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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 23 May 1972

Vol. 261 No. 1

Committee on Finance. - Prisons Bill, 1972: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I regret that a situation has arisen which compels me to come to the House and ask it to pass this Bill, the main provision of which is to authorise prisoners to be transferred to military custody in certain exceptional circumstances. This emergency situation has resulted from the destruction carried out in Mountjoy on the night of 18th-19th May. The destruction was on such a scale that approximately 180 prisoners had to be transferred. Not all of them could be accommodated in the other prisons at Portlaoise, Cork, Limerick or in St. Patrick's Institution and I had to arrange, in consultation with the Minister for Defence, to take over the military detention barracks in the Curragh for use as a prison to accommodate some 40 prisoners. These have since been under the control of two senior prison officers, with the help and assistance of the military.

It was my hope, at the time of the transfer, to utilise the detention barracks as a civil prison but owing to the severe demands on the existing prison staff at the present time and the inevitable delay in recruiting and training additional staff, it will not, in fact, be possible to staff the detention barracks as a civil prison. Moreover, there are serious objections to having a civil prison within a military establishment. Accordingly, it is necessary to make provision for the transfer of prisoners to military custody.

These are not the only reasons. The cell accommodation available in Mountjoy will remain at a substantially reduced level until the extensive repairs which are necessary, including structural alterations necessary to improve security, have been completed. These repairs and alterations will take at least 12 months to complete and, in the meantime, having regard to the continued increase in the number of commitals, there simply will not be enough places available in our existing prisons, St. Patrick's Institution or Shanganagh Castle, and the position will not be materially different when Loughan House, Blacklion, is brought fully into operation.

Moreover, and I regret having to say this, there are people in our prisons today who are prepared to go very far indeed to disrupt prison administration even at the cost of risking or causing serious injury or even death to prison officers and to other prisoners. Deputies may think that I am exaggerating. However, they will be in a better position to judge when I give them an idea of the scale of the destruction and of the behaviour of many of the prisoners in Mountjoy on the night of the riot.

The account I shall give of the events of that night cannot be complete in every detail. For one thing, criminal charges will be taken against those of the participants who can be identified and I cannot prejudice these proceedings. Secondly, the prisoners had portions of the prison to themselves for a long period. But the main facts are reasonably clear. At lock-up time on Thursday 18th May, when most of the prisoners in three wings of the prison had been locked up, the so called "political" prisoners in the remand wing overpowered an officer and took possession of his keys. They wrenched a cell door from its hinges and engaged in other destruction and, in what appears to have been an attempt to escape, rammed a cell door through a large window at the end of their landing. They could not proceed further owing to the vigilance of the officers outside. Subsequently they engaged in further systematic destruction and also urged the other prisoners to do the same. The disturbance spread to the entire prison. The damage caused was on a huge scale. Every pane of glass was broken, every toilet bowl and every wash-hand basin. Hundreds of cell doors were destroyed or rendered useless, cell furniture and bedding were broken up. A newly fitted dental surgery and much of the new kitchen were wrecked, as were all the records of the people in the corrective training unit. The roof was extensively damaged also. Water flowed freely from burst pipes until it was cut off. Some well known dangerous criminals were released and many of the prisoners were in a state of terror. Throughout the disorder and up to the time when it became clear that the situation had got completely out of hand some of the instigators of the riot behaved like power-drunk generals.

They made three so-called demands, namely, that a particular prisoner who was awaiting trial should be temporarily released to get married, that prison food should be improved and that arrangements for their trial be speeded up.

The House will note that no reference whatever was made to a demand that the particular prisoners concerned be given any special status, as has been implied in some quarters. Indeed the rioters released what they on other occasions refer to as "ordinary criminals" and, to say the least, accepted their support in the destruction that followed.

As regards the first point, the spokesmen were informed that nobody other than a court had authority to release, even temporarily, a prisoner who was on remand and that, as they had already been told earlier in the week, every facility was being given to any prisoner who wished to apply to a judge or to a court for release and that full facilities had at all times been available and would continue to be available to the prisoner in question. This prisoner was, in fact, one of those who had been offered bail and had not availed himself of it. Subsequently, the man concerned accepted bail, having already recognised the court by voluntarily going before it.

