Private Members' Business: Dublin Garda Strength: Motion.

I move:

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——

The Deputy should not reflect on officials.

I am responsible. I will deal with that.

Because of the Government's failure to do anything about the unemployment position there is large-scale unemployment of young people and there is nowhere that they can go to divert their minds. We can see from reports that the Government are not fully aware of the volume of this problem. Vandals have broken up schools in my area and throughout the city. Schools have been burned and the school provided for itinerants was burned out. Cars and other property have been burned. This is being highlighted in the Press every day but the Minister takes no notice. Teachers are losing heart when they see their schools being burned. Financially this could be rectified by providing additional facilities and repairs but there is no compensation for people who have to live in terror because of the burnings, robberies and rapes.

No doubt the Garda have being doing a good job in difficult circumstances but they cannot provide a solution, at their present strength, for the massive intimidation of citizens. Garda statistics refer only to reported crimes: they cannot do anything about the unreported rapes and other crimes of violence. People are afraid to report such cases. They have been intimidated by gangsters who break into their houses and tell them that if they go to the Garda members of their families will be mutilated and their houses burned.

This must be stamped out at the earliest possible moment. The remedial measures which the Minister has in his power to exercise should be introduced immediately. Gardaí should be given overtime to do extra work on the beat. The Minister may say that I have been trying to alarm people unnecessarily. He has said that I have been doing an injustice. I am not exaggerating the serious nature of the problem. There must be proper protection for our citizens. I know a man in Summerhill who tried to stand up to the bully boys and who had his premises burned down. This is a city of fear, a city of steel shutters, and this can be confirmed for the Minister by Garda officers if he so desires. He should not be content any longer to bury his head in the sand. It is my intention tonight to make him fully aware of the situation.

I know of a case recently when a young woman allowed her child on the road on a bicycle which had been bought last Christmas. Shortly afterwards she got a telephone call to say the child was in the Meath Hospital as a result of an accident. She went there and was told that no such child had been taken in. She tried other hospitals and was told the same story. When she went home she found the house had been ransacked. That type of phone call is prevalent. People have become afraid to answer the telephone. If it is discovered they are not at home their homes will be raided and if they are in they will be attacked and robbed.

I read in a recent speech by the Minister a reference to the cost of training a garda. He went on to say that there is always a point at which a certain level of loss is reached which is cheaper in cash terms than the cost of taking steps to prevent such a loss. I trust that is not the Minister's general attitude to crime throughout the country. The Minister should be thinking in terms of trebling the proposed 500 extra gardaí. We had Garda Jim Brannigan who did such a wonderful job in bringing criminals to justice. He was a man among men but he was pushed out of the force without any recognition of the wonderful work he had done.

I would prefer if the Deputy did not mention the names of persons outside the House by way of praise or otherwise.

The situation is that the people may become depressed when they see no effort made to recognise the substantial effort some people are making to improve the situation, very often beyond the call of duty. The Minister has told us that 500 additional gardaí will be appointed and I should like to break down that figure. Looking through the telephone directory today I discovered that there are 500 Garda stations in the country and 67 in Dublin city. The Department have that information but they did not give it to me. Taking into consideration that the gardaí work four shifts in the various stations there would be 125 per shift, but, taking leave, sickness and other factors into consideration, an average of 25 per shift would be absent. The result is that 100 extra gardaí of the 500 are available at any time for duty. That number would create little impression in the 500 stations throughout the country or in the 67 in Dublin city. The competition has taken place for these recruits but the assessment of the results is only in progress now. After that those called must submit themselves for a medical examination. They are then sent to Templemore for training. After they are posted to a station they need time to familiarise themselves with the area. There is no doubt that it takes a long time before a man is effectively on the beat.

Even when those 500 extra gardaí have been posted a serious situation will still exist. The Minister has given us phoney figures from time to time and recently he indicated that on March 1st there were 2,630 gardaí in Dublin while on the 1st April the figure was 2,693. Apparently, the Minister is not aware that the population of the city is increasing rapidly. While it might be true to say that there are only 18 fewer gardaí operating in Dublin than in the previous year statistics show that when the number was decided on for Dublin it was to suit the situation in 1973 and not 1977. In this regard I should like to tell the Minister that the Sundrive Road station is at present 18 under strength. Bearing in mind the huge population that station caters for it is hard to imagine how they can operate an effective police system when they are 18 under strength. Gardaí are taken from that station for full time duty at Green Street Courthouse. Those gardaí should be left at Sundrive Road to ensure that the people of the area are fully protected.

