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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 9 Jun 1964

Vol. 210 No. 6

Committee on Finance. - Vote 22—Office of the Minister for Justice (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That a sum not exceeding £122,310 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1965, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Justice, and of certain other Services administered by that Office, including certain Grants-in-Aid; and of the Public Record Office; and of the Keeper of State Papers and for the purchase of Historical Documents, etc.

The Minister, in moving this motion, seemed to me to exude an air of confidence which practically amounted to complacency, complacency which was certainly not justified by the contents of his statement and, in particular, the crime figures which he read out.

It is rather startling to discover from the Minister's statement today that the figures for indictable crime have increased from 14,800 odd in 1961 to 16,203 in the year 1963. Housebreaking offences have increased from 3,186 in the year 1961 to over 4,000 in the year 1963 and assaults and other offences against the person have increased from 701 in the year 1961 to 1,047 in the year 1963.

Those are rather startling figures. They show that within the last couple of years there has been a very considerable increase in indictable crime and a substantial increase in the housebreaking figures and in offences against the person.

It may be that the Minister simply has an inborn air of confidence when he is talking about his Department. I feel sure that the Minister, in fact, is not complacent when faced with a situation like that because it is not a situation in which any Minister for Justice or the Department over which he presides can afford to be complacent.

It seems to me that, whether we like it or not, it does call for an increase in the strength of the Garda Force and it seems to me that it is necessary for this House and for the people of the country to make up their minds to that and, if such an increase is called for, obviously, it will have to be paid for. In face of those figures, in face of that increase—and it is a gradual but a substantial increase over the last three years—it does seem to me that some expansion of the personnel in the Garda Force is necessary.

The picture so far as numbers in the Garda are concerned is one of a rather slight decrease over the last ten years or so, as will be seen from the figures which the Minister gave in reply to a Question which I asked him today. There is no very great variation over the last ten years but, taking 1st January, 1964, as compared with 1st January, 1954, there is a reduction of about 400 in the total membership of the Garda. There was a slight reduction in 1955, a slight increase in 1956, a drop in 1957, a further drop in 1958, an increase of about 18 in 1959 as against 1958 and then up to 1961 there was a gradual increase and it seems to have dropped off then again from the figure of 6,609 in 1961 to 6,364 on 1st January of this year.

As I say, there is nothing startling by way of a fluctuation there but what is startling is that with the same Garda Force—the same as regards numbers, obviously not as regards personnel— with virtually the same strength in the Garda over the last ten years there has been in these few years from 1961 to 1963 a very considerable increase in crime. That seems to me to spell out the lesson that the Garda Force is not sufficient in strength to deal with the situation and that the answer is to increase the Force.

This matter was the subject of an editorial in the Garda Journal. I have not got the editorial here but I have a report of it which appeared in the Evening Herald of 21st March of this year. That report reads:

Commenting on the marked increase of indictable crime in the last quarter of 1963 an editorial in the journal in Irish, An Gharda, says it discloses a position of seriousness that must be faced up to without delay if the crime problem in this country is to be kept in hand.

The increases in offences against the person and offences against property with violence are of a disturbing nature, it continues.

The editorial asks:

How is this challenge to law and order to be met and what is the answer to this steep increase in the incidence of crime?

In the ultimate there is, in our opinion, but one answer. The strength of the Garda Síochána must be increased and, in addition, the public must be made aware to a far greater degree than seems evident at present of their obligations and responsibilities in this respect.

The quotation finishes:

The strength of the Garda Síochána, however, has not kept pace with this population and area increase.

——It was referring to the Dublin Metropolitan area——

We have in mind particularly an increase in strength sufficient to restore in full that vital police unit —the guard on the beat.

