1986 – Would you believe ?

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. – Death of Fr. Niall Molloy.

Tuesday, 1 July 1986


2.Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen Zoom on Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Justice if he proposes to set up a public inquiry into the death of Fr. Niall Molloy.8.Mr. Naughten: Information on Liam Anthony Naughten Zoom on Liam Anthony Naughten asked the Minister for Justice if he will hold an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Fr. Molloy.

[1627]12.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating Zoom on Michael Keating asked the Minister for Justice if he will institute an inquiry into the circumstances of the death of a person (details supplied).

13.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly Zoom on Liam Skelly asked the Minister for Justice if he intends to hold an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Fr. Molloy.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Dukes): Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes I propose to take Questions Nos. 2, 8, 12 and 13 together.

The method prescribed by law for inquiring into the circumstances of a death such as this is a coroner’s inquest, which of course is a sworn inquiry. The holding of an inquest is mandatory in any case where the coroner is of opinion that a death may have occurred in a violent or unnatural manner or suddenly and from unknown causes and I have been authoritatively informed that arrangements are in train to have an inquest held in this case. The date is already fixed, at least tentatively, for 24 July.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen Zoom on Bernard Allen Is the Minister aware that when in the House on a number of occasions I tried to raise the question of what I would call inconsistent decisions by the Judiciary and gave notice to the Chair that I wished to raise this matter on the Adjournment I was informed that the question of an independent body to monitor the performance of judges was a matter for new legislation, and under those circumstances I should like to ask the Minister if he proposes to set up a body to monitor the performance of judges in view of——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick That is a separate question. The four questions the Minister is taking together call for the setting up of an inquiry.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen Zoom on Bernard Allen I should like to ask the Minister if he proposes to set up an inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Fr. Molloy in view of the considerable level of public disquiet arising from the court decision and in view of the opinion around at the moment that [1628] there seems to be one law for the rich and one law for the poor.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick That is not in order. The Deputy has brought the court decision into this and is elaborating on it. I should like to ask him not to do so.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen Zoom on Bernard Allen I tried to get around this in a responsible way by asking the Minister could he tackle this problem by setting up such a body and the Chair ruled me out of order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick No. I pointed out to the Deputy that that is a separate question. There is no question on the Order Paper about that.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen Zoom on Bernard Allen When I raised this matter on the Order of Business last week the Chair said this was a matter for legislation but now I am being told it is a separate question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick The four questions the Minister is talking call for an inquiry into a death and the Deputy wants to ask, as a supplementary question to them, if the Minister will do something to monitor court decisions. That is a separate question.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen Zoom on Bernard Allen I will put a straight question to the Minister: does the Minister at this stage propose to hold a public sworn inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Fr. Molloy in view of the considerable level of disquiet?

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes As I pointed out in my reply, the law provides that in cases like this there should be a public sworn inquiry, that is, an inquest. I have told the House that the date of the inquest is already fixed for 24 July.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly Zoom on Liam Skelly Will the Minister set up a tribunal of inquiry due to the many unanswered questions of fact, of a forensic, medical and financial nature, and the widespread public disquiet engendered thereby and given that the deceased’s and perpetrator’s possessions were handed [1629] over without being sent for forensic testing?

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes I can only repeat what I said at the outset: that the law provides in cases of this kind for a sworn inquiry, which is the inquest. The Deputy, and the House, will be aware that any issues that appear to be relevant to the case in question can be pursued at a coroner’s inquest.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly Zoom on Liam Skelly Under the circumstances I do not think that would satisfy the disquiet that is around the country about this case. I am asking for a tribunal of inquiry, not a public inquiry, to be set up to look into the facts surrounding the case. What will be examined at the inquest will be different and I am sure that all the information required will not come out unless there is a tribunal of inquiry. Will the Minister address himself specifically to my question?

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes I have addressed myself specifically to the question and said that the law provides in cases like this for a public sworn inquiry, otherwise known as a coroner’s inquest. I do not think it would be right for me, or the House, to anticipate in any way either the conduct of the inquest or verdict or conclusion that might be reached by that inquest.

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Does the Minister find it unusual that the inquest will be taking place 12 months after the tragic death of Fr. Niall Molloy and after the court case has been held and a verdict handed down? Will the Minister tell the House who has ordered the inquest?

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes I would not find it at all unusual that the inquest is taking place following the court case to which the Deputy has referred, because an inquest cannot be held when criminal proceedings are pending. There is no significance whatever to be attached to the timing in this case. The holding of the inquest is required by Statute and the coroner in the case has a statutory duty [1630] to make the arrangements for the inquest which, as I have reported to the House, he has done in this case.

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Would the Minister feel it worthwhile for the DPP to refer the verdict of the court to the Supreme Court for judgment in relation to——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick That is out of order.

