Seanad Éireann - Volume 169 - 18 April, 2002

Order of Business. - Abbeylara Tribunal: Motion.

  Mr. Cassidy: I move:

    That Seanad Eireann:

    resolves that it is expedient that a tribunal be established under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts, 1921 to 2002, to inquire into the following definite matter of urgent public importance:

    – the facts and circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of John Carthy at Abbeylara, County Longford on 20 April 2000;

  and to report to the Clerk of Dáil Éireann and to make such findings and recommendations as it sees fit in relation to these matters; and further resolves that:

        (I) the tribunal shall report to the Clerk of the Dáil on an interim basis not later than four months from the date of establishment of the tribunal and also as soon as may be after the tenth day of any oral hearings of the tribunal on the following matters:

          (a) the number of parties granted representation by the tribunal,

          (b) the progress which will then have been made in the hearings and work of the tribunal,

          (c) the likely duration (so far as might then be capable of being estimated) of the proceedings of the tribunal,

          (d) any other matters that the tribunal considers should be drawn to the attention of the Houses of the Oireachtas at the time of the report (including any matters relating to its terms of reference);

        (II) the inquiry shall be completed in as economical a manner as possible and at the earliest possible date consistent with a fair examination of the matters referred to it;

        (III) all costs incurred by reason of the failure of individuals to co-operate fully and expeditiously with the tribunal should, as far as it is consistent with the interests of justice and the provisions of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts, 1921 to 2002, be borne by those individuals.

[1678]

  Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. T. Kitt): The purpose of this motion is to enable the establishment of a tribunal of inquiry to examine the facts and circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of John Carthy at Abbeylara, County Longford on 20 April 2000. I thank Members of the House for agreeing to deal with this matter at relatively short notice.

  From the outset the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has expressed the view that the tragic death of Mr. Carthy required detailed, open and transparent examination in a manner which addressed issues of public concern. Once the Director of Public Prosecutions decided that charges should not be preferred in the matter, the Minister obtained the agreement of both Houses of the Oireachtas to refer the report of the Garda Commissioner into the fatal shooting to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights for its consideration. This was done and the joint committee submitted the report to both Houses in the form of an interim report, enabling it to be published, and established a sub-committee to consider the report.

  Even in the immediate aftermath of this sad event the Minister did not rule out a public inquiry under the Tribunal of Inquiries Acts. He was of the view that a decision on such an inquiry, before hearing the views of the sub-committee on the report of the Garda Commissioner, would be premature. Senators will also recall that after the initial High Court ruling in this matter last November the Minister indicated his willingness to recommend to the Houses of the Oireachtas that the tragic death of Mr. Carthy be made the subject of a public inquiry under the Tribunal of Inquiries Acts in the event that further inquiries by the Oireachtas could not proceed on legal grounds. The option of proceeding with the Oireachtas sub-committee's inquiry into this matter cannot now be pursued in the light of the recent ruling of the Supreme Court and in accordance with the Minister's previous statements in the matter he obtained Government approval for moving this resolution. Last week's Supreme Court's ruling obviously has wider implications than those applying to the sub-committee's inquiry which need to be examined. The House will appreciate that the judgments were lengthy, detailed and complex and reaching conclusions in relation to what action might need to be taken will inevitably take time.

  What is before the House today is a motion seeking an inquiry into the facts and circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of John Carthy at Abbeylara, County Longford on 20 April 2000. It should not be taken as a view of any wrongdoing by any member of the Garda Síochána. With other Members of this House, the Minister, in the past, expressed appreciation for the exceptional service to the State of the Garda Síochána. In the light of the unfortunate events of last Sunday when two gardaí, Garda Anthony [1679] Tighe and Garda Michael Padden, lost their lives in the service of the State, it is timely to remember, not only their unstinting service, but also the continuing service afforded the citizenry of this State by their colleagues in the force.