It is an unfortunate fact that the pattern for some years now in this country, and, possibly, it is the same in other countries—I do not know— but certainly the pattern in this country has been to get away from the garda on the beat. There is the gradual closing down of garda stations throughout the country. That was referred to in the Minister's speech this evening. There is the increased use of the squad car in rural areas and the gradual discontinuance of the garda on the beat. It seems to me that not only in rural areas but in large urban areas and in the city of Dublin and other large urban centres the garda on the beat fulfilled a function that cannot be replaced by means of a squad car, particularly in rural areas. The old time garda whom all of us know of, or if we do not know of, have heard of, became practically an institution. He was friendly and certainly acquainted with everyone in his area. He had never any trouble about getting any information which he wanted. He knew the people in the area for which he was responsible. The type of friendship and respect of the garda which was there lent itself to keeping down crime figures. It is a great pity to see that pattern changing. I do not believe it can ever be replaced by squad cars or any mechanical device.

The garda, doing his duty in a squad car, simply goes into the area and goes through it. He does not get to know the people in that area and they do not get to know him. He does not get their confidence. This is not as effective as the old time system of the garda on the beat, whether he was walking his area or doing it on a pedal cycle. It would be well, as a matter of policy, for the Minister and his advisers to consider that aspect of it and to consider the value of the small rural garda stations from that point of view.

The Minister, generally in relation to the question of crime, referred to the Preventive Unit which was formed in Dublin. I consider that this Preventive Unit is certainly a step in the right direction. I should like to say this to the Minister. I was called upon, in my business premises, by the area security officer for the area in which it is situated. I was extremely impressed by his approach to his work, his obvious enthusiasm for the job he had to do and for the fact that he quite clearly knew what he was talking about and had made a study of the situation. It is a compliment, not only to him but to those who selected him, that he was the type of man who was able to explain what he had in mind and do it in a way the ordinary layman could understand.

He is the only one of these area security officers, or whatever they are called, I have met. If the other officers functioning in the city and other areas have the attributes which this man obviously had, then I would say there is a good job being done in the selection of these men. This is something which was well worth trying.

The Minister referred to the fact that this Estimate was discussed a comparatively short while ago. I do not want to go back very much over the ground that was covered in that discussion. The Minister referred to the transfer of the Garda Depot to Templemore as one of the outstanding matters during the year. I do not want in any way to go on record as being against decentralisation of Government services. I think, on the contrary, that there are many aspects of Government services that could be decentralised with benefit to all concerned. I should like to see the Minister for Agriculture in a setting of sylvan beauty along the Wicklow coast. I should like to see some of the other Ministers, with their Departments, outside the city of Dublin.

I wonder was it wise to choose, as a first step on the road to decentralisation, the Garda Depot? I wonder whose idea it was? Did the suggestion come from the Force or was the suggestion imposed on the Force by the Minister for his advisers? The wisdom of this step certainly is not apparent to me. It seems abundantly clear, from the crime figures, for example, which the Minister quoted, and from the population figures in the city of Dublin, that the recruits coming into the Garda will be required, to a very large extent, for duty in the city of Dublin. They will have to serve for some period there. It would have seemed to me, at any rate, from that point of view, there was a particular value in retaining the Garda Depot in Dublin where the recruits, during their period of training in Dublin, would get to know the city and its environs. They would get the city atmosphere and then, when they were put on duty in Dublin, would not feel like fish out of water and would not act like fish out of water.

I am not at all sure that this idea of taking the training centre from Dublin to Templemore—I am not saying this as against Templemore but to anywhere outside Dublin—was a wise move at all. Perhaps ultimately I will see the wisdom of it but I do not consider it was a wise move.

I want to refer very briefly here to a matter which has been brought to the Minister's attention, unsuccessfully, unfortunately, that is, the question of the siting of the new garda station at Rathdrum, County Wicklow. The Minister will be aware from representations made to him both by the public representatives for the constituency and from the Rathdrum Development Association that the townsfolk in Rathdrum are perturbed by the Minister's decision to site the new Garda station approximately half a mile from the town. I do not think it necessary to cite the disadvantages associated with this move. I know from the Minister's point of view the position was that a particular site was in existence. I think it was owned by the Board of Works and was available for the Garda station. I know, equally well, that there were other sites available in the town and that officials called to inspect these sites.