On the second point, relating to an improvement in the prison food, the spokesmen were told that it was scarcely realistic to talk of this in the wake of the destruction of the new kitchen equipment. On the question of speedy trials, the spokesmen were informed that the principle involved was not in dispute and that there was and had always been a full acceptance of the need to speed up trials.

The spokesmen then asked for an assurance that no proceedings would be taken arising out of the disturbances. They were told that there could be no question of this being accepted and that, if the situation continued beyond a further half an hour, whatever steps were necessary would be taken to regain full control of the prison. Some 15 minutes later the barricades were removed and the prison wings were re-occupied without resistance. Neither the Garda Síochána nor the Army were called on to intervene, though both were at the prison in case they were needed. I can only say that it is very fortunate that no very serious injury or death occurred during the riot. Three prison officers were injured, but not seriously. A prisoner had a heart attack during the disturbance and was removed to hospital immediately afterwards, and another prisoner had been slightly injured as he jumped through a window to escape other prisoners. A few others had received minor injuries while the riot had been in progress.

What is particularly regrettable is that the continuing substantial progress that was being made in the provision of better rehabilitative facilities and amenities in Mountjoy has been comán pletely stopped, if not indeed reversed. I saw Mountjoy only a few weeks previously and had indicated to the House in some detail on my Estimate the various steps that were being taken to improve conditions for the prisoners and to improve their possibilities of rehabilitation. The blow to these plans is perhaps one of the worst effects of the destruction, because—and I want to emphasise this—one cannot have both maximum security and maximum facilities for promoting the rehabilitation of prisoners. They simply are not compatible. Up to now what was thought to be a fair balance between the two requirements of safe custody and reasonably relaxed atmosphere had been achieved in the prison with, I am satisfied, beneficial results on the whole. This policy has now to be seriously reviewed, not just in Mountjoy but in all the prisons, though I would hope that we can in the not too distant future resume the progress that has now been so severely interrupted. Meanwhile, I am continuing the policy I have already announced to the House of increasing recruitment of prison officers for all the prisons and within recent days I have obtained the authority of the Minister for Finance to proceed with plans for the recruitment of an additional 100 officers over and above the 50 new posts recently advertised by the Civil Service Commissioners.

Nevertheless I could not give a reasonable assurance of protection to prison officers and other prisoners against the background of the risk of a repetition of last week's disorders unless I have the authority, which I am asking the House to give me now, to transfer to military custody certain prisoners who are liable to cause trouble.

To turn to the particular provisions of the Bill, Deputies will notice that section 2, which deals with transfers to military custody, has been expressed in such a way as to emphasise the exceptional character of this provision. Subsection (1) provides that the Dáil may at any time declare that the section shall cease to be in operation and may, subsequently, if satisfied that exceptional circumstances make it necessary to do so, bring it into operation again. Moreover there is provision for setting up a visiting committee for the place in which persons are kept in military custody and subsection (8) provides that the Minister for Defence, in making regulations about such places, shall have regard to the desirability of ensuring that the conditions of custody are not less favourable than those applicable in prisons.

I am availing myself of the opportunity presented by the promotion of this Bill to insert a "removal of doubts" provision, that is, section 3. This section makes it clear that the Minister for Justice can acquire accommodation and use it as a prison.

In asking the House to facilitate the rapid passage of this Bill, I should like to make it clear that in my opinion and in the opinion of the prison authorities this is essential in the interests of the safety of prison staff and of well-conducted prisoners.

I have already publicly expressed my appreciation of the magnificent response by the officers of the prisons service both during the disturbance and afterwards. It was due to them that the rioters were contained within the prison and a mass break-out foiled. A severe burden was placed on the Mountjoy staff both in restoring essential prison services the following morning and in reallocating a large number of prisoners to other centres. They could not have succeeded in carrying out the work of reallocation without the help of the staff of the other prisons and places of detention and indeed without the full support and co-operation of the Garda and the Defence Forces. I am sure I am voicing the feelings of all sides of this House and of the whole community when I pay this tribute to them.

First, I should like to endorse what the Minister said when he paid tribute to members of the prison staff for the service they have rendered and for their lovalty and devotion to duty in very difficult circumstances. I should like to join in his tribute to them and to the members of the Garda and the Defence Forces. However, I wonder if the Minister has put these loyal servants of the State in a difficult position—in fact, in an impossible position? Impossible because we know what has happened—that this riot broke out and, as a result, the system has been brought to its knees.

