Perhaps, with the agreement of the House, we could take amendments Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 22 together.
Prisons Bill, 1972: Committee Stage.
On the mechanics of this it is better to raise it now at the early stage of the Committee Stage. If we get bogged down on any section or set of amendments would it be possible to have some sort of programme half-way through? Perhaps this might be considered by the Whips now.
We can see what progress has been made and, say, in about one and a half hours we can consider the matter.
Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 22 will be discussed together.
Before I move my amendment I want to say that my Department was closed this morning due to a bomb scare and severe difficulty has resulted.
It scared you too.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 2, to delete subsections (1) and (2) and to substitute the following subsection:
"( ) This section shall continue in operation until the 31st day of May, 1974, or such later date (if any) as may for the time being stand specified by resolution of Dáil Éireann passed at a time when this section is in operation and it shall then expire."
This amendment would continue this section, which is the chief section of the Bill, in operation until the 31st May, 1974, which is marginally over two years, or such later date, if any, as may for the time being stand specified by resolution of Dáil Éireann passed at a time when the section is in operation and it shall then expire. The purpose of the words "passed at a time when the section is in operation" is to prevent its being reactivated at some vague future date. If it were to be continued after the 31st May, 1974 it could only be continued by a resolution passed in the first instance before the 31st May, 1974. Whether or not such a resolution would be moved would, of course, depend on what the circumstances were at the time.
I am satisfied, having considered the matter overnight, that this period of two years is the minimum period which in all the circumstances it would be reasonable to keep this section in operation for. One of the factors involved is the rebuilding of Mountjoy Prison, in particular rebuilding it from a security and rehabilitative point of view. I described in some detail yesterday the damage which was done but from the point of view of long-term repair the most significant part of that damage is the damage to the roofs. That is particularly extensive and it is a long arduous and difficult job to repair these roofs. All four roofs of the prison, that is the roof of each wing of the prison, are damaged to a greater or lesser extent. It is unfortunate that these roofs were in fact renewed within the last year or two.
We have discovered, as a result of that rebuilding, and in particular as a result of the riot on Thursday night last that the most vulnerable part of the prison from the security point of view is the roof of each wing. Mountjoy, as you know, was built approximately 100 years ago. The roof structure is such that it is possible for a prisoner on getting out of his cell and climbing up the wire, which surrounds the upper corridors of each wing, to get into the inner roof space above the top flight of cells but not on the roof proper and having got in there he can very easily break out through the roof and then climb up on to the top of it.
We will never have proper security while that type of roof remains and for that reason it will be necessary to put a flat roof on each of the four wings. Unless we are to close the prison altogether only one of the wings can be re-roofed at a time. It will take several months at least for a contractor to do each wing. This means that at least a quarter of the prison must be out of operation at any given time over a period approaching two years. In practice more than a quarter of the prison will be out of operation because if, for example, the hospital wing of the prison were being re-roofed it would be necessary to establish a hospital in one of the other wings. Therefore, that wing being out of commission, the effective accommodation available would be half of what the total accommodation would be.
I might mention that it is, of course, proposed to move the hospital out of the cell blocks altogether into what is now the officers' quarters in the grounds of the prison. I understand that work has, in fact, commenced on the building of the new officers' quarters immediately outside the wall on what, I think, is called the Glengarriff Parade side of the prison. When those officers' quarters have been completed it will be possible to start building a new hospital in the existing officers' quarters block, which is separate from the main building. Taking all these factors into account and also, of course, taking into account the general disturbed state of this country north and south, and the unfortunate likelihood that we are going to have to hold in custody prisoners of a particularly dangerous kind for the next two years at least. I think the time limit which I propose in this amendment in response to suggestions and urgings from the Opposition, is the minimum time limit that is compatible with all the factors that are involved.
I am very glad to see that the Minister is prepared to accept the principle of the time limit for this particular Bill. That is entirely logical with the need for the Bill as expressed by him when dealing with it on the Second Stage. It is a temporary Bill because there is a crisis in Mountjoy. The position now resolves itself into deciding whether the time in the amendment and the other powers in the amendment are compatible with that predicament.
We on this side of the House do not know how much damage was done at Mountjoy. We take it from what the Minister says that it is substantial and will obviously take considerable time to put in order. There is not a lot of difference between the Minister's amendment and amendment No. 2 but there is a fairly substantial difference with regard to time between those amendments and amendment No. 22. If the Minister could indicate that the work in Mountjoy would be something more than just repair of what has been damaged, if this opportunity could be used for a general rebuilding or reorganisation of Mountjoy, then it would be easier for us on this side of the House to agree to a period as long as the 31st May. It is common knowledge, as the Minister says, as Mountjoy is such an old building that it is not really suitable for the rehabilitative end of imprisonment.
Up to now I understand there has never been money to do anything with it on any large scale. Circumstances now force something to be done and if what is to be done was to be fairly drastic we would be more inclined to go along with the 31st of May but if it is just going to be ordinary rebuilding and repair of the damage it is difficult to see why this could not be done by the 1st September, 1973.
Our motive in drafting the amendment as drafted was to ensure that there is a final termination date and the subsidiary clause in our amendment is to give power to the House to terminate this Bill at an earlier date. It recognises the temporary nature of the Bill and the temporary necessity for it. The Minister's amendment, on the other hand, allows the Bill to continue for two years which seems excessively long for a rebuilding job. It also has in it the subsidiary clause that it can go even longer than that if the House passes a resolution requiring it to go longer. To my mind that, in effect, means that the Minister is asking the House for an open cheque in relation to how long this Bill shall continue. I think he should completely recognise the principle he has partly recognised and agree to an actual final termination. With regard to the other State agencies that will have to be involved in the carrying out of this building work I think it would be of considerable assistance and would strengthen the Minister's hand if he could say: "This work has to be finished by the 1st of September, 1973. That is as long as the temporary Bill is in operation." This could assist in the work being expedited. I would suggest to the Minister that there should be a final date set out in the Bill so that we would all know where we stand.
The Minister's amendment instead of alleviating the worst fears of many people regarding this Bill has confirmed them. It now appears that, if the Minister's amendment succeeds, this Bill will be in existence for far longer than many of us thought it would be when it was introduced yesterday and, indeed, far longer than the Minister indicated in his introductory speech. He said yesterday that the necessary repairs and alterations would take at least 12 months. When that becomes at least two years, as it does in this amendment, we must express some further reservations about the Bill. Essentially it is a Bill brought in as a result of damage done in Mountjoy Prison and it should, therefore, only cover what we consider a reasonable period in which to have the necessary works carried out. I cannot see why the necessary works could not be carried out within the period specified in amendment No. 22. With modern methods of construction a complete new prison could be built within the period the Minister wants and, indeed, within a period of 12 months. We have seen major buildings go up in this city and in the country within a 12 month period.
The other reason given for the introduction of this Bill yesterday was that it would take a certain period to recruit and to train prison staff. I maintain this could be done within a matter of six to eight weeks. People could be recruited and given the basic training to become prison warders in that period. The Minister's amendment clarifies his intentions in the matter and, indeed, confirms the worst fears of those who have reservations about this Bill. There is another way of ensuring that the necessity for this extra prison capacity over the next two years need not arise and that is by dealing more quickly with cases that come before the courts. This would result in the absence of the necessity to keep prisoners on remand for long periods and to bring in what is now being called, with some justification, this form of internment.
I should like to deal with the personal attack which the Minister made on me last night. He made it on two fronts, the first being that I was not here yesterday as spokesman on Justice for the Labour Party. I note that the Minister recognises me as spokesman on Justice for this party. If he does so I do not know why he or any of his officials did not make any attempt to inform me of this measure either on Monday or Tuesday. Due to a bereavement in the family I was attending a funeral on Monday evening. On Tuesday I was attending meetings and was away from home and I did not get word about this provision until 6 o'clock yesterday evening when I was about 80 miles from this House. I was here at 8.30 last night. The Minister's trying to read into my absence from the House in the early part of yesterday evening some sinister motive just underlines his ineptness in trying to justify certain provisions of this Bill.
I was one of those who supported the Second Stage last night because I felt there was some justification for the basic principle of a Bill that would provide for the few months that we feel should elapse while Mountjoy is being repaired and while the recruitment of additional staff is being carried out. That is as far as I am prepared to support this Bill, just to cover that emergency period. I have put down these amendments in order to take out of the Bill the elements in it which go far beyond the present necessity for taking care of the aftermath of the destruction of Mountjoy. I would ask the House to support amendments Nos. 3 and 22.
I should like to support amendment No. 2 in particular. When I spoke in the debate yesterday evening I was critical of the fact that the Minister seemed to indicate a fairly long period to carry out the reconstruction and repair work necessary in Mountjoy Prison.
When the Minister introduced the Bill yesterday he told the House he was faced with an emergency, that there was a critical situation and that he expected the support of the Opposition parties for this legislation. Having regard to the duration of the legislation suggested by the Minister this morning, I have considerable fears that if the Minister gets this legislation he will sit back and let it continue for as long as it suits him.
I should like the Minister to understand that we are not prepared to accept this kind of attitude. The Minister and his party have many friends in the building trade and there are single firms in this city who are building more than a house per day, that is 365 houses per year. If the Government cannot get sufficient co-operation and assistance in an emergency from their friends in the building trade to do the reconstruction work in Mountjoy in 12 months it is obvious that something has gone wrong with Fianna Fáil. They have stressed here that they have an emergency on their hands; we do not want them to forget that tomorrow or the following day.
There are very serious objections to having a civil prison within a military establishment. First, it is not the kind of work in which the Army want to engage. I said yesterday that it is only because of their loyalty during the years that makes them undertake this kind of job. Apart altogether from that, the accommodation in the Curragh is deplorable. It was not being used and, consequently, it was allowed to become run down. I visited the Curragh last year and I know the circumstances; only the inner compound is usable at the moment, the exercise ground is not usable.
All responsible people want to support the Government but they do not want the Government to sit back and disregard the emergency nature of this legislation. We want the Government to decide who are their friends in the building trade and who will carry out this repair work in the shortest possible time. The Government should not think that once they have got the legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas that they can take their time and use this excuse to see what they can do in their own time and when they have the money to reconstruct completely Mountjoy Prison. I should hate the Government to adopt this kind of attitude but having regard to the Minister's statement that this legislation will continue until 31st May, 1974, I am afraid that this is the attitude the Government are adopting. I am completely opposed to this.
The amendment proposed by the Minister indicates that he requires two years presumably to carry out necessary repair work to Mountjoy Prison. If that is so, the damage must be extensive and costly and part of the building must be reduced to a heap of rubble. We do not know because we did not get any estimate of the cost of repairs, neither did we get a clear-cut picture of the nature and extent of the damage. The only thing we know is that in the Minister's view it is likely to take two years to carry out the repair work.
It is a serious reflection on the Minister, his Department and on the Government, that in our capital city and in our main prison a group of people could take over the premises and destroy it. The prison housed a number of prisoners who were agitating to obtain freedom by any means. Surely it did not require much foresight on the part of the authorities or the Minister to realise that there was a likelihood of a riot taking place in the prison——
That does not relate to the amendments——
The Deputy did not hear what the Minister said last night——
If the Deputy would allow me to continue, I was about to point out to Deputy Murphy that this does not arise on the amendment which relates to a specific date. We cannot have Second Reading speeches on the amendment.
I am not making a Second Reading speech. For Deputy Briscoe's information I was here last night and I voted in favour of this Bill. Although the press have stated that I did not vote the House has the record that I voted on this measure last night. I do not shirk responsibilities. It is not my role to abstain on votes when I am present in the House and I am sure the Clerk of the Dáil has the necessary record. I do not know how the newsmen got it into their heads that I was not here and why they gave it publicity. I voted in favour of the measure because I think a measure like this is necessary.
The Minister stated it will take two years to rectify the damage that has been caused to Mountjoy Prison—at least that is the implication in his statement. According to the Minister the period of one year which was mentioned yesterday is insufficient and it is more likely that it will take two years. I maintain it is relevant to discuss this on Committee Stage. The Minister's view is that it is likely to take two years to repair the damage. Fine Gael say it should be 15 months. We reduced that to three or four months, and I am worried about what steps were taken——
That does not arise. The responsibility for the riot does not arise on these amendments which apply only to the fixing of time.
I suggest I should be allowed to deal with the reasons for the fixing of a time. The reasons have been given. The Minister said the time must be fixed at two years, Fine Gael say 15 months and we say six months. Is it not reasonable to refer to the three amendments? The only relevant way to do that is to refer to the nature and the extent of the damage and how it came about.
That does not apply. As the Deputy himself has said, we cannot have a Second Stage debate on these amendments.
I am making a statement on the amendments before the House. Of course I do not want to make an issue of it with the Chair, whose ruling is absolute, but the main issue behind the amendments is the period of time it will take to restore Mountjoy Prison. Some people feel the damage could be repaired in six months, Fine Gael say 15 months and the Minister says two years. On the assumption that the Minister has more information at his disposal than the Opposition have, my claim is that the nature of the damage must be exceptional. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to go into the cause of the damage.
I cannot permit this type of discussion.
I accept your ruling on that. That is the big question. When I was interrupted earlier I was about to say that because of the time limit last night I was unable to contribute to the Second Reading of the Bill and I felt that the amendments today would give an opportunity to those of us who did not get it yesterday. I will conclude by repeating that I supported this measure last night. I voted for it and newspaper reports that I did not do so are erroneous.
I should like to support the Minister's amendment. He is in a better position to judge the state of Mountjoy Prison. Deputy Cooney appreciated this to a certain extent. He has the reputation of being a responsible person and I think he is behaving responsibly now. There is a period of nine months difference between Fine Gael and the Minister. If I were Shadow Minister for Justice in Fine Gael I would have gone to Mountjoy Prison to survey the extent of the damage.
And the Deputy would not be allowed in. That is what happened to me.
I would not like to see Deputy Clinton in Mountjoy.
I am sure the Minister would have arranged it for any member of Fine Gael who wanted to go to Mountjoy to survey the damage, if they had asked him last night. I doubt if any member of Fine Gael asked him. The extent of the repairs and the kind of repairs are the two matters of importance here. There is the question of the structural changes which may be necessary to a building more than 100 years old and if we are to spend a lot of money on repairs, let us spend the money well and do a proper job while we are at it.
The Minister said it would be necessary to have a flat roof rather than the existing one. This will take a certain amount of planning, drawings, et cetera. Therefore, I urge Fine Gael to accept the Minister's amendment on the basis that he has sources of information as to the length of time necessary to do a proper job. I would ignore the Labour Party amendment because they do not want this Bill at all. No matter how much they may endeavour to argue among themselves, it is obvious that they are playing a middle of the road game to pacify some of their members.
Who are those people? The Deputy made an allegation which he should be called on to substantiate. He should not be allowed to get away with it. There is a clear allegation and there is no truth in it, as far as I know. Deputy Briscoe knows a damn sight bigger lot of IRA men than I do.
I am not sure how we are to establish the result of that particular wager. Deputy Briscoe's final remarks were not relevant to the amendments or appropriate at this stage and they would have been better not said. On the amendments, we have a problem. The Minister told us yesterday it would take a year to repair the prison. He now tells us, through the formal wording of the amendment, that it would take two years or more. I did not understand from his opening speech yesterday that there is justification for this two year period. If by taking a longer time we could produce radical improvements in the structure of the prison which would make it a place in which there could be rehabilitative effects for the prisoners, one would be prepared to consider the Minister's amendment without suspicion, but we have not had any adequate assurances on that.
Indeed, his amendment makes provision for more than two years but not for less. If the Minister was right yesterday, the prison could be ready in a year. We accept there might be a dispute or a strike and that work might be delayed, and the Minister's amendment might be acceptable if he had not added "or more". As it is, the amendment is unacceptable but we might get somewhere on it if we had assurances on a number of things. First of all, could we get a guarantee that radical improvements will be made in the prison? All of us had a letter this morning from the Reverend Father Byrne, the head Catholic chaplain in Mountjoy, who read a paper recently on penal treatment. He makes reference to improving the prison and to restoring it possibly to its earlier futility at great expense. He went on to add other relevant questions such as:
Do you know that the reason given for failure to develop remedial services in the past was said to be shortage of money?
I must say that plea has influenced me. We are willing to consider a somewhat longer period if there is a guarantee there will be radical improvements in the prison, making it a different kind of prison altogether. If that is so, then there is a case for a longer period. If the Minister cannot give us that assurance then there are no grounds for agreeing to a period twice or more as long as the period the Minister himself said yesterday was necessary. First of all, I want to ask the Minister if he can tell us that there will be radical improvements and that the intention is to change the whole character of the prison and to make it more a centre of rehabilitation. I am anxious to have the Minister's attention on these points.
I heard the Deputy.
