I wish to share my time with Deputies Haughey, Liam Fitzgerald and O'Dea.
Private Members' Business. - Crime Prevention and Detection.
I should think that is satisfactory. Agreed.
That Dáil Éireann calls on the Government, in the light of the Brinks-Allied raid and the continuing level of serious crime, especially drug-related crime, to review and apply the necessary resources and to put into effect additional legislative measures in order to tackle and defeat the crime wave and to provide a proper and effective level of security for people in their homes and their streets and for business and other property.
The events of the past week have demonstrated clearly that organised crime is alive and flourishing in Ireland. The audacity of last Tuesday's Brink's-Allied robbery appears to have left the Minister for Justice breathless and confused. At a time when all the resources of the State need to be focused on the arrest of the perpetrators and the recovery of the cash, all we have heard from the Minister are self-serving and contradictory statements designed to protect the Taoiseach and herself from the consequences of their statements to the Dáil last week. The Administration that promised openness and transparency has delivered obfuscation and paralysis.
What has the Minister done in the past week to assist in the fight against organised and ruthless lawlessness? At a time when the citizens of this country were entitled to expect that every possible assistance would be given to the Garda Síochána in their pursuit of these criminals, the Minister for Justice occupied her time, with her colleagues, in consideration of weighty matters such as how many extra Ministers of State needed to be funded by the taxpayer in order to keep disaffected Government backbenchers in line. At a time when action was needed the Government of openness and transparency sat behind closed doors seeking to increase and divide the spoils of office.
Over the past week money laundering and its consequences have been a topic of conversation at every crossroads in this country. At any stage during that week did it ever strike the Minister for Justice that she might usefully lift her pen and give effect to the provisions of section 32 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994? Is it too much to hope that a legislative provision specifically designed to provide for measures which could be taken to prevent money laundering might be used at a time when criminals are in possession of millions of pounds in unmarked notes?
The Minister, by her inaction in this regard — and it gives me no pleasure to say this — has presented the perpetrators of this crime with an incalculable bonus. Why is it that a week has gone by and this provision has not been introduced? Why is it that a measure which provides for the imprisonment of bankers who fail to take reasonable measures to establish the identity of persons involved in financial transactions involving £10,000 or more has not been given effect at a time when one of the greatest money laundering operations in the history of the State is probably under way?
The fact that the robbers have been given a head start is bad enough. I would submit that what is worse is that continued inactivity appears to be the order of the day. There is no indication that the Minister proposes to rectify her lethargy of last week. There is no indication that her colleagues intend to prod her into activity. I am afraid that this is not a Government of action or resolve on the basis of this evidence, it is a Government of inactivity and indecisiveness.
Providing gardaí with the necessary measures to effectively counteract crime unfortunately does not appear to be very high up on the Government's list of priorities. The criminal events of last week require that there be an immediate and detailed review of existing legislation to ensure that our laws provide the gardaí with all the armoury necessary to tackle organised thuggery. Is is too much to hope even now that the Government with its ever increasing army of advisers, managers and handlers might have conducted such a review over the past week?
Does the Minister realise that there is no effective mechanism known to the criminal law which would permit the gardaí to freeze or seize the proceeds of last week's robbery if they suspected them to be held in a financial institution? We, in Fianna Fail, are of the view that the gardaí should not be required to confront organised crime with one hand tied behind their backs. If, as is clearly the case, sophisticated criminals are able to manipulate the complexities of banking and financial law to their own advantage, then the gardaí must have the legislative ability to pursue them and courage must be shown for once by the Government.
We consider that in order to effectively fight organised crime of the type we saw last week the gardaí must have the power to freeze moneys in accounts in any financial institution within the State where they suspect that it represents the proceeds of specified criminal activity. Since this Government appears unwilling or unable to provide any legislative response to last week's robbery, we have prepared and will introduce a Bill to give this power to the Garda.
We believe that, in the same way as the Minister for Justice has power under the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act, 1985 to require any bank to pay moneys into the High Court where their true ownership can be determined, the Garda Commissioner should have the same power in relation to money which he believes to be the proceeds of a specified crime. Persons who wish to claim ownership of that money can go to the High Court in the ordinary way and by evidence seek to prove that the money is theirs. The proposed legislation is simple, effective and needed. I invite the Minister for Justice to demonstrate a commitment on this occasion to openness by supporting its passage through the House.
We in Fianna Fáil are determined that Ireland will not become a haven for organised crime. Where legislation is necessary and introduced we will support it — where it is necessary and not introduced, we will introduce it.
It is clear that whether induced by addiction or greed, the abuse of drugs is at the root of a considerable amount of criminal activity in this country. For the last number of years the amount of drugs coming into Ireland has increased dramatically. This has been illustrated by the fact that there have been many substantial seizures over the past four to five years and the majority of these seizures came from the south, namely Cork and Kerry. While the gardaí, the Customs and Excise, and the Navy must be congratulated on their vigilance, the reality is that they cannot hope to police 2,000 kilometres of coastline with the meagre resources and personnel available to them. Ireland is on the outer perimeter of the European Union and Ireland continues to be viewed by the traffickers as a potential transit country.
In those circumstances every Irish and European parent will want the Irish coastline zealously guarded against highly organised and ruthless criminals who prosper in human misery. It is incumbent on the Minister to call upon the European Council and the European Commission to make adequate resources available to stop this trafficking now. Such a response is owed not just to the children of this country but to the children of Europe.
The drug problem is so complex that it must be clear that no one agency or country can resolve it. There is a need for a national drugs enforcement agency in this country which will include all law enforcement agencies liaising at all times with one another and with their European counterparts. There must be a recognition that the drug problem is not confined to Ireland but is an international problem. I respectfully suggest that it be tackled at two distinct levels utilising the aforementioned agencies. First, the money laundering process which I previously mentioned must be addressed now. Second, there must be a shift from concentrating completely on those at the top of the pyramid of the drug market to tackling those at the mid and lower levels. Greater emphasis must be put on law enforcement at the lower level. Of course, it remains necessary to monitor and, if possible, detect the operations of those at the top of the pyramid and this might best be done by chipping away at the middle and bottom of the pyramid. Seizures of drugs and money at these levels can help to destabilize the pyramid of the network. Third, national drug enforcement agencies should be co-ordinated and assisted by an overall agency or commissioner under the aegis of the European Union.
Of course, criminal activity here is not confined to organised crime. Burglaries, car thefts, assaults, robbery from the person and other serious crimes are sadly everyday occurrences on our streets and in the countryside. In 1993, for example, the incidence of indicitable offences throughout the country increased by 3.7 per cent compared with the figures for 1992, with the largest increase in larcenies and crimes against property with violence. In the Dublin Metropolitan Area, the number of indictable offences increased by 7.7 per cent. The total value of property stolen was more than £46 million, an increase of £2 million on 1992. The number of motor vehicles circulated as stolen increased to more than 2,000, a substantial increase — 39 per cent — on the figure for 1992. Included were 1,500 motor cars worth a total of £5 million. Unauthorised takings totalled 13,000, with 72 per cent of these in the Dublin Metropolitan Area. The aforementioned figures are quite serious and indicate an immediate need for an increase in Garda personnel and resources.