  The fatal shooting of Mr. Carthy clearly does, however, raise serious questions which must be answered and serious issues which must be addressed. The use of firearms by members of the Garda Síochána is in itself a relatively exceptional occurrence in what remains, in general, an unarmed force. This tradition of unarmed policing has been one of the great strengths of the Garda Síochána: there are, however, occasions where gardaí must have the capacity to use firearms and the circumstances where this can occur are strictly regulated by the Garda authorities. The use of firearms is an option of last resort and any incident involving their use is regarded by the Garda authorities as a serious matter. When, as in this case, the use of firearms results in a death, it is a matter of utmost priority to determine the facts leading to and surrounding the death in order to know what happened, the reason it happened and what lessons might be learned for the future. As regards the proposed terms of reference, the Minister believes they are sufficiently specific and comprehensive to allow for a full and complete inquiry into the tragic events at Abbeylara in April 2000. In this regard, it should be noted that the proposed tribunal is being empowered to make such findings and recommendations as it sees fit in relation to the matters falling within its remit.

  Section (I) provides that the tribunal shall report to the Clerk of the Dáil on an interim basis not later than four months from the date of establishment of the tribunal and also as soon as may be after the tenth day of any oral hearings of the tribunal on the following matters: the number of parties granted representation by the tribunal; the progress which will then have been made in the hearings and work of the tribunal; the likely duration, so far as may then be capable of being estimated, of the proceedings of the tribunal; any other matters that the tribunal considers should be drawn to the attention of the Houses of the Oireachtas at the time of the report, including any matters relating to its terms of reference.

  Section (II) provides that the inquiry shall be completed in as economical a manner as possible and at the earliest possible date consistent with a fair examination of the matters referred to it. Section (III) provides that all costs incurred by reason of the failure of individuals to co-operate fully and expeditiously with the tribunal should, as far as it is consistent with the interests of justice and the provisions of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts, 1921 to 2002, be borne by those individuals.

  The Minister is not yet in a position to announce who will conduct the inquiry, but hopes to make the necessary arrangements as quickly as possible. The circumstances surrounding the [1680] events in Abbeylara in April 2000, which have given rise to this resolution, are matters of public concern. We need to establish what happened and what lessons may be learned for the future. The tribunal, as provided for in the resolution, will be able to effectively discharge this obligation.

  On behalf of the Minister, who is unavoidably absent due to his attendance at the funeral of Garda Michael Padden, I thank the House for taking this motion at short notice.

  Mr. Connor: We welcome the introduction of this motion in the House to establish a tribunal of inquiry into the tragic events at Abbeylara in April 2000. It is a great pity that we are here today because the sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights was not allowed to proceed with its good work. I was a member of the joint committee when it established the sub-committee and it was felt that it could conclude its work and bring forward a very credible report. Reports of committees or sub-committees of the Oireachtas, such as that of the DIRT inquiry, are inquiries and they have proven most useful and worthwhile. They are much less costly than tribunals of inquiry conducted elsewhere, usually before a senior member of the Judiciary. One never can query a decision of the Supreme Court, but this matter will now pass to a committee appointed by the Oireachtas and answerable to it, through the report of its chairman. I have been reading a summary of the judgment by seven Supreme Court judges and what they have to say is interesting. A minority of them felt the Oireachtas sub-committee could have concluded the hearing, but we nevertheless find ourselves in the current circumstances.

  As a member of the joint committee two years ago, I remember reading the report of the Garda into the incident. Above all else, one was struck by the fact that the Garda had no response to events of the kind involving John Carthy, other than to employ lethal weapons. John Carthy was a very unfortunate young man with serious psychiatric problems and we all agree that made dealing with him all the more difficult. It was graphically described that on one occasion gardaí were within just a few metres of Mr. Carthy's home. They saw him through an open window, slumped in a chair and obviously asleep with a weapon across his lap. That presented an opportunity to storm the house, but that was, apparently, not appropriate. When Mr. Carthy eventually emerged from his house, nothing but lethal force was available to deal with him. There was no disabling gas, no stun guns or stun grenades or any of the other non-lethal weapons now available.

  Gardaí are not equipped with modern tools to deal with occurrences of this sort, but the use of lethal weapons must at all times be a last resort. While we should be thankful the Garda does not have much experience of dealing with sieges, [1681] training in the future will have to take this kind of incident into account to a much greater extent. We cannot pre-empt the findings of the tribunal of inquiry, but I would be surprised if it does not recommend that gardaí are trained to anticipate what might take place in incidents of this kind and are well prepared for them. They must anticipate, above all else, that an incident of this kind could happen again.

