Deputy Martin was in possession. I take it Deputy Noel Ahern is resuming in lieu of Deputy Martin who has 13 minutes remaining.
Private Members' Business. - Crime Prevention and Detection: Motion (Resumed).
I wish to share a few moments with Deputy Gregory if that is agreed.
That is satisfactory and agreed.
Crime has reached crisis level in many parts of Dublin with which I am familiar. This has not happened in the past six weeks or in the past two years, it probably happened during the past 20 years as society has adopted a do-good liberal trend and we seem to be over concerned with civil liberties. We are still going down this road and if we were seen to have turned the corner there would be hope for many people who are oppressed and afraid in their homes.
Since the Minister assumed office six weeks ago, we have had the biggest robbery in the history of the State, a man has been kicked to death and a journalist has been shot. All three events happened close to each other in the north side of Dublin. People are shocked by these events and by other events which have been made public. Last week we had the argument as to whether the Garda have specific information in relation to the robbery, whether they had surveillance on the premises or whether they fell for the dummy signals given by the criminals while they were having their surveillance at another premises. People look to the Minister for hope, answers and reassurance. Slagging Members on this side of the House, be they backbenchers or Members of the Front Bench will not get you anywhere. The comments about Deputy O'Dea last night were totally unjustified. During the past two years while he was Minister of State at the Department of Justice much new legislation was introduced but its balance has been all wrong.
What legislation is that?
I will look up the record and read them out, if the Deputy wishes.
Is the Deputy criticising his colleague?
I am criticising the fact that the Department of Justice is good at pouring out legislation but every time it comes to, as mentioned last night——
I must ask the Deputy to address his remarks through the Chair rather than directly to any Members and, in particular, the Minister.
The Department of Justice has been very good at producing legislation but it does not seem to solve the problem. While the Garda are getting new powers and while resources and technology are being made available to them the criminals are modernising at a faster rate. Every time legislation is put on the Statute Book — This was referred to last night — there is a campaign immediately by people both inside and outide this House to have it watered down. This is a problem for the Department of Justice. I will not criticise the Department for bringing forward legislation but I accept that a group is demanding civil liberties for criminals and the balance is wrong. We have to tilt that balance in the direction of protection for the ordinary God fearing, genuine citizen.
During the past 25 years we accepted that large Garda resources had been tied up with the problems in the North. I received a reply to a parliamentary question last week from the Minister in which she gave me the current establishment of the Garda in a number of counties. In Donegal there are 473 gardaí, in Carlow there are 62, in counties Cavan, Monaghan and Louth there are 200-plus in each county, in Kilkenny there are 95 and in Laois there are 187 — that number is probably due in large measure to Portlaoise Prison. It is obvious that Garda resources have been concentrated in certain counties.
We are five months into the ceasefire and it is about time Garda resources were moved from those counties to certain parts of Dublin where they are needed. I accept there may be problems for some gardaí and that there may be a problem with property values in certain northern counties. That is another problem. There is no point in having so many gardaí in those northern counties if the security problem there no longer exists. They should be moved to parts of the country and Dublin city where they are needed.
The issue of drug related crime is one which I have consistently raised in this House during recent years. I regret that the heroin problem has never been given the priority it deserves from Government. The former Minister began to take the problem seriously but up until then resources were scandalously inadequate. Despite that I believe the heroin trade is virtually out of control simply because it was confined to poor areas of this city and allowed to fester there for too long.
I pointed out what I regard as some basic facts. All the main heroin dealers-suppliers are known to the Garda. Clearly it is difficult to get evidence that will convict these people. Meanwhile, they accumulate huge sums of money in bank accounts and invest in property, some even continue to claim social welfare. It is vital to concentrate additional Garda resources specifically on the heroin dealers and to set up a task force of Garda, the special investigation branch of the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Welfare to see whether existing powers can be used against their undeclared and illegal income. The question must be asked why this has not been done. I have never heard that question answered adequately.
I am speaking here about the north inner city. It is important to point out that the main suppliers do not use drugs. In two instances they are prominently involved in different types of sporting activities. They are the picture of health and fitness in their respectable roles in sport while they inflict misery and cause death to young people and even children of the inner city. This is not sensationalist speculation, and there has been much of that in recent times. It has been established by the Garda in the last two to three years, yet these people walk about freely flaunting their wealth. In recent months the Garda has had some significant successes but this merely reflects how widespread the problem has become.
I suggest caution regarding the recent Brinks Allied robbery. It is one thing to identify heroin dealers after years of drug dealing when the dogs in the street know who they are, but it is quite another to, within hours or less of a major robbery, leak to the media details of individuals, claiming with apparent certainly that they were responsible. I do not know who was responsible or what evidence exists for this speculation but I have been long enough around to remember the Sallins train robbery when the Garda claimed to know with certainty who the culprits were. I do not have to remind anyone here of the Nicky Kelly case and its outcome. The immediate certainty with which all the newspapers reported the day after this crime has some parallels at least with that case — I hope it will not be a complete parallel. Everybody should be more responsible and cautious about major crimes such as this.
Much has been said recently and rightly so, about freedom of the press. I fully support and welcome investigative journalism provided it is responsible and accurate. I have been concerned in the last six to eight months about media reports in which identifiable individuals have been linked to specific murders despite the fact that all available evidence suggested that the persons referred to were not involved. In one instance about six months ago I felt obliged to write to the editor of the Sunday Independent outlining my concerns about articles written on a high profile murder. I even contacted the editor's office and explained my views and concerns, but the Sunday Independent did not see fit to publish my letter, even though the articles related to the area I represent. Such serious matters require responsibility from all of us. I felt I was acting with responsibility on that occasion, but clearly the editorial staff of the Sunday Independent did not accept that.
In the short time available to me I wanted to use the opportunity to refer to those issues. I know I can only refer briefly to them and perhaps not develop them as I would like. The one problem in this city about which I am almost tired speaking — up to very recently I think nobody was listening — is the problem of heroin and the effect it has on whole communities and on crime in this city. It seems extraordinary that when attention is attracted to this matter and specific individuals are known to be organising such crime on a daily and weekly basis, the resources are not applied to hound those individuals and at least make it extremely difficult for them to continue to operate. This is a relatively small country with a small population in terms of the international drugs scene and if resources were made available and priority given to deal with the heroin problem it could be more effectively dealt with.
