With the agreement of the House, I would like to share my time with Deputy Doherty.
Private Members' Business. - Crime Prevention/Prison Accommodation: Motion.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
That Dáil Éireann deplores the short-sighted decision of the Government to halt the provision of additional prison spaces at Castlerea as well as the building of a women's prison in Dublin in view of vandalism on the rampage, the spiralling escalation of serious crime, particularly in Dublin, as well as the need to relieve prison over-crowding and provide modern, humane conditions conducive to the prevention of re-offending, as called for by the Mountjoy Visiting Committee and on which action was promised by the Minister for Justice, and calls on the Government to take a number of co-ordinated measures to deal with crime, including:
—the immediate reinstatement of the prison building in Castlerea and the women's prison in Dublin and the finding of the necessary economies in public expenditure elsewhere;
—proceeding with a special detention unit for drug addicts and measures to stop the free circulation of drugs within prison;
—the formulation of a constitutional amendment on the law of bail; and
—the bringing forward of legislation to streamline criminal procedures.
In every county old people spend sleepless nights in fear of marauding intruders. In every house parents are increasingly and justifiably in fear of the free availability of drugs. On every street of every town and village people walk in fear of crime. This fear is not irrational; it is real and justified.
It is not new either.
Our streets have been taken from us by criminals. They rule by threat, intimidation and force. They rule with the fist, the gun and the syringe and the criminal law here favours the criminal.
Some statistics, which I will lay before the House, are startling and alarming. In the last 12 months 3,000 tourists were robbed here, and 800 tourists have been attacked already this year.
Who was the Minister for Justice?
This translates to 40 per cent a month or about five a day. One in three shops has experienced violent crime. In the last two years, over £10 million has been spent on security equipment to protect personnel and discourage attack, and £11 million has been lost in cash, goods and damaged property from retail outlets. In the last 12 months there have been 3,800 detected drug offences which is only the tip of the iceberg. Statistics do not tell us what percentage of the approximately £60 million stolen in the last 12 months here was stolen in drug-related crime. There is no doubt that these figures are alarming and that we do have a serious crime problem which is spiralling out of control.
We are experiencing a crime wave, the likes of which has never previously been seen. Indictable offences are now running in excess of 100,000 per annum for the first time in the history of the State. Each day sees an average of over 300 new indictable offences added to the growing catalogue of terror experienced by citizens. The sad and sobering statistic is that every five minutes a new victim is claimed by this remorseless reign of terror.
There is a heavy onus on all those involved in the administration of justice to act quickly against this flowing tide of lawlessness. Since the Minister for Justice came into office, over 50,000 new victims have suffered at the hands of criminals. They have the right to ask what this administration has done for them. Their neighbours have the right to ask what action this Government has taken to protect them from being included in the next batch of victims and what priority is being given to law and order, and they have a right to an answer.
I invite the Members and the public to judge this Government on its inactivity. It is an incontrovertible fact that since taking office the Minister has failed abysmally to articulate a coherent criminal justice policy and to introduce a single measure which would stem the tide of crime. She has mounted this podium of studied inactivity under the supervision of a Taoiseach who has publicly proclaimed that our prisons are full of people who should not be there. I challenge the Taoiseach now to publicly state what prisoners he wishes to release, and how many murderers and rapists he wants to release into the community. How many robbers, thieves and burglars will benefit from his bungling benevolence? How many drug pushers does he propose to return to the gates of our schools? How many court orders does he propose to tear up by releasing convicts at an early date? They are the people who populate our prisons, who have been removed from society for its safety.
Last Friday week there were 2,153 prisoners in Irish jails. Only seven of those were there for the non-payment of debts and a further 22 were there for the non-payment of fines. Over 98.5 per cent of prisoners in jails are there because they committed crimes against their fellow citizens. They are the people the Taoiseach wishes to release because this Government is soft on crime, proved when it voted down a Bill introduced by Fianna Fáil which would have denied temporary release to prisoners convicted of crimes committed while on bail.
Fianna Fáil were there for years.
Does the Deputy ever talk to Deputy Máire Geoghegan-Quinn or Deputy O'Dea?
It proved it was soft on crime when it voted down legislation which would have offered some comfort to the victims of crime by restricting the movement of accused persons pending trial. It proved it was soft on crime by voting down legislation which provided for the forfeiture of bail money if an accused person committed a further crime while on bail. This Government has sought to fight crime with an excuse in one hand and a committee in the other. It has become a collective Billy Bunter forever waiting for a postal order from the Law Reform Commission, a perpetual Godot stranded in a barrel of indecision, awaiting the arrival of a policy it can plagiarise.
The new advisers must be writing all this.
I assure the Minister that I am not only capable of delivering it, I am also capable of writing it.
The Deputy is not old enough to have heard about Billy Bunter.