  The Minister of State said that he hopes the tribunal will conclude as quickly and as economically as possible and I emphasise the latter point. The legal costs surrounding tribunals of inquiry have become something of a scandal and are beyond explanation. The legal profession is very good at explaining itself, but it is beyond all credibility that the sums of money that have to be expended on legal fees for tribunals of inquiry are defensible. This money has to be provided from the public purse and some means ought to be found by which to limit or cap the amount that can be expended on fees. While one cannot in any way interfere with a tribunal and its work, some of them have taken a long time to conclude. There is one which has been sitting for almost four years, perhaps even longer. Time means money and in relation to these hearings it means much money. We need to examine the open ended time available to tribunals to conclude their reports.

  I fully welcome this motion, but I regret that we have to move it. Students of politics will be interested in the development of the idea of parliamentary inquires and in their success and low cost. There are wider implications to be looked at in the long term. Due to a constitutional issue raised in both the High Court and the Supreme Court, judges found that the Oireachtas does not have the power to make findings of fact against people that might be damaging to their characters. While that might be the outcome, it would never be intended in an inquiry of this kind, were it allowed to continue, by a sub-committee of a joint committee of these Houses. If I remain in the Oireachtas after the demise of this Seanad, which will take place very soon, I would be very interested in looking at the Constitution and in supporting a constitutional amendment to set aside the difficulties that have been pointed out by the Supreme Court judges in this case.

  I wish the tribunal of inquiry good luck. There is no doubt that it will produce a report establishing all the facts surrounding the tragic death of John Carthy. I only hope we do not have to wait an undue length of time for it. I hope too that we will not see the sort of costs incurred which we have heard so much talk about in connection with other tribunals of inquiry conducted at the behest of these Houses in recent years.

  Mr. Walsh: This motion provides the Seanad with an opportunity to comment on an important matter which governs the operations of the Oireachtas at its interface with the judicial system. As the Minister of State rightly said, this [1682] motion is the result of matters leading to the sad episode of the death of John Carthy in Abbeylara on 20 April 2000. There has been much discussion and debate in connection with that incident.

  While at this stage it is probably not possible to propose a better alternative, I regret that we are passing a motion to establish another tribunal of inquiry. Senator Connor rightly pointed out the length of time and enormous costs attached to such public inquiries, which are matters of great public concern. The financial enrichment of some lawyers as a consequence of the establishment of many inquiries has brought the legal profession into some public disrepute. The Oireachtas has also been tainted by this. It is an issue which needs to be examined. Nevertheless, many of the issues addressed by the tribunals are matters of great public concern. Public accountability is essential. It is interesting that the debate which preceded this one focused on the application of high standards of conduct in this House. Hopefully, this code of conduct will be successful and will remove any future need for investigations into practices in the Oireachtas.

  Five Supreme Court judges disallowed the appeal in the Abbeylara tribunal while two judges supported it. It is interesting to note that many of the Supreme Court judges concurred with the comments of Mrs. Justice Denham, who said that she would:

  grant the declaration of the conducting of the Joint Oireachtas sub-committee of inquiry into the fatal shooting at Abbeylara on 20 April 2000, capable of leading to adverse findings of fact and conclusions, including a finding of unlawful killing.

She also commented that the personal culpability of any individual, who is not a Member of the Oireachtas, so as to impugn his or her good name is ultra vires in that the holding of such an inquiry is not within the powers of the Oireachtas. Prior to these statements, I believe that Mrs. Justice Denham also made comments to the effect that it was a matter for the Government to decide whether to initiate legislation or a constitutional referendum. She made it clear that this question was not before the court and therefore did not express an opinion on the matter. I have no doubt that there will be many opportunities for the Oireachtas to consider such matters.

  Mr. Justice Hardiman commented that the report did not constitute any attack upon the work of the Committee of Public Accounts in particular, nor on the power of the Dáil to hold the Government answerable to it. The Committee of Public Accounts in its report on the DIRT inquiry was a fine example of diligence, efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

  Mr. Justice Murphy made the point that, in his opinion, the Oireachtas had the requisite power to set up the sub-committee to conduct the proposed inquiry. It is interesting to note that he anticipated immense practical difficulties in conducting such an inquiry in accordance with the [1683] requirements of natural justice. It would be premature to express an opinion on whether such difficulties can be overcome. The right of any person to protect their good name is something which must be taken into account during any further debate on this matter. People should have the right of cross-examination to ensure that the findings of an inquiry are in no way prejudiced.