The peace process presents a golden opportunity to this Minister. Scarce resources which were unavailable to holders of her portfolio in the past 25 years can now be used to tackle the serious level of crime here. Sadly, there is no evidence that this will happen.
The statement accompanying the Book of Estimates claimed "we are providing for 350 Garda recruits in 1995". This creates the misleading impression that there will be 350 additional gardaí, forgetting about retirements from the Force. The salaries, wages and allowances of the Garda Síochána show an increase of only 2 per cent, less than the rate of inflation. In other words, the numbers in the Force, or certainly Garda overtime, is if anything being cut back. Will the Minister for Justice tell us the full complement of the Garda Síochána on 1 January and how many she expects to be in the Force by the end of this year? In the interests of openness, transparency and accountability, the Dáil and the public are entitled to know the Garda strength as outlined in the Book of Estimates, and to understand that there are no plans to increase its strength.
I suggest that the following measures be given serious and immediate consideration. Bail laws should be examined in the context of habitual criminals. Our citizens are rightly outraged at the sight of previously convicted criminals walking free from court on bail committing further and often more serious crimes. There is also the ludicrous spectacle of criminals who have been convicted in court appealing their convictions and in the course of awaiting their ultimate punishment inflicting further misery on their fellow citizens. We must have a court system which is expeditious in dealing with criminals; this is sadly lacking now. There is no point making additional resources available to the gardaí unless the courts can deal with them swiftly and appropriately.
Juvenile offenders must not be allowed to be seen as gaining kudos and "street cred" through being arrested and charged. It is obvious that if these young people are sent to Mountjoy or Loughan House, only to be released within 48 hours because of overcrowding, the punishment, far from fitting the crime, is often perceived as a social feather in the cap. Alternative forms of sentencing must be explored. The areas of community service should be expanded but must have increased funding to ensure that each sentence is closely monitored. The type of community service must be appropriate in terms of location, duration and worth to the community. There is a fine distinction between the punitive, perhaps humiliating, aspect of such service and the objective of installing in the offender a sense of community and civic spirit.
There is no point pussyfooting around the question of incarceration. Certain criminals must be removed from society for the greater good of all. More places of detention must be built or created as a matter of urgency. The last Government gave its approval to the sitting of a prison in Castlerea, County Roscommon. This must proceed without delay.
It is widely acknowledged that the Garda have enormous difficulties in prosecuting some of the more colourful master criminals in our midst. Increased powers might be given to a special division of the Revenue Commissioners in relation to the unaccounted funding of material acquisitions and perhaps measures might be introduced for the appropriate attachment of such moneys and/or assets until satisfactory explanations are forthcoming.
The securing of private property might be made more attractive by the introduction of some method of tax incentive in relation to the installation of burglar alarms, alongside a reduction in insurance premiums.
Changes in criminal law should not come about piecemeal. In recent times changes have resulted from media reaction to a particular case. Criminal law reform should be approached from an overview position and necessary reforms carried out on an overall basis to reflect today's society.
This is not a lawless country but there are more sophisticated criminals against whom more sophisticated legislation and technology must be used. Many people believe that the legislation and resources utilised in the fight against crime are either archaic or inadequate. The Brinks-Allied raid must have sent shivers down the spines of people living alone in cities, towns and rural areas. The spectacle of a criminal gang meticulously and successfully raiding one of our largest security firms must have given them little cause for optimism in relation to the safety of themselves or their property in their homes. Sadly — again, it does not give me pleasure to say this — the Government's response will give them little cause for encouragement. Where action and decisiveness were called for, helplessness and dithering became the early trademark of this Minister and this Government. We have seen sufficient inactivity, foot-dragging and paralysis. The people of Ireland need and deserve better than this.
The headless chickens of last December.
Deputy Dukes should relax.
The Deputy's party did nothing about it when it was in Government.
I will now pose specific questions to the Minister for Justice with which I hope she will deal in her reply. First, does she intend introducing regulations to regulate security firms? Where large sums of money are concerned, this must be done in the interests of security.
Does the Deputy forget that his party was in Government not long ago?
The Deputy learned that well.
Second, what did the Minister know in this House last week and when was she made aware of it? It is clear that obfuscation was the order of the day and that the replies given to this House last week were not the full story. This House and the people of Ireland are entitled to know precisely what the Minister knew, when she knew it and why she did not tell the Members of this House.
(Carlow-Kilkenny): What the butler saw.
Third, I believe the Minister for Justice has a duty to tell the House whether she approves of the assault on the Garda Síochána by Government backbenchers in the last few days, whether she has confidence in the Force and if she will give the Garda real powers and resources and specify the amount of resources that will be available to her, as Minister for Justice, as a result of the peace dividend.
(Carlow-Kilkenny): Did the Deputy's party not give them all the resources they needed?
There has been a considerable amount of talk in this House in the past number of months about accountability, transparency and openness. I now ask the Minister to practise what she preaches.
I support my colleague, Deputy O'Donoghue. This debate is timely and I congratulate him on tabling the motion. The Irish people are anxious to receive answers to a number of questions at this time.
The Deputy is right — Fianna Fáil's answer to law and order.
Deputy Byrne's comments regarding recent issues in relation to crime have been most unhelpful and are an insult to the Garda Síochána who, despite hindrances put in their way, do their best to provide security for law abiding citizens. The Deputy might be more informed if he devoted his attention to improving the law and generally trying to make Democratic Left a law and order party for the future.
On a point of order——
The last time we discussed a Private Members' motion on crime was on 25 May 1994——
How are the printing machines going?
The Deputy in possession to continue without interruption.
This is a disgrace.
They will never print their own tender.
I would hope that——
The interruptions must cease from this side of the House. Doubtless, Deputy Byrne will have an opportunity to speak later. In the meantime, he must refrain from interrupting.
The Garda wait with bated breath.
Deputy Burke, please obey the Chair.
I hope Deputy Eric Byrne in his contribution will apologise to the Garda Síochána. To refer to them as the laughing stock of the criminal world is a grave insult to the Garda who have served us so well. People are particularly concerned at the recent crime wave: the Brinks-Allied robbery — the largest cash robbery in the history of the State — the brutal murder of James Hurley in Fairview at the weekend and the shooting of a journalist, Veronica Guerin, last evening.
I support the call by the Fianna Fáil Leader today that the Select Committee on Legislation and Security be convened to deal with all aspects of this crime wave and the unanswered questions, particularly in regard to the Brinks-Allied robbery. What do we have to contend with at this stage? We have had an increasing number of armed robberies, an increase in violent crime, in particular against women, an increase in the availability of drugs and robberies associated with that problem, an increase in muggings, crimes against old people and so on.
