Prisons Bill, 1980: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This short Bill proposes to extend for a further period of three years the provisions of the Prisons Act, 1972 relating to military custody.

The need for military custody first arose in May 1972 following a serious riot in Mountjoy Prison. Because of the destruction caused in the riot, some 180 prisoners had to be removed from the prison immediately. It was not possible to accommodate all of them in the other civil prisons and places of detention, and 40 of them had to be transferred to the Curragh Military Detention Barracks. Those transferred required a high degree of security. Military custody has been used since then to isolate out of the civil prisons (a) persons requiring a high degree of security who could not be accommodated in Portlaoise Prison or elsewhere and (b) persons who promoted or actively engaged in seriously disruptive activity.

In November 1973 there was a general rearrangement in the use of prisons for adult male prisoners which saw Portlaoise Prison set apart for prisoners who were charged with or convicted of subversive type offences. It was the only civil prison in the State capable of providing the minimum security necessary for its new population. It has accommodated virtually all prisoners of this type and at present holds 156 of them. The accommodation there is divided for the different groupings of prisoners and, in general, the groups do not mix. 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. The only place in which they can be held with adequate security is the Curragh Military Detention Barracks.

The conversion of Portlaoise Prison for the accommodation of subversive type prisoners has created problems for the other civilian prisons because they now have to accommodate the prisoner population which Portlaoise, as a convict prison, formerly held. The burden falls mainly on Mountjoy Prison. There has been a steady build-up there of long-term prisoners serving sentences for serious offences. 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. The only place available for them is the Curragh Military Detention Barracks.

The value of the extra custodial facilities available at the Curragh has been amply proved over the last number of years. Between 1973 and 1977 relative peace was maintained in Mountjoy Prison largely, it is thought, because it was possible to keep out of it the small number of prisoners capable of and willing to foment disorder. They were kept out by being transferred to the Curragh. Serious riots occured in the prison in 1977 and again in 1979. The restoration of peace and order was possible only because the Curragh was available for the ring leaders. 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. This, of course, suits neither the troublemakers among those transferred nor their active sympathisers outside who are, apparently, committed to undermining the prison system. They have been carrying on a campaign over the past few months to have military custody abandoned. I would urge those who support the campaign to be wary of the motives of those who are behind it.

There are two places designated for military custody—the Curragh Military Detention Barracks and the Curragh Military Hospital. 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. Military custody in the hospital is used mainly for prisoners from Portlaoise Prison who require inpatient hospital or specialist medical attention and for whom a secure environment is needed.

I have said before and I repeat that I want to see an end to military custody. It would, however, be quite irresponsible of me and a danger to the maintenance of the prison system as a whole to end military custody without providing an alternative. The only feasible alternative is the provision of a new high-security civil prison to take the population now accommodated in military custody. I decided that such a person should be provided and I obtained Government approval for so doing.

At this point I should like to refer to the debate in 1977 on the last extension of the Act. 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. Preliminary planning work had started on this unit and it was intended to build it in the Portlaoise Prison complex. For security reasons it had been found impossible to commence the work. The site for the special unit had to be given over to accommodate military personnel stationed in the prison. There was no other suitable location in the civil prison system for this special unit and none of the existing buildings would suit.

I understand that, at the time, the security authorities were opposed to any building operations in the Portlaoise Prison Complex, including the farm, because of the risks to the maintenance of security. Whatever the reasons for not proceeding with the special unit at the time, the position now is that a site for the 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. The new project is more ambitious than what had been intended in my predecessor's time. It will be a self-contained, autonomous prison with ample and humane accommodation for about 120. The population will comprise the sort of person at present in the Curragh plus a number of long-term prisoners in the other prisons. The removal of these difficult prisoners from the other civil prisons will make for better management of the remaining prisoners for the benefit of both staff and prisoners.

Incidentally, when the last extension of the Act was being debated I said that I was not opposing the Bill but I questioned the need for it in view of the existence of what I had been led to believe was a new high security prison in the Curragh. My view was that perhaps this high security prison could be operated under civilian control. In fact, it turned out that this was not a high-security prison at all. I had been refused permission to see it so that there was no way I could assess its status at the time.

The proposed new high security prison on the Portlaoise farm is a complex undertaking. It requires attention to design, layout, fittings and finishes unparalleled in any other building project. It is being build on a site which, of itself, is demanding. It will take some years to complete. I have asked for an extension of military custody for three years. I do not expect the new prison to be ready in that time, but I think the House should have the opportunity to review the position at the end of that period and decide then if military custody needs to continue for a further period.

Work on the site at Portlaoise Prison commenced on 28 April 1980. The first stage of the development includes overall site preparation, development involving drainage, replacement of obsolete prison staff housing fronting the main Dublin/Cork road, and the provision of parking facilities to cope with official vehicles, staff cars and visitors cars and relieve local traffic congestion. Residential accommodation for 60 single staff is also being provided. The expenditure on the project during 1980 will be £600,000 and expenditure in 1981 is estimated at £4 million.

I would like to pay a tribute to the Defence Forces for their co-operation in holding civilian prisoners. It is an unwelcome task for them especially now because of their many other commitments. It involves the diversion of large numbers of scarce personnel. The Curragh Military Detention Barracks has many deficiencies which makes the management of prisoners there a difficult task. I would like to be able to relieve the Defence Forces of the task altogether but, as I have said already, there is no alternative at the present time and it must continue.

The reasons for the introduction of military custody in 1972, and the extensions of the Acts in 1974 and 1977 during the term of the National Coalition, remain valid. I am satisfied that a further extension for three years is required in order to maintain a viable prison system and I, therefore, commend the Bill to the House.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "That" and substitute:—

"Dáil Éireann declines to give a Second Reading to the Prisons Bill, 1980 on the grounds that:

(a) The continuing existence of the Curragh Military Detention Centre, in which civilian prisoners are subject to military control, is unnecessary and inappropriate; and

(b) a form of custody originally designed as a short-term expedient should not be allowed to continue in existence after the factors which brought about its establishment have ceased to operate."

I want to make it clear that we are opposing this Bill not in response to any pressure group, inside or outside this House, but on our own initiative. This is a responsible amendment put down by the Labour Party. I represent my party because I have some knowledge of the Curragh Prison, possibly more than most people, since I have been a member of the visiting committee to that prison for a number of years. It is agreed that the Curragh is not a suitable place for long-term prisoners.

The original Act was introduced in 1972, before I came to the House, to meet an emergency situation. A riot had taken place in Mountjoy during which the prison was wrecked. At that time an undertaking was given by the Minister for Justice of a Fianna Fáil Government that the use of the Curragh for civilian detention would be ended as soon as the necessary repairs had been completed in Mountjoy. That undertaking was given in the House to the late Deputy Thornley, a member of the Labour Party.

The idea of military custody for civilian prisoners is wrong and completely unacceptable to the Irish people. If this kind of prison was operated in Northern Ireland all of us would be shouting against a military State. As I have said, the Act was passed here on the understanding that it would meet an emergency situation in 1972. At that time those who wrecked Mountjoy Prison were people with political beliefs, generally speaking, members of the Provos. At the moment there are only one or two of those in the Curragh claiming to be political.

Since the original Act was passed the situation has changed completely.

Mountjoy Prison, I am sure, has been repaired. The continued existence of the Curragh detention centre has been condemned by the visiting committee, of which I am a member. I will quote the final paragraph of their most recent report under the heading "General":

The military detention barracks at the Curragh 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. The visual impact on seeing this structure must have a traumatic effect on the minds of children who visit their parents.

It is stated clearly in that report and in all the reports. I have seen since this place of detention was established that it is not a fit place for long-term prisoners. It was built before the foundation of the State for short-term prisoners guilty of military misdemeanours, members of the Defence Forces of various establishments.

