That Dáil Éireann, taking serious note of the continuous rise in crime and vandalism in the city of Dublin, condemns the Government for failure to provide
(a) increased Garda presence on the streets
(b) increased night patrols in suburban areas
(c) for the maintenance of full establishment strength at all city Garda stations and
(d) extra gardaí in areas where the 1977 crime figures have shown a substantial rise.
Opening this debate I should like to quote the Minister in a speech to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce at a luncheon on 27th January, 1977, when he said:
I am always disturbed when I see reports, very often couched in sensational terms, that Dublin is a violent city and that it is not safe to go to such and such a place or that people are cowering in terror behind locked and barred doors. These reports are an exaggeration for by and large Dublin is a safe city.
If the Minister gets his information from the same source as I endeavoured to get mine today, I am not surprised. I endeavoured to get information from the Minister's Department today, which I was unable to get, when I asked simple questions in relation to the number of Garda barracks in this city and the country generally and certain information also in relation to Garda strength. I was told approximately two hours ago that they would telephone me back. For the past two hours I have been sitting beside the telephone waiting. Did the Minister, or some of the personnel in his Department, indicate that I, as a Member of this House, was not to get the information I requested? This is a very serious matter. Was the person deliberately impeded from giving that information which this House and its Members should have? If that is the type of person supplying the Minister with information, then I can well understand some statements made by the Minister in recent times and some of the information made available to us by way of statistics. Now I can well understand also how the Minister has erred in some of those statements and how erroneous they have been. I take particular exception to the fact that people who advise the Minister refuse to supply me with information. They are my servants just as they are the Minister's.
It is important in debates of this nature that every Deputy be fully armed and fortified with factual information but, when we endeavour to get information from the Department of Justice, the shutters go up. I want to know did the Minister indicate that I should not get this information? Was it conveyed to him that I was seeking information? I wanted to be sure, when I came in here this evening, that I had factual information in relation to some aspects of the matter I wanted to discuss. I had to resort to the telephone directory—and how accurate that may be in relation to the number of Garda barracks in this city and the country generally I do not know. However, that must be my source now that I have failed to get the figures I required from the information section of the Department of Justice. Perhaps they have not got it.
In relation to this motion I should say that the matter of concern about crime generally has been conveyed time and time again to the Minister. Indeed, every organisation in this city, every tenants' and shopkeepers' organisation over the past two or three years, has conveyed in the strongest possible terms the terrible situation obtaining. The Minister is quite wrong when he speaks of sensational terms. It shows how far removed the Minister is from reality and the day-to-day affairs of this city. I can well understand the Minister and judges, who are probably overprotected, not understanding what is happening to the average individual in housing estates and streets of this city.
In this city we have 850,000 people. We have an unemployed adult population of 33,000 and an unknown number of school leavers unemployed, because the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach indicated in that respect that the figures were not available to the Government. Therefore, the Government do not know the full extent of the problem creating the terrible situation in this city. The problem of unemployment is one of the factors the Minister did not mention in the course of his speech to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. He mentioned many other factors but not the grave one causing all of the terrible problems at present confronting our citizens. At present Dublin is a city of steel shutters. Anybody going through shopping centres will realise that it is all too sad that these steel shutters have to be put up at nighttime in order to protect property.
I will deal with the information we have in relation to crime as I proceed. It is a fact of life now that if people want to protect themselves or their property they must have armoured plating of one type or another outside their properties. If the Minister disbelieves me let him go into the shopping centres or walk down the principal shopping streets of this city any night, when he will see the shutters up. Window shopping at night has become a thing of the past in Dublin city because of the serious situation obtaining there.
The Government have been endeavouring to excuse the lack of protection in the South because of the violence in the North but they have a responsibility to the people of the South and they should get on with that job. Also in the course of that speech to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce the Minister said:
I can say that of all the terrorist incidents in Northern Ireland in the past year only about 2 per cent of them have a Border connection.
Those are the Minister's own words. What percentage of the Garda are on Border duty? I have great sympathy for the members of the Garda who strive, in terribly difficulty conditions, to do their job to the best of their ability. And they are succeeding, in many ways, under very difficult conditions. But they do not get the support of the Government. Law and order have broken down in this city and country and here the Government and Minister are responsible. Even at this late stage I would hope that they would admit there is a grave problem needing remedial measures. They have admitted that 500 extra gardaí are necessary because of Border duty. I would say to them: get on with the job of protecting the people in this part of the country. As the Minister states, there is a 2 per cent problem in the North. Therefore, there must be a 98 per cent problem here which the Minister and the Government are not tackling and which must be tackled as a matter of urgency.
However, if the Minister gets his information from the same source as I endeavoured to get mine today, he may be very much out of date. Law and order have broken down completely, in this city in particular, and the crime report indicates that that is a fact. If the Minister does not want to take my word for it, or the banner headlines as fact, then let him examine the crime report of 1975, the last such report available to us. Let him examine the figures given him by his Department when he made that speech to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce some time ago and he will realise the terrible problems confronting this city. Mob law has taken over in many cases; the boot boys and bully boys are terrorising the aged and young alike and making it impossible for people to go about their business in a normal way. The Government are completely out of touch. I would urge the Minister to realise that a serious problem obtains. If this debate does not prove that to him conclusively let him visit Garda barracks in this city and hear what the gardaí have to say about the gross understaffing. Garda cars are being laid up because there are no drivers for them. We have one-man cars but the Minister must realise that it is physically impossible for one garda to man a car on his own.
There is no substitute for additional gardaí in this city and immediate measures must be taken to provide them. It is no answer to say that there will be 500 extra gardaí available in seven or eight months. If the Minister cannot or will not get on with this job he should go and let somebody else do the job, although I doubt if there is anyone in the Coalition parties who could do any better.
I will deal with the statistics given by the Minister during the course of the debate. I represent the largest working class area in the country and I know its problems, as the Minister must know them from Garda reports. The same applies to other areas in Dublin. Old people are particularly vulnerable to the boot boys, the bully boys and the mobsters patrolling the cities. An old lady wrote to me recently. She is sick and infirm. She is unable to go out and afraid to stay in, as are countless thousands of others in this city. If they go out they will be mugged and their houses raided while they are out; if they stay in they are subject to robbery with violence.
Our crime reports confirm what I am saying and I hope that during the debate we can go through the 1975 crime report I have been quoting. The importance of the debate is that we may prevail on the Minister to try to do something about the situation. Either he is being guided by people who do not understand the problem or the information he has received has been coloured——