It is a serious issue.

Let us not include personalities.

I wish to repeat what I said earlier that all of us share the concern here. In my opinion this is not about concern. I believe there is a partisan motive behind all of this——

Hear, hear.

——that it is in order to somehow rub the Government's nose in it.

It is all on our side.

I am prepared to accept the word of the elected Minister for Foreign Affairs of this country. He asked a direct question of the Secretary of State of the United States, a friendly country, and was given the answer that nothing illegal was carried out on the sovereign territory of the Republic of Ireland. I accept that simply because that is the way international relations operate between friendly countries.

Notwithstanding that, if there were any specific evidence — and there are now two reports on the matter — to suggest that anything illegal had been carried out on this country's territory, I would support a move by the Government and the Garda Síochána to investigate it and, if necessary, board the aeroplanes that are alleged to have been involved in that illegality. However, no such evidence has been presented to date. It is extraordinary, although probably understandable given that this is a political Chamber, that there would be a suggestion that the Government, regardless of its political hue, representing the people of this country and exercising the sovereign right of this country to make its own decisions internationally, would tolerate or accept any such illegality being conducted if there was even a scintilla of evidence that it was being hoodwinked.

Nevertheless, that argument was weakened to a degree by the incident involving the US marine who was transported through this country to an American stockade to answer for an army crime that had nothing to do with the issue being debated here today. Unfortunately, it has been used as an example of perfidy on the part of the American authorities.

Just indifference. We do not count and we always accept the apology.

The argument is that if they did not tell us about the US marine, they did not tell us about anything else. My confidence in the American assurances was shaken by that incident.

Obviously the Senator got over it.

There is no question that the Americans were wrong on that occasion, and the Irish Government took the appropriate steps. The US Ambassador was summoned by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and he was told that it was unacceptable behaviour. I believe the Americans understood our position with regard to that incident.

The Senator has one minute left.

It is unfair to single out the Minister for Foreign Affairs in this motion and to state that he has been hiding evidence or hiding the truth. I have the greatest respect for Proinsias De Rossa, who is the president of the Labour Party and a former distinguished Minister.

He is not the president. Deputy Michael D. Higgins is the president of the Labour Party.

Forgive me. He is a former president of the party. He also has a distinguished record in Europe. However, I understand he was the only member of that committee to put forward a proposal that Ireland be singled out with regard to this issue. That is wrong.

Senator Mooney is wrong.

In the same context, the fact that the Minister for Foreign Affairs called for a review of the relevant civil aviation legislation, the Chicago Convention, was ignored. The reason he sought this was not just because of the developments in civil aviation since the conclusion of the convention in 1944 but because the convention currently only applies to military, police and customs aircraft transported a country.

Most of the CIA aircraft are privately owned and privately hired. There were 147 flights.

The Senator is in injury time.

Perhaps I could have a few extra seconds while the substitute is changing.

Any rational examination of the manner in which international affairs are carried out at diplomatic level will show that Ministers use Government jets and official carriers. Business at international level is now conducted by aeroplane. There is no suggestion that the 147 CIA owned flights were associated with rendition. They were most likely associated with diplomats and many other people——


That is the stated fact.

It has been proved that several of them were refuelled on their way back from rendition.

Senator Norris should allow Senator Mooney to conclude without interruption.

Not all these flights.

I am trying to tell the truth.

It is incorrect and mischievous to bundle all 147 flights together and claim that they were operating in an illegal fashion on this country's territory. It is damaging to this country's interests to suggest it.

I support the motion. If we had continued with our efforts 12 months ago to establish an Oireachtas committee, it might not have been necessary to debate this motion today. The questions posed would already have been answered, the investigations would have taken place and we would have been in a position to satisfy public opinion. Senator Ryan and Senator O'Meara outlined the background regarding the committee that was proposed last year. At that time it appeared to be fully supported by all sides of the House and preliminary meetings had taken place. Some of the Fianna Fáil Senators are indicating otherwise but the Fianna Fáil Party was represented on the committee, as was the Labour Party, Fine Gael and the Technical Group.

We were disappointed that the committee could not get its work under way. Fundamental questions were asked at that time but in the 12 months since then they have remained unanswered. Unanswered questions mean there are no winners. This country has not benefited, the United States has not benefited and the broader issue of civil and human rights has not benefited.

Extraordinary rendition is a serious issue. It challenges us to take a stand on a matter of principle, that is, people's rights. Earlier today there were expressions of sympathy on the death of a former Member of this House, Judge Seán O'Leary. He was prepared to ask the difficult questions and take the difficult stance in defence of rights. That is the issue before the House in this debate.

There is serious evidence to suggest that Irish airspace and at least one Irish airport have been used for rendition flights. Some months ago, I listened with interest to a report on the matter at the Council of Europe. The report was not conclusive but it posed many questions which have not been answered. We now have the European Parliament report. It is not fair to focus on one Member of the European Parliament and suggest that he attempted to secure a certain type of report. The report was by a European Parliament committee comprising all the groups in the European Parliament. The report poses serious questions for this country.

Extraordinary rendition is taking place. The question is whether Ireland is facilitating it and whether Irish airspace and airports are being used. There will be no winners from the dreadful practice of extraordinary rendition in the long run. Unfortunately, over recent years the reputation and the level of admiration across the world for the United States have diminished. One or two generations ago the United States was seen as the greatest promoter and defender of human and civil rights. Whether it was during the Second World War or the Cold War, one could state without challenge that the United States defended and promoted civil and human rights. However, as a result of practices such as extraordinary rendition and the ongoing situation in Iraq, that is now questionable.

We are not doing the United States a favour by leaving questions unanswered and by failing to challenge the US Administration on this issue. The Government amendment to the motion is long on paragraphs but I am not sure what it hopes to achieve. It refers to the responses received from the US authorities and the Government's satisfaction with those responses. However, questions still remain to be answered.

The Opposition would be remiss in its duty if it did not pose those questions. Asking those questions was to be at the core of the proposed work of last year's committee of the House, as was challenging any assumptions put forward, finding out the truth of the situation and dealing with the rumours and counter-rumours. At this late stage in the life of the current Government and Oireachtas, there will not be a change of policy by the current Administration. This is disappointing because the worries and concerns of members of all parties still exist. The Government amendment to the motion and the recent statements by the Minister do not offer full and clear answers to the questions being posed.

