State ‘turned blind eye’ on rendition to maintain good ties with US, says O’Reilly

‘Guardian of public interest’ required for when State acts illegally or despotically, says European Ombudsman

Senator Ivana Bacik, director of Burren Law School, with Dr Fatima Hamroush, former minister for health, Libya, Prof Richard Susskind, legal author and philosopher, and Kenneth Nichols, historian and author, during a break in lectures at the Burren Law School 2014, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, at the weekend. Photograph: Eamon Ward

Senator Ivana Bacik, director of Burren Law School, with Dr Fatima Hamroush, former minister for health, Libya, Prof Richard Susskind, legal author and philosopher, and Kenneth Nichols, historian and author, during a break in lectures at the Burren Law School 2014, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, at the weekend. Photograph: Eamon Ward

 


The State is “turning a blind eye” to the use of Shannon airport by the United States for rendition purposes, raising the question as to whether Ireland has compromised on justice to maintain good relations with Washington, European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has said.

Speaking at the Burren Law School at the weekend, Ms O’Reilly said the State had “turned a collective blind eye” to the use of Shannon for rendition, despite the Irish Human Rights Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Europe having raised concerns about the issue as early as 2005.


Wikileaks
US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks in 2007 showed that, notwithstanding its public stance, the Government did suspect Shannon was being used for rendition, and that then US ambassador Thomas Foley noted then minister for justice Dermot Ahern and his government were “rock solid” in their pronouncements on the issue.

“This episode raises the question of whether, as a state, we have compromised on commitment to justice in the interests of preserving our very valuable political and economic relations with the USA,” Ms O’Reilly said. Politics was about compromise and pragmatism, and no one envied the ethical dilemmas such situations threw up.

“Would the people of Ireland thank a government which stood by the principle of upholding international law and the demands of justice, but at the cost of damaging relations with the US. I cannot answer that question.”

The theme of this year’s law school, hosted by the Burren College of Art, was 21st Century Justice?

Ms O’Reilly highlighted shortcomings in Ireland’s legal system, including delays in getting to court, high costs and the lack of transparency in the appointment of judges.

But despite the political nature of their appointments, the judiciary was not regarded as being “particularly politicised.”


Courts
Notwithstanding that, issues occasionally came before the courts “where justice and the law come into conflict”.

Many people felt “very uneasy” with the outcome of the case taken by the late Marie Fleming, who failed to achieve legal recognition of a right to assisted suicide.

The case of Margaretta D’Arcy, the 79-year-old author and peace activist also left many people with an “uneasy” feeling, she said.

Ms O’Reilly said Ireland needed an office or institution to act as the guardian of the public interest “where the State or one of its emanations may be acting illegally or even despotically”.