Estimates, 1985. - Vote 23: Office of the Minister for Justice.

Limerick East): I move:

That a sum not exceeding £17,030,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1985, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Justice, and of certain other services administered by that Office, and for payment of a grant-in-aid.

I propose that all the Votes for which I am responsible be taken together, but I shall endeavour to answer any questions on any particular Vote.

The total Estimate for all the Votes for which I am responsible is £315,111,000, an increase of 7 per cent over the expenditure for these Votes of £295,454,000 in 1984. The Estimate is made up as follows:—

Vote 23 — Office of the Minister for Justice, £17,030,000; Vote 24— Garda Síochána, £233,818,000; Vote 25—Prisons, £49,715,000; Vote 26 — Courts, £8,623,000; Vote 27 — Land Registry and Registry of Deeds, £5,806,000; Vote 28 — Charitable Donations and Bequests, £119,000.

The element of expenditure which is greatest is pay and allowances etc., which accounts for 81 per cent of the total estimates and shows an increase of 3 per cent compared with 1984.

The overall provision for the Garda Síochána in 1985 is £233,818,000. The major items included in this figure are £179 million for salaries, allowances and overtime and £31.5 million for the pensions of former members and widows of former members of the Garda Síochána. In addition, £9.5 million is being provided for travelling, subsistence and miscellaneous expenses, £7 million for Garda transport and £4.3 million for radio, computer, office and other equipment.

The provision for salaries and allowances provides for the continuation of Garda recruitment in order to maintain the strength of the force at approximately 11,400. As I have already announced the general restriction on public service recruitment is not being applied to the Garda Síochána and any vacancies occurring during the year will be filled. Over 100 recruits have been appointed so far this year and on the basis of current trends, I expect that about 150 further appointments will be made in 1985— the precise number will depend on the number of vacancies arising from retirements, resignations, etc. Overall, approximately 1,200 recruits have been appointed since the Government took office, but allowing for wasteage due to retirements etc., the net increase in the overall strength of the force in the period is over 700.

In considering the Estimate for the Garda Síochána it is inevitable that attention should be focussed to a substantial extent on the present crime situation. For some time now this has been one of the major issues confronting our society. Before dealing with some of the specific measures that have been taken to deal with crime I want first of all — even at the risk of repeating views that I have expressed before in this House — to make a few general remarks about it.

The maintenance of law and order in society is a primary responsibility of Government and it is a responsibility which this Government have taken and continue to take very seriously. When we took office in 1982 crime was increasing very rapidly and it was recognised that urgent measures needed to be taken to deal with the situation both in terms of physical measures such as prison accommodation and in terms of much needed reform in the criminal law. As Minister for Justice charged with the responsibility of implementing the Government's policies in this regard, I am happy to say that considerable progress has been made in combating crime, and Deputies will recall that earlier this year the House endorsed the action I have taken and am in the course of taking when debating a motion on the subject.

I know that some people have in the past said, and may again say, that the measures that are being taken to deal with crime fail to address themselves to its underlying causes. The causes of crime are many and varied, and there is general agreement that poverty and social deprivation have a lot to do with it. Yet, as I have pointed out before in this House, that fact of itself does not give a complete or satisfactory answer. For one thing, it does not explain how it is that many people who are poor or live in what might be termed deprived circumstances never commit crime at all. However, as the House knows from what I have said before, I accept that, by and large, persons involved in crime come from underprivileged backgrounds. These are matters we must take into consideration in formulating a balanced policy for dealing with all the ills of our society, including crime — but in the meantime we must attack the phenomenon itself and the perpetrators of it, because the people of this country expect the Government to do no less than that. Because the people have a legitimate right to demand security in their persons and property now and not at some time in the future, it is the duty and responsibility of the Government to do all it can to provide them with this.

Notwithstanding the general impression that may have been created lately of spiralling crime — an impression created mainly because of the problem of car stealing in Dublin and attacks on elderly people in some western areas— the fact is that, for the first time in many years, the level of serious crime has dropped.

In 1981 crime increased by about 23 per cent over the previous year; in 1982 the increase was about 9 per cent and in 1983 it had dropped to about 5 per cent. last year — 1984 — crime was down by 2.6 per cent in the State as a whole. In the Dublin Metropolitan Area 57,664 indictable offences were recorded, a decrease of 4.8 per cent on the figure for 1983. I am hopeful that this downward trend in serious crime can be maintained given the full co-operation of the public with the Gardaí and given the commitment of the Government to resolving the problem.

From the Figures I have given, it will be apparent that the measures that have been taken since I became Minister are proving effective. There are three main components of the policy I have been pursuing. First there is the question of reform of the criminal law — which was tackled in the Criminal Justice Act, with which the House is, I am sure, familiar and also in the legislation setting up the community service system — the Community Service Act 1984. Second, the policy aims to strengthen the Garda Síochána to make it a more effective force in the fight against crime and to increase the rate of detection of criminals, and the third main aim is to provide adequate prison accommodation to contain people sentenced to imprisonment and to ensure that those who represent a danger to society serve their sentences in full.

I do not propose to go over the ground of the legislation that has been enacted. The House has already spent a lot of time on that, and I will be coming before the House again shortly with the Complaints Bill and with the treatment regulations.

As regards the Garda Síochána. I have already mentioned that we are maintaining the force at its present high level. Maintaining the size of the force is, of course, only one of the measures being taken. Steps have been and are being taken to improve Garda effectiveness— including the technological capability of the force — about which I will say more in a moment — and to ensure that he available resources are used to best advantage. Particular emphasis is being placed on the provision of garda foot patrols, which are very important in the prevention of crime, and it is the policy of the commissioner to have as many gardaí as possible on foot patrol duty. There has been a substantial increase in the number of uniformed gardaí who are performing foot patrols and, in addition, the operation of new rostering systems is giving an improved garda presence on the beat at the times of greatest need. Of course, without the benefit of modern technological resources the force could not provide an adequate response to the crime situation and, accordingly, the development of improved communications and computer equipment for the Garda Síochána has been one of my major priorities.

The Estimate includes provision to enable the installation of the new national Garda communications network to proceed without delay. The first phase of this network is now virtually completed. This covers all of the 18 Garda Divisions outside of the Dublin Metropolitan Area and it provides the gardaí with their own independent radio communications system between divisions, between each division and its district stations and between these stations and the subdistrict stations attached to them. In all close on 700 stations will be linked in this way. This system is due to come into operation next month. The finishing touches are now being put to it and the necesary training of the Garda in the operation of the system is being done at present.

The second stage of the national network is the system for the Dublin Metropolitan Area and I recently signed a £2 million contract for the radio equipment which will go into the 43 DMA stations and the new central DMA control centre. Tenders for a computerised command and control system to be installed in the control room are now being evaluated and I hope that it will be possible to place a contract for this element of the system in the near future. Expenditure to date on the system is in the region of £7.5 million and the amount provided in the current year — £1.945 million — is sufficient to cover the amount of equipment that can be delivered and installed this year. As you can see, the costs associated with this communications network are very high but the Government are satisfied that it is something that the Garda must have, now more than ever, when there is such particular concern about the levels of crime. The system being provided is second to none in the world and I know that the Garda will put it to good use, to the benefit of us all.

The provision for Garda computer equipment for 1985 is also sufficient to enable planned development of the force's computer network to take place. Towards the end of last year a contract worth over £300,000 was placed for the purchase of a large number of additional visual display units and ancillary equipment. This has enabled all the 18 Garda divisional headquarters and some other major stations outside the Dublin Metropolitan Area, and a further number of the busiest stations within the Dublin area, to be linked directly to the Garda computer. This facility for immediate access to records — to check out, for example, stolen or suspect vehicles — is of very great practical assistance to the Garda.

The provisions made for both radio and computer installations demonstrate clearly, I believe, that the Government are ensuring that the Garda continue to have the benefits of most up-to-date technology and equipment.

In regard to the training of members of the Garda Síochána, as the House may be aware, the Garda Commissioner recently, with my approval, established a committee to examine Garda training needs at all levels, from recruit stage up to and including the courses appropriate to senior rank level. The committee include people from the private sector and the academic field who have valuable experience in personnel training and development. In view of the wide range of training that they have been asked to look at, it will of necessity take some time for them to complete their work. I have, therefore, asked the committee to give priority to the basic training to be provided for recruits as I am anxious to have an improved training curriculum ready for the next intake of recruits. I hope that it will be possible to implement the recommendations of the committee at a very early date following receipt of their report.

With regard to promotion in the Garda Síochána, as I have mentioned before, a new scheme setting out the procedures to be followed has been agreed by myself, the Garda Commissioner and the various Garda staff associations. The aims of the system are to select for promotion the candidates who are best qualified and most suitable in all respects and to do this in a way that is fair and accepted as fair. I am confident that this new scheme will make a very significant contribution to the well-being of the Garda Síochána. I hope also over the next few months to be giving further thought to other measures to improve the capability of the force to respond to the demanding challenges of to-day.

As well as tackling effectively the manifestations of crime, I believe that measures aimed at preventing it are vitally important and this view is shared by the Garda authorities. The Garda Síochána have within their ranks a full-time crime prevention advisory service. The total strength of this unit is 24, comprising a detective inspector and four sergeants based at Harcourt Square who serve the Dublin Metropolitan Area. There are two sergeants in the Cork East division and one sergeant in each of the other 17 Garda divisions. There is also an administrative unit at Garda Headquarters with overall responsibility for crime prevention. In addition, all members of the Garda Síochána have a responsibility in the prevention of crime as part of their ordinary Garda duties and the Garda authorities are anxious that all members of the force should promote public interest in crime prevention.

Neighbourhood watch is perhaps the most effective crime prevention method yet devised internationally and I am glad to say that arrangements are now in train — following a successful experimental period — to extend the scheme throughout the country so far as practicable. Because of its potential as a measure of crime prevention, the Government recently allocated funds — about £150,000 — specifically for the promotion of the neighbourhood watch scheme and an extensive television and radio campaign has now been launched to give information and advice to people as to how they can become involved. Other crime prevention measures will also be promoted including schemes such as the Muintir na Tíre developed community alert scheme in rural areas. Neighbourhood watch is a strategy designed to combat today's crime problems. It is a crime prevention programme intended to enlist the active co-operation of the community in a neighbourhood by getting them to observe and report suspicious activities, and by promoting the kind of anti-crime attitude and behaviour that should be found in a caring community.

In neighbourhood watch a community accept a responsibility for the prevention of crime in their own area, and individual citizens accept this responsibility for themselves and for their neighbours. In crime prevention the emphasis heretofore has been on the role of the garda alone. He was seen as being there to prevent and detect crime and to maintain public peace and good order. No structured role existed for members of the public to assist in this work. Citizens frequently turned a blind eye to suspicious and criminal activity believing that such activity was not their responsibility but that of the Garda. Neighbourhood watch creates a system in which the Garda and the community establish a partnership the aim of which is to prevent crime and create a better environment in which to live. It provides residents with constructive activities which have a positive effect on local crime levels, as well as being supportive of victims of crime.

Other measures to get the Garda and the citizen into closer contact are being pursued by the formulation and implementation of a policy of community policing. In recent years there has been a growing recognition of the need to involve the community at large in crime prevention activities and specific policies are being developed to this end. Measures are being taken to provide mechanisms whereby the community can play a more active role, in co-operation with the Garda, in crime prevention activities.

As part of this policy the Garda authorities recently established a number of police clinics on an experimental basis in the Finglas and Tallaght areas of Dublin. These clinics involve the attendance of a garda, once or twice per week for about one and a half hours, at centres at a distance from Finglas and Tallaght stations. The members who operate the clinics are in radio contact with the local station and are available to discuss aspects of local policing, provide crime prevention advice and supply various forms such as motor tax, driving licence, etc. While it is yet too soon to assess the effectiveness of the police clinic experiments, the early indications are that they merit further evaluation over a longer period.

The extent to which drug abuse has furthered in the past and continues to fuel the commission of serious crime is well known. The Garda have, I am glad to say, successfully got to grips with this problem in the last couple of years as evidenced by the quantities of illicit drugs which have been seized and in the numbers arrested and successfully prosecuted — some being the biggest pushers in the drug trade. I am informed by the Garda authorities that, as a result, they have reason to believe that since 1983 illegal trafficking in drugs has levelled off and that the situation is now improving. In 1984, despite an intensification in Garda activity there was a decrease in the level of drug seizures and in the number of persons charged with drug offences which is further evidence of a drop in drug trafficking. However, there will be no complacency and new tremds, particularly with regard to cocaine, will be carefully watched.

It is understood from the Garda authorities that 68 per cent of drug seizures in 1983 were made by uniformed and detective personnel (other than Drugs Squad) and in 1984 seizures by this group constituted 70.4 per cent. This is positive evidence of the success of the special course on drugs which is aimed at training and motivating members of the Garda Síochána generally to take a special interest in the problem of drug abuse and become actively involved in controlling it.

