Smith deported 416 in six weeks as Justice Minister
The Fianna Fail TD Brendan Smith signed more than 400 deportation orders in the six weeks he stood in as Minister for Justice at the start of the year, it has emerged.
It is understood to be the highest rate of deportations ever signed in the State, as gardai arresting increasing numbers of immigrants, including many who have been here for up to a decade.
Workers in the immigrant community say that several of those taken to prison or transit accommodation have spouses and children here.
And if parents of Irish-born children were deported, the State could face the cost of bringing them back under a new European law.
The signing of the deportation orders came after a decision taken last October by the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice, stating that it was unconstitutional to deport the parents of EU-born children. This was ratified by the full European Court of Justice last month.
Following the decision in what is known as the 'Zambrano case' Minister for Justice Alan Shatter directed officials in the department to re-evaluate the State's approach to the deportation proceedings against foreign nationals with Irish-born children.
He said that in consultation with his government colleagues, it was agreed that "there needs to be a more proactive approach and that it should make a clear statement of its intention to take early action in these cases, insofar as it is unnecessary to await rulings of the courts."
He said: "We should not tie up the courts unnecessarily or ask eligible families to wait longer than necessary."
He said he had asked Justice officials to carry out an urgent examination of around 120 cases, involving deportation proceedings against the parents of Irish-born children.
"The Government has agreed with my proposal that early decisions in appropriate cases to which the Zambrano judgment applies be made without waiting for further rulings of the courts," he said.
"This initiative is being taken in the best interests of the welfare of eligible minor Irish citizen children and to ensure that the taxpayer is not exposed to any unnecessary additional legal costs."
In the six weeks that Mr Smith, TD for Cavan-Monaghan, held the post of Minister for Justice following the resignation of Dermot Ahern, he signed 416 deportation orders, the Department confirmed last week.
Next to imprisonment, deportation is one of the most powerful tools in the armoury of the State.
Large numbers of immigrants are currently awaiting deportation in Cloverhill Prison and the women's prison, Dochas, in Mountjoy, and many more have been taken from their homes to transit hostels.