Traditionally, Fine Gael has regarded itself as the party of law and order. It is now up to the Minister. The people want action on these latest developments. Many questions need to be answered in respect of the Brinks-Allied robbery of £3 million in Clonshaugh. Rumours are circulating in Dublin as to who was involved, the facts of the robbery and so on. The dogs on the street seem to know the answers to the activities of the godfathers, the thugs and the criminal gangs generally. They appear to be known to all concerned and yet the Garda cannot convict them. That is a major problem which needs to be addressed. Tough legislation is now needed——
The trouble is this is not the problem.
——and my colleague Deputy O'Donoghue has outlined the specifics in that regard. We need changes in the criminal law but we also need the political will of this House to bring about those changes. The Minister's predecessor, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, introduced the much needed Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994 to give the Garda Síochána adequate powers to deal with incidence of crime on our streets. Yet there was an outcry from many interested groups throughout the country at the powers given to the Garda Síochána. In giving new powers to the Garda Síochána the Minister will meet with opposition but she will have to persevere. The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994 was a welcome move and I wish the Minister success in introducing the new legislation.
The laws in relation to the right to silence, the revolving door system, crimes committed by persons on bail, reform of the courts and the need for more resources for the Garda should be examined and action taken as quickly as possible. We need to get the Juvenile Justice Bill on the Statute Book as quickly as possible. The laws on fraud and on bail and the changes in court procedures are urgent in view of the incidents which have taken place in the last few days.
(Carlow-Kilkenny): What was the Deputy's party doing for the past seven years?
We need answers about the Brink's-Allied plant robbery. What are the procedures for cash transit? What rules and regulations will be introduced in this area? What security procedures were in place at the Brinks-Allied plant? These questions need to be answered by the Minister. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice failed to inform the Dáil of a Garda intelligence operation which was under way and of an internal Garda red alert memo. The Dáil did not get full and complete answers last week. There is no point in blaming the Garda Commissioner. The buck stops at the Minister's desk and she failed in her first test as Minister for Justice.
Many law abiding citizens are shocked at the brutality of the incident involving the killing of James Hurley in Fairview at the weekend. Something needs to be done. I ask the Minister to give us an update on inquiries in that regard. I have no doubt the people of that locality in particular are extremely concerned because somebody must have seen something. I ask the Minister to insist that the Garda give every urgency to the solving of this crime.
Veronica Guerin, whom I knew as a former member of Ógra Fianna Fáil, drifted into journalism and has found a niche there. She is widely respected as an investigative journalist. I condemn outright the shooting of Veronica Guerin last night. We need answers and decisive action with regard to these criminal thugs who are preying on ordinary people and, even more sinister, on journalists. We need answers on the level of security and whether it is proposed to provide security for the journalist in question.
People are very concerned. They want more gardaí on the beat; they want support for their "Neighbourhood Watch" schemes; they want a Garda presence and more foot patrols. I ask the Minister to deal with those issues expeditiously, to put more resources at the disposal of the Garda and to leave administrative matters to those who have more time to deal with them. We need action. The people are concerned. I await the Minister's response to the questions I have asked.
During the past number of years I sat on the seat occupied by the Minister——
Be careful; I have been reading what the Deputy said in 1983 and other years——
Doubtless Deputy Dukes will have his chance later.
——and I have listened to the former Fine Gael spokesman, Deputy Gay Mitchell, tell us over and over again that crime was out of control.
The Deputy said that 11 years ago.
His party is now in office. I had been looking forward to hearing what the Minister would do about this but the initial signs are not auspicious.
(Carlow-Kilkenny): Give us a chance.
A Government spokesman said last week that the crime figures for last year had fallen and they were lower now than ten years ago. Does anybody believe this country is a safer place than it was ten years ago? If anybody is suffering from that illusion, let them ask the people of Clare and south Galway where a number of sadistic murders took place last year, some of which are not yet solved. Let them ask the people in urban areas who are witnesses to crimes of gangland slayings carried out in broad daylight in the presence of dozens of witnesses, some of which have not yet been solved; let them ask the elderly who cower in their homes, afraid to answer their door at night and, sometimes, by day; let them ask some of the elderly and those who live alone who have been the victims of violent assault. Let them ask some of the victims of crime — the perpetrators of which have been brought before the courts and were seen walking the streets a month or two later because the prison system did not have the capacity to hold them — their views on law and order and on the administration of justice. As people from my constituency said to me at the weekend, there are people serving sentences for non-payment of TV licences while the largest robbery in the history of the State took place in Dublin last week. The Garda were tipped off about the robbery. It is a feeble-minded excuse to say the information was not sufficiently specific. What did they expect: the exact date, time and place, down to the last second? The biggest robbery in the history of the State took place in Dublin last week and the Garda were tipped off. The whole country knows who did it, yet the prospect of anybody being convicted and punished for it is so remote as to be almost negligible. People find that incomprehensible. Those people should be asked what they think of the administration of justice and law and order.
The official statistics lie. The reality is that more and more crime is unreported. Many people nowadays report crime only to collect the insurance or out of a sense of civic duty.
Why did the Deputy not say that last year?
Deputy Dukes will have to restrain himself.
Taking 1973 as a baseline, the number of indictable offences committed since then has trebled and the number of non-indictable offences has more than trebled. Crime such as sexual assault, rape and so on has exploded out of control, beyond expectations. The extent of white collar crime has increased so much in the past ten years it is unknown. The rate of detection of serious crime has dropped by almost 50 per cent in the past two decades. Figures show that the rate of detection of indictable offences in 1973 was 47.7 per cent. That figure has dropped to 32 per cent this year. There was a detection rate of less than one in three indictable crimes in 1993——
(Carlow-Kilkenny): Who was in Government then?
We are told by a Government spokesman that crime figures are falling and this country is becoming a safer place in which to live.
As my colleague, Deputy O'Donoghue, said, much of the crime explosion, particularly in urban areas, is drug related. Last week the Minister for Justice announced yet another drugs initiative. I hope it is more successful than some of the initiatives announced in the past.
By the last Government. The Deputy should not run down my colleague.
The Minister will forgive me if I confess to pessimism. Many people genuinely believe that this area of crime is out of control. In remote rural villages drugs are now freely available almost on demand and the Garda seem powerless to do anything about it. In the larger urban areas, particularly Dublin, the hard drug problem has escalated out of all proportions while the Garda, forces of law and order, victims and people affected look on helplessly.
When the Deputy was Minister of State he did nothing to solve the problem.
The hard drug problem is practically out of control in Dublin and there are signs that it is spreading to other large urban areas. No Government to date has developed a coherent policy to deal with the hard drug problem in large urban areas. It is more than a national problem, as my colleague, Deputy O'Donoghue, said. I ask the Minister to consult with her colleague, the Minister for Health, to see what is being done with regard to the undertaking given to me by the former Minister for Health, Deputy Howlin, and senior officials in the Department about an expansion of the methadone maintenance programme for people who wish to come off drugs. Many of the drugs imported into this country will be reexported, but many of them are made available here. Because we have 2,000 kilometres of coastline and because of out position on the periphery of the European Union, this country has become the gateway for the importation of drugs onto the European mainland from abroad. We are the junky junction of the world.