  Earlier we discussed the progress report of the All-party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution. Many recommendations have been made in respect of improving the efficiency and input of this House into various aspects of public life. Other jurisdictions seem capable of holding inquiries into matters of public controversy, overcoming many of the difficulties that we have encountered in similar areas. We in the Oireachtas must endeavour to overcome such difficulties. In the case of the Abbeylara inquiry, the Supreme Court decision will enhance our ability to ensure that all public inquiries are conducted in a manner that is in line with the Constitution. If constitutional reform is necessary, the Government must explore that option.

  Successive Governments have failed to address the issue of legal costs. The average person is precluded from taking a case because of the enormous and unnecessary costs involved. To pursue a relatively simple case, one must employ two senior and one junior counsel. I do not understand why this is necessary. It implies that the modus operandi of the Law Library needs to be examined.

  Mr. Ryan: Hear, hear.

  Mr. Walsh: Public perception of the legal profession is an important part of this. We must question whether the wearing of gowns, wigs and other paraphernalia is part of a modern, republican democracy. The next Government should conduct a root and branch examination of the operation of the legal system. I would like to know why solicitors are discouraged from being advocates in the higher courts. I do not think this is necessary.

  The high cost of insurance has become a major challenge for businesses and individuals. Today's report shows that one of the reasons for the high cost of claims is that 40% of awards are made up of legal costs. Legal costs in Ireland are four times higher than in Britain. There are many compelling reasons that the cost of insurance needs to be investigated. It is apparent that an examination of the legal profession is necessary. Absolute competition within all sectors must be ensured. The EU imposes severe penalties on any body found to be in breach of this position. No profession should be excluded from this legislation.

  The Minister is correct in his move to rapidly establish the Abbeylara inquiry. Hopefully, the progress reports and cost factors which constitute part of the motion will be taken on board and strictly observed by whoever is in charge of the [1684] tribunal. We have seen interminable cross-examination of witnesses at other tribunals, when the value in terms of the issues under consideration seemed to be highly dubious. Days, weeks and months of extremely expensive cross-examination took place. One hopes this tribunal will be conducted in a cost effective manner.

  In Northern Ireland, a police ombudsman has been instituted. That type of system ought to be considered here. We have such a system in place in other sectors and it may be an appropriate way to handle investigations of this nature. It is important that the Garda operate at all times to the highest professional standards. A major part of their function is to save lives, and we have often seen them put themselves at great personal risk in doing so. We should have a mechanism in place for investigations like this, rather than going down the route of public inquiries. I accept, however, that there is no alternative to a public inquiry in the current circumstances and I support the motion.

  Mr. Ryan: The first thing to be said about the Abbeylara case is that it was a tragedy for everybody. It was a tragedy for the family and the misfortunate man who, under conditions of extreme illness, appeared to be a threat. It was also a tragedy for the Garda Síochána. There is no question about that. I have been critical of the Garda in the past and probably will be again in the future, but we do not have a trigger-happy police force – quite the opposite. It could be argued that because we have had such a responsible use of armaments by our police force, they perhaps have not been trained in their use as fully as they should be. That is a matter to be investigated.

  I never believed the Oireachtas sub-committee on Abbeylara was going to make factual findings about individuals. It was possible the investigation would raise questions about the behaviour of individuals, but I believe that sub-committee was simply going to examine procedures, processes and gaps in decision-making. I read the High Court judgment on the case taken by the Garda. I have not yet read the entire Supreme Court judgment, but given that at least one of the judgments runs to 90 pages, I do not think I deserve to be criticised for that yet. I will read the rulings because I find them interesting.

  I will leave the investigation of Abbeylara to the tribunal. A method of investigating matters of concern and identifying the facts as far as is humanly possible is badly needed in every functioning democracy. I dispute with the Supreme Court the implied belief that there is an inherent defect in the political process which means it cannot be done that way. The Judiciary may deny this is what they said, but the bits of the judgments I have read, as opposed to the interpretations or opinions of them, come close to this implication.