I propose to share my time with Deputies Jim Higgins, Sean Ryan, Sean Kenny and Eric Byrne.
I am sure that is satisfactory. Agreed.
The Fianna Fáil motion before the House amounts to nothing more than an admission of failure by that party, a failure over seven years in Government on its own and in successive coalitions with the Progressive Democrats and the Labour Party to deal adequately with crime. It is a capitulation, a confiteor for once by the Fianna Fáil Party. More than that, this motion is an opportunistic exploitation of three crimes which took place this month, a cynical manoeuvre in which Fianna Fáil has been enthusiastically and stridently supported by Deputy Mary Harney. We have heard about the Brinks Allied robbery, the outrageous attack on Veronica Guerin and the vicious murder of a man in Fairview, but we heard nothing about the murder of The General in Ranelagh a few months ago, the murder outside a leisure centre in Crumlin last year or a spate of sexual crimes, to mention a few.
Members of Fianna Fáil were silent about the performance of Deputy Máire Geoghegan-Quinn at the time those crimes took place. We heard very little from Deputy Mary Harney then. Was the reason simply that nobody slipped her a copy of an internal Garda memorandum about any one of those crimes which she could subsequently wave about and misrepresent in this House and on the airwaves? Is that why, in not a single one of those other cases, Deputy Harney did not put forward the revoltingly dishonest pretence that this House is another part of the State's machinery for investigating crime?
This motion calls for additional legislative measures, but what are they? We still do not know. Deputy O'Donoghue made a number of speeches in this House and on television and radio and he sounded as if he had learned every one of them off by heart, but at no point did he specify the additional legislation he wants. It was left to Deputy Haughey last night to mutter darkly about changing the law on the right to silence. Deputy O'Dea last night, in a performance that was worthy of Groucho Marx, informed us that everybody knows who carried out the Brinks Allied robbery, as if it were enough for him to say that in order for the whole matter to be resolved. Even Deputy Bertie Ahern in this House last night, to his utter discredit, talked about the northside of Dublin being awash with rumours, implying that if those rumours were acted upon, crime would be solved. If Deputy Ahern had any decency he must have felt sick last night when the Minister for Justice debunked a whole series of rumours one after the other.
I watched Deputies on the Opposition benches last night as they listened to the Minister for Justice talking about another one of these rumours, that the Brinks Allied company was alerted not by its own staff but by somebody else. The Minister pointed out that the Garda indicated that statement was untrue and said she did not wish to be tied to that at this point as a statement of fact. The Opposition thought it had hit a nugget, but what the Minister was saying, which the Deputies opposite should know, was that that could not be confirmed until the company concluded its investigation. Until that point, that is simply another rumour. Thank God the Garda has more sense than to shoot its mouth off in public about a major investigation on the basis of rumours.
If members of the Fianna Fáil Party spent less of their time, like members of the Progressive Democrats, listening to backstairs title tattle and trying to make a federal case out of it, we might make more progress in resolving these crimes. It is clear from the performance of all the Deputies on the Opposition who spoke about this issue in recent days that not a single one of them could be trusted to get to the bottom of the theft of a biscuit from the cookie jar in their own kitchens.
What changes does the Opposition want in the law? A change in respect of the right to silence of persons suspected of or charged with crimes, extra powers for the Garda to detain suspected persons or changes in the law on bail? If it wants these changes, is it seriously suggesting that the need for them came about only after 16 December last? Does the Progressive Democrats Party really believe that this is the case? It is stretching credulity a bit far to suggest that even Deputy O'Donoghue believes that. However, he is good at putting a face on it when he has learned the lines.
What are the facts? Fianna Fáil in Government over the past seven years refused to change the law on bail and refused numerous requests in this House from the then Opposition, including the Progressive Democrats, to change it. I am sad to see the Progressive Democrats moving back into the wake of Fianna Fáil — it will be back with that party in no time.
The other matters I raised came before this House during the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill in 1983. On 9 November 1983 Deputy David Andrews stated at column 1935 of the Official Report: "there is no evidence that the police are, in fact, hampered to any great degree by the exercise of the right to silence". He quoted authoritative grounds for that statement. At column 258 of the Official Report for 4 December 1983 Willie O'Dea described the Criminal Justice Bill, which at that stage proposed changes in the right to silence and other matters to which I referred, as "the most insidious and far-reaching erosion of personal liberties since the foundation of the State.
Obviously he has changed his mind.
He had not thought of junkie junction at that stage. On the same day Deputy Harney, Politically correct even then, warned us against making facile statements about law and order issues and stated, at column 281, that "Powerful law and order speeches by politicians are always guaranted to get a few votes". It is said, tagann ciall le haois. I am very much afraid that Deputy Harney seems to have reversed that process. Her statement at that time contrasts very sharply with her unprincipled stand of today. On the same day at column 808 she said: "Our legal system has one very good provision, that is, that a person is innocent until proven guilty. That is fundamental to our legal and judicial process".
During his contribution on the Act of 18 January 1984 — columns 270-77— Deputy Bertie Ahern expressed concerns about provisions in the Bill concerning detention. He worried about the possibility of the Bill giving rise to Garda harassment of some of his constituents — he did not seem to be worried about anybody else at that time. He seems to have stopped worrying about that now. The Minister for Justice correctly pointed out last night that when it comes to the crunch it becomes "notoriously difficult to secure wide support" for changes in the law of the kind very darkly and obliquely hinted at by Fianna Fáil in the House last night.
In recent days Fianna Fáil speakers have inveighed against the facility which accused persons have in our system to ensure they are defended by the best legal brains in the land at the expense of the taxpayer. Deputy O'Donoghue and others have engaged in this. It is worth recalling that during the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill in July 1993 Deputy Woods proposed a Report Stage amendment "to provide legal aid for persons detained pursuant to section 4 of that Bill so that persons who do not have the means to engage a solicitor shall be able to do so". Curiously enough, his amendment provided for no means test. He did not propose that accused persons should be asked if they had any money at the laundry before they got legal aid out of which they could afford to pay for their defence.