It is fair to the Minister to say, when representations were made to him in the matter, he went to the trouble of sending officials along to inspect the alternative sites proposed. I do not suggest this was so much bogus activity. I do not accuse the Minister of that but it seems to have been regarded as a fait accompli, that the officials went along and inspected the other sites, when really all the time the decision had been made that the Garda station was to be erected on the site outside the town, about half a mile from it and that that was to be done partly on grounds of expense and partly because it was suggested it would give a greater opportunity for observing traffic.

I do not think there is any real basis for either of those arguments. The question of expense, if it is involved at all, comes to possibly £120 or £200, which would certainly be saved in the connecting up of water and drainage facilities to the site in the town as against the site outside the town. I must say I am not impressed at all by the argument with regard to traffic control. I suppose it is too late now to ask the Minister to have another look at the question. I can assure him that the people of the town who have been in touch with me about it feel rather strongly on the point. They feel from the general point of view of the town and the usefulness and the part to be played by the Garda in the community, that all these things point to having the station situated in the town rather than outside it. If it would be possible, I would ask the Minister, even at this late stage, to think again with regard to the siting of this Garda station.

The last matter to which I wish to refer is a question I raised with the Minister during the past couple of weeks. It is in regard to road traffic accidents where civil proceedings are instituted and concerns allowing independent Gardaí witnesses to give their statements freely and, if necessary, to attend consultations with the legal advisers of either party. The present situation is most frustrating from the point of view of the litigant. It is true that, if the garda has made a formal statement and if the plaintiff or defendant in proceeding gets in touch with the superintendent concerned, he will get a copy of the garda's statement with the police abstract and copies of any other statements taken. But very often the formal statements even of members of the Garda require clarification which may be vital from the point of view of the person embarking, or thinking of embarking, on legal proceedings.

If a person is advised by his legal advisers that the evidence of a Garda witness is essential, he should be entitled to have available to him in full the evidence that the garda is in a position to give. That should apply equally to both sides. I cannot see it would in any way prejudice the administration of justice if that kind of open disclosure were to be made, whenever required. I know it is possible by means of a rather circuitous route in cross-examining the superintendent to get him to get the information from the garda and pass it on second-hand or third-hand to the litigant. I do not regard that as at all satisfactory. This is a question the Minister should have another look at. I might as well confess that I am talking principally about the situation as it exists in Dublin. I think it may be different in rural Ireland. Gardaí may have greater freedom there as to whether or not they will attend consultations with the legal advisers of litigants, but they do not seem to have in Dublin the freedom I think they should have.

The Minister referred, towards the closing part of his statement, to the Registry of Deeds and the Land Registry. The Minister should realise that as far as the Land Registry is concerned, the position is that most of the building sites inside the city boundaries have already been developed over the years and, consequently, what building work there is is moving gradually outwards to land which is already registered land. Where a building estate starts, there may be 300 or 400 sites on it. Instead of just one transaction—the sale of the land to the developing company—you have on top of that 300 or 400 transactions when the leases are being granted. That must create a difficult situation in the Land Registry. It must create a kind of bottleneck wherever you have these building estates.

Obviously, that work must be done. These people are buying their houses— many of them with loans—and are entitled to get their leases registered with as much expedition as possible. While that work is being done, unless there is a substantial increase in staff, some other work must suffer. I do not in any way fault the officials of the Land Registry. They certainly do their best to facilitate everyone and do it as quickly as they can. They have a difficult task by reason of the fact that building is extending to land already registered. Whatever the Minister can do by means of increasing the staff or increasing the buildings or otherwise to assist in having that situation dealt with quickly, the better.

As the Minister stated in his opening speech, it is only a few months since the previous Estimate was debated and, therefore, there are not many matters to be covered. First, I should like to pay tribute to the Minister. From the dealings we have had with him in the House and generally, he has been able to give us courteous replies. When he is asked about something, he seems to know very soon what the position is and to pass the information along. The same applies to his officials. I can assure him that that type of service is appreciated by Deputies on whatever side of the House they sit.

