asked the Minister for Justice if his attention has been drawn to reports that a feud exists between rival groups for the title ofSinn Féin; that because of this feud lives may be lost in the Twenty-Six Counties as has already happened in the Six Counties; and what action the Government intend to take to prevent bloodshed and to disarm illegal bodies.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Illegal Activities.
As Members of the House are aware, illegal activities of certain organisations and groups have been a source of concern for some time and the possession by these groups of illegal arms and explosives is likewise of concern. As I have already indicated today in my reply to an earlier question, various seizures of illegally-held arms and explosives have been made by the Garda during the past two years.
In the recently-circulated Firearms Bill, 1971, increased penalties are provided to deal with persons convicted of the offence of being in unauthorised possession of certain firearms and ammunition. I am having the law in relation to possession of explosive substances examined in my Department and I hope to introduce a Bill to deal with that aspect at an early date.
If it is a source of concern to the Government why have the Government not taken action up to now? Surely the Minister is aware that there is open recruiting, open drilling, marching in uniform, firing of shots at graves, drilling with arms, appearances on television?
Is this in the question?
Certainly all this is in my question. There is the blowing-up of vessels, appearances on television, occupying of houses, people strutting on the streets with impunity. There is a drift to anarchy. The Fianna Fáil offices were occupied yesterday and the people who occupied them are not going to be summoned. That was announced last night.
The reason they were not summoned is that under the law of this country as it stands it was not possible to prosecute them. If the Bill which I have had before the House for several months had been passed by this House and by the Oireachtas it would have been possible to prosecute those people. As soon as the Bill is passed people of this type will be prosecuted. Everyone knows that the Garda are making every effort under the law of this country as it is at present to deal with this threat. They are dealing with the situation remarkably successfully considering the difficulties under which they operate.
Does the Minister not agree that the Garda are being frustrated in their efforts at the present time and that criminals are being treated with kid gloves by the Judiciary and by the Government and that when criminals are convicted they are allowed out by the Minister for Justice——
Will the Deputy please resume his seat? The Deputy is being disorderly and is abusing the privilege of the House.
I am telling the truth.
On a point of order——
Question No. 42.
On a point of order——
What is the point of order?
I want to ask the reason why the Ceann Comhairle says that Deputy L'Estrange is abusing the privilege of the House? What is the Deputy saying that is in abuse of the privilege of the House?
Among other things Deputy L'Estrange attacked the Judiciary. That is an abuse of the privilege of the House.
People are being let out of prison. Men are being fined £5 for having a machine gun.
Is the Deputy suggesting that I or the Government are responsible? That is a scurrilous allegation to make.
This Government will do everything possible to ensure in the interests of democracy that the Judiciary remain independent.
There is a drift to anarchy.
Am I to assume from the Minister's reply to the supplementary question that, if a person or a group of persons take over possession of a business premises or of a private residence in this country, he, or they, are not guilty of any offence under existing law and cannot be prosecuted?
That is a separate question.
Furthermore, can I take possession of the Minister's house in Limerick and not commit an offence? The Minister should answer that question.
In general terms the answer to that is "yes". There are very old offences under Forcible Entry and Forcible Detainer Acts of the 14th century which probably would constitute these affairs as offences. But it is the view of the Attorney General and has been for some time his view, with which I concur, that it is not right in this day and age to prosecute people under statutes of 1381 and that period. That is the reason why I have the Forcible Entry Bill before this House. Now that the House realise the problems I hope they will accommodate me in securing a speedy passage for the Bill.