I strongly believe — I hope members of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats will take this to heart — that the interests of justice will not be served by knee-jerk and unspecific motions such as the one put down by Fianna Fáil. Neither will it be served by what I can only describe as the most revoltingly histrionic cynical comments by Deputy Harney who seems to be much more concerned with the drafting and publication of Garda memoranda than with action to apprehend criminals. Justice will be far better served by a clear headed Minister for Justice who refuses to prejudice the course of Garda investigation but who can be relied upon to support and equip the Garda in a manner fitting to the demands of equity, democracy and efficiency.
Tááthas orm mo tacaíocht a thabhairt don leasú on Rialtas.
What is the order for speakers? I was informed by the Whips' office that I would have ten minutes at 7.30 p.m.
The time is being shared between Deputies Dukes, Higgins, Ryan, Kenny and Byrne, in that order.
I do not understand how I will have ten minutes at 7.30 p.m.
The Deputy may not have ten minutes. It will depend on how quickly we make our remarks but it has been agreed by the House.
If I do not get ten minutes it will be——
The first split.
The matter has already been agreed by the House.
Did the Deputy's party not get four ministerial posts?
The Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, has inherited the most difficult of all Departments. During the past seven years we had high profile initiatives, photocalls, announcements of taskforces, new management structures and reorganisation, tape cutting ceremonies, structures and decisions. Yet at the end of the day the crime problem has spiralled out of control. The Minister for Justice is expected by the Opposition to have prescribed the necessary medicine to heal all the ills in this area during her six weeks in office.
All one has to do is walk down Grafton Street, Henry Street or any of the once friendly shopping thorough fares in Dublin and other towns to see that shops have become like fortresses, with their windows no longer visible, and houses and domestic dwellings ringed in steel. Entire pages of the daily newspapers are devoted to court cases and graphic descriptions are given of the most preverted crimes such as child sex abuse and physical violence against the elderly and others.
Deputy Gregory referred to the drugs scene in his constituency. There has been a massive increase in the drugs problem over the past seven years. As a result of the way in which the market has been flooded, a fix of heroin, ecstasy, cannabis or cocaine is now half the price it was a few years ago. The age threshold for drug addiction is now as low as the early teens. As Deputy Ring said, rural Ireland has fallen prey to raids by people from Dublin who have crossed the Shannon before the crime is even detected. If the Government does nothing other than smash the drug scene in Dublin it will have made a worthwhile contribution.
Our jails are bursting at the seams and one quarter of the inmates are under 21 years. It is a case of the age old principle of put them away with little rehabilitation and any attempt at reform being considered solely in terms of cost. Our jails have become universities of crime. That is the scenario the Minister has inherited. That is the legacy of seven years of Fianna Fáil promises and inaction in the Department of Justice, the mess which the Minister must clean up.
The Brinks Allied raid was undoubtedly a long time in the course of planning. It is very interesting to listen to the Fianna Fáil accusations about money laundering when the person generally perceived and reported in the weekend papers as being at the centre of the crime has been at large — the authorities know this — for the past seven years or so.
Although he was under Garda surveillance the previous Administration failed to put a finger on him or obtain any conclusive evidence to put him and his associates where they belong. It is ironic that the tax amnesty which we said at the time was a classic charter for tax cheats and criminals——
The Finance spokesperson of the Deputy's party suggested it; the Deputy should not be a hypocrite.
——has been used by this man to launder his ill-gotten gains. That is the result of the policy of having a carousel or rotating door Taoiseach; the practice of the previous Administration.
In June 1993 thugs who raided a building society not far from where Deputy Ryan resides in this city were duly arrested but not charged. On the same day they attacked the same building society a second time, were apprehended when in possession of a few thousand pounds and released. They have yet to come before the courts.
Some of the people involved in this crime have been in and out of prison on a regular basis. It is clear the existing powers need to be strengthened to allow the Garda and the courts enforce the law.
The Brinks Allied raid must be viewed in the context to the massive profits being made by the banks and financial institutions and the paltry contribution they make towards the cost of the protection of their core business. The banks, building societies, financial institutions and security firms must bear a greater share of the security costs and put their own house in order. No one denies private commercial enterprise the right to make a profit; last year AIB made a profit of £330 million and the Bank of Ireland £290 million. These are enormous sums of money when viewed against the contribution of £500,000 this sector makes towards the cost of State security. It should have to carry a greater share of the responsibility. Like every small shopkeeper, they should be compelled to present a security plan which should be subject to Garda inspection and modification if deemed to be inadequate.
The transportation of money between financial institutions should be financed primarily by the financial institutions and not by the taxpayer who should not be expected to bear such a high percentage of the cost of such security when the institutions in question make enormous profits, considerably in excess of the norm in other countries. I wish to see proportionality in terms of the enormous profits made, ability to pay and the task to be undertaken by the Garda and security forces. The financial institutions should be made to pay a fair percentage of the profits they earn towards the cost.
I take this opportunity to wish Veronica Guerin, a constituent of mine, a full and speedy recovery following the vicious and cowardly attack that took place in her home on Monday last. Not only was this an attack on Miss Guerin, it was also an attack on free speech, the cornerstone of our democratic system. Notwithstanding the differences in approach which have emerged during the course of this debate it is vital that this House sends a strong message that this type of gansterism is unacceptable and that the full resources of the State will be used to apprehend those responsible and put the criminals out of circulation for a long time.
I wish to address the increasing drug problem within our community. I must admit that I was taken aback by the extent to which drugs are readily available throughout my constituency. I recently met a number of young people who outlined in a very graphic way the extent to which drugs are readily available to our youth, some as young as 12 and 13 years of age and school-going. They were also able to identify the pushers, the locations and times. However, they were unwilling to inform the Garda for fear of retaliation.
It is clear we will have to build a better relationship between our youth and the Garda. The pushers do not care about the damage they are inflicting on our children, in many cases leading them into a life of crime. This scandal must be addressed. I hope the Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, will respond to this serious issue.