As Members of the Oireachtas we have a duty to continue with our efforts to inquire into the possibility or otherwise of rendition flights taking place and using Irish facilities. We must challenge this possibility at all levels.

The Garda Síochána and the civil authorities must be more proactive. It is not the job of this House or the Oireachtas to direct the Garda Síochána but we must send a strong signal that we expect the security forces in case of any doubt to investigate these flights and that on-the-spot checks will be carried out wherever and whenever possible. This would at least answer some of the questions and bring some degree of clarity.

Looking at the European Parliament report, which is quite conclusive, and the Council of Europe report, which is admittedly less conclusive, one cannot escape from the fact that issues remain to be addressed. We cannot as yet state with complete certainty that Ireland is not aiding and abetting in this extraordinary rendition system. Notwithstanding public cynicism, politics at times takes on a moral purpose. We must look at this issue from a moral perspective. Extraordinary rendition is as cruel and as wrong as any type of torture taking place. It is suspected that it leads to people being grossly mistreated. In both the long and the short term it is entirely counter-productive.

In the case of the Middle East, apparent tough action is being taken from the perspective of security. Human rights are being trampled on and people's civil rights are being breached but the policy has produced nothing but bad results. It has not reduced the incidence of violence but rather has caused further violence. It has not resulted in stability but rather has caused complete instability. Extraordinary rendition is part of that jigsaw of measures which has caused today's world to be a much more dangerous place, especially in the Middle East and even parts of western Europe.

Ireland is a democratic country with an independent voice which was heard loud and clear on many occasions both at the United Nations and the European Union. We should not be afraid to have a clear position on the issue of extraordinary rendition. There should be no reason to support it and no room for doubting our position. The Labour Party motion is quite balanced and it poses the questions we all wanted to ask 12 months ago and to which answers are still required.

I welcome the Minister of State and his officials to the House. I was quite interested in the Fine Gael contribution. Are we to conclude from it that a Fine Gael-led Government would forthwith ban the use of Shannon Airport by certain categories of US aircraft? It would be important to know the answer to this question.

I do not see any difference between the sides of the House on the substance of the question of extraordinary rendition and holding centres such as Guantanamo and the type of practices carried out at Abu Ghraib. The Government and the Members on this side of the House deplore those practices and look forward to actions that are strictly consistent with the international rule of law.

Senator Ryan in his contribution stated that nobody was alleging that rendition had taken place through Shannon Airport but this argument was rather weakened by his subsequent statements in which he referred to relying on unsubstantiated, unevidenced assurances. His colleague, Senator O'Meara stated that the Irish public neither trusted nor believed the assurances. The Minister for Foreign Affairs was given categorical assurances by the US Secretary of State and this side of the House accepts those assurances. It would be very dangerous to act on a basis which suggested that we were calling into question the good faith of the US Government at the highest level.

I note the motion proposes that we should bring in an immediate ban first and investigate afterwards. I am not sure what an investigation could achieve and what more information is likely to be available to a committee of the House. With all due respect to the European Parliament, it is up to this Parliament to order its business and not to be told by another assembly what committees we should or should not establish.

I note Senator O'Meara's confirmation of the very important role played by a former president of the Labour Party and former leader of Democratic Left and The Workers' Party, Proinsias De Rossa. He is somebody I admire in many respects but whose career has certainly been marked by a very strong streak of anti-Americanism. It is clear there was an attempt to use the European Parliament in an effort to embarrass the Irish Government.

Reference was made to a discredited regime with reference to the Bush Administration. I noted with considerable interest a newsletter circulated recently and presumably for electoral purposes by the mover of this motion, Senator Ryan. It contained a photograph of himself and President Fidel Castro.

What is wrong with that?

Senator Mansergh without interruption.

I find it extraordinary that someone who is so concerned about empty aircraft going through Shannon Airport, does not seem to have the same concern for a 45-year old——

It is a dictatorship.

——Communist dictatorship which carried out thousands of executions in the early years and executions in 2003 of people trying to flee to the United States——

What about those who placed bombs on a commercial airliner with the assistance of the CIA?

——which was condemned by Amnesty International and writers on Latin America.

Did the Senator prefer Batista and the barons of the drug cartels?

While I do not doubt the idealism of Senator Ryan, a strand in the European left is blind when it comes to the question of double standards. I am shocked the Senator would be pictured with the leader of a discredited regime which is holding back the country over which it rules. It is almost as if we would prefer a socialist dictator who offers no chance of democratic change to a capitalist democrat who will, without question, leave office in January 2009.

President Bush will probably be impeached before that date.

I welcome this debate and commend the Labour Party for tabling the motion; it has done the House a service. I have been involved in this area for some time, having proposed the establishment of a committee of inquiry into renditions. Although my proposal was agreed in the House, it was later sabotaged in a most astonishing and regrettable manner.

It is worth pointing out that it was I who reported matters to the Garda Commissioner. As a result, two senior officers were sent to meet me. I brought Deputy Michael D. Higgins of the Labour Party with me to the meeting as a witness. The officers flatly contradicted statements by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, about the right to enter aircraft. It is precisely to investigate in this jurisdiction conflicts of evidence of this kind that such a committee should be established. It would also enable us to amend the law if necessary.

When it emerged that the Minister would appear before the committee of investigation established by the European Parliament I wrote a letter to its chairman enclosing correspondence between myself and the Department of the Foreign Affairs and reports of the House. I indicated that I hoped the documentation would enable the committee to prevent the Minister for Foreign Affairs from claiming he was unaware of what was taking place because I and Members of the Other House had ensured the Government was aware of what was taking place.

The Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, should note remarks I made on the Order of Business regarding the amendment, which I described as a disgrace. I also noted it was not written by the Leader, in whose name it had appeared on the Order Paper. I hope images of her nodding vigorously when I described it as a tissue of lies, evasion and hypocrisy will be shown on television. At least Senator O'Rourke has a few standards and some decency.

