——it is easier for us to retaliate by way of a measure which might be seen in some nebulous fashion in the public mind as helpful in this regard. The Bill will not be so helpful, and will do nothing but a disservice. I stress that it is not on any aspect of military detention or military custody,per se, that our inability to co-operate fully with the Government in this regard is based. I have no doubt that the soldiers and the military police involved are doing a good job. The Army are called upon to do many jobs for which they were not particularly designed. All of us owe them a debt of gratitude and any condemnation we have of the measure is in no way to be taken as reflecting on the excellent manner in which they carry out this work. There is a fundamental principle involved here which is embodied in the Act of 1972, section 2 (3):
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) certify that he is so of opinion, and
(b) direct the transfer to military custody of such of the persons aforesaid as are specified by him...
It seems to me that the Prisons Bill, 1980, which seeks to extend this power until 1983, continues to underline a power which is excessive and which is no longer justified, certainly on the initial grounds put forward. It would be wrong of me not to say that when the Bills came before the House in 1974 and in 1977, the then Minister for Justice rightly pointed out the difficulties he was experiencing in accomplishing the ideals he set before himself. He indicated that the initial problems relating to Mountjoy Prison had already been dealt with. He went on to deal with the need to build a high security prison or unit capable of housing up to 30 high-risk prisoners, to be located in Portlaoise Prison. This plan, which was embarked upon in good faith, came to naught because of the subsequent extremely serious difficulties encountered by the Minister and the Government at that time.
The Opposition at that time pointed out the odium that had been heaped on their heads in 1972. I do not blame them for that, although the circumstances had changed. When the Bill came before the House in 1977, it was indicated that the picture had not changed radically, that the intentions of the then Government had not been implemented because of extraordinary and unique security difficulties in Portlaoise, during a period of unusual difficulty. The House accepted in 1977 that there would be once more, hopefully for the last time, an extension of this provision. During that time, it is fair to say, new reasons were advanced as justifying the extension of the measure above and beyond those given for introducing it. On that general principle it is important that we should bear in mind the importance of not rushing into a situation where we introduce legislation in a manner which would subsequently be retained on the Statute Book and justified retrospectively by virtue of other reasons.
In the course of the debate in 1977 the then Minister, now Senator Cooney, stated, at column 1180 of the Official Report of 19 May 1977:
military custody for civilian prisoners is not something which I like and if there were a reasonable alternative I would gladly accept it.
He pointed to the undoubtedly real situation of a small number of disruptive prisoners and the difficulty of building the security unit he wanted and which caused his request for a further extension to be accepted by the Dáil. The then Opposition spokesman, Deputy Gerry Collins, made an interesting reply to this debate. In general, I am not one who looks through the files seeking incriminating and selective evidence, but he accused the Minister—at column 1183 of that Official Report—of not coming clean, not giving the necessary information for the debate to be of value. He said, about the Minister:
He knows that this prison is completed; it is an expensive high security prison in the Curragh Camp.
Deputy Collins was referring to the creation of a unit in the Curragh Camp which would be designated as a civilian prison. There is no doubt that more accommodation was necessary, but the essential problem was the principal of its military designation. If the Minister for Justice felt in 1977 that a situation could be dealt with adequately by the development in the Curragh we are not seeing any evidence that that is the case today. I cannot help but feel that the similarity of the language from the beginning of this debate in 1972 shows a tired administration today who are utilising, with great respect to them, the arguments outlined by a Department that is largely locked into time.
There is nothing of a visionary nature in the Minister's speech. There is not any reference to prison reform or to the need to ensure that there would not have to be an extension of these powers the next time. On the contrary, the Minister made it clear that he did not believe that three years would be enough. We must all do better than the charade we have had since 1972. There are good men and women on all sides of the House concerned with the welfare of our people and no side has the monopoly of it. There are good people on all sides of the House concerned with individual liberty and freedom and the two are not in any way to be juxtaposed or depicted as being opposed to each other. They are both sides of one coin and responsible politicians have a duty to take care of both. It is not unreasonable to ask the Minister for clear evidence that within 12 months of today's date he will undertake to repeal this measure.