Our acceptance of a form of amendment similar to what is here depends on the Minister's response on these issues. First of all, can he guarantee us that there will be radical improvements in the character of the prison? Secondly, will he be willing to agree that Members of the Oireachtas can satisfy themselves of that by being given a consultative role and being consulted during the planning and carrying out of these improvements so that we can satisfy ourselves that the work will radically transform the prison and as to the pace of the work so that there will be no unnecessary hold-ups in the work or no slow-downs because of any Government policy that might involve wishing to keep prisoners in military custody?
Thirdly, it will, of course, be essential to delete from the amendment as at present drafted the word "later", which confines action by Dáil Éireann to an extension of the period of two years and makes it impossible for us to shorten it. I wish to point out that in suggesting that deletion I am very much in the spirit of the Bill as originally drafted, which left it open to the Dáil to act at any time and did not prevent the Dáil from acting in the first two years which is the effect of the amendment as at present granted.
If the Minister can give us a guarantee of radical improvements, and if he can give us, also, a guarantee that we will be allowed to satisfy ourselves that the plans involve such improvements, and that they are being carried out with due expedition, and if he is agreeable to delete the word "later" so as to enable the Dáil if it is dissatisfied with the plans or with the progress, and if it feels that the job can be done more quickly, to move by resolution that the section of the Bill be terminated at an earlier date, we will be prepared to consider his amendment in this revised form. If that is not the case, if he is simply throwing in another year for good measure, and giving himself power to extend it beyond that, and if there is no intention to improve the building radically, it will be impossible for us to support the amendment as drafted in its present form.
The marked reluctance or unwillingness of the Minister to concede this reasonable request from the Opposition for a reasonable period of time, together with other safeguards which would make clear the intention to terminate this measure, confirms in the minds of many of us the fears we harboured concerning this proposal. The Bill now appears to be of a permanent nature by power the Minister is taking under this section. It has already been said that there are portents of danger in this measure and sinister connotations, that to all intent and purposes it represents internment in disguise. It is now taking on all these ugly appearances.
It is absurd to suggest that it would take two years to renovate and repair Mountjoy. If the Minister were serious about restoring Mountjoy and providing proper accommodation, he could have impressed upon the Office of Public Works that they should engage upon a crash programme to carry out such repairs. Clearly he has not done that. He could have utilised the space in the other jails. He could have availed himself of alternative accommodation which many of us believe is readily available in this city and in many other parts of the country. It seems to me, therefore, that the Minister is using this section, and using the wrecking of Mountjoy, to take upon himself additional powers, powers which may turn out to be of a very repressive nature which this House does not wish to give him.
We believe that six months should be adequate to have the necessary repairs carried out especially in circumstances in which fundamental human rights are involved and the legal system as we know it, in that the prisoners—and there are not many; some 40 or 50—are not being transferred to another jail as such under the aegis of the Minister for Justice and the prison system as we know it, but are being transferred to military custody. They are being transferred to the Curragh Camp. They are being transferred to Tintown with all its sinister and repressive connotations. It is a serious matter that we are giving responsibility to the Minister for Defence and placing these prisoners under the charge of the military. Here is where the negation of justice and democracy enters into the matter.
The Minister let the cat out of the bag somewhat this morning when he talked about the state of the country and the need to hold certain classes of criminals for an indefinite period of time, or words to that effect. I am very fearful of this measure. I believe the Minister is bringing into this House internment, and internment without trial if necessary, because most of these men are being kept on remand indefinitely. This has all the sinister implications of a Bill of a long-term nature which will be used by the Government to intern whom they like, when they like, where they like, for indefinite periods of time.
This is what the Government have wanted in recent years. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice are known to want internment. They flew many a kite on this subject and they were shot down on each occasion by an outcry of public indignation. We all saw what internment without trial brought about in North-East Ulster. I would ask the Minister to hesitate on the brink of the implementation of this measure lest it might bring about like tragic repercussions in this part of Ireland as well. We are not ungrateful for the intention to include a specific period of time in the measure but we in this party suggest six months. We believe that is adequate for the purpose of restoring Mountjoy. If this is not conceded we can only conclude that the longer period of time and the openended nature of the section which the Minister has introduced have an ulterior motive. I have already spelled out the ulterior motive: internment in another guise.
I believe that the House is being used and abused in being asked to condone and support this measure involving internment without trial, the use of the military, and the utilisation of the Curragh Camp which bring up so many sad memories in the minds of many people and have been responsible for the scars on many minds and hearts in the recent past. I oppose outrightly any suggestion of a period of time longer than that necessary to restore Mountjoy.
If the Minister were sincere he could utilise the services of the Office of Public Works, the NBA and the large building contractors in this city who can build high-rise skyscrapers and massive office blocks in a relatively short period of time. There is no justification, in my opinion, for seeking a two-year period for this purpose. Therefore I must look with the utmost suspicion and distrust on this measure. I am more convinced this morning than ever before that I did the right thing in the interests of democracy, in the interests of fundamental rights and in the interests of the maintenance of our legal system and the separation of the judiciary from the Executive, in going into the Lobby with a few of my colleagues in the small hours of this morning and voting against this sinister measure.
Mr. J. Lenehan
We have had some very interesting talk here for the past half-hour but if anybody here is so simple as to ask me to believe that Mountjoy is going to be repaired in 12 months, he must be very innocent indeed if he believes that these building contractors who build these places so quickly are prepared to do that work, considering that it took 12 years to repair this House and it was an urgent task. I know what Dublin contractors are. They build these places and let, sub-let or get rid of them to the Government or to somebody else at colossal prices but ask them to repair Mountjoy and we will see. In my view, this section will have to be repeated in 1974 instead of being deleted now as is sought. I do not believe it will be repaired on the date mentioned by the Minister. I admit that if you got the paint brigade who dealt with O'Connell Bridge and various bridges around the country in the past month, they might do something with it but certainly not Dublin contractors.
I cannot see how it will be repaired by that date and I believe that most of the people here who have made speeches have made them merely for the sake of being anti-something. I do not want to see anybody locked up anywhere, and if I happened to be Minister for Justice, I would employ somebody to blow up Mountjoy because any place connected with a crowd like the Mountjoys should not be in the country. They should get some Irish or some other name for it. I presume it is called after Lord Mountjoy and it is a nice tribute to us if we have to lock our people up under Lord Mountjoy. A good many of us are getting a bit sick of this. I am supporting the Minister on the time limit because I know Dublin contractors. In many cases houses and other buildings have to be gone over again within a month of going up. I saw a firm in my hotel painting with the doors closed and when the doors were opened it was found that they had to get another firm to do the job again. They were probably the crowd who were on the bridges during the Referendum.
It is doubtful if this section or any of the amendments will be relevant at all because if we are going to enter EEC I doubt if this Bill will have any validity. I do not think there is any such legislation in any of the Common Market countries and, if that is so, the Bill will become totally irrelevant early next year anyhow, so that there is not much point in disputing the Minister's attitude at this stage. The real reason I am not opposing it is that I personally do not believe that Mountjoy Prison will be properly repaired within two years. I cannot see it being done and knowing the kind of contractors we have, whom I have seen operating around the city and elsewhere, I am quite convinced that what I am saying is right.
Deputy Treacy alleged that we were all people with hearts of stone over here, anxious to lock up everybody for all time. We are all politicians, concerned about the well being of every person in this country and this section is not the Minister's doing. It is the doing of the people responsible for having us discussing this matter this morning and to allege that we are anxious to lock up everybody means that you are overestimating your own charity and that we over here are anxious to do all these things.
Let us wait and see.
Deputy Treacy is one of those people who is anxious to misrepresent the House and anxious to misrepresent us at this stage. I am not going to be personal with the Deputy. I am dealing with him politically——
If it is humbug to uphold law and order—and there is nobody being interfered with in this Bill except the person who breaks the law—if I break the law, I am liable to punishment and to be locked up——
Congratulate the Minister now.
That is part of my courtesy to any Minister doing a good job for this State and I will never fail in that. One would imagine that the Minister had brought in this Bill without there being any necessity for it, that there was nobody in this country breaking the law and we should let everybody out. It is all right if my home is burned or if shops and business premises in Dublin are burned. Deputy Treacy says that these people should not be interfered with, that we should almost kiss them.
I said no such thing.
That was your implication and we are intelligent enough to interpret what you said. We people on these benches have sinister motives for doing these things. In the name of God, do you know whom you are talking to at all?
You are oozing with Christian charity this morning.
Perhaps the Deputy would address the Chair.
It is Christian charity to defend Deputies and Ministers on this side of the House who are smeared. Not one member of my party from the Taoiseach down wishes to see anybody in jail, to have any trouble in the country, to do anything in an undemocratic way, but we hear about the sinister motives of the Fianna Fáil Party—this tripe we have to listen to here and with which I am fed up. This is our country and anything we can do it is our right to do to defend the right of every free man to walk the streets of Dublin or any other city, county or parish in this country.
When we try to have law and order maintained we are accused of having sinister motives. It is time the people realised the type of representatives they are sending to this House. I shall not refer to anyone in particular, and I wish everyone well, but from the national point of view it is about time that we should stand up and be counted. Do we or do we not want law and order? This Bill is forced on our party and on the Minister for Justice by people who want to tear down this democracy that has been built up during the years. Again, we are told that the Minister has sinister motives in asking for a little time to have Mountjoy Jail repaired. The rehabilitation of prisoners has been going on successfully at Mountjoy and I have sufficient confidence in the Minister for Justice to believe that as soon as the prison is repaired, that rehabilitation work will be continued.
We are discussing the nature of the duration of a time limit that might be put on this legislation. It will be recalled that yesterday evening the Minister agreed in principle to move an amendment this morning incorporating a time limit on legislation. The real debate is as to whether his proposal or our proposal or the proposal of the Labour Party is adequate in the view of this House but in this discussion it is quite clear that the real purpose of the Bill has come into debate. I want to make it clear this morning on behalf of this party, as I made it clear yesterday also, that we accepted the bona fides of the Government as expressed by the Minister for Justice and that when the Minister stated that this was a piece of legislation designed merely to deal with a crisis situation created by the unfortunate rioting in Mountjoy on Thursday last, that was accepted by us.
The suggestion has been made that this is not so and that in fact this is a curtain-raiser to some kind of military detention in military camps or barracks or internment camps for people who seek to act outside the law. If that is the Government's intention I would expect them to put that forward clearly in this House so that it could be considered honestly and objectively by all the Deputies here. If we are going to discuss that problem let us do it openly and honestly and with full regard to our responsibility as Members of this House and as citizens.
I do not like humbug and I do not tolerate hypocrisy. I want to know clearly where are we going. Is this legislation designed for the purpose mentioned yesterday by the Minister? Is that purely the motive which brought it about or is it, as has been suggested clearly by commentators in the newspapers this morning, a Lynchian way of making a virtue out of a necessity and of inching towards another purpose? I expect a clear statement from the Government on this because I observe in the Irish Independent this morning, under a most unlikely heading, a rather significant remark in relation to this Bill. The heading is: “Childers Denies Leaving in Huff.” There is a story with reference to the Minister for Health having to leave a meeting in the Hibernian Hotel some minutes after 4 p.m. yesterday without having been called on to speak and the question was whether he was angry because he was not recognised or whether he had to leave for another reason. The Minister is reported as explaining his leaving in these terms:
I told the committee that I would be late. Then I had to leave before 4 o'clock in case the first reading of the Curragh detention Bill took place in the Dáil.
Can we have an explanation of that? Is this a Curragh detention Bill as the Deputy Leader of the Government so described it yesterday and if so where are the bona fides of the Government? There should be a clear explanation in matters of this kind. There are responsible Opposition parties here who, unlike the Government, are prepared to grasp the nettle danger firmly and in so far as we are concerned I do not believe that any Deputy on this side of the House has any doubt as to where he would stand if the security of this nation was jeopardised or in danger.
I have no wish to interrupt the Deputy but I think he is straying from the amendment.
I would not like to stray but the test of the truth of the statements made yesterday by the Minister must relate to the time this legislation is to operate.
The longer the time the Minister seeks, in view of this kind of background, the more the suspicion on this side of the House must be aroused. In introducing the Second Stage yesterday the Minister said that it would take 12 months to repair Mountjoy but he comes here now asking for two years to have it repaired——
——or such later time as the House might decide by resolution. Why is an estimate of 12 months doubled overnight? If, as described by the Deputy Leader of the Government, this Bill is to be a Curragh detention Bill, let us introduce it as such. Let us debate it as such. Let us see where we stand on that kind of issue but let Deputies not be asked to vote in blinkers. That is an insult to our intelligence. It is not a responsible way of dealing with Deputies on any side of the House as representatives of the people and it is not the kind of leadership this country requires now. If issues are to be faced they should be faced openly, honestly and responsibly. For how long this legislation should operate is highly relevant to the issue we are discussing, as is also whether it is purely crisis legislation, ad hoc legislation, to deal with the tearing down of cell doors, the breaking of windows and the destruction of the roof of Mountjoy, estimated yesterday to be repairable in 12 months. Why does the Minister not come in now and, having agreed in principle to a time limit, agree to a time limit more proximate to 12 months? Why does he seek two years or such later date as may be specified? Why does the Deputy Leader describe the Bill as a Curragh detention Bill?
These are questions which ought to be answered. I say that without, in the slightest way, wavering in the policy of this party, that is, that if there is a danger and if there is disorder and if there are people endeavouring to interfere with our democratic institutions, we should deal with them but do not let us use one excuse to adopt an entirely different position. It is an honest and clear-sighted Government that we require in this country now but we are not getting that sort of Government.
I am one of those who had very serious difficulty last night in supporting this Bill. Nevertheless, I did so when the Minister gave an indication that he intended to impose a time limit. My difficulty arose in relation to section 2, the section dealing with military custody, with all its implications and overtones. However, when I believed the Bill would be of short duration and confined to making arrangements for the provision of additional accommodation as a result of the riot in Mountjoy last week, I went along with it. I had in mind, too, the type of individuals who caused the riot, individuals who must necessarily be kept in a secure place. In my constituency in the last couple of years there have been four serious bank raids and other happenings which have left the people there in a very worried frame of mind. We do not want these individuals in an institution or place in which they could again impose their will or do the things that have been done in my constituency. I found myself, then, having to support the Bill, with the reservation I have made and in the light of the promise made by the Minister that he intended to impose a time limit on the Bill.
This morning I find the time limit is two years plus. That seems to me a ridiculously long period in which to carry out repairs or alterations to Mountjoy. Anybody who has any experience of building knows that one could build a new prison in that length of time. For me, the period is far too long and, because of that, I could not support the Minister's amendment. The Labour Party amendment of six months is reasonable. Even a few extra months might be acceptable, but two years goes beyond all that is necessary, in my opinion, for repairs and alterations.
Another matter that worries me is the Minister's remark this morning that additional accommodation would probably have been necessary because of the state of the country, both north and south, and arrangements would have had to be made for an increase in the numbers taken in over the next two years. The Minister dealt rather cursorily with that. I think he should have spent more time explaining what he expected would happen here in the next two years and under what circumstances people would be apprehended, or "lifted", in that period. I am much more worried now than I was last night at the implications of the Minister's amendment. The amendment reads:
This section shall continue in operation until the 31st day of May, 1974, or such later date (if any) as may for the time being stand specified by resolution of Dáil Éireann passed at a time when this section is in operation, and it shall then expire.
A simple statement of a specific period would have sufficed for us in the Labour Party and we would have accepted that. This addition makes us suspicious of the real intentions. I had, as I said, reservations last night but, because the Minister gave his word, and this was accepted by the press commentators this morning as is evidenced by the Irish Press heading, I supported the Bill. Those listening to the debate here understood the Minister to give his word. I do not think he has kept his word in this amendment. The addition of these words means that the period can be extended to any period he thinks necessary for one reason or another. Indeed, the reasons advanced in his final remarks make me even more suspicious. When he speaks again I hope he will explain his remarks and give a clear indication to the House of the additional accommodation required and tell us if this additional accommodation would have been required had there been no riot. Will he also tell us if the Curragh would have been necessary as a detention centre if there had been no riot? The Minister will have to answer these questions in order to put a great many people's minds at rest. The period specified in his amendment is far too long. I will oppose the Minister's amendment and support the Labour Party amendment.
I was trying to get in while we had the Minister for Transport and Power with us because there are a few things I want to clear up and the Minister for Transport and Power could have cleared up one of them. We had what I describe as a rather foolish contribution from Deputy Briscoe this morning on these amendments. He implied that the Labour Party just were not interested in security and, for that reason, they did not want this legislation at all. The Labour Party are well able to answer for themselves. He went on to say that if we were serious we would have taken the trouble of going to see Mountjoy. I interjected that we would not be let in. I understand this argument was also made last night. The Minister said that I was allowed to visit, but did not do so, or something to that effect. Photographs in the papers prove that this is wrong. I went there on one occasion and I was told they would have to ring the Minister for Justice—he is now Minister for Transport and Power— and the message came back: "Do not let him in." I was not let in. As a public representative I was concerned about people from my own constituency who were in Mountjoy and I believed I should be allowed to see the conditions for myself. I do not think there was anything unreasonable in that and the Minister in question should have known that I was not going in for the purpose of causing a serious disturbance but simply because I was concerned about the conditions.
