Seanad Éireann - Volume 96 - 15 October, 1981

Criminal Justice Bill, 1981: Second Stage.

[218] Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister for Justice (Mr. J. Mitchell): I think it is appropriate, given the essentially non-party political nature of this Bill, that it should be initiated in this House.

This Bill proposes to abolish the death penalty and to substitute imprisonment for life. It also provides that a minimum period of imprisonment must be served for treason and certain murders.

I think, perhaps, I might begin by going a little into the background. As Senators will be aware, the Criminal Justice Act, 1964, abolished the death penalty for all but a few crimes and substituted a life sentence. The crimes for which capital punishment was retained were treason, certain murders, including murders of gardaí and prison officers acting in the course of their duty, and certain offences against military law, most of which can be committed only in time of war. As I understand it, the decision of the Oireachtas in 1964 not to go the whole way and totally abolish the death penalty for murder was based on a belief that capital punishment was likely to have a deterrent effect on those who murder for so-called political motives. The view was also taken that the Garda Síochána, being an unarmed police force, required additional protection and that the death penalty would give this protection. However, in my opinion, experience since 1964 has not borne out the views that were then expressed about the desirability of retaining it in those remaining cases. The logic that capital punishment was not a deterrent to ordinary murder but might be to capital murder is totally untenable.

Since 1964 the debate on capital punishment has continued in this country and at international level, in particular on whether it is or is not a deterrent either generally or in relation to particular murders. As far as I am aware, the studies [219] that have been made have reached no firm conclusion one way or the other.

For my part—and I believe I speak for the great majority of people—I am completely opposed to the taking of life, whether by the State or by anyone else, and I believe that the time has now come for this country to finish the job that was begun in 1964 and to remove completely from the Statute Book the right of the State to inflict death on any person for whatever reason in the future.

I believe deeply in the sacredness of human life. The right to life is precedent to all other rights for when a person's life is ended all other rights of that person are of no further consequence. Moreover, at a time when so many human lives are being taken on this island to the near universal abhorrence of the population, it is timely that the State should give clear expression to that abhorrence by the symbolic act of repudiating its own right to deliberately take life in any circumstances. I use the word “symbolic” advisedly. For I think there was great force in the statement made by the Leader of the Fianna Fáil Party on the 6.30 RTE radio news programme on Monday, 28 September last. He said that capital punishment was, any way, for all intents and purposes gone.

Therefore, this Bill seeks merely to give expression to the reality of the situation. More than that it seeks, by very stiff jail sentences indeed, to increase the deterrent against what up to now are defined as ‘capital’ murders. Above all else, however, the symbolic declaration, inherent in this Bill, that no one, but no one, has the right to deny another his life validates and strengthens the near total condemnations repeatedly made against murder.

Moreover, I subscribe to the view expressed in 1966 in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology that “brutal punishments accustom people to brutality and tend to create attitudes conductive to the commission of violent crimes”.

And as was said on another occasion:

[220] The only moral ground on which the State could conceivably possess the right to destroy human life would be if this were indispensable for the protection or preservation of other lives. This places the burden of proof on those who believe that capital punishment exercises a deterrent effect on the potential criminal. Unless they can establish that the death penalty does, in fact, protect other lives, at the expense of one, there is no moral justification for the State to take life.

In enacting this Bill we shall be joining a growing number of states that have already totally abolished capital punishment. As Senators will be aware, France recently enacted legislation abolishing the death penalty and Belgium has also introduced a Bill to the same effect. By the time our legislation has been enacted it is likely that capital punishment will be a thing of the past — at least in peace-time — in virtually the whole of Western Europe.

Abolition will also accord with recent developments in this regard within the European Community and the Council of Europe. The European Parliament in a recent resolution expressed its strong desire that the death penalty should be abolished throughout the Community and invited members to amend their legal provisions accordingly. In the Council of Europe the Parliamentary Assembly has adopted a recommendation that the European Convention on Human Rights should be amended so as to outlaw the use of the death penalty. This recommendation is being considered by the Committee of Ministers.

Reservations about this Bill have been expressed, understandably, by Garda and prison officers associations. Their reservations weigh heavily with me but, nevertheless, I am convinced—given that capital punishment is for all intents and purposes already gone—that this Bill will enhance, not reduce, the special protection rightly accorded to the Garda and prison officers.

Turning to the provisions of the Bill, abolition of the death penalty is a [221] straightforward matter, as can be seen from the simple provision in section 1. The punishment to be substituted for the death penalty is not so straightforward and was a matter which necessitated careful consideration.

The first question that arose was whether the law should continue to treat some or all of the offences now carrying the death penalty differently, in so far as sentence is concerned, from other serious offences, such as what might be termed ordinary murder. In other words, should a more severe sentence be prescribed for them? The Government considered that, as regards the “civil” offences of treason and “capital” murder, the answer to that question should be “yes”. In the Government's view there are still valid reasons why the law should mark in a most emphatic way society's denunciation of these particular crimes. These offences constitute an attack, either directly or indirectly, on the institutions of the State, prejudice the maintenance of public order and threaten the security of every citizen. And, as I have said, we must never forget the special position of our police and prison officers who are particularly at risk from violent criminals and some of whom have been murdered in the execution of their duty. For these reasons we consider that there is no alternative to providing more severe punishment for such crimes and this is what the Bill proposes.

Section 2 provides that the penalty for these offences—treason and the murders in question—will be life imprisonment. It does not necessarily follow, of course, that a person sentenced to life imprisonment will in fact remain in prison for the whole of his life. In practice, he is released earlier—initially on parole, technically called temporary release, under the powers given to the Minister for Justice by the Criminal Justice Act, 1960. If, after a period, the prisoner has fulfilled the conditions of his temporary release, the balance of the sentence would be remitted under section 23 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1951. Whether it is right that the law should continue to prescribe life sentences rather than a maximum [222] determinate sentence or a combination of minimum and maximum sentences, leaving the actual sentence to the discretion of the court, is another, and general, question which is, I think, beyond the scope of this Bill. In the present instance the Government considered it essential that persons sentenced for treason and these murders should serve extremely long sentences and that, in order that such sentences should have the maximum possible deterrent effect, it should be clearly seen in advance that there would be no prospect of early parole or that the Minister or the Government would commute or remit the sentence after a relatively short period.

