Prisons Bill, 1974: Second Stage.

I move:

"That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The sole purpose of this short Bill is to extend for a further period the provisions of section 2 of the Prisons Act, 1972. That section makes provision for the transfer of prisoners from the civil prisons to military custody and for related matters.

We on this side of the House were reluctant to agree to the enactment of the 1972 Act but we were persuaded that there was no alternative in view of the terrible destruction that had been caused in Mountjoy Prison during the riot in May, 1972. The prisons simply could not hold the prison population at that time and the only course open was to transfer some of them to military custody. Those transferred were persons requiring a high degree of security or who promoted or actively engaged in seriously disruptive activities.

The damage to Mountjoy prison caused in the riot of May, 1972, was made good, for the most part, well before the end of 1973. The repair work restored the prison substantially to its pre-riot condition but there remains the extensive work of renovation and restructuring which is essential if Mountjoy is to become a reliably secure and well serviced prison with increased emphasis on rehabilitation. This long-term work is already under way. However a new factor has emerged in the overall situation which makes it necessary to continue the present arrangement. This is the emergence of well organised disruption within our prisons and the consequent need for the careful segregation or grouping of prisoners. The problems involved in maintaining secure custody for the full range of our prison population have been compounded since 1972 by the increased number of subversives in our prisons.

At present there are 32 prisoners in the Military Detention Barracks at the Curragh. This represents a very small proportion of the total prison population—about 3 per cent—but I am satisfied that they cannot be accommodated securely in the ordinary prisons without grave risk of disruption. I do not want to comment in detail on this since it is not my intention to discuss individual prisoners here. I will confine myself to saying that only prisoners considered to represent a serious threat to the security or good order of a prison are transferred to military custody.

I was of the opinion in 1972 that the Curragh Detention Barracks could be taken over by the prison administration and operated as a civilian prison. I am satisfied now that it could not. Apart from the basic objection to having a civilian controlled enclave in the heart of a military complex, there are not adequate staff resources in the prison service to run the Curragh Military Detention Barracks and at the same time meet current and prospective commitments in the civil prisons.

I should say, of course, that I would much prefer to be in a position to have facilities to house these prisoners in civil custody but the simple fact is that, as of now, there is still no suitable high security unit to keep these prisoners. As long as the total prison population remains high there is no possibility of rearranging the use of existing prison accommodation in order to meet the need. I have decided, in fact, that it is necessary to build a special unit to house prisoners of the type now in military custody. This will be a high security unit capable of housing up to 30 high risk prisoners and will be located in the Portlaoise prison complex. Preliminary work has started but it will, however, take up to three years to complete this project and while it may be possible to dispense with military custody for civilians before then, I am afraid that it is essential to provide for the possibility of military custody for a further three years.

I should like to pay a tribute to the Defence Forces for the way in which they have discharged the task of accommodating these prisoners. At the present time this is an additional burden on the Defence Forces and I regret that it should be necessary to prolong it. However, I shall do all I can to relieve them of it at the earliest possible date. I know that they are doing everything possible to provide as good a regime as possible for prisoners in military custody. For example, in liaison with my Department, educational classes are being provided in the Curragh Military Detention barracks by two teachers made available by the County Kildare Vocational Educational Committee. Recreation facilities to the maximum feasible extent have been provided. All these facilities will be kept under review.

I commend the Bill to the House, being fully satisfied that the security of our prison system makes it necessary.

There was some doubt during my absence on the Order of Business today about the time at which this Bill was received by me in my capacity as spokesman in Opposition for the Department of Justice. The Taoiseach stated that he understood a copy was sent last week to Deputy Andrews and that the Minister for Justice was in touch with him about this. The Taoiseach did not say, of course, what day last week I was contacted by the Minister's Department as distinct from the Minister. I received a copy of the Bill on Friday last with a complimentary slip from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach. I have the main heads of the Bill which I received on Friday which the Minister is now asking us to give a Second Stage reading to. On Monday I was contacted by the Minister's office. In fact, I did not have an opportunity to phone back to his office until about 4.40 p.m. that afternoon. The Minister was unavailable at that time, which is fair enough, as he cannot be in his office at all times. However, neither can I be waiting around on the good graces of the Minister.

I had to go to the funeral of one of the victims so savagely murdered last Friday and it was not possible for me to contact the Minister yesterday. I said I would contact the Minister's very courteous secretary or assistant secretary this morning but again, I did not have an opportunity to do so. My point is that the first sight the front bench of the Fianna Fáil Party had of the actual Bill itself, the headings of the Bill, was this morning. It was my intention then to clear the Bill with the front bench. However, again due to my absence from the front bench meeting, it was not possible for them to do so. The Fianna Fáil Party could not have decided, therefore, what attitude they would take to this Bill until this morning.

In addition to that, the Minister introduced the Bill at 4 o'clock this afternoon and three hours later he introduced the Second Stage. All Deputies in the House are entitled to a copy of the Bill. They are as much entitled to a copy of it as I am. I know it is a matter of courtesy to the front bench spokesman on any topic that he should get a fairly lengthy period in which to study a Bill before it is actually introduced. Nevertheless, the Government had an opportunity to introduce this Bill quite a considerable time before now. The Minister in his short introductory speech said that one of the main reasons for his extending the time of the Bill from 31st May, 1974 to the 31st May, 1977 is that it is now necessary to build a special unit to house prisoners of the type now in military custody. He stated that this will be a high security unit capable of housing up to 30 high risk prisoners and will be located in the Portlaoise prison complex. Shades of 1972 indeed. Shades of Tuesday and Wednesday the 23rd and 24th May, 1972 when the then Minister for Justice, Deputy O'Malley came into this House and sought the legislation, which is before us, and was met with a barrage of prevarication from the then Opposition.

The Minister for Justice, however, now has to come along here, two years later, and in the nature of things has to eat humble pie. What concerns us was properly articulated by our Leader today when he raised this matter on the Order of Business. He said:

I would like to protest. It was known that the necessity for this Bill was there. It was known that the existing legislation would run out in a day or two. This Bill should have been introduced sooner so that adequate time would have been made available for discussion.

While I had reasonable time, in view of the fact that this is a small Bill, if it had been a comprehensive Bill —undoubtedly it is an important and urgent Bill—I do not think Friday would have given me reasonable time, as Opposition spokesman on Justice. The Leader of our party, Deputy Lynch, was quite correct in pointing out the haste with which the Bill was introduced : it was introduced in haste. The Minister is now seeking an exten sion of three years from 31st May 1974 to 31st May, 1977, allowing himself nine days before the 1972 Act falls in. This is a matter of grave concern to the House. We believe it is another example of the Government's inability to introduce legislation in an ordinary way. As spokesman on Justice, I should like to add my protest to that made on the Order of Business today by Deputy Lynch.

The Minister has come here belatedly with this Bill and asked for the co-operation of the House. In 1972 when the Minister for Justice, Deputy O'Malley, introduced the 1972 Prisons Act he was met by a considerable amount of doubt and we had what might be called the litany of the then liberals who are now in Government and find themselves supporting legislation which they could not find it in their hearts to support then. It is my function and duty to point out what was said on that occasion by these people.

We understand the necessity for the introduction of the 1974 Prisons Bill in Opposition as we understood the necessity for the 1972 measure when we were in Government and I assure the Minister and the Government that there will be no prevarication on this occasion. We know where our duty lies and we have no hesitation in supporting the Government in urgent, responsible and reasonable legislation.

In introducing the 1972 Act the Minister, Deputy O'Malley, expressed a reservation about a civil prison within a military establishment when at column 78 of the Official Report of 23rd May, 1972, he said:

Moreover, there are serious objections to having a civil prison within a military establishment. Accordingly, it is necessary to make provisions for the transfer of prisoners to military custody.

Nevertheless, he saw clearly where his duty lay and, having regard to the times that were in it, it was his function as Minister for Justice to introduce the 1972 Act. At column 77 of the same debate he said:

I regret that a situation has arisen which compels me to come to the House and ask it to pass this Bill, the main provision of which is to authorise prisoners to be transferred to military custody in certain exceptional circumstances. This emergency——

and this was the reason for the introduction of that Bill then

——situation has resulted from the destruction carried out in Mountjoy on the night of 18th-19th May.——

that was in 1972

——The destruction was on such a scale that approximately 180 prisoners had to be transferred. Not all of them could be accommodated in the other prisons at Portlaoise, Cork, Limerick or in St. Patrick's Institution and I had to arrange, in consultation with the Minister for Defence, to take over the military detention barracks in the Curragh for use as a prison to accommodate some 40 prisoners. These have since been under the control of two senior prison officers, with the help and assistance of the military.

He then goes on at some length to justify the introduction of the Bill at that time. The present Minister for Justice, Deputy Cooney, who was then Opposition spokesman on Justice, is reported in the Official Report of 23rd May, 1972, at column 83, as saying:

...He comes to the House with a Bill at a time and in a climate which must make one suspicious of some of the terms and the phrases used in this Bill...

First, there is the haste with which it has been introduced.

The Minister must now understand that on that occasion the Minister for Justice had to introduce the Bill as a matter of urgency and yet Deputy Cooney queried it on the grounds of haste. We ask the present Minister for Justice who has now been in office considerably more than a year, why in that year he did not introduce this Bill now before us. Why even in the last month did he not introduce it? We are asked to accept an amendment extending the life of the 1972 Bill to 1977 effectively, nine days before the 1972 Bill goes out of existence. That is the extraordinary situation in which the Dáil finds itself. The Minister talked about haste in 1972.