I should now like to deal with the crime figures. The number of offences against property with violence in Dublin city alone in 1975 was 8,836 or 53.8 per cent of the total number of offences. That figure escalated to 11,014 in 1976. In spite of those figures the Minister has said that he is appalled at statements made by individuals and in the Press from time to time. In relation to offences against property without violence the total in 1975 was 29,000 with Dublin city accounting for 17,191 or 58.5 per cent. The Minister must recognise that the situation must be rectified immediately.

I should now like to deal with the situation in relation to drugs. Of the total number of persons charged, 333, 283 were charged in Dublin. That is an indication of the level of crime in the city. It is also an indication that it would take more than the 500 additional gardaí to combat the situation which the Minister and the Government have allowed to deteriorate. The Minister told us that the strength of the Garda force is 8,464 and that he recruited an additional 900 after he took office. He has also told us that it is his intention to recruit 500 more. Because I did not receive any information from the Department in relation to the annual wastage in the force—retirements, dismissals and so on—I am not able to make comparisons, but in telling the House that he is recruiting 500 additional gardaí the Minister should also give us the information in relation to annual wastage.

There is also the question of police cars. The situation in relation to those cars is a farce because there are more cars lying idle without drivers than there are cars on patrol. There is little use in sending just a driver out on patrol because he must concentrate on the traffic in the streets. An observer is necessary. Every statistic shows that there has been a complete breakdown of law and order under a Government that projected themselves as a law and order Government. The Minister must bear in mind that the working people must pay for the damage to property by vandals. My constituents, and the working people throughout the country, must pay for the Government's mismanagement of the security forces. The farcical situation should be stopped. The Minister should take remedial action and ensure that Garda overtime is maintained until such time as crime is curtailed. One business that is thriving at present is that concerning burglar alarms. A man told me recently that when he reported three break-ins he was advised to instal a burglar alarm as a precautionary measure. It is possible that the Minister will issue burglar alarms free of charge as an alternative to extra gardaí but that is not a solution.

More gardaí are needed to patrol our streets. In the past their presence was enough to frighten criminals off. One man contributed in a big way in this regard and I am sure there are many more men like him willing to do that work. I am sure they are there and have the will to work, if they are happy in their jobs and if they know there is recognition and support from the Department, the Minister and the Government. But that support is not there. It has not been there for years and the deteriorating situation is the result of the mismanagement and miscalculation by the Government and the Minister. Perhaps the Minister has been badly advised. Perhaps his advisers, be they gardaí or civil servants, are misleading him. If his speeches are the products of members of the Garda Síochána or the civil service, then I fear he is being misled and, if that is the case, he should get rid of these people whoever they may be. If, on the other hand, he himself has composed his own speeches, then it is time the Taoiseach got rid of him and replaced him by someone who will do the job and stop this ever-growing crime spiral.

Like the judges, the Minister is overprotected. Those who are over-protected are thereby far removed from reality. I wonder what his reaction would be if his car or the cars of the judiciary were "knocked off" time and time again, or damaged, or their houses burgled. Of course, they do not suffer that experience because they are protected. I can understand the Minister and members of the judiciary having a different outlook from mine and from that of the majority of my constitutents. I am sure if their cars were knocked off and their houses burgled it would not be a case of the Probation Act because then they would know the situation for what it really is.

High crime areas are well known to the Garda and some steps should be taken immediately to protect the people in these areas. It is no good saying there will be 500 more gardaí next January or February. What will happen between now and January next? If the Minister does not act and take remedial measures the people will take the law into their own hands and protect themselves by any and every means at their disposal. I can see people resorting to every type of self-defence, armed and otherwise. If that is the evolution the Minister cannot say he and his Government were not warned. But that appears to be the only alternative because the Garda Síochána are under strength. The Garda are abused for lack of detection. The simplest forms of detection are the bald tyre and the parking offence. Automatic conviction follows. Hours are spent on tracking down criminals and when these criminals are brought before the court they get the benefit of the Probation Act or sympathy from some of those who sit upon the bench.