I will explain the reason I described the amendment in those terms. The second paragraph states that the Government responded urgently from the outset to allegations of extraordinary rendition. That is a downright lie. The Government equivocated and avoided answering questions. The fourth paragraph states the Government co-operated to the very fullest extent with the investigation carried out by the European Parliament's temporary committee. It did not do so. For God's sake, on what planet are we living? Co-operation only occurs when both sides agree it occurred. The TDIP committee's report makes perfectly clear that the Minister did not co-operate, refused to answer questions and answered questions he was not asked. The Government engaged in a stalling exercise throughout, yet this lying motion blandly states it co-operated fully. Let us at least have the truth.

The fifth paragraph states that contrary to the apparent misconception of the TDIP committee, it is not for the Government to direct the work of the Oireachtas. Of course it is for the Government to do so. This debate is a classic of how this is done and I should not have to tell Ministers that the Government directs the Oireachtas. While the Houses may have an appearance of independence, every vote is directed. It cannot be denied, for example, that the committee democratically instituted in this House was collapsed by a division directed by Government in which Senators voted against their consciences because they were whipped.

The House did not agree to the committee.

It is a disgrace to commend the Government for its full co-operation. The amendment also expresses serious concern about the "opaque manner" in which the TDIP committee reached an inflated figure of suspicious aircraft and commends the Government for its policy of early and proactive engagement with the US authorities. What rubbish.

Condoleeza Rice is a busted flush and liar, as is George Bush. I have never been stopped from describing them as such in the House. These words have also been used in the British Parliament and Congress in Washington, while American citizens have stood outside the White House in recent days with banners emblazoned with the same words. The reason is that Ms Rice and President Bush are liars, and with poll ratings of 28% President Bush is a busted flush. This is a man who wanted to legitimise torture. The reason his Administration regards torture as legal is that Ms Condoleeza Rice, if she is a woman, stated during the bloodbath in Lebanon that what we were witnessing was the birth pangs——

Could we avoid raising questions of sexual identity?

If the Senator is intelligent enough to listen, instead of smirking and giggling, I will explain. The reason I call into question Condoleeza Rice's intellectual or emotional gender identity was her description of the bloodbath unleashed by the Americans and Israelis in Lebanon as the birth pangs of democracy. I reserve the right to question the fundamental humanity and decency of a person who would use such a phrase to describe the catastrophe unleashed in Lebanon. If Senators believe Condoleeza Rice they are very foolish.

How are we anti-American when we are on the same side as the American people and Congress? The fools on the other side have aligned themselves with a discredited element in one of the worst governments the United States has ever had and its worst ever presidency. The introduction of the TDIP committee's report states that the prohibition of torture is a peremptory norm of international law —jus cogens — from which no derogation is possible. Again and again, the current United States Administration has defended torture and techniques such as water-boarding perfected by the Gestapo.

The Government's position is that there is no evidence that rendition took place through Ireland. I would like the Minister and Senators on the other side to admit that it has been proved incontrovertibly that aeroplanes, which were known and numbered and whose records I have placed on the record of the House, passed through Irish airspace. These aircraft, for example, an aeroplane with the registration number N379P, were associated with rendition and nothing else. When we named and shamed it the registration was changed. These aeroplanes were refuelled in Shannon Airport as they returned directly from rendition. Is this not assistance? Are Senators on the other side speaking English? Are they capable of moral feeling? It disgusts me that the motion should be amended in such an insupportable and disgraceful manner.

The TDIP committee's findings as regards Ireland are very clear and attempts to turn the debate on them into some petty, parochial, cabbage patch row are disingenuous in the extreme. Do the Senators opposite seriously believe that Proinsias De Rossa is running the European Parliament? A majority was achieved in a democratic assembly and all the Government side can find is some obscure republican plot, which ill comes from the Senators opposite. The committee called on the Irish Government to institute a parliamentary inquiry. Such an inquiry was established but destroyed for the most petty and parochial of reasons.

We know torture is taking place and that the Americans approve of it. We also know the United States Supreme Court is blenching at this moral obliquity. We know of the appalling conditions in the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prison camps. We now know, thanks to the investigative reporters of the BBC, the locations of the black sites — the denied torture camps — in Poland. I have a document detailing names, dates and places, which I will send to the Minister. It transpires that our own friendly, executive jet, N379P, turns up again at this named but unpronounceable airport in Poland. What does the Minister of State have to say about that? We know about torture. A report in The Irish Times today indicates that torture is endemic in Jordan. King Abdullah is a decent and honourable man. He has tried to get some of these prisons closed down but the situation is endemic. The Americans used us as an assistant in the outsourcing of torture, which is to our eternal shame. Part of the argument was that jobs at Shannon Airport were more important than standards. What a lamentable and stupid idea. I voted against the beef deals in Iraq and I was told from the Government side of the House that while I was saying the moral thing, we could not afford it. We did not do it but we got stung because we were still owed €100 million. We did the lousy thing and got stung, and we are doing it again now. We are also doing it with China because the smell of money is so rich in the nostrils in the people who are running this country. It is a profound disgrace. There are decent people on the Government side of the House who share the same ideas, but they are whipped into line and that is why this report is right. The Government is running this House, telling people of conscience what to do and how to vote. It is a pity they do not have the guts to remember their own alleged republicanism.

I welcome the opportunity to address the Seanad once again on this issue and I encourage Senators to support the proposed amendment. As the House will recall, on two previous occasions last year, in March and again in June, I had the privilege of addressing Seanad Éireann on the subject of extraordinary rendition. The debate has progressed considerably since then to the extent that no credible voice is any longer suggesting that prisoners have been brought through Irish airports.

No one ever did.

Yes, the Senator did.

That is more of the evasion and the lies.

The Minister of State without interruption.

I am almost overcome by the ginormous verbosity of the Senator's pompous wisdom, describing us as fools smelling money in our nostrils.

The Minister of State should be writing Finnegans Wake.

I have heard of nobody in this House who is not anxious to draw their monthly salary, or anybody on this island who is not anxious to be gainfully employed. Why should they not be? If the wisdom and leadership of this party in co-operation with our colleagues in the Progressive Democrats continue to allow the nation to grow an economy that creates an opportunity for our people's intellectual talent to be continuously engaged in developing the nation, then why should we not be interested in the well being of our people? What is wrong with that? I take exception to——

Will the Leas-Chathaoirleach ask the Minister of State what question he is replying to because I do not have the faintest idea?