Here is an important point. The report which I have quoted was signed by all the members of the visiting committee up to the end of 1979. They include: Mr. Andy Mahon, chairman, a member of Fianna Fáil; myself; Mr. P. J. Fitzpatrick whose politics I do not know; Deputy McCreevy, a member of Fianna Fáil; Mr. Simon Hughes, a well known Fianna Fáil man; Mr. William Callaghan, a Fianna Fáil urban district councillor; Mr. James O'Loughlin, a Fianna Fáil county councillor; Mr. Terry Boylan, a Fianna Fáil county councillor; Mr. Terry Gillece, a Fianna Fáil urban district councillor; Mr. John O'Neill, a Fianna Fáil county councillor; Deputy Patrick Power, Minister for Fisheries and Forestry; Mr. Austin Groome, a Fianna Fáil county councillor. They are the people who have said that the Curragh is not a fit place in which to keep prisoners.

Is the Minister serious when he says that 27 to 30 prisoners could not be found a place in our prison system? We were able to accommodate them until the riots in Mountjoy. The Minister has said he is anxious to close the prison at the Curragh. I suggest that the high risk prisoners in Portlaoise are far more dangerous from the point of view of security than those at the Curragh. Some of those in the Curragh may be hardened criminals but I suggest they should be kept in some other place. The entire area available at the Curragh is too small for the accommodation of long-term prisoners. The numbers involved are small by comparison with other prisons. People called long-term prisoners serve six or seven years. It seems to me that prisoners who have been troublesome in other prisons are sent to the Curragh and treated like forgotten people.

That is a pity. If they were part of a larger prison unit there would be more opportunities to train them, to improve their skills. There are people in the Curragh who have had psychiatric complaints but the kind of service necessary to rehabilitate them is not there.

Since the passing of the Prisons Act in 1972 we have built many new prison sections, for instance, the one in Arbour Hill. Why is this not being used? Military personnel will always do whatever they are asked to do and a great tribute is due to them for always doing what they are asked to do by the State. These military men will never grumble or make any bones about it but they did not join the Defence Forces to become prison warders.

Hear, hear.

Military detention in the Curragh has continued now for seven years, or very nearly eight. At the time, it was termed a temporary measure until repairs were carried out to Mountjoy Prison. Eight years is a long time. Repairs have been carried out to Mountjoy and new prisons have been built, one in Arbour Hill. Trained civilians are operating the prison system, not military police. The military police are doing pretty well under the circumstances but the Minister has agreed, in his opening statement that there is a strain on them, working in buildings that are 200 years old and do not lend themselves to the kind of operation for which they are being used now.

I want to make a point about the relationship which always existed around the Curragh between the Army and the civilian population. Down through the years there were areas of recreation in the Curragh which were used by civilians. I am not saying that this has been stopped completely, but I am saying that restrictions which were not there before had to be imposed because of this prison. There are barriers put up and ordinary people who used the facilities in the Curragh and got a drink in the various canteens now find that they must be scrutinised if they go in there. This is bringing about a strained situation between the local population and the Army, which is a very serious matter. That is, of course, of local interest only and not of political interest.

I accept that there must be a high security prison, but Portlaoise is a high security prison. Can these people not be accommodated there? I understand that some political prisoners have been transferred from Portlaoise within the last year or so who, the authorities tell us, they may not be able to protect from other prisoners in Portlaoise. If that is the reason for their transfer to the Curragh, this is very serious.

Long-term prisoners who can expect to serve sentences of around six or seven years must serve them in the conditions prevailing at the Curragh. They deserve better treatment than that from a humane and Christian society. I do not wish to become emotional about this question. The authorities in the Curragh are doing their very best in trying circumstances. They are trained with military discipline, which is fundamentally different from the discipline accepted by civilians. The Minister and everyone else knows that. They are trained to look after prisoners who may be in military detention for a very short period, invariably days. Here, however, they are dealing, over the years with people on very long sentences, having been told that it was a temporary thing. We fear that it will become a permanent feature of our society. The previous Minister told us that when Mountjoy was repaired and fixed up this military detention in the Curragh would end and all sorts of things were to be done. We are the only democratic country in Europe which has military detention for civilian prisoners. When there was internment in the North of Ireland we were very quick to denounce it. If military detention of civilian prisoners was in force in the North of Ireland, I know that the Minister and all of us would say that it was a terrible thing and should not be allowed to continue.

I fail to understand how, with the new accommodation available now we cannot say that these 27 people cannot be transferred to our normal prison system, even if we have to have a special area in that prison system for them. This military detention is becoming a regular feature and something has to be done. There is need for a high security prison and if Mountjoy was wrecked the prisoners had to be put somewhere, so the Curragh was used at that time for a specific purpose. All the prisoners in the period of which the Minister speaks could be classed as political. I am not trying to give them a status by saying that but they were political, or Provo people who wrecked Mountjoy. Practically none of the people now in the Curragh prison are in that category. They are the normal run of criminals who are in jail for long terms. We are being unfair to them. We are preventing their reform by putting them in a place like the Curragh. I feel very strongly about this. I have seen these prisoners, visited them and talked to them. If they are sick, they have to be transferred from the military detention area which is a good distance away from the hospital and the hospital has to be barricaded for certain sections of people who are prisoners and need hospitalisation.

I appeal to the Minister, because we have adequate accommodation, to make spaces available for these people some of whom are unfortunates in society. The system has broken down for some and they have become habitual criminals. Surely a Christian society must treat the long-term prisoners particularly, better than that? I seriously ask the Minister to transfer all these people into the normal prison system within six months, even if we have to make sections of some prison available for them. Eight years is a long time for a temporary measure which was to finish when Mountjoy was repaired.

Is the Minister serious in his statement that he is anxious to do away with that system? If we are to justify our arguments about civil rights in other areas and other countries about which we have been hearing a lot over the last two days, and if we are interested in proving to the world our concern about civil rights in Northern Ireland and other areas remote from here, we should now have the opportunity to do this for our own prisoners, who indeed have committed misdeeds and have been convicted in our courts, but who surely in a Christian society are entitled to their rights. We should show to the world now that we are serious about military detention. In all fairness, if this kind of system were prevailing in Northern Ireland would the Minister think it was just and right, or would his party, or anybody else. not say that that was a military junta? We cannot expect the world to take us seriously if people can say that we have civilian prisoners in military custody on the Curragh and we are running a military state and yet we want to talk to people about civil rights and justice for their prisoners.

I do not want to become emotional and I could easily be carried away and go on and on about this, but that does not serve any purpose. I come in here on behalf of the Labour Party because I know a little more about conditions in the Curragh than most of them do. I did not come in here at the behest of any inside or outside pressure group. We oppose this Bill because we think that is the just and right thing to do. This matter has gone on long enough and each year has given ample opportunity to the authorities to provide proper accommodation within the prison service. At this time we should not have to continue to keep civilians who have no claim to political status, and who do not want to claim it in military custody. I have met some of them and I know that this situation is a strain on our society and on our way of life.

The Bill which has been presented to us is unwelcome and I am sure that for many Deputies more senior than I there is a certain aura ofdéja vu about it. I listened carefully to the Minister when he introduced the measure and I could not find in it any new evidence to indicate that the extension he seeks is warranted on the grounds that he put forward. Obviously, it is a desire of all parties and individuals in this House to facilitate the Minister for Justice and the Government in so far as it is possible to deal with crime in the community, but even if one allows that legislation should be the primary element in an assault on such social symptoms, many of us feel that perhaps that is not the approach. In the Minister's speech all we got were vague and general promises, pious aspirations and hopes, which were even qualified, that at the end of three years this legislation, which was introduced as a temporary and emergency measure, might be allowed to lapse. That is not good enough.

I want to make it clear—it hardly needs clarification but it should be said in case there is any attempt to distort—that my party, and I am sure all parties in the House, will not be slow to assist with any genuine measure designed truly to combat crime and get to the root of the problem. Therefore, a temperate approach, which I have no doubt all parties and speakers on this Bill will adopt, will reflect a concern about what is happening in the community. However, under no circumstances will we be stampeded now or in any measure in the future, near or far, by virtue of any kind of hysteria or any emotional campaign outside this House, into accepting measures which would be repressive fundamentally and which would strike at individual freedoms. Therefore, I commend the Minister on the speech he made on 24 April subsequent to the meeting of the bodies representing the Garda where he struck a defiant note in saying that there should be caution with regard to any demand for measures which would appear to offer instant solutions but which would do nothing more than create problems more serious than we have already.

