Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 963 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald]  Will the Taoiseach ask for additional assurances over the next two days? Will any such assurances be legally binding? Will any such assurances be contained in the conclusions of the European Council? Under no circumstances should the fate of this island, its economic, political or social well-being, be left to whims of the British Conservatives and the vagaries of whatever position it might or might not take on any given day. I am sure the Tánaiste will agree that it would be irresponsible to allow a scenario like that to play out. Will the Taoiseach ask this of the Council and will we have, by close of business tomorrow, legally binding assurances which would be welcomed across the island?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The European Union works on the basis of rules, treaties, precedent and negotiated agreements. What does not work is negotiation where a third party changes mid-stream or does not follow through on commitments made in writing. We have had very strong messaging this week from the European Parliament, from European institutions, from the General Affairs Council, from Michel Barnier himself in terms of the task force, all saying the same thing about what the EU side understands was agreed last week. Let me be very clear, Ireland's strength is being part of the EU team, 27 countries acting together, ensuring that we move ahead together. We will not look for bilateral agreements with the UK in the context of the broad negotiations-----

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald I did not suggest that.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney What we will look for and get is a very strong set of guidelines tomorrow which will ensure that if phase 2 is to progress, the commitments made during phase 1 will be fully followed through and, where appropriate, will need to be translated faithfully into legal terms as soon as possible.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan Recently, there has been great recognition and support for those men and women who have had the bravery to find their voices to highlight their experience of abuse, incidents of sexual assault, rape and pressure on them to perform sexual acts in return for favours. Some of those who have come forward recently with their stories and allegations tell us that those incidents occurred before they were 18 years. Many allegations involve high profile figures from the political world, film, theatre and music and we have seen similar revelations in Ireland. The victims who have made allegations recently are in a place in their personal lives where they can confront what happened to them because they know that today they will be believed and they have a good chance of getting justice. That is such an important part of the recovery process but I want to remember those who were not believed and those who did not get justice or support for one reason or another. Because they did not get justice, they continue to suffer every time an allegation of abuse is made, when they relive that abuse.

In March 2015, I raised the issue of those who made accusations against their swimming coach with then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny. I raised it because they never had justice. There were 27 allegations of indecent carnal knowledge of minors, which took place some years ago, against this individual who was their coach. I can imagine the bravery of those who came forward over 20 years ago when it was a very different atmosphere. In spite of the great efforts of An Garda Síochána, that came to nothing, there was no justice. Some weeks ago I watched the RTÉ documentary made in 2006 in which some of the victims told their stories. The journalist in the documentary followed the individual accused of the abuse to America where he has been living. Recently, through the work of an investigative journalist, Irvin Muchnik, through freedom of information requests, through a court hearing and through a settlement, it has become obvious that mistakes were made both in the US and Ireland. Irvin Muchnik sought to find out why American authorities allowed George Gibney into the United States and why Irish authorities and Irish individuals facilitated that.

An interesting thing to emerge from the settlement was that, through a freedom of information request, the US authority on citizenship and immigration services, a subdivision of the Department of Homeland Security, released four pages relating to George Gibney and withheld 98 pages. I am asking that in light of that court hearing and settlement, that the appropriate officials in both this jurisdiction and the United States have a conversation in the hope that justice might finally be realised for those victims.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney In common with the Deputy, the Government wants to see justice for victims of all cases of sexual abuse, including this case. I understand that the person referred to was the subject of an investigation in the early 1990s, as the Deputy said, before they departed this jurisdiction for the United States. As a result of judicial review proceedings in 1994, the State was unable to extradite the person due to the time lapse between the occurrence of the alleged offences and the making of the complaints by the injured parties. More recent investigations were conducted in 2003 by members of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. These investigations resulted in no prosecutions being directed.

  The Deputy will understand that there is a limit to what can be said on individuals who have not been convicted, even where they have been accused of terrible crimes. In general, An Garda Síochána is responsible for the protection of the public and there are robust and well established procedures for dealing with persons who may pose a threat to others.

  This morning, after the Deputy raised this issue with me earlier, I read an article in yesterday's edition of The Times on the case, which suggests that new evidence may come into the public domain in coming days. We will note that with interest and act on it if we can but I am also conscious that this may be subject of a future legal action and want to be careful about what I say.

  This is a case we will continue to follow closely and the Deputy's questions about the circumstances which facilitated George Gibney moving to the United States need to be clearly understood. This morning is the first time my Department or office has had any correspondence on this issue. We will follow it closely and provide the Deputy with any information that may come to light.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan I will make three points on this. First, although there is a contrast between then and now in relation to the atmosphere for victims to speak out, the common denominator is how perpetrators use their position of influence and power to manipulate young people. Second, I do not think time should be a factor here. Yesterday, we had an exchange about the hooded men, which occurred almost 40 years ago. We know people involved in Justice for the Forgotten, regarding the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, who are waiting for 43 years. The victims of George Gibney are still waiting today. We should respect them in the same way that we respect other legacy cases. It should be the same for the victims of George Gibney.

With the help of Oireachtas staff, I have been drafting legislation which I hope will be supported when it is introduced in 2018. The legislation would see that Ireland, like Australia, would do its best to limit the ability of those holding Irish passports who have been convicted of child sexual abuse from travelling to countries which have lax or no child protection laws and guidelines, but where there is a thriving industry in both child prostitution and the use of children in pornography.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney As I said, I do not want potentially to prejudice any case that may be taken in future. Unfortunately, sometimes time is a barrier in bringing successful convictions. I do not want to say that is the case in this particular instance, because I do not know, but the State will do all it can to try to bring individuals to justice who have been accused of sexual abuse. It is important to say that in this case there was no successful conviction. A case was taken but it was not concluded. As a result, we need to be careful about how we speak about the case in the context of any possible future case. Because of what I read in yesterday's paper, I expect new material or evidence may come into the public domain.

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