I am replying to the insinuation by the Senator that he believes this side of the House does not have the ability to continue to lead this nation in the interests of all our people, for the common good and global welfare, including the European Union.

That is rubbish. I said he was selling out to torturers and that is what he has done.

We know he is not up to the job.

He is a decent man but he has been stuck in like a patsy.

God help the nation if those got the job.

The investigations carried out by the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and in special cases by An Garda Síochána, have uncovered absolutely no evidence to suggest prisoners might have been transferred, through Irish airports, in contravention of the categorical assurances, which we have received from the US authorities, in this area.

Having committed these appalling acts, the jets were refuelled with the connivance of the Irish authorities.

The Minister of State without interruption.

Notwithstanding this, our Government has continued its proactive approach to this matter. I will begin by outlining the Government's position in this area. I will then address the recent report by the European Parliament's temporary committee investigating extraordinary rendition and, finally, I will describe to Senators some of the forward looking proposals that have been made by our Government in respect of this matter. At the outset, however, I wish to reiterate once again, the Government's complete opposition to the practice of extraordinary rendition.

While it facilitates it.

This has been our Government's constant position since the existence of this practice was first revealed. This has been made clear to the US authorities on numerous occasions, including at the very highest levels. I welcome the finding implicit in the report of the TDIP committee that no prisoners were transferred through Irish territory, which thereby vindicates the Government's policy of early and proactive engagement with the US authorities on the matter, and full co-operation with the Europe-wide investigations of both the Council of Europe — to which Senator Mooney has already alluded — and the European Parliament. In furtherance of this policy, my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, was one of only two foreign ministers of 27 member states, to agree to attend the European Parliament committee's proceedings. We welcome the warm acknowledgement of his presence contained in the European Parliament committee's report. The Minister was the first to raise the issue bilaterally with the US, and got a clear categoric assurance from it that no extraordinary rendition had taken place through Ireland. He was the first to raise the matter at EU level, following which the President of the Council formally took up the issue with the US authorities. He was also the first to call for the reform of the Chicago convention.

From the outset, this Government's clear and consistent objective has been to ensure Irish territory is not used for the illegal transfer of prisoners in this manner. Since 2004 when the first allegations were made, thanks to the swift, decisive action of our Government, we have been in an unparalleled position with respect to the unqualified, categorical assurances that we have received from the US authorities on this matter, both in terms of their specificity and of the level at which they were given. Senators will recall that the United States authorities have not issued similar blanket assurances to most other member states.

Some have asked the reason the Government does not introduce a policy of random searches of aircraft through Irish territory, but this would be only a cosmetic exercise. In Ireland's case, I understand from our Department of Transport that, depending on the season, there are between 750 and 1,750 movements of private aircraft through Irish airports each month. Among these aircraft, those said to have been involved in extraordinary rendition missions, have been identified only months or even years after they have participated in these missions. Their registration numbers have often been changed.

That should tell the Minister of State something.

Moreover, it seems they are chartered only temporarily by the CIA and are then returned to their owners for normal aviation purposes. Even if by chance, an aircraft involved in illegal activity elsewhere were to be searched, what would such a search reveal? I repeat that gardaí have all the powers they need to search aircraft which they suspect of being used for illegal purposes. There have been Garda investigations, none of which has uncovered any wrongdoing.

I wish to turn now to the European Parliament committee report that prompted the original motion for this debate. The Senators who moved the motion have picked out two of the report's suggestions, which I will address in a moment. Before doing so, however, I would like to speak briefly on the report in general. As I have already mentioned, we welcome the finding implicit in the report that prisoners have not been transferred through Irish territory, in keeping with the categorical assurances that we have received from the US authorities. However, it is a matter of profound regret that certain members of the European Parliament's committee, acting for partisan reasons, squandered the opportunity to produce a forward-looking document, which focused on the changes that need to be made in future. These include the regulation of international civil aviation, as suggested by the Minister for Foreign Affairs during his exchange of views with the committee. They have instead used the report to score political points in a manner which undermines the credibility and accuracy of the final report. This is both disappointing and regrettable.

One can pick many holes in the report and I do not propose to go through a line-by-line rebuttal of each of its many questionable points. However, I will pick out a number of items which I cannot allow to go unanswered. The first of these is the inflated figure — to which colleagues have already referred — of 147 allegedly suspicious landings of aircraft in Ireland. As the amended motion records, the committee rapporteur’s method of obtaining this figure is highly opaque. We do know that his analysis includes any aircraft said to have been used in any extraordinary rendition missions on different occasions, aircraft which have landed at airports in “suspicious” countries, and aircraft previously believed to have been suspicious and which have been re-registered. Notwithstanding the clear evidence unearthed by his own committee, which shows that the CIA operates aircraft for only a brief period before returning them to normal use, the rapporteur adopted a “once used, forever tainted” approach to identifying aircraft. This had the advantage from the rapporteur’s perspective of delivering headline-grabbing figures, but its flaws undermine the credibility of the entire European Parliament process.

My last intervention on this matter in this House was made just after Senator Marty of the Council of Europe had published his report on the matter. It is worth quoting Senator Marty when he warns in that report, "We undermine our credibility and limit the possibility for serious discussion if we make allegations that are ambiguous, exaggerated or unsubstantiated." Mr. Simon Coveney, MEP made this very point during the Minister for Foreign Affairs's appearance. Regrettably, the report of European Parliament committee does just this.

In addition to our doubts about the report's landing statistics, I would highlight its call for a ban on all CIA aircraft landing in Ireland, which we see echoed in tonight's original motion. This proposed ban is extraordinary for two reasons. First, Ireland is the only country in the report in regard to which such a ban is called for, so that such aircraft could, according to the terms of the report, land in Scotland, England or elsewhere instead. This bizarre situation is explained by the fact the ban call results from an amendment tabled by an Irish MEP whose goal would appear to have been more to make political charges than to use his privileged position to examine ways of preventing this practice. Second and more seriously, the call for an absolute ban on landings by CIA-operated aircraft here is based on the illegitimate assumption that all CIA-operated flights are inherently sinister. Again, in his findings last summer, Senator Marty emphasised that "not all flights of CIA aircraft participate in 'renditions'", and he has acknowledged on other occasions that only a tiny minority of such flights might be engaged in such a practice.