The reasons advanced in 1972 for the introduction of this Bill were of an administrative nature dealing almost exclusively with the accommodation problem arising out of the riot in Mountjoy. Although the argument was then made by the Opposition that there did not appear to be a need to designate anywhere as a military prison and that the designation of part of the Curragh as a civilian prison would be adequate if the problem was merely one of accommodation, the reality is that the Government persisted in seeking a power which many observers thought was beyond what was essentially necessary and which was introduced into legislation and parliamentary debate in recent times. Military imprisonment for civilian prisoners is still with us and shows no sign of being phased out.

There are a number of disturbing elements about this, some of which were outlined by Deputy Bermingham. Before I go on to them I want to say that the Minister's predecessor, now Senator Cooney, most understandably felt obliged, in the wake of unprecedented difficulties which the high security prison in Portlaoise has experiencing, to make innovative efforts designed to allow us to be rid of the Prisons Act, 1972. These proposals which the previous Minister for Justice intended to introduce could not be introduced, and looking back at the history of that time, the bombings and so on, one could see and understand the difficulty. I pay tribute to the Ministers at that time who courageously confronted a challenge different from the one with which we are confronted now. Although not immediately politically popular they took a very difficult and courageous stand. Sometimes we are too reluctant to say that of people whose very lives are put on the line in the cause of public service.

All Members of the House who spoke on this legislation desired that it should be terminated at the first available opportunity. In recent times, I am not aware of the kind of security tensions, the breakouts of violence or the great difficulties within our prison system which would inhibit the present Minister for Justice from bringing about the necessary construction and improvement works to build the security dimension to the prison system which all agree is necessary and which will allow us to rid ourselves once and for all of this distasteful and fundamentally repugnant principle of military imprisonment for civilian prisoners.

The Government have had ample opportunity to plan. If the Minister was able to show evidence that there was brick upon brick at this stage, and that such a wing or prison was in its latter stages of development, it would be easier to co-operate with him. Unfortunately many of the expressions used in the Minister's speech are identical to what we have heard on at least three previous occasions and show no reason to be inspired with any hope that things will be different in future. What is needed now is a sharp jolt of opposition to the measures introduced by the Government so that they will realise that the pleasing and helpful co-operation so often extended in this regard is no longer available on the basis of the same tired platitudes we have had on previous occasions.

When the Bill was introduced by the Minister for Justice, Deputy Des O'Malley in 1972, no one had any doubt about where he stood in relation to combating crime but it is perfectly clear from what he said that he found nothing but regret in the necessity to introduce that Bill. At column 77 of the Official Report of 23 May, 1972, referring to the main provision of the Bill Deputy O'Malley said:

the main provision of which is to authorise prisoners to be transferred to military custody in certain exceptional circumstances.

The then Minister went on to outline the circumstances, to develop his point further by referring to the inability of Mountjoy to cope with the accommodation difficulty imposed subsequent to the riot, and he clearly expressed his distaste for the measure and indicated that

subsection (8) provides that the Minister for Defence, in making regulations about such places, shall have regard to the desirability of ensuring that the conditions of custody are not less favourable than those applicable in prisons.

To this the Minister's predecessor, now Senator Cooney, on behalf of the Fine Gael party spelt out our attitude which is now as it was then when he said at column 85 of the same report.

The idea of military custody is something that causes apprehension to people living in a democracy. It is something we should keep at arms length so far as possible; it is something we should keep at arms length unless there is a situation of revolution and utter chaos. We are certainly not in that situation at the moment. It is reprehensible on the part of the Government to bring in this piece of legislation with this emotive power without indicating that it is entirely a temporary measure, I expect the Minister to give full and detailed reasons why the powers under the 1877 Act have not been used.

Our party at that time sought through the same speaker to ascerain

an unequovical assurance from the Minister that he is not availing of the emergency created in Mountjoy to introduce a type of backdoor internment.

All of the speakers clearly understood when that Bill was debated, and all of those who sought its introduction clearly implied that the measure was essentially in relation to the refurbishing of Mountjoy. This has long been done but the politicians in this House appear to lack the self-assurance, the courage or the wisdom to be able to divest themselves of powers that are not desirable in a democracy, that are not essentially in the public interest and which if an emergency arose they would undoubtedly get as they did on previous occasions by coming to this House and seeking them.

It is not unreasonable to refer to the possibility that we might not always have benign Ministers. Also, this profoundly offends against the concept of representational politics which is that politicians should not seek to exceed their authority by seeking powers which are not truly theirs. We should, in this debate declare ourselves opposed to the principle of this Bill and unequivocal in our desire to see it repealed at the earliest possible date.

Speaker after speaker in that debate of 1972 from both sides of the House dealt with this matter in a responsible fashion underlying the temporary nature of the Bill. My colleaue Deputy Mark Clinton said at column 99 of that report:

I am sure that every Deputy would like to rest assured that this situation would arise only in crisis circumstances and that it would exist only for the shortest possible time that would be necessary to meet such a situation.

Deputy Cluskey now Leader of the Labour Party said at column 106:

The sole reason we are asked to pass this Bill is lack of accommodation because of the riot in Mountjoy.

Then Deputy Tom O'Higgins, now Chief Justice said at column 118:

We are entitled to demand that a time limit be put on the legislation.

Deputy Dick Barry of my party said at column 140.

We on this side will be very insistent in looking for very firm guarantees from the Minister that if this Bill is passed the time limit will be as short as possible and that the Bill will only remain on the Statute Book for the minimum period necessary to carry out repairs to Mountjoy Prison and no more.

As reported at column 143 Deputy M. O'Leary said there should be a time limit on this Bill. Deputy FitzGerald, now leader of my own party said, as reported at column 159:

We approach this Bill with considerable suspicion ... we have the duty as a vigilant Opposition concerned with individual liberty to ensure that the measures the Government take in pursuance of their duty and in response to our pressures go no further than is necessitated by the situation.

As reported at column 162 he said:

The Bill itself introduced as an emergency measure, drafted hastily and with defects in it ... is a measure which one could justify as anad hoc measure to meet an emergency if it were to be confined to that emergency.

As reported at column 173 Deputy Paudge Brennan said:

... I would like to think that this piece of legislation will be in existence for as short time as possible.

I could go on. I hope I have established clearly and beyond doubt that the full understanding of every Member of this House when that Bill was introduced, with the reluctant but patriotic co-operation of almost all members of all parties—with some individual exceptions—was that it would be a temporary measure, and that its need was created by expediency in relation to accommodation and no more.

In the Curragh military prison, as I understand it, there are approximately 28 inmates. Time was when they were largely what were termed subversives.

Now I understand that is not the case. I further understand that most of them are receiving drugs of some kind or another. They are under what might be called some sort of medical care. I do not know what it is that drives men and women in darkness, isolation and alienation into crime. I do not know what kind of demented, tortured feelings possess them on those occasions, but I do know they are still human beings. They still demand our attention, our respect and compassion. It is our job to respond to their needs, no matter in what odious light we see their crimes.

We must try to help them out of that darkness. It is difficult now because many voices are raised demanding no more of a response than larger cells, bigger keys, longer silences, greater incarcerations and more repressive legislation. I will not be a party to that. I agree with a previous United States Attorney General, Ramsey Clarke, who said in a quotation which sums up my views on this matter that no activity of a people so exposes their humanity, their character, their capacity for charity in its most generous dimension as the treatment they accord persons convicted of crimes.

