I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. It originates in the Abbeylara judgment in the Supreme Court in 2002. If there is criticism it should be levelled at the previous Administration which did nothing about this in the past ten years. The public was clamouring for the politicians to do something about that judgment. When I and others campaigned before the last election people asked us to be legislators and to inquire into events but sadly we could not do so because the Abbeylara judgment prevented an inquiry. The Oireachtas committee was trying to get to the truth of that event. A tribunal chaired by Mr. Justice Robert Barr took place after that and lasted four years. The Carthy family welcomed the report but the gardaí disapproved of it. I understand that the then Commissioner did not apologise publicly to the Carthy family.
The Oireachtas sub-committee to find a quick and truthful answer to what happened in Abbeylara and the Barr tribunal spent four years examining the event and reached the same conclusions as the committee would have reached. There have been many tribunals, including the Moriarty and Mahon tribunals. The Moriarty tribunal will cost approximately €100 million, the Mahon approximately €250 million. Who is winning? The tribunals are a scam for the legal profession. We are duty bound to inquire into events that might cause public concern. Everyone is talking about an inquiry into the banks but there are other incidents into which we as public representatives should be allowed to inquire. That is why I welcome this Bill. It is the first step. People say there may be cases brought against us in the High Court and so on but this is the first step towards giving us as elected representatives of the people the power to inquire into incidents of public concern. The cost involved in our inquiry would be lower than that of the tribunals.
At the time of the referendum public confidence in politicians was at an all-time low because the public had lost faith in politicians. The previous Administration must take responsibility for this. We are trying to ensure that what we put in place will give the public confidence that we are capable of conducting an inquiry in a proper and honest manner.
As I said earlier, people want us to be legislators and also inquire into issues of public concern. Will the Minister examine how these inquiries are conducted in other parliaments? The UK’s Inquiries Act 2005 has a similar set-up to this Bill but there are problems with it as the Finucane family will not participate in the inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane. We need to take the positive elements out of this legislation, as well as the strong points out of the royal commission set-up in Australia, New Zealand and Canada and the congressional committee system in the US. The positive elements from other jurisdictions need to be brought into this legislation. We need to get this Bill passed as quickly as possible so that if the courts find flaws in it, we can amend the legislation promptly. We must ensure that we as legislators are allowed to inquire into issues of public concern.