  The courts eloquently defend the good name of individuals, quite rightly, but I find it astonishing that they seem untroubled by the fact that [1685] somebody who is poor or a member of an identifiable minority could well be defamed, by a newspaper for instance, or by a politician outside the Oireachtas, yet there is no redress for people because they are poor and cannot afford access to the defence about which the Supreme Court so eloquently wrote, the protection of one's good name. If the courts are to assert the right of people to vindicate their good name, and as a civil libertarian I would not dispute the principle, then the question of class ought at some stage to enter the consciousness of the Judiciary.

  The reality is that for a large number of people in Irish society, who can be and have been traduced in the past, there is no way of pursuing a legal challenge without putting everything they own in jeopardy. There is a fundamental and central issue here about access to justice, and it is an issue the Judiciary duck in most countries. We know this is the case in the United States, where many of those on death row, for instance, are there because they have been provided with appalling defence lawyers who are poorly funded, poorly advised and poorly equipped to do their job. If a society is divided like that, then the eloquent view of the courts that people should not be adversely affected by, for instance, the behaviour of a Member of the Oireachtas, is meaningless unless they address the fact that for many people it is practically impossible to vindicate that right because they cannot afford to take the risk to do so.

  The courts have a job here, which is either to instruct the Oireacthas to ensure that people are financially able to access the courts, or else to begin showing some of the judicial activism which the present Supreme Court is clearly reluctant to do, and to address the issue of class and poverty when it comes to equality before the law. Otherwise, it may make fine rhetoric, but it contributes very little to the vindication of the rights of all those people who live on salaries unimaginably small to a successful barrister or member of the Supreme Court.

  The High Court and Supreme Court rulings on the Abbeylara inquiry and also the judgment on Cabinet confidentiality have all, in their own way, made commentaries on politics and politicians. They have implied, for instance, that if Cabinet discussions were to be a matter of public record, politicians would wilt under the pressure of public opinion. That is a judgment about members of Government made by the Supreme Court which I, as a politician, have always found offensive. This is the most robust of all professions. In every other place except in Cabinet, members of Government and the Opposition have to debate what they stand for in considerable detail and with considerable robustness and they survive.

  The Minister of State will remember a long and arduous pursuit of complex legislation here which we all survived. The Minister did not crumble under it. I have no reason to believe that a member of Government would find it impossible to express himself or herself freely because, under [1686] some circumstances, what he or she says might be a matter of public record. I find that astonishing and quite offensive and I have said that a number of times.

  The references in this judgment to the inability of politicians to be unbiased implies a superiority on the part of the Judiciary which omits the possibility of a different kind of bias. I am not implying a deliberate bias; I am saying explicitly that we all try to be fair in most of what we say and do. None of us can say with certainty that we are entirely fair because we are influenced by our backgrounds, experience and the class from which we come. Our judgments are influenced by all such things. In politics, many of those things are severely challenged by the nature of the business – a person from a particular background, making assertions, would be subjected to vigorous debate. The correct nature of the Judiciary – it is outside the political process and independent of it – means those possibilities are not addressed within the Judiciary with the same vigour as they are in the political process. I invite the Judiciary to reflect on the absence from their rank of anybody who has ever experienced serious social or economic deprivation. How do they address that if nobody in their ranks or those aspiring to be members of the Judiciary have ever experienced such deprivation?

  The record of Irish courts in vindicating the rights of poor people who come before them is, by and large, very good but they have to get there first. Increasingly, the question of cost arises. A very eminent member of the Judiciary, now deceased, suggested on occasion that it would be possible for a judge to ignore parts of the Constitution if they were in conflict with natural law which he saw as the law of God. He was an eminent member of the Judiciary and many of his judgments were wonderful, but it raises the basic idea of an inherent superiority and capacity on the part of the Judiciary to act with impartiality and without the sort of influences which influence mere mortals like me, who is neither a lawyer nor a judge. That point, which is the reason we are going down this route, deserves to be addressed.