There are many legitimate reasons for international co-operation in intelligence matters. The report's suggestion that all such co-operation by Ireland should be cancelled because of a risk of extraordinary rendition, which it in any event recognises does not occur through Ireland, is ludicrous. I urge Senators to think very carefully before supporting a motion which contains such a fundamentally flawed proposal.

The second of the report's proposals that is picked up in tonight's motion is the suggestion that the Oireachtas launch a parliamentary investigation into the use of Irish territory in this matter. In response, I recall that Seanad Éireann has twice voted not to establish such a committee. With all due respect to the European Parliament, Senators were not waiting for an invitation from that body to establish an investigation. Rather, having considered the matter twice in the past year, and having evaluated the paucity of evidence to support establishing such a committee, they decided not to do so.


I would make one final point in regard to the report. Given the Minister's preparedness to support the work of the European Parliament committee — as I said, only one other Minister attended — I find extraordinary the report's erroneous suggestion that the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, failed to answer questions put to him. The transcript of the Minister's meeting with the European Parliament committee, which lasted almost two hours, is available on the European Parliament's website. It is plain that the Minister was entirely open in his exchanges with the committee. The suggestion that he was not is both discourteous and inaccurate, and absolutely unfair to him as a representative of a sovereign Government.

As I stated at the beginning of my address, it is a matter of some regret that the report produced by the European Parliament's committee expends so much effort on examining events in the past at the expense of suggesting concrete ways in which instances of extraordinary rendition can be prevented from occurring in the future. In the course of his meeting with the European Parliament, the Minister focused in particular on the potential benefits that might accrue from a review of the system of regulating international aviation. He suggested consideration be given to examining the Chicago Convention of 1944, in particular to considering the system of classification of flights for clearance and notification under the convention. Nowhere does this relatively straightforward but potentially beneficial suggestion appear in the European Parliament committee's report. This is a pity because it is clear that for any future action in this area to be effective, it will need to be taken at a European level. The Government has decided to seek to encourage discussion in the Council framework and our permanent representation in Brussels will in the coming weeks raise the matter with our EU partners.

Another aspect of this matter is the Government's dialogue with the Irish Human Rights Commission, IHRC, on the issue of Ireland's human rights obligations. The Government is satisfied it is fully in compliance with its obligations under international law and has made this clear to the IHRC in the course of an extensive and detailed correspondence on the international law issues between the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the IHRC. In the most recent letter from the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the president of the IHRC, dated 25 July 2006, the Minister suggested the possibility of continuing the dialogue at official level. The IHRC last week signalled its openness to this suggestion and our Department has suggested a range of possible dates for these meetings.

To conclude, the Government's consistent and long-standing position on the issue of extraordinary rendition is absolutely clear. We condemn it, we do not facilitate it, and, looking to the future, we are willing to examine practicable and specific ways in which, with our partners, we can lessen the possibility that future cases of extraordinary rendition might occur anywhere. That the European Parliament committee's report as it relates to Ireland is so unbalanced is of course a matter for regret. So also is its lack of practical suggestions for ways of preventing future occurrences of extraordinary rendition. However, the very fact of the European Parliament's conducting an investigation has helped to raise the profile of this issue, which in itself is positive.

Turning to tonight's debate, the Seanad is faced with a flawed motion based on a flawed report. I cannot commend it to this House. Rather, I urge Senators to lend their support to the practical, balanced and forward-looking counter-motion and, for a third time in almost a year, to act in accordance with their proud tradition of rational, evidence-based analysis of the issues before them. I know I can depend on the House to do that.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House and was glad to hear his interesting speech. While no credible voice has been brought forward to suggest prisoners have been brought through Irish airports, there is considerable evidence that aeroplanes which were used for transporting such prisoners have been here, which is a problem because it means we are part of the process. We know torture has been carried out in Jordan, Syria and Egypt and possibly in other countries where these planes have visited before or after landing in Ireland. Nobody has been in a position to state whether prisoners were on the flights because none of the planes was inspected, even though the authorities could inspect the planes if they wanted to. It is fine to be able to state we were given assurances at the highest level of authority that this is not happening but an open invitation to inspect the planes by these high authorities would have been extremely useful. That does not appear to have been forthcoming.

I first raised this matter in the House on 23 June 2004 when speaking on the Transfer of Execution of Sentences Bill 2003. I asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform what would be the situation if untried and un-sentenced people were being brought through Shannon to goodness knows where. He replied:

We have our Constitution and the right of the freedom of the individual is not confined to citizens; it applies to all persons. Therefore, it would cause me grave concern if I thought people were being smuggled through Irish territory in circumstances that amounted to unlawful detention in Irish law or in international law for that matter.

I accept it has not been shown that prisoners are being brought through Shannon but, if we accept the flight numbers given and that the planes are involved in the process of extraordinary rendition, the logistics are being aided.

It is interesting that we do not have a greater sense of self-preservation in this regard. We know great anger is caused in the Muslim world by any idea that people may be associated with extraordinary rendition. I heard the Minister for Education and Science, when in Saudi Arabia, quite rightly welcome that the King Abdullah scholarships are to be extended to Ireland — we hope to have 500 Sunni students come here in the near future to study in our universities. We already have a considerable number of people from that part of the world and have had an extraordinarily good relationship with that region. This is not just through trade or selling beef to Saddam's army and so forth. For decades, people from that part of the world have come here to study medicine, engineering and in scientific areas. I would regret very much if we did not make plain to them that we understand their concerns about what is happening. We have not asked them what they think about the situation. I welcome the fact that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, is currently on a tour of the area and I hope he asks both sides how they feel about the matter. I was glad the Minister attended the proceedings of the European Parliament committee. It was right to do so because we must show that we consider what we are doing correct.