Like most other constituencies, the level of petty crime in Dublin North has increased to such an extent that many business people are warning that the crime levels are posing a threat to their livelihoods and jobs. The Dublin area is under-policed relative to the rest of the country. I appeal to the Minister to provide additional Garda resources. My constituents are demanding a greater Garda presence, be it in Portmarnock, Malahide, Swords or Lusk. In order to provide these resources additional funding will be required. I hope that Deputy Harney and her party, the Progressive Democrats, will acknowledge this when calling for cuts in public spending.
Juveniles commit one-third of all crimes and have a high propensity to reoffend. The reason juvenile crime is such a problem is that there is a lack of adequate places of detention. I hope this matter can be dealt with.
On the causes of crime, we must get tough. The lack of employment and community facilities must be addressed if we are to encourage young people to move away from a life of crime. Funding for our youths services will have to be increased. It should be borne in mind that it costs £500 per week to keep a juvenile offender in custody. We must provide community facilities, create long term jobs and discriminate in favour of those living in disadvantaged areas.
I wish my constituency colleague, the Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, every success in her new post.
I deplore the vicious and brutal attack on Veronica Guerin and wish her a speedy recovery. In supporting the Government amendment I wish to refer briefly to the report of the Commission on Crime in Dublin, chaired by Judge Moriarty, which was presented in the Mansion House yesterday. It deals mainly with Dublin Corporation housing estates, although crime is by no means confined or limited to such schemes.
The report concluded that bad urban physical planning, such as the shape of housing estates, street and road layouts and the lack of recreational facilities, is a major contributory factor. It also concluded that laneways which were once considered amenities have become havens for anti-social behaviour and the scourge of residents.
Housing estate management was considered by the commission and the decentralisation of housing services was recommended. The commission found on its visits to certain estates that a constant theme was the trauma caused by intimidation and anti-social behaviour. The report stated:
Indeed, for many citizens this form of crime impinges more than any other on daily life and is the most urgent problem related to crime which needs to be tackled. We have encountered chilling instances of physical violence, property damage, constant threats and harassment brought to bear particularly upon females who are active in representative associations.
On the question of harassment, the report stated that it is primarily the Garda operating within the legal system which is responsible for the protection of citizens. If it is unable to deal with intimidation it is wishful thinking to expect the local authority to solve something which is basically a matter of law and order.
The report recommended that a special team headed by a senior officer be set up by Dublin Corporation to improve control of housing estates and the setting up of a confidential telephone by the corporation to deal with complaints of harassment and intimidation. The report found that 80 per cent of indicatable crime in the Dublin Circuit Court was drug related. Because of the impact of drugs on crime, priority must be given to a review of the integrated roles of all the relevant agencies.
In dealing with the drug problem, there should be greater availability of public residential treatment centres and a specific treatment and rehabilitative structure established within the prison system. The report recommended that the recent Garda activity in the locations known to be focal points of drug dealing should be expanded and increased resources be directed towards detection and bringing to justice the major importers and distributors of drugs. It is important that the vigilance and commitment of the Medical Council in policing the prescription of drugs be maintained and intensified.
On policing, the report recommends that the Garda review facilities for receiving reports, complaints and information from the public by telephone and that a system be introduced to provide information to victims of crime regarding the progress in dealing with their cases; that the non-policing duties currently undertaken by the gardaí be civilianised and that a new concept of a mobile garda station be considered because the community needs the reassurance of a strong garda presence when necessary.
In Denmark, a crime prevention council was set up in 1971 representing a wide range of interests from both the public and private sector which provides a forum for discussion of current issues with regard to crime and initiates practical activities which help to reduce crime. A body on broadly similar lines, called the national crime council, should be set up in this State.
I now call Deputy Eric Byrne who has some three minutes remaining to him.
Unfortunately, my Coalition partners have eaten into the anticipated ten minutes allocated to me and in the remaining two minutes it will be practically impossible for me to deliver——
I am sorry, Deputy, but I will not be able to help you in this case. Private Members' Time is precious and I must adhere rigidly to it.
I appreciate that but I would find it impossible to convey the full contents of my speech——
They did it on purpose.
——so I will simply say I am disappointed that the Minister's office has been unable to slot in Democratic Left to its preordained period.
It has nothing to do with the Minister's office.
I wish the Minister well in her new position. She faces trying days ahead and, in the light of my inability to deliver my speech, I decline to say any more.
I wish to share my time with Deputies Callely and Eoin Ryan.
I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed.
At the outset, I pay tribute to the journalist, Veronica Guerin, and I agree with the sentiments expressed by others that she has shown great courage. I hope the perpetrators of this foul act will be vigorously pursued.
I listened carefully to the debate last night. Fianna Fáil has not only exposed the incompetence and inadequacies of the Government's handling of this crisis but it also put forward specific proposals which we ask the Minister to take on board. Last night I found the Minister's explanation of the Brinks-Allied raid inadequate, although I wish her well in her new portfolio. According to the Minister last night, the Garda Commissioner said that gardaí had information that there would be an attack but their intelligence as to the timing and target had been incorrect. I find that explanation quite vague——
That is because the information was vague.
——and it does not wash with the Members on this side of the House. Does the Minister expect these criminals to fax information to the gardaí with maps, dates and the times of proposed raids? Why does she continue to hide behind these vague statements? Perhaps we will hear a little more about that.
It came from the Commissioner. Is the Deputy calling the Commissioner a liar? He is obviously doubting the Commissioner.
I can only reply to the Minister's speech of last night. The robbery at the Brinks Allied premises — followed by the shooting of Veronica Guerin — which has been described as the worst in the history of the State has exposed the whole issue of security and law and order in a way that it has never been exposed previously. Deputy Dukes talked about Fianna Fáil's response but if Deputy Dukes or the Minister Deputy Owen were on this side of the House they would ask many questions, which is in the spirit of democracy.
Every Deputy in this House will agree that crime is the most serious issue facing us, particularly in Dublin. Our elderly citizens are very concerned about this and it is appropriate that we have a comprehensive debate on this issue in this House.
In the aftermath of the Brinks Allied raid and the shooting of Veronica Guerin many people are wondering who is in charge and who is setting the agenda. It is unfortunate that the gangland criminals appear to have free rein and the Government must take control.