If any system ends up in that position, the persons to take responsibility are surely the members of the Executive charged with the responsibility for administering it. The Minister indicated that the reason for this transfer was that the safety of the prison officers could not be guaranteed if the full complement were to be housed in Mountjoy Jail. I understood the necessity for the transfer was that there was a lack of accommodation following the destruction of the facilities. The Minister has been a bit cloudy on this point. Is it that security cannot be maintained in the prison, or is it that the prison is not now large enough to maintain the prisoners? There is an extremely important distinction here and it will have to be cleared up for us.

One can sympathise with the predicament of the Minister, even though it is essentially of his own making, in deciding what is to be done. He comes to the House with a Bill at a time and in a climate which must make one suspicious of some of the terms and phrases used in this Bill. He has our sympathy, even though the predicament is of his own making. On this side of the House we are anxious to ensure that all the institutions of the State will be maintained and strengthened and that the lawless elements which are now at loose in our land will not be encouraged to think that any action of their contemptuous of the law or the established institutions of democracy will be tolerated. We are prepared to support the Minister in his efforts to ensure that these people are kept in check.

Having said that, there are a number of queries which present themselves very obviously from this piece of legislation. First, there is the haste with which it has been introduced. I can see that there are technical reasons for hasty legislation but nevertheless this does not excuse a piece of legislation with so many question marks unexplained by the Minister in his opening statement. The whole point of having this institution of Parliament is to enable Members to tease out the various implications of proposed legislation, to tease out and to examine the social, political and the technical legal implications in relation to each other and in relation to existing legislation. We are being deprived of that opportunity here. We are deprived of it because of the haste with which the Bill has been introduced and requested and, more seriously, we are being deprived of it by the Minister's failure to help the House in his opening statement by dealing with the tremendous number of questions that arise from this Bill.

So far as I could ascertain in the comparatively short time available to me, our prison system depends for its legal status on the Prisons (Ireland) Act, 1877. From my reading of that Act there appears to be adequate power for the Executive, in succession to the British Executive, to nominate places as prisons and to appropriate different classes of prisoners to different classes of prisons in any part of the State. If that power is there one is puzzled why it is necessary to put prisoners into military custody. The answer may be that there is not sufficient personnel to man any extra places the Minister might nominate. However, if the prison population of Mountjoy has been considerably lessened by these transfers, would it not be possible to arrange for the temporary transfer of prison officers? If that is not sufficient, would it not be better and more in keeping with the general principle of civil custody temporarily to designate military personnel as part-time or temporary prison officers?


Hear, hear.

This would seem to be a preferable approach to the Minister's problem. If the Minister does not make what seems to be an obvious approach to his problem, one must be suspicious of this Bill. Having regard to the present political climate and the strongish statements made by an up to now pusillanimous Taoiseach in regard to illegal organisations, one must begin to wonder if the Government are girding themselves for something drastic. I want to assure the Government that if there is any such intention in their minds they will get absolutely no support from this party.

We are prepared to concede that the Minister has put himself into a difficulty and that the Government are in a mess. For the sake of the stability of this State we are prepared to assist the Minister and the Government in extricating themselves from that mess but only on a strict time limit basis, on the understanding that this Bill will only last for so long as it takes Mountjoy to be restored and be fully capable of receiving its full complement of prisoners.

The idea of military custody is something that causes apprehension to people living in a democracy. It is something we should keep at arm's length so far as possible; it is something that must be kept at arm's length unless there is a situation of revolution and utter chaos. We are certainly not in that situation at the moment. It is reprehensible on the part of the Government to bring in this piece of legislation with this emotive power without indicating that it is entirely a temporary measure. I expect the Minister to give full and detailed reasons why the powers under the 1877 Act have not been used.

It is a well-known fact that this branch of the law—imprisonment and the detention of persons—is an area of great technicality, an area which gives rise to many applications to the court for writs of habeas corpus and it has also given rise to many constitutional issues because of course it involves the freedom of the person which is a basic constitutional matter. The Minister in presenting a Bill drafted in the manner in which this one is drafted and in this hasty fashion is courting trouble. The most recent example we have of hasty legislation was the Act in connection with the Committee of Public Accounts and we know where that one ended.