The previous speaker referred to the fact that the Garda are now being trained in Tipperary. Whether they are trained in Tipperary or Dublin does not matter because most of the young Gardaí seem to be able to pick up the routine pretty quickly. It will be generally admitted they are coming into the Force at an extremely difficult time, because not alone in Dublin but in the towns and villages, we have this hooliganism on the part of young people that has to be kept in check. Attacks on the Garda and, in fact, serious injury to some of them, have become quite commonplace.

I think the Press have a certain amount of responsibility in this matter, not perhaps on this side of the Channel but certainly on the far side, for giving them fancy names. If instead of calling them "Mods" and "Rockers", they were called what they are, hooligans and blackguards, they would not have an incentive to gather together and create disturbances. Unfortunately it is the law-abiding citizens, and the Garda who are trying to keep the peace, who suffer in a great many cases, instead of the people who start the trouble. Apart from the fact that they injure human beings, they must also be condemned for the fact that they seem to take a delight in the amount of damage they can do. Some years ago people broke into premises and stole property. Apparently that is not the proper thing to do now; there is no longer a "kick" in it. Instead they break windows, damage as much property as they can, and do not take anything away.

I am very glad that the Garda pay dispute has been settled and that the Garda are now adequately remunerated, because they are in danger when they are on duty. Having blamed the Press, it must also be stated that much of the trouble starts in the homes. If these young people were not treated as "Mammy's darlings" and were dealt with in the proper way, much of the trouble would cease. Some of the blame must also be laid at the door of the courts. It is senseless for people who have been responsible for causing serious trouble and brought to court, to be treated leniently. The time has come when the Minister must take his courage in his hands and make it quite clear that he expects justice to be done. It is all very well to say that we must be merciful, but we have reached the stage where our patience is worn out. Again and again, people come before the courts, and again and again they get away with a light sentence or a warning. Until they are treated as what they are, criminals, and put away from society, we will have a succession of those cases.

Another aspect of this matter worth mentioning is that we find when a group of young people gather together and build up into a gang, nine times out of ten, an older person is involved somewhere in the group. It is not uncommon in certain towns—not so much in the cities—to find someone peddling old motor cycles or scooters to young people and then we have swarms of them chasing through the streets of villages and towns and up and down the country lanes on bikes without tax or insurance. That is another case where the Garda should be more strict. I am very well aware that the older Garda in many districts know everything that happens. Five minutes after a crime is committed, they can put their hands on the person responsible. They deserve great credit.

I fear that sometimes the actions of young hoodlums are looked on as something of a lark. I do not think they should be considered as something of a lark. I believe they should be dealt with and dealt with quickly. If they were, we might not have so many of the tragedies which occur in later years. The Minister should pay attention to what is happening, and he should try to get the Garda to deal in a proper way with those people before the whole matter gets out of hand.

The question of traffic control has been mentioned. I have the greatest admiration for the way in which the Garda on point duty in the towns, and particularly in this city, carry out their job. It is a great credit to everyone concerned that the change in the traffic regulations—for example, the one-way streets—has been working so smoothly. The patience of the man on duty on O'Connell Street must often be tried very severely. I have seen people who should know better trying to force their way against the flow of traffic and having to be told that a particular street is a one-way street. That happens again and again, but the Garda never loses his temper. I have seen traffic policemen in operation in many countries, but I believe our traffic policemen are as fine as the traffic policemen anywhere in the world, and certainly in Europe.

It was the practice many years ago, and it still happens occasionally—it is certainly something that should be frowned upon very severely — that when people from a certain stratum of society were accused of what might be termed a respectable crime, for want of a better word, they got off under the Probation Act, while an unfortunate person who had not got twopence in his pocket got six months for stealing the equivalent of a loaf. The Minister may say that happens very rarely, but if it happens only once in a year, that is once too often. It does happen, and the newspapers display the fact that it does happen occasionally. Again that is something which needs to be tightened up.