This report shows the true situation and I hope we will now have some action from the Minister and the Government. Long and tedious hours must be spent tracking down criminals. Tracked down they should be. Barracks are understaffed. In some there is only one man in the station and no man on the beat. The Minister can ascertain the facts. I hope he will make an investigation in these high crime areas and, having done so, take steps to ensure that the technical experts are free to do the work they should be doing and clear these areas of their criminal content. If one reports a crime there is a long delay before a garda appears on the scene. It is not the fault of the garda. The manpower is not there. The violence in the North is, as I said, being used to excuse crime in the South. I hope this is the last motion on this matter it will be necessary to table in this House.

Could the Minister give us the figures as to how many gardaí there are in Kilmainham, Sundrive, Ballyfermot and Clondalkin? Perhaps there is need for a change in the system. We adopted our force from the British. Perhaps it is not suitable to our needs. Let us endeavour to ensure that the manpower we have is used to greater advantage. Let us have some new thinking on the subject of overtime and the withdrawal of personnel. When I went last Saturday week to visit a clinic which I hold I found the building had been burned down by vandals. It is normally a children's play centre. I know many places which have been the recipients of the torch of the bully boys and the boot boys. Innocent children are the victims. A parish priest wrote to me recently one Friday and I went to see him on the Saturday morning. There had been a hatchet attack on the local school and the devices for teaching the children had been stolen.

It is no good telling us we will have another 500, 1,000 or 1,500 extra gardaí next January. What protective measures to safeguard the people will be taken in the meantime? We have seen the protective measures in O'Connell Street—the iron grids and the steel shutters.

First of all, I would like to assure the House that I share the Member's concern with the recent crime figures, but the dimensions of the problem are available to us only in terms of cold statistics and I think we must pay attention to those statistics rather than to personal experiences which necessarily can be exaggerated or coloured and, quite understandably, can grow in the telling. We had an example of that just now in Deputy Dowling's contribution. While there was a strong tone of genuine concern in it, and I am the first to admit that, I think he rather spoiled his case by reason of the fact that the overlying tone was one of strident hyperbole. We have to rely on statistics rather than on reported hearsay because, if we do not rely on them, a wrong impression can be created or a distorted picture can be painted.

As I indicated here on other occasions, it is detrimental to the national good to distort the crime situation. Let us not diminish its seriousness, but equally let us be careful not to distort or exaggerate it, because to distort or exaggerate it can do two things; first, it can cause unnecessary unease to a large number of citizens and, secondly, and more dangerously, it can indicate to criminal elements that they are free to proceed with impunity. It is well known that the most effective crime deterrent is the detection of crime, and the speeches by public figures which indicate that there is open season, so to speak, for the criminal in the capital city of the country can invite criminal elements to embark on criminal activities in the knowledge that they may not be detected. Not alone is that dangerous but, in terms of fact, it is also wrong. It is important when we are debating this matter that we should debate it from the point of view of being accurate and of expressing the problem in realistic terms and avoiding distortion, exaggeration or extravagance from which only ill consequences can come.

To assess the dimensions of the problem one has to consider the statistics that are available to us, and I indicated in previous debates in the House that the statistics for the country as a whole were showing an increase. That is a fact that I do not dispute. It is there in the Garda Commissioner's annual report. However, as this debate concerns the Dublin metropolitan area, we will confine ourselves to dealing with that area. The statistics for that area follow the national trend of increase.

Between 1974 and 1975—although we are not comparing like with like because in 1975 the statistics were assembled on a calendar year basis whereas the previous lot were assembled to the 30th September, 1974 —allowing for a certain element of distortion because like is not being compared with like, there was an increase of 18.8 per cent between those two years. That is a very large increase indeed and one that must give rise to concern. We come now to the figures for the year ending 31st December, 1976. These are figures which, I understand, have not yet been published but they are the preliminary ones which have been made available to me. They show a continued growth in crime but happily the rate of increase—and I think this is important— is 11.4 per cent. Therefore while there is an increase, the rate of growth of increase is slowing down considerably.

Again the incidence of crime follows no appreciable pattern throughout the city. If we compare the first three months of this year, 1977, with the first three months of 1976, we find that the rate of growth has again decreased. There was an increase, comparing those two periods, but the net increase was 11.1 per cent. Again it is a serious increase but the rate of growth is diminishing.