The Executive, being the persons primarily responsible for introducing legislation in the House, with the vast technical assistance available to them, have a very serious duty to ensure that any legislation they bring in here will be effective when it is sought to implement it. There are many question marks in regard to this Bill, and the Minister, in order to enable us on this side of the House to do our duty at the Committee Stage, should explain some of these question marks. For example, the phrase "military custody" is used. As far as I can ascertain —again the length of time available for research has been short—this phrase does not appear in the Defence Act of 1954, and the Defence Act, which is the Act dealing with the custody of convicted members of the defence forces uses the phrase "service custody". Does the very introduction of the phrase "military custody" in this way give legal validity to it and will it validate the places in which this custody is to be maintained?

Something else which is missing from the Bill is the clear statement as to in whose custody these prisoners will be. The 1877 Act clearly sets out what prisoners are in the custody of the governor of whatever jail to which they are committed. The Defence Act of 1954 says that military personnel in military prison barracks are in the custody of the governor of that prison, but that is only in relation to military prisoners unless, as I say, the term "military custody" means that people being transferred by the Minister's order are going to be on the same footing and have the same status as members of the Defence Forces serving terms of imprisonment. The term "military custody" is not used in the Defence Act and one can see numerous possibilities of tedious litigation which could upset the whole object which the Minister is trying to achieve. This can arise from hasty, ill-researched legislation. Perhaps the Minister has an explanation for these points, and it is his duty to give it to the House on the Second Reading so that we can consider the matter further on the Committee and other Stages.

Many other points arise in regard to prisoners who have been sentenced. For instance, if any part of their detention in these military places is held to be invalid, are they to get credit for the time they have spent there? There are numerous legal questions of a difficult nature. The Minister mentioned also that the place where this detention will take place will be the Curragh Camp. He said that the prisoners being transferred could not all be accommodated in the other prisons, one of which is Cork. I understood the Minister, speaking on a vote for his Department in April last, indicated that the prison in Cork was actually a military detention barracks. Presumably it has been nominated by him as a prison, and it gets back to the basic objection to this Bill: why could he not nominate the detention barracks in the Curragh as a prison until the emergency has passed?

I would like an unequivocal assurance from the Minister that he is not availing of the emergency created in Mountjoy to introduce a type of back door internment. I want to make it very clear to all sides of this House that this party, in supporting this Bill, does so purely to rescue the Minister from the administrative mess into which his maladministration of the prison service has landed him. We on this side of the House are not in favour of any move in the direction of military custody per se. I want further to emphasise that our support is conditional on the Government writing into this Bill a time limit for its operation.

We will support the Second Stage on the grounds that we want to condemn and be seen to be condemning the lawless and irresponsible elements that initiated the troubles in Mountjoy and those same elements which are outside Mountjoy and are abroad in our country and who encouraged this riot. However, in saying that we are not to be taken as in any way endorsing the idea of military custody as being a good thing in relation to civil prisoners or as being something that should be part of our normal law henceforward. If the Government are not prepared to put an unequivocal time limit on the operation of this Bill, this party, on the Final Stages of the Bill, will be forced to oppose it.

This Bill arises from the riot in Mountjoy Jail, and it appears that some of the prison staff were overpowered. I think it is encumbent on the Minister at some stage, if not now, to indicate that he is prepared to hold an inquiry into the facts surrounding the commencement and development of this riot. It is a disturbing thing that in the major prison of the country the prisoners, in the short space of less than half an hour should overcome the persons in charge of them, take control of the prison and, in effect wreck it. There is obviously something wrong that this should happen, something which is the very opposite of what should be the situation in a prison. It is the Minister's duty to hold an inquiry and to establish why this happened and, more important, to ensure the like will never happen again. It is distressing that it happened.

I suppose it happened because, like so many other things that have happened here in the recent past, there has been an indolent and ambivalent Government attitude towards many areas urgently and obviously requiring reform. This defective Government have now landed us in a legislative mess and they have come to this House for help. For the sake of the common good we in this party are prepared to give that help, but for a limited time only.

The bulk of the Minister's speech was taken up with a description of the happenings in Mounjoy on the night of 18th-19th May last, and the reason for the Bill now before us is given as those events and what are described as the inadequacies of Mountjoy Prison. But it must have been known before that Mountjoy Prison was inadequate and I am sure the Minister could have told us of these inadequacies from the point of view of holding so many prisoners and the risk that undoubtedly involved. However, none of us can prejudge the inquiry which I hope will be held and which the Minister has promised. Like Deputy Cooney, I should like to pay my tribute to the staff of Mountjoy Prison for their actions in attempting to quell the riot and the success of those actions after many hours.