I suppose the Minister is tired of listening to queries about changes of superintendents' offices. I know they are moved from one town to another, and the plea is that if any more people are taken away, it will reduce the population. The plea is also made that if they are taken away, the town loses face to a neighbouring town. I believe that in some cases these decisions are taken with undue haste. I am aware that while a deputation was awaiting the Minister's pleasure to discuss the matter with him, the superintendent concerned was reading a letter giving him notice to move the next day to his new base.

I am not challenging the Minister's right to do these things, but I believe that before these decisions are taken, everyone concerned should be taken into consideration, including the local city or town fathers. After all, they are the people who are trying to build up the town, and trying to give it a certain status. They help to keep law and order with their local bye-laws and by co-operating with the Garda authorities, and they are entitled at least to the courtesy of a hearing before the final decision is taken. The first notice they get that the office is being moved should not be through some public representative who is "in the know". It is wrong to do it that way.

Something similar happened in the case of the court clerks a few months ago and, as the Minister is probably aware, a considerable amount of upset was caused at the time. Someone who knew an area, and in particular knew the legal profession who were practising in it, was moved out and someone new who was not as easily accessible was moved in to take his place. I know that the months have straightened out those matters and things are running as smoothly now as they ever were, but it was wrong that it should have been done in the first place. However, the Minister must have had some reason for doing it.

I notice in the Minister's speech that while he covered a very wide field in a short space of time, he did not mention anything about leases. Would the Minister say how we stand with regard to ground leases? What about that new Bill?

I hope to be able to publish the report of the Commission shortly.

It did not take them as long as the Commission which was set up to look into the co-operative societies. They took six years.

It has been in operation only for about two years.

How long were we waiting for the report?

The Commission has been sitting only for about two years.

About two and a half years.

I hope to have the report before long.

I assume the report will not be introduced in this session?

The first step is that we publish the report and then, as the Deputy knows, the Government examine the report in detail and come to a decision on its recommendations. I hope the report will be published fairly shortly.

Before the Recess?

I hope so.

If that is the case, I would ask the Minister to have something done about preparing the legislation before we resume, because the Minister is probably aware that this is being watched with anxious eyes by people in this city and many other places. Recently I came across a case in which somebody was being charged a ground rent of £10 a year for a railway wagon which was being used for a summer home. When we reach that stage, we are reaching the very end of the road. Therefore I would ask the Minister to do his best to have the legislation introduced as soon as possible.

Everybody in this House, having regard to the fact that the guards have a difficult task to fulfil, should propagate the idea that the guards are a national force, the custodians of everybody's rights and liberties and the protectors of everybody's property. It should be emphasised to all our citizens that each and every one should regard himself as a police officer and that every citizen has a responsibility to assist the police in every possible way. It is disheartening to many guards and to a great number of people that when certain situations develop, citizens fail to render assistance to the guards and on occasions have taken the side of the delinquents. Unfortunately even after 40 years, there is something of a hangover and it is time that we got rid of that. The only way in which we can get rid of it is by emphasising the duties of citizenship and everybody's responsibility in this regard. Every Deputy and every Senator should avail of any opportunity they get to stress the duties of citizenship and in that way we might be able to eliminate that hangover.

It is true to say that it is disturbing at times to read of the light sentences imposed for very serious offences and the heavy sentences imposed for minor offences. I do not know whether the Minister can do anything about that, but the Minister and the Government have a responsibility to set their faces against that sort of inequality. In regard to the question of the transferring of guards and such matters, these of course are within the competence of the Commissioner and it is his responsibility. The Minister has very little to do with that, if anything.