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden It is not out of order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick The Director of Public Prosecutions is an independent statutory officer created by an Act of Parliament. He is independent of the Minister and the Minister is not responsible to the House for his actions.

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden The inquest could have been held before charges were laid. In this case charges were not laid for some months after the events in County Offaly took place. Will the Minister state why the inquest was not held? Further, will the medical evidence of Dr. Harbison be available and taken as evidence at the inquest when it takes place in July?

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes As the Deputy knows, and as the Chair has pointed out to the House, I have no function in relation to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Therefore, the timing and the laying of charges or the pursuit of a case is entirely a matter for the DPP and not for me. Subject to correction, I would have to say I do not think it would be proper for an inquest to be held while criminal proceedings were pending. I am glad to have this opportunity of making the point to the House, which I made in my original reply, that the law provides for a public sworn inquiry into cases of this kind, that is, a coroner’s inquest. Any information and all information that may be relevant to the case can be brought before that inquiry and any questions and all questions that may appear to be relevant to the case can properly be brought before that inquiry and can be examined.

[1631]Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen Zoom on Bernard Allen I am not trying to question the decision of the Chair. My earlier question regarding a body to monitor the performance of the Judiciary was said by the Chair to be a separate question. In fact, I put down that question for today and it was ruled out of order on the grounds that it was a matter for the Judiciary. Yet the previous ruling by the Chair——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick The Deputy is now questioning the ruling of the Chair.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen Zoom on Bernard Allen The Chair has now said it is a matter for legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick I ask the Deputy not to wrangle with the Chair on a decision made by the Chair.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen Zoom on Bernard Allen Deputies can get very frustrated.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick If the Deputy wishes to come to the office of the Chair we can discuss the matter.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen Zoom on Bernard Allen In view of the strong feelings expressed by relatives of Fr. Molloy who have met many Deputies, will the Minister consider meeting them in order to discuss many of the questions raised by them about the performance of the Garda and some of the legal profession?

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes I can assure the Deputy that with the best will in the world — and I am asking the Deputy to accept that — I would think it highly improper and imprudent of me to meet any group of persons to discuss the questions the Deputy has raised, particularly in view of the fact that an inquest was pending.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly Zoom on Liam Skelly Is the Minister aware that already there has been a court case about this death and that there was widespread dissatisfaction after that case? Is he asking us now to believe that satisfaction will result from the inquest that is to be held without having a tribunal of inquiry to satisfy the public?

[1632]Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes I am tempted to answer that question by asking another but it might be a disobliging question that the Chair might find disorderly. I can only repeat what I said to the Deputy earlier in response to a question, namely, that it would be wrong of this House to prejudice in any way either the conduct or the conclusions of the inquest.

Mr. Skelly: Information on Liam Skelly Zoom on Liam Skelly I may have to bring up this matter after the inquest.

Mr. Hyland: Information on Liam Hyland Zoom on Liam Hyland In view of the unfair allegations made in the House in relation to interference with the Judiciary in the administration of justice in this case——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick That is a separate question.

Mr. Hyland: Information on Liam Hyland Zoom on Liam Hyland It is relevant.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick The Chair is in a difficult position here if he intends to hold the line. If I yield in one direction I will have to yield in another.

Mr. Hyland: Information on Liam Hyland Zoom on Liam Hyland Does the Chair not consider the question to be relevant?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick It is a separate question.

Mr. Hyland: Information on Liam Hyland Zoom on Liam Hyland I respect the ruling of the Chair.

Mr. Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Will the Minister state if the Attorney General has had discussions with the DPP in relation to the events that took place in the court regarding this case?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick That is another question. I am calling the next question.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods Zoom on Michael J. Woods It is relevant to the question of a public inquiry.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick It is trying to open up what happened in court. Apart altogether from the Constitution, Standing Orders and so on, it would be a very bad day for Ireland if the decisions of the [1633] courts were to be reopened and thrashed out across the floor of the House in an impromptu manner.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes I invite the Deputies opposite to examine again the statute which sets out the functions of the DPP.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods Zoom on Michael J. Woods As I understand the statute, the Attorney General has the power to confer with the DPP to satisfy himself and thereby to satisfy the Government and to make a statement if he so wishes that everything has been in order in the conduct of a case. Deputy Leyden was trying to ascertain if the Minister had conferred with the Attorney General——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick That is also a separate question.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods Zoom on Michael J. Woods That is the one method that exists in the Office of the DPP to give reassurance to the public in relation to a case. That is the point the Deputy was trying to make.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick The Deputy should not make a speech about it.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes Zoom on Alan M. Dukes I wish to emphasise again for the benefit of the House that an inquest has yet to be held. It is a public sworn inquiry provided for by law. If Deputies would reflect about that for a moment they would rapidly come to the conclusion that in the case we have not yet gone through all the steps laid down by law in relation to a case like this. I ask the House to reflect on that.

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