There are some other important quotations from both the Minister and others to which, with the indulgence of the Chair, I hope to refer. It is not my intention to quote at length from any of the speeches made on that occasion, quite the contrary. At columns 83-84, Volume 261 of the Official Report of 23rd May, 1972, Deputy Cooney said:

I can see that there are technical reasons for hasty legislation but nevertheless this does not excuse a piece of legislation with so many question marks unexplained by the Minister in his opening statement. The whole point of having this institution of Parliament is to enable Members to tease out the various

implications of proposed legislation, to tease out and to examine the social, political and the technical legal implications in relation to each other and in relation to existing legislation. We have been deprived of that opportunity here.

The 1972 Act ceases to have any statutory validity from 31st May, nine days away. At column 88 of the Official Report of the same date Deputy Cooney stated:

This defective Government have now landed us in a legislative mess and they have come to this House for help.

In respect of the present Minister and the present Government one thing that distinguishes them from the previous Fianna Fáil Government is their lack of will in relation to the production of legislation in this House. This is an occasion when that is exemplified. The Dáil is being asked to enact a Bill into law nine days before the 1972 Act goes out of existence.

I wonder if the Minister, Deputy Cooney, and others were accusing the then Government of being defective on the basis that they did not introduce legislation because if one compares like with like the last Government and the present one cannot be compared. In relation to legislation the Fianna Fáil Government exceeded anything the present Government have done. If Deputy Cooney then meant that the Government were defective because their legislative programme was bad then this is a defective Government we have today.

Concluding his remarks on Second Stage Deputy Cooney said:

For the sake of the common good we in this party are prepared to give that help, but for a limited time only.

For the sake of the common good we are prepared to help and assist the Minister in view of his opening remarks about the need for the time to build a special unit to house prisoners of the type now in military custody. I understand that this special unit is to be built at Portlaoise, that preliminary work has begun on it and that it will take up to three years to complete it.

In addition to the other contributions that were made in the teeth of reality, the reality produced by the then Minister for Justice, Deputy O'Malley, we had the present Tánaiste and Leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Corish, at column 90 of the Official Report of 23rd May, 1972 on this matter. The prevarication throughout these quotations, the political balancing, the wanting-it-both-ways attitude, has to be heard to be believed. Having stated that he wished to vote for it he went on to give so many reasons that his reasons for doing so became invalid and unreal. This shows a total lack of political will. The present Tánaiste stated then:

If there is a specific situation because of a specific activity no one could take exception to the introduction here of specific measures to deal with that situation,

As I have already stated Mountjoy at the time had been wrecked and that was the situation the House was dealing with. Deputy Corish continued:

say in the form of a temporary provisions Bill. But this is not a temporary provisions Bill. It will now go on our Statute Book as a permanent Act and, much more dangerous, in the form of a generalised Bill which can be invoked at any time it is deemed necessary to invoke it by any Government now or in the future. This Bill can be invoked without any reference whatsoever to the rioting in Mountjoy and the destruction there on the night of 18th-19th May, 1972.

That was the attitude of the Tánaiste to the very reasonable request made by the then Minister for Justice, Deputy O'Malley. Deputy Corish, at column 94 of the same date, stated:

The measure is too wide, too general, to deal with a specific problem and a temporary situation, but if this is not so I think we should be told.

Who is to say but that during the course of those two days Deputy O'Malley all but exhausted himself trying to explain to the then Opposition his real reasons before introducing that Bill?

The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Deputy Clinton, at column 101 of the Official Report of the same date stated:

This emergency legislation should not have been necessary. That has been made quite clear by our shadow Minister for Justice, Deputy Cooney.

I admit that Deputy Clinton on that occasion did give reasons why Deputy Cooney felt the emergency legislation was not necessary. Later during that debate the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Cluskey, at column 106 of the Official Report of the same date stated:

Surely the Minister is not asking this assembly to pass a Bill which is a departure from normal democratic procedure and institutions on the basis that he cannot spare two senior prison officers? That is what it means. The Minister states that. The Minister said:

It was my hope, at the time of the transfer, to utilise the detention barracks as a civil prison but, owing to the severe demands on the existing prison staffs at the present time and the inevitable delay in recruiting...

What does that mean?

Deputy Cluskey then went on to justify his reasons for voting against the Second Stage of the Bill.

I should now like to give a rather choice snippet from that well known liberal, Deputy Cruise-O'Brien, Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. At column 118 of the Official Report of the same date he stated:

It was introduced in a mood which is rather dear to this Government, a mood of very belated but frantic haste.

I am sure Deputy Cruise-O'Brien when he reflects on that statement will appreciate that the matter of haste and its indecency must, under all the circumstances, be levelled at the Government of which he is now a member. For the record I should like to remind Deputy Cruise-O'Brien of his quotation:

It was introduced in a mood which is rather dear to this Government, a mood of very belated but frantic haste.

He says in the same column:

Secondly, the case for the time limit is extremely strong. I hope the Minister will tell us he accepts the principle of the time limit, that he does not ask us to give him a kind of blank cheque for an indefinite period to keep in force regulations which most of us here would regard as regrettable and undesirable.

In addition to saying all that, Deputy Cruise-O'Brien absented himself from voting on the Second Stage of the Bill. I admit he was in favour of the Bill in principle, but it is extraordinary that he did not stay and vote for the Bill, a Bill of such concern to the community at the time. It is quite obvious it is of similar concern to the community now.

It is also well to point out that when the time came and the question was put: "That the Bill do now pass" Deputy Cruise-O'Brien was again absent. He was for the Bill in principle on paper but, when it came to actually voting for the Bill, he absented himself. He may have had a good enough reason to be absent. I do not know. Perhaps before this Bill passes we will have heard from Deputy Dr. Cruise-O'Brien, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, why, having spoken for the Bill, he did not have the courage to vote for it when he had an opportunity of doing so. The record speaks for itself.

On the Second Stage the Minister was extremely reasonable towards the then Opposition despite the abuse and the personal attacks levelled at him at a time when he should have been receiving the unqualified support of the Opposition. At column 187 of the Official Report of 23rd May, 1972, he said:

...I am prepared to approach this matter perfectly reasonably on the basis mentioned in my opening speech. Between now and tomorrow morning I am prepared to think up some amendment that would impose a time limit on it. The length of it I do not know: I would have to consult my advisers on that point.

Again, it is interesting to note, that a number of Labour Party Deputies— this is clearly shown in the Official Report—voted against the 1972 Bill on the Second Stage. Among them were Deputy Cluskey, Deputy Dr. John O'Connell, Deputy Dr. John O'Donovan, who unhappily is no longer a Dáil Deputy, Deputy Dr. Thornley and the present Ceann Comhairle, Deputy Seán Treacy. Deputy Seán Sherwin also voted against the Bill on that occasion.

Here, now, you have a situation in which the then Opposition, who now find themselves in Government, come along to the present Opposition, who were then in Government and see it as their clear duty to introduce the 1972 Prisons Bill, seeking a three-year extension of the very things they then opposed so vehemently. We would ask the Minister to tell us, when he comes to reply to this debate, can he rely on the people who then voted against the 1972 Bill to support him on this occasion? Can he rely on the Labour Deputies who voted against the Bill to support him now? We query thebona fides of some of the people who expressed what I described as their prevaricating concern on that occasion.

We find Deputy Dr. Garret FitzGerald, who has a word for everything on every occasion, at column 209 of Volume 118 on 24th May, 1972, speaking as follows:

As it is, the amendment is unacceptable but we might get somewhere if we had assurances on a number of things.

The Minister had, of course, exhausted himself giving assurances on that occasion.

It is interesting to note that a spokesman for the Labour Party on that occasion at column 211 on 24th May, 1972, had this to say:

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 Deputy who made that statement was none other than Deputy Seán Treacy. I assume the same Deputy Treacy, who now holds a respected position in this House, will remain seated and will not press the matter to a Division on this occasion, as he did on the last occasion, and as, indeed, a number of his colleagues did also.

I do not think the Deputy is in order in criticising the Ceann Comhairle.

I am going off it anyway. At column 220 on the same day—the great advantage, Acting Chairman, is that the Official Report is there for the record and therefore what is said in this House has to be said with great care because it is always there for research purposes— we have Deputy Liam Kavanagh making the following statement:

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.

Today we have the Minister for Justice giving as the main reason for his seeking an extension for three more years of the 1972 Act the fact that he has decided to build a special unit to house prisoners of the type now in military custody. He says his special unit will take up to three years to build. I wonder what Deputy Kavanagh has to say about that.

Does he consider that, under all the circumstances, the Minister is looking for too long a period? Does he feel— not having visited Mountjoy, of course, in 1972 to see the desperate damage that had been done on that occasion—the period being sought by the present Minister for Justice—his Minister for Justice after all because he is a supporter of the Coalition parties—for the building of this special unit, a period of three years, is too long? Could we hear from Deputy Kavanagh on this occasion, 21st May, 1974, his reasonable comments as he considered his comments to be reasonable on that occasion?

A Deputy who practises law in civilian life, if I may put it that way, Deputy T.J. Fitzpatrick(Cavan) had this to say at column 232 of Volume 118 of the Official Report for 24th May, 1972:

This 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.

It was generally accepted that the Minister had a strong case and it was seen that he had a strong case, but still we had political prevarication. Deputy Desmond, at column 235 on the same day said this:

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...