In the Dublin metropolitan area there are divergences in the rate of incidence of crime. Deputies, I am sure, will be interested and possibly surprised to hear that in the Garda District of Store Street there has been a drop in the crime figures for the first three months of this year compared with the first three months of last year, and that is something that must give us some considerable room for encouragement. The drop was small —it was only 1.4 per cent—but to have an actual decrease in the number of crimes is a significant and a heartening fact.

Is the Minister taking into account the fact that many people have given up even reporting crimes?

I think Deputy Collins by that interjection has betrayed the motivation behind this debate. I did not want to make the point myself, but I did feel from some things Deputy Dowling said that this was a political debate and that the Deputies opposite were delighted to have these crime figures and to beat the Government about the head with them. I have given what I think are heartening figures for a particularly difficult part of Dublin city. Deputy Collin's reaction is to pooh-pooh the figures and to suggest it is the result of people not reporting them. Again I would imagine that Deputies opposite would perhaps prima facie, share my relief at seeing these crime figures for the favourable trend that they are.

Yes, if the figures could only be believed.

Again Deputy Dowling quoted statistics here from the crime reports as representing a certain picture, and some sentences earlier he talked about phoney statistics. I am prepared to rely on the statistics furnished by the Garda Síochána as being accurate and reliable statistics. They are the statistics I am using now, and if we do not rely on them as such, then we have no criterion whatever on which to consider this problem.

In the area of Cabra which is a large suburban area, some parts of it new and other parts not so new, there was a decrease of 12.1 per cent. It is not a question that in Cabra or in Store Street the rate of crime slowed down but that it dipped and there was a positive decrease. Bray is an area we hear a great deal about from the point of view of vandalism and so on. In the first three months of this year —and one hopes that during the summer season the pattern will continue—there was a decrease of 11.1 per cent. In Coolock, an area which has been the subject of questions by Deputy Tunney and which takes in part of the city in which he would be interested, the decrease was 12.1 per cent.

They are the favourable areas. Let me give the House an indication of where the reverse has happened and where there has been an increase. However, I mention this to show the strangeness of the problem, that in some areas of Dublin where one would expect—particularly having regard to the hearsay reports coming from those areas—an increase, there has been a decrease. In Ballyfermot, which is Deputy Dowling's area, there has been an increase of 27.4 per cent. That is a substantial increase and a worrying increase. The other biggest increase is in the Whitehall area where the increase is 44.2 per cent, but again we have to consider that the number of crimes in that area is small and that any increase on a small number is statistically a large increase. The total number of crimes has actually increased by 96, which of itself is a substantial figure but not that alarming. In the area of Store Street, which has the highest number of crimes, in the first three months of last year 1,959 crimes were committed, and this year there were 1,931. Therefore there is a decrease and these are heartening figures.

Statistics are the only hard evidence available to us and we must rely on hard evidence rather than on hearsay. It is unfortunate that when people are reporting their experiences in this area there is a natural and understandable tendency to exaggerate, to colour, to horrify. It is also understandable that the tale will not diminish in the telling. One often hears that there was a burglary or burglaries in a scheme of houses and after two or three tellings it is represented that every house in the terrace or the road was knocked off last night. It is dangerous to rely on hearsay and informal evidence. One must look to the statistics only. While the statistics have some discouraging features about them they also have some heartening features about them.

The crime problem is still a serious matter because, while the rate of growth on a yearly basis for the whole area is continuing, it is slowing. We want to achieve throughout the entire Dublin metropolitan area and indeed throughout the country as a whole the situation that has been achieved in Bray, Coolock, Store Street and the other areas I have mentioned, where not merely is there a reduction in the rate of growth but a positive and actual decrease.

There are a number of factors which go towards fighting crime, the police force, the community and the sanctions available to the law. Regarding the police force, it now stands, as Deputies know, nearly a thousand stronger than when we came into office. For Deputy Dowling's information, that is exclusive of wastage; the establishment figure is that much higher. The extra 500 will also be exclusive of wastage, which now runs at under 200 per year. Two or three hundred of the new gardaí will be on the streets next November, so that projections of next January or February are wrong. I am advised that the examination results will be available before the end of this month and that recruitment will take place immediately.