On this issue, it seems it is on the views of one party, the United States of America, that we rely. It is not the Irish people alone who are interested in the issue. I suggest people in the Middle East and in countries such as Sweden and Italy, from where people have been abducted to be brought to third countries for torture, are also interested. I would be glad to be informed of their views on the matter.

I wish to share my time with Senator Ormonde.

I welcome the Minister of State and the information he has provided. I also welcome the publication of the report we are discussing today.

I have spoken on this issue many times in the House where there has been a certain level of rancour in the debate. However, the debate has been worthwhile. Everybody approaches the issue in terms of what is important to him or her, but there is commonality in the fact that people are agreed on their opposition to extraordinary rendition. Nobody has indicated differently in any of the debates.

One important issue missed in the report — it was touched on by the Minister of State — concerns how we should deal with the issue of rendition. The report appears to single out the Government for blame, but I will not take that route. I will not get into an argument about whether the blame lies with Proinsias de Rossa, MEP, the Labour Party or a certain left agenda in Europe. I presume anybody involved in producing these reports goes to the table with his or her own views on life and on how such issues should be thrashed out, but I am sure it is done in an upfront manner. It is important to move away from the blame game. It is more important to decide how we can deal with the issue of rendition, on the role of the CIA in the situation and how the rule of law can be protected.

The report suggests banning CIA flights through Ireland. I have no doubt the majority of CIA flights through Ireland have beneficial purposes. In debate on extraordinary rendition, we often lose sight of the fact that the CIA provides a service that benefits all of us. This does not mean I support all its actions, but I sleep easier in my bed at night, as do many citizens of the world, as a result of the intelligence gathering of the agency.

Another myth with regard to this issue is illustrated by the term "anti-Americanism". I am not sure the sentiments expressed are always anti-American, but there is certainly an anti-Bush, anti-Administration or anti-Republican Party agenda. It is worth noting the change in the focus of the CIA took place in 1995 when there was a greater level of spend into the agency and greater recognition by the Administration of the time of the lack of quality information that would allow it make decisions that would protect not alone the United States, but also other countries in Europe. Strangely enough, it was the Democratic Clinton Administration that was in power at the time. The shift in CIA policy had its genesis then, which is something worth considering by those who refer in derogatory terms to the Bush Administration as the author of this type of practice. They should note that it started in a previous Administration and has been continued by the Bush Administration. I do not wish to defend the Bush Administration, but just wish to make the point for this debate.

I am also concerned that every time we debate the issue, Shannon is drawn into the net. The Minister of State addressed that matter. The debate has moved from the point where people mentioned here that they had heard on the radio that prisoners in shackles were being brought through Shannon Airport. It is now accepted that was not the case. We should move to a higher level of debate and move away from mentioning specific airports. Let us leave the people of Shannon in peace.

We should also remove from the debate the suggestion that Fianna Fáil is only concerned with the protection of Shannon Airport. That is not the case. We are not prepared to sacrifice human rights for jobs at Shannon Airport and that has never been at the core of our debate.

I welcome the Minister of State. Listening to this debate is like listening to a record player because it has been repeatedly pointed out by the Minister of State and other speakers that the Government is completely opposed to the practice of extraordinary rendition and would never allow it. The Government's position stands as fact. We cannot deviate from the fact that the Government made its concerns known to the highest level of the US Government and we were reassured that no attempts were made to use Irish airports or territory for the purpose of transferring and transporting prisoners. The US has stated authoritatively that prisoners have not been transferred through Irish territory. I accept that assurance and will not try to dig holes in it. Comprehensive, factual assurances were given through the ambassador and they are not open to other interpretations.

Some questions were raised by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr. Terry Davis — I am a member of the Irish delegation to the Council. Mr. Davis stated that our response did not need further clarification. I will not challenge that statement; why would I? The Government's response set out clearly the legal situation here with regard to illegal deprivation of liberty and the role of the Garda and other authorities in preventing such deprivation and investigating irrelevant allegations. The Garda Síochána has investigated six complaints by the public related to extraordinary rendition, but found no unlawful activity occurred. The Garda is ready to investigate any further allegations where there are grounds to suspect such activity.

I note the rapporteur's report and the statement that aircraft associated with the CIA have passed through Ireland on 147 occasions. Were not people busy counting to get the figure right? Despite investigation, political and media activity and NGO scrutiny, not a shred of evidence has shown extraordinary rendition took place through Irish airports and territory. The Government has made it clear that should any evidence of such activity on our territory be found, the legal remedies would be put in place immediately.

I will uphold human rights, and I would be the first to take issue with prisoners being transported in order to be subject to torture while deprived of their liberty. I could not stand by; nor would the Government do so. I do not know why we are wrangling about this issue, since we are all singing the same tune. I suspect that there is something else behind tonight's agenda. This has been brought up time and again, and I accept the Government's reply and the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern. He travelled to Europe and took on the committee. I accept that he was ready and able to discuss this and provide reassurances.

I am happy to support the amendment, but that does not stop me from saying that we must be extremely vigilant to ensure that it not happen in future.

I too support the amendment and express our appreciation for the presence of the Minister of State. As he said, it is not the first occasion that he has attended the House to discuss this issue. When I was a Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, sitting on its legal affairs committee, the first reports of rendition appeared in The New York Times, giving rise to international comment. I believe that we made our views clear at the time. There is no need to repeat tonight what we have said on numerous occasions, namely, that we totally oppose anything of that nature. We will not stand for it, since it is against all our principles. It is hardly necessary for me to repeat that.

However, no number of emotional or hysterical speakers such as we have heard tonight can substitute for concrete evidence in this regard. We have been insulted many times by an individual speaker regarding our attitude to this issue. We have been abused and almost ridiculed by him, but like his fellow-travellers who visited Shannon and remained under the bushes with binoculars for several years plane-spotting, he has never produced a scintilla of evidence to support the allegations that he bandies around this House.

In Shannon, people protested not about rendition but about the use of the airport by certain American civilian aircraft to carry soldiers to and from various destinations, breaking down the perimeter fence and causing millions of euro of damage to the airport, attacking aeroplanes and causing millions of dollars of damage to extremely expensive aircraft, and attempting to invade them and put the lives of transit passengers at risk. However, they never produced one scintilla of evidence to support their allegations.

