Prisons Bill, 1974: Committee and Final Stages.

Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

In his reply to the Second Stage the Minister mentioned the sanctimoniousness of the Opposition in relation to the Bill's passage through the House. We deny this. We suggest the Minister is engaged in some form of triumphalism. He accused Deputy O'Malley and his predecessors of glaring and obvious omissions in not setting in train plans for the erection of a high risk security prison. When he was in Opposition, or indeed when any of his colleagues were in Opposition, as spokesmen for the Department of Justice, they never indicated their desire for a high security risk prison by way of normal methods—Parliamentary Questions. The Minister accused his predecessors of not taking care of that glaring and obvious omission.

This was never brought to the notice of the House until today. I am speaking subject to correction. There was never a suggestion from the then Opposition that they desired the designing and building of a high security risk prison in Portlaoise. Deputy O'Malley is not here to reply to the pettiness of the Minister—I would not describe it as a charge. All improvements in relation to our prison system were begun by Deputy O'Malley, and after 14 months in office, the Minister comes in triumphantly announcing that there is a glaring and obvious omission in the lack of a high security risk prison for 30 individuals. We reject this form of boastfulness. On the Minister's own admission, Deputy O'Malley was a good and concerned Minister for Justice. Despite the Minister's attempt to underrate Deputy O'Malley's performance, he enjoyed the highest respect of prison officers, the Garda Síochána and the others who came under his control.

I hope the Deputy is not engaging in a Second Reading speech.

I am dealing with the section, which is to amend the 1972 Act. This section is to continue until 31st May, 1977. It is quite comprehensive. It deals with quite a lot of what I have been speaking about. I was making an important point. We support the Minister in his plan for a high security risk section in Portlaoise, but the Minister came in and dragged it across the floor of the House and attempted in some fashion to breast-beat and say: "Look at what I achieved". With respect to the Minister, that is all he has achieved. He is telling us he will deliver a high security risk prison in three years —not today or next year or the following year but in 1977.

In that context he comes into the House and bleats about his achievements. If that is his attitude he should have another look at it because comparing his performance with the record of Deputy O'Malley this falls into insignificance in the sphere of our prisons. We have been a responsible Opposition and we will continue to be responsible. We will give the Minister anything he will reasonably ask for. We will scrutinise and examine anything he asks for reasonably. This is not an occasion in which the Minister should try to underrate the contributions of the last Government and particularly of the then Minister for Justice, Deputy O'Malley, and the work he did. History will judge him as a concerned and able Minister.

The Minister told us he is offering no apology for any member of the then Opposition in 1972. I did not expect the Minister to offer any apology for those who assumed the attitude they did at that time and who finally voted against the Bill. Why should he? We exonerate the Minister. One Deputy to my knowledge, having supported the principle of the 1972 Bill on the Second Stage, did not bother to contribute on the Committee and Final Stages and he did not bother to vote for it. Six or seven Labour Deputies voted against it. It is understandable that the Minister would not apologise to the House for them. They should have come in here and given their own explanations on this Bill, but they have not even the courtesy to be in the House. If the Minister wishes to exonerate or excuse them on the grounds of conscience, I think he would be absolutely wrong. It is not a matter of conscience at all; it was a matter of political expendiency then and is a matter of political expediency now that they are not present.

I said I did not want to apologise for them.

Again I would request the Deputy not to engage in a Second Reading speech. The Deputy is adverting to a wide range of matters appertaining to the Prison Service which the Chair cannot relate to the section.

I am relating to the section.

The Chair finds it very difficult to see the association with the section.

The Minister now looks for an extension of three years to the 1972 Bill. He says the reason for that is that the plans for the high risk security section of Portlaoise prison will take three years to complete. But, listening to the Minister's contribution on this, one would imagine that he had the actual section built. Without giving away security matters I know he and we have a function in that respect—can the Minister say why; I do not want to press him too hard, and if he replies that it is a matter of security that will be good enough for me. I think he has a duty to the House to explain why—and I do not pretend to be a builder or a designer; I would have to rely on the Minister in this respect and I am sure he does not pretend to be a designer or builder either like myself—it will take three years to build a section in a prison to house 30 persons. I understand that, within the prison complex, the building of any unit would cause certain security risks by virtue of the presence of building material, machinery, nonprison personnel and so on. One can understand that. But taking all that into account can the Minister tell us why the section will take three years to complete? Is it not a fact that the design is only at the design-board stage, that it is down on paper only or maybe even beginning to be put down on paper? Can the Minister say whether, if the building is not completed in three years, he will come in then—on the assumption that he would still be the Minister for Justice; there is always the possibility that he would not—and ask for an extension to this Bill?

