Dáil Éireann - Volume 501 - 24 February, 1999

Adjournment Debate. - Passports for Investment Scheme.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: I am raising this issue on the Adjournment because I tabled two parliamentary questions to the Taoiseach for reply today in relation to files in his Department linked to the passports for investment scheme. The Taoiseach did not reply to those questions and instead transferred them to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The parliamentary questions were as follows:

To ask the Taoiseach whether there are files in his Department relating to the passports for investment scheme and whether any such files have been or will be sent to the Moriarty tribunal.

and

To ask the Taoiseach if he is satisfied that any files relating to the passports for investment scheme that were in his Department between 1988 and 1994 are still available and, if not, their current location; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I accept that under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts, the Minister with responsibility for naturalisation is the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. However, the Taoiseach is responsible for files in his Department. Furthermore, there is clear evidence that the Taoiseach's predecessor and former leader of Fianna Fáil, Mr. Charles J. Haughey, had, during the period he was Taoiseach, arranged to ensure that passports for investment cases were brought to him and that he adjudicated on them.

My objective in raising the issue of the files in the Department of the Taoiseach is to ensure that the facts will be made available and, in particular, that all the information and all the files relating to the scheme are made available to the Moriarty Tribunal. The Taoiseach has referred on a number of occasions to the fact that the files from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform are with the tribunal. I emphasise that I am interested in the files which are or were in the Department of the Taoiseach.

It is clear the former Taoiseach, Mr. Charles J. Haughey, had a hands-on approach to this scheme. There is evidence that he was involved in handing over some of these passports to those who qualified for citizenship under the scheme. It is also a fact that between 1988 and 1992 a special projects manager was seconded from the IDA to the Department of the Taoiseach to advise the Taoiseach and the Government on development proposals which offered possibilities of increased employment. According to the Government's report, the passports for investment scheme was [153] [154] intended to assist the IDA in attracting inward investment, particularly manufacturing industry.

The role of the special projects manager was dealt with in the reply to my parliamentary question to the Taoiseach on 3 March 1998. In this reply the Taoiseach stated that Mr. Sean Donnelly and Mr. Colm Regan were seconded from the IDA between 1988 and 1992. While the special projects manager at the Department of the Taoiseach did not have a specific role in the operation of the scheme, “they did play a part in certain cases in facilitating contacts”. Furthermore, the Minister of State, Deputy Molloy, in a helpful analysis, revealed how the scheme operated in his contribution to the Dáil on 31 May 1994. He had been in Government as a member of Mr. Haughey's Cabinet. He stated that when he joined the coalition Government of the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil, he was informed by the then Taoiseach of the business investment scheme and how it operated. In particular he stated:

I complied with the requirements of which I was informed by the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, that the people should reside in the country for a substantial period each year and own a residence. The investment had to be substantial and each case was to be brought to his notice so that he might adjudicate on it and pass the matter to the Minister for Justice. As a member of the Government, I understood that the scheme was to be controlled by the Taoiseach to whom I brought parties.

I raised some of these issues in my contribution in the Dáil last week that were not responded to by the Taoiseach. I also raised the point as to whether the regime put in place by Mr. Haughey was continued by Deputy Reynolds when he took over as Leader of Fianna Fáil and Taoiseach. What is clear is that at least during the time Mr. Haughey was Taoiseach he was fully involved in the operation of the scheme. Accordingly, the evidence available from the files in the Taoiseach's Department, and the officials who were dealing with the scheme in that Department, should be made available to the Moriarty tribunal. I also raised the question of whether these files are in the Department or under its direct control or if they have been sent to the Moriarty tribunal.

When the Taoiseach spoke in the Dáil recently we learned about meetings with Mr. Gilmartin, that official diaries had been moved to Kinsealy and that a senior official in the current Taoiseach's Department had to make contact there to check the record of these diaries. I want to ask whether any of the files in the Taoiseach's Department relating to the passports for sale scheme similarly went to Kinsealy and whether it is possible that some may still be there. If so, will these be made available to the Moriarty tribunal?