I should like to make it clear to the Minister and the House that when we asked for a postponement of the Second Reading today we must not be misinterpreted—indeed we could not be so—as either condoning the activities of the IRA or any other illegal body in facilitating, as was suggested, their release by way of habeas corpus, or—I do not think this needs to be said—of condoning the destruction that was committed in Mountjoy. Few people in the country condone that event.

Indeed the events since then and during the last weekend have brought home to the people in the southern part of this country, if I may so describe it, in the Republic, what could happen and what was predicted might happen unless certain actions were taken by the Government. It is only now, particularly in the last three or four days, that people have become frightened. All of us were inclined to think that the six north-eastern counties were very far away from us and we spoke vaguely about a backlash. Now we have the backlash in Belfast and the people in Dublin are getting a very small taste of what the unfortunate people, both Protestant and Catholic, in the Six Counties have been suffering during the past three or four years. Fortunately during Saturday and Sunday last, no lives were lost although a lot of damage was done. We cannot be absolutely certain that this sort of campaign, which nobody condones any more than they condone the activities of the IRA, will not escalate to the extent it did in parts of the North.

People have blamed the escalation of violence on internment without trial in the North. Internment without trial has been described as the act which provoked further violence. I do not wish to accuse the Government here of anything or to have anybody take any such inference out of what I am about to say. There is in the minds of some people the thought that in the proposals the Minister has now put before us is the idea of internment without trial, because it is no secret that there are occupying our prisons quite a number of people on remand awaiting charge and who have yet to face trial. In these circumstances the Minister is bound to tell us when that will be cleaned up or whether it is to be allowed to continue.

We wonder why the due process of law is not being pursued, whether those who are guilty will be dealt with and those who are innocent freed. The specific problem which the Minister mentioned here tonight as the reason for his introduction of this measure is the partial destruction of Mountjoy Prison. I should like to ask him why this has been dealt with in a generalised way. There is mention of inadequacies and lack of staff but no specific mention of Mountjoy itself has been made in the Bill. If there is a specific situation because of a specific activity no one could take exception to the introduction here of specific measures to deal with that situation, say in the form of a temporary provisions Bill. But this is not a temporary provisions Bill. It will now go on our Statute Book as a permanent Act and, much more dangerous, in the form of a generalised Bill which can be invoked at any time it is deemed necessary to invoke it by any Government now or in the future. The Bill can be invoked without any reference whatsoever to the rioting in Mountjoy and the destruction there on the night of 18th-19th May, 1972.

There are many issues with which the Minister has not dealt. One of the issues—and it is serious as far as the individual members of my party are concerned—is the taking of people out of civil custody and transferring them to military custody. The Minister did not deal with that: the big issue in the Bill which he described as small. Indeed, it accounts for nine-tenths of the Bill and the Minister should have gone to greater pains to deal with the legal and constitutional consequences of some of the proposals contained in section 2. It is the very important democratic principle that the civil law should prevail, that those found in contravention of that civil law should be held under the control of the civil authorities and that that principle—it was done here—should be set aside only in times of war or rebellion.

The reason for the Bill and its basis are contained in section 2 (3) which refers to lack of proper prison accommodation or staff. Should this arise it should be a temporary situation only, but here we are bringing into the law the right to depart from long-establised custom because of this riot and, as a consequence, because of the inadequacy of the accommodation and the inadequacy of the staff.

My party and I agree that, if we have to depart from the principle that the civil law will deal with those who are deprived of civil liberties, we should be told for how long. This is one of the big omissions from this measure. The Minister has not said whether this will obtain for all time. Will he have the discretion to transfer to military custody and from military custody back to an ordinary prison in what are vaguely described as certain circumstances? I do not think that is good enough in a piece of legislation which is supposed to be passed by this House. We will put down an amendment unless the Minister concedes that there should be a time limit within which this legislation and, in particular section 2 will last. It is the duty of the State to provide, to staff and to equip prisons. There is no forecast in the Minister's speech as to when there will be proper prison accommodation for those against whom charges are preferred. Apart from military custody, there is no time limit.