  I could, if I wished – the Cathaoirleach knows I will not – traduce every member of the Supreme Court. I could make statements about their character for which the Cathaoirleach would, correctly, reprimand me and I would be punished, but I would not be accountable to anybody else because of the absolute privilege we enjoy. I read the references to this in the judgments and I believe the conclusion which the

courts have drawn about the lack of an inherent right to make findings of fact about individuals does not fit very well with the constitutional assertion that Members have absolute privilege. Why do we have absolute privilege? Before the now notorious beef tribunal, many things were said in the other House about named individuals. The House chose not to punish people under Standing Order No. 58 which forbids such contributions. Leaving aside the merits of that decision, [1687] we had people making findings of fact without investigation. I am at a loss to know how it is possible to say that the Houses of the Oireachtas have no power to inquire about something with a view to making findings of fact when the Constitution carefully protects Members from any suit for defamation. We have the same protection as members of the Judiciary. I cannot accept that it is as clear-cut as members of the Judiciary seem to believe. These powers should be exercised with great discretion.

  Many things about the way in which the sub-committee on Abbeylara did its business were open to criticism, particularly speaking to the media about the issue and matters relating to its procedures. Such things were not done properly. I cannot accept that there is a logical position which says that the Constitution gives Members of this House an extraordinary power of absolute privilege but, essentially, we were never intended to use it. I accept the circumstances are limited and constrained but I cannot accept that the power and the right to use it exists but the intent is that we should never use it. Whatever is contained in Standing Orders, I believe the power was included to ensure that, in difficult circumstances, the Oireachtas would be in a position to do what needed to be done. Who is to inquire into the misbehaviour of the Judiciary if the Members of the Oireachtas do not have the right to do so? I support the motion.

  Miss Quill: I also support the motion. The question of who shall judge the judges is older than I can remember. It was the subject matter of a full Shakespearean play. People in the 17th century scratched their heads and puzzled themselves, as Shakespeare would say, out of thought on that question and did not find answers. That question has puzzled a great many people since then. Perhaps in this, the 21st century, we might revisit that question not perhaps with the same pageantry as Shakespeare, but with intent. It is an interesting question to pursue because, in a democracy, there must be some yardstick by which every functionary is measured. Senator Ryan has posed a very interesting question. If it is to be pursued by elected politicians, it will be done in the next session. It is an interesting question which, if it was the subject matter of a full discussion and some thought, would yield a very interesting outcome.

  I welcome the institution of this inquiry. There are times when, tragically, we are reminded very forcefully of the role of the Garda in our society. Our State grew out of violence, guerrilla warfare, skirmishing and very difficult growing pains. It is a measure of the wisdom of the founding fathers of this State that they put in place for the new State an unarmed police force. That was an extraordinary and courageous thing to do in the context of the times out of which we were emerging. Great credit is due to the founding fathers for their foresight and insight in forging the kind of [1688] police force they considered right for this community. That is to their credit and it should not be forgotten.

  Another Member said earlier that our police force is one of the most respected in the world. Part of the reason for that derives from the fact that, at its institution, it was set up as an unarmed police force. Due to that initial decision, the Garda Síochána was always seen as the protectors of the most vulnerable people in the community. That is the way we want it to remain and that is the way the Garda has always carried out its duty, which is one of care and protection of life and limb and property. It has done that, without exception, in a most exemplary way down through the decades since its foundation. That is the reason the Garda is held in such esteem and respect and long may that continue.

  Looking back on recent events from which we are emerging and the shellshock of the 30 years of slaughter and violence in Northern Ireland and the way that campaign impacted on the South, it is remarkable that the Garda managed to discharge its functions in the manner in which it did during those 30 years. There is no doubt that historians will advert to that fact and pay tribute to the Garda when a more detailed historic analysis of that period is carried out.

  What happened in Abbeylara was immensely sad and tragic. It was an accident that left its mark on the family of the young man. As a family member it is hard to take an event of that nature. It is hard to convince oneself that somehow or other this was an accident that could have been avoided. That is the way families feel. It is the same as when somebody dies in the context of an operation in a hospital. When somebody is in hospital, they believe they should not die. They think their son or brother should not have died in those circumstances. That is understandable and was, no doubt, taken into account when the Government decided to set up the tribunal. Our natural expectation and that of the family that the Garda is there to protect us has been taken into account. One of the reasons I welcome the tribunal of inquiry is that it will give reassurance to the family that those of us who make laws and public policy decisions are prepared to go that extra distance to ensure their concerns are taken into account in any procedure we put in place.