I do not see why between now and Committee Stage the Fine Gael Party should not come in with an amendment, and certainly we would hope that the Labour Party would come in and explain the inconsistency. We would hope to hear from them on this occasion, either expressing the views they expressed in 1972 or by way of putting down an amendment between now and Committee Stage. I am sorry to take up the time of the House with so many quotations. I have no doubt the Minister will reply in some depth and that he will give suitable quotations which will counteract those I have given. Deputy Desmond continued:

These in many respects——

It will be very good to quote from Deputy Andews' speech today in future years.

I have not yet finished my speech. I am not prevaricating.

I do not know if the Deputy knows there is someone trying to take down what he is saying.

Acting Chairman

Deputy Andrews is in possession.

I do not think the Official Reporter will have that much trouble taking down what the Deputy is saying.

Not at all. I am helping the Official Reporter. I am giving choice quotations. I will hand him the book. As far as my record is concerned in speaking in the House, anything the Deputy might refer to from my speeches, in five, ten or 15 years, with the grace of the people of Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown——

In Opposition.

As Minister, or whatever—I may be overplaying my hand in that respect—any reference I will make can be examined. The purpose of the quotations I am giving is to show that on that occasion in 1972 a sizeable majority of the Labour Party voted against the legislation proposed by the then Minister for Justice, Deputy O'Malley. On this occasion no Member of the Labour Party is even in the House. They have not indicated their intention to be in the House nor have they indicated their intention on this occasion to vote against the Bill's provisions, a matter on which they were so strident in 1972.

The Deputy knows the Bill is supported by all Members on this side.

Why not be consistent about it? If in 1972 they could not find it in their hearts to support what they are now supporting, why do they not come into the House and explain the difference in their attitude?

The Deputy will see there were times mentioned.

What times?

There were dates mentioned in the Deputy's quotations.

It is my intention, to help Deputy Enright, to mention times later on. Deputy Enright might be able to talk this one away—and this is the final nail, as it were. When the Bill came to its Final Stages, the Dáil divided: Tá, 114; Níl, 8. Of the eight, were Deputies Cluskey, Keating, O'Connell, Spring, Thornley and Treacy. We on this side are wondering why they adopted that attitude in 1972—why they cannot be consistent now and offer a point of view, if only to explain their inconsistency.

Now that I have quoted extensively from the Official Report and shown the inconsistencies, I should like to point out that the Minister for Justice then introduced the Bill to deal with the damage done in the Mountjoy riots. I would specifically mention section 2 (3) of the Act of 1972. It is basically the nitty-gritty of the legislation that is in front of us. It states:

If and whenever, at a time when this section is in operation, the Minister is of opinion that prison accommodation or prison staff is insufficient to provide secure and reasonable conditions of custody for all persons then in custody in prison or for whom prison accommodation is required or is insufficient to provide such conditions without serious detriment to the maintenance in prisons of the normal arrangements for the rehabilitative treatment and welfare of prisoners he may, in writing——

A number of things are specified. It states that the persons so specified shall be transferred to military custody and shall remain in such military custody until a number of situations have occured. That is basically the reason why the Minister for Justice on this occasion introduces this Bill. It is amazing the way history repeats itself. In 1972 the riots in Mountjoy, among others, were the reasons for the introduction of that Bill. Now we find that one of the main explanations for this Bill is the building of a high security unit capable of housing of up to 35 prisoners, to be located in the Portlaois prison complex. It is explained that three years will be required to build that unit.

Like Deputy Kavanagh, one wonders whether the Minister has given sufficient detail as to the reasons why it will take so long. I am not suggesting it will not take so long but we would like the Minister to give a more adequate explanation as to why it will take three years to build, admittedly a special unit, to house the type of prisoner the Minister has mentioned. Perhaps the Minister will give us more details in respect of the length of time he is seeking to build the special unit when he is replying. The Minister did admit, in his opening statement, that he had doubts in 1972 when the Prisons Bill, now an Act, was going through the House. He said in his introductory remarks: "I was of the opinion in 1972 that the Curragh Detention Barracks could be taken over by the prison administration and operated as a civilian prison. I am satisfied now that it could not". The Minister deserves credit for that admission. But before launching into the speech he made the Minister might have satisfied himself that the Curragh Detention Barracks could be taken over by the prison administration and operated as a civilian prison.

The Minister, properly, pays tribute to the Defence Forces for the way in which they have discharged the task of accommodating the type of prisoner they have in the Curragh Detention Centre. In addition to the tribute paid to the Defence Forces, I should like to add my name to the praise of the prison staff and the Garda. We can be platitudinous about this type of thing but I think it is important, particularly with the times that are in it, that this House at every opportunity should pay tribute to and support—indicating that support—the persons on whose shoulders the safety of this State rests, the Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces and the prison authorities. I do not think there should be any running for cover by any politician in this respect. They are entitled to, and we must give them, our wholehearted support in carrying on the very difficult task in which they are engaged at the moment. They are entitled to that support from Oireachtas Éireann and we, on this side of the House, give them that support without any equivocation whatsoever. Any assistance the Government might seek from us to increase the numbers of the Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces, prison officers or personnel in any of those branches will be forthcoming wholeheartedly. We appreciate that there is an additional burden on the Defence Forces and indeed on the Garda Síochána and, with the way matters are developing at the moment, there will be a continual burden on our prison officers.

In relation to the matter of prison officers, I was glad to hear the Minister say he intended to introduce a more comprehensive course when prison officers are taken into the service. We, on this side of the House, suggested previously that prison officers should undergo a course of initial training similar to that of the Garda Síochána. Of course we have expressed concern about the adequacy of the training given to the Garda Síochána, nevertheless we feel that this is the type of training the prison officer should receive. Certainly the then Minister for Justice, Deputy O'Malley, had this type of situation in hand and in mind. We, in Opposition for the time being, intend supporting this legislation because we see where our duty lies. There is no prevarication. There is no doubt the 1972 Prisons Act was introduced by a Fianna Fáil Government.

In 1974, we do not see any reason for changing our minds or having doubts about the probity of the introduction of that Bill nor do we have doubts about the probity of the introduction of this Bill—in 1974. At that time the then Minister for Justice expressed doubts about the idea of transferring civilians to military custody. We still have those doubts. We would hope that when the present situation resolves itself and the country returns to normality we will use the powers in the Bill to bring an end to its effectiveness. But in the meantime if the situation in the country demands it, we will stand over it. We believe that the situation in the country does demand it and that the situation in the Prison Service does demand it. Consequently we will stand over our support for the Bill.

As we are discussing the Prisons Bill of 1974, there are a number of questions I should like to pose to the Minister for Justice in relation to the interior of Mountjoy Prison. The building of the corrective training unit was begun by the then Minister for Justice to accommodate, as I understood it— having accompanied Deputy Seán Moore on a visit to Mountjoy prison —100 persons. Can the Minister say now when the corrective training unit will come into operation? He might mention Arbour Hill also in the course of his reply.

On the matter of Portlaoise prison. the Minister outlined his reasons for the introduction of the Bill. We find them rather ironic, to say the least, because they are almost on all fours with the reason, in a different context of course, for the introduction of the Bill by Deputy O'Malley in 1972. Having regard to the attitude of the present Minister for Defence, having regard to his actions in theClaudia incident, having regard to his ducal or princely-type reactions in Greenore, when he took charge of the Defence Forces in his capacity as Minister for Defence, we would ask the Minister for Justice to keep a weather eye on Deputy Donegan in the making of regulations in relation to the places and the manner generally in which persons in military custody, pursuant to section 2 (9), shall be kept in custody. The subsection states:

The Minister for Defence shall make regulations in relation to the places and the manner generally in which persons in military custody pursuant to this section shall be kept in custody and such regulations shall correspond to the rules for the time being in force under the Prisons Acts, 1826 to 1970, governing the treatment, employment and control of persons in prison.

I am not suggesting in any way that Deputy Donegan would attempt to interfere with the well-being of prisoners in custody. I am merely asking that an eye should be kept on Deputy Donegan. That is all I would ask the Minister for Justice to do when this becomes law.

That is all I have to say on this Bill. Having regard to the manner in which the Minister replies on the Second Stage we will then consider the possibility of giving him all Stages this evening. I hope the Minister will be reasonable in his reply. We have heard him replying to a number of matters on the Adjournment in the recent past when he has become rather hysterical in that sense and his speech has then become rather threadworn in regard to any matters Fianna Fáil might bring up in relation to security.

In so far as our position in opposition is concerned I know that our record is clear as our record in Government was clear and clean.

I was disappointed when I came into the House to find that I would have to be the next speaker to offer or the Minister would have got in to reply. There is an enormous contrast between the Prisons Bill of 1974 and the Prisons Bill of 1972. Perhaps the reason for that is that there is now a responsible group of people sitting on this side of the House. Perhaps there was not a responsible group sitting here in 1972. The proof that there was not a responsible group here in 1972 is that the Minister has to eat humble pie and come in here today with this Bill.

If there was one aspect of that Bill in 1972 that the present Government objected to it was that originally there was not a time limit other than a proviso for reactivating section 2 by resolutions of the House. Ultimately when I suggested a three-year time limit from May,1972, that was found to be excessive. In order to try to get the Bill through the House I had to agree to shorten that period to two years. Even at that I was assailed by Deputies opposite. It was not just the Labour Party, who voted against it, who assailed me but many members of Fine Gael including the Minister for Justice. I noticed when I was going through the Official Report for a short time this afternoon that when I was replying to the Second Stage debate in 1972 I mentioned that only 20 Deputies had contributed on that occasion.

I was immediately interrupted and told that 20 more would have contributed if they had got the opportunity and that they would have expressed their opposition to the Bill but that because it had been agreed to end that debate by midnight on that day only 20 Deputies were able to get in to express their opposition to the Bill. Eight of those voted against it eventually. As Deputy Andrews has stated it is very interesting to see the empty seats which six of that eight who are still in this House could occupy if they wanted to.