I mention the period 12 months because it is a time with historical precedent in the Mountjoy case. It is a sufficient amount of time to allow the Minister to do works which, presumably, if his words carry any weight or have any meaning, are already in train. That will convince the House that the Minister is genuine and sincere about his basic repugnance of the idea of military incarceration of civilian prisoners.
If the 12 month amendment is accepted by the Government, then an advance will have been made. We would have a positive and unequivocal guarantee and that would be in the interest of parliamentary co-operation, to put it mildly. It would facilitate many Members of the House in ensuring that they play their full and active role in getting rid of this measure at the earliest possible date, which ostensibly is the intent and design of all sides of the House.
One element which has not been referred to on previous occasions and which may be a very important one is the constitutional issue—I believe this is possibly unconstitutional. The discharge of justice through the courts allows a prisoner to be sentenced in the normal way. However, the clear understanding of the Judiciary and the explicit exhortation of the Constitution is that such sentences should be carried out in conditions which the Judiciary fully comprehend at that time. Otherwise, it has no meaning and we are dealing with a situation where judges impose a time of incarceration to be served in conditions dictated by others outside their control. Clearly, that is unconstitutional. There is a precedent for such an action. On an occasion a defendant was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison with a condition that the sentence would be reviewed after 12 months, the second year to be waived if the prison officers involved gave a favourable report. The defendant contested this issue on constitutional grounds and won the case by virtue of the fact that it appeared that the prison officers were vested with judicial powers. There is an analogy in this case. If the Minister is the person who designates, who goes to a civilian prison—whatever about the desires of the Minister in 1972; conditions are different now—the reality is that the condition of incarceration is no longer established by the courts, but by the Minister. I consider that to be grounds for a constitutional action. It is also another reason why we no longer need this Bill on the Statute Book.
The manner in which the provision operates in this regard is also fundamentally regrettable and adds to the arguments for getting rid of it. The 1972 Act states that the Minister for Defence will make regulations in relation to the places and the manner generally in which persons in military custody pursuant to that Act shall be kept in custody. In his contribution to that debate the Minister indicated that the conditions in the military prison would be parallel to those in civilian prisons, but that is not the case. There are a number distinctions, which include the fact that in a civilian penal system there is separate accommodation for remand and convicted prisoners but such facilities do not exist at the Curragh. A pre-release system for those about to embark on the transition back to normal life, which includes work and the finding of employment outside, is part of the civilian prison system; but there is no parole in the Curragh, that underlines the fact that the assignment of people to the Curragh is a sentence which when applied by the Minister is not what was envisaged by the courts.
A third difference is the question of the training for the staff involved. The training of prison officers is increasingly a matter of the application of up-to-date skills. The military police and the forces involved in the Curragh are not equipped in that direction, though their qualifications in other areas are undoubtedly of the highest order. They seek no particular qualification, nor should they be forced into that situation.
Fourthly, there is a provision that there should be a minimum period of six hours work provided in the civilian prison situation for prisoners in so far as that is possible. But it is perfectly clear that does not and cannot operate in the context of the Curragh arrangement. Also the medical facilities available are different and are deficient in relation to people in the Curragh. This is a little unfortunate in view of the serious reports one gets about the incidence of prescription of sedative type drugs in the Curragh. Accordingly, if there is to be medical attention at all, if it is to be different as between prisons, it should certainly not be the case that the Curragh arrangement should be detrimentally affected—also because of the repeated assertions that people in the Curragh prison are people who "do not fit into the normal prison system", by which I have managed to ascertain they mean that they are probably psychiatric cases, in some cases psychopaths and, in others, people with a mental imbalance of one kind or another, or are just difficult prisoners. Certainly there is no basis for a difference in the medical arrangements. The cost of an affidavit in a civilian prison and in the Curragh is different, I understand, eleven times the cost.