I understood that the section set aside in Collins Barracks, Cork, was to be passed over to the Department of Justice. Is that so or is it not? Does this legislation apply only to the Curragh? We should be told to what it does apply. There is no reason why the section in Collins Barracks, Cork, which is on the perimeter of the camp, should not be handed over to the Department of Justice and staffed by people under the Department of Justice. I appreciate that there is a serious problem for the Minister in the Curragh. The detention centre is right in the centre of the Camp and it could not be manned by people from the Department of Justice. That is understandable. The Minister will have to clear up the position and tell us to what establishments this will apply.
I want to make my position perfectly clear with regard to the action I took last night. I had my mind clearly made up as to what stand I would take on this issue because I knew that these incidents in Mountjoy were not accidental. They were forced upon these men, men of conviction, men who believe that what they are doing is the right thing, and we must respect them for their convictions. This position was brought about because of the arrogance, and nothing else, of the Minister for Justice. These men had been complaining for quite some time and if the Minister had even a modicum of maturity he would understand what it means to be locked up as a political prisoner. Some of us have had that experience. He, unfortunately, has not had that experience. These men who are charged with political offences because of their political convictions have been detained in a prison where they got treatment completely and utterly divorced from the treatment political prisoners should get. They were in overcrowded conditions; they were ill-treated and badly fed and the general aspect of their conditions in Mountjoy was absolutely deplorable. We had experience of that in the past from Fianna Fáil when a colleague of mine, the late Seán McCaughey, was allowed to die on hunger strike, wrapped in an old blanket——
The Deputy should keep to the amendment.
I want to make my statement, with all due respect.
Yes, but on the amendment before the House.
The whole thing culminated in the fact that a young boy who asked for parole——
We are not dealing with this in the amendment and the Deputy knows that.
I am dealing with the time limit. I shall come to that and give the reason why there must be an extension. This culminated in the fact that a young boy on the greatest day of his life would not be allowed parole——
The Deputy is introducing matter that is not in the amendment.
Scriptum manet. It is on record now in any case. I was very worried coming in here last night and I had no intention of subscribing to the view that political prisoners should be detained and supervised by members of the Irish Army. That is military law, not civil law. Fianna Fáil have typified what military law is down through the years. I shall never subscribe to it. Were it not for the fact that the Minister last night in one more backstepping effort particularly with regard to the trouble he had with the Garda Síochána and other sections——
The Deputy is straying completely from the section.
The Minister stepped back and said he would put a limit on the reconstruction of Mountjoy. There and then my mind changed because I thought he spoke honestly. I doubt that now. I thought he was bona fide in what he said but having listened to him this morning doubling his statement of last night from one year to two or more I must now again put the rule to the Minister's statement and approach. I want to know what steps he has taken to find out from the contractors, builders or reconstruction firm how long the reconstruction will take. There is a time clause included in every public contract. The Minister has not told us how long this job will take. I expected to hear it this morning. Any businessman or any public man with experience at local authority or national level would know it is fundamental in all contracts to have a time clause. But the Minister knows nothing about it. That does not surprise me because of his immaturity and arrogance.
Why is it not possible to retain the men who are now in charge at the Curragh, the prison warders and jail warders? There is a difference between a prison and a jail, whether the Minister knows this or not. I want to know why the seven prison warders now in the Curragh cannot be retained there in a supervisory capacity. As our leader said last night, let them be held under the Department of Justice. The Minister says he has not staff but they are there at the moment, to my knowledge.
The section and the amendment deal with time.
If the Chair were locked up for a time he would know what time is. I want to shorten the time as much as possible in the glasshouse internment camp.
The Deputy is not dealing with time.
I want justice done and I want no equivocation or quibbling on this issue which is too serious to be toyed with. I have seen men die for their convictions. I have seen men hanged by Fianna Fáil——
The Deputy is moving away from the amendment.
The same thing could arise as a result of the Minister's action in sending these men to the Curragh. There are other places to which the Minister could send those men. He can create a prison——
The Deputy is not dealing with the amendment.
I am dealing with common sense.
The Deputy will deal with the amendment.
Why was it not possible to retain these seven warders and why did the Minister not seek other places for these prisoners?
The Deputy must stay with the amendment.
I want to emphasise one thing. I did not get an opportunity last night of giving my views to the House. Because of the manner in which the Minister has sidetracked and somersaulted on his statement of last night, I must call him to heel for the way he has treated the House and deceived it. I would not have taken the action I took last night were it not for the deliberate——
The Deputy is not entitled to say that on this section. He is out of order. The amendment deals with time.
Having said what I have said, we will proceed in peace. I want to know from the Minister why he told us last night that the reconstruction of Mountjoy would be completed in 12 months. I understood that like a sensible businessman he would have had his investigations made and know his facts. Why was there not a time clause for this reconstruction job as is the normal practice? This morning the Minister says it could be two years or more, much more. These unfortunate men are prepared to suffer for their convictions—and it is no Christmas party to be locked up in the Curragh. I want to ease the stress on these people and their relatives and to ease the tension in the nation generally because I know what will happen as a result of this—it happened before and there is no reason why it will not happen again. They will be bringing over Pierpoint——
Will the Deputy please speak on the amendment?
I want clarification on the questions I am asking. Until I get them, I will not be satisfied.
What I have to say will be short, pungent and, I hope, to the point on the amendment in particular introduced by the Minister for Justice. I do not think I have in my now not-so-brief political career, listened to as much breast-beating and Republican rhetoric in this House. I am reminded—and this is apposite to this amendment—of two quotations. I address one of these in particular to my colleagues on the front bench of Fine Gael. Quoting from memory, the quotation goes:
The lawyers have sat in council, the men with the long grey faces....
I address the other one to some of my own colleagues, again quoting from memory:
There is more joy in Heaven over one repentant sinner than over 99 just men.
The amendment introduced by the Minister this morning vindicates six people, the six people who walked through the "Nil" lobbies over there last night, lonely, frightened and isolated. I took no pleasure in it. Deputy Treacy, who has spoken very well on this subject, Deputy O'Connell, Deputy Cluskey, Deputy O'Donovan, Deputy Sherwin and myself——
We are dealing with the amendment.
I am dealing directly with the amendment.
I wish the Deputy would come to the amendment.
The explanation given for the fact that 97 people of three parties were capable of walking together in the most iniquitous coalition ever seen——
This has nothing to do with the amendment.
The explanation given was that the Minister was prepared to concede a time limit on the operation of this Bill. We come into this House and we find that the time limit is slightly over two years. The amendment reads:
"( ) This section shall continue in operation until the 31st day of May, 1974, or such later date (if any) as may for the time being stand specified by resolution of Dáil Éireann passed at a time when this section is in operation, and it shall then expire."
In his introductory speech to the Bill last night, the Minister said that it would take at least 12 months to repair Mountjoy Jail. Some of us said that this was a fiction. A lie is too strong a word to use in Parliament. The repairing of Mountjoy Jail is mentioned in the Irish Press this morning—the truth in the news as ex-Deputy James Dillon used to say. Under the heading “Prison Bill Time Limit” it is said that Deputy O'Malley agrees to an amendment, but we come in here and find that the amendment which Deputy O'Malley agrees to is to extend the time he mentioned yesterday from one year to two years.
All I can say—and I am being extremely brief—to my colleagues of both parties who did not walk with that tiny minority last night is that if they were taken in by the assurance of the Minister for Justice 12 hours ago—assurances headlined in the Irish Press today—they have demonstrated their political gullibility and naïvety to a degree that I did not think possible.
Deputy O'Higgins referred to the quotation, as yet not denied, by the Tanaiste that this Bill was the Curragh detention Bill. Never in this House before have I risen and said "I told you so", but the ritual of Deputies from both the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party of standing up in this House and expressing bewilderment at the Minister's so-called amendment reduces me to mirth, if it were not so tragic. One after another the Deputies are saying that they believed Deputy O'Malley when he said he would put a terminal point in this Bill. They have got their answer and they have been shown the degree of credence and credibility which they can put on the statements of the Minister for Justice.
Deputy Coughlan said that he asked for certain assurances from the Minister for Justice. I ask for no assurances from the Minister for Justice because I know what I am dealing with in the Minister for Justice. I knew last night when I walked through the "Nil" lobby what I was dealing with in the Minister for Justice. The amendment introduced by the Minister for Justice today in implementation of the pledge he made in this House that there would be a time limit on the operation of this Bill is in the first place an insult to the intelligence of this House and, secondly, it reflects the political gullibility of the lawyers on the Fine Gael benches who, 12 hours ago, took his word.
(Cavan): One thing is clear and that is that Mountjoy Prison is not at the present time suitable for the detention of a full complement of prisoners, either prisoners on remand or sentenced prisoners. If I were to deal at length with the circumstances under which it became unsuitable I might not be in order. I do not propose to do that, beyond saying that it amazes me how a situation was allowed to develop where unarmed prisoners were able to wreck a prison to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds. On an Estimate or on some other occasion, serious words will have to be spoken and blame put where it rightly lies for that state of affairs.
We must deal with the position as we find it now. Mountjoy Prison is not suitable at the present time for its purpose. Unfortunately, it is also a fact that we must have prisoners and that we must be able to detain people who are determined to break the law, or to take the law into their own hands, and who disregard completely the rights of other citizens. If I were to try to work myself into a frenzy or become emotional, I would find it easier to do so if I were to think of the rights of ordinary, law-abiding citizens who are prepared to go about their everyday work and business without interfering with anybody else, and who have their lives disrupted and property damaged by people who have no regard for the law or for the rights of other citizens.
In so far as I am concerned, so long as Mountjoy Prison is unsuitable and so long as there is necessity for having a prison, I am prepared to give the Minister reasonable powers to house these people elsewhere.
The question has been raised, and I think rightly so, as to whether this Bill is a temporary measure to deal with prisoners during the repair of Mountjoy or the thin end of the wedge in dealing with the political situation in this country. This Government have shown over the last couple of years evidence of double thinking and double talk, and the statement of the Tánaiste which appears in today's Irish Independent, in which he is reported as having referred to this Bill last evening as the “Curragh Detention Bill”, does in fact raise the question in one's mind whether it is a temporary Bill or a permanent piece of legislation. The Government should, as Deputy O'Higgins said, clarify that beyond doubt. I do not think that the Tánaiste got this phrase out of the sky. It is a phrase he must have heard used some place else. I know discussions of the Cabinet are secret, but if a Bill is described by one title in one place, I suppose a man who has heard it so described can be pardoned if he describes it in similar terms elsewhere.
Would the Deputy give way for one moment on that? I want to assure the Deputy that the words "Curragh detention" were never used in the course of the Cabinet discussions or in the course of any other discussions between members of the Government, neither in these words nor in the connotation being suggested by the Deputy.
(Cavan): The Taoiseach is aware that when the Tánaiste found it necessary to give an explanation yesterday for leaving a meeting of the National Council for the Blind of Ireland he said:
I told the Committee that I would be late. Then I had to leave before 4 o'clock in case the First Reading of the Curragh Detention Bill took place in the Dáil.
I do not know whether the title was changed or not. It is now the Prisons Bill, 1972. Maybe it is the duty of the Opposition to be suspicious, but I should like to know who planted this description in the Tánaiste's mind. Perhaps he thought that should be the title of the Bill, that it would be a more apt description of it.
Maybe he is more honest than some of the other Ministers.
(Cavan): What we want here is an honest discussion on this Bill. We in this party are prepared to give the Minister for Justice and the Government reasonable measures to deal with an emergency situation, but we do not want to be discussing a detention Bill under the guise of a prisons Bill, and the people and the Members of this House can be pardoned for being alarmed at hearing the second most important man, in status, in the Government describe this Bill glibly as the Curragh detention Bill. The Taoiseach has told me that it has never been so described at a Cabinet meeting. I accept that, but it shows the sort of thinking that is going through the minds of some Ministers The word “detention” is not synonymous with “remand” and it is not synonymous with “imprisonment”. It is something else, and I suppose the nearest thing it comes to is “internment”.
Everybody in St. Patrick's and in Shanganagh is in detention.
(Cavan): I suppose you could say that everybody who is in prison is detained against his will——
It is officially called "detention".
(Cavan):—— but when there is an association of “the Curragh” with “detention” in the mind of a senior Cabinet Minister, we are entitled to probe further. As I say, and as Deputy O'Higgins said, let us be honest. Let us discuss what we mean. If we do that I shall be satisfied. Let us not have a continuance of making one speech today and another one tomorrow, saying: “I have been incorrectly reported. That is not what I said.” This sort of thing leads to misrepresentation.
In the circumstances I have outlined it is important that we should put a time limit on this Bill and I would like the Minister for Justice to tell us now if he has had sufficient time to make up his mind whether he intends to do what I would call an ordinary reconstruction job on Mountjoy or to avail of this bit of vandalism to redesign the whole place, to modernise it, if that can be done. It would appear to be a waste of public money to replace an old building of 150 years, or whatever age it is, exactly as it was before. That would be out of keeping with modern thinking. The Minister's attitude could be understood if he were to say: "I shall avail of this opportunity to have expert opinion on the whole set-up in Mountjoy and see whether it should be reinstated or demolished."
What I do not like about the amendment that has been introduced by the Minister is that it is not an improvement on section 2. It does not meet the points made by Opposition speakers last night. Section 2, as it stands, proposes to enact that this Bill can be terminated at any time, next week, if the House so desires. It could last for ten years or two months. The House could at any time pass a resolution saying that the section was no longer necessary, and it would end then. The amendment says the section must stand for approximately two years until 31st May, 1974, and that if no resolution is passed it will cease to operate on that date, but the Minister takes power to fix a later date for its termination. I think the least distance the Minister can go is to delete from his amendment the word "later". The amendment would then read:
This section shall continue in operation until 31st May, 1974, or such date as may for the time being stand specified by resolution of Dáil Éireann.
The section would then mean that if nothing happened the Act would cease to remain in force on 31st May, 1974, but the House could terminate it at any time between now and 31st May, 1974. I do not know if that is what the Minister had in mind, but certainly he has, instead of improving the situation, worsened it by the amendment he has brought in. Therefore, if the Minister can convince the House that, as he sees it now, the 31st May, 1974 is the minimum period required but gives the House power to terminate the section before that, he might have a stronger case.
Those are points which have occured to me listening to the debate and reading the section and the amendment. I think the word "later", instead of being an improvement, considerably worsens the situation.
Not having had the opportunity to comment last evening on the Bill and having supported the Second Stage last night because of the serious custodial problems indicated by the Minister to the House and accepting the net balance of the arguments put forward by the Minister, notwithstanding reservations that many of us have on the Bill, I feel I should comment on the Minister's amendment.
This amendment to me, at any rate, is quite unacceptable and I am quite sure that as drafted by the Minister it is most unacceptable to the overwhelming majority of responsible Opposition Deputies. If the Minister presses the matter he will find that to be so. As drafted, I certainly would oppose the amendment. The Minister is in a rather weak position to amend his own amendment in view of his performance last evening. I certainly found it no pleasure, in view of the appallingly bad reply by the Minister to the Second Reading debate, when he indicated in a most vague manner the content of the amendment, which clearly showed the extent to which the Government were at sixes and sevens in drafting the amendment. We have had further evidence here this morning of the Taoiseach dashing up and down to the Minister, trying to worry their way out of the impasse they have created in respect of the amendment. Therefore, I have no great confidence in the capacity of the Minister to bring forward acceptable amendments to the House which, if he were less petty, less vindictive and less temperamental, I am quite sure he could do.
I would urge him strongly in relation to the amendment to rethink it quite substantially and to do so immediately. It should be pointed out that the time limit we are talking about is the extent to which we in this House will continue to accept the use of military custody detention centres for normal prison population. The period proposed by the Minister is at least to the 31st May, 1974, and to a much later date if the Minister, in effect, so proposes. I am quite sure that every Member of the House finds it abhorrent and unacceptable, in terms of the fundamental liberties of the citizens, that we should agree to such a period for the incarceration in military custody of citizens who have been convicted of criminal offences. I would point out to the House that there seems to be an impression created by the Minister that the use of these centres until 31st May, 1974, will be specifically for, as he said, those who are causing trouble or those who would like to call themselves political prisoners, a term which we do not accept.
It should be pointed out, and the Minister is only too clearly aware, that any constituent of any Deputy, who gets three or four years for a criminal offence, can be dumped into military custody for a period up to 31st May, 1974, or a later date. This is unacceptable, not just in principle. We need much stronger safeguards in this legislation and they should be built in immediately by the Minister.