It was remarkable that instead of anybody on the Government side, and in particular from the Labour Party, seeking to get in to speak before me the only person who offered to speak was the Minister himself. I thought that because of the pretty radical change in attitude which this Bill now before us indicates in the thinking of the Government and of the Minister for Justice in particular, that we would have had a fairly lengthy explanation of why the Minister has turned turtle in this way, eaten humble pie and swallowed his words. The Minister in the very short speech which he has made already agreed in effect that virtually everything he said in May, 1972, was wrong then and is wrong now.

We had a short skimping-over of the Bill—two-and-a-half pages of a script. Even though this Bill is very short it is important. There are many matters we should examine. My recollection of the 1972 Act is that section 2 (3) says:

If and whenever, at a time when this section is in operation, the Minister is of opinion that prison accommodation or prison staff is insufficient to provide secure and reasonable conditions of custody for all persons then in custody in prison or for whom prison accommodation is required or is insufficient to provide such conditions without serious detriment to the maintenance in prisons... he may, in writing—

(a) certify that he is so of opinion, and

(b) direct the transfer to military custody of such of the persons aforesaid....

It is interesting to find in this speech which the Minister has now made on Second Reading he does not clearly make the case that there is an insufficiency of staff because quite clearly there is not, any more than there was in 1972. That was only a provision put in to deal with some contigency that might arise but happily never did, and I am quite sure never will. Likewise, the Minister does not try to make the case now that the accommodation is insufficient or inadequate in the sense that there are not sufficient cells to house prisoners. That was the position we were, in fact, faced with in May, 1972, when I had to transfer 40-45 prisoners one night to the Curragh before I was even able to introduce the Bill. The Minister does not make that case now. He does not say that there is insufficient accommodation in the sense that there are insufficient cells. The Minister says that at the moment there are 32 dangerous prisoners in the Curragh and that he has nowhere else to keep them other than in the Curragh until he builds this proposed new high-security small unit at the farm at Portlaoise prison.

I have only had an opportunity of reading the Minister's speech within the last half-hour. It is a question of some doubt as to whether section 2 (3) of the 1972 Act covers a situation such as this. One envisaged at the time that it was purely a matter of accommodation without going into any details on the question of the suitability or otherwise of the accommodation. The accommodation problem does not appear to arise now. The overall prison population is not any greater now than it was in 1972. If it is any greater it is only marginally so. There are more prisons or places of detention available than there were in 1972. I am surprised that the Minister did not refer to the up-to-date prison situation in the various prisons throughout the country. That is very relevant indeed. If they were examined the question of continuing this arrangement under the 1972 Act for a further three years would not arise. So far as I recall, of the various new prisons or other institutions which I opened or got started the only one which was actually open at the time of the 1972 riot was the one at Cork. At that time I was having Arbour Hill examined. It had been kindly offered to me by the then Minister for Defence. We found that it needed a fair amount of repair and structural alteration. It clearly could not be available in anything like a short time.

Shortly after this I opened Lacken House and Shelton Abbey in Arklow. Lacken House was for younger offenders who would otherwise be in St. Patrick's Shelton Abbey was for people who would otherwise be in Mountjoy. Both of these made a definite contribution towards easing the accommodation problem since 1972. As the Minister says, the repair of the actual damage done on the 19th May, 1972, to Mountjoy has now been completed. What is in process at the moment is a general renovation with a view to modernising Mountjoy. I am very glad that that is continuing. The accommodation in Mountjoy must be considerably greater than it was on, say, 20th May, 1972, because it is now repaired.

We should be clear in our minds that the reason for the 1972 Act was that there was no accommodation in which to put prisoners unless we took over the Curragh. This Bill is quite different. It proposes to continue the 1972 Act but for a different reason, that is, that there is not suitable or high security accommodation for the 32 prisoners who are at the moment in the Curragh and who are described as being dangerous. The Minister says he is satisfied that they cannot be accommodated securely in ordinary prisons without grave risk of disruption. We must be clear, therefore, of the distinction between these two Bills. There was no accommodation in 1972. There is now. But in respect of 32 of these prisoners, the prison is not sufficiently secure, in the Minister's view, to hold them. I accept the Minister's views on this because he has the advice of people who are competent to advise him on that point. What we do not know—and I do not have the up-to-date figures— are the number of prisoners in Portlaoise at the moment.

My recollection of Portlaoise is that there is capacity for about 210. I do not know if there are 200 or 210 prisoners there at the moment but I doubt if there are. There might be 32 vacant cells which could be occupied by these 32 prisoners who are regarded as dangerous and who are at the moment in the Curragh. From what I see from the public street when I pass Portlaoise twice a week, the security there is no less than it is in the Curragh. For some weeks past I noticed that a new shelter was being built on the roof of the main wing. There is an armed soldier standing at the corner of that roof.

Today I noticed that in addition there was another soldier standing on a platform inside the main wall near the main gate. Presumably these two soldiers are visible from the main road. There must be many more inside who are not visible from the public road. For that reason one would think that the security there. from a military point of view, must be no less than that obtaining in the Curragh. Indeed, one begins to wonder whether the prisoners being held in Portlaoise are being held in civil or military custody. It would appear that the ultimate custodians, from the point of view of preventing a break out, are military personnel. I am not disagreeing with that but am stating it as it appears to be a fact. I suggest, if there are 32 vacant cells in Portlaoise, that the 32 dangerous prisoners in the Curragh should be transferred. There may not be much justification for holding 32 potentially dangerous prisoners in the Curragh for a further period of three years.

When I heard that a Bill of this nature was being introduced, it immediately struck me that the only reason for it was that the two-year period would expire within a week and that it would have to be continued. Particularly having regard to the views expressed by the present Minister, a number of Fine Gael Deputies and nearly all Labour Deputies in 1972 that the period of extension should be the minimum possible, about six and not more than 12 months, I was very taken aback to find when I was handed the Bill at 4.05 this afternoon that the period of the proposed extension was, in fact, three years which is significantly longer than the original period mentioned in the 1972 Act.

Since the passing of the 1972 Act it was known that the Act would expire at the end of this month. One would assume, therefore, that if the present Government were to go back on their previous views and decide that they had to extend the period of application of the 1972 Act that they would do so in plenty of time because they had ample notice of it. It is the practice of officials of the Department to draw the Minister's attention to such a thing at an early stage. They would give him and the Government ample warning of the fact that the Act would expire at the end of May, 1974, and that legislation would have to be introduced and passed before that date to extend it. I would be very surprised if the Minister did not have his attention drawn to this fact as long ago as, perhaps, three or four months. The drafting of the Bill, which is only the matter of a line or two, which could have been done by an official in a few minutes did not hold anything up.

Notwithstanding that, we have the unusual situation that, in spite of all the notice of the necessity of the Bill and assuming the intention of keeping the Act in force, the Bill was introduced today at 4 o'clock, circulated—having already been printed in advance of the order of the House— at 4.05 p.m. and a request made that the Second Reading be taken two hours and 55 minutes later, at 7 o'clock. I began to wonder why this should be so, why this Bill could not be introduced, published and debated in the ordinary way, particularly as it was not a problem which arose overnight, as happened at the time of the original Bill. I began to be suspicious that, perhaps, the Government did not wish to have this Bill circulated in the ordinary way because that might tend to draw the attention of Deputies and the public generally to a situation in which, through their own fault, practically all members of the Government have to eat their words when bringing in the Bill. It may well be that it was hoped that by bringing it in almost surreptitiously and having it debated on the same day, perhaps, less attention would be paid not so much to the Bill itself but to the consequences of the Bill from the point of view of members of the Government who were so highly critical of the fact that it was going to last for two years originally.

I understand that a request has been made that this Bill would not alone get a Second Reading tonight but that it would be passed through all Stages by this House tonight. I do not know whether our spokesman or our Whip proposes to accede to that request or not. What strikes me as unusual is that that request would be made. I understand it is not proposed to summon the Seanad to sit tomorrow. I do not know whether the Seanad is intended to be summoned at all this week. I understand that it is not and that the Seanad will not sit until next week. If that is so, what is the need or the reason for the unseemly haste which the Minister displays in seeking to have this Bill rushed through—introduced this afternoon, circulated this afternoon, Second Reading this afternoon, Committee Stage, Report Stage and Fifth Stage all this evening, or apparently required?

I do not think the Minister will meet any obstruction from this side of the House in spite of the fact that many of us here on this side of the House are well entitled to talk at some length on the contrast between what is now happening here, where there are twice as many Fianna Fáil Deputies present as there are on the Government side, and what happened exactly two years ago almost to the very day in this House when 20 Deputies who had spoken against it from the then Opposition side clamoured because of the fact that only 20 of them were allowed to speak by midnight on that night. They are, as Deputy Andrews has noted already, mute today, and their muteness, their failure to open their mouths now, is the most eloquent proof of all of the total incorrectness of all that they said here on this Bill in May, 1972, and it is a total justification of what I and the then Government did or tried to do in relation to that Bill.