Write that down, that is a good one.
Last year's record level of drug seizures illustrates that quite clearly. New arrangements were put in place by the previous Government and we had plans for this year but we are unable to pursue them due to circumstances outside out control.
(Carlow-Kilkenny): It is just as well.
While new arrangements have been put in place, the overall response to this problem and the overall level of resources allocated to deal with it is pitifully inadequate. New personnel and equipment are needed as are new boats with extra capabilities.
All provided for in the Fianna Fáil Estimates.
My colleague, Deputy O'Donoghue, raised the question of assistance from Europe. There is a fund in the European Union to assist in policing the outer perimeters of the Community. We have been seeking an allocation of £12 million from that fund specifically to cover the matters I have dealt with and I ask the Minister for Justice to urgently pursue that matter.
On the immediate problem we are discussing, there is not doubt the hands of the Garda are tied. The law on the right to silence must be considered as a matter of urgency.
That is not what the Deputy said in 1983. He took a different view then.
The Minister will be aware that professional criminals leave no forensic evidence. Consequently, if a hardened criminal can withstand Garda interrogation for 12 hours, inevitably he or she will walk free. In those circumstances the law on the right to silence must be changed. I ask the Minister for Justice to contact the Law Reform Commission as a matter of urgency to see when it will produce its proposals on bail. The Garda have informed me, and I am sure also informed the Minister for Justice, that the laws on bail need to be considered as a matter of urgency.
Will the Minister consult with the Garda Commissioner about two recent directives given by him to staff at a lower level? The first relates to detectives having to give the names of confidential informants to their superior officers. This will reduce the level of detection. I would also ask the Minister to consult with the Commissioner about the change of tenure policy whereby people are wafting in and out of the detective branch like Lanigans Ball. They are in the detective branch for three years and then revert to uniform duty. That is not calculated to increase confidence in the administration of justice. It has created a crisis of confidence in the Garda and as a result there is a crisis of confidence in the administration of justice.
Various changes are needed in criminal law and in personnel policy. The security system in place at present costs the taxpayers an enormous amount of money and we must ensure we get the best possible value for that money. I would like the Minister's comments on the following: a review of the rural policing scheme; progress on the installation of close circuit television monitoring in city centre areas; the extension of community-based projects as recommended in the 1992 report on urban crime and disorder; the present status of the information technology plan promised by the Minister's predecessor to ensure the Garda will not waste too much time on paperwork and to increase the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the Garda; the upgrading of the Garda Communications network for which money was provided in last year's Estimates and the upgrading of the Garda fleet. I would like an honest, open and transparent response to the questions raised by my colleague on what the Minister knew about last week's robbery, how much she knew and when she heard it.
We need answers to those questions. Since the Government took office on the basis of accountability and transparency, that is the least it owes this House. If we cannot get information from the Minister for Justice on communications between her and the Garda, if we have to read the newspapers to get that information, the only transparency is the excuses she has given for her lack of accountability and openness in this regard. There is a crisis of confidence in the administration of justice. The people who carried out the largest bank robbery in money terms in the history of this State will more than likely remain free. The largest money laundering operation in the history of the State is at present in progress. The Minister should give her reaction to Deputy O'Donoghue's proposals on the seizure of assets. Why has she not communicated with the banks and other financial institutions who are, at a leisurely pace, preparing guidelines to put the money laundering provisions of the 1994 legislation into operation? Those provisions should have been put into operation long ago.
Why did the Deputy not do so?
There is no excuse for further delay. This robbery took place last week. What has the Minister been doing in the meantime?
(Carlow-Kilkenny): The Deputy is a Rip van Winkle.
We want clear answers, accountability and transparency.
Let us hear the concluding remarks of the Deputy without interruption.
We want more from the Minister than we got last week. Otherwise she has no option but to resign and go to the backbenches.
Who was in Government for the past seven years?
I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "That," and substitute the following:
Dáil Éireann recommends and supports the commitment of the Government to improve and enhance the effectiveness of the criminal justice system and
—notes, in particular, the commitment given by the Minister for Justice to provide the Garda Síochána with all necessary resources to deal effectively with the crime situation, especially with regard to serious and violent crime;
—recognises the Government's determination to address the issue of drug-related crime as a matter deserving of the utmost priority;
—welcomes the Minister's announcement to bring forward to Government, as soon as possible, detailed proposals designed to provide for a co-ordinated and cohesive response to the drugs situation by all of the law enforcement agencies concerned;
—supports the plan to establish a community drugs team, which would incorporate counselling, medical treatment and rehabilitative support services;
— looks forward to the introduction of a juvenile justice Bill, which will streamline the process of early intervention, and will deal with the need for suitable custodial facilities for young offenders, and the involvement of parents in dealing with offenders, particularly repeat offenders;
— welcomes the commitment to draft a charter for victims of crime which will include a review of the criminal injuries compensation system; and
— notes the commitment to extend community policing, with gardaí based in community units working in co-operation with the local community.
I must express my abhorrence at the shooting of theSunday Independent journalist, Veronica Guerin, last night in her home. This crime has appalled us all and reminds us in a most chilling way of the kind of criminals who operate in our midst. I commend Veronica Guerin as a person and journalist of great courage and wish her a speedy and full recovery from her injuries. I assure her that a full and thorough investigation of this shooting is under way and understand the Garda are questioning a man about the crime. I have no further information on this shooting and whether it is related to Ms Guerin's work as a journalist and-or the robbery last week.
There can hardly be a doubt that the backdrop to Deputy O'Donoghue's motion is the raid at the Brink's-Allied premises in Clonshaugh last Tuesday about which he and many others recently expressed concern. I am sure the House will understand if I devote the time available to me this evening to this issue. I am utterly bemused by the contributions of Fianna Fáil Members. Where have they been for the past seven years? Have they been on a slow boat to China? If the litany they gave to the House tonight is anything to go by, they must recognise that they did nothing during that time.
The Minister should answer the questions. She is now in the job.
What about the Minister's contribution last week?
Deputy Willie O'Dea is particularly culpable as he was a Minister of State at the Department of Justice, for which I now have the honour of being responsible. He clearly criticised his colleague, Deputy Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, for the lack of resources and the work done during that time.
Will the Minister tell us what she will do?
Deputy O'Donoghue should be aware that some of the orders to implement parts of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, were introduced in November 1994. I should like him to tell us why sections 32, 57 and 58, about which he is now preaching, were not implemented.
The Minister is now in the job.
I have had to expedite the examination and implement the orders.
You are the Minister.
Why did the Minister not implement them after the robbery?
It is crucially important that I deal with the Brink's-Allied robbery. I have no doubt that I will have many opportunities to address the other issues raised by Deputy O'Donoghue, many of which have to do with matters which arose when his party was in office just a few short weeks ago.
You are Minister now. Get on with the job.
The Minister without interruption from either side of the House.
I am particularly grateful for the opportunity afforded me to deal in the House this evening with the crime at Clonshaugh. I want to deal as comprehensively as I can, and as best I can, with all that has been said including, of course, what I and the Taoiseach said.