I anticipate, because of the particular problem in this city, that the initial draft of gardaí can be made available here, so there is relief coming in the sense of extra gardaí coming to Dublin city. In the meantime it is possible, because of the fact that these extra personnel were budgeted for and the entire budget allocation in respect of them will not be called on before the end of the year, that there may be some financial fat available which might permit an increase in beat tolerance and that is being investigated. If that can be achieved—I do not see any great difficulty—there should be an improvement in the very near future in beat tolerance. That would be maintained when the extra men come on duty towards the end of the year and in the new year.

Two other important steps have been taken by the Garda in Dublin. The crime task force was set up in 1971. Membership has been increased steadily over the years and it now stands at 38. This has had considerable success in combating vandalism and crime generally in city centre areas. For some time we heard that O'Connell Street was a no go area and that citizens could not walk along it at night but I have been assured by the centre city traders that conditions have improved considerably and they are very pleased with the results which have been achieved by this crime task force which is deployed in an area where vandalism is particularly rife in an effort to support the local force. I have indicated to the Commissioner other areas of the city to which Deputies have drawn my attention in the course of Question Time where there is a need for this force to be deployed. I hope that it will be possible to deploy them on a wider basis than heretofore and in more areas. It will be necessary to increase its personnel and this can, of course, be done when the extra personnel become available.

In addition, a major crime investigation squad was set up in 1973 to deal with major indictable offences. In April of last year the strength of that squad was increased from 13 to 25. That is a very significant and desirable development in the deployment and structure of the police force serving the needs of the capital city.

Deputy Dowling queried the deployment of the force and wondered had any changes been made since the force came into being or was it operating with the same structures, methods and procedures which had operated in the police force prior to independence. The answer to that up to now is, essentially, yes. I am glad to report that the management consultants I engaged about two years ago to investigate the structure of the Garda Síochána have made available preliminary reports and the final report should be available in a matter of weeks. For the first time since the foundation of the State the Garda Síochána has been surveyed on a scientific basis and the whole question of deployment, structures and all that goes into the organisation of a large and complex force has been analysed and teased out. I am looking forward to the result of that consultancy study. Deputy Dowling can be assured that we are conscious of the need to move with the times and I am expecting the results of that study shortly.

Police by themselves cannot prevent crime. Since man came on earth there has been crime. I might mention that while we are worried about the crime position in this country we must bear in mind that by comparison with the nearest similar country, Great Britain, we are comparatively crime free. The latest comparative figures which I have in this regard relate to 1975. Per 100,000 of the population in 1975 the crimes in this country were 1,600; in the London metropolitan area 6,000 per 100,000 of the population; in England and Wales, excluding London, 4,000 approximately. Deputies can see that the incidence of crime here is way below the incidence of crime in Great Britain. Again, the ratio of police to 100,000 of the population here bears favourable comparison with the ratio across the water. In this country the ratio is 266 per 100,000 of the population and when the extra 500 join the force the ratio will be 280 per 100,000 of the population. In England and Wales the ratio is 218 per 100,000 of the population and in London it is 280, at least it was in 1975; presumably it has increased. Yet the part of Great Britain with the highest ratio of police to the population also has the highest crime figures, so there is no connection essentially between the two. I mention those as comparative figures which must be of interest in a debate of this kind.

I was talking about the role of police in combating crime to show the steps that have been taken and to show the crime position based on statistics. I mentioned, too, that in addition to the steps taken by the police the community itself has a responsibility in regard to crime. The community working in liaison with the police force is the best way to deal with the problem. To assist in involving the community in this problem, which is essentially a community problem and not a police problem, I am glad to report that an inspector has now been selected from each district of the Dublin metropolitan area who will be trained to undertake the duty of a community liaison officer. I have met deputations from various parts of the city and from the Dublin branch of the National Association of Tenants Organisations and they have indicated to me their anxiety to co-operate with police in this city to ensure that any dichotomy between police and citizens will be removed. In an effort to avail of this expressed goodwill these community liaison officers are being appointed for each of the districts of the Dublin metropolitan area.