Because of the fact that we only got the Bill at 4 o'clock and I had various other things to do as well, I had not time to go through that debate. I have only read bits of it here and there. However, one quickly remembers, when one reads a bit of it, even the tone of that debate, the sheer outrage of the Labour Party, in particular, and the present Minister for Justice also on the Fine Gael bench, that such a Bill should be introduced and, in particular, that it was sought to have it enforced for a period longer than six, nine or 12 months. At that time, the thought of extending it for a further three years beyond the two years that was then proposed as a compromise and, if you like, as a sop to Fine Gael to try to get the Bill through more quickly, would probably have given the present Minister for Justice apoplexy, because he got extremely worked up about the two year period that was then mentioned. The Minister in his very short speech here tonight made the following point:

A new factor has emerged in the overall situation which makes it necessary to continue the present arrangement. This is the emergence of well-organised disruption within our prisons and the consequent need for the careful segregation or grouping of prisoners. The problems involved in maintaining secure custody for the full range of our prison population has been compounded since 1972 by the increased numbers of subversives in our prisons.

There are, so far as I know, somewhat more subversives in our prisons now than there were at the time of the riot in 1972. Precisely how many I would not know because I do not know the present population of subversives. Of course, many of those who are in prison now were in prison then also, and hopefully at least some of them will still be there in 1977 when this new Bill expires. There are no grounds for the assertion of the Minister that a new factor has arisen in the emergence of well-organised disruption within our prisons. If there was ever proof of well-organised disruption, it was the riot itself in Mountjoy on the 18th and 19th May, 1972.

I was the only Member of this House who was there that night. I saw at first hand exactly what happened. I could not believe that human beings could inflict so much deliberate damage on any building. One of the things that amazed me most of all was that these patriots, as they regarded themselves then and presumably still do, set out in particular to damage the parts of the prison that were most useful to prisoners. I recall that at that time in May, 1972, we had just installed about a month or so before that a very new, modern dental surgery in the prison which was as good as could be found in the surgery of a leading dental practitioner in the city. It had cost the taxpayer, as far as I recall, about £6,000, and there was the most systematic destruction of every single piece of equipment in that room.

I had been in Mountjoy about a month before and one of the things that I was brought to admire in particular was that surgery and it was well worth admiring. These savages had gone in there and had smashed to pieces every single little piece of equipment that they could find there. The doctor's surgery, which had also been re-equipped and had a good stock of drugs, equipment and appliances of all kinds was similarly treated. There was a good deal of damage done to other parts of the prison which had been modernised and re-equipped very recently at that stage for the benefit of all prisoners.

I can recall before May, 1972, the efforts of various groups of prisoners, more particularly in Portlaoise than elsewhere, to disrupt prison life and cause damage to the prisons themselves, to make things awkward for members of the staff and, particularly, to make life miserable for the nonsubversive prisoners who happened to be in the prisons at that time. I have a clear recollection of them because these are the things that impinge themselves on one's memory. Therefore, I find it difficult to agree with the Minister when he asserts that a new factor has now arisen, because that very factor was there in May, 1972, and it was, in fact, that above all else which led to the riot of 18th May, 1972.

As I say, because of the development which took place in prisons, in the opening of new institutions of various kinds when I was in the Department of Justice and because of the ones which were planned then all of which, I understand, are going ahead, I was disappointed in relation to this Bill that the Minister would not see fit to refer to these developments because in common with many people I am interested in how they are progressing. I would have thought that by now the capacity of Mountjoy should have been greater than it was in the pre-riot days. When I left the Department in May, 1973, work was very far advanced on the corrective training unit in Mountjoy, which, I understand is capable of accommodating about 120 offenders. It was due to be opened in October, 1973. I understand it is finished but I do not think it is opened yet. If it were occupied, as it should be, the accommodation problem would be considerably lessened.

It is very important that it be occupied, not just from the point of view of helping with the accommodation problem but from the point of view of assisting in the rehabilitation of prisoners. That is its primary concern. Those of us who know anything about Mountjoy know that the old prison as such is not a suitable place for the rehabilitation and education of prisoners. They could more easily get proper rehabilitation in the purpose-built building which is now ready, in a separate corner of Mountjoy cut off from the main prison. I am sorry we did not hear anything about that. Perhaps the Minister would tell us the position because there is a great need for it not only from the accommodation point of view—so far as it is relevant to this Bill—but also from the general rehabilitation point of view.

When I left the Department in May, 1973, designs had been drawn and plans had been considerably advanced for a new women's prison at Kilbarrack, County Dublin. I had hoped it would have been at an advanced stage of construction by now. That would do a lot to ease the security problems in the St. Patrick's section of the Mountjoy complex.

Apart from easing the security problems, it was urgently needed.

When I first visited our prisons in an official capacity I got a severe shock to find that in the Dublin prison women prisoners were accommodated in a wing of St. Patrick's Institution, which is for younger offenders. I found that they were housed not even in an entire wing but on a floor of a wing, with young male offenders on the floor immediately above. I decided there and then that that situation would have to come to an end and that we must have a separate, purpose-built, modern women's prison. After a fair amount of delay, thanks to the co-operation of the Dublin Corporation we got a site that was regarded as suitable at Kilbarrack. I should like to know what progress has been made with the provision of the prison. Quite apart from the security and accommodation problems, it is vital that women prisoners in the city be taken from where they are. It is monstrous that they be housed in a floor of a wing of an institution for young offenders. The situation in Limerick is much better because even though they are inside the walls of Limerick prison they are in a separate building and are cut off from the main prison with no danger of communication with prisoners there.

When I left the Department there were various tentative plans for prisons. There were hopes for building an institution for younger offenders in Cork, probably another such institution on a small scale in Dublin and there were hopes of closing St. Patrick's and moving it to a more suitable site in County Dublin. I hope progress has continued on these matters and I should like to avail of this opportunity to inquire about them. If all these plans had gone ahead we would not have an accommodation problem in our prisons, nor would we have the necessity for this Bill.

I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that this Bill is being justified today not on the grounds of the 1972 Act, namely that there was insufficient accommodation, but on the grounds that there is now no accommodation other than the Curragh which is sufficiently secure to hold 32 particular, and apparently dangerous, prisoners. I do not know if that is sufficient justification for continuing the 1972 Act. As I have pointed out earlier, there may be 32 vacant cells in Portlaoise. I do not know the present population; its capacity is 210 and if its population is less than 180 it should be possible to accommodate these dangerous prisoners. The degree of security there must be no less than in the Curragh because of the large number of soldiers who seem to be permanently stationed there.

It appears that any other speakers on this Bill, apart from the Minister who will reply, will come from this side of the House. I would draw attention to the tremendous contrast that exists between the calm situation in which this Bill is debated tonight and the uproar that existed two years ago. For those who are interested, I want to contrast the responsibility that is exhibited here tonight with what was said on the last occasion. There were many examples in that debate that one could quote—Deputy Andrews quoted many and I do not propose to go into a long series of quotations—but I will quote from a speech made by Deputy Thornley, who is still happily a Member of this House, on the First Stage of the Bill. He is free to express his views here tonight, as he was in May, 1972, but he appears no longer interested in the problems about which he spoke so vehemently then. At column 38 of the Official Report dated 23 May, 1973, on the First Stage, before he had seen the Bill, he said:

I oppose this Bill. Its contents are theoretically not known. They are, in fact, known to everybody in this House and every press correspondent here. I regard this Bill as disgraceful and irrelevant, and as an excuse to use the Mountjoy Jail disorders in order to transfer Irish citizens who, whatever their faults, are awaiting trial, from the control of the Garda Síochána to the control of the Army. All these powers exist in section 6 of the Offences Against the State Act. The Minister has not the courage to come into this House and apply that section, making it quite clear what he is doing which is introducing internment by backdoor methods in this country. This is disgraceful and irrelevant, and I do not think that the Order Paper of this House should be disfigured by having this Bill on it.

He spoke again at great length and with great passion on the Second Reading. He was strongly opposed, as were most of the Labour Party, to the Bill and, in common with seven others, he voted against it. The seven others included Deputy Cluskey who was then spokesman on Justice for the Labour Party——

It was Deputy Pattison who was spokesman on Justice.

Deputy Cluskey had been the spokesman on Justice for quite some time; he must have graduated to higher things at that stage. Nonetheless he voted against it; he was strongly opposed to the principle of it and, in particular, the fact that it would be kept in operation for two years, which he regarded as outrageous.

We had three Bills in the time I was Minister for Justice which were particularly vehemently opposed. The Prisons Bill was not opposed the most strongly. We had the Forcible Entry Bill and the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill which all caused passions to run very high, but not a word of any of them has been repealed, though the opposition to them at the time was extremely vehement. The present Minister was then the Justice spokesman for Fine Gael and at column 82 of the Official Report he began his speech on the Prisons Bill. At the beginning of the second paragraph at column 83 he spoke about the riot which had broken out and that as a result the prison system had been brought to its knees. He continued:

If any system ends up in that position, the persons to take responsibility are surely the members of the Executive charged with the responsibility for administering it.

I think that is an interesting quotation from Deputy Cooney. There was a little hoo-hah in the House not so long ago when certain aspects of the prison system clearly broke down completely, when we had the escape of five high security prisoners from Mountjoy Prison. That was surely, if ever there was one, a case of a breakdown of the system, particularly bearing in mind that nobody escaped on the night of 18th May, 1972. On that occasion we had a public washing of hands by the present Minister.

I will not go into the terminology that was used. What we clearly had, and Deputy Molloy took grave exception to it, was a washing of his hands, a washing away of responsibility for the complete breakdown of the prison system which the Minister had spoken about so accurately on 23rd May, 1972. It was not his fault, he said, in relation to the escapes, it was the fault of underlings. It is interesting to see, and I am glad he did say it, that in 1972 "the persons to take responsibility are surely the members of the Executive" in such a situation. That was true when he said it; it is still true and it was true when five high security prisoners escaped from Mountjoy in the last six months.