I deplore and am vehemently opposed to the attempt by the Minister last evening, and even still, to play dirty party politics with this serious custodial issue that has arisen in the State. I am talking on the merits of the proposal as a Deputy who vehemently opposed the IRA, and the murder of British troops as well, and have done so over three years. I find the Minister is now cynically trying to stir up trouble in this House by the content of the amendment proposed by him. The Taoiseach has been down to him in the last ten minutes, arguing with the Minister whether he will accept another variety of amendment. Quite frankly, I do not think that this is acceptable. Being in Opposition, I have much greater faith in Deputy Cooney's capacity for rational law and order than I have in the Minister's interpretation that we have had here.
I want to say in relation to Mount-joy—and this is the nub of the Minister's argument in relation to the amendment—the Minister seems to think that he is the only person who has ever visited Mountjoy. May I inform the Minister that as a young trade union officer, six, seven or eight years ago, I had many occasions to visit Mountjoy before we had any upstart solicitors winning by-elections and becoming Ministers of State by default and suddenly discovering that they owned and controlled Mountjoy?
I am not prepared to accept the kind of blanket statement by the Minister in relation to 1974. I want evidence and the evidence is available to us in this House. It is disturbing and disgraceful that the Taoiseach this morning and the Minister should bandy around 30 or 40 photographs of the damage in Mountjoy, which they have in their possession, which the Special Branch took inside Mountjoy to show the extent of the damage and which have been shown to members of the Cabinet but no Member of this House has had the opportunity of seeing the extent of the damage. There has been no formal indication in the opening statement by the Minister of the extent of the damage. The Prison Officers Association have not been permitted to make any statement in relation to the extent of the damage. As a trade unionist I would remind the Minister that the Prison Officers Association are trade union members and they have my sympathy, loyalty and support in respect of the appalling situation they had to face during this riot and certainly they have the support of every responsible Member of the House. As public representatives we cannot accept in good faith statements made by many members of the Cabinet, and particularly by the Minister for Justice, in relation to the time limit. The Minister has already contradicted himself. He said it would take 12 months to repair Mountjoy. This morning he said it would take three years. How long will it take?
The Opposition quite legitimately may express serious concern about the content of this amendment. I do not think it is good enough in any democracy simply to say we want military custody in operation for any one of the 1,017 civil prisoners. I have no sympathy for persons caught with arms, ammunition or explosives who are serving sentences at the moment. As far as I am concerned they will serve out their full sentences under the due process of the civil prison institutions of this State and I certainly will not equivocate, as some Deputies have, in this regard.
The Minister must make a far better case for the 31st May, 1974. The Labour Party has put down an amendment to have the date 30th November, 1972, and Fine Gael proposed 1st September, 1973. These in many respects must stand speculative. The Minister has not produced any real evidence to the House, such as a statement by the Board of Works. We only have his own statement giving the actual damage done and the proposals laid out. These are our views.
We have the appalling situation that a few individuals who reject and detest the normal rule of democratic law in this country and who would use any means to disrupt that law go off halfcocked and a Minister and a Taoiseach decide to take advantage of the situation and introduce military custody. This is a typical Fianna Fáil attitude. They take advantage of a situation instead of doing the work of the Minister for Justice in a different manner. These are my views and, unless I hear substantial evidence to the contrary from the Minister I certainly will talk again and will strongly oppose the idea of the 31st May, 1974
The first point I would like to make is that we are two hours on the one amendment and we have to get through 22 of them by 3 o'clock.
We are discussing four amendments together.
A fellow could be in military custody for four years.
The first thing I want to make perfectly clear is that I am accused, as unfortunately seems to be a frequent occurrence on any debate in which I or my Department are involved, of misleading people and all this sort of thing. I misled nobody. Last night I was asked by responsible members of the Opposition—I can see their point—to put some time limit on this Bill. In fact, there was in effect a flexible time limit in subsections (1) and (2) of the Bill as it now stands either to continue it or to end it at the earliest possible moment. However, I was pressed to put in a date and I did so.
The draftsman added to it a provision that, if at the end of that two-year period it was still necessary to continue the provisions of this section, that could be done by a resolution of the Dáil which would have to be passed before the expiry of the period mentioned. Before I deal further with the nature of the amendment I think I should deal with the situation that causes me and my advisers to feel that a two-year period was the appropriate period.
First of all, I was accused of misleading the House yesterday. Almost every Deputy who spoke, alleged that I said yesterday that Mountjoy could be repaired within 12 months. I did not say that. The only person who quoted me properly was Deputy Thornley, who read out what I actually said, which, of course, was very different to what everybody else attributed to me this morning. What I said was, as Deputy Thornley read out, that the repair and so on at Mountjoy would take at least 12 months.
We have heard a lot of talk today about how long it takes to carry out building jobs, and so on, that some builders build a house a day and therefore Mountjoy should be repaired in some short period of months. This, of course, with all due respect to the Deputies who said these things, is arrant nonsense. The fact of the matter is that building in a prison, even the most trivial kind, is an exceptionally slow job. The contractor cannot be tied to time because he has none of the normal facilities that a contractor on an ordinary outside site would have.
He and his men are subject to all kinds of restriction for security purposes. One of the greatest security risks in a prison is building work going on within it. This is so, even if that building work or repair work is being done by the internal staff of the prison but it is doubly and trebly so if an outside contractor is coming in. His employees have to be vetted and they have to be employed on such a basis that a limited number of them will come to work and that they and they only will come each day.
We are talking about Mountjoy, not the Pentagon.
On many occasions considerable security problems have arisen. Towards the end of last year when we built a major new school in St. Patrick's Institution, which immediately adjoins Mountjoy, a detainee in St. Patrick's escaped in the course of that building because he succeeded in passing himself off as an employee.
The difficulty in relation to Mountjoy is much greater. Outside contractors will have to come in. They will have to do the work in sections. The work is exceptionally slow. I am advised, and I have no reason to doubt, that the work will not alone take up to but will fully take two years. When I say that the work which is necessary, and which will have to be done, will take that time I do not mean just patching up what was broken-up on last Thursday or Friday. We have had, for some time, fairly elaborate plans for the reconstruction and redevelopment of Mountjoy with a view of modernising it and making it more suitable for the rehabilitation of prisoners and for the proper and safe custody of them.
Officials of my Department, together with officials of the Board of Works, visited a number of modern prisons and other similar institutions in the last few months in Britain, Holland and Denmark. In particular they were struck by the advances made in Denmark. One of the most important factors they found in rehabilitation of prisoners in modern premises was to divide up the prisoners as much as possible into small and reasonably selfcontained units.
This would entail in Mountjoy, which unfortunately is a very old prison, cutting off the floors separately and not leaving them open from floor to roof as they are at the moment and indeed, in some of the floors, subdividing a floor which might contain 50 cells into three different sections so that prisoners could be brought together in small groups where their interests or their problems were similar. They could be treated together in a much more effective way than when they are a small number of a very large crowd of prisoners as we have in Mountjoy. All this work would have had to take place. Our great problem was that we simply did not know when we could start it because Mountjoy was so full that to start on one wing would create a most serious accommodation difficulty. It would mean that 100 or possibly more prisoners would simply have to be discharged from Mountjoy and sent somewhere else and we were not in a position to do it. However, to some extent, and we might as well try to get some benefit for the prisoners out of what happened last week, this opportunity has now been thrust upon us whether we like it or not. We propose to do this work, we want to do this work but this is slow work, it must be done in sections and because of where it takes place it must be done exceptionally slowly and the ordinary time limits which might be reasonable to impose on a contractor on an outside job without any of these restrictions simply cannot apply in this instance.
Apart from the very extensive work which is necessary for the modernisation of the prison for the better rehabilitation of the prisoners there is also, from the security point of view, the necessity to put four new roofs on the four wings and that, of course, in itself is a very major job and a difficult job to carry out physically because of the limitations that are necessarily imposed and because of the size of the wings.
I go into this in some detail to show that before Mountjoy can be ready to receive again its full complement of prisoners a period of at least 12 months but, clearly, I think, in practice more than that but I would hope, although I cannot give any guarantee of it, a period of less than two years or of not exceeding two years will be required in order to do this. Of course this is not the only factor. Let the House not make that mistake. I have to bear in mind also the disturbed state of this country, north and south, and the possibility that I may be inundated with further increasing numbers of prisoners because it has to be borne in mind that the prison population in this country over the last two years has increased by nearly 500. This is an unprecedented increase and it is a factor that I have to continue to bear in mind.
Reference was made by several Deputies to remarks attributed to the Tánaiste but, from what the Taoiseach has said here apparently not made, so far as I gather, by the Tánaiste——
——allegedly describing this Bill, in the course of conversation with, I presume, a newspaper reporter, as the Curragh detention Bill. Reference has been made to this and the inference has been drawn or attempted to be drawn from this that, therefore, this Bill in some way has something to do with internment.
If the Tánaiste does not know what is in it I do not know who does.
He may have read the Irish version.
Last night a number of Deputies opposite said they had examined the Bill—I recall, in particular, Deputy O'Leary who said that he was satisfied that he could see nothing to do with internment in it. I want to make it perfectly clear that this Bill has nothing to do with internment and can have nothing to do with internment.
It bears a close resemblance to it.
The Government have decided, and have made this clear, and so has the Taoiseach, before, that we are adamant that we will not introduce internment in this country except in the most extreme circumstances.
Just continue remand in military custody.
Those circumstances certainly are not here now nor are they foreseeable in the immediate future at any rate. There is absolutely no intention of introducing internment. This Bill has nothing to do with it. I do not want anyone in this House to think that this Government are not fully resolved to do all they can, short of internment, to try to control these people.
We have given that pledge and we propose to do everything we can within the law——
Within the law.
——to ensure that those who are disrupting our country and putting it and its people in such grave danger today will be curbed.
This Bill is here simply to deal with the emergency situation that has arisen as a result of a large number of prisoners of a particular type being detained in our prisons. I cannot be certain that the number of prisoners of that type will decrease in the future. The way things are going, and the activity of certain people being such, there is every likelihood that at least this large number will continue to be in custody in the foreseeable future. These people are in custody because of the fact that we are prosecuting them to the best of our ability. I might mention that a significant proportion of them are in custody of their own volition, they need not be there. In quite a number of these cases, as I pointed out yesterday, they have been allowed bail by courts but they have in many cases refused to accept it. However, I have got these people now in custody and I have got to look after them.
I have got to think of them but equally and, indeed, more important, I have got to think of the other prisoners and I have got to think of the situation in which life in our prisons will be made intolerable for the ordinary prisoner who is interested in his own rehabilitation unless I have somewhere to hold these disruptive elements who were the cause of this situation on last Thursday night.
I think I have dealt with this at sufficient length to show that we cannot return, accommodationwise to the situation that existed up to Thursday last for a period of two years from now. I have explained in some detail why and I have shown that, at least some benefit has accrued from this unfortunate event last Thursday inasmuch as work which we wanted to do and which we had planned but which we could see no opportunity of doing can now be carried out. For Deputies who are interested in this, or who are now expressing great interest in it, I would refer back to my Estimates speech here in the House only last month when I devoted a high proportion of that speech to prisons. In fact, it was pointed out to me by Deputy Fitzpatrick of Fine Gael that I had devoted 16 pages of my speech to prisons and that I seemed to be unduly interested in prisons and so on in setting out our proposals for new building and new planning in our prisons.
I am glad that I did deal with that matter at such length at that time, and it was only last month, because if Deputies will refer to the Official Report of the 12th and 13th of April, 1972, they will see there at considerable length the many proposals for modernisation and rebuilding and new building which I described in such detail. The drawback about that at that time, as far as I was concerned, was that a good deal of that work could not be immediately undertaken because of the fact that we had such a large number in custody. One of the things I mentioned, for example, in relation to Mountjoy was the building of a new corrective training unit which is going ahead this year at a cost of £500,000. It appears that every cloud has a silver lining because not alone can we build that now as a separate building but we can do all the work inside the main prison building that we wanted to do and I talked about last month but which I thought I would not get the opportunity of doing for quite some time. I do think the House should be satisfied that the work which is necessary and which we now propose to carry out certainly has no great prospect of being completed in less than two years because of the particular working conditions under which contractors have to operate in Mountjoy or indeed in any other prison.
If I might relate those remarks to the amendments we are discussing and refer to them in the context of what I have just said, I think any fairminded Deputy will agree that two years is a reasonable period. Two years is the period proposed in my amendment. The suggestion has been made that this could be extended indefinitely by this House.
What is wrong with coming back here after one year?
I have explained to the House why this situation must continue for two years. I cannot foretell what it will be like after two years. If it was necessary under this amendment to extend the period beyond two years it would be necessary to have a resolution passed by Dáil Éireann. So far as I am concerned there is no great difference between having a resolution passed by the Dáil and having a one section Bill passed by the Dáil.
The suggestion has been made that the word "later" should be excluded from the amendment but I think it would be a much neater and more effective method of putting a definite limitation if the House—which has accused me of endeavouring to mislead it, which I positively did not do— were to agree to my amendment simply ending with the words "31st May, 1974". I throw this out as a suggestion to the House. If it were found necessary to extend this emergency situation beyond that time a one section Bill could be introduced in the House at that time. This would give both the Dáil and Seanad an opportunity to discuss the situation.
Far from misleading the House I have almost fallen over backwards to respond to any reasonable views which have been expressed here. We have had a lot of rather silly rhetoric from speakers who are trying to justify their actions to people to whom I would never try to justify myself. We have had a lot of that this morning but leaving that aside and having regard only to the reasonable views expressed here I think I have met them more than fully.
It is now 12.35 p.m. The Bill has to be through by 3 p.m. and we are still on the first group of amendments. I think the gesture I have made is most reasonable, it shows my bona fides and it shows that I never made any attempt to mislead the House. I would not wish to do so—I did not do so last night. I think I have explained that fully and clearly to everyone except those who would wish to say I misled the House in any event.
We often hear of people making a virtue of necessity but this is the first time I have heard a Minister making a statement in the House to the effect that the riot which occurred in Mountjoy has allowed him to do things which he had hoped he would be able to do. Are we to assume from that that if prisoners riot in other prisons certain much-needed improvements will be carried out?
I have great respect for this House. My colleagues and I always weigh very carefully any legislation before the House because we consider that the decisions taken here are the decisions which should run in the country rather than decisions taken outside. For that reason when there is a genuine difference of opinion on matters such as that before us last night we have a rule which was jeered at by the Minister last night. It shows his idea of a democratic decision when he objected to the right of someone who could not, in conscience, vote for this Bill being allowed to vote against it. This was an extraordinary attitude for a Minister for Justice.
The Minister has reiterated a statement made this morning that he did not try to mislead the House. I have been a Member of this House for a long time and I do not think I am misled easily. Against my better judgement I voted with the Minister because I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. I am now perfectly satisfied that last night the Minister deliberately suggested that a time limit would be put—if he did not do it deliberately he was terribly confused himself. The Minister has put down a time limit which is in excess of what is considered reasonable. It is asking too much of us to believe this was not an attempt to cod those of us who voted with him last night.
I do not think anybody would accept the Minister's statement and I am sorry to have to say this. I think Ministers must have a certain standing and we should normally accept that they are stating facts. I cannot accept that this morning the Minister was stating a fact when he said he did not intend to mislead the House. After stating it would take more than 12 months to repair Mountjoy, subsequently he put down an amendment stipulating a minimum of two years. Maybe in some peculiar way he can consider that this was not misleading the House but I do not think anyone else in the House, even the members of his own party——
Fine Gael put down an amendment for 15 months.
Fifteen months is only slightly more than 12 months—two years is a different matter. Perhaps the Minister was confused about this matter. If he was not confused then the Government's attitude to all of us has been very dishonest. The Minister has been making a case here that it is necessary to segregate certain types of prisoners and to put them in military custody. If that is the reason for the Bill it should be written into the Bill. Let us know what we are voting for. In case there is any doubt about it I want to make very clear that I am not a supporter of either wing of the IRA. As a matter of fact, I would probably go further than many of my colleagues with regard to the suppression of people who want to overthrow not only the authority outside the State but the authority inside the State. However, I will not agree in any circumstances that under any guise there should be a type of military detention introduced in this country.
I believe that within the powers which he holds the Minister has authority not alone to arrest people breaks the law and is proved to have just trial and just punishment if they are proved to have committed the crime. Certainly nobody on these benches will complain if somebody who breaks the law is proved to have broken it is punished, but we object, and will continue to object, if we find that any Minister brings a Bill into the House trying to set up military detention, in effect, for a particular type of prisoner.
The Minister has been careful in all his statements to avoid referring to anybody as a political prisoner. Perhaps I would be at one with him in that. If somebody is arrested for being in possession of arms, for robbing a bank or for assaulting somebody, he is not charged with a political offence but the Minister attempts to try to segregate those people and to put them into military custody. He wants to have them considered to be political prisoners.
This group of amendments do not deal specifically with projected detention in the Curragh but I would object to the type of detention provided in the Bill for two reasons. First of all, I do not think anybody joined the Irish Army to become a prison warder. If they wanted to be warders they would have joined the prison service. Secondly, if we have a group of dangerous people who have to be kept in tight control, surely the wooden huts and the other buildings in the Curragh Camp are not the ideal place to keep them. During the emergency I was a member of the Irish Army and part of my duties was to patrol the camps in which a number of airmen were interned. It was not a very pleasant job, even if, I was quite sure, those men had a lot more freedom than is given to the people who are to be left in the Curragh.