What the Bill, therefore, proposes is that in sentencing a person convicted of treason or of what is now “capital” murder the court would be required to specify a period of not less than 40 years as the minimum period of imprisonment to be served. That is provided in section 4. Section 5 goes on to provide that, during the minimum period specified by the court, the power of the Government and the Minister for Justice to commute or remit the punishment should not be exercisable. It also provides that during this period the power of the Minister to grant temporary release should not apply to a person serving such a sentence unless for grave reasons of a humanitarian nature. Moreover, any release that would be granted in such circumstances would have to be of such limited duration as was justified by those reasons.

Of course, it will still be possible for the Government to advise the President to act pursuant to the powers conferred on him by Article 13.6 of the Constitution to commute or remit a sentence in a case such as this. Short of amending the Constitution, there will be no legal obstacle to prevent that happening in the future. It is the Government's view, however, that the restriction by this Bill of the Government's and the Minister's statutory powers to act on their own in this matter will go a long way towards preventing this happening. First of all, the restriction will help to give reassurance—if such is needed—that the Government [223] are determined to uphold the institutions of the State and to protect those who defend these institutions by providing severe punishment for those who would seek to undermine or overthrow them. It may be said that, since it will always be open to a future Parliament to repeal this Bill, there will be no guarantee that it will not be repealed. Such a guarantee, of course, cannot be given. But I believe that the restriction in this Bill on the Government's and the Minister's power to commute or remit these sentences or to grant parole will set a headline for future Governments and is likely to create a climate in which it would be very difficult indeed for a future Government either to repeal this legislation or to advise the President to remit the sentences.

The Bill proposes to allow prisoners serving sentences for the offences in question to earn the normal remission for industry and good conduct applicable under prison rules to prisoners generally. This will be deductible from the minimum period specified by the court. Remission for good conduct should not be confused with the power to remit punishment which, as I have already explained, is being restricted. At the moment, well-conducted prisoners can earn a remission of one-quarter of their sentence. Under section 5 (2) of the Bill, prisoners serving a minimum period will be treated, for the purpose of remission, as if they had been sentenced to a term of imprisonment equal to the minimum period. Accordingly, a person serving a minimum period of 40 years would be eligible to earn ten years remission, bringing the minimum period that he would have to serve down to 30 years. I should stress that this would still be a minimum period and that it would then be a matter for the Government or Minister for Justice of the day to decide whether to allow release at that stage. I realise that a minimum period of imprisonment of such a length is an exceptionally severe punishment but, as I have said, the Government believe that a firm stand has to be taken against people who [224] are prepared to engage in attacks on the institutions of the State and to murder members of the Garda or prison officers. In the Government's view a period of 40 years — or I should say a net 30 years under the present rules governing remission for good conduct — is the minimum which would be an acceptable substitute for the death penalty for perpetrators of these crimes.

These are the main provisions of the Bill. There are, however, one or two other matters to which I would like to refer. We are making it clear by virtue of section 3 (2) that murder to which section 3 refers — formerly known as “capital” murder — will be a distinct offence from “ordinary” murder and that it will be necessary, in order that a person should be convicted of such an offence, to prove mens rea, that is to say, the necessary guilty intent, in respect of all the ingredients of the offence. In this respect the Bill follows the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Murray case. This provision is designed to ensure that a person charged, for example, with the murder of a garda acting in the course of his duty will not be convicted of the offence unless it is proved that he either knew that the victim was a member of the Garda acting in the course of his duty or was reckless as to whether the victim was or was not such a member. Paragraph (b) of section 3 (2) will, except to the extent that the Bill provides otherwise, ensure that the law and procedure generally relating to murder will apply to these particular murders. This will preserve all the usual defences to murder which the law allows and will also ensure that there will be a power of arrest without warrant for the offence.

The remaining provisions of the Bill are mainly procedural and the Schedules contain the necessary consequential amendments and repeals. Senators will see that quite a substantial number of consequential amendments are necessary to the Defence Act, 1954. That Act contains a number of provisions dealing with the trial of offences against military law by courts-martial and it is necessary to amend some of them to bring the Act [225] into line with the provisions of the Bill. The main thing to note, perhaps, is that a sentence of life imprisonment is being substituted for the death penalty for the purely military offences, such as mutiny with violence. At present the death penalty is not a mandatory sentence for these offences. A court-martial may award a lesser punishment. It would, therefore, be inappropriate to impose a mandatory minimum period of imprisonment in substitution for the death penalty in these cases. Where, however, a person subject to military law is tried by court-martial for treason or for what is now ‘capital’ murder — as he could be so tried when on active service — he will be liable to exactly the same penalties as he would be if tried by a civil court. The provisions relating to restriction of the powers of commutation or remission of sentence, as well as of parole, will also apply.

To sum up, I am putting this Bill forward as an essential measure of law reform which will complete a process begun by the Oireachtas in 1964. As I have already said, our experience since 1964 indicates that the retention of the death penalty on the Statute Book is not justified. In my opinion, mandatory long-term sentences, as proposed in the Bill, will be — at least — as effective. Moreover, abolition will bring our law into line with that of virtually all other countries in Western Europe.

But, so far as I am concerned, the overriding consideration is that abolition is right in principle and it is on that basis that I commend the Bill to the House.

Mr. E. Ryan: Before speaking on the Bill I would like to say that if the Second Stage of this Bill is concluded before 4.30 p.m. the Members on this side of the House will not be voting on it because the party has not had an opportunity of considering the principles of this Bill. I did mention this to the Leader of the House and suggested that the Bill might be taken at the next sitting of the Seanad, but that was not found possible. If a vote does arise before 4.30 p.m. we will not be voting. We will reserve the right to [226] vote on the principles of the Bill on Fifth Stage.

In general terms I am in favour of what this Bill sets out to do, that is, abolish capital punishment. I expressed that view when the 1964 Act was being considered by this House. I see no reason to change my view as to the basic desirability of reaching a stage where capital punishment could be abolished for what one might refer to as domestic crime, the kind of crime that takes place in a country in which there is no unusual activity of a political nature. If that stage had been reached in this country, then I would certainly be supporting this Bill.

I do not express the view against capital punishment because I am a pacifist. I am not a pacifist: I believe that a person is entitled to use force to defend himself, to defend his family, to defend his neighbour and to use such force as is necessary. If this entails the death of the person who has attacked him, then that is something I accept as being necessary, however regrettable.

Furthermore, I believe that the country as such is entitled to defend itself against invasion or revolution and to take the steps that are necessary in these circumstances, even though they may result in the death of people taking part in the invasion or the revolution. I am not therefore adopting a pacifist view in considering this Bill.

