Dáil Éireann - Volume 412 - 13 November, 1991

Private Members' Business. - Nomination of Members of Government: Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:

Go gcomhaontóidh Dáil Éireann leis an Taoiseach d'ainmniú na Teachtaí Nollaig Ó Dobharáin agus Séamus Mac Daibhéad chun a gceapaithe ag an Uachtarán mar chomhaltaí den Rialtas.

That Dáil Éireann approves the nomination by the Taoiseach of Deputies Noel Davern and Jim [1561] McDaid for appointment by the President to be members of the Government.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: The nomination by the Taoiseach of Deputy James McDaid as Minister for Defence poses for this House and indeed for the country some very serious questions for the future security of the State. The Minister of Defence is a key Ministry in security matters, particularly in relation to Border security. Deputy McDaid, the proposed incumbent is a man who is alleged to associate with, and to fraternise with people who have engaged in subversive activities. Deputy McDaid who has been nominated to government by the Taoiseach has made public declarations against extradition and has been seen to actively support the anti-extradition lobby. A report in The Irish Times of 4 November 1989 covering James Pius Clarke's application to the High Court for bail, stated that Mr. Clarke the witness, said: “that a local TD had said he was with him in County Donegal when it was alleged that he (witness), had been involved in the attempted murder of the UDR man”.

This was the case referred to in this House this morning by my colleague, Deputy Jim O'Keeffe. Deputy O'Keeffe said: “If I remember correctly, that case was the MacIntyre case.” Deputy Proinsias De Rossa immediately corrected him and said: “No, Clarke, he was convicted, a convicted Provo”. Deputy O'Keeffe thanked Deputy De Rossa for the correction. Deputy McDaid was asked about this today on the radio programme “News at One”. In the RTE interview he was asked: “Do you want to deal with the specific charge?” He [that is Deputy Jim O'Keeffe] was saying that you gave evidence for a convicted Provisional IRA man”. In reply Deputy McDaid said: “This is totally untrue. If he would research his speech properly he would understand that I was interviewed on a “Today Tonight” programme in which I said that I happened to be at a stag party a long time ago of a friend of [1562] mine and that particular person happened to be there. That is the only time that he could accuse me of anything like that but, naturally enough he would exaggerate it.”

This is an entirely inadequate account of Deputy McDaid's knowledge of James Pius Clarke. Deputy McDaid was, in fact, on an anti-extradition protest outside the Four Courts and was standing beside James Pius Clarke as he was released. Footage of this was shown on television on the “Six-One News” before the interview with Deputy McDaid. When pushed by Mr. Seán Duignan about his acquaintance with Clarke, Deputy McDaid said “he was merely a spectator outside the court”. Let me ask the House, does a spectator outside the court usually associate so closely with the appellant, as this picture very clearly shows. This is a picture, which the Taoiseach may be interested in, that shows Deputy McDaid shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Clarke on that occasion.

An Ceann Comhairle: It is not usual to have such displays in the House.

A Deputy: Shame on the Deputy.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: I wonder whether a spectator at a court follows the appellant 200 or 300 yards up along the quays on the lower side of the Liffey, as this picture in the Irish Independent of 14 March 1990 depicts.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should desist from displaying matters of that kind when the Chair advises her so.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: I think the Taoiseach should know about this. Here is Deputy McDaid right beside an anti-extradition poster. According to a report in the Donegal People's Press of 16 March 1990, James Pius Clarke praised the efforts of Deputy Jim McDaid, Councillor Bernard McGlinchey and MEP and Deputy Neil Blaney. In fact in the Donegal People's Press of 16 March 1990 the headline on the front page was “Welcome [1563] Home Jim”. Inside a further heading said: “Letterkenny Rejoices at Clarke's Release” and on page 7, under the heading “Rapturous Reception”, there were pictures of scores of “no extradition” posters and a report of the official welcoming party in Letterkenny on that occasion which included Deputy Jim McDaid, the chairman of Letterkenny UDC, Councillor Blake and Councillor McGinchey. One would have to ask if this is the normal activity of a mere casual spectator. In short, within hours of his nomination for the post of Minister for Defence, Deputy McDaid has contradicted himself: he clearly had known Mr. James Pius Clarke and had met him not only at a stag party of a friend of mine a long time ago at which that person happened to be. That is the real situation and I think Deputy McDaid should clarify his position on all these matters to the House this evening.

The Taoiseach's nomination of Deputy McDaid really jolts one's memory and brings one back to the years 1969-70, the time of the gun-running. One can only assume that the Taoiseach is back in his good old form and what he is doing is actually proposing to anti-extradition Deputies as members of his Cabinet. I wonder how this rests with Deputy O'Malley and his “stand by the Republic.” I wonder how Deputy O'Malley and the Progressive Democrats can sit so comfortably over there, knowing that the security committee of the Cabinet now consists of none other than the Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice, Deputy Burke, the proposed Minister for Defence, Deputy McDaid, and, I think, the Attorney General. Can one have confidence in the security committee of this Cabinet? I put it to this House that we cannot have confidence in such a committee. It is an absolute disgrace that a combination of people of such irresponsible and untrustworthy calibre can sit——

Minister for Justice (Mr. Burke): Excuse me.

[1564] Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: ——in such a responsible position. The Minister for Justice may take offence but indeed if I were the Minister I would not raise my head to high either.

Minister of State at the Department of the Gaeltacht (Mr. Gallagher): The Deputy should come out with the facts——

(Interruptions.)