I wish to make a number of specific recommendations in this regard. Two years ago, an advisory committee on fraud, chaired by Peter Maguire SC, made a series of sweeping recommendations on which there has been no follow up. I would accept that whereas we introduced some legislation, more could have been done in this area. We have no comprehensive fraud Act covering all types of fraud. Fraud, in whatever shape or form, must be made an offence. There have been various Bills through the years dealing with fraud but that legislation has never been consolidated and I am asking the Minister to do that in a comprehensive way. In 1872 we had the Debtors (Ireland) Act, in 1878 there was the Falsification of Accounts Act, in 1871 we had the Larceny Act and the Forgery Act was introduced in 1930.
A special fraud section in the Garda should have investigating teams that would include lawyers and accountants because of the sophistication of the types of fraud now being committed. To put it simply, the financial expertise of the authorities should at least be as good as, if not better, than that of the gangsters.
I support the calls made here for more gardaí on the beat because of the general fear on the streets, but this crime is one of great magnitude and sophistication. The £3 million stolen in the Brinks Allied raid will not be put under somebody's mattress. Attempts will be made, and probably are being made as we speak, to process the money through investment, property or accountancy mechanisms. That is why the gardaí must be given back-up support of lawyers and accountants in eliminating these fraudulent activities.
I urge the Minister to show a greater sense of urgency in bringing into effect the provisions of section 32 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994 so as to prevent money laundering operations which obviously will follow from this raid. As the Minister is aware, it is difficult for a garda to get a search warrant where a person is suspected of fraud. This matter should be pursued by the Minister. There is no effective legal means whereby the gardaí can freeze or seize the proceeds of last week's robbery if they suspect them to be held in a financial institution. The gardaí should have this power and, as Deputy O'Donoghue said, we will introduce a Bill to give this power to the gardaí if the Minister chooses not to do so.
The drugs issue has been referred to and I know my colleagues intend to refer to it also. The Brinks-Allied raid has exposed the inadequacies of security systems and Brinks-Allied has many questions to answer. I propose that licensing of security firms and the imposition, on a statutory basis, of standards for transit handling and storage of cash be introduced. I also question the suitability of an industrial estate as the location for storing large amounts of cash. Surely in the times we live in and with the level of intelligence the criminal fraternity has, it would be appropriate to have one or two holding points for the greater Dublin area which would have the highest possible degree of security. The Minister should take this on board and the issue should be addressed in a co-ordinated way.
I listened with interest to Deputies Dukes and Higgins who referred to the previous Minister for Justice who had one of the most outstanding records of introducing wide-ranging legislation. However, on nearly every occasion when legislation was introduced Fine Gael opposed its introduction. It may have acknowledged the legislation as sensible but voted against it. I have no doubt Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn would have introduced even more legislation had she been given the opportunity. Unfortunately, the Labour Party pulled the plug and she was unable to do so. It cannot be overstated that to reduce crime the Government must introduce legislation.
In regard to the recent serious crimes, I agree with what has been said about Veronica Guerin. She is a personal friend so I will do no more than echo what has already been said. I hope she will have a speedy recovery and be able to continue her successful career in journalism.
Apart from the crime committed against Veronica Guerin and the tragic murder of Mr. Hurley, who was kicked to death in Fairview Park, the biggest ever raid in the history of the State was carried out at Brinks-Allied in Clonshaugh. All of these crimes took place within a three mile radius. It is alarming that such serious crimes were committed within such a small radius in such a short time. It raises a number of questions the Minister should answer. What role does the Minister envisage the Garda and the Army playing, particularly in regard to the services offered to security firms? Current legislation must respond to the threat posed by organised crime whether those crimes are perpetrated by paramilitaries or by criminal gangs. Where does the Coalition Government stand on the issue of crime prevention? Are we to be assured that the enforcement of law and order in Ireland is a priority? Are we to witness reactive rather than pro-active policies? What measures does the Minister intend to introduce?
I wholeheartedly support the motion of my friend and colleague, Deputy John O'Donoghue, and the Government amendment is admirable, but it is vague. What does the Minister mean by "all necessary resources"? The Book of Estimates provides for a 2 per cent increase in Garda salaries. That does not meet inflation or public pay recommendations. Is the Minister talking about reducing Garda numbers in 1995?
Read it all. It does not say I am reducing the numbers.
Drug related crime is probably our biggest problem not alone in Dublin but in urban areas generally. Is the Minister serious about addressing drug related crime? There is one area in which the Minister has a figure on the pulse, where she can make immediate changes. I refer to people in prison because of drug related crime who are able to obtain drugs freely within the prison system. That is known by the Minister and by the Governors of the prisons. When asked why they do not take action to prevent the free availability of drugs in prisons, the response has been that it would take draconian measures to do so. I do not care what draconian measures are necessary but I would welcome an answer from the Minister about what action she will take to stop it and when she intends to take such action.
I too join with others in wishing Veronica Guerin a speedy recovery. Like Deputy Callely, I know her and hope she will be back at her job, which she does so well, as quickly as possible. I also take this opportunity of wishing the Minister well. She has had a particularly difficult time since she took over the Justice portfolio. It is a very difficult portfolio. As her predecessor showed, one has to be extremely tough to take on the Department of Justice.
The Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen is extremely loyal to her colleagues in Government, but until a few minutes ago there was nobody from among them here to sit beside her. That is a strange way to treat somebody who is under a lot of pressure. The remarks made by a Government backbencers, Deputy Eric Byrne, were extremely unhelpful. For anybody in Government to say that the Garda are a laughing stock is to undermine them. The vast majority of gardaí are fine, hard-working people. They may make mistakes but their record on crime prevention and on solving crime is not bad. For anybody in the Government to say they are a laughing stock sends out a misleading message to the public and, unfortunately, nowadays preception can become a reality. Like others, I have had telephone calls from my constituents who feel that the Garda have let them down. However, one must look at these things in an overall context. Some things may need to be changed in the Garda Síochána but a statement like Deputy Byrne's is extremely damaging and dangerous.