However, I am angered by the undeniable fact that there is extreme and widespread concern in our community and society at the failure, predominantly of the the Government but of all of us, to deal with crime in our community. If the challenge were to be tackled and dealt with, it would be easier for rational and level-headed debate to pre-occupy us in this context. Unfortunately, the atmosphere being engendered by the inability of the Minister and the Government to deal with crime can facilitate a slipshod and lazy approach to the details of the Bill, and to putting on to the Statute Book and retaining thereon legislation which is an anathema to a freedom loving people and to democrats. Therefore, it is very relevant that we should underline the importance of the Government getting down to the job of tackling crime in our community.

We are dealing only with the military detention centre in the Curragh on this Bill. It is a very small, brief Bill dealing with one subject.

I want to say that the mood being engendered in the country makes it easier for legislation of this sort to be enacted.

The Chair suggests that we cannot go over the whole field of crime on this Bill.

I do not intend to. It is valid to say that, in an atmosphere and in a social, political and economic environment where the economic and social roots of crime are not being dealt with, and where the clear scandal that has been caused to so many people and the fear in which they live, some perhaps groundless, some of it very real, are not being dealt with, where there is open conflict between the Minister and his police force——

The Deputy will have to deal with the Bill before the House. These matters are being dealt with on another motion already before the House.

——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——

There is only one amendment at this stage.

I am indicating the attitude of the party on Committee Stage and what the bottom line will be. If such a proposal is acceptable there is room for some degree of co-operation no matter how reluctant some of us might be to that degree. If it is not acceptable there will be no support for the Bill because ample opportunity has been given to go beyond what is presently outlined in the Bill as an answer to this difficulty.

Lest it be misconstructed—I have endeavoured to deal as responsibly as I can with these issues—I want to assure the Minister that every possible assistance and help in so far as it is of use in ensuring that the difficulties he is confronted with on a number of fronts, particularly in relation to crime, will be given to him. We have no wish to cause any more difficulties than the Minister has at present. We are very appreciative of the commendable independence of spirit contained in his speech on April 24 when he referred to the need for a rational approach to the difficulties which confront us on the crime front. It is not any sense of being opposition for opposition sake that we put forward the sentiments we did today but purely to endeavour to bring an end to a measure which was brought in for one purpose, which purpose like the chameleon has changed since then in colour and hue and which runs the risk of embedding into legislation a measure which is not just unnecessary in logistic terms and even in security terms, by virtue of our ability to designate anywhere a high security civilian prison, but which is also a profound deprivation of certain basic rights and which is possibly unconstitutional.

I support the Opposition point of view on this Bill. I completely reject the principle in the Bill—the use of military personnel within the civil prison system. One of the most striking things about the Minister's speech is the difference in tone between his attitude now and that of Deputy O'Malley who nobody could say was a particularly sentimental or over-lenient individual. He is accepted by us all as being quite a tough individual. There is no doubt that when he moved the Bill in 1972 one got a sense in his general approach that it was a truly shocking proposal, that he regretted having to make it and that he made it only in the context of what I suppose for a Minister must be a very worrying experience—the fact that one of the big jails had been seriously damaged as a result of a riot.

There was a general sense of emergency and the Minister was responding to it with this measure for the Curragh prison military detention centre but with the greatest reluctance. For that reason he gave us an assurance that it would be a temporary provision. I do not get that sense of reluctance from the present Minister. The impression one gets is that there is no sense of urgency whatever in his approach to getting rid of the military detention centre in the Curragh. There is a great element of complacency about it. In some ways it is inexplicable. One of the unfortunate things about successive Governments, and not just this Minister, is that they have shown such a reluctance to allow public representatives to visit prisons and find out for themselves. I suspect most of us could be accepted as being reasonably responsible people and could be trusted to go and look at our jails. Most people know I have been particularly interested in prisons for many years. We would be in a better position to assess things for ourselves.

From those I have spoken to in Portlaoise, jail conditions appear to have become at least bearable. Everybody must know that there is no consolation or possible satisfaction anybody can get in prison. After the shock of isolation from society and the rest of the community, as far as I would be concerned nothing they would do to me after that would matter very much. Accepting the horror I would consider prison to be here and in other countries—I am excluding Scandinavian countries because they have an enlightened approach to penal systems and penology generally— segregation and isolation from society is to me the supreme penalty.

One gets the impression that the Minister has made changes of some value which seem to have reduced the measure of tension which appeared to exist in Portlaoise Prison in the mid-seventies. He must get credit for that and for a certain number of—is it rhetoric again or is he serious about it? —enlightened statements in regard to his aspirations for the prison system. We are still left with this very serious defect in the civil prison system, the intrusion of the military detention centre in the Curragh, the method by which it is run under military discipline and the imprisonment there of a relatively small number of people, considering the size of the prison population. Size does not matter; a single human being has as much right to our concern as 20, 30, 50 or 100 people. We have no right to mistreat anybody.

We all have a special responsibility to be concerned about people like prisoners, people for whom there is not much tolerance in society. I take the socialist attitude to prisoners or so-called criminals. The social origins of criminality are now generally accepted. To me, the idea of punishing somebody for having been born in Summerhill in overcrowded conditions and having a difficult upbringing is irrational and indefensible.

In his speech the Minister said:

The restoration of peace and order was possible only because the Curragh was available for the ring leaders. 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. This, of course, suits neither the troublemakers among those transferred nor their active sympathisers outside who are, apparently, committed to undermining the prison system. They have been carrying on a campaign over the past few months to have military custody abandoned. I would urge those who support the campaign to be wary of the motives of those who are behind it.

That kind of innuendo can be accepted as being directed to any of us who objects to the principle of military control of a civil prison. Is Deputy Keating, who expressed on behalf of his party his repugnance at the idea, attempting to undermine the prison system? Anybody who listened to his speech must know that is not true. Deputy Bermingham, who, on behalf of his party rejected the idea of military custody for civilian prisoners, cannot be regarded as a man who wishes to undermine the prison system. Yet Deputy Bermingham made the sacrifice—as a politician it was important for him to be on the visiting committee—and chose to resign as a very positive protest against his acceptance of the idea of having any part in the maintenance of what he felt were indefensible conditions within a prison to which he was one of the prison visitors.

The whole question of one's right to know, and then to protest, is of enormous importance because the more one sees, the more sympathy one tends to have, say, for the German people, because one of the greatest crimes we attach to them is the fact that they claim they did not know what was going on behind the walls in their dreadful prisons during Hitler's time. I am not comparing the Curragh with Auschwitz, Buchenwald or any of those places. The Minister and his predecessors are simply carrying out our orders. It was accepted at Nuremburg that we cannot simply say that because our officers did certain things in our names, and we did not know they were doing them, we are innocent. We are not innocent. We are all party to these things.

Deputy Bermingham resigned from the visiting committee and was replaced by somebody who supports the Fianna Fáil Party. Apparently there are a number of people on the visiting committee who support Fianna Fáil, but the very reassuring feature of this whole debate has been the consistency with which the rank and file of all parties, Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, have protested. The protest has been right across the political spectrum. We all want to disown this subject and to be disassociated from it. Speaking on behalf of the people who elected us, we have said time and time again that we do not want to have military control in our prison system. The Minister has chosen to ignore these appeals to discontinue the use of this place as a prison.

Let us examine the bona fides of everybody who has spoken about this. They are mostly establishment people, who are unquestioned in their attitude to society, who are accepted by all the social mores and conventions. Therefore, the whole implication in page 2 of the Minister's speech is unworthy of him. There is the Prisoners' Rights Organisation led by a man called Joe Costello. I have the greatest admiration for somebody who has never been imprisoned but who can take up this attitude of concern about injustices to people who have not got anybody else to plead their cases. I do not see why such people should be singled out, people who help us by doing a lot of work we could not do without considerable assistance. Their conclusions are also the conclusions of the Fine Gael and Labour Parties and, as far as I can gather, the Fianna Fáil Party. Why should they be accused of being committed to undermining the prison system?