It is entirely wrong that we should be faced here with a situation in which the Government, through the Minister for Justice, have set up a whole new arrangement by which certain prisoners, not just those for whom there is not accommodation, will be put in military custody. I would particularly object to the Minister for Defence being put in charge of prisoners who are the responsibility of the Minister for Justice. Deputy Corish yesterday rightly said this would not be so bad if the Minister for Justice were in charge of these prisoners and if the civilian authorities were in control of the prison. But the Minister is trying to create a situation where people will be shuttled backwards and forwards: in the courts they will be under the control of the Department of Justice, in detention camps they will be controlled by the Department of Defence; and if they come out for trial they will be back under the control of the Department of Justice. That kind of thing cannot work.
If he could only realise it, the Minister for Justice is in the position of a kind of magician. Under the provisions of this Bill, all he has to do is to look at a building and say, "That building is a prison", and, hey presto, it is a prison. All he has to do is to point to a man and say, "You are a warder", and he is a warder. He has said he has not any accommodation for those people except at the Curragh. He also has said that he cannot get staff to act as warders during this period. I suggest he should make the necessary arrangements to have buildings—there are plenty of them in the country including the building in Cork, which should be a prison, being used as a detention barracks—made available.
On the length of time, it is ludicrous to suggest it will take two years to repair the prison from which those people were taken and in the same breath to say, as the Minister has said, that the reason why those prisoners are being taken out of it is because he believes they should be in military control. The Minister should come before the House and say definitely whether he considers this to be a national emergency in which special powers have to be taken to deal with those people. If that is so, we have an entirely new ball-game.
The Minister has been saying on the one hand that there is not accommodation for those people in Mountjoy and, on the other, that they are dangerous and must be given special treatment. He should accept the amendment put down by the Labour Party and if he does not he should, before the debate finishes, state plainly whether if the riot had not occured in Mountjoy he would still have come before us with this Bill, and try to justify it.
He attacked my colleague, Deputy Pattison. Deputy Pattison's record, from the point of view of law and order, is as good as, if not better than, the Minister's. That did not do his Bill any good.
I believe in the due process of law. If somebody is accused of breaking it he should be given a fair trial and if proved guilty, should be punished accordingly. But our jails are full of petty criminals who could be outside if a different attitude were taken. For example, a fellow was fined a sum of money which he could not find immediately. If he had been allowed to pay it by instalments he would not have been put in prison and the State would have been saved that expense.
If, as he appears to be, the Minister is saying to this House that it is not possible to have the due process of law carried out and that people will not be dealt with in the way they should be, then there is an onus on the Minister to come to this House and plainly say it. This goes right back on him as Minister for Justice whose responsibility it is to see that the law is carried out by those who are paid to carry it out. If it is not, the Minister knows what the remedy is.
The Minister has complained that we are dealing only with the first set of amendments and that we must finish the Bill before 3 o'clock. We made a point on that this morning. We said that is not giving adequate time to us to discuss a matter like this. He cannot blame us if the later amendments are not discussed adequately. He will, however, give people outside the House who want to belittle it the opportunity to say: "There is a very important Bill which has been rushed into the Dáil and rushed through it without adequate discussion because the Government have not the time". Will the Minister look at the Order Paper and what we will be discussing during the rest of the evening? He will then realise that it is not nearly as important as this Bill which, I suppose, will be an Act in the morning.
The Taoiseach told us that the reason why he wanted to get the Bill through quickly was because he feared a number of those people would apply for orders of habeas corpus and would be released. Both the Taoiseach and the Minister must know that this is not possible. It is, therefore, unfair to treat the House in this way. If that could have been done it would have been done.
What we are discussing now is the time limit, the life of this Bill, and we have three amendments. It is a question of trying to reconcile the three into something that would be acceptable to the House. The Minister has suggested that the termination date be 31st May, 1974. As a compromise he has suggested that the second half of the amendment be dropped and that, if it was necessary to extend that, he could come back to the House in two years time and look for a further extension. We suggested to him that if he dropped the word "later" from the second leg of his amendment everyone would be happy. He would have the power to extend, if he wanted to, by bringing in a resolution and, if he achieved the happy state of ending earlier than 31st May, he could also bring in a resolution.
I will agree to that. Could we have it put now? We have been two hours on it.
We have an amendment down on this matter as well. The Minister may be right about how long it will take to repair the broken walls and fittings in Mountjoy. There are not many qualified bricklayers in the House and he may be right. I would have thought that this concerned coming to this House whenever this authority was needed. I am concerned about the authority we are giving to the Minister to make the changes required to bring about military detention and military custody of people sentenced by civil courts. In our amendment we propose that in a matter of six months time the Minister should come back to the House for extra authority, if it is necessary at that time.
The question before us is not how long it may take to repair Mountjoy. We are anxious that the Minister should come back to the House so that the Members of the House could see exactly at that stage what the experience was of the practice of holding people convicted by the civil courts in military custody. Briefly that is the purpose of our amendment. We are not concerned about the period it will take to repair Mountjoy Jail. We are not qualified to say how long it will take to repair the facilities in Mountjoy. We think this House should be consulted at frequent intervals. Our authority should be sought. The Minister should be aware of the feelings of members of all parties when he comes back for the periodic extension of this authority, if it is necessary. We all hope it will not be necessary but, if it is necessary, it is important that the Minister should come back to the House.
The Minister knows as well as I that the Bill will be smeared, that those who consider that there is a state of emergency will be smeared, and that suggestions will be made that Deputies who accept that there is an emergency situation are preparing the way for internment without trial. This I deny, but the Minister knows that a propaganda machine will be in full gear next week.
I know it well, unfortunately.
We should not in this House in any legislation we pass give material to such enemies of democracy. In all honesty the Minister may say that the two year period is a practical necessity as he sees the conditions in Mountjoy. I am not so much exercised by the conditions in Mountjoy as by the political considerations and the civil rights considerations involved in this measure. That is why I say the Minister should come back to the House and that he has nothing to fear in coming back to the House and looking for extra authority each time. It would be an impressive rebuttal of any smear tactics engaged in by people outside Parliament.
Without wishing to interrupt the Deputy may I point out that under the amendment a resolution can be proposed in the House at any time and because of the deletion of the word "later", as I understand it, that resolution can be proposed before the expiration of the stated period.
Could I clarify a point? That resolution would have to be taken then? There is no question of its being postponed until Private Members' Business?
That is precisely the problem.
It has to be taken at the time it is put? Is that right?
I speak subject to correction by the Chair but the practice, as I understand it, is that if a statutory resolution is put down it has to be taken within a reasonable period.
Can we have an assurance from the Minister that, at the end of a six months period, the Government would permit a resolution——
They cannot stop it. The Government cannot stop any Member of the House from putting down a resolution.
Which must be taken?
They can stop it from being discussed.
The Order of Business is in the care of the Government and this party have had unhappy experiences over many years of various matters being on the Order Paper for long periods and never being arrived at. The standing of this House would be enhanced if tomorrow the news media could report that the Minister for Justice and the House had confidence in the Members of the House and that he would come back after a six months period to consider the experience under this Bill. Looking at the Bill and the amendments I do not see any interference in the civil rights of the citizens of the State. That is my view.
That is individually. I accept, however, that many people in this House may have conscientious misgivings about some of the provisions. If they have these conscientious feelings and misgivings it is wrong that the Minister should smear them. I regret to say that the Minister did smear such people last night.
Including our spokesman.
In regard to the most trifling change in the law, or the alteration of a comma in the statutes governing the ordinary rights of citizens, the Labour Party, will always subject such alterations to the most searching analysis. I can assure the Minister that on all such occasions there will be a full scale debate in our party. Members of a party concerned to defend democratic values, and worried about even slight alterations, as they see it, should not be smeared or tarred. Suggestions should not be made that somehow they are connected with a subversive organisation. On the radio this morning that innuendo was clearly present. The Minister was suggesting there was a connection between this party and the Official IRA. He left it as a matter of surmise. I categorically deny that there is any connection between this democratic party and any subversive organisation, IRA Official or Provisional.
What was said by Deputy O'Brien last night in relation to this party?
The allegation is dirt.
Is it not dirt when a similar allegation is made against the Fianna Fáil Party?
The Minister should address his remarks to Deputy Haughey and Deputy Blaney.
Have any members of this party made any allegations about the Minister's backbenchers?
Deputy O'Brien made precisely that allegation.
No Labour Deputy was ever on trial for trafficking in arms.
Can we get back to the amendment?
I will get back to the amendment. The burden of my remarks was this: The good name of this House is at issue in a discussion on any matter of such fundamental importance. I am suggesting to the Minister, in a helpful spirit I hope, that to ensure that no malicious propaganda is propagated as a result of this measure being passed he should repose confidence in the House. This confidence would be amply repaid by the House. He should not suggest that it is simply the sanitary arrangements in Mountjoy which compel us to provide a two-year period in a Bill which commits the House to a legislative change. This is not the matter at issue.
What is at issue is whether the Minister for Justice has sufficient confidence in the House to come back after an interval of six months and listen to the viewpoints of the Members of the House. This House should be seen to be the open democratic assembly which I believe it to be, and we should openly discuss our experience of the changes envisaged in this Bill. That has been the burden of my remarks and the way we have given our support to the Bill. The Minister did not enhance the standing of the House when he made allegations about Deputies in good standing who had legitimate objections to certain features of the Bill.
It is a characteristic of the party to which I belong, and probably their glory, that in all matters affecting the civil rights of citizens, the members of my party will always be to the fore in mounting a defence of those rights. A big lie has been propagated by members of the Government party, by the Minister last night and, I regret to say, by Members of Fine Gael last weekend, that somehow this party were connected with subversive organisations. I repeat——
It is not relevant on the amendment.
I will just repeat——
The Deputy should not repeat it if it is not relevant.
I will come to this conclusion, that this party and its spokesmen spoke out against the people who are attempting to ferment civil war now a long time before it became popular for members on either side of the House, the main Opposition or the Government party, long before last Christmas, and we have no heads to hang in shame on this issue. If some people have plucked up courage in the Government and Fine Gael Parties from the Referendum result and are now out defending democracy and law and order and condemning subversive organisations, right, left and centre, let them not rebuke the people who stood in the gap when nobody was saying anything about these matters, last Christmas, when these organisations were as openly plotting civil war as they are now.
A six-months period is what we seek in our amendment and we do it in the best interests of democracy in this country and of the standing of this House. The Minister may be right about the alterations in the structure of Mountjoy that are necessary. As I say, I am no bricklayer, but I have been a Deputy for seven years and I say this, that it is my humble opinion that the standing of this House would be enhanced and the Minister's credibility in putting this Bill before the people—a Bill I see in consideration of the emergency situation before us— would be enhanced. I accepted the Minister's statement on trust here yesterday, that, in fact, the changes envisaged in this Bill in detention are necessary in view of that emergency situation, but I ask the Minister to accept our bona fide feelings that he should come back to this House after a six-months period, and we ask him to accept the amendment in that spirit. I do not think he has anything to fear from the elected Members of this House, of whatever party, about giving him any additional power that may be necessary at that period.
I pointed out to Deputy O'Leary, while he was speaking but he may not have fully taken it in, that under the amendment I have proposed this morning, with the deletion of the one word on which I think and I hope we all agree, it will be open to any Member of the House—not just I or any member of the Government— to put on the Order Paper a resolution in relation to this section.
Will the Minister guarantee us Government time to discuss it, if such a resolution is placed on the Order Paper?
I will go this far— I cannot bind myself or the Government to some indeterminate future date when I do not know what circumstances or conditions will be like —if such a resolution is put down in approximately six months, I will use my best endeavours—I do not like to use the word "undertake" because that binds me in all circumstances, but short of giving a formal legal undertaking—I will use my best endeavours to see that such a resolution is discussed within a reasonable period after its being placed on the Order Paper.
You took on yourself the power which you say you have not got now in respect of this to tell the Fine Gael Party that you would agree to the deletion of the word "later". You did not have to consult the Government about that.
One does not consult the Government about every word—one cannot.
Would you not go a little further in view of what you have said, and I am sure you will get the backing of the Government because you will get the backing of the Labour Party if you accept this?
I will not now. I think that what I have said more than fully meets Deputy O'Leary's point, which I think he was genuinely making, and I think it meets the point— by agreement, the deletion of this one word—made by Deputies Cooney and FitzGerald.
Could the Minister repeat the form of words?
The Deputy can read them—I could not think of them again. I will use my best endeavours to see that it is discussed within a reasonable period of its having been put on the Order Paper.
Before I conclude on this point, because again there was reiteration of this allegation that I misled the Dáil last night, by Deputy Tully, who spoke since I spoke last, I should say that as a result of it, I sent out for the unrevised script of what was said last night—that is all that is available at the moment—and in fairness to myself, I might be permitted to read the relevant sentences:
Because the re-roofing of the wings will have to be done one by one, the work is going to take a fairly considerable period. Certain rebuilding will have to be done inside the building from a security point of view. Because Mountjoy will not be fully secure to the extent I would wish it to be for an appreciable period, over 12 months, the time limit which will be decided between now and tomorrow morning to insert into this Bill, in deference to the wishes of Deputies, will have to take these points into account.
To suggest therefore that when I came along this morning with a two-year period, I had misled the House in any way, having said that so specifically last night, is in fact, in itself misleading the House. This whole thing is getting a bit trivial, that these sort of allegations are being made, but they are continually being made, and in case anybody else is accused of misleading, because it seems to be the fashionable thing nowadays to accuse people of, I want to make this perfectly clear so that neither the Taoiseach nor I nor the Government can be accused of misleading the Dáil, the people or anyone else. Anybody who read the Taoiseach's speech on Monday last can be in no doubt of our determination to take further measures against illegal organisations.
(Cavan): He has been making speeches like that for the last three years.
If the Deputy will hear me out, I have made it perfectly clear here already today that we have no intention of introducing internment in this country. The Taoiseach made it perfectly clear yesterday in response to a specific question that we had no intention of introducing military courts in this country, but in order that neither he nor I nor anybody else can be accused of misleading anyone, I want, and I am authorised by him to say this, to say that the Government do not rule out the possible introduction of special criminal courts, and in fact the Government have under active, and very active, consideration at this moment the question as to whether or not to introduce special criminal courts, but if those special criminal courts are introduced, there will be no military officers on them and they will be staffed entirely by members of our judiciary. I make this clear at this point so that neither the Taoiseach nor I can be accused of having misled the Dáil, the public or anyone else. I want it to be accepted in that spirit, particularly in the light of the experience I have had here in the course of this debate this morning.
Could the Minister tell us what exactly a special criminal court is?
It is a court consisting of not less than three people, who, if they are introduced, will be judges.
What would be the difference between that court and a normal court?
(Cavan): There will be no jury.
Will the Minister be giving the House an opportunity of discussing any measure of that sort?
That is, of course, quite a separate matter from this Bill.
Would this require legislation? You would have to bring in a Bill?
May I say first that we appreciate the Minister's clarification of that point? It is proper that he should inform the House of the possible imminence of such legislation so that afterwards we could not think that we had been misled. I am glad that he has come clean on that particular point anyway although we have not been too happy with the ambiguity of some other utterances of his. The points that I raised earlier and on which I sought some assurances that would enable us to accept a form of amendment similar to the Minister's were, first, that the extra time involved would be used to make radical improvements in the prison. We have had an assurance from the Minister on this. I asked him also that the word "later" should be deleted and he has agreed to that. I said also, and I take it this is accepted, that we should be in a position to keep ourselves informed of the progress of the work and to satisfy ourselves that the work is going ahead expeditiously, that there is no question of its being held up in any contrived way. I presume that the Minister would have no difficulty in enabling us to be kept informed of the progress of the work.
Certainly, I will inform the House of the progress of the work in reply to Parliamentary Questions or a Deputy could talk to me about it or write to me regarding it when I would reply to him.
I take it that if necessary we could inspect the work.
I am keen that Deputies would visit our prisons. I made some reference to this last night, but, unfortunately, I wronged Deputy O'Connell who has visited Mountjoy but I wronged, even more grievously, Deputy Mrs. Lynch who has given long service on the visiting committee of Mountjoy and who, for many years, has shown a deep interest in the prison. Now that the point has been raised by Deputy FitzGerald I take this opportunity of offering my apologies to Deputy Mrs. Lynch and of saying that, certainly, Deputies are welcome to visit Mountjoy.
Do not make the invitation too pressing.
I qualify that by saying that I do not wish to bind the Governor to accept a large party of Deputies during the next few days. He may not be prepared to do so but assuming that reasonable notice is given Deputies will be welcome.
That is another useful clarification because under previous Ministers some Deputies have been refused permission to visit the prison.
Under very special circumstances.
