Jury considers video evidence of former AG


THE FORMER Attorney General, Mr Eoghan Fitzsimons, repeatedly stated that Mr Albert Reynolds understood the implications of the Duggan case and was "crystal clear" that he had to refer to it in his speech to the Dail when he explained the delays over the extradition of a paedophile priest, the jury heard yesterday afternoon.

The jury heard Mr Fitzsimons's evidence as they watched two and a half hours of video extracts selected from the Dail Select Committee's inquiry into the collapse of the Reynolds government.

After watching Mr Fitzsimons read his statement to the Dail, in which he explained that he had met or spoken with Mr Reynolds and his ministers seven times on Monday, November 14th, 1994, to discuss the Duggan case and that he believed the issues relating to it were "simple", the jury saw an edited version of the question and answer session.

Replying to a question from Mr Derek McDowell, a Labour TD, Mr Fitzsimons said he had a "firm understanding" that the case was going to be mentioned during the Dail debate on the following day by Mr Reynolds and his ministers and he understood the Taoiseach was "crystal clear" about it on the Monday evening.

"The Taoiseach told me that as far as I was concerned the Taoiseach was crystal clear about the Duggan case on the Monday evening," he stated.

In a reply to a question from Mr Jim O'Keeffe, a Fine Gael TD, Mr Fitzsimons, said the former Justice Minister, Mrs Maire Geoghegan Quinn, and the former Chief Whip, Mr Noel Dempsey, also immediately understood the implications of the Duggan case during the Monday meeting.

He added that Mrs Geoghegan Quinn rang him at noon on the following day, several hours before Mr Reynolds made his speech to the Dail, to tell him that it had been decided not to refer to the Duggan case.

In a further extract, the jury heard Mr Fitzsimons state that he had taken his letter of advice about the Duggan case to Mr Reynolds's office and had allowed Mrs Geoghegan Quinn and the then Minister of Finance, Mr Bertie Ahern, to read it.

Mr Fitzsimons recalled that Mrs Geoghegan Quinn placed the letter on the table and "deliberately" placed her glasses case on top of it before saying, "we are not going to take it down".

"I am certainly not saying they were conspirators. All I am saying is I believe a decision was taken not to disclose the Duggan case, he said.

As Mr Willie O'Dea, a Fianna Fail TD, was being questioned, Mr Just ice French and several members of the jury indicated that they had problems understanding his accent. To which Mr James Price QC, counsel for the Sunday Times, quipped: "I am afraid there is not much we can do. Perhaps we should suggest elocution lessons."

The hearing was adjourned until today when the jury will watch video extracts from the former Attorney General Mr Harry Whelehan's evidence to the Dail Committee.