At column 87 on 23rd May, 1972, the Minister spoke about getting an unequivocal assurance from the Minister that he was not availing of the emergency in Mountjoy to introduce a type of back door internment. He wanted to make it clear then that in supporting the Bill his party did so purely to rescue the Minister from the administrative mess into which his maladministration of the prison service had landed him. If there was an administrative mess which necessitated a two-year opportunity to clear it up in 1972, I wonder what the position could be at the moment, what it could be described as. The Minister at that time also said:

We on this side of the House are not in favour of any move in the direction of military custody per se. I want further to emphasise that our support is conditional on the Government writing into this Bill a time limit for its operation.

Later on he said:

If the Government are not prepared to put an unequivocal time limit on the operation of this Bill, this party, on the Final Stages of the Bill, will be forced to oppose it.

Strange that I did put an unequivocal time limit on it, very clearly and very precisely, and that the man who said those words should come in here tonight to ask Dáil Éireann to extend that time limit for a period significantly longer than the time limit I put on it and for which I was criticised on the grounds that it was too long.

There are many interesting quotations. I can go on to the next paragraph where the Minister, in relation to the riot at Mountjoy, as a result of which nobody escaped, said:

This Bill arises from the riot in Mountjoy Jail, and it appears that some of the prison staff were overpowered. I think it is encumbent on the Minister at some stage, if not now, to indicate that he is prepared to hold an inquiry into the facts surrounding the commencement and development of this riot.

I recall Deputy Andrews some months ago asking in this House for an inquiry to be held, not into a fracas as a result of which nobody escaped, but into two successive highly organised escapes of very high security prisoners, five of whom succeeded in getting out of Mountjoy. That was a very much more serious thing than an internal riot, notwithstanding the amount of damage that was done. But that request for an inquiry was contemptuously over-ruled. One wonders did Deputy Cooney, when he said the words I now quote, mean them or could any man have changed so much in course of 18 months that he now does the precise opposite to what he said in May, 1972. Does power have that much effect on people? It is interesting that some people qualified to look into these matters might well look into them. The very last words which Deputy Cooney said in May, 1972, were:

For the sake of the common good we in this party are prepared to give that help, but for a limited time only.

It is very interesting that the very last point Deputy Cooney made was in regard to a limitation of time. When in deference to his request and that of many other members of the then Opposition, I imposed a time limit—we had originally suggested three years and reduced it to two years—I was assailed by the mob who said that two years was too long. Now we find three years being added by the very man who opposed a two-year period. The debate in 1972 lasted until 12.25 a.m. Twenty people spoke. We were even graced with a contribution from yourself, Sir, which I will pass over.

The old order changeth yielding place to new, and God fulfils Himself in many ways.

To your frustration.

Not to my embarrassment. Tunney never changed. I never advocated anarchy in this country.

Which Ministers were charged with bringing in guns? Who set up the Provisional IRA?

I never changed. I am constant.

It was not the people on this side of the House.

We have had an orderly debate up to this. Let it remain so.

The last quotation should be remembered. The Minister should not attribute any change from the position which I assumed when I became a Member of this House.

I did not. All I said was: "to your frustration".

There is no need for frustration here.

That is the longest speech we have had from Deputy L'Estrange——

Some members of your party—I am not saying all——

Deputy O'Malley.

Could we congratulate Deputy L'Estrange for having made his maiden speech in the 20th Dáil? In the 19th Dáil we had the drift to anarchy. Tragically for the country, the drift has stopped and anarchy is here in the lifetime of the 20th Dáil.

Your party brought the guns and set up the IRA.

I have glanced at the Committee Stage of the 1972 Bill. The debate on the time limit lasted about five hours the following morning and we had many interesting contributions. Anyone who is interested can read Volume 261, No. 2. I will not delay the House unduly by going through a lot of the speeches but there were strong words from Deputies like Deputy Coughlan and Deputy Thornley. I think the convention is not to refer to the speeches of subsequent occupants of the Chair and, therefore, I will not do it but nonetheless it is all there in black and white. At column 222 Deputy Coughlan was particularly concerned about the situation that would be brought about by the 1972 Bill in spite of the fact that he voted for it on both the votes but he said he was misled by me and that that was why he voted. He went on the following morning to justify himself. He said:

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.

The benches are empty.

He continued:

He, unfortunately——

that is me——

——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 should get treatment completely and utterly divorced from the treatment political prisoners should get.

Deputy Thornley at column 228 made a very short speech totally opposed to the whole principle of the Bill, not just the question of the time limit. He said:

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.

It was regarded as an insult to the House to bring in a two-year time limit because that was so excessively long and at the end of two years we now find a proposal to extend the operation of the Act for a further three years. If the two were an insult at that time what must the three be now? But Deputy Thornley is not here to tell us.

Nor any of his supporters.

In far foreign fields from Dunkirk to Belgrade.

He is presumably in Europe, he having the honour of being a member of the European Parliament and it may well be that the funny way in which this Bill was introduced and rushed through the House was an effort to get it through before Deputy Thornley or people like him even became aware of it. As a matter of principle to those of our Members who are good enough to serve, at no little inconvenience to themselves, in the European Parliament, I do not think it is right that legislation about which they know nothing should go through this House. I presume that if Deputy Thornley was asked in advance for his views on this legislation he would have pretty strong views or maybe he has been afflicted with the same disease that so many other former occupants of these benches have been afflicted with and that he may also, though I doubt it. have changed his mind——

It is most unfortunate for him that the records are kept.

——very drastically. As I have pointed out, this party have no desire to delay or obstruct this legislation but, in the circumstances in which it has been introduced, even though it has been known for two years that it would have to be introduced and passed by this week, we are suspicious of why it has been done in this way. If this were a problem that arose last night or even last week, then fair enough, I would say, because I had to do the same myself with the original Bill: "Bring it in very quickly and circulate it very quickly," but two years ago the Department of Justice were on notice that they would have to have a Bill passed by both Houses and signed by the President before the end of May, 1974, and still it is on the afternoon of 21st May, ten days before that, that they produce the Bill and circulate it. I do not think that is the fault of the officials in the Department because my experience of them for three years was that they were assiduous in bringing to the attention of the Minister the fact that certain things had to be done by certain dates. It is not a question that anyone overlooked the matter. It is a question that this Bill was deliberately held back and then introduced today in this rather surreptitious and strange fashion.

There may well be quite a number of Members of this House, apart from those who are in Europe, who for one reason or another did not or could not come up to this House today but who might well have wanted to come if they knew that a Bill prolonging the Prisons Act, 1972 was going to be debated fully in this House this evening, that the debate would commence at 7 p.m., the Bill having been circulated at 4 p.m. and that the debate, it appears now, was expected to conclude tonight. There may well be Deputies who did not come up because they were given an Order of Business last week of what would be taken today. It may have been of no great concern to them or their constituents and they may have felt that it was not incumbent on them to attend today. They might have felt otherwise if they had bent on them to attend today. They might have felt otherwise if they had got normal, due notice of a Bill of this kind. We have had 15 months notice now of the Misuse of Drugs Bill, 1973, a terribly important matter, and we cannot get the Bill 15 months after it was introduced but we get this one five minutes after it is introduced. It makes one suspicious and one is entitled, on the Opposition benches, to express that suspicion even though one may not be able to pin down precisely the reason for this strange and surreptitious activity.

This is the new form of open Government.

It may be because we have had some funny examples of so-called open Government in recent times. If this is a form of open Government it is one which, in common with a number of other forms of it which we have seen, I do not like very much.

As Deputy Andrews said, the attitude of this party to this Bill will depend to a great extent on what the Minister for Justice has to say in reply to this debate, on the tone of that reply and on the spirit of that reply. All I say to him now is that there is a great need for him to be very much more forthcoming than he was in his two-and-a-half page opening speech on this Second Stage. It would be possible for me to spend from now until 12 o'clock tonight reading what I would regard as suitable and apt quotations from the debates which took place here on the 23rd and 24th May, 1972. I do not propose to do so. Likewise, it would be possible for this side of the House to keep this debate going for a week if they so desired and they might well be justified in doing it because of the surreptitious way in which the debate was commenced but we do not propose to do it because we know from what we have been told now that the existing Act expires on 31st May and we do not want to see a situation in which 32 people might conceivably have to be let go free. For that reason we do not propose to make the sort of capital out of this that we would be quite justified in making.

Once again, I want to inquire if my information is correct that Seanad Éireann are not sitting tomorrow. My subsequent information is that Seanad Éireann are not sitting at all this week. Is that correct? If this information is correct—I cannot be certain about it until I am told by the Minister—why the hurry? Why introduce a Bill at 4 o'clock, circulate it at five minutes past four, start the Second Reading debate at 7 o'clock and ask to have it finished at 10.30? These are questions which need to be answered, particularly in the context of a Minister introducing a Bill to prolong for a further three years something which two years ago he thought a two-year period was far too long for.

If Deputy O'Malley has been somewhat hard hitting I feel that the present Minister, with the experience he has had since taking up the arduous office of Minister for Justice, may feel the Deputy is entitled to take the stance he has. I am a firm believer that wisdom and knowledge come with responsibility. The Minister may well be much more aware of what his predecessor had to contend with when he brought in the Prisons Bill two years ago. The present Minister has not had to contend with an outraged Opposition. When Deputy O'Malley was Minister for Justice he had not only to contend with Members of the Opposition in the House but with a very hostile media as well. He never once shrunk from the responsibility which he had as Minister for Justice.