I cannot comment on that because I do not recall the circumstances but I take it that the Minister is not implying any innuendo here.
At the moment the Deputy's dossier is being compiled.
Having cleared up those points that the three conditions which I suggested earlier as a basis for agreeing to the form of this amendment would be met, we shall not oppose the amendment in its present form. However, I am concerned on one aspect. The reason why so much suspicion has been aroused in our minds is because of a passage in the Minister's speech which, to me at any rate, carried the clear implication that he was intending to consider using military custody not merely because of the absence of accommodation but because in his view certain prisoners require different treatment. There is a serious constitutional issue raised here. The passage is:
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.
I am afraid the Minister may have got himself into considerable difficulties with that statement because if that is really what is behind this Bill and if the Minister intends to operate it in that way and instead of simply selecting prisoners arbitrarily on the basis that they simply cannot be fitted into existing prisons, he intends to use military custody selectively in the way suggested here that is, to pick particular prisoners who are liable to cause trouble, as I understand it, the Bill would be unconstitutional. This is a matter to which we must give attention. As I understand from what was said last night on television by Senator John Kelly, who is a considerable authority on Irish constitutional law, it had been established in some case that if a Minister seeks in such a way to transfer prisoners to particular custody of a kind different from the normal kind and to discriminate against particular prisoners with the intention of so discriminating, such practice is unconstitutional. In so far as this Bill in its present wording permits this and in so far as it only requires him to have regard to the desirability of ensuring that the conditions of custody are not less favourable and in so far as he has specified that the intention is to pick on certain prisoners who are liable to cause trouble, I am afraid that all our efforts here today may be in vain and that the Bill may be unconstitutional.
What provision of the Constitution is the section of my speech alleged to contravene?
I am not in a position to be very helpful on this because I only heard what Professor Kelly said on television but I think it is related to the separation of powers, that only the judiciary can sentence people and that the Minister cannot vary the sentence. It seems to me that to send certain prisoners to a form of custody that is different from that to which others are sent is varying the sentence and would be likely to be so held by our courts. I am concerned that by that statement and by the inadequacy of the formulation of subsection (8) the Minister may have endangered this whole Bill.
Should we not discuss that on subsection (8)?
It is because I want to explain why our suspicions have been aroused and why we have been so concerned that I have mentioned this but I mention it also for another practical reason which I hope I am in order in mentioning. This practical reason is that we will not reach subsection (8) and I would suggest to the Minister that between now and 3 o'clock he considers very seriously the Fine Gael amendment which may help to retrieve the position. I am not sure that in the light of the Minister's speech anything could retrieve the position but if anything can, it is the Fine Gael amendment.
There are a number of amendments but the ones with which I am concerned particularly are either 19 or 20. Number 20 is our preference but if not accepted it may be that No. 19 will save the situation. At this stage I merely suggest to the Minister that he would have his advisers look at these amendments, that he would not reject them out of hand at 3 o'clock in a series of votes before we have had a chance to explain the reasons for them. The acceptance of one or other of these amendments would result in saving the situation so that we would not be back here in a few days time with another Bill to overcome the problems created by the Minister's unfortunate reference and by the bad drafting of the Bill. I make that point at this stage because it is of vital importance.
In conclusion I would like to make one point in reply to a reference by Deputy O'Leary to allegations from these benches as to the Labour Party having associations with subversives.
The reference was made by Deputy FitzGerald during the referendum campaign.
As I have pointed out in a letter to the Irish Times in reply to Mr. Jack Dowling, I never made any reference during that campaign to anybody as being a subversive in any sense without specifically distinguishing the Labour Party and saying I was not referring to them and that their campaign was a constructive one which was being damaged by the actions of other elements.
I am prepared to accept that but it is the Deputy who said it originally.
I must deny that because I have been most concerned to make the distinction.
Tell them what Deputy Cosgrave said.
Regarding the Fine Gael Ard-Fheis the only point I want to make is that Deputy O'Higgins paid tribute to the responsible members of the Labour Party for the courage they had shown in standing up to subversives. May I say that the Labour Party received a sustained ovation from the Fine Gael Ard-Fheis on that occasion. The Press, apparently, had left at that stage.
I shall be very brief. The Minister has complained about the time being allocated to this debate but this has not been a waste of time. The question of a time limit has been very important in the consideration of this Bill. It is not often that I pay tribute here to this particular Minister but we should recognise that he has made a move in the direction in which his critics have urged him to move, that is, in accepting the dropping of the word "later" but we on these benches would like this to be made more concise. I am not blaming the Minister for the wording because this was done in a hurry and did not, perhaps, get all the consideration it should have got, but I want to be quite clear that I understand the position aright. If Deputy Pattison tables a resolution on 30th November next—I am not now asking the Minister to commit the Government on this—will the Minister pledge himself to recommend to the Government that Government time will be allowed for the consideration of such a resolution within one month of its being tabled?
Yes, I will be prepared to do that. I am prepared to do that. I will make that recommendation.
First and foremost, I should like to place on record the fact that I wholeheartedly welcome the speech of the Taoiseach yesterday and the reinforcing of that speech by the undertaking given to this House this morning by the Minister for Justice that it is not intended to introduce detention without trial and that there will be no military courts. The Minister has given that undertaking. I welcome it.
Every Member of this House has a very grave responsibility in relation to these amendments and in relation to the underlying principle of the Bill. I am amazed that, despite the fact that it will take at least 12 months to repair and restore Mountjoy, we have this panic measure being rushed through Dáil Éireann, depriving the House of the opportunity of giving to the Bill the long and serious consideration legislation of this kind warrants. The Minister says it will take 12 months to repair Mountjoy. Is it not a fact that a considerable time will elapse during which the Office of Public Works will be engaged on inspecting and planning the premises? All the Minister told us was that the prison is to be restored to normal conditions in a period of 12 months. I fail then to understand the anxiety of the Minister to keep this Bill on the Statute Book for a period of two years. I do not see anything wrong with the Fine Gael amendment. To me it is a common-sense and logical amendment. It gives the Minister several months after the prison has been restored to a proper state of repair and the amendment tabled by the Labour Party is also a reasonable amendment because it merely seeks an opportunity for the House to review the whole position at the end of that period.
The time is long overdue for prison reform. Perhaps the riot last week and this panic legislation will result in bringing home to all of us the importance of giving special attention and consideration to the whole subject of prison reform. Many of us are deeply concerned about prison reform and there are those of us who devote a good deal of time to the submission of memoranda and the preparation of articles on prison reform. In the event of Mountjoy being fully restored at the end of the 12 months, what will be the purpose of detaining people in the Curragh under military supervision for a period longer than that? I should like to point out, too, that prison officers are highly trained personnel. That is more than can be said for the personnel of the Army. It is no part of their training to supervise detention.
It is regrettable that it should be necessary to table these amendments. It is regrettable that it was necessary for the Minister to introduce a Bill of this kind. There must be a place in which to detain those who break the law. Those who damage property or person must be catered for in institutions in which they can be rehabilitated so that they will emerge as publicspirited citizens and not just law breakers. With regard to the supervision by Army personnel of prisoners in the Curragh.
The amendments do not cover these points. The amendments cover just one point.
The period of this Bill. Prisoners who would normally be in the custody of prison officers will now be in the custody of Army personnel. I want to draw a comparison between the supervision exercised by Army personnel and that exercised by trained prison officers.
That might arise on the following amendments, but it certainly does not arise on these amendments.
We must ensure that what happened last week in Mountjoy will not recur. There must have been a reason for the deplorable disturbance and, in the event of such a disturbance in the Curragh——
These matters would not arise on these amendments. The amendments are very specific.
What I am saying is relevant to these amendments. It is wrong that prisoners convicted of offences—that could happen to any of us because there, but for the grace of God, go I—should be put under military supervision.
We cannot discuss that particular aspect on these amendments.
We have a guarantee from the Minister that this will only be for the period during which Mountjoy is being repaired and reconstructed. I do not know why the Minister wants the legislation to operate for one hour longer than the time taken to complete that work. The Government are not being honest in this matter because of the speed with which they are steamrolling this measure through because they want to have certain prisoners under military supervision for longer than is necessary. These are the difficulties I find and the reason why I support the amendments tabled. Citizens have certain rights and it is our duty to protect these rights. It may be said that a citizen loses his rights when he breaks the law and becomes a prisoner, but the law should be such as to give these people the rights to which they are entitled. Any prisoner found guilty of breaking the law and sentenced should be sent to the ordinary State prison administered by State machinery and not under Army supervision. It has been argued that however desirable it may be to find immediate accommodation for prisoners it will now be left in the hands of the Minister for Justice to decide what type of prisoner will be under military supervision.
The Deputy should speak to the amendment. We cannot have a Second Reading speech on the amendments.
I have made my point and I can make any further points on the Final Stage but I want to go on record as saying that it is wrong for the Government to rush this Bill through the House, as they are doing, depriving Deputies of time to deal with a vitally important piece of legislation. It may have become necessary in unusual circumstances but if it will take over 12 months to restore Mountjoy why could we not have at least one week to discuss this measure in Parliament? Therefore, I want to express my disapproval of the hasty, panic fashion in which the legislation is being put through the House. At the same time I agree with and wholeheartedly support the idea that we must have law and order and that people who break the law must be put away. This House must also ensure that there is justice and proper supervision and that prisoners will get whatever privileges the law entitles them to get. This Bill is inclined to take away certain rights from those convicted as regards the manner in which they must pay the penalty for the duration of their sentences and the circumstances in which they are detained.
The Minister says Deputies will be welcome to see what conditions are in Mountjoy. Could he give an undertaking that during the operation of this period any Deputy who desires to inspect the conditions of prisoners detained at the Curragh will get the same facilities, not for the purpose of causing embarrassment but in order to see that justice is done to those who may be detained there, that there are proper conditions, that the sanitary arrangements are in order and that in general the conditions which would operate in either Portlaoise or Mountjoy are maintained? To my knowledge prisoners' conditions in Portlaoise could not be improved. When we are detaining people for 12 or 15 months or two years in the Curragh in the absence of the experience of qualified prison governors such as we have in Mountjoy and Portlaoise——
That does not arise. This is a Second Reading speech.
I completely disapprove of rushing this measure through the House. There is an element of dishonesty associated with it and I want to go on record as having said that. Finally, will the Minister agree that if Deputies feel it necessary to visit the Curragh dentention camp, where certain prisoners at the discretion of the Minister will be maintained, they will be given the Minister's co-operation in satisfying themselves that conditions are as they should be?
The Minister is not here now and there is one point I should like to have clarified. Perhaps the Minister for Transport and Power might be able to clarify it. I understand the Minister has suggested that in six months he is prepared to have this matter reconsidered if it is raised in the House, that is the termination issue. In the Minister's amendment it is stated:
This section shall continue in operation until 31st day of May, 1974.
He is prepared to withdraw the remainder of that. If that is so, would the Minister be able to say if he considers it is possible to terminate it at an earlier date without having amending legislation brought into it, in view of the fact that this is written into the existing Bill? Would it not be preferable to have all the amendments withdrawn and the original text left with a guarantee from the Minister that he would be prepared to allow the matter to be raised after six months? I should like to have that clarified before we make up our minds.
I think that is a very constructive suggestion. If we delete "later", leaving "or such date" and if we can give the assurance that any motion can be put down——
That is not exactly what I am referring to. I am refering to the first line of the Minister's amendment:
This section shall continue in operation until 31st day of May, 1974.
Does the Minister consider if that is written into an Act it will be possible, without introducing amending legislation, to have the date earlier than 31st May, 1974?
A motion can be put down——
A motion is not an amendment of legislation. Would there have to be a further Bill?
Could that problem not be dealt with by deleting the word "later"?
That is my suggestion.
May I point out that by deleting sections 1 and 2 in the original Bill we are taking out the power of resolution totally. If we merely accept the first line of the Minister's amendment we are confining everything to the 31st May, 1974. All we then have is an assurance, a very definite one, by the Minister that he would consider any resolution from the Labour Party in say six months time to change or terminate the operation of the Act. There is a genuine difficulty. It may be, as Deputy Tully suggests, that if we delete the word "later" and leave in the question of the resolution as suggested by the Minister also, we could proceed on that line.
I think the Minister has agreed to delete the word "later"
We are aware of that. There is no point in talking of this afterwards. Let us clear it now. The amendment states:
This section shall continue in operation until the 31st day of May, 1974, or such later date (if any) as may for the time being stand specified by resolution of Dáil Éireann passed at a time when this section is in operation, and it shall then expire.
If the Bill is passed by this House and the Seanad and is signed and becomes law—although there may be a doubt about that and there could be a stormy passage if somebody decides to take it to the High Court—would the Minister be able to say there is no resolution required if we have a closing date? If the date is 31st May, 1974, we will then have no resolution or no necessity of having a resolution passed. Does the fact that a final date is specified mean that there is then no necessity for a resolution for a date? Will somebody at a later stage, perhaps the present Minister, say "that would only be if a resolution had been passed but no resolution was passed. Therefore 31st May, 1974, must stand as a date". It is only a matter for clarification.
My advice is that the resolution will negative the statutory situation.
It does not say that.
It would be a major safeguard to the Bill in terms of the rights of the House if the clause was left in "may, by resolution, declare that it is satisfied as aforesaid and appoint a day on which this section shall cease to be in operation". We must retain within the Bill the power of termination.
The original section 2 (1).
I would be happy with that.
That seems much clearer.
Section 2 as it was appears to be better, on condition that it would be reviewed in six months time.
You are talking about subsection (1) of section 2. That seems better and clearer now.
This is relevant to a point I raised last night and to which the Minister did not reply. It was answered in this amendment as put down by the Minister. There was no provision in the Bill for a starting date. It was dealt with in this amendment. If the section—the existing subsection (2) —were to be left in, this would still leave you with the problem.
We assume the amendment will be accepted.
There is a great game that the Establishment is always right. Therefore, there is a pretence that the point I raised last night was not raised at all.
It was a very good point.
The Minister did not refer to it this morning.
His amendment has met it.
Why did he not say so publicly? I know why he did not do so. I am not under any illusions. I am not crowing over it. The answer is obvious. Common decency demands that if somebody raises a worthwhile point and if the Minister accepts it he should have the ordinary decency to say so. He should say that he is covering the point raised by Deputy So-and-So. I appreciate that Deputy Geoghegan is very quiet today.
The House accepts Deputy O'Donovan's point if the Minister does not.
Could we have it clarified by putting in the Minister's first line and after that subsection (1) of section 2? Would that copperfasten it so that there would be no doubt?
It would meet Deputy O'Malley's wish as well.
Please do not say that. He does not know what he wants——
He has committed himself to this already.
That meets the situation.
That has taken a lot of time to tease out.
It is obvious that Deputy B. Lenihan is going to Brussels.
Just for a visit.
Let us be reasonable around here.
It is agreed that the amendment, as amended, shall constitute subsection (1) of section 2 and shall read:
(1) This section shall continue in operation until the 31st day of May, 1974.
That to be followed by the present subsection (1) of section 2 and subsection (2) of the section to be deleted.
With a slight amendment which will be necessary——
We delete subsection (2)?
That makes it cleaner.
Amendment No. 4 is more or less consequential on the other one. I will not be moving it. It does not arise.
I move amendment No. 5:
In subsection (3), page 2, line 20, to delete "or prison staff".
The purpose of this amendment is to limit the operation of this section of the Bill to the problems arising from shortage of accommodation. The reason for the Bill was the damage done to accommodation in Mountjoy Prison. The words which I propose to delete are ones whose inclusion would justify the transfer to military custody of certain prisoners simply because the Minister had failed to ensure adequate prison staff. This is a different issue. Because the building has been damaged does not seem any reason for giving the Minister power to remedy inadequacies on his part in relation to the recruitment of prison staff by transferring people to military custody. The stated object of the Bill is to deal with the situation at Mountjoy. The inclusion of these words widens the operation of the Bill unduly and introduces another principle altogether whereby the Minister can hive off his responsibility for not employing prison staff and then say: "Take them away to the Curragh and put them in the charge of the Irish Army." This is objectionable and for that reason I put down this amendment.
We agree that this amendment is a reasonable one. Possibly the Minister did not think of the situation in that way when the section was being written. All of us agree that the prison staff have bewhich certainly were not usual. While haved very well——
——in circumstances there was a slight suggestion made by Deputy FitzGerald, I am sure he did not mean to cast a slur on a certain official when he asked about the official going around with a master key of the prison in his possession. I have never been in a prison in my life and I hope to stay out of it too, but we must all appreciate that in order to carry out his normal duty it would be necessary for a senior official to carry a key such as was in this man's possession. He as well as those who are under him deserve all credit for doing a tough job very well.