It is also important to state that they have no local support in Shannon. I wish to refute a reference made to the volume of support in various areas. When several attempts were made to block and picket the airport, causing disruption around it, very few people attended. Only three of four turned up with banners for the last protest organised there, and it was obvious that there was no appreciable level of public support or evidence of sympathy for the carry-on that we witnessed at Shannon Airport when certain individuals, including Members of the Oireachtas, organised pickets against American involvement in wars and other activities.

We all condemn the war and wish it to be over as quickly as possible. However, no evidence of rendition has been produced at any stage. As Senator Ormonde said, investigations were carried out numerous times by local security personnel when allegations were made. They went to the authorities, and no evidence whatsoever was found to support them. Time and again we find ourselves dealing with this issue in the House, and it has also been discussed in the European Parliament.

Central to much of the discussion that has taken place recently in Europe was Proinsias De Rossa, MEP, who for a few years served as Minister for Social Welfare in a previous Government. I cannot recollect his making any comment through any medium or in the House about aircraft going through Shannon, and he was a member of the Government at the time, enjoying full access to information regarding such issues. I have consulted the records as far as possible, and to my knowledge he showed no interest in it in any public comments, other than the anti-American propaganda in which he has been engaged for years.

As a member of the Government as Minister for Social Welfare, Proinsias De Rossa, MEP, made no comment regarding American flights going through Shannon. He showed very little or no interest in the matter. It amazes me that he has new-found interests, and perhaps he might explain them. I have knowledge of the area and have not seen Mr. De Rossa in Shannon for many years; I am not even sure whether he has been there in the last ten or 15 years. He can carry on his activities in Europe, and we will pursue ours in Shannon.

I am satisfied that the authorities in Shannon, and the Garda authorities, have all the powers required. If they need legal backing, it is within their remit to investigate flights where there are allegations of wrongdoing. Such CIA flights are civilian rather than military. I believe there is a distinction between military and civilian flights, especially civilian aeroplanes chartered by the authorities to convey soldiers to and from European destinations, which regularly use Shannon.

Those staunchly opposed to the war in Iraq include the German authorities, who have recently been very quick to negotiate a deal for American carriers to pass through Leipzig. A sizeable amount of the business that went through Shannon now goes through that airport. Although they have very strongly criticised the United States' activities in Europe, the German authorities have been quick to seek out opportunities to do business with America where it means dollars for the German economy.

At this stage, perhaps we might invite those interested to come to Shannon, not for the purpose of confrontation, but to speak to the airport authorities, something that they did not do when they last went there to open up banners and placards and protest in front of the airport. They did not have the courtesy to talk to the airport security officers, the management of the airport, or any of the personnel in the development companies. They talked least of all to local people, preferring flying missions into Shannon to unfold banners as publicity stunts with their anti-American fellow-travellers. We do not know why they acted, but their activities certainly did no service to the country or to Shannon Airport.

I welcome the Minister of State and thank him for his passionate speech. Senator Norris concurred on its worth and on the Minister of State's eloquence. As we all know, the term "extraordinary rendition" refers to the extrajudicial procedure used by the United States for transporting terrorist suspects from one country to another to interrogate or imprison them in circumstances that give rise to a risk of torture or other cruel or inhuman treatment. Last June the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution condemning what it termed the "spider's web" of CIA transfers and detention involving active or passive collusion by member states.

Extraordinary rendition represents what the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights termed a complete repudiation of the law and the justice system. The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs have made it clear that the Government is opposed to the practice of extraordinary rendition. At the meeting of the temporary committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners the Minister stated that Ireland is absolutely and vehemently against extraordinary rendition and that we will not allow it to take place in our country. Speaking on RTE on 23 January and on Today FM, the Minister reaffirmed the point.

Mr. Fava, author of the European Parliament report on CIA rendition, breached protocol by leaving the meeting after the Minister for Foreign Affairs had made his opening statement. The Minister, one of two Ministers who attended out of the 25 entitled to appear, had the courtesy to attend for over two hours. How dare Mr. Fava treat our Minister for Foreign Affairs like that? He had to leave the meeting and did not have the manners to hear the response to his accusations. Mr. Fava has much for which to answer. There is collusion between him and Mr. Proinsias De Rossa, MEP. The American people have shown what they think of Mr. Bush, who is on the way out. The majority do not approve of the war on Iraq. When I came back from the US last year I predicted that Mr. Bush would not last long. There is extreme left-wing anti-American sentiment, which is totally stupid.

Where is it?

There is an alliance between Mr. Fava and Mr. Proinsias De Rossa, MEP, to put down our Government.

Many people agree with them.

Our Minister raised the matter first. His pressing on the matter of rendition led to Ms Rice visiting Brussels to discuss the matter, demonstrating Ireland's ambition to deny support for any form of extraordinary rendition.

It is time to update legislation on matters such as rendition to guard against such flights. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs stated on 30 November, the Chicago Convention should be reviewed. It was drawn up in 1944 and is out of date. Changes should be made to ensure information is available and suspicions can be addressed by countries through which planes are travelling. From an Irish perspective the optimal route for this legislation is the EU. All member states are concerned about extraordinary rendition and would be motivated to produce legislation to address matters of safety and sovereignty. This is an opportunity for a small country to produce legislation on the European stage to update the Chicago Convention and provide information on those travelling on flights.

I have been reading a report published by Mr. Dick Marty in June 2006. He refers to the human dimension of rendition. He considers the human impact in two ways, the practice of preparing a detainee to be deported and the grave, long-lasting psychological damage inflicted by extraordinary rendition. He refers to many different types of victims of the process but the methodology of treatment is the same. As part of the European Convention on Human Rights we have signed up to the right not to be tortured or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. A member of the CIA describes rendition as involving shackling and restraining the prisoner. Those being transported are subjected to a 20-minute take out by being rendered immobile, deprived of sensory stimuli and having clothing cut from their bodies with knives or scissors. I can hardly bring myself to mention some of the material in the report. The person may be forced to wear a nappy and will not know where he is going or his fate on arrival.