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Were this House to ratify the Taoiseach's proposal to appoint these Ministers and particularly to appoint Deputy McDaid, we would be acting irresponsibly and indeed would be showing irresponsibility to the people of this country. The people would be very unwise to depend for the future security of this country on such a combination, and in particular on such a proposed Minister for Defence.

Mr. M. Brennan: The Deputy does not know what she is talking about.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: The Minister for Defence has a key position in the security matters of this country. The Minister for Defence is privy to a great deal of confidential information, and I now wonder, given the proposed appointment, if the terrorist organisations of this country will be privy to security matters.

Deputies: Rubbish.

Mr. Burke: This is a disgrace to this House.

A Deputy: Withdraw that remark, Deputy.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: The Deputies will not shout down my colleague.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: There is a real security risk in appointing Deputy McDaid. Traditionally the Irish Army have been extremely honourable and leaks from the Army are very rare. Recently we had a leak from the Army, [1565] but I wonder if we make the proposed appointment if we will look forward to increased leaks from the Army.

I now wish to comment on the Minister's who have departed from Cabinet. In particular I would like to convey my good wishes to Deputy Máire Geoghegan-Quinn who as Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach with special responsibility for women's affairs did great work. She has also done particularly good work in Europe. It is unfortunate that because she and other Ministers would not support the Taoiseach in a parliamentary party vote he should see fit to dismiss these people from Cabinet.

An Ceann Comhairle: I now call Deputy McDaid.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: I wish to share my time with Deputy Barnes.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy McDaid has been called.

Dr. McDaid: I am very disappointed indeed that the occasion of my proposed appointment should be marred by totally unfounded allegations against me by some members of the Opposition regarding my position on extradition and the terrorist activities of the Provisional IRA. At no time did I take part in any kind of demonstration against extradition. The only time that I was concerned about a possible extradition was in the case of James Clarke of Letterkenny.

Such was the belief among all parties in Donegal — Fine Gael, the Independents, The Workers' Party councillor — in the innocence of this man that Donegal County Council passed a motion opposing his extradition, including Deputy Harte, who sat behind Deputy Noonan when he made the outrageous remark that I was a Provo fellow traveller. People in Donegal will know my views on the Provisional IRA. I despise them for their murderous campaign, which has brought [1566] so much heartbreak to thousands of our fellow Irishmen. I despise them for their ongoing attempts to corrupt countless young people by recruiting them to an organisation which brings nothing but tragedy to this country. I pray to God that they will cease their activities without further delay.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Mr. McDaid: As regards the case of James Clarke, I had clearly remembered seeing him for a short time at a social function in Letterkenny on the night he was alleged to be across the Border committing a crime and I signed an affidavit to that effect only. As I have stated, the entire community believed in his innocence. What Deputy O'Keeffe failed to state was that the chairman of the welcoming committee on the night when Mr. Clarke came home was the Fine Gael chairman of the Letterkenny Urban Council, who has distanced himself completely from the attack.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: He is not being made Minister for Defence.

Mr. J. Bruton: He is not in Fine Gael now.

Dr. McDaid: Deputy Taylor-Quinn alleged that I was there on the night of the celebrations. I was here in Dáil Eireann on that particular night and I trust that she will graciously withdraw her allegation.

(Interruptions.)

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Check the papers.

Mr. Gallagher: He is telling the truth.

Dr. McDaid: What all parties were determined about that night was to ensure that Sinn Féin would not be allowed to cynically take advantage of the situation. In view of the facts as I have stated them, I hope that those Opposition Members who have made these scurrilous remarks will have the grace to [1567] withdraw them. My opinions on the Provisional IRA and on extradition I have written numerous times in the local papers and to the national papers. Suffice it to say that I need quote only one, taken from The Irish Press of 26 March 1990, almost 18 months ago:

As far as the general principle of extradition is concerned, I want to make it quite clear that I have no time whatsoever for the perpetrators of such horrible atrocities as Enniskillen and Darkley, regardless of their motives. I believe that if those accused of such crimes were located within our jurisdiction they should be extradited, provided that sufficient and appropriate evidence accompanied the warrant and that our authorities were satisfied that the accused persons were guaranteed fair treatment and a fair trial in the jurisdiction which sought their extradition.

In view of the attacks made on me and to avoid the slightest suspicion, however unwarranted, attaching to the Minister for Defence——

Mr. Cowen: No way.

Dr. McDaid: ——and in the broader national interest, I have requested the Taoiseach to withdraw my nomination to the office.

Mr. Cowen: Shame.

Mr. Gallagher: He is guilty because he told the truth.

Mr. Cowen: No way.

Mr. Gallagher: Tell the truth and you are guilty.

An Ceann Comhairle: Order. I call An Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: I wish to request leave of the House to withdraw the motion concerning nomination of Members of the Government which I moved today.

[1568] In view of the statement which has been made by Deputy McDaid, and he has already conveyed that to me, I feel I have no option but to seek leave to withdraw the motion at present before the House. I should like to put on the record my sense of regret that this situation has arisen. I shall be submitting a revised motion tomorrow morning and Deputies will then have an opportunity to make their views known.

An Ceann Comhairle: The question is: “That leave be granted to withdraw the motion”.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Burke: Hypocrites.

Mr. Cowen: Irresponsible.

Mr. Gallagher: He is guilty because he told the truth.

Mr. Cowen: An honourable man.

Mr. Harte: You have a majority if you want to vote.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): Consult your partners in Government.

Mr. Roche: You are a disgrace to democracy.

Mr. Harte: You have a majority, if you want to use it march them through.