This debate gives me the opportunity to confirm the Government's unremitting commitment to deal with the threat posed to the security of the State by the Provisional IRA, whether it be along the Border or elsewhere in this country. Over the past 12 months or so we have seen a number of spectacular successes by the Garda and they are to be complimented on some outstanding police work. I have in mind the seizure of the most sophisticated bomb-making equipment in Lusk, the seizure of the arms shipment aboard theMarita Ann and the capture of those who sought to bring its deadly cargo ashore and the successful investigation into the armed robbery at Drumree. As the House knows, legislation enacted earlier this year, with the co-operation of all sides, enabled the Government to seize substantial funds held for the purpose of the IRA. I wish to extend my appreciation and thanks also to the Defence Forces who assist the Garda in dealing with the activities of paramilitary groups.

It is a matter of deep regret that, at a time of high unemployment when support and assistance is vital for young persons encountering difficulties in gaining employments, scarce resources have to be allocated to such an unproductive area. From the mid-seventies the cost of the violence in the North has accounted for about one quarter of total expenditure on security. However, the level of Garda commitment to preserve the security of the State is vital and it will be maintained. Nevertheless, one cannot but lament the fact that jobs could be created for school leavers but for the need to divert Government resources into measures necessary to tackle the destructive activities of those who believe in the bomb and the bullet as a means of exercising power.

Before leaving the Garda Síochána I want to refer to the ongoing policy of identifying particular tasks that can be performed by non police civilians—such as, for example, traffic by-law enforcement, typing, filing and other secretarial, either through the Civil Service Commission or otherwise, people who are specially qualified and trained to do these jobs. This policy has proved very effective up to now and we have 433 civilians already working in the Garda Síochána in jobs formerly done by trained gardaí. In addition there are now 125 traffic wardens. There is scope for more of this and I intend to do what I can to see that the policy is continued and extended.

So much for the Garda Síochána Vote; perhaps I may now turn to the Prisons Vote. The 1985 Estimate for Prisons of £49,715,000 will have to be revised later this year to cater for additional expenditure arising from the unprecedented growth in the numbers in custody. The level of that growth can be seen from the fact that at the beginning of this year there were 1,491 in custody whereas by the start of this week well over 1,900 offenders were being accommodated.

That is an extraordinary increase for any prison system to cope with over such a short period and inevitably makes heavy demands on the system. I am sure the House will join me in paying tribute to the efforts of the prison service in dealing with these demands. The increased numbers which can be held in custody have been made possible by maximising the use of existing custodial accommodation and by the acquisition of temporary additional accommodation such as Fort Mitchel on Spike Island and the education units at Cork and Arbour Hill prisons through the relocation of educational facilities at those institutions.

There can be no doubt that the number of offenders being accommodated in some of our institutions is, in terms of prison administration, undesirably high. This, however, has to be balanced against the need to ensure that offenders serve to the greatest extent possible sentences imposed on them by the courts. I think the message is at last getting across to people who indulge in criminal activity on a serious scale — particularly of the type which has given rise lately to great public concern — that there is prison accommodation to ensure that they will serve whatever sentences are imposed and that more will be made available if necessary. I do not intend to do anything which would reduce that deterrent.

However, we have to be realistic about the difficulties posed for the prison system by the high numbers in custody. While overcrowding in our prisons is mild compared to the level which has been resorted to in many other countries, it is inherently undesirable and I have been concerned to ease it as much as I can. This requires a flexible approach which has due regard to the capacity and nature of the various institutions and, at the same time, the need to ensure that sufficient accommodation is available to cope with offenders committed to custody for serious offences.

As part of that approach I have decided to temporarily transfer prison staff to Fort Mitchel so that additional offenders can be sent there. During the summer months particularly, I hope to use the accommodation at the Fort to alleviate pressure on the older institutions at a time when the burden of imprisonment with them can be all the greater.

The system of home leave which I introduced in 1983 as an alternative to "shedding" will continue to be availed of to an extent consistent with the nature of the scheme. Under the scheme offenders serving sentences for relatively minor offences are allowed periods of home leave subject to certain conditions such as a requirement to report to the local Garda station. The nature of offences where this scheme can operate is limited and leave is only granted after consultation with the Garda. Should any evidence emerge that an offender is in any way abusing the scheme he is returned to custody.

I am also prepared in certain circumstances to ease pressure on custodial accommodation by continuing to grant slightly more than the statutory remission to offenders who are of good behaviour in custody. I believe that this can be justified on a number of grounds. Sentencing is not so precise a science that a reduction of say two or three weeks in a sentence of six months could be said to defeat the purpose of the original sentence. Deputies will be aware from the representations which they receive that circumstances can change while an offender is serving his sentence which could justify some leniency.

In regard to temporary releases — parole—generally—of which there has been some unjustified criticism in recent times — I should say that they form part of every civilised prison system throughout the world. I would like to put on record that I will continue with our temporary release system in relation to proper programmes which are worked out for individual prisoners.

It is the case that some of the forms of release which I have outlined might be used to a somewhat lesser extent if extra custodial accommodation was available. But I am satisfied that they represent a justifiable response to a difficult situation and take into account the reality of prison administration and the need to protect society.

The use of the single officers' quarters in Portlaoise as custodial accommodation should add further flexibility to the prison system. I have not finally decided the exact use which will be made of the accommodation. I am thinking along the lines of a unit which could be used for the treatment of alcoholic prisoners or perhaps a unit to hold low risk women prisoners. This latter option has particular attractions because even with the work which is in hands to improve conditions in the women's prison in Mountjoy, it is very difficult to bring conditions there up to an appropriate standard. In determining the use to which the quarters will be put I will, of course, have due regard to its location and the understandable concerns of local residents.

In 1982 there was a daily average in custody of 1,236 whereas now the daily average is running at about 700 more than that. It is against that background of the large increase in numbers which are now being coped with that I want to deal with the charge made by a number of Opposition spokesmen that the present accommodation difficulties would not have arisen had the prison capital programme put forward by the previous administration not been halted by this Government. That charge is not true and if those who make it took time to consult with members of their own party who were directly involved in the capital programme they would quickly realise their mistake.

Putting it simply, the earliest major additional accommodation which could be made available under the capital programme was the place of detention at Wheatfield. That project has continued without interruption — indeed the bulk of the 1985 capital allocation of £12.13 million relates to it — but it will be 1987 before that accommodation is ready for occupation. It will be clear, therefore, that even if the entire capital programme had proceeded as planned it would not have been able to provide immediate accommodation to deal with the numbers now being committed to custody. In the circumstances I had no option but to provide additional accommodation in the manner which I have outlined.

Prison construction is of its nature expensive and I will be dealing with the prison capital programme in a few moments. I was always of the view that this was an area of prison administration which could benefit from a thorough review of penal policy generally in this country. Such a review is now being undertaken by a distinguished committee under the chairmanship of Dr. T. K. Whitaker and I understand the committee hope to present their report in a matter of months. I am sure all Members of the House look forward to the outcome of the first major review of our penal system since the foundation of the State.

The task of the committee is an enormous one. There are no easy answers in an area so fundamental to the way in which we as a society organise ourselves. I hope that when the report is published it will lead to an informed debate which will encourage a wider appreciation of the difficult issues which arise in our penal system and an acceptance that sometimes the more immediately popular "solutions" may not necessarily be the more effective. Among the issues which the committee are considering are alternatives to custody and the nature of the regimes which operate in the prisons. I believe the Estimates reflect the consistent progress which has been made by successive administrations in these areas.

One of the most significant developments in increasing the range of sanctions available to the courts has been the implementation of the community service scheme which I brought into operation last December. Already the scheme is having considerable success and about 140 orders have been made so far. A further 108 cases have been referred by the courts to the Probation and Welfare Service for assessment of the suitability of offenders for the scheme. In relation to the orders which have already been made I should point out that these are cases where custodial sentences would have been imposed had the Community Service Scheme not been in operation.

One of the main functions of the Probation and Welfare Service is to deal with offenders on probation and under other forms of supervision. The service has expanded greatly over the last decade or so and there are now about 200 staff assigned to it.

In dealing with offenders in the community it is important that resources should be available which would benefit these offenders and encourage them to lead a useful life in the community. For this reason my Department, through the Probation and Welfare Service, encourage the establishment by voluntary community groups in various parts of the country of hostels, day-centres and workshops to which offenders, especially young offenders, can be referred. Several of these centres are already in operation and more are planned. The provision for such centres is included in subhead G. of the Prisons Estimate and this year amounts to about £1.3 million which is more than double the level of expenditure three years ago. Services to offenders in custody are being developed as much as possible, although the high numbers in custody can make this difficult.

The provision for educational equipment and materials of £165,000 compares with a provision of £120,000 last year. I should stress that this amount is only intended to cover equipment and materials and does not cover staff or capital costs. These are met from expenditure by the vocational education committes who provide over 80 full-time teachers for the various institutions. I would like if I did not see any more comment about only £165,000 being spent on education in the prisons when the figure simply refers to equipment and there are 80 full-time teachers paid out of the Education Vote and the capital expenditure for the facilities in the prisons comes out of the prisons capital expenditure Vote.

In this connection I should mention that the decision to relocate the educational units at Arbour Hill and Cork should not be taken as indicating a lack of commitment to education within the prisons. The decision was necessary to provide additional secure accommodation for offenders, but the educational facilities are being relocated in those institutions. Although the new facilities are not as good, there should not be any diminution in the actual level of educational services available to offenders.

Increased provision has also been made for work-training in the institutions. Expenditure on equipment for this is provided for in subhead F. of the Prisons Vote, and this year's estimate of £396,000 compares with an estimate of £330,000 last year.

I believe that the provisions which have been made in the estimates in the areas of alternatives to custody and services within the prisons reflect a conviction that people should be sent to prison only where it is clearly necessary in the interests of society to do so and that, in prison, services must be made available to offenders to encourage them to lead better lives when they return to society.

As I have mentioned already, £12.13 million has been allocated to the capital programme for prisons and places of detention. Considering the financial restrictions of the present time, I am sure that Deputies will acknowledge that an allocation of this dimension indicates a serious commitment to making progress towards rectifying the shortage of custodial accommodation. Most significantly, the money made available is enabling work to continue at Weatfield. Site works, services, perimetering and services buildings were completed earlier last year and work commenced in September on the custodial buildings of a place of detention for young male offenders between the ages of 16 and 21.

The contract period is 36 months and it is expected that the project will be completed on target in 1987. It is being constructed to a plan substantially expanded over what was first envisaged, with provision now for 320 places rather than the original 150. Plans for the women's prison, to be located at Whatfield also, have been brought to the stage at which it is possible to invite tenders and place a contract when financial resources are available. The site has already been developed, serviced and perimetered but the custodial buildings still remain to be built.

A third project to provide 180 places on a site at Rathmore Road in Cork has not yet reached tender stage and is at a standstill for the present but could also be resumed if resources were there. Apart from these projects, new accommodation for education, work and recreation has been completed in Limerick and necessary security facilities have been provided there. Major work on the repair of about one half of the perimeter wall of Mountjoy is almost completed and work on the other half is due to commence very shortly.

I come now to the area of my Department's responsibilities relating to the courts. Broadly outlined these responsibilities range from the preparation and promotion of any necessary legislation governing the establishment, constitution, jurisdictions, and functioning of our courts to ensuring that, as far as practicable, all courts and court offices are enabled to function effectively.

I might make a preliminary point here. Courts are staffed in the general context of the civil service, and, as Deputies will be aware, there have been severe restrictions on recruitment to the public service since 1981. Inevitably this has had serious effects on the working of the courts and court offices, particularly in view of increasing workloads. Nevertheless we have made improvements on a number of fronts and I hope that further improvements will be possible despite the continuing difficulties.

A matter of particular concern to me at present is the delays which in recent years have developed in relation to the hearing of High Court jury actions and criminal and civil business at a number of Circuit Court venues. In an effort to improve the situation the Government have given their approval to the appointment of an additional judge of the High Court and an additional judge of the Circuit Court. The Bill containing these proposals has been circulated.

Statistics for the High Court for the 1984 legal year, i.e. the year ended 31 July, 1984, show some significant improvements in the state of High Court business. The main features are:

(a) an increase of 84 per cent in the number of jury actions disposed of during the year — 5,725 as compared with 3,107 in the previous year;

(b) an increase of 26 per cent in the number of non-jury (common law) actions disposed of—633 as compared with 503 in the previous year;

(c) a reduction from 20 months to 15 months in the average delay from the date of setting down to the date of hearing in the case of jury actions and from 13 months to three months in the case of non-jury actions.

While these improvements can be attributed to several factors, I think it appropriate to pay tribute to the President of the High Court and to his predecessor, now the Chief Justice, for their special efforts, and also to the judges and court officers concerned whose co-operative approach in this matter has been very significant.

In Cork the delay in hearing High Court jury actions has, in recent times, become somewhat more serious than elsewhere and as a result, the President of the High Court has doubled the number of sitting days in Cork in the current legal year, which commenced on 3 October last. It is my earnest hope that the extra sitting days will reduce the arrears to a more acceptable level. While there are some delays in hearing cases at other major centres at which High Court jury actions are held, they are not as serious as the delays in Dublin and in Cork.

The courts computer system, which has been issuing summonses and court lists for Dublin city and county, has been extended to prepare appeal papers. This has led to a substantial saving in time for court staff and has helped reduce the delay between District Court convictions and the Appeal Court hearing.

