Many tributes have been paid by almost all Deputies who have spoken to the personnel of the Garda Síochána. It is proper that these tributes should have been paid. I do not rise for the purpose of paying unnecessary tributes to the members of a force which was associated with the formation of this State and which did much to help in its formation.
I am more concerned with the legitimate claims which are made to-day by the members of the Garda Síochána to receive adequate pay and remuneration from the State. Tributes of a verbal kind are very easily made in this House. It is very easy for Fianna Fáil Deputies, such as Deputy Burke and others, to emphasise their wholehearted admiration for the unfortunate Gardaí who are doing their duty efficiently and well, but, so far as the members of the force are concerned, they would be far more interested if Government Deputies would utilise their undoubted influence on the Minister, who must be addressed on this Estimate, to obtain for them some increase in their pay to enable them to meet up to the appalling burden of rising prices. When, by Government action 12 months ago, the price of essential articles of food was increased, the case was made here, in defence of Government policy, that adjustments in wages could be expected for people in the country.
That adjustment took place as a result of organised trade union activity in relation to those in insurable employment but the State, as a taskmaster with regard to its own employees,has shown no justice, good, bad, or indifferent. It has refused to honour the Civil Service Arbitration Award and has failed to give State employees even a modicum of justice.
That decision has pressed very hardly on the public servant who has been praised by all Deputies, the uniformed member of the Garda Síochána. I hope that the utter hypocrisy which we have heard here to-day from Government Deputies will now end, that instead of paying verbal tributes to members of the Gardaí, they will use their influence as Government Deputies in ensuring a reversal of that Government decision, the honouring of the Civil Service Award and the payment of Guards in accordance with their ability and the reputation they apparently enjoy.
From the point of view of the welfare of the State, there can be nothing worse than to have a group of men whose qualities, record and reputation entitle them to fair treatment from the State, treated as less than serfs. To continue that kind of policy is to turn a contented police force into a discontented mass and consequences of a serious kind will ensue. Whatever case may be made for other State servants, I do very seriously urge on the Minister the justice of the claim for an increase which has been made on behalf of the Garda Síochána.
We know from Gilbert and Sullivan that a Guard's life is not a very happy one. The duties entailed are onerous and multiple if we are to judge by the contributions made to this debate. The ordinary uniformed Garda to-day is the messenger-boy of every Department of State. He collects the taxes; he collects the fines; he even collects information required by the Statistics Office. He is at the beck and call of every local authority, of every central authority. The entire administration, not merely of the law, but of ordinary Government activity, rests on his broad shoulders. In those circumstances, his duties alone entitle him to be adequately paid by his employer, the State.
Apart from that, very grave consequences can flow if we have a poorly-paid police force. I do not suppose thatat any time the Gardaí would have regarded themselves as well-paid. That may have been a matter of opinion. Certainly they are now poorly-paid. If you have a poorly-paid Garda force you are opening wide the door for corruption and bribery of all kinds. I suggest to the Minister that the necessity of feeding one's family may at times override the strong principles of duty which now flourish in the Garda Síochána. The provision of proper pay and a decent increase for the Garda force should be a matter of top priority for the Minister.
I could not agree more with what has been said by my colleague, Deputy Giles, on the question of shooting by holders of a 5/- licence and shooting out of season. It is true that in the last two autumns there has been a general complaint in the country that every cock pheasant, from Cork to Donegal, was laid on the mortuary slab long before the pheasant season opened. People who might be lucky enough to have a bit of copse or wood on their land were accustomed, in the early hours of the morning in September and early October, to hear the shots go off and to know that that was another cock accounted for. The abuse of the close season in recent years has become so widespread as to cause the most complete dismay to holders of game licences. That is bad enough, but all of us will appreciate that a person who is prepared to go out shooting in the close season is not too concerned as to whether what he shoots is a cock or not. The House may take it that very considerable harm has been done to game in recent years by the utter disregard of the game preservation laws.