I wish to point out, without going into too much detail, that there is a difference between the two types of prison, a difference which affords grounds for a constitutional action and which breaks the spirit of the Act and the promise of the Minister when introducing it. That is a matter for concern and regret and I hope will add to our joint attempt to rid the Statute Book of this legislation.
In 1972, when the Minister was defending the Bill, saying it would be open to scrutiny and so on, he referred extensively, as Ministers are wont to do, to the very good work which most visiting committees undertake. He pointed out that there was to be a visiting committee to be appointed to the Curragh military encampment, a military prison, and that they would act, as it were, as watchdog in this regard. It seems to me that one cannot really have it both ways. If in introducing a Bill one wants to utilise as a safeguard the argument that a visiting committee is to be there, one cannot very well then ignore their recommendations when they choose to make them.
The difference between prisons is once again underlined by the fact that, even though an annual report on prisons and places of detention is published, it does not include any reference at all to the Curragh, merely because we are told that the Minister for Defence is the appropriate Minister in relation to the Curragh. But it underlines the fact that there is a very basic difference above and beyond mere questions of accommodation in relation to the two types of prison.
What, then, do the visiting committee say about the Curragh and how well it has worked? Visiting committees have rarely been known for what might be called an excess of reformist zeal. They are people who have a very difficult job, who are basically, I think, almost friendless. Any recommendations they choose to make would probably be interpreted by members of the staff, who in the vast majority of cases do a very good job in extraordinarily difficult positions, as perhaps a little bit of do-goodery by people who are part-timers and amateurs. I honestly believe that the Department of Justice probably see the recommendations of visiting committees as being unhelpful if they are too demanding. I am not sure who feels befriended by visiting committees orvice versa. Even the inmates of such institutions often have some scorn for such committees. However, I know from personal experience that the majority of these committees get down very seriously to a difficult job, and take it seriously. Therefore, I think their recommendations should be taken seriously.
The Annual Report of the Visiting Committee for the Military Detention Barracks, Curragh Camp, County Kildare, for the period ending 31 December 1972, which I think was the first such report, indicated a commitment by the visiting committee to get down to the job of familiarising themselves with the structure of the place, interviewing inmates and so on. Therefore, their findings in the following year would be of interest. In their annual report for the period ending 31 December 1973, published in January 1974, they say:
It is the opinion of the Committee that the Military Detention Barracks is not at all suitable for prisoners serving long sentences. The type of prisoner admitted to the prison raises difficulties regarding the provision and maintenance of gainful labour or employment.
Deputy Bermingham has already outlined the signatories to these reports and I shall not repeat them except to say, without any sense of malice, they represent people from all shades of party and political opinion, included among them Deputy Bermingham himself, the present Minister for Forestry and Fisheries, Deputy Power, and others who are extremely concerned about the situation and who have called repeatedly, in effect, for the closure of this institution.
In their annual report for the period ending 31 December 1974, published in January 1975, they say again:
It is the opinion of the Committee that the Military Detention Barracks is not at all suitable for prisoners serving long sentences. The type of prisoners admitted to the prison raises difficulties regarding the provision and maintenance of gainful labour and employment.
An almost exact repetition of what they said previously. On 15 January 1975, in an observation on the annual report for the period ending 31 December 1974. Mr. Terry Boylan—somebody with whom I am sure the Minister is familiar—said in a letter to the Minister about the report:
...the complete area for the detention of prisoners is not at all suitable and is putting undue strain on the Army personnel in charge.
In January 1976, introducing their annual report for the period ending 31 December 1975, the committee said:
It is the opinion of the Committee that the Military Detention Barracks is not at all suitable for prisoners serving long sentences.