The Department of Justice are notorious for the existence of a chronic paranoia about prisoners. As long as I have known them they have assumed that people have been trying to pull down the walls and let free the people inside and destroy the whole prison system. They have been exceptionally conservative and unimaginative, and when they have a compliant Minister their approach to the whole prison population is undesirably punitive rather than rehabilitative.

I want to make it quite clear that I do not attach any responsibility whatsoever for the condition of our jails to any other section or Department but the political head of the Department. I have always accepted that we, the elected representatives, are responsible, that it is we who earn credit or blame. Nobody else is responsible for conditions in our jails. One has only to look at our jails to know that they are not ordered or run as prisons are in Scandinavian countries, for instance, or in parts of the US.

One then must wonder if the complaints being made are justified. The Minister's speech is peculiarly equivocal on this question of military custody. In page 3 he repeats that he wants to see an end to military custody for civilians but he said that he must provide an alternative. Then one comes to what is to me the highly embarrassing question of providing a jail for 30 people. It has taken ten years and I do not know if it has been started. I had the privilege of being head of a Department which built accommodation for more than 8,000 hospital beds in eight years. Many other Departments like Local Government—now Environment—Agriculture, Education, must ridicule the suggestion that any Minister or succession of Ministers faced with responsibility for building prison accommodation for 30 people, if he was serious about it or if the will was there, would take ten years to do it. How in heaven's name could that be allowed to happen? It is difficult to believe there could be that level of incompetence in any Department.

There are an extraordinary number of curious anomalies here. One is that in two years Deputy Cooney built a 400-cell jail. Surely even the Minister's Department must ridicule the suggestion that they could not have done it if they had wanted to do it. Between 1974 and 1976, a jail was built at the Curragh which contained 400 cells. Is there a jail of 400 cells?

I am afraid there is not.

Can I take it that no jail was built, with work commencing in the Curragh Camp adjacent to the military detention camp on a new 400-cell high security prison?

No, that is completely incorrect.

It was to be completed in 1976 at a cost of £350,000. I shall pursue that matter later on. I shall go back to the thirties.

There has been a failure to build such a prison and it is now intended to commence it. Why is it that this jail, according to Deputy O'Malley, could be built in two years—which is the reason, presumably, why he asked for a two year Bill at the time—and the Minister now says that this new jail will take rather more than three years to build? It seems an extraordinary length of time, particularly in these days of modern industrial practices, to build what appears to be a small building.

Again when Deputy O'Malley, Minister at the time, was faced with this surplus of prisoners as a result of the burning of Mountjoy Prison, he had also the problem of limited staff. These are some of the reasons why the present Minister's position is nothing like the same as the position of the Minister when this Bill was first introduced in 1972, or even subsequently when Deputy Cooney, the then Minister, was faced with a similar position at a very much more turbulent time from the point of view of activity in this part of the country. The present position, I understand, is that there are more prison officers than there are prisoners. In addition to the restoration of Mountjoy Prison, Arbour Hill was opened in 1974 and Glengarriff Parade was opened in 1976. The number of prison officers was increased to 1,100 and 400 more will be recruited by the end of 1980, in excess of the number of prisoners. The accommodation is there, if the Minister chose to use it. Apparently Portlaoise could take some more prisoners than at present. All that is required is a change of attitude on the part of the Minister towards the need for soldiers to look after prisoners rather than the people who are trained to do so.

The number of people at present in the Curragh Prison is about 30, of whom three are political prisoners. This prison was designed to be a tough prison, staffed by soldiers at a time when the people going there were mostly people who claimed to be members of an army. These have all been assimilated, or else liberated, but the principle of manning our civil jails with members of the Defence Forces appears to be accepted by the Minister. The reason for this, presumably, is that the discipline introduced by the Army is such as to contain the unfortunate people who are kept in prison.

The Minister will correct me if I am wrong but is it a fact that the Curragh military detention camp is run in accordance with a very much more rigid attitude to prisoners? We must remember, as anyone who reads an advertisement for a prison officer and for an army soldier will realise, that there is a great difference between their training and outlook. The soldier knows well that when he joins an army he will be given a gun, he will be trained how to control riots, to deal with people who are shooting at him and shoot back at them. The whole approach of the individual who goes into an army is quite different from that of a man who goes into the prison service, particularly these days when conditions are improving. It is very hard to understand the Minister's rationalisation for putting a soldier in charge of a prison, when he makes it quite clear in his specification for prison officers that he requires a person of certain qualities and certain attitudes, subject to certain training, of a certain background and attitude to life. A man chooses to go into the prison service rather than go into the Army or the Garda force or any other trained profession, so why pick on the Army? That is how the Minister wants to treat these unfortunate people who find that jail is a dreadful place and show that they think it is a dreadful place and are unable to accommodate themselves in the appalling existence of being locked away in isolation for months, and sometimes years on end, with an expectation of spending years more there. I do not know how anybody can contemplate that dilemma for human beings and not give sympathy to them, no matter what they do. I am not condoning what they do, but understanding why they do it. Instead of attempting to adapt the prison to meet the needs of these people, we decide that we will use brute force. That is really what it amounts to, is it not? Army discipline—it does not matter which army—is tough, hard, uncompromising, authoritarian, no complaints, no excuses, punishment. Is that not the general attitude of mind of the soldier to his job? It is rather brutal.

I do not wish to be offensive to army people, but essentially, especially if they have to go to war, as we have seen in recent weeks, it becomes a particularly horrid experience. It is a long way from the principle, which the Minister himself has articulated from time to time, of the prison officer whose overriding job is very difficult indeed, that of trying to make fellow human beings, for whom probably he has a lot of sympathy, come to terms with the intolerable conditions of isolation and exclusion from society and the general sense of guilt which must be there always. At the same time the officer himself probably has all sorts of domestic, personal and financial worries. How can a prison officer, no matter how well-meaning, console that kind of person and how often must he bear the brunt of the prisoner's sense of frustration in what is called discipline? The prison officer goes into the prison knowing that he will face this kind of unpleasant dilemma, or at least he is told so and attempts have been made to make him deal with it. Having worked quite a while in mental hospitals—which are not as unpleasant as prisons but which have some of the problems with which one is faced there—I have great sympathy for the prison officer.

However, the soldier is not recruited and trained for this and so he becomes impatient. He himself is told, "Turn to the right, turn to the left, march quick, march slow", and he does what he is told:

Their's not to reason why, Their's but to do or die:

How can such people be accepted by us as suitable for running a prison no matter who is in it and how intractable the people there seem to be? So, as frequently happens in human relations, the simple answer is that the prison officer has to do his best to meet the frustration of people in as tolerant a way as he can and try to explain to the individual that this is unfortunate, he has got to go through it and as far as he is concerned they will try to work it through together. The soldier has no such training or inclination. The result is that imprisonment in a military camp such as the Curragh is qualitatively completely different from imprisonment in Mountjoy and other prisons, and it is indefensible. The Minister has made no defence whatever beyond the one that it solves the problem of the difficult prisoner.

Of course, there is a quotation. One of my jobs once upon a time was looking after psychopaths, people who are very disturbed in what is miscalled a criminal way. I remember reading a paper once which opened with talking about how to look after them and so on. It stated: "The only way to deal with the psychopath is to put him in a state of grace and shoot him". Obviously, that is a doctrine of despair and sardonic, grim humour, but in some ways the Minister is moving to that kind of idea. He is saying "I am dealing with a very difficult problem. I am fed up trying. An ordinary prison is not suitably equipped and they find it very troublesome; therefore I will solve the problem for them. I will put them into this place and I will put them under soldiers and I will break them. They will be broken by brute force". Therefore, complaints are discouraged. Perhaps somebody gets a dreadful letter from home and something is going wrong and there is no question that the soldier is going to sit down and talk it over with the prisoner. Visits are refused for trivial reasons. Quite frequently, apparently, visitors are told that they cannot visit for no clear reason. Letters in and out can be withheld and I have been given to understand that prisoners are pulled from their beds at midnight for strip searches. The prisoners must stand to attention outside their cell doors when the MP blows a whistle or else loose three days remission. Perhaps the Minister will deal with these charges.