  As well as that, it gives protection to the Garda as a force. It has welcomed the setting up of the tribunal of inquiry because nothing eats more into the reputation of a body, such as the Garda Síochána, than a finger of suspicion and the fear that the rumour might become a reality. That suspicion could linger and people might seek to keep the suspicion alive that something untoward happened. Suspicions such as that eat into public confidence like rust into an old gate. They are very corrosive of people's confidence in the force and in public policy and policy makers. This is an important measure designed to allay the fears of family members. It is also designed to protect the [1689] reputation of the Garda and in that respect it is welcome and should be supported.

  We were reminded sharply this week of the lifestyle young men and women take on when they decide to become members of the Garda Síochána. The inbuilt risk in the job they undertake was underlined when two valued members of the Garda Síochána were killed instantly having set out in the early morning specifically to prevent an accident or death involving other citizens. In an accident prevention measure which they set out to put in place, they became the first victims and were killed. If we needed to be reminded of the role the Garda play in the community, it was illustrated strongly that they were prepared to put their own lives at risk to ensure other lives were not lost. That is the kind of force we have and that is its attitude to the protection of life and limb. That approach is valued by everybody in the House. To ensure that respect for the Garda continues to be a feature of life, it is important to have this kind of inquiry.

  I was extremely disappointed that what I believed to be an honest effort on the part of a committee of the House finished in such failure. It will be a matter for the next Government and the next Dáil to make whatever changes are necessary to enable the inquiry to be carried out by democratically elected Members of the Houses. That is a function elected Members would like to discharge as part of their public duty. The merits of this type of approach to investigating problems were well illustrated by the previous speaker when he pointed out that because of the composition of the Houses and the different experiences and insights we bring to a matter of this nature, we could do valuable work. However, that was not to be. Due to the way the Constitution is constructed, it was struck down by the Supreme Court. I hope the matter will be visited again and that changes will be made to enable a Dáil committee to carry out an investigation of this kind. That is a matter for the next Government.

  It is unfortunate that we now have a plethora of tribunals investigating matters of the not so recent past. They are long and expensive and it is difficult to know when there will be an outcome. It is difficult to explain to ourselves that in a country that has laid so much store on its intellectual capital and brain power that it takes so long to deliver the results of investigations carried on by tribunals of inquiry. Anything that can be done to build a system that would eliminate the need to go so frequently to public sworn tribunals of inquiry would be a move in the right direction.

  For that reason it is important that an ombudsman should be established in this area. A number of issues that seem to become directly the subject of a tribunal without any intermediary stages of investigation could be dealt with by such an ombudsman. I would like that to be an outcome of this tribunal. That would enable a party with a grievance to bring it to the attention of the ombudsman, which is a feature of policing in [1690] Northern Ireland. We must work to put such a structure in place. I hope that will be one of the results of these discussions.

  I suspect that a timeframe will be put on the tribunal's deliberations. The Minister of State might confirm that. I apologise for not being here to hear his contribution. Such a timeframe would be important.

  I started my contribution by quoting Shakespeare and I will finish by quoting him. He said, “Sweet are the uses of adversity”. I hope that valuable lessons will be taken from the findings of this tribunal which can be implemented in the future to ensure that it will not be necessary to have another tribunal of this nature. I hope there will not be a repeat of what happened in Abbeylara, but it would be optimistic to assume that it would never happen again. If it did, I hope we would have a different and more cost effective way of dealing with it. I support the setting up of this tribunal.

  Mr. Quinn: I met a man the other day who told me that he had celebrated his eightieth birthday recently. He said he was born on the same week that the Garda Síochána was established in 1922. He talked with pride of the Garda and his admiration for a force that was his own age and with which he had grown up.