I hope this will not be used as a precedent for the implementation of this Bill for all time to come but, at the beginning of the last war, the Offences Against the State Bill was introduced and we still have that Act on the Statute Book after 27 years. Will the Minister give any assurance to this House that there will be a time limit on this Bill or will it go on and on forever, giving the Minister the discretion to do certain things which in my opinion he, as an individual—I do not mean as a person but as an individual Minister for Justice—has not the right to do? When Mountjoy is restored will we still have this Prisons Act?

The Minister did not deal adequately with section 2. In section 2 (4) the reasons given for the Minister transferring a prisoner back to prison are different from the reasons given for invoking the Act in section 2. In subsection (2) we are told that the Minister can do certain things. He can make a transfer in exceptional circumstances but in subsection (4) of the same section the reasons given for the transfer back to a prison are "circumstances warranting their being retained in military custody no longer obtain". There is no reference whatsoever to the circumstances described in subsection (2). The Minister could use his own discretion, his own judgment whether good or bad. He could be malicious and make a decision one way or the other because he has this discretion.

I must be satisfied on two counts before I decide whether I will vote for this measure. I must be convinced that there are exceptional circumstances because of the riot. I can see that, in view of the destruction in Mountjoy, there is a case for the transfer of prisoners to some other place where they can be kept in security. I should also like to be satisfied on the second point. Why has not the Minister designated military or other buildings as temporary prisons under the control of the Department within the terms of the Prisons Acts? This could easily be done. The Bill would be very much improved and would be much more acceptable to Members of the House, and certainly much more acceptable to members of the Labour Party, if section 2 were scrapped entirely.

Section 3 says:

The Minister may from time to time specify a place or places to be used as a prison or prisons and each place so specified shall be a prison to which the Prisons Acts, 1826 to 1970, apply.

If the Minister has designated other institutions, military or other buildings as prisons within the terms of the Prisons Act, some of the points which I have raised would not have been raised by me. Why military custody? Why not custody under his supervision? In section 2, while the Minister for Justice has power to transfer, the responsibility for the prisoners lies with the Minister for Defence.

My objections are against the method by which the civil law is transferred to military control. "Military custody" has an ominous ring. There is a suggestion of martial law. In my opinion military custody could provoke trouble in the country, not that I want to see trouble provoked. If people can be transferred to military custody at the will of the Minister, to say the least of it quite a number of people will be upset. It has also been suggested that, even though the Curragh might be designated as a prison, supervison should lie in the hands of the Minister for Justice and his agents, whether or not they be governors of prisons. At least the supervision should be in the hands of the Minister for Justice so that it will appear that if people are deprived of civil liberties the civil law will apply to them.

There is no device in anything I say or do to give any support or consolation to those who created the situation which made this Bill necessary by breaking the law and by wrecking the prison. My party, the Labour Party organisation and I have been consistently opposed to the IRA and to their methods of violence in this part of the country or in the northern part of the country. Just as vigorously we will support the ordinary laws being applied to them.

We have had guarantees of this type given by this Government before. If a person breaks the law he should be apprehended and charged and, if he is guilty, there should be a penalty. It appears that there is an evading of the ordinary course of justice and whether there has been a breakdown in the system I do not know. If there is a breakdown in the system the Minister and the Government must take responsibility. As I said, there is an ominous ring to the term "military custody". It conjures up visions of martial law, internment and things like that.

I saw in the papers today that the Taoiseach said he would not introduce military courts. I assume he also means that he will not introduce internment without trial. In view of his various pronouncements about internment without trial in the North, and in view of the experience of internment without trial in the North, I think he is bound to reject that sort of action in this part of the country. I suggest, and the Minister should accept, that section 2 should be scrapped altogether. If personnel are required the Minister can get them. He told us that he has advertised for so many prison warders. I do not know how long it takes to train them, but surely there are people in the Army who could be transferred to the Department of Justice. Let it be seen that justice is administered by the Minister for Justice and that prisoners in custody are in the custody of the Minister for Justice and not of the Army.

