Ó Snodaigh outlines concerns with Tribunal of Inquiry Bill and calls on McDowell to amend legislation appropriately
Speaking at a collusion protest outside the Dáil today Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said he is hopeful that Justice Minister Michael McDowell will make a commitment to amend the Tribunal of Inquiry Bill to alleviate concerns about the impact this Bill will have on families of collusion victims in their quest for truth.
Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "We are all aware of the need for new legislation to govern the work of tribunals. The existing legislation dates back as far as 1921. And it must be clear to everyone that spiralling legal costs and the refusal of witness to co-operate with tribunals needs to be addressed. Unfortunately however, as the Bill is currently drafted Sinn Féin must oppose it. We are concerned that the proposed legislation could be used by future governments to stop public inquiries from delivering the truth to the public and to the families of victims of collusion in particular.
"The Bill as currently drafted is very similar to the British Inquiries Act. That Act is widely viewed as having been constructed to act as a barrier to a full public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. This Bill if passed would not only jeopardise the ability of any future tribunal to uncover the truth surrounding the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the murders of Seamus Ludlow, Cllr. Eddie Fullerton and Martin Doherty amongst others. It would also undermine the cases of all those in the 6 counties who are seeking inquiries into state collusion because the British government could point to this legislation in order to justify their own. This government signed an all-party demand for a full inquiry by the British authorities into the collusion surrounding the murder of Pat Finucane -- this Bill would gravely undermine that demand.
"Section 34 (7) of the Bill allows the Minister to prevent publication of part or all of a report if it would 'not be in the interest of State security, or the interest of the State's relations with other states or international organisations'.
"We have other concerns with the proposed legislation. Part 4 of the Bill includes provisions for appointments to Tribunals. Appointments do not require Oireachtas approval. The Minister has too much discretion in the making of appointments.
"The Government can also dissolve a Tribunal with the approval of the Oireachtas. The Bill should, as proposed by the Law Reform Commission, explicitly provide that a Tribunal of Inquiry may only be dissolved prior to the submission of its final report for extraordinary and compelling reasons that clearly outweigh the public interest in the Tribunal completing its work.
"I have written to the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell outlining our concerns and I know that he has discussed the matter with Sinn Féin's leadership team last Monday. And I am hopeful that before the conclusion of second stage the Minister will make a commitment to amend the Bill in such a way that our concerns are alleviated." ENDS