On many occasions I raised with the previous Minister for Justice the subject of the drug problem in the inner city which is part of my constituency, and she came into the constituency to see the problem. Drugs related crime is a huge problem worldwide and the Minister will face great difficulty in tackling it here. Is it any wonder that drugs get a hold in inner city areas where unemployment is high? There has been huge neglect of our inner cities and in parts of my constituency there are no facilities. The children have nothing to do so people who stand to make money move in to sell drugs. Will the Minister do whatever she can to tackle the problem?
I can guarantee the Minister 100 per cent support from the people in the inner city communities. They want to fight the drug problem. They will go out of their way to do it and are getting themselves organised to work with the Garda to try to bring facilities back to the city centre. The Minister will not have any difficulty working with community groups in my constituency and elsewhere.
The bail law has to be tackled quickly. The Garda will tell you it is demoralising, having put in a great deal of effort to arrest someone, to see him walking free on the street two days later. That is extremely difficult and I have no doubt the Minister has spoken to gardaí about this. We can all give examples of such incidents but the issue must be tackled now. I am aware that the previous Minister for Justice referred this matter to the Law Reform Commission but it should get priority as the present situation is extremely damaging to the Garda and makes them think they might as well not be doing any work.
The report of the Lord Mayor's Commission on crime shows that it has not increased during the past few years. To a certain extent, that is true but there is a great deal of petty crime, anyone whose handbag has been snatched or whose car has been broken into, is extremely irritated by it. I do not believe the level of such crimes had dropped, in fact it has increased substantially.
The report also showed that the level of violent crime committed by young people had increased, this is interesting because surveys conducted in America have shown that the area of crime which will increase is the number of young people involved in violent crime although the levels of other crimes have decreased. I ask the Minister to consider this because it is very dangerous for young people to become involved in violent crime for no reason.
I now call Deputy Liz O'Donnell who is sharing this time slot with the three previous speakers. She has ten minutes.
I agree with speakers who defended the Garda Síochána after Deputy Eric Byrne's comments, which I found very offensive. We must not undermine the morale of the Garda Síochána or damage the confidence in which they are held by the public. They are ordinary people asked to do exceptional work requiring exceptional qualities.
I am glad to hear that.
The only thing that makes this debate different from other motions on crime during the past two and a half years I have dealt with Justice matters is that it has been prompted by the largest armed robbery ever in the State and the related shooting of a journalist. Veronica Guerin, who was investigating organised crime.
The Progressive Democrats Party, instead of engaging in routine condemnation of crime last year put forward a Private Members' Bill which proposed radical and achievable reforms of the criminal procedure — the Criminal Justice Bill, 1994 — and proposed among other measures a new system of interrogation of suspected persons before a judge of the District Court. There is often a great deal of controversy as to the nature and admissibility of interrogations in Garda stations. In order that certain serious offences can be investigated it was proposed that suspected persons should be liable to be questioned formally before a District Court judge other than in public and that the record of that interrogation should be admissible at a subsequent trial. The rights of an accused person not to be obliged to incriminate himself would still be preserved.
The District Court judge before whom the examination took place would be obliged to warn the person to be interrogated that a court of trial may draw adverse inferences from his failure to answer questions or to an answer given. The provision was also made for the court to draw an inference from the failure of the accused person to mention matters at the time the crime was investigated on which they rely at their trial. The prosecution was given a right to call on the accused to give evidence at his trial and provision was made for a forensic test to be carried out on people remanded in custody, which is a loophole in the law.
We also addressed the necessary and much heralded need to reform the law of bail in respect of which the Supreme Court has twice ruled that preventive detention is not consistent with the Constitution and, consequently, the withholding of bail on the grounds that the person is likely to reoffend is unconstitutional. Given that constitutional problem, we proposed in Part II of our Bill to introduce a jurisdiction on the part of any court granting bail to direct that the bail would be liable to be forfeited if the accused commits an offence on indictment while on bail; effectively the bailsman would be surety for the good behaviour of an accused while on bail. We also proposed new minimum levels of bail with a hardship clause for those unable to raise it. This measure would at least have made some impact on the constitutional paralysis in which we find ourselves.
We also made detailed recommendations for changes in the current petition system whereby the Minister for Justice can sanction the release or remission of prisoners for which there is no public accountability. The whole system of petitions and the practice of temporary releases of prisoners is not transparent and accountability and from time to time serious crimes have been committed by people on temporary release from jail. Unaccountable remissions of sentences undermine the criminal justice system. The Minister for Justice, in making a plea for calm last night when faced with these people baying for reform of the criminal justice system, actually pointed to measures which no party in this House has requested. She referred to the abolition of bail and over-radical measures which would not be in accordance with the Constitution. All the reforms called for by my party would have preserved and protected due process and civil liberties. Our practical suggestions were not, of course, taken on board by the previous Government, nor is there any indication that this Government intends to introduce radical reform of the criminal justice system to restore credibility in this time of escalating crime.
The armed robbery and the subsequent shooting of Veronica Guerin highlights the need for the retention of the Special Criminal Court. It appears that if these people are prepared to shoot a journalist investigating their activities they will have no qualms about intimidating jurors, if they were to come before ordinary courts. We need to retain the Special Criminal Court to deal with this sort of organised armed gangs.
We have called also for the establishment of an anti-racketeering unit in the Garda Síochána to investigate the assets of known criminals, given that the Criminal Justice Act requires a conviction before any assets of crime can be confiscated. This is essential and urgent. I am glad that the Minister indicated that the regulations which flow from the Criminal Justice Act (No. 3), sections 31 and 32, on moneylaundering will be brought into effect at the earliest possible opportunity as——
Section 31 is already in operation.
——they allow the banks and other financial centres to inquire into and take action on suspect lodgments. The sad thing is that because these regulations were not brought in earlier the money from this robbery is well out of the country by now.
Section 31 has been in operation since November.
But the regulations has not been brought in within the banks.
They have, they were brought into effect by the previous Government.
I stand corrected on that.
There is no shortage of policy statements and specialist reports on the need for reform in the crime area. We have had several Law Reform Commission reports and now the report of the Lord Mayor's Commission. A select committee of this House has dealt with crime and has detailed a radical reform of the criminal justice system as it applies to juveniles and yet we are still baying for the necessary reforms.