If we were allowed to visit the prisons we would not be so blind about these things in so far as we do not know them from our own experience. "Prisoners must stand to attention and salute the governor when he appears." Surely this cannot be true. Nobody would want an unfortunate civilian to salute him. It seems an extraordinary reflection on the person who would look for this kind of compulsory salutation. There is little or no serious work for the prisoners. There is shovelling turf and trivial jobs of one kind or another. The result is that the prisoners feel that they are living in the overcrowded, repressive conditions of a prisoner of war camp or even worse than that. As we know from the H-Block protests, the general attitude towards prisoners of war is that their conditions are reasonably acceptable so long as they are not treated in a punitive way.

On Wednesday 5 March 1980 two prisoners were punished by Commandant Mullowney, one for allegedly cutting the green cloth top of a pool table and the other for concealing the act. Each received 14 days loss of remission, two months loss of visits and letters in and out, two months loss of all privileges and use of radio, recreation, tobacco and sweets and two months solitary confinement. Is that true? They got two months solitary confinement for tearing a billiard cloth. I find it hard to believe that that is true and that such is carried out in my name in one of our jails.

Surely this kind of behaviour towards people in custody is unnecessarily provocative. As the lay members of the visiting committee said, the confined quarters in which these people are cooped up together in itself promotes an increase in tension. These people said this spontaneously from their own observations. These people are not members of the Prisoners Rights Organisation but are members of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

In relation to the crucial question of medical care, I would like to read into the record part of the 1980 visiting committee report:

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.

This appears to relate to people who do not fit into the ordinary prisoners system.

The other rather harrowing comment by this visiting committee is:

The visual impact on seeing this structure must have traumatic effect on the minds of children when visits to parents are made.

How could anybody be unmoved by that thought, whatever about the so-called criminals or anybody else involved? The suffering of children is unnecessary and something we could avoid.

Visual and audible methods could be used satisfactorily for interviews between married couples, instead of the presence of an MP.

Could anything be more grotesque than to allow that to go on in relation to any human being or animal? How little things change. I remember long ago my friend Noel Harty made this claim about the man in Portlaoise—"Would you keep a dog like this". The man died on hunger strike.

These people get help and that brings me to my profession's role in running a military jail. In 1978, 50 per cent of the people in the prison got drugs regularly and 33 per cent have regular visits to a psychiatrist. It is a small confined prison where these poor men have not even the consolation of being political prisoners, who at least have the sense of camaraderie, and companionship which belongs to political prisoners in any country. They are really rather desolate people.

When laymen, politicians of all parties, people of my profession who are so frequently decried as being self interested and only concerned for their own promotion, occasionally visit these places and come out with flat condemnation of the conditions under which people are imprisoned, what is the position of the medical officer who goes into a place like that? The medical officer must see what these lay men see. At what stage should a doctor join his civilian colleagues in pointing out what appears to be an observation that should come more appropriately from a psychiatrist or doctor? All credit to the lay man for making the comment, but how long should a doctor go on handing out soporifics to individuals who in the opinion of successive generations of visiting committees of all parties are improperly incarcerated in military custody? How long should a medical officer feel that he can properly continue to play a role in stupefying through medication those unfortunate people so unjustly detained in these intolerable conditions? Surely it is a strange thing that they have not gone to their association and that their association have not gone to the Minister and made their protest. Only today, in relation to Foreign Affairs questions were put where we were critical of other countries for what they did in regard to something like that. We are so critical of what we are told goes on in the Soviet jails, the stupefaction of human beings with thymoleptic drugs, tranquilisers of one kind or another. The long term effects of these is to distort the personality of the individual.

Are these drugs in use in the Curragh?

I have no doubt they would be used. If one is faced with a position where somebody is hyperactive and under severe tension, the simplest drugs to give them are these drugs like largactil and tryptozol. These are mood changing drugs. The long term effect is as people say, these people who have had this kind of care in Soviet hospitals. They tend to become as zombies eventually, and hardly know where they are or whether they are asleep or awake. Certainly they are stultified. That is the only way they can tolerate the appalling conditions of this kind of incarceration. There are prisoners next door to them in Portlaoise who are as intellectually bright, acute and active-minded as they were the day they went in. Possibly they do not ever take any of these kinds of drugs, or need them. They can come to terms with the conditions under which they are there, thanks to the Minister, and thanks to the prison officers and the medical care they get for one reason or another.

This is not true in the Curragh because of the close confinement of the conditions in which they are there, in a jail completely unsuitable for the purpose for which it is being used, staffed by people who are not trained and are completely unsuitable for the job they are doing. The inevitable result is their retention in conditions of crude, brutal, oppressive discipline, or else the total alteration of their personalities. It is an obscene impertinence for any human being to take other human beings and, through medication, alter them and adapt them to suit the environment which you created and to which you entrusted them. It is an obscene impertinence for us to do that to them. That, I charge, is what is being done in the Curragh at present.

When we see the mote in the other people's eyes it is time for us to take cognisance of what is happening in our society. I see no possibility of there being proper facilities for serious psycho-therapeutic care for these people in the form of group therapy discussions, personal interviews, psycho-analysis, or any of these things. A psychiatrist cannot pretend he is giving the care he would give to that person in his care in a psychiatric hospital. For that reason it seems to me like somebody with a broken leg being given a quarter of morphine, and another person having nothing done about his broken leg.

Very reluctantly I say I believe that continuing to behave in that way amounts to medical malpractice. It is about time my medical colleagues joined with the visiting committee and told the Minister that this jail is unsuited for civil prisoners, or for any kind of prisoners, and asked him to do what we all know he could quite easily do, that is, build a suitable prison quite quickly or, alternatively, under the 1877 Act designate some other place or part of a place or institution as a suitable prison and man it with suitable trained prison officers.

Deputy Keating dealt with the contempt for the Constitution. I have been a critic of the Constitution a number of times but, the more I see it in action, the more I feel it has some fine features and that, if we did not have them, we would have some very unpleasant laws on our Statute Book and be left to the tender mercies of Ministers like Deputy Collins. I hope some organisation on behalf of these people will take constitutional action in order to get a decision as to whether it is permissible for a Minister to unsurp the functions of the Judiciary by relocating prisoners from the civil prison system into military custody. From the behaviour of our authorities in these jails, it would appear that we set out deliberately to torment these unfortunate people. So much could be done for them; life for them is so forlorn and so hopeless and very little is done to attempt to ameliorate their conditions. Deputy Bermingham pointed out the difficulties we face when we complain about the treatment of Mr. Lambert, or about H Block or Armagh jail. Others can point over our shoulders and say: "Put your own house in order and then you have a right to complain."

There is one other consideration in relation to this attitude to people who found their way into this place in the first instance—the fact that they did so because they were subversives. My impression is that we are moving into a period of considerable political turmoil, for obvious reasons: the monopoly capitalism system under which we operate and the impossibility of dealing with the social and economic problems facing our society. For these reasons there will be increasing unrest, not the kind Deputy Keating referred to, what are called criminality and vandalism, but there will be very much more action in the streets, protests by trade unionists, strikes, official and unofficial, lock-outs and legislation to suppress them. The fact that this kind of legislation is on the Statute Book is rather sinister because the Minister is so indefinite about it. He said he thought he would not have the jail finished in three years even though he is asking for three years in the Bill. As far as the Minister is concerned, he can see it going on, and on, and on.

We are all aware that the Offences Against the State Act does not apply only to what we call subversives, the Provos and the other forms of Sinn Féin organisations. As a High Court judge recently made clear, it also applies to ordinary civilians and it has been applied on a couple of occasions to trade unionists. Taking this legislation, together with the Special Criminal Court, it is particularly offensive, repugnant, repelling and dangerous from the point of view of ordinary people. The right to military detention and to extend that military detention in respect of civil prisons and the right to deal with greatly increased prison population composed of trade unionists or protesting workers, as was tried before here, is contained in this Bill.