The present Minister is most fortunate in having to face an Opposition who are most understanding of the problems he has to face. The job of Minister for Justice is probably the most arduous job in Government in any country today. I am sure the Minister would agree that charity is acquired through experience. I feel Deputy O'Malley was justified in being hard hitting. When we were in Government we did not have an Opposition who understood the problems we had to face. When the present Minister took up his job as Minister for Justice he must have been farly shocked when he realised the extent of the threat to the State which exists at all times.

I should like to take this opportunity of again asking the Minister for Justice if he has given any thought to the provision of an intensive care unit for young offenders when he is building prisons or renovating prisons. He has opened a number of special schools, which replace the old reformatories. I recently attended the opening of St. Laurences School in Finglas which has been in operation for three years. This school deals with young offenders. When I spoke on the Department of Justice Estimate last year I said that of the young people who get into trouble up to 3 per cent of them can be described as psychopaths. These are young vandals who have no social conscience whatsoever. You can equate them with the kind of people who plant car bombs.

We have in our midst in this city a number of young people like this, as the Minister is well aware, and there is no place for them. The special schools cannot take them in because they disrupt the system just the same as the hardened cases who were taken out of Mountjoy and put into the Curragh Detention Camp. Those young people are on the streets because there is no place for them. The Minister has been under a lot of pressure in relation to malicious damages. Earlier this year I learned that the £8 million malicious damages in Dublin represented 17,000 separate incidents of vandalism. We are not doing anything about this serious problem. Does the Minister plan to provide an intensive care unit for those people? Those intensive care units may also be called high security prisons which would cater for young people under 18 years of age who have no intention of reforming. The courts cannot do anything with them.

Is the Minister planning anything for young female offenders? The problem here is nearly as bad as that of the young male offenders. There are very few institutions which will deal with young female offenders. When the new women's prison is built in Kilbarrack will the Minister provide a separate section there for those young female offenders? If he does not want to associate the young female offenders under 18 years of age with the older women offenders has he any plans to provide special accommodation for them? Has he any place in mind for the female psychopaths? Those people represent a very small percentage of all the young people who get into trouble. Most of them can be rehabilitated but those other people cannot. Some place should be provided for them where they can be kept until such time as they show they are willing to progress.

I hesitate to interrupt the Deputy but he is straving from the subject matter of this Bill. This is a very short and a very specific Bill.

You have been most generous. I have covered the points I wanted to make. If the Minister has a comment to make perhaps you will be generous and allow him to make it because this is something which concerns me deeply. As Deputy O'Malley has said, this party will not oppose in any way the extension the Minister is looking for because we understand what he has to deal with. As has been stated by the Leader of this party, any time the present Government need extra legislation to strengthen their hand to deal with these people, particularly those referred to in the Prisons Bill, this party will behave and react in a most responsible manner. We understand, through long years in office the kind of problems the Minister is facing.

Deputy Briscoe, with some sympathy for me, referred to Deputy O'Malley's hard-hitting speech. Let me put Deputy Briscoe's anxiety very quickly at ease. Deputy O'Malley's and Deputy Andrew's punches are powder puff and I am not in the least wounded by them. He also mentioned I had the advantage of having this debate in the context of a different type of Opposition from the one which was here when the original measure was passed in 1972. He reminded us that the then Opposition were outraged.

I think that is an excessive term to describe our attitude then but even if it were not excessive I confess that as a Minister I would prefer to be confronted by an outraged Opposition than an Opposition as exemplified, not by Deputy Briscoe but by Deputies Andrews and O'Malley, a sanctimonious Opposition. The burden of each of their speeches was a long list of selective quotations from the debate of 1972, selective quotations which had to be taken out of context because we did not want to be bored by having to listen to the entire speech. These quotations were presented to the House without any attempt to amplify or explain the context in which they were made.

In 1972 I was unhappy about this Bill. I readily conceded to the then Minister, and the record bears this out, that he had to get this Bill, that it was necessary in the national interest but I did question the type of Government then being offered which had led to much of the situation which at that time made the Bill necessary. I criticised the then Minister for, as I said, allowing the situation to be brought to its knees. I said the responsibility for any such result must rest on the Executive. The Deputies I mentioned attempted to turn those words against me in the context of the escapes which took place from Mountjoy and say that because of those escapes I should apply those words to myself. But I would draw a very clear distinction between the situation in which State security, of which the prison system is the corner stone, was literally on its knees with its major prison in ruins. As Deputy O'Malley said when he inspected it that he did not think that human beings could inflict so much damage on a building. That was the situation I was criticising the Executive for having allowed to come about. That is not comparable to a number of prisoners escaping.

I called for an inquiry then and when the Deputy quoted my call for an inquiry he said that an inquiry had been refused into these other escapes during my time of office. I want to correct the record in that regard. An inquiry was held and I gave the result in this House in reply to a question from Deputy Andrews before the recess, as far as I recall. No inquiry was held in 1972 following the riot when that prison was literally wrecked and equipment to the value—I think Deputy O'Malley said—of £6,000 in the dental surgery was turned into scrap. No inquiry was held then and that situation was completely and fortunately—and I touch wood at this stage—completely unique. I hope I shall never be faced with such a situation but as far as I can I have taken measures to ensure such a situation will not recur.

When I came into office one of the most troublesome facts of the task facing me was connected with our prisons. There was serious unrest there. Agitation was a daily occurrence. Protests, marches and, indeed, assaults were common. The prisons were the subject of much unfavourable comment from the media and people interested in social work generally. In addition, there was a number of subversive prisoners in Mountjoy Jail and a number also in the Curragh. I decided as a matter of urgency that if good order were to be restored to the prisons and if rehabilitative processes were to have any chance of being carried out, it was necessary to have segregation of prisoners. As a result of that decision certain subersive criminals were transferred to Portlaoise and Mountjoy was given over entirely to what I might describe as ordinary type of prisoners.

In order to maintain this segregation in Portlaoise it was necessary to transfer to the Curragh a certain small number of prisoners who could not be accommodated in Portlaoise with the particular brand of subversive we sent there and whose presence in Mountjoy would be actually disruptive. Accordingly, these people were sent to the Curragh. I have come to the House this evening to ask for its consent to accommodating those people in the Curragh for a longer period, perhaps as long as three years. I do not gladly ask for this consent; it is forced on me because, notwithstanding the good work Deputy O'Malley did in his term in regard to improving the prisons and arranging for new prisons accommodation, there was one glaring defect in the prison system, and I have to accept responsibility for it, and that was the complete lack of a high security unit to deal with disruptive and difficult prisoners.

Such a unit is essential in any prison system so that prisoners who tend to cause trouble with other prisoners and with the staff and whose one ambition is to disrupt the system should be capable of being segregated in a place of high security. It is not enough to put them into a wing of one of our prisons. They must have a special place of their own. I regret to say that when I took office there was no such place available and no plans had been prepared for it. Those plans have now been considered and preliminary steps to implement them have been taken. It is my intention to see built at Portlaoise a high security unit which will take the prisoners now detained in the Curragh.

It is not possible because of the demands for segregation and the need for it so that good order can be maintained to have these prisoners anywhere but by themselves. The only place where they can literally be by themselves and be secure is in the Curragh. This is why I have to come to the House this evening and ask for an extension of the 1972 Act for up to three years because it will take up to three years to complete the design and building of this type of security unit.

Designing and building a prison is much more tedious, more difficult and slower than designing and building any other type of complex. The design must be particular to the most minute detail and when it is intended to place this building within the confines of an existing prison the work can only go on in very carefully prepared stages so that security at that prison is not prejudiced or breached during the building operation. That is why I think a limit of three years is realistic. I could have said another year and see how we would be fixed then but the problem posed by the prisoners in the Curragh will not be solved until such time as we have a purpose-built, high security unit capable of housing them by themselves. I cannot see that being completed inside three years. If this glaring and obvious omission in our prison system had been tackled during the time Deputy O'Malley and his predecessors were in charge of this Department we might not now be in this position.

I make no apology for asking the House to do something which is not my fault, nor do I see anything wrong or inconsistent in asking the House to give an extension for good and valid reasons for something that I conceded when it was first asked by the then Minister in 1972. We had observations about it and they were not unnatural in that field of security, in that whole area of the Government's attitude to subversives, and it was essentially a subversive problem that was presented to us in that debate. It was not unnatural following the dramatic and traumatic effects of the arms trial and all that went with it and followed it that we in the then Opposition would have had some question marks or doubts in our minds about that whole area. I make no apology for the stand I took in that debate and I make no apology for any Member on this side of the House for the stand he took in that debate in accordance with his conscience.

Some questions were raised as to what precise accommodation is available in our prisons at present. Deputies O'Malley and Andrews asked about the corrective training unit. This unit, which will have accommodation for 100 prisoners, will be ready this summer. It is not the intention to transfer 100 prisoners immediately into it. It will have to be worked up to its full complement in terms of prisoners and staff because it is going to be a rather special place. It is going to be a very advanced place and I am determined to ensure that it will be successful. The best way to ensure this is to get the right atmosphere and the right spirit in it from the word go. This can best be done by proceeding gradually into it.

Arbour Hill will be ready by the end of this year but, essentially, this prison will not be able to provide the high degree of security which I indicated this particularly troublesome type of prisoner needs. Arbour Hill will be suitable as a remand prison and essentially this is how it is intended to use it. In that use it will have the effect of enabling more space to be made available in Mountjoy. However, this space in Mountjoy cannot be used for these particular prisoners because Mountjoy would not provide the segregation and separation that is necessary with these prisoners. Furthermore, if there is any vacant space in Mountjoy I am anxious to see that it is used for the purpose of reconstructing some of the old Victorian wings to bring them into the type of physical accommodation consonant with 20th century penology. That can only be done when prisoners are out of it and I hope that can be achieved via the extra space to be provided by the corrective training unit and Arbour Hill.