I will now deal with the Minister's response to the allegations that she misled the House last week. The Minister for Justice tried twice, in a fuddled and clouded way, to explain to the Dáil her account of the robbery of £3 million from the Brinks-Allied premises. That account does not stand up to any serious scrutiny. Throughout her speech she belaboured the point that Garda intelligence related solely to the possibility of a raid on a van in transit or cash in transit, as she variously put it. She went on to claim there was no intelligence to the effect that any premises would be attacked. Elsewhere she claimed that Garda intelligence both as to timing and target was simply wrong.
There is no doubt but that the Minister is on a very sticky wicket and is now compounding her weak and evasive performance in the Dáil last week with an interpretation of what the Garda intelligence meant. That is simply pathetic. Let us examine the facts. Late last year Garda intelligence concluded that a gang of known criminals were planning a raid on a cash carrying security firm. The intelligence was reinforced when one of the suspects was spotted staking out a security van at a Dublin northside shopping centre. We must ask how would hardened criminals carry out such an operation? They might try to hijack the van in transit, to quote the Minister, but this would be most unlikely if they were targeting a really big haul since such vans in transit are accompanied by armed gardaí and the Army. A raid on a van in transit would be the most risky and least likely option for a gang. Given that they would be unlikely to risk martyrdom by raiding a van with an armed escort their attention would extend, one would imagine, to a possible raid on a store or bank where money was being picked up — there were 19 pickup points that day — a possible raid on the security company cash holding depot or the kidnapping of vulnerable people to force the handing over of cash by a security company, precisely the manner in which an attack on one of the banks was carried out a few years ago.
It is ridiculous to suggest, as the Minister did, that the only concern of the gardaí was for cash in transit. Once there was good Garda intelligence that a dangerous gang was planning a security company robbery — we know only too well how accurate this intelligence was — all these options had to be considered and I believe they were. The Minister confirmed last night that a senior garda visited the Brinks premises in Santry a few weeks before the robbery but sought to explain this as being due to a change of management. Given that Operation Liffey had been mounted in November-December it is incredible that this was merely a courtesy call.
Is the Deputy calling him a liar?
The cash carrying security firms took precautions against some of the other possible criminal actions I outlined. There is the uncontradicated report that the Brinks-Allied staff were circulated with a memorandum warning about a possible attack on the Santry premises. Despite this the Minister continues to ramble on about no specific information and no specific target. It would appear that the only Garda intelligence which the Minister would regard as credible would be information to the effect that a raid would take place on specific target A, on specific day B, and at specific hour C. It is simply nonsense.
As to the evasive and misleading response to the specific questions put by my colleague Deputy Harney last Wednesday which the Minister, unbelievably, insists on defending, it is worth considering whether the quality and content of the replies would have been the same if three gardaí had been murdered during the raid or if the Minister could not point the finger so legitimately at Brinks Allied Security.
The Deputy's time is exhausted.
This reminds me of the answer that was drafted by Eoghan Fitzsimons when he said: "This is the best I can do. It does not answer the question".
In the two minutes left to me all I can do is put some facts on the record about money laundering. Most of the provisions of the 1994 Act are in force. It is a pity that in the debate last night some Members not only ignored these measures but made claims that fly in the face of reality.
Since last November money laundering is an offence under criminal law. This is broadly defined and essentially means that anyone involved in handling proceeds which they know or believe to be the proceeds of crime will be liable for heavy penalties — unlimited fines and up to 14 years imprisonment. To suggest that our criminal law does not recognise the seriousness of money laundering is to be wide of the mark.
Deputy O'Donoghue asserted last night that there is no effective mechanism under the criminal law which would permit the gardaí to freeze or seize the proceeds of last week's robbery if they suspected it was held in a financial institution. The perpetrators of last week's robbery would be foolish to take any consolation from the Deputy's assertion because it completely overlooks the provisions of the Criminial Justice Act, 1994.
Deputy O'Donoghue said "one of the greatest money laundering operations in the history of the State is underway". The Deputy is wrong. The single biggest money laundering operation in the State was organised by his Government.
With the Minister of State's partners in Government.
I refer to the tax amnesty.
I wish to share my time with Deputy O'Donoghue. Given the remarks alleged to have been made by Deputy Byrne of Democratic Left I am disappointed that he has not been given an opportunity to contribute to the debate. He might have used the opportunity to consider the remarks attributed to him, with which I disagree. The Minister, and other contributors, also indicated they disagree with them. Why did he not contribute when many Government backbenchers did so? We will await to hear from him on a future occasion.
It is openness, accountability and transparency.
There were four speakers already.
When we were in Government and referred to the state of the economy in the 1980s we were accused of looking backwards. We have given the Government a healthy economy and a financial position which is second to none. The Government has an opportunity to implement the proposals, vague and all as they are, contained in their amendment. Perhaps the Minister would indicate this day week, the precise number of additional gardaí it is proposed to recruit and train and when they will be on the streets.
(Carlow-Kilkenny): It would be very fast to train them in a week.
There is a two year training programme.
The Deputy's party had seven years to do so.
Is the Government winning the battle?
(Carlow-Kilkenny): Fianna Fáil should have a decent time of mourning.
We want the resources made available next week to allow that process to commence. We want to know numbers and see what investment the Minister's colleague will make in the Department of Health towards the continued establishment of community drugs teams. Only one is referred to in the amendment to the motion but I give the drafter of it the benefit of the doubt and assume the reference is to community drugs teams in every health board area and, I hope, every community care area which was the objective we set when we drafted the socalled response to drug misuse.
What is the deadline for the juvenile justice Bill? The Minister of State has responsibility in the area of child care. There are three important Bills dealing with the provision of adequate and full child care services. The Fianna Fáil Administation brought in two of them, the Child Care Act and the Adoption Bill. When will the juvenile justice Bill be brought forward? Will the Minister give us the date she called for so frequently when she was on this side of the House? Fianna Fáil did a tremendous amount of work in drafting the legislation. If the Minister gives us the dates and provides the necessary resources we will compliment her but if she reneges on the contents of this motion, vague as they are, we will call her to task, we will berate her, just as she occasionally berated our Government when on this side of the House.
(Carlow-Kilkenny): She was justified.