Mr. Terry Boylan, in a further letter to the Minister for Defence in January 1977, saidinter alia:
I am adamant, in connection with the Committee's recommendation, that prisoners requiring treatment for a mental condition should not be in the Curragh.
That is a clear indication that the Curragh was open to being used as an area for incarceration of people who might have mental conditions. Mr. Boylan added further:
The present building used for holding prisoners is not suitable for the incarceration of social delinquents. An extra mental and physical strain is placed on military personnel and prisoners.
In January 1977, introducing their report for the year ended 31 December 1976, the committee said:
The Committee wishes again to draw attention to previous reports in which it stated that the Military Detention Barracks is not at all suitable for prisoners serving long sentences.... There is a lack of facilities for the rehabilitative training of prisoners in military custody. ...Due to the fact that there are no psychiatric facilities in the prison, treatment is limited to medication. This situation is unsatisfactory. The Committee strongly recommends that prisoners requiring psychiatric treatment should not be transferred to military custody in the future.
Again, all the signatories are involved.
In January 1978, introducing their report for the period ending 31 December 1977, the committee say:
There is a lack of facilities for the rehabilitation and training of prisoners in military custody.
The committee give the population at that time as being between 22 and 27, something in excess of two dozen, which apparently has remained consistent, all presumably incorrigible or unable to be dealt with in some other way than by the existence of a military prison.
In January 1979, in introducing to the Minister for Defence, their report for the year ending 31 December 1978, the committee say—and I do not think the Minister should be surprised any longer—:
The Military Detention Barracks is unsuitable for long term prisoners. Long term confinement in such an enclosed area must have a tension creating effect on prisoners. Prisoners transferred to the Military Detention Barracks appear to be those who do not fit into the ordinary prison system. More suitable facilities and better conditions would be provided in a section of one of the larger prisons set aside for the confinement of this particular type of prisoner.
Then in January of this year the visiting committee introduced their report for the year ending 31 December 1979. Incidentally, subsequent to January 1977 the visiting committee had been largely replaced. I do not wish by saying that to imply that the people who replaced those who had served on it were anything but of the highest calibre. But just to illustrate that it was not a small group of people who got something into their heads and kept repeating it, a largely new committee said that the military arrangements in the Curragh for long term prisoners were not satisfactory and that the whole of the long-term arrangements must have a tension creating effect on prisoners, maintaining that the prisoners transferred to the Military Detention Barracks appeared to be those who do not fit into the ordinary prison system.
I should like to add one small note regarding the visiting committee report but it is a comment which unfortunately is applicable generally. In the public interest I urge the Minister to ensure that the reports of this committee are made available freely so that it is not necessary for anyone who wishes to read them to have to wring them from the Department of Justice, often by way of threat of court action. The people have a right to these reports and there should not be any need to browbeat the Department into their publication as has been the case on too many occasions in the past.
The visiting committee have on many occasions condemned unequivocably some of the fundamental aspects of the institution but they had some good remarks to make about it also. Our grounds for seeking the early cessation of this whole section relating to such detention in the military prison is not because of the physical condition of the prison which perhaps is no better or no worse than any other prison. Neither are we seeking this change on the ground particularly of the difference in the staff at that prison compared with the staff at other prisons. Our case is on the basis that essentially there is no need for a military prison and that the designation of any place as a civilian prison would cope adequately with the accommodation difficulties, if such exist and it is difficult to believe that there are such difficulties having regard to the fact that during the term of office of the previous Government a number of new prisions and institutions came on stream. These include Arbour Hill and Shelton Abbey where, obviously, the burgeoning prison population could be accommodated adequately.
However, the high security risk element of the new arrangements must be dealt with. We must be honest and realise that Portlaoise is a high-security prison which, apart from one or two minor problems, has been successful, more or less, in regard to containing the overall problem. It was not considered necessary to open a military prison at Portlaiose to accommodate prisoners who were to be kept under close scrutiny and in a high security prison. Therefore, why should it have been considered necessary to do so in the case we are talking about? If the Minister were to say that the military prison would be closed down within 12 months, we would be happy but failing that we can only conclude that the easy way out is being taken.