  Senator Quill spoke about our having an unarmed Garda. When one takes into account what was happening at the time, it was a brave step for those in authority in 1922 to decide to have an unarmed force. We all, therefore, regret greatly the fact that the gardaí are not unarmed on every occasion. I had an experience 20 years ago of meeting the special branch in a situation where they were armed and I spent some time in their company. I came to admire those men who knew the responsibility they had and knew that they lived with it. I came to admire their courage. We talked about the courage not only of those members of the force who are armed but of those members, such as the two gardaí who died last Sunday, who in their daily work risk their lives, as they do continually not only in that type of situation but in many others.

  The tragedy of April 2000 was not only the death of John Carthy and that tragic loss for his family but the tragedy of the sadness and horror felt by those who were actively involved in that terrible shooting, which must weigh very heavily on them. We are all concerned about how that happened and how best to make sure it never happens again. It would be a tragedy if we lost something else, the body of law and due process built up over centuries that has protected us as citizens and that we have managed to maintain. We must make sure nothing we do damages that. When the Oireachtas committee was established, there was an investigation into whether that was the right way to proceed. It was understandable that such an investigation took place, but it was not surprising when a case went to the High Court and its judgment was challenged in the [1691] Supreme Court. We have had to consider if the setting up of such a tribunal is a more correct way to deal with a case such as this.

  I came to admire the workings of the Supreme Court. I ended up in a court case that was appealed to the Supreme Court in 1971 and I was pleased when I heard I won that case. I came to admire our law greatly and also the strength, thought and work done by those Supreme Court judges on that and on other occasions. As Senator Ryan said, one of the judgments runs to 160 pages. I will not pretend to have read all the judgments. The Supreme Court has served us well in its decision that there is a better way to investigate cases such as this. There are many issues on which the Oireachtas can deliberate apart from making decisions of fact and decisions on the culpability or the performance of individuals. We must not tamper, tinker or risk damaging the centuries of law that have protected our citizens. It is a matter for another day to consider how Oireachtas committees can handle such situations and whether there is a better way to do so.

  I am pleased it has been agreed that a tribunal will be set up. It will come within the law, the traditional method and constitutional system, which will protect the rights of the individual. I support the setting up of a tribunal. I believe we will look back on this case in later years and say that this was the correct way to deal with it and that this is the way we will protect our Constitution and citizens in the future.

  Mr. T. Kitt: I appreciate the comments of the Senators who spoke. I acknowledge the many tributes paid to the two gardaí who lost their lives last Sunday. I want to clarify that my ministerial colleague, Deputy O'Donoghue, is attending the funeral of Garda Michael Padden in Belmullet, County Mayo. Senator Quill and other Senators talked about the role of the Garda in protecting the community. These two gardaí lost their lives while on duty trying to protect members of the community in my home area of south Dublin. It is only right and proper that so many tributes were paid by Senators to the great public service the Garda provide in very dangerous circumstances.

  I appreciate the widespread desire to establish fully the facts of what transpired in Abbeylara. Mr. Carthy's family and representatives of the Garda Síochána have welcomed the fact that a public inquiry is to be established. The Supreme Court's ruling has implications which need to be considered. The parliamentary legal adviser has recently prepared for Members an overview of the Supreme Court ruling, which no doubt we will all consider carefully. A number of Senators raised the issue of whether there is a need for new mechanisms to deal with the situation where inquiries are needed in respect of the Garda Síochána. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has stated that a new Garda inspectorate will be established which will have the [1692] capacity to examine every aspect of Garda operations policy from the point of view of best policing practice. For the purpose of carrying out all its functions, the inspectorate will operate completely independently and its staff will be appointed by and be responsible to the inspectorate. The overall purpose is to introduce new independent and transparent procedures which reflect modern conditions in order to maintain and enhance public support for the Garda Síochána.

  Senator Connor and others asked about the progress that has been made regarding the acquisition by the Garda of non-lethal weapons for dealing with seige-type situations. A working group under the chairmanship of an assistant commissioner has examined and tested various types of less than lethal weapons which included live test firing of various projectiles. Following the submission of the working group's report, the Garda Commissioner established an implementation team to identify logistical and training requirements and to develop operational guidelines for the use of less than lethal weapons. The work of the implementation team is at an advanced stage and will be concluded soon. I am told the Minister will consider the matter fully when these practical issues have been addressed. Senators have been very supportive of what we are doing and I thank them for their constructive comments.

  Question put and agreed to.