In considering this Bill, an important point arises — whether we are or are not now in a position which approximates to one of the two conditions which I have mentioned, that of revolution. At present, certainly in the North, there are several paramilitary forces at work, believing themselves to be waging some kind of a war which they believe entitles them to take the law into their own hands, to wage war against the Army and against the police force, not only the police force in the Six Counties but even the police and Army down here. In these circumstances I would certainly have to consider whether it is appropriate to adopt the principle of abolition of capital punishment [227] at the present time. It is not a normal situation. We are not merely dealing with what I have referred to as domestic crime and, consequently, it is inappropriate at this time to be talking about the abolition of capital punishment.

To return for a moment to the situation that existed at the time of the 1964 Act, at that time it was agreed that capital punishment should no longer apply except in certain specified areas, certain specified situations. These specified situations included the murder of a Head of State, Head of a foreign State, or Ambassador or Minister of a foreign State. That would also apply in the case of the murder of a garda or a prison officer. At that time it was certainly arguable that the murder of a Head of State was most unusual, something which was unlikely to happen, which was perhaps merely theoretical. Unfortunately, whatever may have been the facts at that time, assassinations of Heads of State have become very commonplace in the meantime. If we came to the conclusion then that capital punishment should be reserved for that kind of situation, even when it seemed to be rather theoretical, it is difficult to accept the argument that capital punishment should no longer apply at the present time, in view of the fact that such assassinations have become very prevalent.

Again, in dealing with the question of excluding the murder of a garda or a prison officer, conditions at that time were not anything like as serious in this respect as they are at present. If we considered at that time that the murder of a garda or a prison officer should not be excluded from the abolition of capital punishment, there is a very strong case to be made for capital punishment at the present time in much more difficult and much more appropriate conditions compared with then.

To go back to the arguments that were made at that time and to the debate that took place in this House at that time, it was considered appropriate then that capital punishment should apply in the cases which I have mentioned and a few [228] other cases which are not quite so relevant. It is difficult——

Mrs. G. Hussey: Excuse me. Would it be possible to do something about the noises off? I am sure the Senators would like to hear what the Senator has to say. I am having extreme difficulty in hearing him. I am sorry to interrupt.

An Cathaoirleach: I assure the Leader of the House that that will be attended to.

Mr. E. Ryan: The arguments on this matter of capital punishment, the principles involved and the theoretical background to capital punishment were considered very fully at that time and debated by this House and the other House. In the end it was concluded that it should be retained for these special categories of offences. Certainly, the arguments that applied then apply more than ever now. It is difficult to conclude that we should take a different view at this time. I know that it can be argued that the climate of thought has changed since then and everybody is entitled to take a different view now. It is true that capital punishment is being abolished in a few of the remaining countries where it still applies. However, the Minister used the rather significant words that these countries were abolishing capital punishment in peace-time.

It is debatable, to say the least, whether we can be regarded as being at peace in this country at the present time, having regard to the existing volume of violence, particularly in the North but even down here. There is not a normal situation. The reason why some of these countries have decided to abolish capital punishment may not be relevant to this country. They are doing it in what can be regarded as a peace-time situation and my view is that we cannot be regarded as being in the same category.

It is a difficult dilemma for a person who believes that capital punishment is very objectionable and abhorrent and something that should be abolished. On the other hand, we have here a situation [229] where it may be necessary and essential in an effort to eliminate the present violence. This dilemma poses great difficulty for anybody who is considering this Bill.

I certainly look forward to hearing the argument from both points of view. I believe that there will be arguments put forward from both points of view and will certainly be listening with great interest. It would be a great help to hear the arguments which will be put forward, before the time comes to make a decision on this Bill.

I do not propose to say anything at the present time as regards the detailed views put forward by the Minister on the sections of the Bill. It would be more appropriate to deal with them on Committee Stage. Certainly Committee Stage will give rise to a good deal of consideration and a good deal of debate.

Mrs. G. Hussey: I would like to open by mentioning something Senator Ryan brought up in his speech, that is the problem of not having sufficient time to consider this Bill. On the Order of Business of 8 October last, I mentioned that this Bill would be taken today. At that point there was no objection raised to that proposal. In fact, I had no intimation until very shortly before the House sat today that there was any problem. At that stage, the Government assumed we were ready to go ahead. However, I fully accept that the importance of this Bill and its far-reaching aspects are such that all possible opportunity must be given to everybody to have sufficient time to study it and I hope the adjournment of the debate at 4.30 p.m. will meet the problem.

I would like to welcome the Minister for Justice to this House, to wish him well in the very onerous job he has undertaken and to express my appreciation, and I am sure the appreciation of all Senators, that this House should be given the opportunity to open this very important debate.

I gather from his speech that he feels that this Bill is recognising a de facto [230] situation, that the death penalty does not exist in this country. To look at recent reprieves or commutations, it is obvious that the people, as represented by previous Governments and by the present Government draw back from enforcing the death penalty which remains on our Statute Book. This Bill, in essence, is recognising this situation.

Given Senator E. Ryan's very heartfelt words about the present situation it is symptomatic of the times we are living in that it is necessary when making a speech advocating the abolition of the death penalty that one should make quite clear one's total abhorrence of all violence, no matter for what ends. It is necessary to make quite clear my own view, that I support and welcome this Bill in the full conviction that the kind of violence we have in our society — more specifically the kind of violence which would undertake to subvert the State and its institutions — is totally unacceptable to every person in this House.

I would like to make it clear that I am not a person with legal qualifications. However, I believe this Bill needs to be discussed in detail by as many people as possible and that the views of non-legal people on a subject like this have at least the same validity, if not more so, than the views of people with legal qualifications.

This Bill is a significant step in this country's progress. At this point I would like to quote a previous Attorney General of the United States, Mr. Ramsey Clarke, who is very well known for his humanitarian work among prisoners and for prison reform.

He said:

No activity of a people so exposes their humanity, their character, their capacity for charity in its most generous dimension, as the treatment they accord persons convicted of crime.

That is a very significant and eloquent statement of principle which should be adhered to by all, and certainly by legislators.