As regards the operation of the courts, one of the greatest problems continues to be accommodation. Responsibility for the provision and maintenance of court accommodation, with certain exceptions in the Dublin area, is vested by law in local authorities. This has given rise to particular problems in a number of areas, and most Deputies will be familiar with problems of this kind in their own areas. However, there have been improvements in a number of cases. The reinstatement of Waterford courthouse was completed in autumn 1982 and the new courthouse provided by Wicklow County Council in Bray became available in September last.

Work on the restoration of the fire-damaged courthouse at Monaghan started early in March and is expected to be completed within 18 months. Planning for the reconstruction of Cavan courthouse is at an advanced stage and it is expected that work on the project will start before the autumn. Other local authorities are dealing with less extensive works on an ongoing basis but, naturally, progress in this area is affected by the current financial situation.

In Dublin, work has started on the development of the Four Courts Hotel site as an office block to accommodate the various court offices at present housed in the Four Courts building, thus freeing further areas there for development as additional courtrooms and ancillary accommodation. The office block project should be completed within three years and conversion of the office space in the Four Courts will be put in hands as soon as possible after that.

The situation of the Children's Court in Dublin is a matter of some concern. The accommodation available to the court has been unsatisfactory for some years now and the position deteriorated in November, 1981 when the Dublin Castle premises were declared unsafe. The court is at present accommodated on a temporary basis in the Morgan Place wing of the Four Courts, but this is proving unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. The Office of Public Works are now in the process of adapting two houses at Smithfield to provide temporary accommodation for the court pending the provision of a purpose-built courthouse on an immediately adjoining site. I expect the temporary accommodation to be ready for use within a month and the purpose-built accommodation to be available by the end of next year.

Deputies will be aware that the money necessary to build the permanent Children's Court is being provided from the dormant funds of suitors in the High Court under the Funds of Suitors Act, 1984. The new Children's Court complex will provide generous waiting and consultation facilities, conference rooms and duty rooms for probation and welfare officers. This will ensure that all who are concerned with the welfare of children appearing before the Courts will be adequately facilitated. The plans include two courtrooms and judges' rooms, a retiring room for solicitors, and separate waiting areas for gardaí, witnesses and members of the public.

The 1985 provision for civil legal aid is £1,462,000. Although this allocation will not, of itself, allow for any expansion of the board's services, I am glad to say that, as I announced in the Dáil on 29 May 1985, the board will be able to expand its services this year due to funds available under the provisions of the Funds of Suitors Act, 1984 that will enable it to open new law centres in Tallaght and Athlone and a second centre in Cork. These centres will be financed until the end of 1987 from the monies available for civil legal aid under the Act. The residue of funds available under the Act will be used to open further law centres during 1986-1987 at Dundalk, Portlaoise, Castlebar and Letterkenny.

The 1985 provision for criminal legal aid is £2 million which represents an increase of £150,000 on the 1984 allocation of £1.85 million. This is due mainly to a likely increase in the amount of legal aid granted by the courts in 1985 compared with last year. The Supreme Court ruling that accused persons have a constitutional right to legal aid in certain circumstances should be borne in mind in this context. I might add that included in the £2 million allocation for 1985 is the cost of paying value added tax, currently at 23 per cent on legal fees payable under the scheme and this is ultimately recouped to the Exchequer.

As regards law reform, it is not within the rules of this House for a Deputy to advocate legislation in the course of an Estimates debate. Accordingly, all I propose to say on this subject is that my main concern is to implement the Government's programme of law reform in my area of responsibility as quickly as possible. With this in mind, I will be bringing legislative proposals before the House in the usual way, as soon as I am in a position to announce them.

The Land Registry and the Registry of Deeds is another area for which I have responsibility.

The work load in the Land Registry is continuing to be high with an average annual intake of approximately 218,000 applications during the eighties. About 120,000 of these, or 55 per cent are applications for land certificates, copies of folios and instruments and copy maps. In general, the Registry is providing a good service where applications in these categories are concerned, with average delays being maintained at a level of eight working days or less. There can, however, be significant differences in the time it takes to supply a copy document, in particular, a copy map. The main reason is that in about 50 per cent of cases the provisions of a copy of a registry map involves substantial preliminary work that includes the reconstruction of an existing map —which, apart from being on an old sixinch scale can at times be in very poor condition. The reconstruction is usually to the latest 25 inch ordnance survey scale.

The other main categories of work are applications for first registration, including the establishment of title acquired by possession, applications for registration in respect of land already registered and applications under the ground rents purchase scheme. There are long delays in finalising applications in these areas because of the complex nature of the work involved and because of the large volume of applications in relation to the number of staff available to deal with them. Like the rest of the civil service, the Land Registry is subject to the embargo on the filling of vacancies. Prior to the embargo its authorised staffing was 541. At the end of May, 1985, the authorised staffing had been reduced by 78, or 14.4 per cent, to 463. The overall volume of work in 1985 shows a 4 per cent increase over that for 1980, the year by reference to which the authorised staffing of 541 was settled. Despite the increasing workload and the decreasing number of staff every effort is made to finalise applications as quickly as possible.

Proposals for major improvements in both the Land Registry and Registry of Deeds are at present in abeyance because of the embargo. These include a reorganisation of the processing of applications under section 49 of the Registration of Title Act, 1964, the extension of compulsory registration, the amalgamation of the staffing structures of the Land Registry and Registry of Deeds and the computerisation of some of the records of the Registry of Deeds. However, within the existing constraints, other measures are at present under consideration, particularly the extent to which modern technology can be used in making the registries more efficient.

The computerisation of the Land Registry folios which commenced in December 1982 is proceeding. All the Dublin folios will be computerised by the end of this month. This means that about 20 per cent of the applications lodged for registration annually are now being processed by computer, although the number of Dublin folios represents only about 10 per cent of the total for the State as a whole. This is a major step forward for the registry and has already resulted in considerably increased efficiency. For example, the pre-computerised system is based on one original folio per registered property; post-computerisation, an unlimited number of copies is available within a matter of seconds, resulting in immediate service for people calling to public counters.

The extension of the computerisation programme to other areas is at present under consideration. The future role of the local registries which are attached to the 25 Circuit Court offices in the counties other than Dublin will have to be taken into account in this context and other preliminary arrangements, including the purchase of additional equipment, have also to be completed before the programme can be extended.

A source of much public complaint in recent years has been the telephone system serving the Chancery Street building of the Land Registry. I am happy to say that a modern PABX system will be provided later this year to serve the three Land Registry offices in Chancery Street, the Setanta Centre and Bow Street.

Votes 23 to 28 cover a large and varied volume of work and services. Accordingly, my remarks were not intended to be an exhaustive description of everything coming within the ambit of the Votes. As I said at the start of my remarks, however, I welcome Deputies to speak on any aspect of the Votes and I shall endeavour to reply to any points raised.

The Estimate for the Department of Justice affords the House an opportunity to debate the operations of a Department which, in recent years, has been of increasing interest and concern to the people. The very sizeable Estimate, £350 million, and the areas of activity related to it is an indication of its relevance and importance in the lives of the people. One of the harsh realities of our time is the increasing amount of the annual budget which has to be allocated to the maintenance of law and order. This is a phenomenon common to most countries, and it would be unrealistic to expect that Ireland would remain forever immune to the happenings in neighbouring countries. If anything, we did not wake up in time and learn from the experience of our neighbours in mainland Europe particularly with regard to escalating crime.

Having listened to the Minister one can only conclude that his speech is a further chapter in the public relations exercise which has been synonymous with the performance of the Government over the past two and a half years.

(Limerick East): I have neither a press officer nor a PRO.

One can understand the political motivation of a Minister in endeavouring to justify his performance and the performance of his Department. The Minister made a very bold attempt to do this just now. I do not say this with any level of vindictiveness, but it is dishonest to attempt to suggest that this very crucial area of national administration is at anything other than a crisis at present and has been for a considerable time. The Minister knows that what I am saying is true. Never in the history of the State has law and order been at such a low level and low ebb as it is at present, regardless of the statistics. The Minister's speech was an encyclopaedia of statistics; but, nevertheless, ordinary citizens collectively say that law and order is and has been at a very low level. There has never been such a level of fear and insecurity, especially in relation to old people residing alone in urban and rural areas.

I am sure the Minister will agree that there is a crisis in our prisons and the Garda are more exposed than ever before to the dangers of maintaining law and order in a society, part of which is rebelling against and resisting traditional values and codes of behaviour. I claim that this is a by-product of the Government's failure to deal with the growing level of social and economic problems facing us at present. There is no doubt that there is a direct link between the level of crime, violence and lawlessness and the level of economic and social development.

I should like to ask the Minister, nonetheless, if the Estimate and his statement have credibility. Are we wasting time in discussing it when we know that the House debated and approved an Estimate for prisons of £11.5 million in 1984 and we now know that the eventual outturn was an expenditure of £5.5 million? I do not know the relevance of this debate in terms of Government expenditure except, perhaps, that it gives us the opportunity of commenting on this very wide area and I am glad that the Minister stated he would welcome objective comments from Members of the House.

The rapidity of the growth in violence and lawlessness is surprising and frightening. It is particularly vicious in that the old and the young are so often the victims. It means that the State is compelled to spend an increasing amount of its gross national product in financing the various State agencies involved in the maintenance of law and order. One can readily appreciate the futility of having to spend scarce national resources needed for more productive work on this aspect of Government administration. On the other hand, we must balance that cost against the inevitable threat to lives and damage to property if we did not make adequate provision in this regard.

Crime will never be completely eliminated. We have, however, a duty as legislators to create a society in which crime will be reduced to the minimum. I said that there is a direct link between the level of crime and economic and social conditions. There is also a link between the psychological attitude which generates violence and the level of confidence or degree of security felt by the people at any given time. Taking these two factors into account, it is easy to understand why the country is now in the grip of a wave of crime which will be difficult to control.

I welcome the recent statistics which seem to indicate that crime is on the decrease. I read the reports, the trends are heartening and encouraging, and I hope that they continue. To whatever extent we can, we will support the Government and the Minister in relation to bringing about a further lessening of crime. When I referred to the social and economic conditions and the link between them and crime and violence, I naturally had in mind the very high level of unemployment. There can be no doubt that there is a direct and positive link between the high, unsatisfactory level of unemployment and the increase over the past three years in the level of crime, particularly in so far as it relates to young people. Any sensible Member who analyses the situation will understand the frustrations of young, highly qualified people leaving schools and colleges to find that they have no hope of getting jobs. Until such time as we can deal effectively with the root cause of the problem, we will not make the level of progress which we would all like to see.

The Minister and the Government should seriously consider the report prepared by Dr. Brendan Walsh in this morning's newspapers on the level of alcoholism in this country. It confirms the widely held view that there is a growing need to control and restrict the level of alcohol consumption here. The abuse of alcohol may not be the cause of many of our economic ills but it has certainly been the root cause of many of our social ills, particularly in recent years. I plead with the Minister of State to use her influence to encourage the Government to abandon, in the national interest, the proposed liberalisation of our licensing laws. Dr. Walsh's report is timely, especially in view of the fact that we are debating the Estimate for the Department of Justice today. All reports issued in recent years in regard to absenteeism, admission to psychiatric hospitals, drug addiction and family problems and disputes point to the fact that many of the problems arise as a result of alcoholism. It is grossly irresponsible of the Government to even contemplate introducing legislation to make alcohol more freely available to young people.

I would regard it as a great achievement, even if it was the only success I recorded while acting as spokesman on justice for any party, if I got the message across to the Government that the liberalising of the licensing laws is a retrograde and dangerous step which they will regret. Members on all sides, from our involvement with families and attendance at so many social functions, must agree that the abuse of alcohol is a national evil which should be controlled. I was disappointed to hear that the Government are thinking of introducing legislation to make alcohol more freely available.

In the course of his speech the Minister dealt at length with the problem of drug addiction, but it should be remembered that there is a very close link between the sale of alcohol to young people and the opportunity that environment presents for drug pushers to peddle their illicit wares. I am sure fathers and mothers will be pleading with public representatives to ask the Government to abandon their ludicrous proposal to liberalise the licensing laws. I understand that the changes are being introduced under the guise of aiding the tourist industry, but I have not heard one tourist complaining that he or she could not get a glass of "Paddy" or vodka. I do not think it is right or logical to introduce such changes under that heading.

The problem here is compounded by the fact that we have the youngest population in Europe. Our young people are more energetic, better educated and aspire to greater heights and expectations than any previous generation, but we must respond in a more meaningful and positive way in regard to the creation of a social and economic environment that will permit them to contribute to the development of the country. To some extent we are doing things in reverse. We are being forced to spend large sums of public money as a response to the break down in law and order. Crime could have been curtailed if there was proper investment in the economy. Demands on the State, especially in regard to social welfare schemes which are important at a time of high unemployment, could have been reduced. I cannot see any trend in economic planning that will get us away from the policy of responding to social change rather than putting forward credible economic plans. That must be one of the greatest challenges facing the Government. They must try to reverse the trend and generate economic activity so that young and old can feel they have a useful role to play in society and are not, as they are at present, compelled to drift into the undesirable area of crime.