The Government and I are outraged at this robbery. A most thorough examination is being carried out and any problems exposed by that examination will receive urgent attention from me and the Government. I will not shield any lapses or any individuals that should not be shielded.
I want to try to draw the lines between fact, fiction and opinion. Over the past few days, both in media coverage and otherwise, these lines have at times been somewhat blurred. I do not seek to blame anybody for this confusion. It is not at all unusual for confusion of this kind to arise following criminal actions which give rise to serious public concern.
I want to spell out the risks associated with widespread speculation concerning certain aspects of this robbery. I am duty-bound as Minister for Justice to address this very important topic at this time. I want to refer to resources and to openness, transparency and accountability in Government — the express commitment of this Government.
Before I proceed to deal with the facts — and, more importantly, to separate fact from fiction and opinion — I would make an appeal. We, as responsible parliamentarians, must try to maintain at least some focus on the fact that what happened was that a group of armed criminals, reckless as to the consequences, carried out an outrageous crime by breaching security at what was believed to be a most secure cash-holding location. We must leave those concerned in no doubt that it is our view, as it is of all decent law-abiding people, that it is the criminals, and nobody else who are the culprits. It is they who are and ought to be the focus of public odium. They are not heroes. They are the ruthless, dedicated and heartless enemies of the people.
I do not for one moment suggest that the Garda, nor indeed any politician, should be immune from criticism if the investigation proves this is deserved. My appeal is simply for a sense of care, proportion and fair play in what we do and what we say about the crime in Clonshaugh. We may rest assured that shifting the focus of attention away from the perpetrators of this crime will assist nobody but the criminals. We should maintain a sense of balance and not forget who are the real enemies in all of this. I know that Deputies will recognise the validity of my appeal on this score.
Turning to the facts, fiction and opinions, all information about crime that I or the Taoiseach has given, or will give, to this House is based on the information we receive from the Garda authorities. The same is true of the information which has been given to the House by other Taoisigh and Ministers for Justice. What I have to say now is based on both the briefing I got last Wednesday and further briefings by the Garda Commissioner to the Secretary of my Department, and what has been conveyed by the Garda authorities to my Department in the course of numerous other contacts since this crime took place. The basic facts of this robbery, which I gave to the House last Wednesday, are already well known.
Last Wednesday I was informed by the Garda authorities that they had general intelligence last November to the effect that a vehicle with cash in transit could be the subject of a criminal attack. I informed the Dáil that there was generalised intelligence but, on advice, I did not go into details, nor did I go into any details in the Dáil concerning the security operation mounted on foot of that intelligence.
Therefore, the Minister did not tell us the full story.
Listen, please. I want to stress that the information, both then and now, about the intelligence received and the nature of the Garda operation only covers a certain level of detail. I did not then, nor do I have now, all the details, nor would it be appropriate for me to insist on having them.
It is a bit like Mr. Whelehan, but he was accountable.
The Minister without interruption, please.
Although I did not know about the existence of the collator's report on Wednesday last, it contains nothing in the way of detail which I did not know from my conversation with the Garda Commissioner, but it contains more detail concerning what the Garda knew and what they were doing about it than I would ever give to this House or anybody else.
As the report is now, unfortunately, in the public domain, the intelligence as to timing that the Garda had last November was to the effect that an attack, on what was then thought would be a van in-transit, would take place well before Christmas. At that point, an appropriate Garda operation was launched with minimal internal circulation of information which is standard procedure to avoid leaks of the kind displayed since I spoke in the Dáil last Wednesday.
Once sufficient time after the expected period of an attack had elapsed, again in accordance with normal practice, a collator's report was circulated more widely within the Garda and in tandem with the winding down of the intensive operation which had been mounted on foot of the general intelligence received in November. It is this collator's report that was leaked to the press. The fact that it happened to be circulated days before the Brinks Allied robbery occurred is a coincidence of time and should not be read by the House as a specific warning of a crime about to occur. I am told by the Garda that collators reports are regularly circulated internally as a sweeping exercise and no SOS message is attached to them. That is as much as I can prudently say about the details of any intelligence the Garda had, but I can say more about the actions the Garda took.
It is not a fact that the Garda had an indication that any premises would be the subject of an attack. I will come to the matter of opinions later — because there is a view that the existence of strong suspicions based on intelligence ought reasonably to have given rise to further suspicions — but, at this point, I want to stick to the facts. The facts which I have been given by the Garda Commissioner were that the Garda had information that there would be an attack, but their intelligence both as to timing and target was wrong.
The Garda Commissioner has confirmed that it is a fact also that the Garda superintendent in Santry visited the management at Brinks-Allied a few weeks before the robbery. According to the written report of the superintendent, he did this because there had been a change in management at the premises and, as local superintendent, he thought it appropriate that he should introduce himself to members of the new management team. He said that he discussed various matters of a security nature with those concerned, but did not indicate to them that their premises was likely to be the subject of an attack because there was, according to the Garda authorities, no intelligence to the effect that any premises would be attacked.
I have also been informed that there had been contact by phone from the Garda to this company along with other security companies warning generally of the possibility of an attack on a vehicle with cash in transit. I am assured that, on this occasion, the Garda made no reference either to the possibility of an attack on the premises or any premises of any other security company because that was not the intelligence they had. Contacts were a continuing part of the specific security operation that had been launched in November.
There have also been references to a circular issued to its employees by Brink's-Allied and that this circular refers to the possibility of an attack on the Brinks-Allied premises. They are the only people who can answer why their circular refers to premises as opposed to cash in transit and I do not want to speculate about the matter.
Did the Minister ask them?
I do not believe that the company's warning to its employees signalled, on the part of the management of Brinks-Allied, that there was concern on their part about the vulnerability of the Clonshaugh premises. The Garda had noted that the company was extremely confident about the quality of its security arrangements at this location. The company's view was that security arrangements at Clonshaugh were state of the art. The possibility of a successful attack on a vehicle inside the premises was one that did not appear to be contemplated by the company nor by anybody else either. They will have to consider this now.
Returning again to the details, it has been put about as fact that the Garda had surveillance on this premises and that they had an armed guard on the premises who was supposed to have left the vicinity two hours before the robbery took place. I am informed by the Garda authorities that there is no truth in either of these statements. This has been put about as fact with so much sincerity and conviction that I have checked it several times with the Garda authorities. This morning I received an absolute assurance from the Garda Commissioner that this information, that there was no surveillance, represents the factual situation.
There is another suggestion which has been put forward as fact with such sincerity and conviction that it, too, is something which I have checked and rechecked with the Garda authorities. It has been suggested that individuals in this company and others were warned by the Garda, as part of the security operation mounted in November, to take care for their personal safety. Again, I am assured that this is not the case. If there is information to the contrary, I will be glad to receive it. If it is true, I will have to raise questions with the Garda authorities of the most serious kind.