On an external basis their duties will be to be helpful to all members of the public and to youth and community organisations which need advice and to keep in touch with groups and organisations in their districts, to give talks in schools and other educational establishments and generally to inform the public of the gardaí and arrange liaison with the public in police matters. They will have a role to play internally in indicating to the members of the force the importance of community relations and stimulating and fostering appropriate attitudes by members of the force dealing with the public in order to ensure a high degree of co-operation between the police and the community. It is only in that sort of integrated relationship that the crime problem will begin to be tackled and the heartening figures obtained in some of the Dublin districts will begin to be seen throughout the entire metropolitan area.

I know the community have to take steps to protect themselves. Deputy Dowling referred in perjorative terms to steps for protection which have been taken by shopkeepers and others. They should not be referred to in those terms. It is proper that shopkeepers and householders take steps to protect their property against vandals and criminals of a worse order, whether the steps be the installation of burglar alarms, the provision of protective screening or whatever. Citizens have a responsibility and they cannot be all the time looking to the State to provide the very last in protection. There is a responsibility and a duty on citizens, and I am glad to note from what Deputy Dowling says that there has been a response in that regard. Again, co-operation is all-important. I do not believe that there is a failure to report crime. I am satisfied that crime is fully reported to the Garda and that the statistics we have can be relied on as an accurate estimate of the crime figures and in particular in the Dublin metropolitan area. Apart from reporting crime it is important that citizens co-operate with the guards in giving them information about perpetrators of crime. I have called in the past for a greater willingness on the part of the community to give information to the police. The Garda Síochána are our police and are only as effective as we can make them. That call, I am glad to say, was echoed in the past by the Opposition and I look forward to hearing it being echoed again in the course of this debate.

Another area in which the fight against crime has relevance is the courts and in the sanctions that are available to deal with criminals. I share the perturbation of the Deputies on the other side who quote cases of criminals, possibly first-time offenders as far as serious offences are concerned, getting what seems to the man in the street a rather light punishment for the offence in question. We cannot adjudicate or tell the courts what to do. The courts are independent, and properly so, in the exercise of their judicial duties. We outside cannot hear or see what goes on in a court. We do not hear the pressures of skilled advocacy or the background reports from welfare officers that influence a judicial person in making a decision. It is right that I should reflect in this House what is said to me by citizens: that the courts appear at times to be lenient having regard to the crime coming before them. I have no doubt that the members of our judiciary, who are citizens and involved in our country as are the rest of us, are aware of the pattern of criminal activity and of the need to ensure that the full sanction of the law bears heavily and fully on criminals on whom it should bear heavily.

In the near future the welfare service attached to my Department will be expanded considerably and I will be announcing the details of that very soon. I hope that this too will have a beneficial effect, particularly in the Dublin metropolitian area, in enabling young persons to be taken into control early and supervised in their own localities. This will be another significient factor in the battle against crime.

The Minister has five minutes left.

I assure the House that I share the concern which has been expressed about crime and the crime figures, but it is important that we should keep the matter in perspective and that in talking of it we should avoid extravagant language. It is detrimental to the national good to state that this is a lawless city, that citizens are cowering in terror in their homes and that the streets are deserted at night. This defies casual observation. One has only to go around to see that that is not true. Apart from my own observation, I have given the comparative crime figures which show that compared with our nearest neighbour the incidence of crime here is considerably less than the incidence of crime over there. This is something that we must be pleased about and that we must all work to maintain and to improve further. The Government will do their part by ensuring that there is a police force adequate in numbers, training and equipment to do the job they have to do. The Government rely on the support of the Opposition to ensure that the community are constantly made aware of their obligation in this regard to take steps in their own areas to ensure that those among the community who might be tempted on courses of deviancy are restrained in so far as community sanctions and controls can restrain them. They should co-operate with the police and generally behave in such a way as will help to decrease the incidence of crime.

I was perturbed to hear Deputy Dowling's attack on officers of my Department for failure to supply him with information. This motion, so far as I am aware, has been known to Deputy Dowling from last Thursday. He knew, presumably, as the instigator of it when he opened the debate here, what his line was to be and what he was going to say. He waited until the afternoon of this debate and then demanded over the telephone a whole plethora of statistical information which I will not allow to be given out until it is checked and I am satisfied is accurate. I deprecate his suggesting that there was some fault on the part of officers of my Department. This is a matter in which I am concerned. I am disappointed that Deputy Dowling should have used this debate for making an attack of that nature.

