Dáil Éireann - Volume 392 - 08 November, 1989

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Theft of Antique Pistols.

2. Mr. McCartan asked the Taoiseach if there was a theft of a number of antique pistols from the National Museum at the end of 1986 or early 1987; the number of pistols stolen and their value; the circumstances in which the pistols were stolen; if the theft was drawn to the attention of his Department; the action taken [1988] as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Taoiseach: The staff of the National Museum discovered on 13 January 1987 that 31 antique pistols were missing. Their estimated value is between £40,000 and £60,000. They had been taken from storage boxes in the basement of the museum. My Department were notified and a Garda investigation was immediately instituted. The Garda report has been furnished and the matter is still under investigation. It has not yet been possible to institute criminal proceedings. The various dealers and institutions with whom the museum have contact were notified of the details of the stolen items. My Department arranged that security at the museum would be reviewed by the Garda and that necessary works would be effected and procedures altered to prevent a recurrence of such a theft.

Mr. McCartan: His Department having been advised in January 1987 of the fact and an investigation then being instituted by An Garda Síochána, has the Taoiseach made any inquiry as to why no proceedings have arisen from that investigation, given the long lapse of time? I take it from what the Taoiseach is telling us that none of these pistols has been recovered since then.

The Taoiseach: No, none of the pistols has been recovered and, unfortunately, it has not yet been possible to institute criminal proceedings. I do not want to say any more at this stage in that connection.

Mr. McCartan: Am I correct in understanding that the contract for maintenance and refurbishment of the pistols in the keep of the museum with two individuals was terminated as a result of the affair and those two individuals were originally assigned with the recommendation of the Taoiseach's Office?

The Taoiseach: No, that is not correct.

Mr. McCartan: There are two sides [1989] to the question I put to the Taoiseach. Perhaps I can ask him to answer both. Was a contract terminated as a result?

The Taoiseach: No. To be polite, the answer is in the negative.

Mr. McCartan: In both instances?

The Taoiseach: What was the second question?

Mr. McCartan: That they had gone there on the Taoiseach's recommendation.

The Taoiseach: No, they were granted facilities in the museum.

Mr. McCartan: On the recommendation of the Taoiseach's Department?

The Taoiseach: No. My Department had to have a “yes” in the decision but it was not on the recommendation of my Department.

Mr. McCartan: Perhaps the Taoiseach can clarify. Was the contract continued and are these persons still pursuing the original assignment of maintaining and refurbishing the stock?

The Taoiseach: The Deputy is not right in using the word “contract”. Facilities were granted to two individuals but those facilities were terminated on our side. They were not proceeded with by the two individuals.

Mr. McCartan: They disappeared.

The Taoiseach: I would not use that phrase, but they did not pursue the survey they were carrying out.

Mr. McCartan: Was that after these items went missing?

The Taoiseach: It was contemporaneously.

Mr. McCartan: It seems remarkable [1990] that there was no prosecution in these circumstances.

An Ceann Comhairle: If questions have to be put, Deputy, let them be put properly.

The Taoiseach: I want to assure the Deputy that the prosecution will certainly be instituted if possible.