I would like to see the Government or the political parties collectively putting their heads together and introducing a long term plan. One of the things that have bedevilled the country is the rapidity with which economic policies change. The Government in power may introduce policies but within a few years there is a change of Government and a change of plan. From the point of view of providing more jobs that is not good. To some extent that represents a theoretical assumption, a little like the old story of which comes first, the chicken or the egg, but my economic philosophy in this argument is correct and worthy of consideration by all Members.

Due to the nature of the functions and operations of the Department one feels an urge to co-operate with the Minister in achieving the common goal of creating a peaceful and law abiding society. It would be my natural inclination to go as far as I possibly could along the road towards providing support for the Minister in this very sensitive area. I hold the view that one should resist trying to make political capital from this very important subject; nevertheless, different parties have different emphasis and priorities in the area of law and order and it is inevitable that I will have to be critical of some aspects of this Government's performance.

Fianna Fáil fully subscribe to the goal of creating a society where everybody lives in a peaceful environment and where lives are not put at risk, but we do not always agree with the way this objective is achieved. I said earlier that crime is a direct product of our economic environment. It is a reflection on the House that the Minister finds it necessary to state that one of his greatest achievements over the past two and a half years has been the fact that we now have the biggest number of prisoners in the history of the State behind bars. That is a sad statistic about which we should not have any sense of pleasure, because it is a reflection on how we have ordered the economic affairs of our country in recent years. It is also a reflection on the House that I find it necessary today to be critical of the Minister's failure to make more prison accommodation available. It is ironic and a reflection on society that the Minister and I have to dwell on these types of statistics.

Whichever side of the argument we look at, the fact remains that we are presiding over a society where violence and crime are rampant and a growing number of people feel unsafe and insecure. The statistics on crime present a depressing figure in terms of insecurity and cost to the nation — there is an average of 102,000 serious crimes committed here each year; the number of violent crimes, such as armed robberies, has doubled since 1980 and the value of property damaged or stolen is approximately £43 million a year. There can be no doubt that the situation is serious and calls for drastic measures. We have now reached, and in some instances exceeded, the European crime average, regardless of what the Minister may say. I acknowledge that the most recent figures seem to indicate a downward trend, but this is due in no small measure to the dedication and commitment of the Garda Síochána. They have done tremendous work in a very difficult climate to bring some kind of sanity back into the area of law and order.

It is right to acknowledge that the Minister increased the manning levels in the Garda in recent years, but I have to remind him that that was part of a trend which was taking place when Fianna Fáil left office. The major commitment to increase the level of the Garda was made by a Fianna Fáil Minister for Justice and, I like to be fair, was continued by the present Minister. Such measures are essential in the short term, but I put it to the Minister that they are reactionary measures and do not tackle the root cause of the problems. The Minister and the Department have to cope with a problem which is directly linked with the failure of his Cabinet colleagues to generate a level of economic activity which would, through job creation, eliminate or reduce the need for people resorting to crime. I am sorry if I am repeating myself in this area, but I am totally convinced that the root cause of the problem is whether we will be able to change the present economic environment.

I presume that is the last passing reference.

While I do not condone crime in any shape or form, I find it easy to understand how in many instances it can happen. I also acknowledge the sad fact that this is happening to families with no tradition of crime, where decent hard working fathers and mothers have reared and educated their families but now find their children cannot even find employment. The position has been worsened by the unwillingness of the Government to take timely action to deal with the problem. I emphasise the work "timely" because over the past 12 months in particular we have seen the most glaring examples of reactionary politics and policies in relation to security matters. The Minister seems to be responding all the time to some crisis, to some serious breakdown in law and order. When a Minister, particularly a Minister for Justice, finds himself in such an insecure position, that is having to react without having made adequate preparations, that is a very dangerous situation.

One of the essential ingredients for success in the Department of Justice is the generation of an atmosphere of confidence, and over the past 12 months that confidence has been shaken in many areas, particularly in the case of older people and those residing alone. I honestly believe the sense of insecurity prevalent in the country emanates from the Department of Justice because people fear we will not be able to cope with the threat to life and limb. Over the past couple of days we read in our newspapers a further report which highlights that level of insecurity.

Between now and next winter, which is obviously the most vulnerable time, I ask the Minister to ensure that his Department take every possible action to provide for the security of old people, particularly those residing in rural areas. Our security problem is further exacerbated by the division of our country. The Minister dwelt at some length on that aspect. The maintaining of Border security is a growing and intolerable problem which no country of our size should have to endure for so long at such great cost. Apart from the great physical strain on our gardaí, army and customs officials, the continuing existence of that unnatural boundary is creating an environment in which lawlessness flourishes, and tragically the cost is far too often the loss of life or serious injury, not to mention the loss and destruction of property.

I should like here to pay tribute to the courage of our Garda and Army and to sympathise with the families of those who died in the call of duty. We sadly and tragically recall the number of instances in recent years in which members of the Garda Síochána lost their lives in defence of our rights and freedom. The cost of maintaining Border security, essential though it be, must surely be the greatest waste of scarce financial resources for a country of our size anywhere in the world.

I regret that the Minister did nothing and said nothing to restore confidence and reassure the old that the environment in 1985 will be safer than it has been over the past 12 months. I welcomed the press conference of yesterday which endorsed the extension of the neighbourhood watch scheme. I have watched with interest the operation of that scheme, and it deserves further expansion. It has an important and useful role to play in our society. However, it is not substitute for community policing and should not be so used. It should be used simply as a complementary measure supporting the gardaí in their efforts to maintain law and order. It would be totally wrong to allow a situation to develop where we would depend more and more on systems such as the neighbourhood watch. I appeal to the Minister of State who is present to use her influence within her Department for the purpose of emphasising the importance of the Garda Síochána, in the first instance, as being the front line of defence in relation to security matters, supported and complemented by the neighbourhood watch scheme.

There is no evidence that the level of crime will be drastically reduced in the immediate years ahead. Therefore, the public are entitled to and are demanding positive and tough action in dealing with the hardened and organised criminals in their war against society — a war which in certain areas will be extremely difficult to control. We have the sad and tragic evidence of that war day after day, particularly in Dublin and in the larger urban areas. The gardaí there are put under serious pressure and threat, having to abandon their patrol cars because of the level of violence with which they are confronted. That is a very undesirable and dangerous situation. We will have to give full and maximum support to the Garda in stamping out, once and for all, that type of violence.

I hope that we will never have, as some would suggest we have at present, no-go areas for our gardaí in Dublin city. For whatever support and strength are needed by the Garda to deal with that kind of opposition within society, the Minister has the full backing and support of this House. To think that any organised group of people in this city or any other would feel that they could take unto themselves the right to control an area is something which this House could not, should not and I hope never will tolerate.

The people are demanding that those convicted in our courts, particularly of serious charges, should be made to serve their prison sentences. This House had long and tedious discussion on the Criminal Justice Bill which strengthened the legislative base for law enforcement as far as the Garda are concerned. That Bill is positive and balanced legislation in a very difficult area of national administration. However, it is a matter of disappointment to me and the Members on this side of the House that the supporting legislation on the complaints procedure has not yet come before the House. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that there is no further delay in regard to that desirable and essential legislation. Its absence is inhibiting and preventing the implementation of the Criminal Justice Bill, which is so badly needed at present. The Minister indicated today that it is his intention to bring that legislation before the House at an early opportunity. I have asked a number of parliamentary questions in that regard over a number of months and the reply always seems to be that the legislation will be brought in at an early date. The Minister should be in a position to tell the House in his concluding comments on this debate when exactly he proposes to bring in that very important measure, to enable the House to debate it and have it passed as soon as possible.

I have no doubt that the availability of the Criminal Justice Act will strengthen the hands of the Garda in the difficult areas where existing legislation prevented them from taking positive and effective action. I should like to pay tribute from this side of the House to the members of the Garda Síochána. They continue to uphold the dignity and esteem which have been synonymous with the force since its inception. Their task is becoming more difficult. They have the backing, goodwill and respect of the vast majority of our citizens in their work. They should not be discouraged by the isolated incidents within the force which tend to embarrass its members from time to time. The Criminal Justice Act will support them in their efforts to combat crime.

We must give them the support of the many technological aids available to their counterparts throughout the world and which are, regrettably, also available to the organised criminal underworld of today. Above all, we must provide the highest level of training for our young Garda recruits and ensure that the initial training is followed by updated and advanced in-force training. I am glad that the Minister indicated to the House that it is his intention to proceed along those lines.

The Minister and his Department have not responded with sufficient speed to the changing needs of the Garda force. In many cases the lives of the gardaí have been placed at unnecessary risk by our failure to provide simple requirements such as bullet-proof vests, spiked chains to deal with car thefts and joyriders, and suitably equipped vehicles to counter the huge and serious problem of car ramming. I hope that the level of financial provision sought by the Minister will make it possible to equip the Garda in a way that will help them in their duties.

The House should recognise the dedicated and effective work of the Garda drugs squad. The Minister should be guided by their expertise and experience and he should make available to them all the resources needed to help them in their very difficult work. I spoke in the past of the seriousness of the drug problem. It is an area of crime that poses the greatest social threat to our young generation. I dealt at length with the subject in a recent Dáil debate and it is not necessary for me to deal with it in the debate today.

I want the Minister to assure the House that people convicted of serious drug offences will have to serve their full sentences. Many people have very strong views on that area of law enforcement. It is no secret that this has not been the case. The Garda have been frustrated in their efforts to combat this crime. Frequently they seen offenders getting away with small sentences or having sentences remitted after serving only a short term in prison. That is a very undesirable situation. Information available to me suggests that a person apprehended by the Garda in recent times on a very serious and substantial drug charge had been released from prison on a similar drug-related offence after serving only 13 months of a two year sentence. This is very serious. It does not give me pleasure to have to refer to this in the debate. I expect the Minister to give a categoric assurance to the House that where people are committed to prison as a result of a court hearing connected with serious drug offence they will not be allowed back on the streets until they have served their maximum sentences, subject to the normal remissions which we must accept as part of the criminal justice code.

I ask the Minister to tell the House if orders for early release from prison always originate from a recommendation of the prison governor or officials of his Department who are qualified to assess each case. I ask him if there is a departure, as has been suggested, from the long-established procedure where the district justice who imposed the sentence in the first case was consulted on and advised of the release of prisoners. It is important that the public be reassured in relation to matters of this kind. I was pleased to hear the Minister assure the House last night that neither he nor his Department were involved in the early release of a prisoner from Limerick prison who was there on a serious car theft charge. The Garda Síochána should not be made the scapegoat in cases that attract considerable publicity, as happened in this case. Nonetheless, it was reassuring to me at Question Time yesterday to hear the Minister in a position to state there was no interference in any way by him or his Department in relation to this incident.

I should like to deal briefly with the courts. The matter was referred to by the Minister and the subject was covered by me in some detail when we were discussing the recent Courts Bill. Again, I wish to stress my disappointment that the Minister did not avail of the opportunity at that time to update and reorganise the entire District Court system which he could have done effectively under the terms of the Bill. The new District Court rules are to be welcomed but they will not be fully effective in the absence of court reform. The lack of uniformity in court sentences in many cases leaves much to be desired and leads to considerable frustration on the part of the Garda Síochána who put much effort into apprehending criminals only to see them back on the streets within a relatively short time. As I said in my contribution on the Courts Bill, our courts are irrelevant to the vast majority of people who are confused by the legalistic jargon that surrounds our court operations. The Minister should do something to control the level of representation required by a citizen to secure justice in our higher courts because in many cases the cost is prohibitive. I was glad to hear the Minister make a general reference to this matter but that is not sufficient. It requires positive and strong action by his Department.

While I realise that urban areas present a serious and demanding security problem for the Garda and the Minister, it has been tragically demonstrated in the past year that the concentration of Garda activity in urban areas has led to the retreat of the criminal to the relatively safer environs of rural Ireland. I never thought I would see the day that an old woman would be pushed into the fire and then forced to flee from her home when it was set on fire. This change in the crime pattern must compel the Minister to rethink the situation in relation to rural policing.

At Question Time yesterday the Minister indicated that there were no closures of Garda stations. While that is correct statistically, the reality is that the manpower has been reduced. Gardaí have been taken out of rural stations and that is the same, if not worse, than actually physically and structurally closing down the stations. A strong case can be made for the restaffing of rural Garda stations from which personnel have been removed in recent years. I ask the Minister to put more gardaí into rural stations.

In any debate on law and order one has to deal with the adequacy and conditions in our prisons. A system which has not the capacity to deal fully and effectively with offenders committed to prison by the courts totally undermines the entire efforts in the area of law enforcement. The Government decision to abandon the phased prison programme introduced by Fianna Fáil was one of the most dangerous and irresponsible decisions taken by the Government. It has contributed in a major way to the present serious crime situation.

Last week in another debate I put some figures to the Minister in relation to estimates in the past couple of years. I stand over those figures and the information I made available then.

The present level of overcrowding in our prison will lead inevitably to more trouble and will render both dangerous and difficult the task of prison officers. I sympathise with the Minister in his dilemma. I welcome his efforts in regard to the utilisation of Spike Island as a prison. I supported him fully in that deci sion. While it was a reactionary decision, the Government should have made provision to make the prison habitable and secure following the decision to abandon the new prison development programme. It is difficult to make any sense of the Minister's panic reaction in opening Spike Island without any financial provision in that respect having been made in advance. The decision to abandon the new prison programme was taken two and a half years ago.