I am glad the Minister thinks so but I am well acquainted with the character of Billy Bunter and see it in action in the House every day. The Government does not have a policy on crime. It entrusted responsibility to a Minister who has been shown to have the swift reaction of an arthritic snail. In the aftermath of the Brink's-Allied raid she dithered and dawdled for over 100 days before bringing in the money laundering provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994. This amounted to the greatest political procrastination since Nero watched Rome burn.
That is nonsense. The Fianna Fáil Minister set up the committee and gave it a timeframe.
In the face of justifiable public outrage at the incidence of crime committed by persons on bail, the Minister made an impromptu announcement of a bail referendum but has since failed to offer a single, constructive syllable to the ongoing debate. Why? She was invited to go on "Prime Time" to discuss the issue but she refused. So much for openness and transparency. When her portfolio comes under scrutiny she believes absence is the best policy. She recently repeated this trick at Cabinet. The sole positive contribution by the Minister was her announcement that 210 new prison places were required and would be provided by the Government. These were to be the crown jewels of the Minister's reign. Unfortunately she left her palace unguarded and in her absence it was raided by the Minister for Finance and his gang and the jewels disappeared. The prison places were snatched and the Minister became a political banshee wandering the corridors and wailing to whatever political correspondent would listen that the prison places had not been stolen, merely borrowed, and would be given back at some unspecified date in the future.
It lacks nothing but conviction.
When the raiders grew tired of her wailing they returned with political cudgels and forced the Minister to issue a statement to the effect that she approved of the theft of the prison places——
This is worthy of a Booker prize.
——and had she been asked in the first instance she would have handed them over gladly. This farce, which everyone is enjoying——
(Carlow-Kilkenny): It is the way the Deputy tells it.
——would be humorous were it not that it is being acted out against a background of injury and deprivation. People are suffering real injury and loss. They need action, not melodrama. Their interests are poorly served by a Minister for Justice who carries so little political clout that her Cabinet colleagues feel they can decide justice policy in her absence. I would have some sympathy for the Minister in capitulating to the Minister for Finance and the Tánaiste were it not for the fact that she has only herself to blame for her imminent political demise.
Since taking office, the Minister has shown herself to be allergic to legislation. If she spent less time hiding behind the skirts of the Law Reform Commission and more time developing a coherent criminal justice policy she might not be on the political road she is now travelling. It will not be long until she is asked to relieve Deputy Coveney in the political sin bin which the Taoiseach has made of the Office of Public Works. In the meantime, criminal justice policy will continue to be accorded the same political priority as ostrich farming and the mounting pile of victims will continued to be ignored.
The Deputy knows a great deal about it.
No greater monument to the shambles of this Administration's justice policy exists than the wall which surrounds what was to be the prison in Castlerea. Every brick in the wall represented a statement of hope for the people of Castlerea. Every hour's work that went into its building represented a social lifeline for the locality. The Minister's political incompetence resulted in the Cabinet signing a death warrant for the town of Castlerea. The late John Heaney would understand the indifference and fatal contribution of this Government to the death of an Irish town and the political callousness which permitted the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance to snigger when I raised the matter last Wednesday — the knowing snigger of shillelagh Machiavellis who would plunge the political dagger into the heart of a constituency which is not represented by a Labour Deputy. The capitulation of the Taoiseach and the so-called party of law and order is extraordinary.
The wall which surrounds the hospital building in Castlerea will be long remembered by this Humpty Dumpty Administration as a monument to its indifference and naked duplicity. The House is in the process of passing the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Bill in the knowledge that it will result in the need for increased prison accommodation. The Government has proposed a bail referendum which will also necessitate increased prison accommodation. In the same breath it cancelled plans to provide 210 badly needed prison places. Neither I nor anyone else understands the morality of a Government which purports to have sufficient money to employ programme managers, advisers and consultants on a grand scale but cancels promised prison places because of lack of finance.
It appointed two extra Ministers of State.
This Government of openness and transparency can waste money at Luggala and Mullaghmore and now at Castlerea but cannot find money to keep dangerous prisoners off our streets. However, it had no difficulty creating two additional ministries to satisfy political need and greed.
I invite Deputy Connor to take the sole step open to him to secure his constituents' future. I invite him to turn the tables on the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance by resigning his seat and precipitating a by-election. This would bring limousines full of Ministers to an area which is now being shunned like a political leper colony. It would bring promises of industry and investment, a reappraisal of public finances and the funds to build Castlerea prison.
This Government is good at building walls both for and between people.
Fianna Fáil built them as well.
Ask about the Taoiseach's wall around his house.
Order, please. The Deputy in possession.
The Deputy would not be there only that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle held his position.
Do not upset the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.