One thing which the Minister, who is now present, might convey to the Minister for Justice is in connection with the recruitment of staff, which is effected by this section. In my opinion, it is not being dealt with properly, because I understand some excellent people who have been interviewed have not been appointed because of their lack of knowledge of the Irish language. While it is a grand thing to know Irish and everybody should make an effort to learn it, if a suitable person offers himself for a job such as this—and we know what we mean by a suitable person: good character, good physique and so on— it is ridiculous that because he has not brushed up his Irish before he goes in for the interview and because of a stupid requirement like this the Minister can say in this House: "I am sorry, we cannot get the staff." I would suggest that this amendment by Fine Gael should be accepted by the Minister, as it would improve the Bill.
I am sure Deputy FitzGerald's amendment will have the wholehearted support of this House and I am convinced that it will be accepted by the Minister. We should place on record that there are no more dedicated personnel in the Public Service than the staff of our prisons. As a result of the passing of this legislation it may be possible for the Minister for Justice to use the circumstances at Mountjoy and the fact that certain prisoners will be detained in military custody as an excuse for not employing additional prison officers. I have never been, I am happy to announce, in the custody of these prison officers, but from my experience I know they are highly trained and devoted to the rehabilitation of those in their charge.
I have known for over 30 years, certainly much longer than the Minister for Justice, the Governor of Mountjoy Prison. It is only right that it should go on record that no single person in the Public Service has done more to reform and rehabilitate many of those who are in his charge. This same governor has impressed on his staff the necessity to be human and sympathetic towards prisoners and do all in their power to rehabilitate those prisoners. A few moments ago when I was speaking on the other amendments you, Sir, correctly advised me that I was not in order. I feel I am in order now on this amendment in saying that the Army personnel would not have the same understanding or method of approach in dealing with prisoners or prison officers. I would like to impress on the Government the necessity for continuance of recruitment of men of the very high standard of those who are in our prison service. Many of them have entered on a career in which they feel they can do something useful and effective in life. They are there not because it is a job but because they are devoted to their calling in the same way as a doctor or a nurse is devoted to his or her calling. They feel that they have a contribution to make towards rehabilitating the less fortunate citizens who find themselves in conflict with the law. Many of those who have served various sentences in our prisons are now rehabilitated in life and in employment and have never since broken the law.
This is one section of our Public Service of which we can be proud. These prison officers seldom come under notice or discussion but, by their humanity, sympathy and understanding, they have done great work in Portlaoise, Mountjoy, Cork and Limerick. I hope that recruitment will be continued and that some arrangement can be made between the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Defence so that there can be some form of liaison between the prison officers and the military authorities in order to ensure that those who will be detained will not find themselves under the complete supervision of the military authorities. I do not know if Deputy FitzGerald and Deputy Tully have considered this matter, but since there is about to be detention at the Curragh, I am wondering if there could be a sharing of responsibility between the Army authorities and the prison officers staff.
We have been talking about that all morning.
This is something that should be done and it is one of the reasons that I am sorry this legislation is being put through hastily. As I say, the prison officers deserve our deepest appreciation for the manner in which they have carried out their duties in the various prisons.
I wish to support Deputy FitzGerald's reasoning on this amendment. However, I believe that Members of the House are not being entirely honest in facing up to the implications of the section and the Bill itself. It may be appropriate to pose the question: What if some of the prisoners are not amenable, in any circumstances, to supervision by prison staff? If the accommodation were fully adequate, if the prisoners could not be kept in normal security in normal prison circumstances, what if they would not respond? This is the nub of the Bill, the reason why the Bill was introduced. It is fortuitous as far as the Government are concerned that there was a particular occurrence in Mountjoy which the Government have availed of to have a second form of detention—military and custodial. Therefore, I wonder as to real purpose or value of the amendment. If one deletes the words "prison staff" there will remain the sole question of prison accommodation. I believe that the words "prison staff" should be deleted. It is implied in the amendment that there is a security problem facing prison staff. I do not think we should stress the point. Therefore it would be as well to delete the words "prison staff" and as soon as prison accommodation is adequate and is restored to normal the prisoners concerned would go back to normal prison life.
I must confess that section 3 as it stands and as it is proposed to be amended raises the whole question of military custody and it is an issue which deserves to be thoroughly teased out. The most remarkable feature of this debate has been the total absence of any contribution from the Minister for Defence.
The total absence of the presence of the Minister for Defence.
The Minister for Defence has no responsibility.
The Minister for Defence is being given very considerable powers under this Bill.
Which he will very reluctantly accept.
The fact that powers are proposed to be devolved on the Irish Army is directly connected with the question of taking out the words "prison staff" in the amendment. It would be wise that the House should hear from the Minister for Defence what kind of arrangements will be made.
The staff is being dealt with. That is all.
It is a question of responsibility being allocated. It is the job of the Minister for Justice.
I should like to endorse what Deputy Desmond has said. Normal procedure in a case like this in a normal Parliamentary assembly is for two Ministers to sit together there and to be joined in the discussion. It is very curious that the Minister for Defence has not bothered to appear in the House during this discussion. It does suggest a very odd method of government.
It is an elementary management principle. The responsibility rests with the Minister for Justice.
The responsibility rests with the Minister for Justice. The normal thing is for another Minister who is involved to be present beside him and in consultation with him and to be able to contribute.
This is what government is about—allocating responsibility.
Will the Minister explain why the Minister for Defence has not come in and sat down where he is?
Could he not even turn up for the luncheon break?
We are dealing with prison staff.
I have not been in this seat for three years.
It is your turn then?
The next point I want to make is to support what Deputy Tully has said on the question of recruitment of prison staff. There is nothing that would be more abhorrent than that the imposition of a condition in respect of the Irish language would be used as an excuse to lock people up in military custody rather than in civil custody. I should like an assurance from the Minister that in the recruitment of prison staff, announced by the Minister for Justice, any inhibitions of that kind will not be allowed to stand in the way of recruiting sufficient staff and that if there are any provisions or regulations that they will be waived. The emergency is much too serious for this. We are not in the position where, when we recruit for the Army, we insist that they can speak Irish and allow the country to be defenceless because of people's inadequacy in that language. I do not see why that should be so in the case of prison staff. I would be glad if the Minister could offer me an assurance there.
I can give the Deputy that assurance.
Thanks very much indeed. That is certainly useful.
There is always the possibility that one of the prisoners may be an Irish speaker.
In the matter of looking after his interests we should be quite sure that there will be somebody who could chat with him and advise him and show an interest in his position in the language to which he is accustomed.
During the last emergency in the Curragh there was a very good Irish school set up by the internees and they learned more Irish than was learned for a long time.
Nobody is in doubt about that. We are talking about any regulation which would say that nobody could be recruited who was not fluent in Irish. Of course, every effort should be made to recruit people who are fluent in Irish. Of course, the present staff have been recruited on that basis and, of course, therefore, the fact that some recruits in this emergency period might not have Irish would not mean that there would not be the great majority of the prison staff capable of conversing in Irish. That was implicit in what I said. I am glad that Deputy Tunney has given me the opportunity of making it explicit.
The third point I want to make is something which Deputy Tully raised. I am glad of the opportunity of making it clear that I did not intend last night any reflection on a particular officer because I was trying to pinpoint responsibility on the Minister and to inquire from him precisely what were the circumstances in which this riot happened. If anything I said appeared to reflect on an officer, it was inadvertent and I would certainly like to withdraw it and I am glad that Deputy Tully has given me the opportunity to do so.
On the particular point of the wording here, "prison staff", I want to press this point: Deputy Desmond seems to suggest that the inclusion of this might in some way open it up to the Minister to transfer prisoners to military custody because it would be beyond the powers of the prison staff to control them. My understanding of the word "insufficient" in this context is that it means numerically insufficient. The inclusion of "prison staff" therefore merely means that an insufficiency of number of prison staff would under this Bill justify a transfer. There is nothing in this Bill that would justify transfer of prisoners, as I understand it, on the basis that the prison staff were incapable, by virtue of some incapacity, of handling prisoners. Transfer would only arise if they were incapable of doing so by virtue of inadequate numbers.
That is the point.
I am glad to see that the Minister agrees with me on that point. We are down then to the question as to whether the opportunity provided by this riot should be used to introduce legislation enabling the Minister for Justice to shrug off his responsibility for the recruitment of prison staff by transferring prisoners over to military custody because he has not recruited enough prison staff. It is suggested that if the riot had not occurred the Minister would not have been coming in here seeking this power. There is no reason why he should take advantage of it to get this power now.
Is amendment No. 5 withdrawn?
No. Is the Minister accepting it?
No, I do not think I can. I am concerned about the reality of the situation. I think Deputy FitzGerald at the end of his contribution got to the nub of it. It is quite clearly included in subsection (3) to accommodate a situation that could arise very easily. Once we are bringing in a measure of this kind it is important that all the eventualities should be covered. One of the realities of the situation may be that there may be an insufficiency of prison staff and if that is the case then the subsection covers it. It is designed entirely to cover eventualities. Prison staff recruitment is being accelerated. There have been a number of interviews very recently for this purpose. The personnel are being increased. The main purpose of the subsection—and it does not seem to me to make very much point to delete by way of amendment, as suggested, "or prison staff"—is to cover eventualities, to cover situations that may arise. It is a perfectly practical coverage envisaged in the subsection and in my view the proposed amendment would delimit the subsection.
That is what it was meant to do.
I do not see much point in it. Having regard to the general principle of the Bill, surely here we have a subsection that is intended to make the Bill realistic in operation. Prison accommodation and prison staff are the two realities involved.
You do not recruit staff and, therefore, you have not got enough staff for the Curragh.
The two are intertwined. Whenever the Minister is of opinion that neither is suitable to do the particular job that is envisaged here, we transfer the powers and so on as set out in the remainder of the Bill. It all fits in and it would be an unnecessary minimisation of the effect of the Bill to have this amendment accepted. I am certainly against it.
The purpose of the amendment is to limit the Bill to the consequences of the Mountjoy riot and not to give the Minister power under it to hive off his responsibility if he fails to recruit sufficient staff. Therefore, I press the amendment.
Despite the fact that the evidence of your eyes is against you, in the interests of getting on with the business I shall not press it to a division. There are other very important amendments to come.
I move amendment No. 8:
In subsection (3), page 2, line 25, after "treatment" to insert "and welfare".
This is a minor one just to ensure that account will be taken not merely of the adequacy of arrangements for rehabilitative treatment but the adequacy of arrangements for the general welfare of prisoners in making a decision on this point. It is designed to help the Bill along and perhaps in a sense to widen it but in a constructive way. I commend it to the House.
I think it is a very constructive amendment. We accept it.
I move amendment No. 9:
In subsection (3), page 2, line 29, after "him" to insert "provided that only that number of persons who cannot be accommodated in prisons in reasonable conditions of custody without serious detriment to the maintenance in prisons of the normal arrangements for the rehabilitative treatment and welfare of prisoners, shall be so transferred".
This is one of the most important amendments to the Bill because, as drafted, the Bill imposes no limits on the number of persons who can be transferred to military custody. It does not require that those numbers should be limited to the number for whom no accommodation, or as the Bill now exists, inadequate staff exist to look after them and to accommodate them. What this amendment seeks to do is to ensure in so far as, but only in so far as, the accommodation and staff is inadequate to cope with prisoners in civil prisons then whatever surplus of prisoners who cannot be so coped with can be transferred to military custody. As the stated purpose of the Bill is to deal with this emergency problem, this surplus of prisoners who cannot be catered for within the existing system because of what has happened in Mountjoy, it is entirely logical, entirely in concert with the spirit and the intent of the Bill, to delimit the provisions of the Bill in this way. It seems to me there can be no objection to this amendment if the Minister in his opening statement was being honest with us. He has protested that he was being honest in giving us the full picture. If that is the case, and I am prepared to accept that from him, then this amendment must be accepted. There may be some drafting problems but we gave a good deal of thought to drafting and the wording of the conditions has been drawn from the Bill itself. We say:
Provided that only that number of persons who cannot be accommodated in prisons in reasonable conditions of custody without serious detriment to the maintenance in prisons of normal arrangements for the rehabilitative treatment and welfare of prisoners, shall be so transferred.
These are precisely the conditions laid down in the Bill and this simply says that the Bill shall be used only for the purpose stated in the Bill and that there shall be no question of using the Bill to hive off responsibility and to transfer prisoners who can be accommodated in civil prisons. I think there can be no opposition to this so I shall not waste the time of the House any further on this point.
I should like to hear the Minister's comment.
I am in the difficulty that I have not had an opportunity really to study the various amendments as deeply as I would like which is not my fault or anyone else's fault, but I am afraid I could not accept this particular amendment. It could considerably weaken subsection (3) of section 2 and I suggest to the House that only the Minister is in a position to know and determine who are the recalcitrant prisoners at any particular time.
There is nothing in the Bill about recalcitrant prisoners. That is an unfortunate gaffe in the Minister's speech.
No, but it amounts, in effect, to that.
It will not get through the courts if the Minister keeps talking in those terms.
What is said in the House is not of relevance to the court. A court can look at the Act and the Act only and not the speeches made in relation to it.
That is a very ominous statement after what has been said about section 2 when something that was said in the House was responsible for having it accepted in a certain way. The Minister has said in the House and has on record that he would allow the matter to be reviewed at the end of six months. I would be afraid that if the Minister puts that on record as well it means we are wasting time here.
I do not think it would be fair to bind the Minister to the restriction in this proposed amendment. There are more factors than this involved.
The Minister this morning made a comment about a certain type of prisoner and I assume from what he said that this arrangement is in order to deal with a certain type of prisoner.
Then it is unconstitutional.
That is the point I should like to have clarified. Perhaps the Minister can take us into his confidence and let us know what exactly is the position because if he is saying now that any person who is awkward can be put into military custody when what the Minister has at the back of his mind is that it is intended for prisoners who have been associated with arms et cetera, let us hear it. It would be very unfair to the House if that is the idea and we only got a hint of it this morning from the Minister. I assume from what he said that that is what he intends. He can say that what he said in this House is not evidence in court but in my opinion that is what he said. I should like to get this clarified.
What I have said is that the type of prisoner one envisages transferring would be primarily prisoners who are liable to cause trouble and serious trouble in prisons. They are not confined entirely to the classes that I think possibly the Deputy may have in mind.
The Minister would want to go back and get the statement he made this morning. If he had the same crystal ball as the Taoiseach he might know this matter was going to be raised. If he looks at the unrevised documentation he will find that he was far more specific than that this morning. This should be clarified. In addition to the people who are on charges for possession of arms or explosives for bank robberies and so on, for being in either wing of the IRA, the Minister is now including people who might be awkward. He did not say that this morning and I should like clarification on this point.
Those who are in the Curragh at the moment are not confined to the group who describe themselves as political prisoners. It also includes people up on certain other crimes of violence.
That is not the point. We are not talking about socalled political prisoners and the rest. We are talking about vital constitutional points on which the survival of this Bill may depend. The Minister seems to be imperilling it every time he speaks on the subject. Will the Minister not accept that in so far as he describes military custody as being different from normal custody, as being a custody which is more secure involving conditions which will create greater security, arguably this means different conditions for the prisoners? In this case any attempt by him to select prisoners on a basis of what he regards as their recalcitrance or their liability to cause trouble and to send them to a different kind of custody is, of its nature, unconstitutional. The more the Minister introduces that principle the more trouble he is in.
That principle does not necessarily arise here. The Deputy should remember that at the moment the Minister for Justice has considerable discretion in his treatment of sentenced people. For example, I am empowered to transfer them from one prison to another——
From one civil prison to another civil prison with similar conditions?
That is not so. For example, the conditions in Portlaoise prison, which was formerly known as our convict prison, clearly are different from conditions in the Limerick or the new Cork prisons which are prisons for persons serving short terms of imprisonment. One must differentiate even within Mountjoy itself—there are different classes there. There are people who after a time are entitled to be treated in the corrective training unit and the treatment in that unit is different from that in the division for what might be described as ordinary convicted prisoners. In turn, the conditions there are significantly different from what remand prisoners are subject to; one might say each class has a different category of rights.
We accept that. When a judge sentences a person to prison he is sentencing him to a condition of confinement which may vary in detail from prison to prison, even within a prison, depending on a prisoner's behaviour. We are talking here of the handing over of prisoners to military custody, specified by the Minister in his opening speech and in what he has said just now, designed to be so much more onerous in terms of security arrangements as to be likely to create a more disciplined situation among those concerned. This appears to me to be varying the sentence.
The Minister might succeed in getting away with this in the courts on the basis that this Bill simply tries to deal with a situation where there is a surplus of prisoners who cannot be accommodated and that all he is doing is selecting on a non-selective basis a number who have to be temporarily held in military custody. However, once he starts speaking about selecting recalcitrant prisoners or prisoners liable to cause trouble and putting them in different conditions outside the civil prison, he is probably doing something which could be described as varying the sentence. The more the Minister speaks about his selecting people on this basis and on the need to be able to put into military custody more than that number that is necessitated by the lack of accommodation in the civil prison, by definition he is estopped from arguing that this is simply an emergency and temporary provision. The Minister has spoken about recalcitrant people and those liable to cause trouble. If he is selecting people for different kinds of treatment the constitutional issue could be brought in here. If the Minister accepts my amendment I hope it will help in some way to protect him from the constitutional consequences of certain aspects of the Bill and of his whole approach to this problem.