If the Minister were serious about providing adequate accommodation for prisoners he would at that time have made at least tentative arrangements for providing security at the Spike Island detention centre. Instead he took no action of that kind but apparently lived in the hope that the problem would disappear. Eventually, however, he discovered that was not to be the case and consequently Spike Island was put into use as a detention centre. I accuse the Government of turning a blind eye to the problem of prison accommodation, because we would not have this problem if the necessary action had been taken in time.

The latest decision by the Minister to transfer prisoners to the new officers' quarters at Portlaoise is both dangerous and unacceptable so far as the local residents are concerned. However, I welcome the Minister's assurance that he will have consultations before deciding to transfer prisoners to Portlaoise and that he will keep in mind the needs of the local residents. The proposed location is outside the existing prison complex. It is in a residential area of the town. The Minister abandoned the proposal to locate a similar prison in Dublin and I cannot see any reason for his deciding to transfer the problem to Portlaoise. I appeal to him to be considerate in regard to any such decision. I understand that more suitable accommodation has been recommended to him.

Finally I appeal to the Minister to renew normal relations with the Prison Officers Association. This is not a time for scoring moral victories over a sector of our security system who do an extremely difficult job on behalf of the nation.

I am glad to have the opportunity of contributing to this debate, and I hope that I have highlighted at least some of those areas that are of relevance and which need urgent attention. I am confident that other speakers to the debate will have objective and constructive comments to make, also.

In my short contribution I should like to concentrate on the provision of finance for the pilot scheme on conciliation which comes within subhead H of the Vote for the Minister's Office.

The background to the setting up of this scheme, which is to consider the provision of concialiation services for people whose marriages have broken down, is that for some time past groups and individuals involved in family law have been pressing for a scheme of conciliation which would be based on the type of schemes existing in Britain and other countries. I am very interested in the whole idea of a conciliation service. It is an area I have been working towards since my appointment as Minister of State at the Department of Justice. In 1983 I organised a seminar in Dublin for the purpose of giving to those interested an opportunity to hear details of what is happening in England and to make their own contribution. That seminar was very successful. The papers submitted on that occasion were published.

In addition, in 1983 also I asked the Legal Aid Board to prepare a report on the need for such a conciliation scheme and on what their perception of the scheme would be. This report was prepared and involved, I understand, a great deal of time and trouble on the part of the board. It is a comprehensive report but it has not been published. It is a very good basic working document.

Regardless of how good seminars and reports may be, they are not a substitute for action. I am very happy that the Minister for Justice and the Government have agreed to my request for the provision in this year's Estimate for funding a pilot scheme. This means that we will now have action, and this will be in the form of a limited three year scheme. This will give us the opportunity of examining how such a service would operate in Ireland and how people might be expected to relate to it. The announcement in this regard was made in February, but there seems to have been some confusion. Not as much publicity as might have been expected was given to the project, but the response has been very encouraging in that the social agencies involved with family groups in the matter of marital breakdown have been very positive in their response. Similarily, I have had a number of phone calls from people anxious to know whether the project is in existence and if so how they could contact the group. These people have told me that they believe this sort of service to be just what they need.

It was agreed first that a steering committee be set up to decide on the framework for the service, the training of conciliators, the acquisition of premises and other necessary features. I am very happy that the committee are comprised of a very talented and caring group of people whose names I should like to put on the record. They are Mr. James O'Higgins who is a solicitor and involved in family law cases and who was originally a member of FLAC, Ms. Maura Wall Murphy, who is a social worker and involved at present in family conciliation work; Ms. Mary Mulcahy, who is chairperson of AIM Group for Family Law Reform; Dr. Gabriel Kiely, who is a lecturer in social work and director of the family studies unit at UCD: Mr. Eric Plunkett, who is secretary of the north west branch of the Irish Association of Social Workers and who is a probation and welfare officer; Miss Joan Carr, a former director of The Samaritans currently involved in counselling on alcoholism in St. Patrick's Psychiatric Hospital, Dublin; Miss Joan O'Mahony, a member of the Legal Aid Board; Mr. John Smith, who is in the Department of Finance; and Mr. Chris Morris, who is a probation and welfare officer. They are working as a voluntary group.

The calibre of these people indicates the recognition of the need for this service. I am very happy that one of the stronger recommendations of the Committee on Marriage Breakdown was that such a scheme be established. I know it had a different name — the term used was "mediation"— but it constitutes the same kind of service. I might put on the record the meaning of conciliation and what it is hoped to do. There is no settled definition really of what conciliation is but it is aimed at helping couples to resolve disputes which arise following the breakdown of marriage without recourse to legal proceedings, or with as little recourse to such proceedings as possible. It ought not be confused, as sometimes it is, with reconciliation, which is an entirely different concept. Conciliation is also seen as something distinct from marriage counselling which is aimed primarily at the prevention of marriage breakdown and the reconciliation of the parties. By comparison the established breakdown of marriage is taken as a starting point in the process of conciliation.

The overall purpose of conciliation is to minimise the harmful effects of marriage breakdown on couples and their children. A couple availing of a conciliation service could expect to have a number of sessions with a trained conciliator whose job it is to get them to come together and to explain clearly the practical matters that need to be agreed upon following the breakdown of the marriage. The couple will be encouraged to take control of their affairs, to work out their own solutions on matters such as custody, access to children, financial provisions and disposition of the matrimonial home. In particular parents are helped to maintain their parental role despite the ending of the marriage. The reality is that while husband and wife would be very hostile to each other and may have had a relationship that had been going wrong for a long time and which eventually splintered, their relationship with their children is something that must be maintained in the best interest of all concerned.

Parties whose marriages have broken down very often tend to look towards the law and legal provisions for solutions to their problems in the first instance. The adversarial courts system can set a couple at loggerheads from an early stage and does not always produce satisfactory results. Litigation can also be a very costly process. Clearly there is need for an alternative approach and a conciliation service provides such an alternative.

The details of the pilot scheme will be worked out by the steering committee in ensuing months. It is hoped to have the conciliation service operating on an experimental basis later this year, I hope, not later than October. At this stage it can be said that the service will operate out of court, which is very distinct from operating through the courts procedure where a district justice might recommend that conciliation should take place. This will be totally voluntary and out of court. The service will not be means-tested. It is envisaged that clients most likely to benefit from conciliation will be referred to the service by solicitors, doctors, clergy, Legal Aid Board law centres, marriage counsellors, family assessment or counselling service. I should emphasise that this is the first Governmentfunded out of court conciliation scheme to be set up in these islands. I am positively hopeful of the outcome of the deliberations of the steering committee and shall be very happy to announce the opening of this first service some time before the end of the year.

I am pleased to have an opportunity of saying a few words on the introduction of this Estimate by the Minister for Justice. There is not doubt that Justice is one of the most important Government Departments at present particularly in view of the very heavy increase in crime that has taken place over the years. I hope my contribution will be regarded as constructive.

I represent the constituency of Dublin South-West which includes the whole area of Tallaght and part of Clondalkin, an area in which crime, housebreaking and the general breakdown of law and order has been very much on the increase over the years. I want to say to the Minister of State present that that is not meant in any criticism of the Garda responsible for the operations in that area. Indeed I should like to avail of this opportunity to compliment the Garda in Tallaght for their wonderful work despite their inadequate accommodation and facilities.

I might compliment the Minister on his detailed approach to this Estimate. However, I was very disappointed that there was no mention of the proposed new Garda station in Tallaght about which there has been much talk over the years and various questions answered in this House. The most recent reply given was to the effect that work on the preparation of contract documents for the new Garda station in Tallaght is well advanced and it is expected that tenders for the job will be invited before the end of the year. That reply was given in October 1984. Having gone through the Minister's remarks, I do not see any reference whatsoever to the provision of that new Garda station. Possibly there was some announcement about it I did not hear but, had there been such announcement, I am sure the Minister would have referred to it in his remarks today.

It must be remembered that Tallaght has a population of approximately 80,000 at present and the Garda station sited there is totally inadequate to service the area. While I appreciate that there may be difficulties encountered in the provision of a new station — in view of the expansion of the Tallaght area and recent new developments there — one would have hoped that at least it would have been possible to provide some temporary accommodation, such as area stations or the like in order to help the people and the gardaí operating there. I want to express my utter disappointment in relation to this matter, which has been raised many times in this House. There have been various deputations to the Minister. I welcomed the news given some time ago that contract documents were being prepared because it is a facility badly needed by the Garda and the Tallaght area alike. It must be remembered that Garda strength has increased annually in the area but without any corresponding increase in their accommodation.

There is also the question of equipment for the Garda. One attends various meetings, those of residents' associations and others when a point very often made in the presence of a garda is that when there is some crime committed, some theft or housebreaking reported, the Garda are not in a position to visit the scene to investigate such occurrence, there being no transport available to them. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not choosing this subject out of any wish to criticise. This relates only to the day to day events in the Tallaght area. It is sad that when people from an area inhabited by 80,000 people, ring up the Garda station to report a crime the reply they get is that the Garda are not in a position to deal with the matter because they do not have transport. It is well known that this Garda station has been without a garda car for two or three days on occasions due to a breakdown. If there is a shortage of cars in headquarters it should be possible to rent a car to service the area. Although Tallaght has grown so rapidly its importance may escape some people, but the people living there and who have invested their money in houses there are entitled to some protection and proper services. The Garda despite very limited accommodation and facilities have done trojan work in this area.

The neighbourhood watch was introduced into this area some time ago and it is going very well. Apparently before the neighbourhood watch was set up some of the residents' associations got the impression that funds would be made available to them from the Department. In a recent reply to a Dáil question the Minister told me that there were no proposals for the direct funding of neighbourhood watch committees but that the cost of media promotion and so on was being dealt with. This has caused disappointment to many residents' associations operating in the Tallaght areas. I appreciate that it is difficult for a Department to meet every request, but these people are voluntary workers anxious to help and some consideration would be appreciated.

The Minister in his statement referred to the increased numbers of people in prison. We welcome that but must ask ourselves if this is the answer to the problem. We should address ourselves perhaps to the roots of the problem. We must all accept that the very high level of unemployment in many areas plays a huge part in the increase in theft. I appreciate the difficulties facing a Government in endeavouring to attract new industries. The constituency I represent has had very little investment to create new industries to alleviate the serious unemployment problem there. If people have too much time on their hands they will devote their energies to something other than work. It is a pity we have so many young people in prison today. I appreciate that it is the duty of everyone to ensure that criminals are brought to justice, but we should look for another solution to the problem.

I compliment the Minister on his work so far, but the rapid increase in crime over the years leaves us disappointed with the overall situation. In the Dublin area alone it is well known that many crimes are not reported because people know that there are not the facilities to deal with the criminals. In some areas, if it becomes known that a person reported a crime he is treated in a way which we must regret, and we must attach some responsibility for this to the Department of Justice. The time has come when this sort of thing should be tackled. I hope the Minister will bear in mind the validity of my points in relation to the Tallaght Garda station and the facilities there. The gardaí operating there are doing wonderful work despite the inadequate accommodation and facilities.

I listened with great interest to Deputy Hyland, who made a very sensible and constructive contribution. Many of the ideas he outlined today are worthy of deep consideration.

I compliment the Minister for Justice on his work. No Minister has had to face such a variety of problems in such a short space of time as has this Minister, and few Ministers have inherited a Department in such a low state of morale as did the present Minister. In the two and half years under this Minister, who it must be remembered had no previous Ministerial experience, he has shown a sureness of touch and a great steadiness in dealing with the many problems he faced. The public appreciate this. The Minister has restored the morale and credibility of his Department and has set in train a series of major reforms the effects of which will be felt in our society in the decades ahead. It is not easy to speak well in public of one's friends, so I will not go on too long with this. However, history will judge this Minister to have been one of our finest ever Ministers for Justice.

In the short two and a half years we saw the passing of the Criminal Justice Act after one of the fullest and best debates this House has ever had. We will shortly see the emergence of the Garda Complaints Tribunal, a reform which is much overdue. We have seen the inquiry into the penal system and I hope that that report will be following by action. We have had promised changes in the whole area of Garda training, the establishment of the neighbourhood watch system and the Courts Bill which perhaps did not go far enough but which is an important reforming measure. The Bankruptcy Bill is a major Bill coming from the Department of Justice. It was first introduced in 1982 but the genesis of it goes back decades. This Bill is now on its way through Committee Stage. There are 149 sections in this Bill and the committee are at present as far as section 80. This much needed reform of the bankruptcy laws which has simply eluded the attention of the House over all these years will become law by the end of this year or early next year.

The results of much of the Minister's work will not always be immediately or quickly visible. Changes in the area of the administration of justice or law reform are not easy. There are a variety of interest groups, each dissatisfied with whatever the Minister produces, each vocal, articulate, well organised. The closest similarity is in the field of education where any Minister will have to deal with and adjudicate on claims of various interest groups and ultimately come out with what is best in favour of the community. In the welter of competing claims it is possible to overlook the progress which is being made. The changes initiated over the past two and a half years will leave a lasting mark on our system of justice.