I do not know how that can be dealt with because often, by the time the farmer or landholder is aware that poaching is taking place on his land, the poacher may be a mile or two away from him. By the time he gets there the "bird" has flown and often it is impossible for the farmer to do anything about it. We all know, in every village and parish in the country, who is doing the shooting and it would not entail a great deal of extra vigilance on the part of the Guards to raid the houses of some of these well-knownpoachers a couple of mornings in the two or three weeks before the opening of the season. A raid or two of that kind would very quickly teach some of these people to respect the law.
There is an old feeling in the country, more or less acquired in the days of foreign occupation, that any kind of poaching was an assistance in the national movement. It is about time we killed that idea. It is about time we killed that, because the ordinary citizen in Ireland, not a man of wealth or a man of means, who pays for a game licence, who is prepared to regard the game resources of the country as an asset, is entitled to get assistance from the Guards and the State in preserving that asset for him and for his neighbours.
The fellow who gets out in the early, misty hours of the morning, shooting for his pocket, as these people undoubtedly are, prepared to kill everything wearing a feather that comes within sight of his gun, that particular fellow should be behind jail bars. I suggest to the Minister that he should consult with the commissioner of the Guards to ensure that some scheme of added vigilance will be carried out in the coming year. Unfortunately, from time to time in this country we have done much to destroy a lot of the decent rough shooting that might ordinarily be made available for the people and it would be regrettable if by our default this harm should be continued.
I would add a word or two on other matters, more proper to my own profession. I would like to raise with the Minister the question—it has been referred to here already—of delays in certain departments of the courts. In the Land Registry, despite the Minister's assurance, there is a considerable backlog. There is considerable delay in the Probate Office, where two or three years ago, when an application was made for a grant of letters of probate, the solicitor applying, or the executor interested, would reasonably expect to get the grant within the foreseeable future. I think it was some 12 or 18 months ago some bright genius discovered a camera that would photo-fessiongraph these different documents and I do not know whether or not it is interest in this particular camera that has deflected the attention of the officials there, but the position now is that the grant of letters of probate and copies of probates is now surrounded by the most appalling delay ever associated with their issue.
I want to emphasise to the Minister the great inconvenience that is thereby caused, not merely in the administration of justice itself, but in the commercial life of the city. If there is avoidable delay in the issue of documents upon which funds are released by banks and different necessary commercial activity takes place, then much harm is done. The junior member of the Government informed the country the other day that we are suffering from redundancy in the Civil Service. That may or may not be so, but if it is so I would suggest that some of those civil servants from the office of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare that are unnecessary should be deflected and sent to the Land Registry or to the Probate Office, as there is work there to be done and it is work of a very urgent kind.
I would also like to join with other Deputies — Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy MacBride—who referred to the present considerable arrears of cases awaiting trial and adjudication in our courts. It is a facile argument, often urged in this House, that our judges are, first of all, too numerous; secondly, too well paid; and thirdly, have too little work to do. That is a facile kind of argument that is frequently met with, one that is attractive I suppose to a certain kind of mind but which is utterly without foundation.
Unfortunately, irrespective of what Government may be in power, there has been a certain settled conviction in the minds of those who control the purse strings, that at all costs—and the cost, mind you, has been high—the number of judges should be either reduced or restricted. That point of view has led to the present appalling situation where at the end of even the last law term there were almost 100jury cases that had not been tried, because neither a judge nor a court was available for their trial. Unfortunate litigants—some of them maimed and injured, other anxious to secure a legal decision in regard to property claims, or people of that kind with questions to ventilate of urgency to them—have been deprived of their constitutional right of a judge and court to hear their claim. That has not been because any particular judge was not doing his work. As anyone who goes to our Four Courts during the weeks of jury trials will easily see, the judges are there hearing case after case, day after day, throughout the weeks, but they are capable only of doing one case at a time and there are not enough judges to meet the present legal business.