Neither the corrective training unit nor Arbour Hill can of themselves solve the problem which is posed by the prisoners in the Curragh. That problem can only be solved by a high security unit, specially built as such, ensuring security and complete segregation. That was neglected in the past and we now have to pay the price for that.

I was asked about the women's prison. The women's prison is going to proceed at the site at Kilbarrack. I have given a public undertaking about that, notwithstanding some opposition from the far side, slightly muted but nevertheless there, about looking again at the site. We are going ahead with this site at Kilbarrack. Plans for this prison have had to be revised and this will interest Deputy Briscoe. The original plan entailed having both a complex for adult and young female offenders but it has now been decided to have it for adults only and a smaller complex will be necessary. The Department of Education will take responsibility for the younger female offenders. Likewise it is their responsibility to look after young male offenders. This question of divided responsibility is one of the things that bedevilled children and the law for years. That is being looked at by an inter-departmental committee to try and end this separation of responsibility and ensure that the present situation, which I regret as much as Deputy Briscoe, of having unruly youths at large can be ended.

At the moment the residential schools and the residential homes and special schools which have been conducted by the religious are conducted on a volunteer basis. This gives them the right, regrettably to refuse to have unruly boys. Granted they have good reasons for not wanting them mix within their schools but nevertheless, the State is left in the position of not having any way of dealing with these boys at the moment. This is being examined as a matter of urgency.

I should like to add that £¾ million has been approved for the women's prison. The reduction in numbers will be from 120 to a maximum of 60 and the plans are being adjusted to take account of this difference. We are going to insist that it proceed as planned at the site at Kilbarrack.

In Limerick prison there is not sufficient space to deal with any significant number of prisoners. In any event Limerick, like the other prisons, would not afford the degree of segregation necessary for the prisoners in the Curragh. Cork is in the throes of being rebuilt and for reasons of segregation and for reasons of security—it is not a secure prison—it could not accommodate these particular prisoners. Shelton Abbey is an open prison and cannot come into the reckoning at all. There are vacant space cells in Portlaoise but, regrettably, having regard to the difficult times in which we are living we have to have spare accommodation there.

That is the position regarding the availability of accommodation to contain these high-security prisoners. It gets back to the one essential fact: the failure of my predecessor and his predecessor to provide a high security unit. To come in and chastise me because I have to ask for an extension of time because of their failure is, to say the least of it, sanctimonious. As I have said earlier, I would have preferred an outraged Opposition, similar to what Deputy O'Malley felt he had two years ago, to what I felt was a sanctimonious Opposition the burden of which was to use quotations of debates two years old and to wallow in a sense of selfjustification. However I do not deny Deputies O'Malley and Andrews their moment of enjoyment if it gave them enjoyment. Deputy Briscoe described it as hard-hitting but I describe it as powder-puff stuff. It takes no effect.

I am grateful to Deputy Andrews for agreeing that this Bill would be taken at this stage. I regret that the notice is short. I had to explore, in some details, alternatives to see if what is essentially a distasteful procedure could be avoided, that is the putting into military custody of civilians. I do not say that in any way derogatory of the standard of care which is afforded by the military to these people. They are being well looked after in the Curragh and we owe a lot of gratitude to the officers and men of the Military Police Corps for their dedication. Education facilities are being provided and to some extent this prison is ahead of some of our other adult prisons in this regard. Increased recreational facilities and amenities have also been provided and the regime is run in as humane a way as possible.

Nevertheless it is contrary to all theories of penology that civilian prisoners should be accommodated there because the amount of rehabilitative work that can be done is limited because of the very environment itself. What can be done by way of education is being done and it is being kept under review to see how it can be expanded. Nevertheless it is distasteful and it is essentially objectionable. This was the core of our opposition when this matter was first debated. It was not opposition in the sense of seeking to refuse the Government the Bill which they needed urgently but opposition to the principle conceding that expediency demanded that it be passed. I still maintain the view that it is regrettable that we have these people there. It is regrettable but unavoidable, and so long as it is I make no apology for asking the House to give me this Bill I am grateful to Deputy Andrews for his attitude to it.

As I say, I am grateful to Deputy Andrews. The only point I would like to make with regard to his attitude—it was adopted by Deputy O'Malley also, though I do not know if he actually meant it—is that it sounded to me as if I was being told that whether or not I got this Bill depended on how I replied to this Second Reading debate: in other words, if I were a good boy, and spoke nicely, and praised the Opposition, and did not point out the flaws in their arguments, I might get what I was looking for; I go so far as to hope that that was not what was meant.

Deputy O'Malley made the point that the reason for the Act in 1972 was because there was no accommodation as a result of the destruction caused by the riot. He indicated also that there were other reasons why he had to come to the House and those reasons were precisely the same reasons that I have given the House, namely, the presence within the prisons of a disruptive body of prisoners capable of doing serious harm to the entire prison system. At column 78 in the debate on 23rd May, 1972, Deputy O'Malley said:

Moreover, and I regret having to say this, there are people in our prisons today who are prepared to go very far indeed to disrupt prison administration even at the cost of risking or causing serious injury or even death to prison officers and to other prisoners.

Again, just to show that it was not altogether a question of accommodation that forced the introduction of this Bill at that time, at column 81 he said he was asking the House to give him authority "to transfer to military custody certain prisoners who are liable to cause trouble". These quotations show that the problem I am faced with now is not a new problem. Deputy O'Malley was aware of it. The fact that I had to ask for a three-years' extension is due to the fact that, while Deputy O'Malley was aware of it, he did nothing about it. He did other good work in the prisons, but that was one area, I am sorry to have to say it, he neglected. I should, I think, quote his exact words. One would imagine from the quotations he took such pleasure in giving to us here this evening and his powder puff punches——

The Minister is now engaging in what he accused Deputy O'Malley of doing; he is quoting.

I am replying to Deputy O'Malley. The burden of the speech of Deputy O'Malley and that of Deputy Andrews was selective quotations: "Here you are. Eat your own words". It is hardly necessary to say these quotations were taken out of context.

Is the Minister not indulging in selectivity?

On a point of order, would the Minister repeat the last quotation for us with the reference?

The last quotation was from column 81:

...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.

Would the Minister give the three lines prior to that?

The Minister, without interruption, please.

The lines in question read:

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...

And the Minister's quotation is a continuation of that.

My quotation is a continuation. The burden of Deputy O'Malley's speech was that he had to have this Bill because of lack of accommodation. In addition to that, as he made very clear in the debate, he also had to have the Bill because of the presence of these disruptive prisoners with whom I now have to deal and for whom no provision was made. I propose to make that provision.

Listening to Deputy O'Malley and Deputy Andrews, one would think that the tone of the Opposition in that debate in 1972 and the general burden of all the speeches was one of unmitigated obstruction, antagonism and attack. Yet, after that debate, Deputy O'Malley was able to conclude with the following words, and I quote from column 362 of Volume 261, 24th May, 1972:

I would like to thank the House for the co-operation and help that was given in the passing of this Bill. I would like to thank in particular those Members who made a genuine attempt to come to grips with the problems connected with it and whose help has contributed to making the Bill a better one than it would be otherwise.

One of the ways in which it was improved was by putting a time limit into it and I was one of the people who asked for a time limit and I make no apology for that and I see nothing inconsistent in coming here this evening and asking for a time limit, particularly as Deputy O'Malley himself in that same debate, at column 243, dealing with the context of the time limit and how the amendment might be worded, said:

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 is precisely what I am doing. The position is that this Bill is necessary for the safety of our prison system. It is necessary to have prisoners continue in military custody because there is nowhere else of sufficiently high security or providing the degree of segregation necessary to contain these people. It will take, I am advised, and I think it is a reasonable estimate, three years to provide such accommodation within the confines of a civil prison. Were these people to be put back into a civil prison as of now I have no doubt that the disruption, the unrest, the protests, the general mess in which I found the prisons when I took over would be our fate very quickly again. I am most anxious to avoid that situation now that we have got the prisons on to a more placid and more secure footing. I am anxious that the reconstruction in Mountjoy and the reforms necessary in the regime in all our civil prisons can be fully and effectively carried out; in order to do that we must have peace in our prisons until such time as we can have segregation of prisoners. I took over a situation in which it was not possible to have effective segregation within the civil prisons available and the only way at which we can get this effective segregation is to continue to use the Curragh for some time to come. I hope it will not be as long as the period asked for in this Bill, but I think it is realistic and proper to put in a realistic end date.

I do not think Deputy Andrews was here when I thanked him for facilitating me in taking the Bill at what I concede and admit to be short notice. The short notice is due to the fact that we were investigating other possibilities, all of which proved fruitless; the time limit was close upon us and that is why we are forced to ask for the Bill quickly. The principles of the Bill were, of course, fully debated in 1972. We are looking at them again in the context of 1974. Let me say again that it is a principle I do not like—having to keep civilian prisoners in military custody. It is contrary to the whole basic aim of penology, which is to rehabilitate and improve prisoners. This cannot be done in an unsuitable environment and essentially a military environment is unsuitable.

I did not like the Bill in 1972. I still do not like the principle, but it is preferable to having ongoing riots, constant agitation and strikes day after day. That was the state of the prison system when I assumed responsibility in this office. Happily that state has gone and it is my earnest wish and hope that it will remain gone and that we can continue to improve the lot of all our prisoners and return them to society as good citizens.

Question put and agreed to.