[231] I was not present for the 1964 debate which last discussed this whole question and which set out certain crimes which would be considered capital murder, nor was I present at debates stretching back into history which gradually changed laws which were extremely savage in their application. In preparing for this debate I read some of the December 1969 House of Lords debate when the British were abolishing the death penalty. One of the speakers was able to recall his grandfather telling him about the execution of seven years old and 11 year olds for what we would now consider minor crimes. That should bring home to us how far we have come in about 100 years. It is horrifying to think of what used to be done in the name of a State in pursuance of the tenet “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. We in Ireland have progressed greatly since 1964, the last time we used the death penalty, and I believe our unwillingness to use it nowadays shows the time has come to get rid of it once and for all.

There are extremely well-reasoned and cogent arguments in favour of the retention of the death penalty. Since many of those arguments come from the bodies we are seeking to protect, and who are actually mentioned in this Bill — the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, the Garda Representative Body, the Prison Officers' Association — their objections to the abolition of the death penalty and their repeated objections to the recent reprieves must be very soberly and carefully studied, because this is the section of society from whom, if you look at it one way, we are removing some protection which they now enjoy. It is arguable whether the retention of the death penalty does afford any protection to gardaí.

The argument against the abolition of the death penalty boils down to one essential — that the retention of the death penalty is or would be a deterrent to future murders. In trying to establish whether this argument could be validated, I have tried to read as much as possible on that subject. All I can say is that having read and studied the various [232] arguments about its deterrent qualities, the studies are at very best inconclusive; most studies in this area would seem to disprove any theory that the death penalty acts as a deterrent. It cannot be shown absolutely conclusively that in order to protect the State we must have the death penalty and that stands as an argument for abolishing it. If it could be shown conclusively that the death penalty's presence on the Statute Book was a deterrent to this kind of crime then I personally would have to consider very carefully my attitude on this Bill. When I say I would personally consider my attitude I do not know if I would change my mind because I believe the arguments against the death penalty are so very strong that the opposite arguments would have to be totally and utterly conclusive in order to shake one's view.

There is an impressive list of bodies, organisations and individuals in this country who have joined over the last few years in a very strong argument for the abolition of the death penalty and they have done so despite the fact that we have had a lot of unrest and a lot of difficulties. This list is most impressive and far too long to go through. I would not attempt to detain the House by reading out what each one of them said but a cursory glance at all the organisations and individuals who have come out strongly in favour of the abolition of the death penalty would be useful to us and would give encouragement in supporting the measure which the Government are proposing.

The list I am going to read out is by no means exhaustive because I have left out a great many international bodies, but the following are the ones which immediately spring to mind as having unequivocally opposed the death penalty: the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace, a commission set up by the Irish Bishops; the Irish section of Pax Christi; the Quakers; the late Dr. Birch, Bishop of Ossory; the Chief Rabbi; Amnesty International; the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the Prisoners' Rights Organisation. These last three bodies joined together recently in a campaign for the total abolition [233] of the death penalty, raised the campaign to quite a high level of public awareness and carried on the campaign in the most responsible manner. I would like to congratulate them on the work they have done in that campaign.

The Minister mentioned the European Parliament which has come out strongly in asking member states to propose the abolition of the death penalty where it remained. There is also the Council of Europe and the Conference of European Ministers for Justice who in 1978 and 1980 made a unanimous statement that the ultimate aim should be to abolish the death penalty. The word “ultimate” was probably put in there because one or two of the states still had the death penalty on their books.

Another body which came out unequivocally in support of the abolition of the death penalty was the commission of inquiry into the Irish penal systems which was chaired by Mr. Seán MacBride, Nobel Prize winner and Lenin Prize winner. This commission of inquiry sat for 18 months and reported in the autumn of 1980. The members of that commission included the then chairman of the Labour Party, Mr. Michael D. Higgins; a Minister of State in the present Government, Mr. Michael Keating; Father Micheál MacGreil, a sociologist; Mr. Matt Merrigan and various other people. Dr. Gallagher of the Methodist Church in Ireland also came out strongly in favour of the abolition of the death penalty.

Inquiring into what the Bar Council felt about this matter it is useful at this point to quote from The Irish Times of 2 March 1981. The Bar Council should be heard in this respect. Statements from legal people are often not quite as clear to the ordinary lay person as they might be but this points quite clearly to the way they were thinking.

The report is as follows:

The Bar Council, in a statement on the death penalty, said that while it could not as a general rule debate a political issue, it was concerned about [234] the taking of life and advocated a society where the taking of life did not and need not occur.

It pointed out that if the Bar Council took a stance against the death penalty, the position of prosecuting counsel would be compromised in his relationship with the Director of Public Prosecutions, and ultimately with the Government and the Oireachtas which were, under the Constitution, obliged to make a decision on the matter.

“On the other hand, it would hardly be proper for the Bar Council to express itself in favour of the death penalty when members of the Bar may be defending persons accused of capital murder,” the statement said.

That strikes me as coming down firmly on both sides of the fence. I interpret it as a desire to get rid eventually of the death penalty.

In pursuance of making up ones mind on this issue I also spoke to several lawyers and a unanimous view of the people I spoke to in this respect was that because it is quite obvious that the State does not intend to use the death penalty it would be much better to get rid of it. That is a very simplistic summary of their views but because in the most recent cases of people who were condemned to death the reprieves came not on appeal but on the President exercising his power on application by the Government it is quite clear to these lawyers that the State does not intend to use the death penalty and for that reason alone they were advocating that it should be abolished.

It is necessary at this point to remind ourselves that all the countries in the EEC except ourselves and Greece have abolished the death penalty. I take Senator Ryan's point that some countries have abolished the death penalty in peace time but at a later stage I might try to refute that argument. The reason that very impressive list of organisations and individuals have called for the abolition of the death penalty could be summed up very simply, they have—as we all have — a total abhorrence of violence no mat- [235] ter which quarter it comes from. They uphold the right to life totally and reject anybody's right to take away life. In that rejection, which rejects the right of any organisation or individual to take life, they would include the State. They also have a belief that it debases all of us if we allow killing in our name because an execution, no matter what way one looks at it, carried out as a result of the passing of a death sentence is carried out with careful planning, it is premeditated, it is never unexpected, it is never accidental, it is always carried out cold-bloodedly. That aspect of judicial execution, or execution by the State, distinguishes it in many respects from the conditions in which the original crime was committed, not always, but in many respects.