Let us remember that in three years time the problem may not be the Minister's but may be the problem of the people on this side of the House. That is why I wish to make clear our desire and our intention in this regard. I have a certain sympathy with the Minister. His colleague, the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Tourism, felt obliged to introduce such detention and this line was followed by Senator Cooney when he was Minister and at a time which was much tougher than the time we are experiencing now. He did so with courage and in the face of substantial condemnation but always acting with the interest of this country foremost, though that is something that can be said of all of us.
Would the Minister be willing to indicate that he will be able, unequivocably, to remove within 12 months the designation "military prison"? If that guarantee is forthcoming there should be some room for discussion but otherwise he will not find us sympathetic or supportive in the measure before the House today.
There are other difficulties involved in this question. There are the difficulties of the long-term prisoner. One cannot help but get the impression that the people confined in this prison are basically people who for one reason or another have proved themselves as being incapable of being contained in other prisons. Perhaps they are people who for reasons of personal safety had to be moved from other prisons or perhaps in some cases some psychological or other disorder necessitated their being sent to the military prison because of normal prison routine not being appropriate for them and who in the long-term may be consigned to some kind of a dustbin situation for unfortunate wrecks of human beings, some of whom may have committed appalling crimes which none of us should be hesitant in condemning or facing up to, but if we subscribe genuinely to the basic rehabilitative concept of prison we must admit that the arrangements in the Curragh military prisonvis-à-vis the long-term prisoner are such as to militate against any hope of such prisoners being rehabilitated. These arrangements are not comparable with those which apply in the civilian prisons and which in their own way are limited enough. Instead of going backwards in time we should be trying to advance the frontiers of progress in this area to ascertain if there is some way of genuinely tackling crime and of creating a rehabilitative process. There are suggestions from many people about dealing with long-term prisoners. In an article in the publication Fortnight, on 20 January 1978, Trevor West writing on the problem of the lng-term prisoner said his contention is that there should be a formal judicial process removing the onus from the Minister for Justice and providing for an automatic review of each long-term prison sentence at, say, the half-way stage. There are many people who are anxious to facilitate the rapid rehabilitation of prisoners to full and normal living while at the same time not putting at risk public order or public well-being but in the present situation that kind of sentiment is impossible of being put into effect. One cannot but get the impression that the Curragh represents a situation of out of sight, out of mind, but perhaps I am not being fair in saying that.
I should like the Minister to refer specifically to this question of medication, as it is termed in the report of the visiting committee. It would not only be worrying but it would be scandalous if it were to be the case that large numbers of people in any institution were to be held in some sort of subjugation by way of the substantial administration of drugs. Therefore, I should like the Minister to tell us how many of the prison population are on drugs, what they are and for what purpose are they being administered. If the Minister finds himself unable to refer to these matters I shall conclude that the situation in this regard is not what it should be and that the medication is open to the accusation of being misapplied.
In an article on the drugging of prisoners which appeared in theSpectator on 17 December 1977, Anthony Clare had the following to say:
More and more psychiatric patients are finding their way into prison and they receive there, for the most part, little more than the most basic of psychiatric treatment.
That is the same as what the visiting committee said and it is a very worrying feature of the whole situation.
Obviously, any discussion of possible reform in that context is pointless and would possibly not be relevant to the Bill. I can only say that it is regrettable that we cannot have a debate on any institution without looking back over our shoulder to such an event, for instance, as a dramatic outbreak of inmates when we should be concentrating on reform and on the future generally in this regard.
I cannot but conclude that the Government consider it useful to have on the Statute Book a provision which allows the Minister to designate at any time and in any place any prisoner to military incarceration which is of a high security nature and which involves a much more punitive element than that which the Minister and his colleagues as well as all of us in this party have referred to repeatedly as being proper in relation to penal procedure and correction generally.