Returning again to the details, it is said to be a fact that the company was alerted not by its staff but by somebody else that a raid was taking place on its premises. It is a matter for the company to address issues of this kind, but the information I have received form the Garda indicates this statement is also untrue. I do not wish to be tied to this Garda comment at this stage as a statement of fact. More investigation will be required before we know everything we need to know about what care the company did or did not take, what actions its own employees took and so on.
According to at least two reports, it was 20 minutes before the first Garda car got to the scene of this crime. My information, again from the Garda authorities, is that this is not the case. According to the computer printout from the Garda command and control centre, which was brought to my Department yesterday morning by the Commissioner, the Garda were alerted about the robbery at 18.33 p.m. and the first car got to the premises about five and a half minutes later.
There has been a report to the effect that the Garda were either not admitted or were delayed by security staff in getting into the premises. Again, my information from the Garda authorities is that this is untrue. There was no delay in admission.
I have tried to address most of the matters that have been put about as fact and have tried as best I can to distinguish fact from fiction. If I have omitted any matters which have been put about as fact — and they are matters that I can reasonably be expected to deal with in this House — I shall be glad to do so.
I have to explain at this point that there are certain matters which have been put about as matters of fact on which I cannot comment, not because they are true and may therefore be embarrassing to somebody or other, but because of the distinct possibility that they would be damaging to this investigation, to criminal investigations generally or to the interests and safety of private individuals. I will return to this point. Lest anybody accuses me again of misleading them about the Brinks Allied robbery, as Minister for Justice, I receive information about crime generally and I have information about aspects of this crime, about evidential matters and so on, which I cannot and will not disclose.
It has been suggested that I was economical with the truth and misled this House. These allegations are without foundation. I have no wish to labour the suggestion that I set out to mislead or that the Taoiseach did so. It would be stupidity to do anything of the kind at any time. It is an accusation which is devoid of substance and I do not want to lend substance to it, unwittingly, by pretending that it is the core issue we have to deal with this evening. It is a red herring raised, not out of any base motive, but partly because of misinformation from various sources and partly also for straightforward political reasons — no more, no less than that.
The Minister should ask her backbenchers.
I must refute any suggestion that my not knowing about the collator's report is proof that the Garda Commissioner, when he met me last Wednesday, was holding back on information. This was a routine circular, the existence of which made no difference to the crime and to the quality and range of intelligence which the Garda had received about two months earlier. The Commissioner had come back to me within 24 hours of the occurrence of a major crime, at a time when the number one Garda priority was to apprehend the guilty parties.
There is always a grave risk, in giving information so soon after an occurrence of this kind, that something to which some may later seek to attach an exaggerated significance will not be mentioned. I do not have the slightest doubt, now, that this was one of the primary reasons my predecessors, in the immediate aftermath of major crimes, refused to give any information, as a matter of standard practice. There are several exJustice Ministers in the Opposition benches who will be in a position to confirm this, without my having to produce any evidence for them.
The genuine effort to be helpful by providing information carries its risks. For the Minister and the Garda authorities there is, sadly, the risk that they will find themselves accorded higher priority in the queue for the dock than the criminals who carried out the crime. I did not mislead, the Taoiseach did not mislead and the many people who have made this allegation know full well that it is an allegation without substance.
Turning for a moment to matters of opinion as distinct from fact, the principal matter I wish to comment on is the opinion that, in the light of the intelligence to them, the Garda should have been able to prevent this robbery. I cannot criticise anybody for holding opinions. Each and every one of us is entitled to form opinions on matters of this kind or on any other matter on which we may choose to opine, but they are still opinions, not facts.
On this subject, what I have given to the House are the opinions of the Garda Commissioner who is head of the police force. My advice, from the Garda Commissioner is that, in a situation where the Garda has intelligence about a possible attack and it turns out that both the suspected object of the attack and the likely date of attack are wrong, it is not possible for it to mount an effective preventative strategy, by which it means a strategy which is virtually guaranteed to succeed.
I am advised that, in a high proportion of cases where intelligence is near the mark — and very often when it is not so near the mark — preventative strategies work and that would-be attempts by criminals are frustrated in many situations but, unless the intelligence is precise, the Garda — and this applies to all police forces — simply cannot guarantee success.
I am given to understand that intelligence of all kinds comes into the Garda Síochána on a daily basis. It mounts operations based on that intelligence — it mounted a very substantial operation on the basis of the information received in this instance — but, as a matter of operating practice, it is obliged to discontinue the operations after a certain stage. When it seems that the intelligence was wide of the mark or simply unfounded, it makes operating sense to wind down and to concentrate on bringing to fruition other intelligence sources.
The Garda — like all police forces — also has to guard against the possibility that misleading intelligence will be deliberately fed in for the sole purpose of diverting resources and generally creating confusion. There was, for example, a hoax call to a nearby shopping centre around the time of the Brinks Allied robbery. I do not wish to suggest that the hoax was directly related to the robbery because I have no proof that it was.
In summary, on the question of opinions, the position is that I gave to this House the information which I received from the Garda Commissioner. I recognise, however, that people are entitled to form other opinions as to what might have been achievable, given what they know of the intelligence available to the Garda.
The next matter and, by far the most important matter which I have to deal with here this evening, deals with the risks that can be associated with the speculation concerning certain aspects of this crime. In this connection, I have to say — in agreement with the Garda Commissioner — that it is a matter of the greatest regret and concern that some person or persons, totally reckless as to the consequences of his or her action, saw fit to leak a confidential document concerning Garda intelligence and operational matters. The Garda Commissioner is investigating this matter. I want to say no more about it at this point beyond that it signals a level of recklessness and disloyalty which dishonours the calling of the individual or individuals involved.
In mentioning risks, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not talking about any particular crime, nor am I seeking to make any connection between one crime and another. Were I to do so, I would simply add to the risks, some of which I now wish to identify.
First there is the risk, in talking and speculating about Garda intelligence and operations, that criminals will want to know how the Garda has come into possession of information about criminal plans. There is the risk that they will draw conclusions, free from any concerns about fair procedures or fair trial and there is the grave risk that they will act with merciless savagery on foot of those conclusions.
Second, there is the great risk of damage to intelligence-gathering generally which is an essential tool if we are to deal with the activities of criminals. Good intelligence is the life blood of all police work.
Third, there is the risk that publicity about identifiable individuals — I again stress that I am not referring to any particular case — could seriously damage the prospects of a successful outcome to criminal investigations. The allegation that there has been prejudicial publicity is a standard and understandable issue that may be raised by way of defence.
Fourth, and not without considerable importance, is the risk that the image of the Garda force itself would suffer serious damage. The Garda success rate, by international standards, when it comes to dealing with serious crime, is quite impressive. Contrary to what has been said publicity in recent days about the incidence of aggravated burglary and armed robbery, I understand that the figures under these headings will show a massive drop of 20 per cent for last year, including a 28 per cent drop in the Dublin Metropolitan Area.
I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that there was no problem about resources in this particular case, nor was there any question of the Garda operation being would down because of lack of money for overtime payments. It is perfectly reasonable to expect, within all employments, that there will be a tendency to highlight resource issues when something goes wrong. When additional resources are required for the battle against crime, they are and will continue to be provided. I am assured by Garda management that there was no resource problem in this case.