Very importantly, it seems to me that to execute somebody who has committed a serious crime denies the possibility of rehabilitation or repentance of that person and, therefore, denies human potential. It denies the very possibility of human dignity being restored; it denies the possibility of a valuable life being once again led. All these arguments, seem to me to be incontrovertible. I do not want to introduce a note of emotionalism into this debate. However, the death penalty, whether we like it or not, is a very emotional subject. In many countries, and in western European countries, executions used be carried out in public. Why are executions not carried out in public anymore? The reason is because we consider ourselves too civilised to stand around and cheer when somebody is being killed, that it is a barbaric way of doing things. Now, we have private executions so that people will not be faced with this unpleasant procedure and that an execution be carried out away from the public eye by somebody else. It is worth pondering on the removal of executions from the public to the private domain.

Because we have no broadcasting or televising of any kind in this Chamber, I realise that one is rather limited because, after all, pictures speak louder than words. In preparing for this debate I did not know the modern methods of execution, [236] and I proceeded to research that area. I found a series of photographs, not of people being executed I hasten to say but of the methods, the actual instruments used in executions. I had photographs of a gas chamber, a garrotte, a guillotine, an electric chair, a hanging scaffold and, unfortunately, because of its very nature, we have to have a photograph of people in the illustration of a firing squad. I must remind the House that these are the humane ways of execution. As we are all aware, there are other more barbaric ways of state execution carried out in other societies. What I have just read out is a list of the humane ways. These photographs are very clinical, very unemotional. I called some people to have a look at them and they were uniformly horrified. Those people had never seen the set-up or the instruments that were used and some of them were quite upset. One cannot get away from it — execution is a very grizzly sanction; it is never pleasant and we have tried to hide it away from society. I am glad to say we have not used it since 1954 but it has been used in our name and if this Bill fails to go through the Oireachtas, it could be still used in our name.

We have arrived at a point when we have to say to ourselves: if we take this step now how do we answer the fears of the guardians of the peace and how do we answer the fears that the State leaves itself open and vulnerable if we remove this final sanction. This fear is felt not only by the men and women of our police force but by their families, who worry about somebody not coming home in the evening having gone out to work protecting the State. That must be a grave concern of ours and we must address ourselves to it. At this point we must turn to the mandatory sentence. The mandatory sentence by any standards is extremely strong — 40 years is a very long time. Thirty years, which is what we are talking about at best, is also a very long time. Something which I do not want to go into now but which is a fundamental question should be mentioned, and perhaps other Senators might take it up. If the death penalty cannot be shown to be [237] a deterrent how will the mandatory sentence be shown to be a deterrent? That is a fundamental point which calls into question the operation of the sanctions of society against the criminal deviants in society. It is not something into which one can go in detail here.

I accept that for the purposes of what we are about now — abolishing the death penalty — the best we can do at this point in thinking, in Irish criminology, in Irish penology, is to substitute a mandatory sentence for the death penalty. I note the Minister's and the Bill's contention that the Minister divests himself of certain personal powers of release in this mandatory sentence for these scheduled crimes in this area. I see the reasoning behind that. It is important to remind ourselves that we still have the power under Article 13.6 of the Constitution for the Government to appeal to the President who may act differently. Obviously, that still remains and we could not take that power away, even if we wanted to, without a constitutional amendment. I do not foresee a situation where there would be a public demand for a constitutional amendment to make people stay in jail for 40 years.

I accept that this compromise, this mandatory sentence, does hit the right balance between severity and some possibility of mercy under the law. But we must look at other ways of protecting our guardians of the peace, because it is absolutely essential for the Garda Síochána to be fully supported by every single one of us, to be assured that they have the full support of Government and Oireachtas and that, as far as possible, their job will be made not only possible but that they will be winning the battle of protecting the country. In that respect of course, apart from things like mandatory sentences, I would strongly urge on the Minister the need to continue the improvements in equipment and training for the Garda so that our Garda Síochána will be a force which will have equipment and training as good as any security force in the modern world. I believe that is the [238] very least we owe the protectors of the State.

I believe that the pay and conditions and standards of excellence of the Garda should be kept constantly under review so that they may be a very special body because they are doing very special work. This is because we place enormous demands on the Garda and rely enormously on them. In their own interests this standard of excellence of the Garda also includes the need to insist on excellent standards of behaviour so that the public will always have unshakeable confidence in them. That is part and parcel of having a first-class police force.

I know that on the whole question of abolishing the death penalty there has been a question of whether the Garda should be armed. I know that the Garda themselves are not at one on this issue, that many of them are strongly against it and that that is an ongoing debate. At this point it might be just as well for us to remind ourselves that in relation to the recent tragic murders of members of the Garda Síochána the gardaí in those cases were armed. It is relevant and necessary for us to remind ourselves of that fact. That is not conclusive. I am not drawing the conclusion that, because some gardaí were armed and were shot dead, the Garda should not be armed. The argument about arming or not arming the Garda is an ongoing one, not entirely divorced from this question of abolishing the death penalty.

The present unrest, which was touched on by Senator Ryan, has been going on at its present level since 1969. Eight members of the Garda have been killed since 1969, not all in direct conflict with particular subversive groups. In the North, where countless members of the RUC and Army personnel have been killed in the course of their duty, the death penalty has been abolished and it has not been brought back in the face of the terrible problems there. To bring back the death penalty against members of certain organisations in this country would defeat our purpose. I believe that this [239] country has enough martyrs without adding more.

Professor Murphy: Hear, hear.

Mrs. G. Hussey: I believe that our determination to turn away from violent sanctions against violent men is an eloquent answer to terrorist violence and shows the abhorrence that we have of any kind of violence and that we will not be drawn down to the level of those people.

That is all I wish to say at this stage of the Bill. I would like to conclude by congratulating the Minister and the Government on bringing this Bill before us so speedily and wish it well through the Oireachtas. I hope that it presages other Bills which will come to grips with the real problems of criminals and the prison system here.

Professor Murphy: Perhaps I should have said it on the Order of Business, but if I were Leader of the House — which I do not think I will ever be — I would order the business rather better in that this Bill should either have been taken for the whole of today or most of today or not at all. It seems most unsatisfactory cutting it off after a couple of hours.

Let me also pass one or two critical remarks on the explanatory memorandum. In theory these explanatory memoranda should be helpful to Deputies and Senators. In practice very often they specialise in telling us the obvious and in making the obscure even more obscure. A legislator of even the meanest significance should be able to grasp that the first section in the Bill proposes to abolish the death penalty. Yet the memorandum persists in telling us that all over again. But it does not tell us, for example what is meant by section 3 (i) (c): “murder done in the course or furtherance of an offence under section 6, 7, 8 or 9...” It would be very helpful for Deputies and Senators to be informed as to what that meant. Also, surely someone could have devised a less cumbersome reference to the new category rather than “the murder” [240] and so on “to which section 3 applies.”

