92 cowen enterprise ireland lau

200 deported on government's last day

It isn't always Ireland of the welcomes. Former Fianna Fáil minister Brendan Smith signed 200 deportation orders on the cabinet's last day in office when he was stand-in minister for justice, it has been revealed.

The revelation has prompted strong criticism from the Irish Refugee Council, which said the signing of such a large number of orders in one day indicated the lives of those people being deported and their families had clearly been given only "cursory" consideration.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

However, Mr. Smith has defended his actions, saying : "I believe you are a minister until your last day and you have an obligation to carry out your duties conscientiously and properly."

In the six weeks that Smith was acting minister for justice, he signed 416 orders. However, the department has confirmed "approximately 200" of those orders were signed by Smith on March 8, the cabinet's last day in office. Such orders instruct the Garda to deport the failed asylum seeker named in the order.

Chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, Sue Conlan, said: "Given the time frame and the volume of deportation orders signed, it is simply not possible that each case was given full and detailed consideration.

"Deportation means permanent exclusion from Ireland. It is too serious a matter to be dealt with in such a cursory manner."

Mr. Smith said while he had signed off on the orders on the day in question, he had read files and considered each case in advance.

"I gave all of them careful and appropriate consideration. By the time a minister reviews a file and signs a deportation, a lot of work has gone into the case; it's a long process involving the gardaí and justice officials."

Mr. Smith added that he had also approved many naturalization claims from foreign nationals, allowing them to stay in Ireland.

"I was also very busy at the time. It was just after an election and I was in both the agriculture and justice ministries so it was very busy, trying to get a lot of things done and keep appointments with people," he said.