Were there faults and failings in this case? Clearly there were. The Government and I are deeply concerned about what happened. All aspects of what took place will be examined in detail and we will take whatever lessons are to be learned.
I do not want to pre-empt the outcome of the investigation which is already under way but we can safely say that at least four matters require attention. First, there is an urgent need for security firms carrying or holding large amounts of money to review the adequacy of their own security arrangements. They owe a duty to the public and the taxpayer to do this. It is simply not acceptable that criminals can come into what was supposed to be a "state of the art" premises, in security terms, and drive away with almost £3 million. If the process of raising standards can be assisted by legislation or by means of regulations, I will certainly take appropriate action. I welcome Deputy O'Donoghue's support for that and wonder why his Government did not do it a long time ago.
Second, there is an urgent need to examine Garda and Army escort arrangements. In particular, the practice of departing immediately that the escorted cash is inside the cash holding centre will have to be reviewed. This will have cost implications which I and the Government will need to consider and discuss with the private concerns in question.
Third, there is a need to bring into operation those sections of the 1994 money laundering legislation which, when brought into force, will impose disclosure obligations on financial institutions and other bodies, in the light of the EU Directive on money laundering.
These obligations will relate to procedures for identifying customers and the reporting of particular transactions. At present, the various institutions and bodies on whom such obligations will be imposed, are making the necessary administrative arrangements, including drawing up detailed guidelines.
A steering group set up under the auspices of the Department of Finance is overseeing this process and I have asked my colleague, the Minister for Finance, to give the matter top priority. It will clearly require staff training and other measures of this kind, and it is important to get it right but it is also important that it be given priority and my intention is that it will. I ask again why the outgoing Fianna Fáil Administration did not expedite the work of that committee under the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern.
Fourth, there is need to examine our general law to see whether we can remove the insult in our midst of the criminal godfathers and their agents who go about, not just in this country but in all civilised countries, safe in the knowledge that they can abuse the basic rights and protections enshrined in our laws.
We need to examine these protections but we also have to acknowledge to ourselves, honestly, that the notion that we should, for example, modify the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, provide that inferences may be drawn from the refusal to answer questions, abolish the right to bail, and severely limit the option of early release from custody has to be examined in a measured way in the overall context of our democratic legal system.
We know that when the furore associated with individual outrages dies down, it becomes notoriously difficult to secure wide support for suggestions that, at a time like this, appear to enjoy much wider support.
Then, there is the question of openness, transparency and accountability in Government. The information that the Taoiseach and I gave the Dáil last week, which has since been called into question, was gained by me in the direct briefing by the Garda Commissioner. In the intervening period, as more facts and details about this robbery emerged from the investigation, I have tonight been able to outline some of this information and clarify some of the issues that Members of this House and the media have raised. I stress, however, that in the information I give tonight, and even in the extent of this information, I have been conscious that anything I say must not and cannot be prejudicial either to the effectiveness of Garda operations or to a successful prosecution.
The Taoiseach and I fully appreciate the concern expressed about the effectiveness of the fight against crime. We share the goal of bringing the criminals to justice. He and I — and the Government — are at one in our determination to have the Garda operation before, during, and after this crime fully investigated. In addition, we want to see Brinks Allied security measures fully investigated. We want to assure the House that any lapses that may have occurred will be uncovered and acted upon.
I doubt if anybody, following the statement that I have now given to the House, will be able to garner much in the way of support for the proposition that I have been less than forthcoming on the Clonshaugh robbery within the strictures of my office. In fact, I have said considerably more than any of my predecessors would have said in a similar situation, particularly because of leaks to the press that have thrown incorrect slants on the actions of the Garda.
I am sure that we can take it that nobody in this House really subscribes to the notion that openness in Government requires that the Minister for Justice should disclose information which could put the safety of others at risk and which, in the end, would aid criminals rather than their victims.
That kind of exposure does not assist the public, it does not assist Members of this House, it does not assist the Garda. It assists the true villains in all situations of this kind — the criminals who are the enemies of all decent law-abiding people in this State.
I have devoted the time available to me this evening to what I have no doubt is the central issue which gave rise to this motion. I did so because of the damage that this incident and its surrounding publicity has caused to public perception of the effectiveness of the law and order system. We will have time tomorrow evening to answer a number of questions raised on general policy issues. Deputies know that considerable progress is under way in respect of the various matters to which I have adverted in the amendment.
I commend the amendment to the House.
On a point of order, there is a disturbing sentence in the Minister's speech —"I do not wish to be tied to this Garda comment at this stage as a statement of fact". What precisely does that mean?
It means that the investigation at Brinks-Allied is not yet complete. Until we hear their side of the story I cannot give any information about the investigation.
That is not a point of order.
What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.
The Minister has said she will not be tied to information she received from the Garda Commissioner. Has she no confidence in the Garda Commissioner?
Order, please. Let us have the same attention for the Deputy in possession as obtained for the previous speaker.
I speak in support of Deputy O'Donoghue's motion. It is rather a shock that a Minister who comes from a law-abiding family and has been proud of her record should preside over such a devastating crime wave.
I did not commit the robbery.
The Brinks Allied crime has created a crisis. People across the country are living in fear because of what happened in Dublin, in the Minister's constituency.
In the past few days people have blamed the Garda for increased crime. That is like shooting the messenger and ignoring the message. Deputies have said that crime is rampant, that nothing can be done about it and that the criminal is winning. These comments are coming from the Government parties and that worries me. My constituents are asking what can be done to save their property and premises from the rule of the criminal.
There is no point in increasing the number of gardaí unless we tackle the system. There is no point in the Minister blaming this side of the House for what happened in the past seven years or in the past 20 years. She is in the driving seat now and I recommend that she take action as a matter of urgency to correct a very embarrassing situation.
One of the problems is that sentencing is erratic. There is a harsher sentence for driving with 80 milligrams of alcohol in one's blood than there is for serious crime involving serious bodily harm. There is no consistency in sentencing in any court in the land when sentencing those who have caused hurt and damage resulting in people having to be hospitalised. Until such time as there is some consistency in sentencing crime will increase on our streets.
The revolving door syndrome in our prisons has been mentioned. Because of the Minister's decision to release more republican prisoners, which I welcome because of the climate of peace, there will be more space so that there will be no need to operate a revolving door system. There will be no need to allow prisoners out on Friday night and back on Sunday morning. They can be kept in. I urge the Minister to make maximum use of the extra spaces and keep crime off our streets so that people can be safe in their homes.
Another point that has been made is that hours of Garda time are taken up with paper work. That must be changed as quickly as possible. When the gardaí give evidence in court it is they who are on trial. It is they who are interrogated, not the criminals. Many of our gardaí, the finest people in this country, are nervous of going into court to face being put on trial with no one to defend them. That is why we have such a high level of crime on our streets and a nervousness on the part of gardaí of doing the kind of job they should.