The Government might even consider building a wailing wall for the Minister. This Humpty-Dumpty Government is heading for a fall and the public has seen through its charade of seeking to occupy the high moral ground while practising the financial morality of an alley cat. Public office carries with it a duty to spend money in the interests of the people but this Government has assembled an army of advisers, managers, handlers and spin doctors in an attempt to deceive the people and has done so with taxpayers' money.
We have now reached the absurd situation where convicted criminals are being released because of a purported lack of finance at a time when the political cronies of the ruling rainbow gorge themselves on a crock of public gold. Humpty Dumpty cannot continue to straddle the wall and preach financial plenty to its cronies and financial hardship to the voters of Castlerea. If a choice has to be made between keeping dangerous prisoners in prison and profligate advisers, managers and handlers in clover, I want to see prisoners in prison.
This country needs tough action on crime and a Government policy on it. It needs a Minister for Justice with the political will to introduce that policy but at present the country has none of these. The Government has no crime policy. It has a bric-a±-brac of committees, commissions andad hoc groups trying desperately to establish one. It does not have a Minister for Justice with the political ability to establish or implement the necessary policy. If it had, chronic overcrowding in Mountjoy would be relieved. Our prisons would not be havens of drug taking and peddling and people would not be going into prison drug free and coming out as addicts. Plans would be well advanced to tackle a drugs problem which has gone out of control by providing a special drug treatment prevention unit for habitual addicts and offenders. The time to build that unit is now because as sure as night follows day it will have to be built. Even though I know the Minister will not listen and I am wasting my sweetness on the desert air, I have to put this on the record.
Who said the Deputy was sweet?
It may not be too sweet for the Minister when the reality and the truth is being told to her but I strongly advise her to listen because her record is abysmal.
I am listening avidly.
Earlier this year the Tánaiste told journalists his true opinion of the Minister for Justice. What was not realised at the time was that he spoke for the whole Cabinet, its Fine Gael and Labour members.
Was the Deputy there?
There is no smile now.
We must have an orderly debate.
More importantly, was the Minister there? She never seems to be there when important decisions are being made. Cabinet confidentiality will prevent us from ever knowing whether anybody noticed the Minister's absence on the fateful day when cuts in prisons' expenditure were decided. We know that if her absence was noted, nobody cared. When the kitchen cabinet meets, the Minister for Justice is sent out to buy buns. Her opinion is neither sought nor considered. Meanwhile back at the ranch, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn, pours the tea.
The Minister has presided over a greater daily incidence of indictable crime than any Minister for Justice in the history of the State. She has the unique distinction of having been publicly humiliated by the Tánaiste and the Cabinet within weeks. The extraordinary thing about this is that no Minister for Justice in the last 25 years has had a greater opportunity to tackle the crime problem because there has been a substantial peace dividend to her Department from the peace process. Nobody can find out where those resources are and where they are being spent but one thing is sure, they are not being used to tackle indictable and serious crime.
The Minister continues to cling to the wreckage, apparently oblivious to the fact that a decision has been taken not to send out the lifeboat. While she floats on a sea of indecision, the remorseless tide of crime continues to flow. As the Minister drifts ever closer to the Office of Public Works, the victims of her indecision mount daily. Will it take another 50,000 victims to prise her fingers from the Cabinet table or will she take the hint from yet another public rebuke? I was not surprised to hear the Minister for Justice decided that it might be best for her to resign. It would have been the honourable thing to do and is what she should have done.
I ask the Minister to study carefully the contributions of her so called supporters. I invite her to listen in vain for whole-hearted endorsement from her Cabinet colleagues and to what is being said in Opposition and Government. It is surely time for her to go, to leave behind the pretence of having a policy and to make room for somebody who has. It is time to retreat from the shambles of announcing a bail referendum which the Labour Party will not back.
Fianna Fáil will not surrender to crime. We are determined to take the streets of this country back for ordinary decent people. We are determined to wage an all out war on drugs.
(Carlow-Kilkenny): Why did Fianna Fáil not do it when it was in Government?
It had seven long years to do it.
Our message is clear to pushers and addicts alike. If they have drugs, they have no place on our streets and if they use violence, they will go to prison.
What about the last seven years?
We have shown our commitment in Opposition by introducing more criminal justice legislation than the Government.
(Carlow-Kilkenny): What about when Fianna Fáil was in power?
Deputy Browne should check the record.
We introduced the Proceeds of Crime Bill, the Criminal Law (Bail) Bill, the Sexual Offences (Jurisdiction) Bill and the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill. The Criminal Procedure Bill is on the Order Paper and will provide for an amendment to the Criminal Procedure Act, 1976, for the speedy hearing of certain scheduled offences and statutory conditions in relation to bail. The Minister is leaving it to us to bring forward legislation to streamline criminal procedures. Government inaction rules.