I appreciate what the Deputy is getting at but, although his point might appear very well in theory, I do not think the Deputy appreciates the practicalities of the matter. If I pick X number of prisoners and send them into military custody for the reasons set out here, because their retention in ordinary custody would be seriously detrimental to the maintenance in prisons of the normal arrangements for the rehabilitative treatment and welfare of prisoners, I can well be faced immediately afterwards with an action in the High Court looking for a certiorari or possibly habeas corpus on the grounds that I was not right in my judgement. It might be stated that to transfer 40 prisoners was excessive, that under this section, if this amendment were accepted, I should have transferred only 35 persons. Evidence would be called to prove that 35 was the correct number to transfer, not 40. One would have an intolerable situation because no Minister could safely transfer anyone. What the Deputy says may have a certain validity in theory but he must face up to practicalities. In fact, the provision would introduce a degree of rigidity into the operation of the section which unquestionably would leave the Minister open to vexatious and frivolous actions.
The Minister frequently may have to make up his mind very quickly when a particular situation arises. Such a situation could arise in an afternoon if a large number of people were arrested and remanded in custody. I do not think any Minister could reasonably operate under a provision such as this where there would be a solemn finding in the High Court, possibly several months afterwards, by a judge that the transfer of 40 persons to military custody was excessive and that under the provisions of this section 35 should have been sufficient. I do not think it would be fair to a Minister to bind him to that extent, that a perfectly valid and bona fide transfer order, or series of orders, could be upset afterwards.
Did I understand the Minister to say that it is his intention only to transfer that number of prisoners who cannot be accommodated on the conditions set out here?
It is my intention to transfer only such a number of prisoners as is necessary to allow the maintenance in prisons of the normal arrangements for rehabilitative treatment and welfare of prisoners generally.
The Minister is prepared to give such an assurance to the House?
That is my intention under the Bill.
The Minister is giving an assurance that this is the way the Bill will be operated?
Yes, but I do not want it to be said to me afterwards if there are a dozen vacant cells in Mountjoy, Portlaoise or Limerick that I could take 12 of these people out of the Curragh and put them in there.
Let us get this straight.
I have unhappy experience of the way the Deputy's mind works.
The Minister is concerned with not getting into a position where he can be dragged into the courts on an argument as to whether there were two cells available on a certain night and whether people could have been transferred over to the prison that night. This seems reasonable and we should like to accommodate him on it. If we have an assurance that he will operate the Bill in that way we will accept it. If at some stage it transpires that for prolonged periods there were 12 cells empty in Portlaoise naturally we would come back and take it up with him to find out whether it was in accordance with his assurance. That is the duty of an Opposition.
I am asking him if he will give an assurance that this is the way the Bill will be operated. Of course, we have to be reasonable. Of course, if there is a spare cell somewhere for a couple of nights we will not complain that somebody was not shifted from the Curragh that night. Is it the intention broadly that it will be operated in that way?
The point I am making is this: there could be ten or 12 vacant cells in one of our prisons over a prolonged period and I would still feel justified in keeping X number in the Curragh or in military custody.
Because to bring back those ten or 12 might then be a serious detriment to the maintenance in prisons of the normal arrangements for the rehabilitative treatment and welfare of prisoners. If the Deputy would come down out of the clouds of theory and put his feet on the ground and see reality, he would realise that you could have ten vacant cells for a long time in a prison but if I were to fill those ten cells with ten people who would wreck that prison, and the whole organisation of it, I would not feel myself bound to bring them back.
The Minister is now talking in terms which are not warranted by the wording in the Bill. He is not entitled to talk in terms of certain individuals who may cause trouble. The point is whether the number of persons—not the number, and quality, or calibre, or political attitudes, or aggressiveness—would be such that it would be impossible to provide reasonable conditions of custody and secure the maintenance of normal arrangements.
The wording in the Bill is that "prison accommodation or prison staff is insufficient".
I accept that—insufficient for this purpose. The Minister is seeking to suggest that the Bill, as drafted, enables him not merely to operate on the basis of the sufficiency in terms of numbers of staff and amount of accommodation but also whether particular individuals put into a prison will cause trouble. I do not think the Bill justifies that and if it does, it is unconstitutional, I think. I wish the Minister would not press that point. It seems to be a very weak argument, indeed. If he intends to use this Bill selectively and to take people out because he does not fancy the way they might behave, and shove them into military custody, and keep them there while there is accommodation in the prisons, and staff, I do not accept that. I do not believe it is what the Bill gives effect to. If the Bill does mean that, it is unconstitutional; and I cannot accept it. If the Minister cannot give the assurance I am looking for, the amendment will have to be pressed.
I have given the assurance that the sort of people who will be transferred are those who cannot be held in civil prison without serious detriment to the maintenance in prison of the normal arrangements for the rehabilitative treatment and welfare of prisoners. They are the words in the amendment. I can give an undertaking to that extent, subject to the point I am making, because I do not want the Deputy to come back afterwards and say, if there are a few vacant cells in a prison, I did not fulfil this undertaking.
With all respect, the Deputy is a very good arguer in theory, one might say in vacuo, but you must have your feet on the ground and see what the situation is and realise the sort of situation a governor is faced with in an emergency and what that governor can do.
The Minister is talking himself into a corner. He will not get away with that. If he starts transferring people simply because of the way he thinks they will behave and he is taken to court on that, even with the Bill as it stands never mind my amendment, no court will sustain him on that. The wording of the Bill does not relate to how the person behaves or might behave, but to the sufficiency of accommodation and staff. These are the only criteria in the Bill.
The Bill does not tie down how many people the Minister transfers. It makes it perfectly clear that the only criterion for having a transfer of some kind and some number is sufficiency of staff and accommodation. If the Minister is brought to court and starts arguing that these people are recalcitrant and he has to keep them in military custody, even though there is accommodation in the prison, the Bill will not support him. If that is what he wants he had better draft a different Bill and see if he can get it past the Constitution which I doubt.
He is now playing a very difficult and foolish game of using a Bill designed to deal with the Mountjoy situation, and the lack of accommodation as a result of the Mountjoy situation, to try to get around the Constitution by setting criteria in the Bill while he intends to operate totally different criteria contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. The more he says that, the less will the Bill stand up on any grounds. We are concerned not that the Minister can discriminate amongst prisoners and lock up particular groups of prisoners in the Curragh because he thinks they will cause trouble, but with getting over the problem created by Mountjoy being destroyed effectively, and to ensure that, as from now, prisoners cannot take a habeas corpus action because they are in military custody and get out. We are trying to help the Minister towards that, but he is playing a different game altogether.
With all due respect to the Deputy who cannot, I think, envisage the practicalities of it, the amendment as part of this Bill will not get over the problem of habeas corpus with which I am faced. It will involve me as defendant in a large number of frivolous actions by people who will say: "There are 40 people in the Curragh today; there should be only 35," and start subpoenaing governors to say how many vacant cells they had on the night of 22nd May, or whatever it is, and try then by a process of addition and subtraction to say: "There were 40 of us in the Curragh that night but the Minister could have accommodated five of us, if he put two in Cork, and one in Limerick, and one in St. Patrick's, or somewhere else." The court would then find itself bound to make a nominal finding, at any rate, for the plaintiff in such an action against me. I would be tied up in knots.
It would mean that any time you wanted to make a transfer you would have to make all kinds of elaborate calculations as to whether or not it was justified. I am prepared to operate this reasonably but I cannot be tied down to the sheer mathematical accuracy of one vacant cell which may become vacant at very short notice in Cork. If a man is in Cork prison for non-payment of a fine and his wife or brother arrives in with the money and hands it to the governor, there and then the governor discharges that man. That vacancy may occur at 5 o'clock in the evening. The governor may have reported to the Department at 10 o'clock that morning that he did not have any vacancies. One could find oneself tied up in the courts in all this kind of trivia. It would become impossible to operate the section if this amendment were put in. I see what the Deputy is getting at. I do not disagree with him in theory but I ask him not to bind me so precisely in words that I would find myself in that situation.
(Cavan): I can see the Minister's difficulty. I can see that he does not want to provide a sort of bed bureau such as is operated by Bord Fáilte or the tourist organisations. I was a little alarmed at a statement by the Minister since he came in here. He said that if he had ten vacant cells in a prison it would not be reasonable for him to transfer to that prison ten prisoners he thought might wreck the place.
That suggests to me that the Minister, or somebody under his authority, will decide on the type of prisoner who will be detained in the ordinary prisons, and the type of prisoner who will be detained in military custody. If that is what we are doing, we should say so. If we are providing a political prison let us stop shadow-boxing. If IRA prisoners who started the rumpus in Mountjoy are to be transferred to the Curragh Camp the Minister should tell the House that. So far as I know he has not said that, or anything like it, when introducing the Bill.
Of course the Deputy will appreciate that one of my difficulties in dealing with that field at all, or speaking in that field, is the imminence, as I understand it, of charges against quite a number of these people many of whom come into that particular category, and while what I say in the House cannot be used in a court in the interpretation of an Act, what I say can be used on behalf of a defendant.
(Cavan): I can appreciate that the Minister might be in trouble in discussing existing prisoners but there is nothing to prevent him discussing prisoners who may come into custody months ahead. I get the impression from what the Minister says that he intends to transfer political prisoners, IRA prisoners, to the Curragh. That may be necessary and it may not be necessary—I do not know—but it certainly appears to me that the security was grossly inadequate in Mountjoy Prison, and if it had not been grossly inadequate and if the staff had not been ridiculously inadequate in numbers, what happened last week should not have happened and certainly could not have developed into the riot into which it did develop. I believe in calling a spade a spade and I believe the Minister has come to the House to introduce a Bill in the terms in which it is, knowing he will have power to be selective under it, to select the prisoners he will send to a certain detention centre. I think he should tell the House that because it is only a continuation of the sort of shadow-boxing the Taoiseach has been going on with for the past two or three years, in not calling a spade a spade and making a statement today that could mean anything and contradicting it tomorrow. I am as certain as I can be on anything that the Minister thinks that he has now, or will have in the future, a type of prisoner he cannot either contain or control in a civilian prison and is going to transfer them into military custody. He should say that and ask the House for the necessary powers to enable him to do that. He should make the case.
If I have enough room and enough staff in the civil prison, I will not have to do so, but I cannot frankly envisage that situation existing in the next two years because I have lost so much accommodation in Mountjoy and on top of that, the graph gives every indication that the numbers of those committed to prison will continue to rise and possibly at a fairly steep rate.
(Cavan): I put it to the Minister, the Minister having said that, that the Minister over the past 12 months had sufficient accommodation but did not get sufficient civil staff.
On the contrary, I employed over 100 additional staff in the prisons in the past 12 months and when I speak of 100 additional people, I do not mean any element of the filling of vacancies—100 extra people were employed. I have been constantly very short of accommodation over the past 12 months and have had to take a step which I regret of having in certain instances—fortunately they were very limited—to release prisoners before the expiration of their sentences.
(Cavan): The Minister is getting me away from the point I was making. I am suggesting to him that he knowing the number of prisoners and the type of prisoner he had in Mountjoy, his security was inadequate. Here is what happened as far as I understand. One senior prison officer was overcome and there was nobody to come to his aid and the people who overpowered him took the keys from him, and everybody ran amok.
If the Deputy goes back to his speeches around Christmas, he will find that his criticism of me in relation to Mountjoy was that there was too much security.
(Cavan): I defy the Minister to find it.
Perhaps we could keep to the amendment.
I was told that there was not sufficient effort to rehabilitate prisoners and too much emphasis in our prisons on security.
(Cavan): I defy the Minister to find any quotation from a speech of mine to justify that. I put it to the Minister in relation to the powers he is seeking now that he had a situation in Mountjoy within the past week, knowing the type of prisoner he had there in which one senior officer was overpowered, in which there was nobody to come to his aid, in which he was single-handed, walking around the prison with the master key in his pocket which was taken from him, with nobody there to rescue it. That is the simple state of affairs. This may be more appropriate on the Estimate and when we come to the Estimate I intend to drive it home.
We must deal with the amendments now.
(Cavan): I want the Minister to clarify his intentions with regard to the Bill. I am not saying he should not do it. When we are dealing with men who have dangerous ideas——
Surely what the Deputy is endeavouring to get me to say now is the very thing which Deputy FitzGerald has been suggesting to me I should not say. Whatever about the future, the best indication of things is the present and the present inmates of the Curragh, detention prison or whatever it is— military detention barracks is its precise and full title—are there on a great variety of charges which go far beyond firearms and Offences Against the State Act charges.
Bank robberies, and they include even sexual offences.
(Cavan): There are prisoners of a type there but what I am trying to get the Minister to do is to call a spade a spade, to tell us what he intends to do.
Deputy FitzGerald does not want me to call it a spade because he is afraid we will run into trouble.
(Cavan): What the Minister is doing is trying to sell the House a pig in a poke, to get a blank cheque. That has been fairly consistent Government policy over the years—“Give us a blank cheque and we will operate it.” I do not say for one moment that the powers being sought are not necessary, but I say that they are being sought in a dishonest way, in a camouflaged manner, so that the Government will have the best of both worlds. I would like the Minister to come out in the open and tell us what he is at.
What I am at, and I have said it many times, is endeavouring to solve over the next two years the accommodation problem created by recent events in Mountjoy, bearing in mind, and I must bear it in mind as a result of what happened last Thursday night, that there is a certain type of prisoner in our prisons who is more liable than another type, shall we say, to cause this trouble. I must bear that in mind, but that is only a factor I keep in the back of my mind. The problem I have is that I have not enough accommodation and if I did not get the Curragh the other day, I would have had to release 40 people. I would not want to release 40 people and particularly if the reason I was releasing them would in effect have been their own criminal actions last Thursday night.
We would like to help the Minister because I can see that the amendment as drafted could pose problems for him because of a certain rigidity and get him into difficulties in the courts, even where he was doing his best to operate it but where a cell happened to be free on a particular night, but to drop it we need an assurance which is adequate and unfortunately the form of assurance given by the Minister is that he talks selectively about recalcitrant prisoners and it makes it very difficult to accept it when the Bill never contemplates this category. The Bill is concerned with lack of accommodation and staff and I have to repeat my question to the Minister: could he not find some way to say to us that if we do not press the amendment, it is his intention that in so far as accommodation and staff are adequate to provide secure and reasonable conditions of custody and adequate rehabilitative treatment of prisoners, to the extent and only to the extent that accommodation is inadequate for that purpose, he will——
We might get over the difficulty for both of us in this way. I think that what has caused the difficulty for the Deputy is that I said that there might be instances where there were ten vacant cells on a particular night and I did not make transfers back.
Over quite a period was what the Minister said.
Yes, indeed, over quite a period and I did not make transfers back to civil custody at that time. I would only refuse to make those transfers back to those ten cells if the staff were inadequate in numbers to maintain proper order and to carry out proper rehabilitation and welfare duties. That covers the point adequately. What I wished to make very clear was that the fact of there being a few vacant cells on a particular night or over a period would not, ipso facto, bind me to withdrawing people from military custody. I will keep full every civil cell I have provided I have enough civil staff to ensure not only safe custody but proper rehabilitation and welfare work.
(Cavan): In arriving at that the Minister would have regard to the type of prisoner he would be dealing with?
That is what Deputy FitzGerald does not wish me to say.
(Cavan): But that is what the Minister is saying.
Has the Minister told the House that he intends to staff the Cork unit of Collins Barracks or whether it is to be staffed by military personnel?
Cork has been in operation since about the middle of February. There are about 90 prisoners in Cork as a result of the recent transfer which number is much higher than we intended to have there at this stage. However, the governor and staff there are doing remarkably well in the emergency in which we find ourselves. Cork is entirely a civil prison and the situation is different entirely to the Curragh situation. At the Curragh the premises we are using are in the centre of a large military complex and it is an impossible situation to try to operate together a civil and a military authority. It is in a military camp so the military must run it.
Cork is a separate premises and there is a public road dividing it from the military barracks. It is completely a self-contained entity and it is feasible to run it purely as a civil institution. That is being done since February and will continue to be done notwithstanding the passage of this Bill.
The Minister has been careful all along and I agree with him in his care, not to distinguish between different classes of prisoners in relation to the offences for which they are in prison.
Not this morning.
Deputy Fitzpatrick is trying to force that from me.
(Cavan): I am not but when I came in the Minister was saying that he would select the type of prisons to which he would send people.
In view of the Minister's care not to make any distinction will he assure the House that in making transfers to military custody there will be no distinctions?
That has been my practice up to now.
In view of the assurance given by the Minister, expressed as it is in terms of accommodation of staff, it seems to be entirely in line with the criteria laid down in subsection (3) and I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.
By agreement amendments Nos. 10 and 12 may be taken together since they seem to be related.