[Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: ] The Minister talks about public opinion. There is a significant public view that the Minister for Justice and Equality and her colleague, the Taoiseach, for reasons to do with political opportunism, embraced one particular case and ignored many families. Has the Minister or her predecessor, Deputy Alan Shatter, ever received correspondence from families alleging that their loved ones have been murdered or killed and that there was a cover-up or incompetence? If the Minister has received such correspondence, has she refused to meet the families in question?
Deputy Michael Creed: When one is in a hole, one should stop digging.
Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: In some of these cases, the families have concerns about serious crime. Any case involving allegations such as those the Deputy described has been referred to a review mechanism. I have made this very clear and the Deputy knows the facts. In such cases I have to take into account the fact that an independent panel has been established to investigate and review cases, examine correspondence and assess whether further action is needed. It is not appropriate for me, as Minister for Justice and Equality, to meet the families at the same time. I have made this clear to them and Members of the House who have corresponded with me about cases. As regards meeting people who believe they have been subject to injustices in the criminal justice system, there is a list of people whom I felt it was right to meet in the public interest. However, if there is another process in place, for example, in the case of Fr. Niall Molloy, it would be inappropriate for me to have parallel meetings at the same time. It would also be inappropriate for me to do so if court processes are under way, which is the case in a number of cases.
Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: I find the Minister’s response incredible. She is Minister for Justice and Equality. In the neighbouring jurisdiction an investigation was carried out by the PSNI and, unfortunately, the case did not go to court. It is under independent review regarding the DPP’s role in it. As the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland is investigating the matters involved, there is an independent review mechanism, yet the Minister could not get in quickly enough to make a public statement where there was a political opportunity to cast a slur against my party. I will not read the requests from the many families who allege their loved ones, in the State for which the Minister is responsible, were murdered and that there were cover-ups in their cases and who want to meet the Minister but cannot do so. Where is the consistency in how the Minister makes decisions on families? How can she so clearly make a statement on one case in the North of Ireland but engage in no commentary on cases in the State for which she is responsible? The accusations levelled against her by the families and many others were of blatant political opportunism and inconsistency in her approach to victims alleging the commission of the most heinous crime of murder in the State.