The measure is too wide, too general, to deal with a specific problem and a temporary situation, but if this is not so, I think we should be told. If we are in an emergency, we should be told as well. I do not know what the practice is in many countries in the world, but if there is a crisis, the Taoiseach should be big enough, and he has not been, to take the leaders of parties, the representatives of parties, into his confidence. The things he knows he should disclose to the people and if there is an emergency situation, we should be told. This is what happens in Great Britain, and we copy Great Britain to a very large extent in the running of our Parliament here but if there is something which the Minister knows which would justify what he does now or any action he may have to take in the future, let him come here and tell the truth and let not he nor the Taoiseach make brave speeches today and pull back tomorrow. If there is a job to be done, let it be done. If there is danger to this State, and I believe there is danger to this State, a danger which we predicted in August of 1969, of civil conflict down here, we should be told but let us not play the Fianna Fáil card all the time.

I have expressed my own views on this, and as I said earlier today, my party has not had adequate time to consider it. We have had in the meantime, but I want to make it clear, that not because there is any disagreement with our policy of non-violence, the Members of my party can express their personal views, can act according to their conviction, act according as they wish and in accordance with their consciences when a vote is to be taken or they wish to make a statement.

May I say that the Minister for Justice has been placed in a very invidious position in having to introduce a Bill of this type, in view of all the good work which he and his Department had been doing to rehabilitate the prisoners in Mountjoy? These prisoners have been treated very well. They were let out to their employment, they were trusted and an atmosphere of goodwill had been built up. An organisation with which I have been associated had helped greatly in that work and the Minister having given remissions, given them all the facilities possible, then finds himself in the position that everything is torn from under his feet. The Minister has my sympathy at this period and I would ask any Member of the House what he would do if he were in the same position as the Minister is in now.

We would not allow it to happen.

Deputy Coughlan has cures for all ills. Secondly, I want to compliment the staff of Mountjoy Prison for the wonderful work they did under very adverse circumstances. We have heard it said here that people are being sent to military prisons. Nobody is being sent to a military prison but the position is so desperate and the amount of damage done in Mountjoy is so great that it is imperative that the Minister should transfer the greater number of the prisoners out of it immediately until such time as the prison is repaired. Is any Member going to say that the Minister should do otherwise in the circumstances? Is he to ask the social welfare committee to go to work and bring these people to their homes after they have destroyed the prison and what the Minister and his Department, together with these committees, have worked to establish over the years?

I heard the previous speaker referring to section 2. I do not see anything reprehensible in that section. We have heard talk about the Offences Against the State Act which was introduced and had to be introduced to save this country during the war. When the Government of this country wanted to keep the country neutral, there were people who tried to involve us with foreign powers. Surely people can conduct themselves and live within the law. This is a democratic State and anybody who wants to smash that State is an enemy of the State. Men died to establish that this country would be governed democratically.

Má's maith is mithid.

Sin é. If there is anybody who feels that he has a right to dictate to this Assembly, to try to destroy this democratic Assembly, anybody who stands up here and tries to defend that type of person, no matter who he is, is not a worthy member of the Irish race or a worthy Member of this Dáil.

You are starting to smear us now before we make the speeches.

The Deputy has his own time. It is my democratic right to say what I believe and nobody respects that right as much as the Deputy does.

But anyone else who does not agree with you is a traitor. We had this from Deputy Dr. Hillery during the referendum.

We were spoonfeeding, nursing and rehabilitating the prisoners and then comes a riot and the place is broken up. Some Members feel that the Minister is going too far. I wonder what Minister or what Deputy would sit idly by and leave them there without kitchens, without hospitals or anything else. There is great criticism of the Minister but I want to compliment him and one thing about him is that he is sure to do the job, no matter how tough that job is. He is doing it on behalf of the Irish people and has the backing of the Irish people in doing it. Nobody can deny him that right and we are all very proud that he is standing up and doing his job. It is time we had people to do the same thing, as long as there are people in this State whose only purpose is to smash the democratic institutions built up over 50 years by successive Governments and who feel entitled to take the law into their own hands with a view to smashing what we believe in. Then there are people who say we are too harsh. There was no question of harshness and these people could have applied for bail but they considered themselves to be so big that they did not wish to recognise this State. This is the sort of thing that we must face and anybody who speaks against them is labelled as being anti-this or anti-that. I stand for the rule of democracy by the elected representatives of the people. If the Opposition happened to be in power and if my friend, Deputy Cluskey, were Minister for Justice, I would support him in a measure of this kind and in the same way as I support the present Minister. I shall not delay the House any longer but in conclusion I wish the Minister well in what he is doing. He is doing a good job and he is being forced into taking this action by irresponsible people who are enemies of this State.

Debate adjourned.