In relation to these issues I find myself, in many ways, in the same situation as the Progressive Democrats. The Tánaiste said she wants legit[155] imate queries dealt with. That is what I want but so far these issues have not been dealt with. The queries I raised in my contribution last week were not replied to and the follow-up by way of Dáil questions to the Taoiseach resulted in a transfer by the Taoiseach of those questions. That is why I raise these issues on the Adjournment tonight. I now want straight answers to those questions.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): I want to begin by making it clear that all the files relating to persons naturalised under the investment-based naturalisation scheme between 1988 and 1994 held by my Department have been forwarded to the Moriarty tribunal. In making this point, I also want to make it clear that not alone were the files relating to the period from 1988 to 1994 sent to the tribunal but that in addition to these, the 40 or so files approved when the Deputy's party were in Government have been sent to the tribunal.

The position is that on foot of an order from the Moriarty tribunal all files for the period 1979 to 1996, that is, the period specified in the order, dealing with cases where naturalisation was granted on foot of investments in the State – the so-called passports for investment scheme – were made available to the tribunal.

I should also add that my Department has advised the tribunal of certain other naturalisation files which pre-dated the passports for investment scheme and which may be of interest to the tribunal. The Department has indicated to the tribunal that, should the tribunal wish to view these files, it will, on receipt of the necessary production order from the tribunal, make the files available also.

Listening to Deputy O'Keeffe, one could be forgiven for thinking that the investment-based naturalisation scheme, which he and his party have stated their support for, was only operated in the period 1988 to 1994. In the circumstances, I would like to jog the Deputy's memory and remind him of a few home truths. I would also like to ask him some questions – answers to which there seems to be great reluctance to provide.

It was Deputy O'Keeffe's party leader, Deputy John Bruton, who, as the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, travelled to the Far East in the 1980s seeking investment for the country, first mooted the idea of giving naturalisation for investment. That is a matter of historical fact which is recorded. It is a bit rich then for the Deputy opposite to continue with his mantra that the whole investment-based naturalisation is an invention of my party. That in itself is even harder to take when the Deputy knows full well that his party members when in Government excelled themselves in their prodigious and enthusiastic use of the scheme. Their enthusiasm for the scheme was so much that on their way out the door in June 1997, having been dismissed by the electorate, they felt obliged to reverse their [156] earlier decision to accept no new applications. If that were not enough, they also decided to throw the legal advice they got from their Attorney General back in his face and to direct, by way of Government decision, that four applications, which they had ruled out months beforehand on foot of legal advice, should be processed.

Deputy O'Keeffe has made something of a name for himself as a self-appointed investigator of the operation of this scheme. He has asked many questions as he is entitled to about the scheme. Equally, I have given him full and complete answers and I have published my review of the scheme. This is in complete contrast to the attitude taken to questions about the scheme when his party was in Government. What we got then was prevarication, smokescreens and a review of the scheme which initially was announced in a blaze of publicity in January 1995 and which was then smothered and never heard of again while the Government went on its merry way of utilising the scheme with unbounded and unparalleled enthusiasm.

Curiously, Deputy O'Keeffe seems to confine his forensic questioning skills to the period 1988 to 1994. Why has he not broadened his inquiry to the period 1995 to 1997 and, in particular, why has he not zoned in on the events of June 1997?

Perhaps Deputy O'Keeffe is taking a leaf out of the book of his leader by adopting the position of not asking the right question, as Deputy Bruton so eloquently put it. If he does not ask the right question, I am prepared to do so. I have yet to hear an explanation as to why this chain of events – u-turns and ignoring the advice of their own Attorney General – took place. Perhaps the Deputy opposite would do the House a favour by asking his colleagues the hard questions. I have laid out my stall, I have published the facts and I have ended the scheme, so maybe Deputy O'Keeffe would now tell those of us on this side of the House the answers to these questions. If he cannot, perhaps his party leader, as a practical expression of his newly discovered new patriotism, might tell us.

With regard to remarks about the Taoiseach's office, I understand a check in the Department of the Taoiseach has not revealed any documents relating to the investment-based naturalisation scheme that one would not expect to be on the files of my Department which have already been sent to the tribunal. Apart from a copy of the file on the case which was the subject of a motion in the House last week, the documents in the Department of the Taoiseach, now that Deputy O'Keeffe brings up the matter, are submissions to Government from Ministers for Justice, related papers and resulting decisions. It goes without saying that all members of the Government and their Departments will co-operate in every way possible with the Moriarty tribunal.

From what I have said Deputy O'Keeffe and others may now appreciate the advice I have given to the Deputy in the past. One should [157] always ensure that one takes one's gun out of the holster before pulling the trigger.