Whom does the Minister check the accuracy with?

He knew last Thursday that this debate would take place and he could have applied for his statistical information then.


The Minister has two minutes.

In conclusion I want to say that I am conscious of the concern of many citizens for the crime position in our country. I want to reassure them that this crime position is not one that is out of control or that need cause undue concern or undue alarm. I want to emphasise again the importance of looking at this in perspective. Again I want to assure all citizens and the Deputies opposite that the Government and myself are concerned about the matter and that whatever steps need to be taken to ensure that the rate of crime continues to drop, as it has already started to drop in some significant districts of Dublin, will be taken. This will continue to be the pattern throughout the country.

Could the Minister indicate with relation to the financial fat when that will be available?

Deputy Raphael Burke.

When will the financial fat be available?

I am investigating that.

Deputy Burke's time is being lost.

Mr. R. Burke

I have listened to the Minister for the last half-an-hour with an increasing sense of despair. It was a typical speech from a Fine Gael Minister for Justice who warns and advises everybody else in the country, the Opposition, the public, the Garda, the civil service and the community at large to beware of extravagant language. The same Minister in the course of his contribution to this debate uses figures which are merely Ministerial figures not available to the rest of the community. As I understand it they have not been published by the commissioner and are available only to the Minister himself. These figures in the context of the debate here until they are published by the Garda Commissioner can be pooh-poohed as the Minister pooh-poohed the argument put up by Deputy Dowling.

In debating this question we must get one thing clear from the start. We in Fianna Fáil in the motion we have put down are in no way critical of the performance of the Garda throughout the country and in this city in the work that they are doing under impossible conditions. This is reflected in the wording of the motion. It was responsibly worded and well thought out. It reads as follows:

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.

There is nothing in that motion to indicate criticism of the Garda but there is a lot in it condemning this Government for their complete inactivity and inattention to the protection of citizens' rights and property rights. We have heard this old cliché "law and order" being thrashed out by this Government. During this term I worked in a by-election in west Mayo and I never heard more nauseating speeches in my life than from the people talking about law and order. The law and order situation in the city and county of Dublin is very unbalanced. The Minister said that he shared Members' concern about the increase in crime figures but that it was detrimental to the national good to distort the figures. The Minister has distorted the figures in relation to the situation in Dublin. The first two paragraphs in the April edition of the Garda Review are well worth quoting and they read as follows:

Last June in these pages we drew attention to the deteriorating crime situation and we asked the Government to face up to the realistic problem of law enforcement. We were subsequently taken to task over our stand in the matter by the Minister for Justice in the Dáil. At the same time the Minister informed the house that a decision to raise the strength of the force by five hundred members was ample evidence of the Government's commitment to do what was reasonably possible to deal with the situation.

Now, nearly one year later, not one of those extra five hundred Gardaí has been appointed and it will be at least eight months more before one of them, fresh from initial training at Templemore, takes up duty on the street. Meanwhile, the crime situation continues to deteriorate. Provisional figures given by the Minister at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in January showed that in Dublin crime involving offences against the person, the most serious form of crime, rose by fifty one per cent in 1976 over the previous year.

This is not Fianna Fáil propaganda. The Garda Review represents the views of the Garda force. These figures are not distorted.

What really distressed me about the Minister's contribution was the fact that, although he spoke about crime figures in London and Wales and about community involvement in Dublin, he did not speak about what the Government were doing to tackle the problem. The Minister used figures to show that crime had decreased in some areas in the city and county of Dublin, in particular the Coolock and Cabra areas. In one two-month period in 1976 in the Priorswood Estate, which is an area covered by the Coolock Garda station, there were over 68 break-ins. This is an estate of about 300 houses. One house was broken into at least three times and a number were broken into twice. I got these figures from a member of the association in that area. This afternoon when working in my office I received a message from one of the ushers to ring a certain man. When I rang him this man explained that he has a son aged about 16 who is studying for his leaving in June. At about ten o'clock last night, having been studying all day, the boy went out for a walk with a friend to get a breath of air before going to bed. He had gone no more than a couple of hundred yards from home when he was set upon by six thugs and had to be taken to hospital and was detained until about two o'clock this morning. The boy's father wanted to know where the Garda were and where was all this protection of citizens we hear so much about from this law and order Government. The Minister says that we should be very happy that we have not got the violence they have in London or Wales. I suggest to the Minister that here is the hard evidence he was asking for earlier. The Minister criticised points raised by Deputy Dowling as being too general, but I have outlined a specific case. I will give the Minister the name and the details privately so that he can go into the situation.