Some time ago, Deputy de Valera tabled a question to the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Defence asking them if it was their intention to promote to a grade higher every member of the Garda or every Army officer who held a military certificate or a medal. This was in view of the fiftieth anniversary that was about to take place in a short time. This is a matter about which the Minister should do something. I believe that Deputy de Valera had that in mind when he asked the question. I do not want to make any point about it. I merely want to add my voice to his and ask that the Minister and the Government reconsider that matter. It would be a nice gesture and it would do much to bring about some of the things about which the Minister for External Affairs spoke earlier today.

At the outset, I want to express my gratitude to the House and to Deputies who spoke, for the constructive way in which they have received my annual report and the contributions which they have made in regard to it. I shall deal first with the points raised by Deputy O'Higgins. He suggested tentatively that there might be, on my part, some complacency about the situation in which we find ourselves with regard to crime and its prevention, the activities of the Garda Síochána in relation to it, and so on. I hope that I did not convey any such impression. If I did, I certainly did not intend to. Indeed, I could quote from my opening speech when I said, in summing up, that our situation called neither for alarm, on the one hand, nor complacency on the other, but simply for vigilance all the time. I am aware of the fact that there has been an increase in the figures for indictable crime and this naturally causes me and my advisers and the authorities in the Garda Síochána concern, and we are continually reviewing the situation and our plans to see what further measures we can take and what improvements we can effect.

Whilst there has been this increase in the past two years, there are several redeeming features about the situation. First of all, as I have said here time and again, and as we had an opportunity again of confirming on the occasion of the recent Conference of Ministers of Justice, our situation is regarded as a great deal happier than that of any other country of corresponding size and stage of development. Secondly, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, there is in this country an astonishingly high percentage of detections of crime and, of course, as has frequently been pointed out, that possibly is one of the best possible deterrents. I mentioned that the figures outside Dublin are at the extraordinarily high level of 80 to 84 per cent. The Dublin figure brings that down but taking the country as a whole, including Dublin, the figure is over 60 per cent. That is a very satisfying and reassuring aspect of the matter.

There are other aspects, and in this connection I want to refer to the suggestion by Deputy O'Higgins that the size of the Force should be increased. I can tell the House that it is being increased. This year the Minister for Finance and the Government have agreed to an increase of 100 in the number of Garda. That will make a substantial contribution to our campaign against crime, particularly in Dublin city but also throughout the country as a whole.

I am glad Deputy O'Higgins was as gracious as he was about the crime preventive unit. This is a very fruitful line of endeavour. It is an area in which we can do a great deal. There is no doubt that all of us can contribute to making crime easier by our carelessness. However, in so far as we can, by the elimination of carelessness and by the taking of simple precautions, make life more difficult for the potential criminal, then we are making a valuable contribution in this field. I hope we shall be able to continue the work of this unit and expand its activities in a number of directions. It is very reassuring for me to hear the complimentary remarks which Deputy O'Higgins had to make in regard to it.

There were arguments against transferring the Garda Depot to Templemore. There were also many arguments for doing so. Having regard to all the arguments put forward and the various factors entering into this situation, the Government decided that on balance, in the national interest, the right thing to do was to initiate this major step of decentralisation by transferring the Garda Training Depot to Templemore. We have nothing to be sorry about in relation to that decision and I am convinced that, not alone will the change redound to the benefit of Templemore and the surrounding countryside and contribute to the idea of decentralisation, but also that the Force, in the years that lie ahead, will have better standards of efficiency and higher standards of morale than it has had in the past.

Deputy O'Higgins raised the question of the new Garda station in Rathdrum. This was a difficult problem for me. Naturally, I did not decide it on the basis of my own feelings or inclinations, or indeed on my own judgment. I had to be guided by the people concerned who were, first, the Garda authorities and, secondly, the Office of Public Works. However, I am assured that the site which has been selected is the most suitable from the police point of view, and the Office of Public Works are also in favour of it. I am sorry that a number of the people of Rathdrum should be disappointed at the decision ultimately made but I am afraid nothing can be done about it. The alternative site which was offered, I understand, would not have been too readily available. There would be difficulties of title in acquiring it, and so on. Apart from all that and apart from the fact that our plans in regard to the other site were very considerably advanced, there is still the final point that the police authorities say the site chosen now is the best one, and I do not think I can be expected to go beyond such a decision.