An appalling situation now arises, that a country litigant—from Leitrim, Sligo, Donegal or Cork—comes up, having to pay the expenses of perhaps 15 or 20 witnesses, to the Four Courts to have his case heard. He waits from a Tuesday through a Wednesday and a Thursday and may find at the end of the week that his case has not yet been reached. Back he has to go and come up again the following week. There are four or five extra avoidable days, because it was not possible to enable his case to be heard, by reason of prior cases on the day originally appointed. That litigant—and he is not an extreme example, because that happens every week during the law term—is involved in huge witnesses' expenses because there are not sufficient judges available to hear cases.
The yearly salary of a High Court judge at the moment is £3,000 a year. The yearly cost to litigants in avoidable expenses was estimated recently by some members of the Bar as running well over £100,000 in witnesses' expenses alone—avoidable costs—because a judge was not available and could not be available to hear their cases. I urge on the Minister that it is well worth the country's while to appoint two or three more High Court judges. People forget that in the last 20 years we have established here in Dublin a very important commercial centre. Here in this city at the moment there is a concentration of population andbusiness requiring speedy law and decisions on matters affecting trade and commerce must be secured quickly.
It is not good business for the country in any sensible term to permit a situation in which tardy justice is the lot of a litigant. I am afraid that situation will continue as long as we have too few hands doing too much work. I urge on the Minister to bring before the Government as a serious recommendation the appointment of extra High Court judges. I do not think it can be an argument against the proposition that if two or three additional High Court judges were appointed perhaps on a number of days or even for a particular week one of these judges would have nothing to do. What does it matter as long as they are available to deal with the urgent and necessary claims of citizens? At the moment, with the calls being made by the Central Criminal Court in relation to other statutory business, at the most some two judges are available, and sometimes three, to dispose of a jury panel running into 400 or 500 cases. That is not a situation we should allow to continue.
I do not think it would be proper, in view of the decision of the House some time ago to set up a parliamentary committee to deal with other questions relating to district justices and other judges, to refer to that matter here, but I am sure that the deliberations of that committee and its report will receive the immediate and urgent attention of the Minister.
I was glad to learn when the Minister was introducing his Estimate that there has been a reduction in juvenile crime. That is indeed very gratifying, because all Deputies will agree that serious consequences will result if juvenile crime and delinquency continue to increase. The social consequences of such a trend are very serious indeed. We know that in Great Britain in recent months the Government found it necessary to mark their apprehension of such a trend by very severe action indeed. I am glad that the trend appears to have been reversed in this country in the last 12 months. In endeavouring to assign acause or a reason for juvenile crime, Deputies have suggested that perhaps the reason may be faulty education. There is a lot in that, but I suppose, like many suggested causes for any illness, it is not the only one.
I always feel that in the great centres of population, at any rate, there is a marked lack of appreciation among children of what citizenship itself means. For many years back in this city people have been complaining that if, say, the Dublin Corporation plant a row of saplings or trees along the side of a street or roadway they are not there overnight before they are hacked and torn. Of course, that senseless destruction by children and young boys is only part and parcel of lack of respect for their own property and lack of knowledge as to how they should conduct themselves as citizens. When the Estimate for Education comes along, perhaps Deputies who are concerned about juvenile delinquency and criminal acts and trends will urge on the Minister for Education some course in citizenship in all our national schools. Much can be done in that direction.
Reference has been made to the manner in which Garda recruiting has been carried out. I have no objection to the manner in which recent recruiting has been carried out or to the interviews and examinations which were held. Of course a medical examination takes place. There is, however, one thing I should like to know from the Minister. I am thinking of the case of one candidate who went through the different interviews, who was placed in the last few to be recruited, but who had to pass a medical examination. He received from the commissioner information that the medical examination resulted in a decision that he could not be enlisted into the Garda. That particular candidate is left in a very appalling situation. I do not know whether it is possible in these circumstances for such a person, at his request, to be informed in what way he had failed to pass the medical examination. The Minister will appreciate that the mere bald statement that on medical grounds there is something wrong with him may cause unnecessary hardship and suffering not onlyto himself but to his parents. I do not know whether under existing regulations information is made available on request but, if not, it should be.