I wonder is that what this Bill is really about, the desire of the Government not to relinquish any of the power they presently have. I have some sympathy with that view. I can see that their problem is that they are faced with an appalling crime situation. I would only ask them to consider very seriously the basic affront, constitutionally and to the individual, that is contained in that attitude and to look carefully at whether or not this measure means one iota of progress in the area of improvement of public order and so on. I do not believe it does.
In the face of the human challenge that we are talking about, which is about people and at the same time is about combating crime and balancing one against the other, we can do a lot better than this fairly jaded response of the Minister when he talks about transferring persons requiring a high degree of security who could not be accommodated in Portlaoise Prison or elsewhere.
The Minister said also that a small number of prisoners who do not belong to any of these groups and who cannot therefore be fitted in there have to be accommodated elsewhere and that the only place in which they can be held with adequate security is the Curragh military detention barracks. There is clearly a process of selectivity operating here, a process which says that some people are appropriately to be incarcerated in the Curragh military barracks. The Government seem to be very arbitrary and very selective and very subjective and it is in the interests of this House that they put it openly in writing so that we know precisely what kind of institution we are dealing with. Is it simply a case, for example, of a difficult prisoner unit? Incidentally, that could mean that a person who is perfectly correct in pursuing certain rights could be adjudged difficult—and I do not suggest for a minute that I have the slightest evidence to indicate that this has happened and I am sure it does not happen and I hope it does not happen—and could, by order of the Minister, be transferred to a prison in which his propensities for being difficult would be somewhat curtailed. We need, therefore, in the context of what the Minister said today, not assurances but the open publication of the criteria on which prisoners are selected there. On the one hand he talks about a high degree of security. On the other hand he talks about people not belonging to other groups, although I was not aware that any Minister in the State ever accepted what we might call groupings of prisoners as if they had a particular affiliation to each other. Perhaps the Minister simply means various categories of people. He says further:
It is essential, if Mountjoy is to continue to hold this population in safety, that a small number of seriously disruptive prisoners should be kept out of it.
We would agree with him there. That is not, of course, grounds for the continued designation of the Curragh as a military prison. It is only grounds for building the right kind of institution. The Minister talks also about the restoration of peace and order being possible only because the Curragh was available for the ringleaders. He says: I have no doubt at all that the maintenance of peace and order in the civil prisons continues to depend on the availability of the Curragh.
I do not trust the Minister's judgment in this regard and I do not trust the party opposite either. It is not 12 to 13 years since, out of the blue and for no reason that any one of us at the time could put a finger on, not a suggestion but a statement was made that if certain things occurred internment would be introduced. Our party in 1972—and this was repeated in the context of the latter of the debates in 1974 and 1977—wished to make it clear that they would be willing to facilitate and co-operate with any Government definitely concerned about certain issues but that we were not interested in introducing internment by the back door. I am not suggesting that that is what is involved here but when the Minister talks like this, when he talks about the ringleaders and the maintenance of peace and order in the civil prisons depending on the availability of the Curragh, he is getting very close to this because he has already stated that his purpose is to build a high security prison.
If there was a high security prison tomorrow what is to disabuse us all of the notion that the Minister still believes that he would have no doubt that the maintenance of peace and order in the civil prisons would continue to depend on the availability of the Curragh. In other words he does not accept that military prisons will go, ever. Otherwise he would have said that the maintenance of peace and order in the civil prisons continues to depend on the availability of the Curragh or a high security civil prison at the earliest opportunity. That is not there and the thinking is not there and that is what worries me about this.
The Minister also makes reference to troublemakers and active sympathisers who are apparently carrying on a campaign. I am not sure what this is intended to refer to but I do not think it is helpful. It is also unfortunate when people in this House will point fingers at people outside who are exercising their fundamental basic right to point out what they consider to be wrongs or injustices and it is a fairly snide remark which ill becomes the Minister.