We must exercise caution about what is happening. It is important that the changes now taking place be properly planned because staring us in the face at the moment are the consequences of a lack of planning in the decades past. So many of the problems outlined by the Minister and by the two speakers opposite this morning are due to a simple lack of planning in the fifties and sixties. This lack of proper planning and foresight took many shapes. It can be seen in the provision of enormous, soulless housing estates where no attention was paid to proper or even basic amenities like transport, shops and so forth. These badly designed, badly planned housing estates created an environment in which crime would prosper, where there was very little incentive to people to keep within the law. In many cases these communities have fought back. The people have banded together and got the amenities which should have been there in the first place. Had they been there in the first place, many of the problems we have today would not have arisen.

The prison space crisis is also due to a lack of planning, perhaps easier to understand. Irish life in the forties, fifties and sixties was peaceful and tranquil. A murder was an isolated event which made the front pages of the national newspapers. A murder trial was followed day by day by half the population. It was rare, dramatic and caused interest. The prison figures for those years show that crime was steady or dropping. Prisons were closed. Our streets were safe. There was very little house breaking. However, if we are being honest we must admit that perhaps one of the reasons why our crime rate was so low in those years was that we exported our discontent and dissent. This was the time of massive emigration of those who had they stayed at home might well have taken to crime or at least a minority of them might have done so. I am sure the Ceann Comhairle remembers that in our courts a district justice would often give a person convicted the option of going to England or to jail.

Those days are gone now and our problems are our own and we must face up to them. In that climate of very little crime and almost no murder it would have been a brave politician who would say that scarce capital resources should be spent on prisons rather than on schools or hospitals. Also a problem then as now was that very few constituencies were willing to have prisons built in their neighbourhood. Indeed, I must compliment the Deputy from Laois-Offaly who successfully prevented the establishment of a prison in that area. Perhaps we all would act in the same way under local pressure. People do not want prisons in their areas. We like to pass that problem on to the next area, the next town, the next constituency.

In the fifties and sixties nobody foresaw that the Northern Ireland situation would explode and that violence and crime in Northern Ireland would spill over dramatically into the Republic. None of us foresaw either that our local crime would explode for a variety of reasons in the way it has. Therefore, this absence of planning left us with a totally inadequate prison system. It meant also that when the crime wave occurred massive and very rapid recruitment of large numbers of prison officers took place. Perhaps in many cases proper screening processes were not followed and a small minority of people got into the prison service who would not normally be there. This was the result of rapid major recruitment over a short time. To a large extent the prison space problems which the present and any future administration must tackle are a legacy of the failure in the past to foresee what might happen. Perhaps people should be blamed for it, perhaps not.

Building a prison is not just a straightforward operation. There are many types of prisons and there is a great deal of division of opinion as to what exactly the regime should be in a prison. The problem cannot be resolved overnight, and I have very little patience with people who castigate the Minister for the necessary stop gap measures which are being taken at present. Spike Island is not the answer, but it is at least in the short term meeting an immediate problem. The Minister never claimed that it would do more than that. He did not see it as a long term measure. There is great inconsistency if not hypocrisy on the part of those who on the one hand roar and shout for sterner methods but, who on the other hand, as soon as a practical solution is provided are the first to complain that it does not meet the situation. They pick upon the obvious faults that are in any short term, stopgap measure.

The same lack of planning is evident in the way in which the Garda Síochána have developed over the years, though here the excuses are less valid. If any institution has been studied in depth it is the Garda Síochána and their operation. We had the Conroy Commission, a major analysis of how the Garda Síochána should be reformed and changed. Aspects of the Conroy Report have gathered dust and have not been implemented and they certainly are as valid today as when the report was produced. We had the major Stokes-Kennedy-Crowley Report on the operation of the Garda Síochána, which for reasons I do not understand has never been published but which is available at least to the Minister and his advisers. In recent years the various representative bodies, the Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors have in a constructive way put forward proposals for improving the operation of the police force. Therefore, there is no question at this stage of a need for a commission or analysis. The problems in the Garda force are clear to all of us. There is sufficient material there for the Minister to consider.

The problem here over the year has been one of political will. In the highly volatile security situation of the seventies it is understandable why Ministers in the Department of Justice should have been preoccupied with security when they themselves were living under threat of kidnap, when they were constantly protected by gardaí and the Special Branch, when there was a great unknown. Nobody knew just what could happen when there was — as there is still — a threat to the very existence of the State, and it is easy to understand why Ministers would be preoccupied with questions of security. Unfortunately, a consequence of that was an unwillingness to look at the whole organisation and operation, of our police force, and there are a number of key areas in the administration of the Garda Síochána which are crying out for urgent attention. In some cases I believe changes are being made.

There is the whole question of recruitment. In the past, and still to some extent, gardí were recruited in a totally haphazard way, a crude way. There did not seem to be any system of aptitude testing and seeing whether or not people who would be playing a very sensitive role in society were psychologically suited to be policemen. Being a policemen confers power and authority on a person which can be and unfortunately as we have seen in the past has been abused. I wonder how much thought was put into the question of screening people. I know of one survey which was carried out on recruits in the late seventies or early eighties in a class in Templemore which led to the conclusion that some of those people should never be allowed to wear a police uniform because there was a likelihood that they could and might well abuse their power. Screening and aptitude testing to find out if there are personality defects need to be looked at very carefully. There is no shortage of information about psychological tests and programmes.

The very valuable report from the Committee on Crime, Lawlessness and Vandalism yesterday on Garda training spelled out in detail many of the defects or shortcomings in the present system, and what needs to be done. We should not have needed that report, because any commonsense look at the way in which gardaí have been trained in the past would lead to a number of conclusions. First, the training period is much too short. Secondly, there is far too little emphasis on the academic side, on the study of society, on dealing with the public, on community relations and perhaps too much emphasis on discipline and military aspects of policing. I know from talking to people in Templemore that there has been a major change in emphasis recently and that over the coming years there will be a major change in emphasis.

A third area was also touched upon this morning, that is, the way in which our police force has been deployed over the years. We have the silly, pointless use of gardaí on tasks for which they were ill suited and they were not available for the purposes for which they were recruited. We have all seen in Garda stations a garda laboriously typing out a report with one finger. The youngest secretary would do it ten or 20 times faster and more efficiently. We have seen gardaí on clerical duties, process serving and so forth, which could be done by civilians or by some sort of auxiliary police force.

The public are frustrated when they report a burglary or a car theft or something that happens in their area. There is not a garda in sight and they arrive at the station to find five, six or seven gardaí seemingly involved in work which has very little bearing on crime. I hope the whole question of deployment will be looked at. In the same way I often wonder whether the court system could be made more efficient so that gardaí would not be required to be in attendance for very long hours, often hanging around to make a very brief intervention in a case where perhaps a written submission might well suffice.

All of this brings me to the main area of weakness in the Garda Síochána which stems from the absence of planning I mentioned, that is, the whole question of management. Here we find the biggest problems. The managerial revolution has not been felt in the upper levels of the Garda Síochána. In many cases the structures and the attitudes are archaic. Recently Senator Durcan drew attention to what he saw as the scandal of absentee superintendents, with superintendents living 60 to 100 miles or even further away from the areas to which they have been assigned. He made the point, rightly, that a superintendent or a chief superintendent must live in the area where he operates. He must be part of that community. It is not good enough to have superintendents living 60 or 80 or hundreds of miles distant from their areas, I was going to say their constituencies. It would be very difficult for any of us not to live in our own constituencies. We have to experience and feel at first hand the problems and the thinking of the people we represent. Even more so a chief superintendent should be resident in his area.

Over the past number of years the Garda Síochána have always reacted to a crisis either by upping the numbers, hiring more people and bringing in more recruits irrespective of what they will be used for, or else by a call for greater technology, more machinery and equipment, often without any great thought as to what the equipment would be used for. It is not with fixed wing aircraft or more helicopters that the fight against crime which we have all spoken about this morning will be won. It will be won by better deployment of the existing forces. We have enough policemen. We are spending enough money on them. We must get better value for the taxpayers' money from the forces which exist already. That will come about only if there is a major managerial revolution within the Garda Síochána. I can see nothing wrong with bringing civilians into the upper levels of the Garda, civilians with a proven track record in management at high levels, to perform tasks at which they excelled in the private or the public sector. They could bring their expertise to bear on the running of the Garda Síochána.

I know the reform of the Garda Síochána is a minefield for any politician. The interests of the Garda Síochána as a whole are often not best served by some of the more strident representatives of the various organisations which operate within the field of justice. Any Minister must be conscious of the general good. He must not become a tool of any Garda organisation or pressure group. He must stay above that. The general public would have greater respect for the Garda organisations, and they would have greater credibility with the public, if they spoke a little less often and moderated the tone in which they couch many of their demands and many of their attacks, and if they took a course in communications to improve the way in which they present their often legitimate cases to the public.

Deputy Hyland referred at some length to the licensing laws. I would not disagree with the objectives which Deputy Hyland has in mind. A review of our licensing laws is long overdue. The legislation committee are now examining the licensing laws in great detail. Deputy Hyland referred to the report by Professor Brendan Walsh, an excellent report, which will be the basis upon which the legislation committee will proceed. The problems are very clear and explicit. There is general agreement in the House as to what the problems are. There is the epidemic of under age drinking and the need to curb that in some way. That will not be easy if there is not the involvement of parents. The use of identity cards is a possibility. How far it will go I do not know because, unfortunately, there will always be publicans who will not be aware of their responsibilities and who will be willing to serve people who are under age.

The second point mentioned in the report is the virtual absence of control over off-licence outlets and the ease with which people who are under age, and people who are chronically alcoholic and should not be served drink, can be served in the off-sales outlets. Then there is the question of the hours. Here I take issue with Deputy Hyland. There is an important need to review the drinking hours, not necessarily to extend them. A number of changes are necessary. For example, the number of Sunday night extensions is a great scandal. People are drinking late into Monday morning with the result that there is a very high level of absenteeism or sore heads at work on Monday morning. I would like to see an end to all Sunday extensions. Perhaps the licensing laws could be changed. In Edinburgh on an experimental basis at first, and now continuously, the licensing laws have disappeared. Pubs can open as they please. Edinburgh had a horrific record of drunkenness. The net result seems to be that there is less drunkenness, that after the initial splurge people respect the right to drink in their own time and at their own speed without the bout of last minute drinking coming to closing time which we have here which has all the pubs closing at the same time and disgorging their less than sober occupants into the road.

It is important that we look at the licensing hours to see if they are having a bad effect, to see if they could be changed. Deputy Hyland used the word "liberalise". I consider that is the wrong word and "rationalise" probably is the most accurate description of what should be done. I should point out to the House that the legislation committee have received an enormous number of submissions from interested groups all over the country of the possible reform of the licensing laws. I hope the Minister will not move to bring changes into the law until all of those groups have had their say in the legislation committee and until the distilled wisdom of that committee can be presented in the House as a course for action. Perhaps Deputy Hyland would not find too much to disagree with in that particular interpretation of what is happening.

I would like the Minister to have a look at the whole area of official secrets. It does not affect many people. The Minister, in reply to a Dáil question last week, did not see the matter as urgent. It is certainly important if it is not urgent. Our present legislation dates back even further than the 1963 Act, which consolidated a whole series of measures which had been in existence since the first World War and before it. Our present Act is a minefield. Under the present legislation an official secret is more or less what an official says is secret. It is a bit like Alice in Wonderland, things are what I say they are. Things are so vague at the moment that many matters are kept secret when there is no reason to keep them secret and officials can hide behind a veil of secrecy on matters which are of genuine, legitimate public interest. I fear it will take a scandal like the Ponting affair in Britain to do something about this. We have essentially the same legislation as Britain. If those changes were made now it would open up the whole area and could prevent us ever arriving at that type of situation. The Minister gave his criterion last week for legislation; was it urgent? He felt it was not urgent and even if it was it certainly would not be high on his agenda. I would like him to have a look at this matter and perhaps refer it to a committee of this House or to the Law Reform Commission for possible courses of action.

There is another scandal which I believe all Members of the House would agree on, which is reaching epidemic proportions, that is the question of uninsured car drivers. This matter has been mentioned many times before. It is a national scandal and those people who are paying car insurance are carrying the burden of those who refuse to pay. This has been discussed in some detail and I only want to make a passing reference to it. Surely it is possible to devise some system of compulsory disc which will show very quickly if a car is insured. I am sure everybody will agree that the checks on drivers to see if they are insured should be far more stringent and frequent than they are at present.

Quite a number of speakers have referred to the neighbourhood watch scheme, which has just been launched. I believe everybody would agree that the concept of neighbourhood watch has generated great enthusiasm throughout the various constituencies because people want to be involved, they want to be part of protecting what they see as the way of life to which they are entitled but people also have a great fear of vigilantes. All of us have seen how vigilantes very quickly become a cover for thugs, bullyboys and those who want to work out their personal vendettas under the guise of law and order. The community neighbourhood watch offers the right level of participation and constructive involvement. It also creates a very good spirit of self help among decent people who want to live safely and without fear and it brings about a genuine communication between the Garda and the community.