A 30-cell prison is such a trivial thing that it is hard to understand how it should take so many years to build. It is an incredible assertion for a Minister of State to make in respect of his Department that he was unable to do this work because he could not get the money or whatever. Is there an element of thimble-rigging? Is this legislation designed to deal with troubles that are expected, industrial troubles? Linked to the Offences Against the State Act, and the Special Criminal Court the Prisons Bill would be a very tidy end result for dealing with what Senator Cooney, as Minister —Deputy Collins held the same view—described as subversives, other than the Provisional IRA and the other forms of IRA, IRSP and so on. Senator Cooney, when Minister, equated Marxists to subversives. Do we see in this Bill part of a process of a government rather frightened of the future, as many western European Governments are because of increasing unemployment, uncontrollable inflation, falling living standards, massive assaults on living standards by successive Governments and consequent industrial unrest and public dissatisfaction? Is it a much more sinister proposal thanprima facie it gives the impression?

I find it difficult to believe that any Department has to come to the House stating that it was not possible to build such a prison for what I believe to be specious reasons, the fact that it was not possible to get a site. Obviously, it is possible to get sites. The entire of the centre of Ireland is available for sites. The most absurd feature of it all is that we have been told that it is not possible to get ordinary prison personnel in a designated building made secure—as Loughan House was in its way—for the detention of such prisoners. There are plenty of high security prisons, unfortunately, all over Great Britain and the United States and I have no doubt that it would be possible to learn the techniques of high security prisons quickly to meet the needs of what I have no doubt are a difficult handful of people whom one necessarily finds in jail and who simply cannot come to terms with the appalling system of being in prison and all its humiliations. There is no justification for the argument that it is not possible to have a high security institution staffed by trained personnel. It must be possible to get a building for this purpose with people recruited for that purpose other than Army personnel.

As other speakers have stated, no other western European country has a jail of this type run in this way. That is a shocking admission for a country which protested when we were going into Europe that we would spread the gospel of our liberal attitudes to society, of our social attitudes and high moral values. It is often said that we have no sense of humour, and I am prepared to believe it, that we can take ourselves and what we say seriously.

Fundamentally, the reason for the Bill is one of accommodation. I realise that the immediate accommodation problem which led to the original Act being passed in 1972 has been relieved and that now the facilities in the Curragh are being used for a different category of prisoner than was originally sent there when the legislation was first passed. The accommodation, rather than being used to provide additional accommodation of an undifferentiated character, is now being used for a specific type of prisoner who cannot be kept in custody in proximity to other prisoners because of the danger to himself by the activities of other prisoners or the danger to the security of the prison by his activities among his colleagues. Basically, it is still a problem of accommodation. The facilities we have are not sufficiently adapted to meet the needs in question.

In that context one can look at this Bill only against the background of the overall prison and courts policy which has led to the type and size of prison population now obtaining here. I believe there are many people now in prison in this country who should not be in prison at all. The reason they are there is that the only instrument available to a judge when dealing with a particular prisoner at present is the imposition of a fine—which in the case of a serious crime or of a person who has not the means of paying the fine is inappropriate—or of a prison sentence. This lack of alternative instruments available to judges is the result of a failure by the Legislature to provide alternatives.

I strongly believe that a judge should be afforded the opportunity, in deciding a particular case, for instance that a criminal, proven to be such, rather than go to jail be asked to work in the community and have a quarter or a half of whatever salary he earns devoted to making restitution to the victim of the crime. By having this direct link between the person who committed the crime and the victim we would bring home much more fully to people who commit crimes, often of a casual nature under a fleeting emotion, the consequences in human terms of their act.

For example, a man who, under the influence of drink, beats up somebody in a fight will be much less likely to repeat it, much more likely to appreciate the gravity of what he has done if he remains in the community and has to do something to repair the damage done to the person he injured than if he is put into a prison and made associate with people who have committed far more serious crimes than he. Indeed we all realise that our values are shaped very much by our peers. If a person is put into a prison and his peers become other people who have committed criminal offences, possibly more serious than his, he will tend gradually to adopt the values which they have espoused in their longer prison careers and progressively will become a more hardened criminal than he was when first committed. The aim of judges in dealing with people who have been convicted of crime should be as far as possible to find means of treating them in the community, by getting them to do productive work yielding a revenue which can be used to compensate the victims of their crime.

We must also investigate the money that the present system is costing us. In the last ten years the amount of money spent on prisons has increased by almost three times the amount being spent on the Garda Siochána, in law enforcement and crime prevention. A system which is spending more and more money, which is absorbing more and more money which should be used on the prevention of crime clearly is one which should be examined and reformed. The basic problem is that our judges do not have non-custodial treatment for offenders. It should be quite a simple matter to enact legislation increasing the range of alternative treatments available to judges in deciding on the disposal of a person convicted of a given offence. I believe quite strongly that the overall prison population could be reduced by up to 30 per cent if such alternatives were adopted. If that were to happen there would be no need to use the Curragh and military means as a way of coping with the problem confronting the Minister. The solution to this problem must be a two-pronged one, not one solely of simply providing more and better prisons but much more, and more importantly, one of providing more and better alternatives to prisons to deal with the problems of offenders while still protecting the community.

I am aware that the Minister's predecessor, Senator Cooney, commenced research work when he was in office on alternative sanctions for criminals which could be made available to the Judiciary. I should like the Minister to report on how far that work has progressed. It is a very bad situation in which the amount of money being spent on prisons has increased three times as much as that being spent on the Garda Siochána in the last ten years. That should not happen and we should endeavour to find other means of dealing with the problem.

I should like to ask the Minister what exactly are the financial arrangements between the Departments of Defence and Justice in respect of the arrangements here? Who is responsible for paying the costs? What is the basis for any reimbursements that have to be made to the Department of Defence by the Department of Justice for the facilities being provided by the Department of Defence? Does this reimbursement cover merely the personnel costs or does it include also an element of rental for an area in use? Does it cover capital and maintenance costs of the prison? I should like the Minister to let us know the overall cost to the Department of Justice of this facility since it was instituted. I should like the Minister also to give some information as to the relative cost of maintaining prisoners in this facility as against the cost of maintaining them in others within the purview of the Department of Justice. This information should be available to us if we are to make a mature decision on this issue.

I should like to have some information also on the extent to which the Department of Justice, and the Prisons Division within that Department, involve themselves in the day-to-day running of the facility. Do they have the right to inspect it? Do they inspect it frequently? What rights of access do they have to the facility, or is the matter solely within the competence of the Department of Defence? Where there is a decision to be made about policy in respect of a particular prisoner within the facility—not involving his transfer to some other location—by whom is that decision made? Who has the final word? It would seem to me that where there are two Departments involved, if they are in an equal position and have different views, there is the possibility of deadlock. I should like to know how a decision is finally arrived at, which Department take the final decision as to what is to be done with a particular prisoner.

The Minister should make available to us also information on the use of drugs in this facility. I realise that, in any form of psychiatric treatment, drugs have a part to play. If there are prisoners with psychiatric problems, just as there are individuals in the community with psychiatric problems, in some cases the prescription of drugs is a part of an answer, not an answer in itself, to the solution of their problem. In the case of people who are in custody there is a special duty on all of us to ensure that decisions are taken with due care. We must all realise that, in the long run, drugs do not solve a problem as far as people are concerned. They may restrict symptoms and help people on the road to a solution, but the final solution of a psychiatric problem is one more in the realm of psychology and motivation than any in the realm of behavioural change brought about by means of drugs.

I believe that in the entire area of medicine there is far too much reliance on drugs as a means of coping with problems.

Many of the problems, both of physical and mental illness, arising from the psychological condition of the individual could be treated more readily by somebody having the time to talk to that person and to try to understand his problem. Unfortunately, very often those concerned do not have such time and the result is that a prisoner is given drugs to keep him quite. That would not be an appropriate method of dealing with people in custody and that is why the Minister should ensure that every means possible is adopted to resolve the problem of the difficult prisoner without having recourse to drugs. In any case, drugs should not be used for dealing with people either in or out of custody without careful consideration being given to the prescribing of such drugs, but this careful consideration applies particularly in respect of people in custody.