There is something else which to a layman raises a number of questions about the Bill apart from the question of the overriding power of the President to commute. I am not altogether convinced that the constitutional section here, Article 13.6, does not in fact have a paramount influence which still remains even after this Bill has been passed. If a particular Government came to power with a particular political sympathy it could very well disregard many of the provisions in this Bill by having recourse to the constitutional expedient of directing the President to commute or remit. What is not clear to a layman is in what way the process of appeal will be influenced by the new legislation. I take it that some one convicted of this class of special murder will have the usual right of appeal to the higher courts. If so, is the higher court bound either to acquit or to continue with the mandatory minimum sentence? Again the legislation does not make that clear. Perhaps the Minister might say that is not necessary, but the explanatory memorandum could be used to clear up these points. Incidentally, the word “capital” in the Constitution, Article 13.6, would now seem to be obsolete.

Another question which comes to mind is whether the death penalty is now for ever gone in the military sphere, even in time of war or invasion. This is simply a point of information I would like to have clarified.

The eight words which begin section 1 are historic. I may have some reservations, as Senator Ryan has, as this is a very complex measure, but when, as a legislator, I am presented with a Bill which says in section 1 “No person shall suffer death for any offence” I cannot but give my wholehearted assent. Like Senator Ryan, I wish that it was not necessary to bring in the Bill just now. Perhaps no great harm is being done by continuing the present system, but once the Bill is proposed by the Government it seems that I have no choice but to support the abolition of the death penalty. It is the [241] final stage, I hope, on the long road and of the argument that has gone on in various parts of the world over the best part of two centuries on the death penalty.

It is one of the rather extraordinary paradoxes of our time that we should see such massive wastage of human life in global wars and such appalling brutality under certain régimes involving the wholesale destruction of human life and yet at the same time this age should manifest such a tender concern for the sacredness of human life. Part of the past history of capital punishment is to be explained in terms of the brutality, shortness and nastiness, to use the famous Hobbesian phrase, of life in previous centuries.

When pain and suffering were the universal lot it really did not offend people's civilised conscience that hanging, the most cruel and barbarous kind of public execution, should take place even for relatively trivial offences. That was related to the background misery of life. Even when the theology of retribution was dominant civilised man protested against the barbarism of execution. The poet, Alexander Pope, who lived in an age in which the range of offences for which capital punishment was meted out became even more extensive than in earlier periods, remarked caustically:

The hungry judges soon the sentences do sign.

And wretches hang that jury men may dine.

That measures, very succinctly, the cheapness with which human life was regarded in his day.

It is still a great tribute to the humanity of ordinary people that juries even circumvented the law which would have wretches hang for the theft of 40 shillings worth of goods from a store by stubbornly maintaining that the goods stolen, no matter how objectively they were assessed, were in their view only worth 39 shillings. This kind of circumvention was being practised in the cause of humanity before Governments moved on the matter.

The development of the abolition of [242] public executions has particular interest for students of Irish history because the last person in what was then the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland to be publicly executed was Michael Barrett in 1868 who was accused in connection with the bungled liberation of prisoners attempt in Clerkenwell Prison. Some people accuse abolitionists today of being “trendy” liberals and of taking all these things in their stride, being against capital punishment, being for divorce and so on, but opposition to capital punishment is far from a modern development.

It is of some interest that in the year 1841 the State Assembly of New York set up a special sub-committee to consider the matter of capital punishment which recommended that it be abolished in toto. Obviously these were premature voices striving for expression. The Royal Commission, which abolished public executions in England — Michael Barrett's in 1868 was the last — had a minority report recommending the total abolition of capital punishment. Within a century of Alexander Pope's mordant comment on the cheapness of human life there was indeed considerable development.

The debate has continued, sometimes two steps forward, one step backward, into our day with distinctions being drawn, for example, between the fact that civilians should not be put to death but that, perhaps, capital punishment was understandable in the military sphere. Even more compassionate distinctions have been brought in, such as the new category of infanticide in 1922 in Britain which recognised that a young mother who killed her child in a particular fit of depression could not be possibly classed as a murderer. The distinction which at present obtains in the State is another kind of milestone on the road to final abolition.

The Bill does not provide scope for arguments about the rights and wrongs of capital punishment. We are now down to the particular business of deciding if we should abolish this last category of special murder. Nonetheless, it is not irrelevant to recall that many of the arguments [243] we have heard today and will continue to hear have been repeatedly aired in various assemblies in various public fora all over the world for the last 50 years.

One point put forward by total abolitionists is the total dogmatic certainty and finality of execution. It is the one punishment in law that cannot be reversed. It is irrevocable and, therefore, it should be ensured that the person to be executed is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, guilty. In the nature of things that cannot be established. Perhaps one of the greatest arguments against capital punishment is the possibility of the miscarriage of justice, the possibility that in addition to the atrocities of judicial execution the sufferer may be, in the end, innocent.

There have been reviews and surveys of various executions, 30 and 40 years afterwards, in the United States and it has been established that a sizeable percentage — the figure is debatable — of the people executed have been innocent. Some people would say it is sufficient argument against capital punishment that even one innocent person should have suffered wrongly and that in the scale of moral values it is considerably more immoral for the State to execute one innocent person than for a number of innocent victims to fall to the hands of murderers.

The other arguments against capital punishment are fast becoming obsolete. I do not think anyone would seriously argue the retributive or justice aspect of capital punishment would seriously contend that it is right in the name of justice and in the name of retribution that the State should take a life for a life. If you were arguing in that case, you could get a fair amount of support from religious sources but to fall back on holy writ or religious tradition is a very doubtful expedient for anyone wishing to argue for the abolition of capital punishment. People could argue, as they did in ancient Rome, that because life is sacred that is precisely why you should underline it by putting the murderer to death. The Romans held the maxim, Homo homini res sacra, man is [244] a sacred thing to man, and that therefore the unique and terrible punishment of death should be reserved for murder. By and large, these are now academic matters. The great argument is whether or not capital punishment is a deterrent, whether it has been a deterrent in general for murder over the centuries and whether in this last special category which we are talking about today it is a deterrent there.