The Minister talks also about the detention barracks and the Curragh military hospital. He said:
The detention barracks at present accommodates 27 prisoners most of them prisoners who had to be transferred out of the civil prisons because of their potential to foment disorder.
I am not sure what kind of analysis led to that conclusion but it is fair to say that there are in some cases people who clearly have for some reason or another decided to embark on a campaign of complete disruption of our prison system and there is no doubt about it. But until we devise some other system, some other way of dealing with the matter, it will be necessary to constrain such people in a very high security, intensely guarded unit or prison in order to protect not just the public but other prisoners. That prison should be a civil prison and any necessary co-operation which the Government need to bring about that structure, even though it would not be the order of priorities we would choose in an ideal society, will be afforded to them. But I honestly believe that the Minister has concluded that it is a useful and good thing to have there a military prison and that he has no intention of changing it, although, in fairness to him, he does say:
I want to see an end to military custody.
He refers then to his predecessor, saying:
My predecessor said at the time that the problem could be solved by building a special high security prison unit capable of housing up to 30 high-risk prisoners.
He talks about another plan because the security authorities apparently were opposed to any building operations in Portlaoise Prison. He says:
Whatever the reasons for not proceeding with the special unit at the time, the position now is that a site for a new prison has been selected on the farm, the money is available for it and the security authorities no longer have objections to building operations.
I am not sure about that. There are important principles there. The Minister, on behalf of the people of this country, is the one who decides where prisons are built and how they are built. It is the job of the Minister to take advice but it is he who is accountable and he who must accept the responsibility. The implication here is that because objections have been withdrawn he is now agreeable to going ahead. Perhaps I am overstating the degree to which the Minister is reliant on advice in this case. Once again I do not like the smack of the words. He talks about it being more ambitious than what had been intended in his predecessor's time. He says:
It would be a self-contained, autonomous prison with ample and humane accommodation.
Nowhere does he say it but I presume it is a civilian prison that he is talking about. Perhaps he would clarify that. I do not know if we need more ambitious prisons or not. I am sure we do but I would not like ambition to be heaped on ambition and to find in a few year's time that we had a still more ambitious plan about to be introduced and that therefore we have to justify a further extension. He admits that in the debate in 1974 and 1977 his view was that perhaps the high security prison could be operated under civilian control, establishing clearly that one does not need a military prison in order to ensure security. That is not what is at issue in this case. Surely it is within our power to rid our Statute books of this ignoble, repugnant principle and still maintain the highest standard of security and, dare I say it, law and order. The Minister says:
The reasons for the introduction of military custody in 1972, and the extensions of the Act in 1974 and 1977 during the term of the National Coalition, remain valid.
That is not true. First of all the implication is that they are the same reasons. The reasons in 1972 were primarily accommodation if not exclusively so. I was not around at the time so obviously I have not got a feeling for the time but my research indicated that they were dictated by extraordinary excesses of behaviour by inmates of institutions in extremely difficult times when explosives and so on were used. They are two different reasons. The reason for the introduction of the Bill in 1972 is no longer there. As Deputy Bermingham has already said, surely it is within our compass to contain just over two dozen prisoners in the other places of penal servitude in the State without needing this unit in the Curragh to remain.
The case has not been proved and it would be well if the Minister would reconsider his proposal which is, I believe, an almost automatic reflex on his part—a person very busy with many pressing matters who might not believe that this principle is as important as some of us believe it is. I should like the Minister to accept the amendment we are tabling. We want to ensure that within 12 months it will be possible for the House to conclude that there is no longer any need for a military prison in the Curragh and that it should cease at that time if not sooner. We allow 12 months reluctantly in order to ensure every opportunity to the Minister to bring forward evidence which will show that he is genuine in his desire to end military custody. If that is the case there might be no need to be divisive about this. If the amendment is not acceptable there will be no——