Another point raised by Deputy O'Higgins was in regard to the question of Garda witnesses being available for consultations in connection with civil actions. It might be as well to remind the House that the present practice in this regard is that parties involved in civil proceedings in road accident cases may obtain, on payment of certain nominal fees, two things: copies of any statements which have been made to the Garda by witnesses and an abstract of the Garda reports, namely, the names and addresses of the parties concerned, the measurements in any sketch maps made, and so on. In other words, they can get the bones of the official Garda report. I do not think we could do more than that.

This matter has been raised a number of times. Many of my predecessors have been asked and approached about it. The really serious objection to Deputy O'Higgins's proposal that the garda themselves should be available for consultations is a simple practical difficulty. Consultations of this sort would almost invariably be held in Dublin and would mean that the individual members of the Force concerned would have to attend these consultations at great loss to the State and very considerable interference with the normal execution of their duties. By and large, it would lead to a very serious disruption in the normal running of the Force.

Even if this proposal did not give rise to these disadvantages, could we say it is a very necessary or desirable thing to do? The individual member of the Garda Síochána in this type of case would not be in a position to give direct evidence of what had happened. He can only do what he has already done, namely, supply the statements which he has taken from actual witnesses. In 99 cases out of 100, he is not an actual witness and could not add anything to what he has been able to extract in the form of statements from the witnesses. Furthermore, he would not be entitled to or would not be able to interpret witnesses' statements. Therefore, there is nothing to be gained by the suggestion put forward by the Deputy, and there are the very serious practical disadvantages involved from the point of view of the running of the Force.

Finally, Deputy O'Higgins mentioned the Land Registry. I must agree the situation there is not as satisfactory as we would like it to be. By the institution of a system of overtime, we did succeed from time to time in eliminating practically all the delays occurring, but I am afraid the situation has deteriorated again to some extent. All this is, of course, entirely due to our difficulties in procuring staff. However, we have the situation under review; we are very much aware of the necessity for an efficient, expeditious Land Registry and we are making an effort to deal with the staff difficulties and hope to be able to clear them up.

Furthermore, we have as I have already mentioned in the House an extension of accommodation already nearing completion and a further major extension at the planning stage. I hope that when this additional accommodation becomes available, we will be able to effect considerable improvements in the Land Registry. As of now, however, I must confess the situation is not as satisfactory as we would like it to be and that something will have to be done to improve matters.

Deputy Tully raised a number of points. In particular, I was impressed by his argument that too much these days is made of, and too much publicity given to, these young hooligans and blackguards who misbehave themselves in public. I have from time to time been very disappointed with the manner in which our newspapers treat these affairs. They tend to glamorise them and I suggest they will have to become much more responsible in regard to these undesirable modern trends and tendencies.

One paper in particular, one of our Irish newspapers, disappointed me enormously in this respect. There was a particularly notorious outbreak in some English seaside resort and this was reported in an Irish newspaper in such a way as to seem to be inviting young people here to behave in the same way by giving a disproportionate amount of publicity to it, glamorising these events across the water. This report seemed to me to be doing exactly the wrong thing—tending, if anything, to encourage similar performances here.

I would appeal to our newspapers, to their editors and those responsible, to deal with these things in a very sober, matter of fact, realistic, publicspirited way. I agree fully with Deputy Tully that we should abandon all of these pseudo-glamorous descriptions and call a spade a spade, pointing out that the people who do this sort of thing are just blackguards, hooligans, a menace to society, and that they should not be allowed to get away with it.