It is extraordinary how this communication has been lacking down the years. It is only in recent time in the cities that some real communication has once again begun. I must pay tribute to the Garda who in recent years have been very courteous in dealing with the public, often in dealing with people who are abusive or difficult. I find a very high level of courtesy and helpfulness among gardaí and, in particular, Ban ghardaí. I believe the type of people who are recruited as Ban ghardaí are of a very high calibre. I am sure we would all be very happy to see further recruitment of Ban ghardaí and to see their role greatly increased in overall policing.

I would like to see an extension of the community principle to deal with dangerous driving, not just joyriding. All neighbourhoods have examples of people who speed through built-up areas, who are oblivious of the safety of the young and old and who make life miserable and dangerous as well as creating fear among people. There are a number of ways of dealing with this. One way I have been pioneering for some time is the greater use of ramps in built-up areas. Ramps today need not be complicated. They are steel, they can be nailed down on to roads and can be moved very easily. I canvassed this fairly extensively in my constituency and I asked people if they would be willing to support, on an experimental basis, the setting up of ramps in certain areas. The response has been very enthusiastic. People are certainly willing to pay the small price of inconvenience if it means the roads are safer, that drivers will have to slow down and that their children and old people will be less likely to be knocked down. I urge the Department of Justice, in conjunction with the Department of the Environment, to get together to see if, in selected areas where the residents are agreeable, ramps could be constructed on the roads for a trial period to see if it makes the roads safer and reassures the people who are genuinely worried about speeding.

I know there are many other speakers who want to get in so I will not delay any longer. There is enormous scope for reform, particularly in small matters in relation to the whole area of justice. Perhaps the Minister at some stage might consider bringing in a miscellaneous provisions Bill where all our ideas on small things which could easily be reformed could be lumped together. We could then have a genuine debate in the House on the matters which concern the people we represent, where there would be general agreement as to what should be done and where the improvements could be effected.

I should acknowledge initially the compliments paid by the last speaker to our spokesman, Deputy Hyland, I endorse those as fully as I can. I know that Deputies Manning and Cosgrave and the Minister of State will share with me our concern that our spokesman, Deputy Woods, has been forced to absent himself for some months. I avail of this opportunity to extend to him our good wishes and hope that he will be back with us in the best of health before very long.

Hear, Hear.

There my compliments must end. I cannot agree with Deputy Manning that the Minister for Justice has been a success. My reason for saying that is the evidence which is around us. On the Minister's own admission prisons cannot cater for or cope with the number of people who have been sent there. There is great discord in the Garda force and similar unease and disquiet among prison officers. Legislation is promised and we hear eloquent statements about what is needed but there is delay in its implementation. Article 41 of our Constitution states that the rights and freedoms of our citizens must be guaranteed but as a result of those delays these rights and freedoms are painfully absent. It gives me no pleasure to say that but there is no point in my coming to this forum and representing the views of my constituents and those outside my constituency when I know that ahead of the great social problem of unemployment is the concern, unrest, fear and unease that resides in everyone with relation to their well-being. Half of the population are afraid to stay in their homes at night lest they be attacked and the other half are afraid to go out lest they be attacked. That might be a slightly extreme presentation of the case but everyone present will accept that is the new order of the times in which we live.

This is not happening under Deputies Doherty or Gerard Collins as Minister but under Deputy Noonan as Minister who, following his appointment, made it clear that he had the solution to all our problems. He has done practically nothing of a positive nature. If he had, he would not be admitting to the situation that exists. He admits that there are 1,200 people contained in our prisons but there are another 700 people who should also be in prison. We know as a result of statements made even by the Minister and other Members of the Government that morale in the Garda force is at its lowest. They feel rightly or wrongly — rightly as far as I am concerned — that they have been let down as regards the assistance and strengths that they should have received from the Government. As regards their desire to implement laws and regulations which they saw as fitting the needs of the people, they were subject to a very articulate lobby by minority groups, and what could be described as the rightful babble of the majority has been lost. This was evident especially last year when we were discussing the Criminal Justice Bill. I would hate to have been a member of the Garda force. There was a general castigation of them in respect of every move they made. Perhaps it was justifiable in the case of a small minority of them but there are good and bad in every profession, for example, among politicians, doctors, engineers and so on. There is no doubt that in the membership of the Garda we have an ability, dedication, commitment and intelligence which was prepared to apply itself to the pursuit of duties and responsibilities. Yet after hot pursuit when they get their man in the cold atmosphere of the courts or here we are more concerned about whether they have crossed every t and dotted every I than about expressing to them our commendation for work well done. It gives me no pleasure to say that. I detect among the Garda an attitude where they know that their salary will come at the end of the month and they are not all that concerned about running the risk of finding themselves, arising from their enthusiasm for the work, being fined rather than being commended.

The great Criminal Justice Bill was to give to them backing and recognition. The Minister said that worth-while measures could not be implemented without the prior establishment of the complaints body. That has been promised by him on several occasions, the most recent promise was on 20 March last when at column 188 of the Official Report he stated:

Many indeed might regret that the detention powers of the Bill and some of the other key provisions are not yet in force as undoubtedly they would be useful in dealing with some of the current problems. I hope to be in a position to rectify that situation very shortly by bringing before the Oireachtas the Bill to set up a Garda Síochána Complaints Board. ...

The Minister hoped to do it very shortly. If "very shortly" has any meaning at all one would have the right to expect that it might have been done before the end of the first week in June. I predict that we will not have it by Christmas.

It may be that what is known as joyriding has been contained for the present but, as sure as it has, some other equally serious problem will arise. We will have a repetition of what happened as regards that problem and as regards attacks on the elderly — action being taken when it is too late because the Minister has neither the resources nor the backing of the Garda to the extent that is necessary. One can have all the regulations one likes but all great things happen at the margin. The margin of success in respect of the implementation of law and order cannot be seen unless there is recognition that the Garda have the backing of the House, the Minister, the Commissioner and the Department of Justice to the extent that we would be prepared to judge them not perhaps on the one inevitable omission which will occur as a result of lack of industry or effort but on their overall performance. Unless that word goes out to them, we are wasting our time if we think we can contain the problem. While I am dealing with the Garda and their justifiable disappointment in us, there is no better example than to quote the affront given to them in respect of the committee which was established to examine recruitment, training and retraining of the Garda. The Minister referred to this in his speech but he did not say that, in the establishment of that committee, he or his advisers saw fit to exclude a representative from the two Garda bodies. Ponder that for a moment. If a committee was established to examine the position of politicians, teachers, journalists, doctors and dentists in regard to suitable recruitment to those professions and how best to discharge their duties, how they should be trained and the need for retraining andab initio, representatives of those groups were excluded, the weakness is so obvious as to be sinister. What, in God's name, is the justification for excluding a representative of 11,500 members from a committee which has been set up to examine their business? Perhaps the Minister will be able to satisfy me as to why that was done.

I presume that the two Garda bodies will be making submissions to academics as to how best the academics might recommend that the position of the Garda could be improved. I imagine that when the recommendations come — if they ever do — the knowledge that the Garda had no input will not greatly appeal to them. In my time I met the odd wrong one in the Garda and, armed with the criticisms made about him, I interviewed him in the local Garda station and got explanations in respect of the criticism made against him. Invariably, I found that the garda in question, perhaps with one or two exceptions, was able to satisfy me as to the correctness of his actions in the pursuit of his responsibilities.

I wish to comment on an interview with Deputy Skelly on the radio this morning. He represents the area in which I live, and elected representatives should be prepared to pursue the normal channels available to them in respect of justifiable complaints. I have listened to and admired Deputy Skelly in this House. His statements often displayed courage; but, listening to him this morning, an elected Member of this House stating that he felt he was being hounded by the Garda, that they were out to get him and that he had proof of that, is not geared to encouraging respect for this House or for the Garda. There must be a better way of doing this, and I appeal to Deputy Skelly to supply me with any evidence he has. I am as anxious as he to protect the rights of anybody elected to this House to say what he or she thinks appropriate in the House. If he does not have any evidence, he is obliged to make the position clearer than he did this morning. The impression was given that situations pertain here which we know exist in Eastern countries where the elected representative is a unit and must act in accordance with the dictates of Big Daddy. He must also obey an all powerful dictator, but that is not the position here.

I am not going to dwell on what I said earlier on, but I have taken issue with the Garda and, where necessary, made reports arising from my dissatisfaction with them and never once have I had the slightest evidence of their disappointment in my so doing. I am sure that other Deputies have had the same experience. I appeal to Deputy Skelly to come in here this afternoon to enlighten us in relation to the manner in which this vendetta is being carried out against him. If he convinces us we all should take appropriate action.

I should now like to refer to that other important and vital area, the courts. Before I was elected to the House I was beginning to harbour doubts as to the court system here and in other countries. I had a feeling of disappointment, of annoyance at times, of surprise and frustration as to the way the courts, law and justice operated. Already I had seen that, from something which ordinarily we are expected to accept as being a firm and absolute matter, depending upon the whim, the humour, the interest or the influences of the person sitting on a chair in the courts the life of a fellow citizen could be affected to a point and to an extent that was not fair or just. The more I observe the courts the more I am convinced of the inappropriate fashion in which the work is carried out, of the complete lack of any standards in the manner in which sentences are passed, of the isolation that the person who has to go to the courts feels. A person called before the courts hires a solicitor and a man or woman in a gown and wearing a wig sits in judgment on something that is vital to that person but the person is very seldom introduced to the area which so affects him or her. I make no apology for calling it the vested interests of the professional classes in getting from the operations that are called justice and law the salary and remuneration which is not, in my opinion, commensurate with the service they give to the person before the courts.

It seems all the while to be organised so that the person involved is not told what is going on. He or she must stand and wait, like expecting the result of a national lottery, to find out whether he or she has won or lost the case, whether he or she may face a sentence of six, nine or 12 months. It appears that there are no criteria or, if there are, they seem to be so subject to other matter that it is impossible to get any correct line as to what is going to happen. I do not think that is good enough for our citizens. We know that it is Sean Citizen's taxes that pay for the education of solicitors, barristers and judges. It seems extraordinary that having paid for their education people must pay them if they want to talk to them. That is the position that exists.

I have been critical of what is called "free legal aid" to the extent that formerly legal people were disposed to exercise their charity in respect of fellow citizens in trouble with the courts and did so running a risk that there would not be a fee forthcoming. Free legal aid only guarantees that lawyers will not have to do that free any more. In the courts a solicitor or barrister can have simultaneously three or four cases on hand and may be running from one court to another looking for adjournments but all the time be insensitive or oblivious to the needs of the client. In most cases the adjournments are sought because it suits the lawyer involved. I do not think that is good enough.

The Minister told us that most of the problems facing us today arise from areas where what might be described as the underprivileged live. I suppose it can be shown that people who are exceedingly poor are underprivileged and are driven to extremes not common among others, but I venture to suggest that if other people were subjected to the adversity and trials of such people they would not withstand them. Staying with that area, and the injustice of it, I should like to ask how many people from such areas become solicitors, barristers or judges. We know that the court area affects such people very much and one would imagine, in respect of the discretion a judge can show, that it would help him or her in assessing what has motivated a person appearing before the court to the extremes they have indulged in if he or she had experienced some of the trials and tribulations of the person involved. It never happens. I do not know of any judge who can boast that he or she came from Ballyfermot, Finglas, Tallaght or Coolock. Very few lawyers can boast that they came from Tallaght, Coolock, Finglas or Ballyfermot and very few solicitors came from those areas, notwithstanding the fact that the money that went to the education of those people by and large came from those areas. It must be remembered that in those areas the greatest number of PAYE workers live. We are all aware that it is such people who make the biggest contribution to the Exchequer.

If socialism is about giving representation to the people who pay in the areas where the lucrative vineyards exist then the day has come when we must guarantee that there will be fair representation not just in the matter of normal justice but in so far as the person sitting on the bench or pleading the case would be in a better position to interpret the mind, the feeling and the motivation, or lack of it, of the person before the court than exists at present. I want to see an end to the position that obtains in our courts where sentences depend not on specific well formulated data but to a large extent on the whims and the prevailing climate in the courtroom, whether a judge likes a lawyer or not or whether in the presentation of the case a lawyer was able to excel another. That should not be happening.

I do not want to see a never ending rise in what is called free legal aid. There is nothing free. We all know that today even fresh air is not free. Education is not free. Everything has to be paid for. This was demonstrated in today's Estimate because in respect of the Garda, courts and prisons a sum of £304 million has been provided. That money must be got from the people. The people are not getting a fair return from the Garda because they do not have the resources, backing or legislation to which they are entitled, and they are not getting a fair return from the courts because of the traditional attitude adopted there.

Some time ago I raised the question of prisons and the lack of accommodation which led to the situation where there was disrespect for our courts. As a person who served on the committee of St. Patrick's for ten years, it was unnecessary for the Minister to remind me of normal parole procedures and how certain prisoners' sentences are reduced by a fifth or a quarter, depending on their behaviour — but I was not referring to that. I was talking about people who were sentenced in court but before they reached Mountjoy it was discovered there was no room for them. Since last March 500 people have been sentenced but our total prison accommodation is for 1,100. It cannot be a coincidence that on the day 20 people are sentenced another 20 are released. This type of situation is being manufactured. There are consultations taking place between a clerical officer or an executive officer in the Department of Justice and the governor of the prison. The officials say that 20 people must be taken into the prison and 20 others will have to be released.