The Minister made great play of the fact that in 1974-75 there was an 18.8 per cent increase in crime and in 1976 there was only 11.4 per cent increase. That would have been an 11.4 increase on the 18.8 per cent increase of the previous year. In effect, the Minister is saying that we should be grateful that our homes will be burgled only once a year from now on and not twice. They are not the sort of figures any Minister for Justice should stand over, and most Ministers for Justice would be ashamed to have been talking about them. They are not figures we can question. They are figures which the Minister gave to us tonight. He must get clear in his mind that we are not asking for cliché law and order, glorious black print on the front of the evening papers. We are asking for protection for the people of this city and county in their homes, shops and business premises.

I should like to give the example of the situation in the Malahide district. The Malahide Garda station is dealt with by the superintendent in the Coolock area. Malahide Garda station is responsible for approximately 25,000 people and deals with the villages of Malahide, Portmarnock, Kinsealy and the district joining up with the Coolock Garda station. This station is served by one sergeant, nine gardaí but no detectives. The Minister and the House are familiar with the rota system used by the gardaí, the four shift situation, three on and one off. There is a protection post in the area which involves three men, two on and one off. As well as providing men for the protection post, there are two men off duty every day. Two men are required in the station as well.

The staff in this station are on duty from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. the following morning in summer time. The Minister for Justice regards this as a seaside resort despite the fact that 25,000 people live in the area. In the winter time the station is only opened in the morning from 9 o'clock to 1 o'clock and from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at night. There is a garda car and a motor bike in the station but they are only ornaments because there are no men there to use them.

Last year about 300 housebreakings occurred in the area. They had approximately 3,000 summonses to issue and about 1,000 warrants, most of which had to be sent back because there is no manpower there to do the work. The Feltrim quarry is in the area, and about three times every week they have to go along and supervise the use of the explosives.

The Malahide Garda station was broken into on at least two occasions. It was broken into on St. Patrick's night, 1975. It was closed, and a row took place outside. They went in and stole a radio belonging to one of the gardaí.

We hear the Minister for Justice stand up and tell us that we should be very happy with the situation, that we are not as bad as London and we are lucky that we are not living in Wales where the situation is ten times as bad. I would like to remind him that we do not live in London or Wales. We live in Ireland, and quite a large proportion of us live in the city and county of Dublin. We knew the city and county of Dublin when it was a nice quite area to live in, when one did not have to fear if one's home was left unoccupied that when one returned it was stripped and nothing was left in it.

A man from Portmarnock came to me about 12 months ago and asked me if I could make representations to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs to get a telephone for him. He is a commercial traveller and has to be away from his home from Monday until Friday. His young wife was living in the house on her own. I got on to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and made a case for him. A week later the man came back to me and said that things had got a lot worse. He told me that the houses on each side of his house were unoccupied, that the people were only moving in. He said that the previous night he was away on business in Donegal and burglars stripped those two houses. The young couples who had purchased those houses had carpets in them and had started to move in their furniture but had not yet lived in them. The burglars removed everything from those houses. This is the type of situation the Minister tells us we should be very happy about.

The responsibility is on the heads of the Minister for Justice and on the Government to provide the gardaí in those areas. The manpower is not being provided and the gardaí cannot do a good job under the present circumstances. It is not possible for them to give the coverage the people deserve. This is not something that is being quoted by Fianna Fáil. This is being spoken of by the gardaí and by every responsible journal in the country, by every responsible residents' association, community council, tenants' association and every concerned citizen in this city and county.

The Minister tells us that we should be happy that the crime rate is only 11 per cent instead of 18 per cent for last year. We want to see the crime rate decreasing from its existing level, not increasing. The only way it will decrease is if the Minister implements the suggestions in our Private Members motion. The Minister did not refer to this motion in his contribution. He gave us a lecture that we should be very grateful that we were not living in London or Wales.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 8.30 p.m. until 11.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 4th May, 1977.