The answer to the first question must remain inconclusive, namely, that no one can finally and dogmatically assert that capital punishment has been a deterrent. Like Senator Hussey, I might have a different view if it could be shown substantially that the gallows has prevented more people from being killed, has on balance saved lives, but there is certainly no way in which that can be demonstratively proved. The statistics as usual can be manipulated. Nevertheless, there are some interesting results of research available. May I point to the United States, which is the most interesting model in what we are discussing since there is a common community in the United States of America but there are individual states with different laws on capital punishment, so that there is a great opportunity of comparing states side by side and their different practices?

One interesting point is that in 1917 the Government of the State of Missouri abolished the death penalty but restored it two years later in 1919 believing that its abolition had been a mistake. Murders increased over the two-year period and, therefore, the governmental powers in Missouri decided that they should restore the death penalty. Later on a comparative survey was done of the homocide rate in Missouri from 1910 to 1924 and compared with Ohio, which had retained the death penalty throughout the whole period and the figures were approximately the same. The rise in the homocide rate in Missouri over that two-year period was not in the end shown to be an actual result of the abolition of the death penalty. As far as I am aware, any measurements that have been done in European states to test the “before” and “after” [245] homocide rates show no perceptible effect of the abolition of capital punishment. In my view the deterrent argument is not such as to come down firmly on one side or the other.

May I revert briefly to the theme of the innocent person which I raised some moments ago, when I said that the dreadful thing is that an innocent person may suffer and the state will be culpable of judicial execution, of a miscarriage of justice, of an innocent person? The possibility of that happening is greater in a Special Criminal Court than it is through trial by jury. I may be wrong but I put my trust in the common man more than I do in learned counsel, no matter how learned. The particular alignment of forces in the Special Criminal Court, the understandable identity of interests between the bench and the law, leads us to the speculation that the possibility of a miscarriage of justice may be greater in the Special Criminal Court than in an ordinary trial by jury. Since we are likely to be stuck with the Special Criminal Court for some considerable time to come, that is an important consideration to keep in mind here.

I share Senator Ryan's reservations, because this is a grave and complex business and it behoves all of us to do some reflecting and perhaps a little personal research before we make up our minds or speak on this matter. At the same time, he did not really crystallise or pinpoint his objections. He said we have in effect a state of revolution or emergency here all the time and this is not the period to be considering dropping the measure of capital punishment that remains. He could put it the other way around, that it is really quite a remarkable thing that so few members of our security forces have been murdered in the past 10 or twelve turbulent years. If it had been the case that our gardaí were being murdered at an alarming rate than I think Senator Ryan might have had a case. This is not to express anything but the most profound sympathy with the families of the gardaí who gave their lives for the State in the course of their duty. I do not believe that the state of revolution or emergency is such as to warrant the retention [246] of capital punishment under the present law.

If we pass this Bill we have to consider very seriously the question: will it put our gardaí and our prison officers at greater risk? These are the categories who are most important. While maintaining that all human life is equally sacred, nevertheless we have a special duty to our security officers in this respect. In trying to answer the question, will it put their lives at greater risk, one of the factors to be kept in mind is that much of the murderous activity in this country at the moment is politically motivated — not all of it of course, but much of it — and I do not think that politically motivated criminals are deterred by the death penalty. They may be deterred by the high risk of detection and conviction but I do not think the actual prospect of suffering capital punishment has ever really disturbed the politically motivated criminal, or in the past ages the patriot. “Whether on the scaffold high or on the battle field we die,” would be their motto.

One of the lessons of the tragic hunger strike is that men who are prepared to give their lives for a cause are the comrades of other men who are equally prepared to kill for a cause. The members of these organisations are not the kind of people to be deterred by the presence on the Statute Book of the capital punishment measure.

Reverend Ian Paisley has repeatedly called for the introduction of the death penalty to combat terrorism in Northern Ireland. As Senator Gemma Hussey has said, the authorities have not responded to the call. Reverend Ian Paisley would have less difficulty than Senator Eoin Ryan has and that we all have about this great question, because he would have no hesitation in invoking an Old Testament God to justify capital punishment — “Revenge is mine” says the Lord. It is only speculation, of course, but if capital punishment had been in operation in Northern Ireland since 1969 my guess is that the situation would be far worse and that the political martyrology of the Provisional IRA and similar organisations would have soared and would have been enhanced in prestige by the number of [247] new martyrs created.

I echo Senator Hussey's plea to the Minister that the Garda must be given every assistance possible, crime detection technology and anything that will increase their protection, but like Senator Hussey I am not convinced that the death penalty is necessary for their protection or that it protects them any more than its removal would. Ultimately, the greatest protection of the Garda Síochána is, of course, that they enjoy public support, that they are a popular force. That is expressed in the universal odium and revulsion expressed whenever a garda is murdered in the course of his duty. That universal odium was expressed very salutarily after the Ballsbridge riots, a turning point in a certain dangerous trend. I can understand the fears of the guards and the prison officers — perhaps the prison officers more than the guards — because you could take the view that someone sentenced to life imprisonment knows that under the law he has no need to fear destiny and there is no incentive or motivation for that person in prison to behave or not to carry his animus against prison warders to the most alarming extent. One could argue that the prison officers are at risk in that regard. Nevertheless, one takes comfort, I suppose, from the fact that under the existing law and existing circumstances, as far as I know, despite a number of quite alarming riots no prison officer has been killed in the performance of his duty.

The other difficulty I have about the special category status obtaining at the moment or, indeed, the special category status that would continue to obtain in respect of such a lengthy prison sentence is, does it make a moral distinction between the value of one life and another? Does not the sacredness of human life reside in each individual, whether he is a garda or a prison officer or a misfortunate drunken tramp who is mugged and killed? There is a real moral difficulty there.

Whatever protection the guards and the prison officers might derive from an operative death penalty, and that is, as I [248] have suggested, doubtful, in my view they derive none at all from a non-operative death penalty. The fact is that capital punishment under 1964 law is not operative, it is a dead letter and we all know it. The public know it and the criminals know it as well, because they know that on every occasion on which there was the slightest prospect of a convicted murderer being actually put to death, there was in recent times a public outcry. That public outcry is sufficient to ensure that whether this Bill is passed within the foreseeable future there is no prospect of an execution for murder. And that being so, what happens then through a curious but understandable process of public opinion is that the convicted person or persons become the objects of sympathy in the interval between their conviction and the time when the President is directed by the Government to invoke clemency. This has happened in the case of a certain couple who were the object of great solicitude by various civil rights groups and so on. Surely, this defeats the whole purpose of the law whereby the criminal should be held up to public odium for his activities. If we have more of these cases and more of these convictions, especially if they have a gloss of respectability about them, those people are going to be the objects of public sympathy rather than the opposite. These arguments are very strong ones indeed for ending the present situation and substituting something new, certainly the abolition of the death penalty.