With a view to acquiring additional accommodation I suggested that the Minister reopen Daingean. He said it was not possible and reprimanded me for making that suggestion. He said Daingean could not contain these people and that that was why he had taken over Spike Island — it was surrounded by water and there was no danger of anybody escaping from it. He has been proved wrong and he will appreciate that there was more in my suggestion than in his own.

The fact that people are being released from prison before they would normally qualify for such release is lessening people's respect for our courts. The Minister need not tell me of the additional 500 spaces he has created. He has manipulated spaces but he has not created any new space. The spaces he is talking about were inherited from his precedessor, Deputy Seán Doherty, but there was not the same need for them during his term of office. Whatever else Government Deputies may say, they are not very vocal in their criticism of the former Minister for Justice because they realise that when he was in office crime was much more contained than it is during the term of this much-lauded holder of the office.

It is not good enough to say that poverty and social deprivation are the cause of our problems. That is a slight on those who, through no fault of their own, are out of work, are poor and deprived. I have the honour of representing an area where there is a great deal of poverty and deprivation. However, the vast majority of those people have a sense of what is right and what is wrong, which is comparable with and, as far as I am concerned exceeds that held by people in other areas. I came from a home where we could not boast of great riches. I am not saying we were deprived, but there was many a day when we could have done with more money. There was never a question of any member of that household coveting what belonged to a neighbour. It was never suggested that it was justified for us to take what did not belong to us or that we would injure another person to get what he or she had. Thankfully, that attitude remains in the majority of Irish homes. It is an unnecessary and unjustifiable castigation of the poor to attribute all the problems of today to them. But if it were so, then the Minister should exhort the Government to remove the source of the problem from these areas, a problem which he is failing to solve.

The attitude of Ministers and of Ministers of State is not helpful. Recently we had a contribution from the Minister of State Deputy Fennell. She has gained for herself the reputation of being concerned and sensitive to the needs of all, but especially of ladies. We are to commend her on every effort she is making towards removing impediments put in the way of females, but I found what she had to say recently very strange. Traditionally a lady felt much more comfortable going to town carrying a handbag. That was fashionable, traditional and functional, but no longer is a lady happy to do that because she knows if she carries a handbag she runs the risk of being attacked. Everybody knows that, and the Minister of State also knows it.

I suggest that that is a far greater problem for ladies today than many other alleged problems that Minister of State Deputy Fennell would want to articulate. When talking about the absence of law and order and the lack of freedom to go about one's business, that Minister says that it is not serious crime that impinges most on society but rather cases of petty vandalism such as handbag snatching and a general lawless attitude displayed by many young people. Anybody who has been subjected to the trauma of handbag snatching knows its effect, but that in the eyes of the Minister of State is petty crime and we should not bother too much about it.

This is all part of the effort towards deflating the existing emergency and denying the absence of the protection which the State should give to our citizens. What about the case of the lady in her own home visited by somebody who takes the contents of her handbag? Is that, as far as the Minister of State is concerned, a petty crime? Should that encourage us not to be as critical towards herself, the Minister for Justice and the Government as we are in respect of their failure to act in accordance with their constitutional requirements to guarantee to the citizen the right to go about his or her business satisfied that he or she has the protection of the State and is at least guaranteed that if such attacks occur the person responsible will be brought to justice and made to pay the penalty?

On the question of penalty, I referred earlier to the fact that while I was a member of the committee of St. Patrick's, with the late Senator Jimmy Dunne and others, I endeavoured to bring much-needed improvement to the lives of prisoners there. I am very sensitive to the application of the charity and understanding that should exist, but if one examines penology since the world began there is no evidence that the kinder one is to people who commit crimes the better will be the response. One can make any deduction one likes from that, but it is a statement of fact.

We must appreciate that, even though man has changed everything around him, including all the changes from technology and so forth, in respect of his emotions man has not changed. There is no evidence whatsoever that one serves better the cause of rehabilitating somebody who is guilty of a serious crime by supplying luxurious surroundings and providing many comforts that are denied to others. People say that lack of proper rehabilitation in our prisons is the reason for there being so many criminals. It is the reverse, as far as I am concerned. People do not mind going to prison now, apart from the discomfort that comes from overcrowding. The conditions are such that it is no longer a penalty to go to prison.

As Minister of State at the Department of Education, I was associated with the process that led to the establishment of an institution at Lusk that was supposed to cure all the problems of the young teenage criminal. That was built at a colossal investment by the nation, but there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that it has improved the situation one bit. Rather have those people created more havoc there than they ever did in Daingean or Glencree or places from which we all recoiled years ago.

It is not the fashionable thing to say and one will be castigated for a hard line or something less complimentary, but I have no doubt that if you are looking for a way of teaching people the lesson of their wrongdoing it will not be done by treating them to a succession of comforts. We must apply ourselves now to establishing forms of corrective training that will not make little of the human being and will be more likely to bring the improvements we all want, rather than perpetuating those which have been in existence for the last ten years and have proved to be ineffective. I have placed before the House matters which I regard as appropriate to this Estimate and have indicated — and am reluctant in saying this but must be honest with myself — that I see absolutely no evidence that the present Minister for Justice has done anything worthwhile. He talked, promised big, did a good PRO job; but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The proof of his promises and measures should be seen outside, and there is no evidence that he has made any contribution to improving the situation he inherited. Rather is there ample evidence that it has become much worse under his guardianship. Certainly the positionvisà-vis the Minister, the Department and the Garda has not much improved and that is to nobody's advantage. Certainly, the erstwhile respect for the courts has gone, which is to nobody's advantage. His Minister of State treats the terrible present emergency as vandalism and petty crime.

I am not so foolish as to expect that there will be any great response to what I have said. Rather will there be an effort at protecting the ministerial position, as happened here when I raised the question of the lack of spaces for people sentenced to imprisonment. At that time the Minister accused me of contributing to his problems in not preventing the deputy leader of our party from opposing the establishment of some prison in the centre of the city. That was the only case he could make against what I said. He avoided saying that a Minister of State in his own Government was at the same meeting and was more vocal in his criticism of the proposal than was the deputy leader of our party.

The Minister and the Government find themselves in a position where there is a complete lack of confidence in them in respect of law and order. In the forthcoming elections an opportunity will be given to people to pass judgment on the performance of Ministers. I am making the case on what is called law and order, the major one I shall put to the people. If the election results show that the people are satisfied, if they vote against me and the rest of our candidates, I will be happy to come here — I will not wait until we are next discussing the Estimate — and say that I was wrong, that the people are quite happy with the Minister. However, I know I will not be obliged to do so.

The fact that so much money has been spent during the year in the Vote that deals with the Garda Síochána and the prisons emphasises the serious situation that has arisen over a period of time. The many crimes committed in respect of house robberies, aggravated assault in which some senior citizens were attacked and brutally beaten, car robberies and so on testify to the growing problem we must confront and ultimately try to solve.

Last year we had a long discussion when the Criminal Justice Bill was going through this House. At that time the measure was opposed in certain quarters, and that opposition got much publicity. The people involved said the Bill was not necessary but in recent months some of those voices have been mute and seem to have disappeared from the headlines. It is now realised we were right to bring the Bill forward. My only regret is that some of the sections are still not in force. It is nearly a year since the measure passed this House but to date the complaints procedure has not been dealt with. This procedure is necessary before the measure can be implemented fully. I do not know the reason for the delay. When the Bill was being drafted it is obvious that consideration was also given to the complaints procedure. The delay in this connection seems inexplicable. We must ask if the delay has been caused by the parliamentary draftsman or by the Attorney General's office. It is essential that the complaints procedure be brought forward without further delay. As we are now in the month of June it does not appear likely that it will come before us until the autumn and that is not satisfactory when one considers that the Bill went through this House almost a year ago. I doubt if the delay is due to the Minister. I am sure he is as anxious as anyone else to have the measure implemented fully. Whoever is responsible for the delay should be asked to act faster than they have done in the past few months.

The amount of money provided for the Garda Síochána is considerable. It is more than £233 million and this testifies to the commitment of the Government to help the Garda. While they have been given some equipment and the necessary resources to fight crime much more has to be done. The Garda Síochána should be a customer-orientated service. New methods of training must be considered. I am a member of the Committee on Crime, Lawlessness and Vandalism and I hope that some of the recommendations of the committee will be implemented as soon as possible. Another committee is looking at aspects of Garda training and I hope they do not take too long to report. I hope they take the necessary evidence and that they pay attention to the various Garda organisations and others who have contributed. At times committees sit for quite a long time but when they report nothing is done about it.

Recently I visited Templemore with other members of the committee and I was interested to see the on-the-job training and some retraining schemes. Members of the Garda Síochána throughout their careers in the force must be given the opportunity to do refresher courses. I was glad to see that all gardaí are now trained in relation to drug offences and drug abuse. This means that the garda on the beat will recognise tell-tale signs in relation to this problem and will be able to act accordingly. It is good that members of the force who are not specifically in the Drugs Squad have achieved considerable successes. A special tribute must be paid to the Drugs Squad who have had notable successes in the past. They have ensured that some of the so-called drug barons and people who have literally helped to murder our young have been put away.

It is important that the Garda Síochána get a new national communications network. It is desirable that the whole system be put into operation as soon as possible. The Neighbourhood Watch system has been launched successfully. It is now covering a number of areas and is getting a good response from the public. They are interested and realise that the best way to beat crime and to ensure that their property and that of their neighbours is protected is by a community-based action by assisting the Garda. I hope that the provision of telephones will not be held up by red tape. Where the Garda recommend that public phones be provided or that old people who are living perhaps in flats or in old people's homes should be given phones, their recommendation should be acted upon without delay. Yesterday while canvassing I spoke to a person who has been waiting five years for a phone. It is ridiculous that there should be such long delays especially when elderly people are concerned having regard to the importance of their being able to keep in touch with family members or with other relatives. I trust that where the Garda make such recommendations there will be an instantaneous link-up with Bord Telecom to ensure that telephones are provided.

The Deputy is on the wrong line. I will allow him make only a passing reference to this subject.

He is coming in from the right wing.

There has been much reference recently to the level of the prison population and to the problem of providing adequate accommodation for prisoners. With increasing numbers of people being convicted and being sentenced to longer terms of imprisonment, extra accommodation has had to be provided. Despite various assertions from Opposition spokeman, they, too, must realise that the matter is not merely as simple as constructing four walls and then claiming to have a prison. Extra prison accommodation has been provided on Spike Island and despite a couple of initial hiccups, I trust that additional prisoners can be accommodated there before the new Wheatfield prison becomes available. When we have extra accommodation we can ensure that all those who are convicted and sentenced for having committed very serious crimes such as car stealing and in particular crimes against old people, will serve almost every day of those sentences. We must ensure that there will be no such concept as a shedding policy whereby people serving sentences for very serious crimes are released early.

Reference has been made to the numbers of people convicted recently in respect of offences connected with motoring, for instance, in respect of driving without insurance. In that regard I urge that the disc system will be introduced without further delay.

The Minister referred to delays in the Land Registry. In the context of the obviously necessary embargo on the recruitment of staff in the public service, there might be a more prudent judgment. While I appreciate that we have a massive public service bill and that we must consider areas in which there is scope for getting a better return for the taxpayers' money, a strict across-the-board embargo affects many people by reason of the delays caused by staff shortages.

Perhaps some building society work which might not require immediate attention could be left over so that more pressing matters might be dealt with. In the case of building society work the clients are likely to be involved with the society for a number of years but there are many areas that are more urgent, for instance, areas relating to the sale of houses and so on.

The embargo should not mean strictly taking someone from any area. There has been a 14 per cent reduction in one area. Having regard to the fees paid in respect of the lodgment of documents such as deeds and so on, the Land Registry should be paying for itself. The embargo should not be applied strictly across the board. It should not mean that an area where a certain level of staff is very important are left short while perhaps staff could be taken from some other area without causing too much difficulty. The aim should be to keep up the level of staff in areas in which a shortage would have a serious effect on the public in terms of delays.

I urge that the embargo be used sparingly and that careful consideration be given to any proposal to remove staff from such areas as the courts or the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. We must ensure that the courts system does not break down because of staff shortages.

I welcome the appointment of an extra judge to deal with Circuit Court cases. This is in the Bill published today. One hopes that that Bill will have the effect of speeding up the whole process and of bringing about a reconsideration of some of the outdated systems. Obviously, this would involve some time but it is possible to deal more speedily with cases while considering them sympathetically.

In the whole area of Garda and community relations there must be greater evidence of the provision of a service. People should be assured that following Garda response to their complaints, there will be a follow up and further communication. The service in some areas of the country is somewhat sloppy but perhaps in the context of the new training methods for the Garda, greater emphasis will be placed on putting gardaí into areas where they will be in a better position to come to know the people so that locals will know that today, for instance, Garda Murphy will be on duty while Garda Jones will be on duty tomorrow. If the people know their gardaí they will be prepared to co-operate with them in their fight against crime.

I support the measures being taken by the Minister but I appeal to him to take action in the matter of the delay in establishing the Garda complaints procedure. This delay is not justified. I do not know whether the fault rests with the parliamentary draftsmen or with the office of the Attorney General but I trust every effort will be made to establish the tribunal as quickly as possible.

Debate adjourned.