I wish to thank all those Deputies who have contributed to the debate and to let them know that I have been pleased with the tone of the debate. Their views will be on the record for anybody to read. I have never said anything other than that I would like to see the prison at the Curragh closed. Others have expressed the same sentiment and I hope that they were sincere in saying that. However, for the first time, something is being done about the situation.

It is not necessary for me to go into the background of the situation at the Curragh. The detention centre there was set up following the riots in Mountjoy Prison when that institution was wrecked. It has not yet been restored to what it should be. Indeed, a lot more of the taxpayers' money must be spent in restoring it to the type of prison it should be. A good deal of restoration work has been carried out to date, but the institution is much overcrowded. Another aspect of the situation is the structural weakness of the building.

When the Bill to provide for the setting up of the detention centre at the Curragh was introduced in 1972, the provision was for a two-year period. This was based on the belief, in good faith, that Mountjoy would be repaired and restored to what it had been within that time. However, in 1974 my predecessor, Senator Cooney, found it necessary to come here and to tell the House that it was only after thorough examination of the damage that had been caused to the building that there was a full realisation of the extent of the damage. When restructuring work commenced the building was found to be in a much worse condition than was thought initially. Consequently the then Minister sought an extension of the legislation for a further three years and the House agreed in an effort to help him in an extremely serious situation so far as the prison population were concerned. At that time there was fresh thinking regarding the safe custody of subversive prisoners and Portlaoise Prison in which up to then long-term, or convict prisoners as they might be called, were detained was taken out of the ordinary prison system—a luxury that could not be afforded then but which was necessary in the interest of the security of the Statevis-à-vis the very real threat that existed at the time. In that way long-term prisoners were denied the type of accommodation which up to then had been considered necessary for them. These prisoners were removed to Mountjoy, an institution which was not suitable for such prisoners and which will probably never be suitable for them, but there was no place else in which to put them.

Deputy Bermingham queried, and rightly so, the position regarding Arbour Hill. That prison has been extended and refurbished, but it still would not be suitable as a place of detention for the most disruptive type of prisoner. This is the advice that has been given to me by the prison administration. Arbour Hill is full to capacity. But even if this were not the case it would not be suitable for the type of prisoners to which I have referred because they might find their way out easily.

When the Minister for Justice came into the House in 1977 there was a protracted debate, such as that which we had this afternoon from Deputy Keating——

Not all that protracted.

Both Deputies Keating and Bermingham made a good case. It was the type of case that I should like to make and which could very easily be made. But whatever plans the then Minister had between 1974 and 1977 to build a prison that would serve as an alternative to the institution at the Curragh, those plans never got under way. I do not know the full story of what happened within the Government at the time but the outcome was that moneys were not made available to the Minister for the building of that alternative detention centre. He was starved of money by the Government of which he was a member, and to that extent I was sorry for him. If he had been allowed to make a start then the Curragh military prison would not be required now. Deputies will find that during the course of my contribution to the debate which took place in April or May 1977 on this subject I made a similar comment. I would not wish that in four years' time—though I shall hardly be Minister for Justice then——

Perhaps the Minister will be Taoiseach by then.

I am quite sure that whoever is Minister for Justice in four years' time will not want to come in here and ask for something that he knows is wrong because it is an unsuitable place and the people there are not being accommodated as they should be. There should be no doubt in the mind of any Member of this House or of the Seanad but that something definite and concrete is being done now and Deputies will see, from the insert in my speech, that work has already started on the site. I had a difficult task in securing moneys for this new prison which we are building down in Portlaoise but let me assure the House that if I do nothing else in the area of prisons—and I hope to do a lot of other things—I will see to it that the division of the Department of Justice dealing with prison construction will continue their work. I compliment them on the work they have been doing and let me assure Deputy Keating that they are not a part of a tired administration.

Did I say tyrant?

The Deputy did. If the plans put forward had been financed by the Government of the day—and I am not scoring any political points because this is above and beyond that—and if the people involved knew what they could do next week or the week after then they would have been as happy as any of us here because they have greater problems with the whole area of prison administration than any of us because they have to take on and deal with the everyday problems which have to be met.

I do not think I accused anybody of being a tyrant.

When the Deputy was talking about a tired administration I presumed he was not talking about me.

I thought the Minister said I used the word "tyrant". I will allow that I spoke about a tired administration.

Everything possible will be done to get this new prison built, block upon block, with no obstacle coming in the way. I have had meetings with my own people on a regular basis in relation to this. I have had meetings and discussions with the people in the Office of Public Works and I have been pushing them as hard as anybody can push because unless we can say that we are doing something solid and definite about this then we deserve to be taken to task. In fairness to the Government there were many calls on them in recent months from different Ministries and every Department's problems are, to them, the most important problems. But the Government recognised the case which I put and they agreed eventually to give me moneys to get started. If my predecessor had been as lucky then as I have been now the greater part of this problem would no longer be with us. I will hold regular monthly meetings with those involved with this prison to satisfy myself that nothing is in any way slowing down the job we all want them to do.

I am not going to talk about Plunkett Barracks. We have had lots of comment on it, some of it ill-informed. Deputy Browne was, through no fault of his own, confused about Plunkett Barracks. I, too, was confused about it when I was on that side of the House because the information coming across was very sketchy. We did not know anything about Plunkett Barracks except what we read in the papers. We did not know what it was for or how much it cost. As far as I know now, nobody has been held or accommodated in Plunkett Barracks since it was built. It was built for the Army for Army purposes and, despite impressions given at the time, it was never meant to be used as a detention centre or as a prison by the Department of Justice. It is purely for Army purposes.

I fully appreciate the points made by Deputies about the difficulties for the military in running the Curragh. They are not trained for that job. I have heard all these arguments from them personally when I visited the Curragh. I had discussions with them and if they had a choice they would opt out. We have not got enough prison staff to run the prisons as they should be run. But if I had enough staff or surplus staff I would readily suggest to the Minister for Defence that they should consider allowing prison officers to man the prison in the Curragh. At the moment I am going all out to recruit prison staff. There are shortages and we are trying to do something about them.

Deputy Bermingham knows, probably better than most, that the prison in the Curragh could accommodate many more than are there at present. There are between 40 and 50 cells. There are 27 people there at present and it is my intention to keep the numbers as low as possible because of the lack of facilities, because of the lack of space and because of the difficulties the military staff there experience in trying to run the institution and, of course, because of the very real difficulties for those who are held there.

In Mountjoy at present we are doing certain reconstruction work to provide a type of cell that would be better than the ordinary security cell there at present. With the administration of Mountjoy we went in great depth into the possibility of accommodating the prisoners from the Curragh there. I am sure this would not work. It is something I hoped we would be able to do but it was not possible.

Deputy Bruton asked one or two questions. One was about finances. Directly, there is no cost to the Department of Justice. The costs at the Curragh are carried by the Department of Defence but the welfare service from the Department of Justice regularly visit the prison there.

Does the Minister wish to move the adjournment of the debate?

In an effort to reply fully to the points made I think it would be better to move the adjournment rather than sit down and finish the Second Stage now. Perhaps the Whips would agree to give me 15 or 20 minutes in the morning?

We want to finish tonight.

I will conclude if Deputies agree.

It is up to the Minister——

The position is that we move into Private Members time but if the House agrees we can take part of it now, ten or 15 minutes, but that would need to be by full agreement of the House.

It is only a question of me finishing the points raised by Deputies. I could do it in the morning if that would satisfy.

I would prefer the Minister to finish now.

The debate has already been adjourned.

We could finish if there was agreement in the House but as there is no agreement we are moving on to Private Members' Business.

Tommorrow's business will have to be agreed,

Tomorrow's business does not concern the Chair at this stage. That is a matter for other people.

Debate adjourned.