The impact on the people and their families is devastating. The symptoms include demoralisation, flashbacks, panic attacks and deep psychological scars that prevent re-engaging with society. The report includes specific examples of this.

As an Irish citizen I cannot stand over this behaviour being directly or indirectly facilitated by the State. I do not understand how the Government can stand over this behaviour. It is on the defensive but should consider a new approach and promise the House to follow the approach outlined by Senator White. The Government does not like what the Council of Europe or the European Parliament has stated but its only response is to describe it as a Labour Party plot within European institutions. The Government should address the problems highlighted by these institutions, as suggested by Senator White. This was the subject of the last Labour Party motion, in which we requested that a Seanad committee be set up to review laws to ensure rendition is not facilitated. Instead of going on the defensive, the Government will eventually have to act. It cannot continue to dismiss reports and argue that they are plots or untrue. There must be action on the issue.

From the beginning the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and bodies such as the Irish Human Rights Commission have indicated that accepting diplomatic assurances is not enough. In accepting diplomatic assurances we are not doing what we should be doing as a State to ensure human rights are protected. We must go further and examine our laws and practices in this respect. The Government should take this under consideration, and that is the purpose of the Labour Party motion and the highlighted issue as a whole.

It is time the Minister of State took the lead of his colleague, Senator White, and responded to these reports, putting in place measures to ensure we are not in any way complicit in the rendition process, as we are currently.

I could have a great time if I had 20 minutes but as I have only five minutes I must be very selective. I will ignore all the vulgar abuse about myself and my associations with people in other countries, as well as other related matters. Instead I will concentrate on one or two points.

The first is the extraordinary position where every single speaker on the Government side has indicated they accept the word of the US Government. The same is true of the Department of Foreign Affairs. These people are quite sure on the matter. Everybody here has accepted that extraordinary rendition has occurred and not one person has spoken up on the Government side who did not believe it had occurred.

Condoleezza Rice has categorically denied it ever happened and that is the official public position of the US Government. Yet the report's contents on what happened in Italy, Sweden, Austria and the United Kingdom are unchallenged by anybody I know in Government. In each case the report names individuals abducted from those countries and in most cases brought to be tortured. The US Government denied that ever happened.

A representative of the US gave us, with hand on her heart, an assurance that nobody went through Shannon. How can our Government believe another government which lies on a grand scale and denied in every international forum that extraordinary rendition ever happened, despite overwhelming evidence? That is where we run into problems.

I do not agree with Senator Norris and did not particularly like the tone of his speech.

I do not think there are fools on the Government side, and I wish there were. It would then be easier to ignore the issue. I believe these are naive people who believe there is some benefit to Ireland from wobbling about fundamental issues when President George Bush wants us to wobble. Our Government has accepted the word of a government which has lied about the fundamental issue when it gives an assurance on a secondary and related issue. That is the basic problem.

The United States Government has lied over and over again.

It has admitted it carries out extraordinary rendition

It did not.

The US Government has never done so. It admitted it transfers prisoners from one place to another but it has never accepted responsibility for any of the cases documented in this report. It has denied they ever happened. There is an innocence on the Government's part because it does not want to get itself into a position of conflict with an obnoxious government in Washington. It decided to ignore the evidence that extraordinary rendition was being carried out extensively. The Government chose to accept the word of the US.

That is a distorted view.

Senator Ryan, without interruption.

It is not extraordinary. There is a resonance between people such as myself and the citizens of the United States who feel exactly the same way I do about a discredited president who told them lies to start a war, who was elected illegally and who has led the country up a most dangerous and destructive cul-de-sac. That is what America represents and what I support. I am not anti-American; I am very proud of the American people as they have shown a willingness to face down their government in a way that foreign governments such as ours have failed to do.

Proinsias de Rossa, as the only Labour Party member of the European Parliament of 600-odd people, has extraordinary leverage. On thinking about it I remembered that he is a member of the Party of European Socialists, a very formidable, coherent and long-established group. I also remembered that the Government's major party is hanging around with the discredited leftovers of European fascism in an extraordinary ad hoc arrangement of parties because it cannot make up its mind whether it is a Socialist or Christian Democrat party. Therefore Fianna Fáil has no allies in the European Parliament and can find nobody to support it when it produces the sort of amendment to the report such as that put forward by Eoin Ryan. That is a fundamental fact.

The Senator should check the record of the parliament over the past few months to see the performance of our leader.

Proinsias de Rossa has a credibility in the European Parliament because he works with discipline with significant groups. Fianna Fáil has been afraid since the elections to become part of a group because it cannot make up its mind on what it stands for. Nobody knows what the party stands for and when it puts forward amendments, nobody votes with it.

We wanted to join the Socialists but we were not allowed.

I had not heard that. There are fundamental tests, the first of which is that the party does not take bribes from builders.

Is that relevant to this debate?

We are not printing money, how does that go?

I never printed any money.

The Senator should look at the big picture.

I wish to finish.

The Senator is a great one.

I wish to go back to the same issue. I have tolerated a fair level of abuse with a reasonable level of good humour.

The Senator can throw it out himself.

The Senator has been spraying all day.

How can I be expected to believe a government which denies the fact of extraordinary rendition when we all know it happened? How can I be expected to accept an assurance about a subsidiary but related issue?

It did not happen on the island of Ireland.

So it tells us the truth and it tells everybody else lies, is that it?

It lied about it, it has lied over and over again.

Who lied?

The US Government, it denied it ever happened.

Senator Ormonde, please allow Senator Ryan to finish.

It denied it ever happened. I have no more to say on it. Although it denied it ever happened, every Member of this House knows what happened. People on the Government side accept the word of the US on a subsidiary but related issue because it is the easy option.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 17.

  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Callanan, Peter.
  • Cox, Margaret.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Dardis, John.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Glynn, Camillus.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kett, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lydon, Donal J.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Minihan, John.
  • Mooney, Paschal C.
  • Morrissey, Tom.
  • Moylan, Pat.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • Phelan, Kieran.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • White, Mary M.


  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, Fergal.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Henry, Mary.
  • McDowell, Derek.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Meara, Kathleen.
  • Phelan, John.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Minihan and Moylan; Níl, Senators O’Meara and Ryan.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.