Deputy Tully was also critical of our courts in this respect and seemed to think they could adopt a stiffer attitude. I think there is something in that. Deputies will have noticed that in my opening remarks I suggested the drive to combat crime involves us all —all sections of the community—and in particular, I said I hoped the courts would play their part. The fact that we now have this penal reform programme in operation and that its main emphasis is on the rehabilitation of prisoners, should mean that judges and justices, in dealing with certain types of cases coming before them, need not be too apprehensive about awarding jail sentences. Many people feel, indeed, that there is injudicious use of the Probation Act. In particular, I feel very strongly about one thing: anybody who assaults a member of the Garda Síochána in the course of his duty should, unless there are very exceptional circumstances involved, receive a jail sentence.

Deputy Tully also mentioned the question of the Navan district office. The only thing I can say in that respect is that we must at all times keep an eye on the organisation and distribution of the Force with a view to the best possible arrangement for the policing of the country and give the taxpayers the best possible value for the money they spend on the Force. It is nonsense to think that any particular organisational structure should prevail for all time. In the very nature of things, we have to reorganise and redistribute our Force from time to time. There is nothing particularly obnoxious from the point of view of any town that the district headquarters should be transferred out of it. It is simply an organisational matter and casts no reflection on the town: it is simply the transfer of the Garda headquarters involving, perhaps, a Garda superintendent and his clerk. If you look at it realistically, such a change could not be regarded as in any way detrimental to the town involved.

Deputy MacEoin mentioned something of importance, and I am glad he did. He appealed to the people to co-operate with the Garda, to come to their aid if they are in difficulties and generally to afford them any assistance they can. The Garda are our own police force and they are entitled to expect from individual citizens at all levels the greatest possible degree of co-operation and assistance.

He mentioned another point about which Deputy de Valera has been asking parliamentary questions and has been writing to me, that is the question of making some gesture of recognition to the members of the Force who are still serving and who are either 1916 men or who fought in the War of Independence later on. I do not see in what way anything of that nature could be done. Any honour or tribute that is to be paid to these men should be paid by the nation as such and I am not sure it could be regarded as appropriate that the Garda force in itself should be involved in something of this nature or whether it would wish to do something along the lines suggested by Deputy de Valera or Deputy MacEoin this evening. I do not readily, at first sight anyway, see what we could do.

They have only two or three more years to serve.

Both Deputies are very persuasive in regard to this and it is something towards which all of us, I am sure, would be instinctively sympathetic but I cannot hold out any hope. I should not like to be interpreted as holding out any possibility whatever that anything could be done but, in deference to the two Deputies, I shall go so far as to say I shall think about the situation to see if there is any way in which their point of view could be met.

I shall conclude by repeating, if I may, that I think the primary responsibility of the Minister for Justice is the preservation of law and order. In that respect, the situation is not as good as it was 12 months ago. The trend is in the wrong direction and crime, to some extent, is increasing. I am not alarmist about it; I am not complacent; but we are doing everything we can. We are continually reviewing our arrangements and plans and we shall continue to do so, and I assure the House we shall give the matter of crime and crime prevention the greatest possible degree of attention. We shall not allow any consideration of finance to interfere with what we regard as our duty. I know the Government would fully support me in this. If we find there is some way in which the situation can be improved and even if it involves the expenditure of some amount of money we shall be perfectly prepared to go ahead with whatever course of action seems to us prudent and right in that respect.

As an instance of that, I mentioned that the Government have agreed to the provision this year of an increase in strength of 100 gardaí. We are all the time seeking ways of providing more and better equipment and strengthening the gardaí in every way we can to enable them to carry out their task because it is, of course, on the gardaí that we must primarily rely in this connection. I think we have in them a good instrument and we should do everything we can to make sure they are fitted to carry out their task. Then, we need the co-operation of all sorts of people, the general public, the proprietors of property and business premises, the courts, social and charitable workers and so on. If we can get this on the same level as we have been getting it recently, or even to a greater extent in future, we should be able to keep the situation in regard to crime within bounds. There is, of course, no ultimate solution to this problem of crime in society but what we must try to do, and hope to succeed in doing, is to keep it within bounds by keeping our community in as reasonably satisfactory a position as it has been up to now.

Vote put and agreed to.