We will not forget and I shall scrutinise the budget next week from a child care point of view. I will want to ascertain how successful is the Minister of State at the Department of Health in ensuring that the provisions of the Child Care Act, 1991 are implemented by the end of 1996 in accordance with the time limit set by the former Minister for Health, Deputy Howlin.
That is the commitment.
If that is not fulfilled he will hear from us. Of course, we shall also have something to say if the introduction of the juvenile justice Bill is delayed and if we do not see tangible resources put on the table next week, within the budgetary context, to fight the growing drug menace. We shall be very critical if resources are not made available to increase recruitment of gardaí and the continued civilianisation of Garda stations which was commenced under the Fianna Fáil Government.
The Government amendment, while extremely high on aspiration can only be extremely low on achievement.
I am afraid the message being sent from this House by the Government to criminals is that anyone with a gun, a hacksaw and a four-wheel-drive vehicle is ideally placed to plunder the homes and property of our citizens. I do not consider that to be the type of message which should be and is being sent out from this House by virtue of the Government amendment.
It is abundantly clear that the Minister's contribution last evening emanated from the bowels of bureaucracy. It was as confusing as it was convoluted, difficult to understand in places, low on recommendations and absolutely hopeless in resolving the current problem. Virtually none of the mostly constructive proposals put forward by Fianna Fáil was dealt with by the Minister in her contribution last evening.
(Carlow-Kilkenny): The people opposite ignored them for seven years.
Until 7 o'clock we did not know them.
Deputy Dukes and others suggested that Fianna Fáil put forward no proposals to resolve the current crime problem. We advanced some of the best proposals put forward in this House for some time past.
We spoke of the need to review the law on bail.
They had seven years in which to do so.
We sought new regulations for security firms; increased resources and personnel for the Garda and the introduction of legislation to deal with money laundering under the provisions of section 32 of the relevant Act.
We suggested freezing assets suspected to be the proceeds of crime.
That provision was available already.
We sought a more concentrated community service for juveniles; powers of attachment for the Revenue Commissioners in regard to the proceeds of crime; more places of detention; and a tax incentive for security and surveillance equipment.
Another tax amnesty.
We proposed a national drugs enforcement agency.
Why did the Deputy's party not do so when over here?
That does not appear to have been sufficient for Fine Gael——
——so we will advance a few more proposals. In addition to those we have already advanced, we now propose an internal review committee of the Garda, the Army and security firms so that proper regulations can be devised for security companies. We propose recording the serial numbers of used notes in order that they may be traced.
There is need for a constitutional amendment on the substantive issue of bail but there is no reason legislation cannot be introduced by the Minister for Justice to provide for a curfew on people on bail. As a condition of their being given bail, they can be obliged to remain out of any place, shop or street. That does not require a constitutional amendment.
Why did not my predecessor, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, do so?
I was extremely interested in the observations of the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Currie who became involved in yet more obfuscation. The Minister of State suggested to the House this evening that there is legislation to deal with the proceeds of crime. There is provision, in the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, to enable assets or moneys deposited by a convicted criminal be seized or frozen. There is no legislation which would allow the Garda to freeze or seize assets in the course of an investigation.
Last evening I asked the Government to please not attempt to confuse the people. That legislation is required.
The Deputy is trying to confuse them on a number of things.
In the wake of the £2.8 million robbery, it is perfectly clear——
Will Deputies please allow the Deputy in possession to reply.
——that there is an obligation on the Government to introduce emergency legislation to allow the Garda Commissioner to freeze moneys suspected to be the proceeds of criminal activities.
It was the Deputy's Government's legislation.
It is the legislation of the party opposite.
Yet that legislation was not introduced. The Minister's abject failure to do so left a loophole in Irish criminal law which means that the circumstances exists in which moneys deposited by as yet unconvicted criminals in a financial institution cannot be frozen or confiscated. The Minister had an obligation to introduce that emergency legislation and her failure to do so was abject.
Is the Deputy proposing another tax amnesty?
If the Government do not want to listen, fair enough, I can say it elsewhere. It is totally incorrect to state that regulations were introduced under section 32 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994 regarding the procedures which should be in place——
The Deputy is not availing of his right to remain silent.
——for bankers in relation to money they suspect to be the proceeds of crime. Those regulations have not been introduced. It is extremely difficult for any fair-minded person to understand why they were not introduced.
Why did Deputy Bertie Ahern not speed them up; why did he leave them for six months when he was a member of the previous Coalition Government?
Members must allow Deputy O'Donoghue reply without interruption; he has two minutes remaining only.
Any fair-minded person fails to understand why they were not introduced in the wake of the biggest robbery in the history of this State.
The Deputy should ask his party leader why they were not introduced?
There is no point in endeavouring to divert attention from this matter. No useful purpose is served by endeavouring to lay the blame or divert the story to the person who leaked the memorandum to the Irish Independent. That will not paper over the bungling and ineptitude exhibited; I have no doubt about that.
Does the Deputy disbelieve the Garda Commission? Is he accusing the Garda Commissioner of not telling me the truth because that is what he appears to be doing. He should beware of accusing the Garda Commissioner of not telling me the truth.
No legislative road block was put in the way of the robbers.
The Deputy should just be aware of what I have said.
In that, lies the abject failure of the Minister and the Government in this extremely serious matter.
The Minister is attempting to divert attention here this evening by saying that some allegation has been made about the Garda Commissioner. There has been none. There is also the Minister's abject failure to dissociate herself from the comments of a Government backbencher, Deputy Eric Byrne, who said that the Garda were the laughing stock of the criminal community. As Minister for Justice, it was her duty to protect the members of the forces of law and order but, instead, she endeavoured to apportion the blame away from herself.
The Deputy has accused the Garda Commissioner this evening of not telling the truth.
Would the Minister please allow me to conclude?
The time has come for the Minister to renounce revisionism.
Why did the party opposite neglect the matter for seven long years?
The Minister is no longer in Opposition, she is in Government and it is her bounden duty to act in the wake of the robbery. As she has failed to do so we will introduce a Bill dealing with freezing assets in relation to the proceeds of crime.
Why did the Deputy's party in Government not introduce such a Bill?
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