I an not so sure about the statutory minimum 40 years prison sentence. One of the questions I had pencilled down to ask the Minister, which is not evident either in the Bill or in the explanatory memorandum, is the question of remission. The extent of remission here is vital. If a man knows that he is going to serve 40 years with a maximum of ten years remission — that is 30 years — that is indeed, I agree, a fairly considerable sentence, even more so because I take it that it is up to the trial judge to impose in certain circumstances, if he considers fit, a longer sentence — 40 years is the minimum. But the difficulty I have relates to the conditions of detention of those [249] people. A young man of, say, 25, will know that he will have to do an absolute minimum of 30 years even though he may undergo a change of heart.

Assuming he is not a totally psychotic murderer, rehabilitation is possible and should be worked for by society. It seems that the imposition of a long sentence which is not liable to be revised is at odds somehow with modern trends in penology and with the ever-increasing attitude to try to rehabilitate the prisoner. I can see no other reason for the inclusion of the 40 year sentence except as a concession to a particular kind of pressure from the Garda and the Prison Officers' Associations. I am just making a comment on that in passing. I pass no judgment either way. It seems to me that we are engaging in a little piece of self-deception here. The 40 year rule will be amended before long.

In his introductory speech the Minister gave simple but convincing reasons why we should abolish the death penalty, no matter what we think of the other clauses in the Bill. I should like to add my voice to his in that respect. It seems to me that he was perfectly right to stress the symbolic nature of this Bill against the backdrop of our history, much of which was violent. I refer to incidents like the placing of the shrunken skulls of alleged malefactors in the courthouse in my own town of Macroom to deter people from any further political subversion and what might be called the first ambush at Kilmichael in 1822 when a small group of peasants had the temerity to attack a detachment of infantry. For their pains they were eventually executed and their bodies displayed, not in the execution grounds in Cork city, but in their home townlands around Kilmichael.

Against that national history of violence and oppression, and against the global history of man's inhumanity to man, it is right that we should take this step, particularly in view of our professions about peace which we express elsewhere on the world stage. Peace has to be peace, and non-violence has to be a kind of seamless robe, and respect for life has to be a seamless robe. If one is repealled by abortion, by euthanasia, one [250] must be totally repelled by capital punishment. As the Minister suggested, it is against the violence in Northern Ireland that we should assert our own respect for life; not alone assert it against those people who carry out terrible acts in our name, but also against the sectarian gangs on the Protestant side who, the evidence suggests, are once again at their terrible work in Northern Ireland at this time.

There is the wider global stage. Every day we of the western tradition, I suppose you could call it, are revolted by what is happening, by the brutal regimes in El Salvador and, under strange and terrible cultures to our way of life, in places like Iran where executions are the terrible order of the day. It is a very good thing that we should have the mind, the resolution and the compassion to undertake, as the Minister said, this symbolic act. It never made any sense to me that, in order to show our abhorrence of killing, we ourselves should proceed to kill, which is what capital punishment is. To a small degree we lessen the burden of our own guilt and the guilt of humanity.

Mrs. Robinson: This Bill is concerned with the most basic human right of all, the right to life. It proposes that we deprive ourselves of the existing power to kill in the name of the people a person convicted of an offence described as a capital offence. I put it in that context because it will be seen as a very unusual measure. The Minister comes into the House to ask the House to deprive the State of a power and, by doing so, to affirm what I believe is a most important moral truth one we must reflect on and consider very fully in this House. The issue itself is a very grave one. It raises deep concern and, indeed, considerable fear in the country and in particular in those who feel they might be more vulnerable or less protected if this measure were passed.

It is important that we make clear the context in which this measure is proposed and what it intends to do in a very basic and essential way. The issue is a moral one and, as such, it must be considered in the context of the value of human life [251] and of an affirmation of that value. As has already been mentioned, the power of which we are proposing to deprive ourselves has not been exercised in recent years. It has not been exercised since 1954. I agree with Senator Murphy — and Senator Hussey made this point too — that it is a power which we would not be likely to exercise even if it remained on the Statute Book. When it came to the point we would realise the tension and pressure caused, and the revulsion in the minds and hearts of people at the idea of a premeditated, cold, legal killing of a human being as the penalty for conviction of an offence.

This is a question and an issue which other countries have faced. Most recently, the new socialist Government in France abolished the guillotine which was the French form of capital punishment. As the first Labour speaker on this Bill, I should like to remind the House that the abolition of capital punishment has been a long and dearly held policy of the Labour Party. It formed a very important part of the Labour Party's approach to law reform. For that reason it was a welcome part of the programme adopted in the Gaiety Theatre discussions prior to the establishment of the Coalition Government.

As Senator Hussey said, it has also been championed down the years by a number of public bodies. I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work done by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. I recall the early meetings of the council when it was established and, in particular, a public meeting in 1976 where the arguments for abolishing capital punishment were put before the people in a very public and educational sense. At the start of this year a further campaign was launched, this time jointly by The Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Amnesty International and The Prisoners' Rights Organisation. It is timely to pay tribute to the work done by these bodies. We must not assume that there is an automatic sensitivity to, or knowledge of, human rights issues.

We neglect in a public sense in Ireland a concern for education about establishing [252] the values relating to human rights. In a facile way we sometimes talk about human rights. But I believe we do not do enough to educate, in a structured and considerate way, to provide a basic framework of reference in which people can relate the need for a concern to protect and promote human rights. I was very struck only last Saturday when, at the invitation of Amnesty International, I participated in a workshop for school children on human rights in which this issue of capital punishment was raised. Afterwards, at an informal tea, a number of these young people spoke about the lack of any information or education about human rights in the schools system. They said that nowhere in the education process do they get an opportunity to discuss human rights issues, even to know their rights, to know what rights they have, for example, if they are stopped and questioned by members of the Garda. This is a serious lack and one which results in our concern for human rights being sporadic and unrelated to an overall framework and context.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I might point out to the Senator that the Seanad have agreed already to interrupt this business at 4.30 p.m. Would the Senator please move its adjournment?

Debate adjourned.