These are just some matters on which I would seek clarification without being abrasive about it. It is not my intention to cause difficulties or trouble, quite the contrary. Nevertheless in the matter of prison security the Minister has said that, since he came into office as Minister for Justice suddenly there has been harmony in the prison system. Of course two incidents leap to mind immediately and to which the Minister did not advert on this Bill. Perhaps they are not applicable but it is as well to remind the Minister that a certain person by the name of Littlejohn has not been recovered.

This is straying very far from the section.

Or the helicopter incident.

I should remind Deputy Andrews that the sole purpose of section 1 is to extend for a further period the provision of section 2 of the Prisons Act, 1972, which provides for the transfer of prisoners from civil prisons to military custody. That is the subject matter of this section. I would ask the Deputy to confine himself to it. He is embarking on a Second Reading speech all over again and repeating many of the things said in the Second Reading of this Bill.

I do not see how you arrive at that conclusion, Sir, I was merely adverting to the Minister's amendment to the 1972 Act.

It does not open up a Second Reading debate.

I do not wish to hold up the Minister any longer but merely wish to assure him that he will get all reasonable assistance from the Opposition if in return the Minister is reasonable with us. But, however, I do not want to introduce a note of threat in any way. It is not my form or that of the Opposition so to do. It is a silly thing to do at any rate because if you threaten people you normally strengthen them. I think the Minister should have couched his language more carefully or have been a little more reasonable in his reply to the Second Stage debate on the Bill.

The Minister should endeavour to be as gracious as was Deputy O'Malley in concluding his Second Stage speech.

I should like to ask a question about the need for three years to build a high security prison. One of the comments made by the Minister in his Second Reading reply and on which I would ask him to elaborate, referred to young people. When I spoke about the need for a high security unit for what I described as psychopath youngsters who get into trouble, who need that extra care and attention, the Minister described them as "unruly people". They are not unruly; they are people in dreadful need of proper medical attention. The Minister accused us in Fianna Fáil of not doing our duty by not building a high security prison. At least I am on the record as urging on the Minister for the need for a high security unit for the type of young person about whom I speak, persons of 14, 15 and 16 years of age. There is a great need; they are not just unruly.

The type of person we have in mind in this Bill is not the type of person about whom Deputy Briscoe has been speaking.

I know. I am just using the opportunity.

That is a separate specialised matter which involves matters of forensic psychiatry and problems in that field. I would be going outside this Bill were I to deal with that in any detail.

First of all, I owe an apology to Deputy O'Malley and to the House for having said that nothing was done about high security. Apparently it was mooted late in 1972 and early in 1973. I should like to make that clear, that it was first mooted then.

I thank the Minister for putting that on record.

It was "first mooted"; I emphasised "mooted".

It is important.

I know. If it had been more than mooted, then I might have been able to come and say to the House——

But it is a fair admission.

——that 1977 was too long. As I indicated in my reply, we decided to ask for an extension of three years as this would be a realistic time in which to plan, construct and arrange for the occupation of a high security unit. Hopefully it will be done sooner, but I would expect that three years would be the outside and that is why the date of 31st May, 1977, is the one inserted in the Bill. Again, as I indicated, planning, designing and building a high security prison carries problems not associated with the building of any other type of complex. The briefing that has to be done for an architect to enable him draw plans suitable for a high security prison has to be of the most minute kind. He has to go into such details as the type of clasp on a window. He has to go into minute details so that he designs a building which, as I say, is one of high security.

These problems are compounded in this case because we are dealing with an especially difficult class of prisoner. Immense care must be taken. The briefing for an architect must go into unusual detail. The type of detail which is gone into in this case is something which would normally be left to the architect's own knowledge. Because of the specialised requirements of a prison—and of a high security prison —these details have to be spelt out to the Nth degree. This is necessarily a slow process.

The building has to be to an extremely high standard. It has to be secure. As this building is being erected within the confines of Portlaoise prison certain security procedures will have to be kept in operation. These, too, will tend to slow up the procedure. This is why a conservative date of May, 1977, has been inserted in the Bill. It would be my ambition to see the building completed substantially before that date is reached.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for final consideration."

There is just one comment I wish to make. Deputy O'Malley raised the question of the Seanad being summoned to deal with the Bill and asked in that context why there should be haste to have this Bill this evening when the Seanad has not been summoned. I was in the difficult position that while the indications were that the Bill would go through one never knows how a debate will develop. I would not like to see a repetition of what happened here recently when the Seanad was summoned but the Bill was not ready for it. I want to indicate that when the Bill is passed tonight, for which I am grateful to Deputy Andrews and to the Opposition, we will then be in a position to summon the Seanad without delay to take a definite piece of business.

Question put and agreed to.
Question: "That the Bill do now pass" put and agreed to.