I hope the Minister will not concentrate just on Dublin where there is a high level of crime, and that rural Ireland will not see a major onslaught of criminal activity as a result of criminals moving from city to rural areas. Because the incidence of crime is greater in Dublin than in other parts of the country, the Minister may put all her resources into the city. However, rural Ireland has been under attack for some time. If there is a lesser emphasis on policing rural areas we will see more crime there. There are people in rural Ireland who live in fear of attack by criminals, and there have been many such attacks in recent times. I want to see an even-handed approach by the Minister as between rural Ireland and the Pale and the Dublin area.
In spite of what happened at Brinks Allied, bank money in transit will receive less attention because we are led to believe that it was at risk from subversive elements. The reduction in the level of activity by subversive elements will mean the availability of more manpower to improve security on the streets for ordinary citizens. Things have changed rather fast in favour of the Government and the Minister will have an easier task in the Department of Justice than any previous Minister. The reduction in the activity of subversive elements is the result of the great work done on the peace process from Charlie Haughey's day onwards.
Why did you not nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize?
Two thousand extra persons will be relieved of that type of security duty to go back on the streets of this island and carry out the work that a police force should.
The question of the right to silence has been mentioned. I admire the Minister in many ways. She comes from a family that has kept the best traditions of law and order up front. I do not want to turn this country into a police State, but I believe there must be some change in regard to the right to silence. Otherwise we will not have the kind of law and order that is necessary to protect the vast majority of our citizens. Only just before Christmas Deputy Kemmy made a statement to the effect that he wanted to retain the right to silence. Deputy Eric Byrne was concerned recently about the level of crime. The Minister has an enormous task to hold the line and put things right in this rainbow coalition Government.
The Deputy was silent himself when Garda stations in east Cork were being closed.
I am glad Deputy Mulvihill is here. I have no doubt that he is a law abiding citizen. I appeal to Deputy Mulvihill to ensure that the community policing system is not put in place in Youghal, in the east Cork district. Community policing does not work. I want the Deputy to go back and tell that to the people of east Cork who are in favour of the green man. The green man does not address the problem of policing, it is only an item on the door, not even a work of art.
There are many cases where people have been convicted of having stolen goods but have not had to pay compensation to their victims. I can quote instances where goods ranging in value from £1,500 to £3,000 have been stolen from garages, workshops and utility areas but the culprits have simply been fined and have not had to pay full compensation to their victims, who in many cases have been put out of business. The ball is in the Minister's court and it is up to her to tighten this area.
We have witnessed the shooting of Veronica Guerin. Will every journalist now be under attack? Are those who write about crime safe in their homes tonight? I have to pose that question because theSunday Independent carried a two page story on a certain individual and what is happening in Dublin. Now that decent honest journalist, who has been identified with law and order, has been shot in the leg.
Rural crime is the biggest single issue today outside the capital and should be addressed. The Garda Síochána has insufficient resources and, when it detects someone, the courts are not in its favour. Our bail laws are the greatest weakness in the system because someone on bail can commit further crimes. We need to tighten our bail laws. This may mean a constitutional change which will meet strong opposition but the Minister has the wherewithal to do business and I appeal to her to tighten these laws in the interests of law and order. If this does not happen this will be one of the worst Governments to have served the nation in terms of law and order.
The robbery referred to would not happen in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles or London. It was scandalous that one could see a section of a security railing being removed and that trucks and wagons could then enter the premises. People in the European Union ask if there is law and order in Ireland or if there is even a Government. That is the harsh reality of life. I have never seen such a reaction in my lifetime to a crime, even in instances of violent crime. The people whom I represent in Mitchelstown to Mallow are living in fear because the criminals from Cork city drive their vans through their areas at night. If something is not done quickly we will have a total breakdown of law and order.
The Garda Síochána is seeking additional powers which it will exercise if it gets them from the people in authority. Will the Minister initiate and implement whatever legislation is necessary in support of our citizens? It is vitally important to change the system of community policing. Pooling the resources of the Garda Síochána in one station and having them serve the outlying area in their cars from that station will not work, that is not policing. Community policing is a proposal from Garda management and I ask the Minister to end this system because I want to see a Garda in every station. Furthermore, the green man system does not work and if it is to be used it should be a more up-to-date technological system.
We hoped that the Minister would clarify the disclosure she made to Dáil Éireann last week but in many instances her speech tonight has created more confusion. I suggest she makes some admission that she did not give the full details to the Dáil last week. In her speech she said: "I informed the Dáil that there was generalised intelligence but, on advice, I did not go into details nor did I go into any details in the Dáil concerning the security operation which was mounted...." That implies the Minister was in possession of those details and in possession of information pertaining to the memo which was subsequently revealed in the media and to which Deputy Harney alerted her in the House. Implicit in that paragraph is a significant admission that the Minister did not give the full details.
Read the speech.
It is a week now since the robbery and I do not think it is good enough for the Minister to come into this House and say:
There have also been references to a circular issued to its employees by Brinks-Allied themselves and that this circular refers to the possibility of an attack on the Brinks-Allied premises. They themselves are the only people who can answer why their circular refers to premises as opposed to cash in transit and I do not want to speculate about the matter.
Members should know whether such a circular existed, who authorised such a circular, the background to it and how the information in it appears to be more specific than the information the Minister or the gardaí had. I do not think it is good enough that the Minister inserts such a paragraph one week later. My colleague, Deputy O'Donoghue, has already referred to the following sentence: "I do not wish to be tied to this Garda comment at this stage as a statement of fact." Which almost implies qualified confidence in the Garda Commissioner and the Garda Síochána.
Read the whole paragraph.
I have read the full paragraph and I can quote it: the Minister said: "It is a matter for the company itself to address issues of this kind, but the information I have received from the gardaí indicates this statement is also untrue."
The Minister then qualifies that by saying: "I do not wish to be tied to this Garda comment at this stage as a statement of fact."
The Minister should stand by the Garda information. I think that comment should be withdrawn, the Minister should come before the House confident in the information she has received from the Garda Síochána or she should not put such statements before the House. It does not add to confidence generally in our security apparatus or the Garda Síochána that the Minister comes in and has qualified confidence in the information they have given her.
I am also disappointed that paralysis and obfuscation have become the hallmark of the Minister's approach to this issue. The measures proposed in the Minister's speech on the issue of reform of bail laws for instance can be taken as a code for inaction, for example the Minister talks about matters that have "to be examined in a measured way in the overall context of our democratic legal system". When something of this magnitude happens people expect action to be taken. All the Minister said is that she has asked the Minister for Finance to give priority to legislation dealing with money laundering. It is important that action be taken immediately to restore public confidence in our law and order system. It is pathetic to say that the Minister has been asked to give the legislation priority.
Does the Deputy know that it was sitting for six months under his Government?
We have suspended normal Dáil business on occasion to bring in emergency legislation. We could do that this week or next week but instead we are told that all that has been done is to ask the Minister to examine it and hopefully it will be forgotten when the publicity dies down.