I thank the Chairman and the committee for permitting me to come here to say a few words.
I am conscious I am looking at three senior gentlemen who served in An Garda Síochána. In their service of 11, ten and 14 years, respectively, they have combined service of 35 years. It is a sad reflection on the State that men who put their lives on the line to defend and secure the State and its citizens are now here publicly having to make a case for what should be a legitimate expectation to have some benefits of pension.
Clearly, the members of the committee in private session will make decisions. I am mindful of what Deputy O'Callaghan said. It is important that out of all this there are solutions. One can continue discussing this issue but this is about fairness. This is the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality and this is about fairness and justice. I met each of the three individuals in the past few weeks. The witnesses have clearly and ably demonstrated in their presentations before the committee there has been an injustice and an unfairness. It is clear they have been obliged to come here and unburden and share their personal financial situation and experiences to drive this case forward. They have had a denial of their pension rights. I believe they had a legitimate expectation to the benefits of that.
I appeal to the committee - it is ultimately a matter for members - but there is a real need for redress here. This is clearly statute-barred but if there is good will in the State in terms of its support for members of An Garda Síochána, past, present or retired, it should be acknowledged. I will raise two or three questions. Deputy O'Callaghan made the point on quantifying issues. My understanding is there are fewer than 80 persons involved and we are not talking about a large amount of people. The witnesses might confirm that.
Second, Mr. Shanley refers in his submission to Dr. Michael Woods, I presume, the former Minister for Education and Science, who inadvertently missed applying for a pension entitlement by the due date and had his pension rights retrospectively restored under section 16 of the Markets in Financial Instruments and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2007. Clearly, if one had read that, as I read it today, one would have been encouraged at the idea that one could have some sort of retrospection. The witnesses might just confirm that.
It might be helpful for the committee at some stage were the witnesses to share their legal opinion. It is my understanding, I am open to correction by them, that they sought a legal opinion from then senior counsel, Mr. Justice Gerard Hogan, now of the Court of Appeal.
He stated that because of the lapse of time, the Members of the Oireachtas ought in justice to rectify this wrong by means of enactment of legislation to cater for the very discrete category of pre-1976 members of An Garda Síochána. I ask the witnesses to confirm this is correct. It might be helpful for their case if the witnesses shared as much legal advice as possible.
This is important because it is about fairness and justice. I appeal to the committee to make a case for an ex gratia payment, and perhaps an interim payment if this will be a long drawn out process. These are men in their retired years. They need to put this case to bed. They have made a very good case, and I appeal to the committee to give it consideration and make a recommendation for a redress scheme because it has to be short. If the Minister for Justice and Equality needs a little more time to take advice I would go so far as to call on the committee to ask that he would consider an interim payment to these men and other people involved in the campaign. I thank the Chairman, and I particularly thank the three former members of An Garda Síochána for sharing their personal stories and experiences with the Oireachtas today.