Fianna Fáil will continue to speak on behalf of the victims of crime and highlight their plight. We will continue to deplore the calculated callousness and indifference of this Government. If the Minister for Finance feels he can shove crime so low down his list of priorities and shove the Minister for Justice around in the way he has done, he is making a bad mistake. One of the central issues on the streets today is serious crime. There is deep concern about it and nothing is being done to stem it. This is the time to admit the Government is soft on law and order and pursues a policy designed to release criminals back on the streets without having served their sentences. This is the time for the Minister to take responsibility and do the honourable thing, which she previously threatened to do, and let go of the wreckage.
I thank Deputy O'Donoghue for sharing some of this time with me. A few days ago the Minister's face expressed grave shock and horror at the fact that she had been savaged in her absence by her own Cabinet. This was an extraordinary thing to have happened. I and other speakers genuinely believed her concern about slashing her Department's budget was genuine and that her responses were an acknowledgement that she was outraged by what had occurred.
However, within days she publicly indicated support for the decision of the Minister for Finance and the Government that the development of additional accommodation in Castlerea should not take place. I thought such support would never be forthcoming from her, given the circumstances in which her Department's budget was cut. This was extraordinary and a U-turn on what she indicated at the time of announcement to terminate building the prison.
Since January she told her party colleague, Deputy Connor, that the prison would be built. He feared that the west was once again under threat and made his concerns known to the Minister. She gave him leave to publicly state she would proceed with the prison as agreed and planned by the previous Government, of which the Minister for Finance was a member. A week ago the Minister for Finance carved her out of the Cabinet and out of the arena of public political credibility.
Deputy Flanagan was concerned about the interests of his constituency and requested the Minister to review building the prison. She confirmed to him that the prison would proceed. I cannot understand how she could behave as she did. She showed such revulsion at what happened but she is now prepared to subscribe to a decision which is contrary to everything she set out to achieve and which is necessary to achieve her aspiration to deal with crime. The Minister has failed to confront the crime problem and in doing so is riding roughshod over the victims of crime, ordinary people who live in fear of being attacked in their homes, shops, pubs and places of work. All she is doing is supervising a litany of horrific crime. People have had their hopes dashed of living in the west and securing gainful employment in the development of the prison.
When I asked the Minister for Finance if he considered it worthwhile building a prison in Castlerea he said that it was intended to extend other prisons and there were no Labour votes in Castlerea or County Roscommon. If the battle against crime depends on votes for the Government then it is a sham. It is an insulting, degrading and demeaning way to deal with this issue and it totally ignores the basic expectation of ordinary men and women to feel safe and secure.
It is extraordinary that the only weapon the Minister has in her armoury to deal with criminals is rhetoric. This weapon is taken out every few weeks in response to a serious crime or when somebody is beaten, mugged, stabbed, shot or injected with a needle. Rhetoric may create the impression of activity but it is making no inroads into solving the problem of crime. It would be wrong of us not to make these points. We are not making a personal attack on the Minister; rather, it is an attack on the Government and her for the way in which they are conducting this campaign.
Every day 700-800 criminals walk freely on our streets as a result of the revolving door prison syndrome. These criminals are taken into prison in the morning and sent home in the afternoon. Under the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Bill, prisoners who have committed crimes against people in Britain and other countries in Europe can be transferred to prisons in Ireland. This means that criminals here will not be able to avail of the luxury facilities in our prisons. The reality is that there will be guest prisoners in our prisons and the criminals with whom we should be dealing will be ignored. Every day gardaí travel in taxis from prison to prison asking if they will take in the man or woman with them who has committed serious crimes against their fellow citizens. This is not the way to run the system or the campaign against crime.
Criminals in Dublin are a threat not only to the people living in the city but also to people living in rural areas. Every day and night marauding gangsters travel in stolen cars to rural areas where they rob small businesses and shops before speeding back to their hiding places in Dublin. The country is under siege at present and all of us have an obligation to act responsibly and to support any action which will deal with the increasing level of crime.
A few nights ago a 90 year old man in my parish, who is a member of Fine Gael and who lives on his own, was bound hand and foot with barbed wire by gangsters who broke into his home and robbed him. He supports the points I am making and does not support the Government's decision not to build a prison in Castlerea. This motion is not only about Castlerea, it is about the necessity to provide additional spaces for people who need to be taken out of society. There is little point in having gardaí outside public houses at 12 midnight when criminals break into them at 3.30 a.m. and carry out acts of terrorism against the occupants.
It has been stated that criminals who commit terrible acts of violence and vandalism will be sentenced to community service. It is proposed that they will paint letter boxes, mow lawns and water flowers; yet we cannot provide similar work for students and unemployed people. It is time to stop being nice, taking the soft options and providing luxurious facilities in prisons. Rather we must bring these people before the courts and get them off the streets. If we have money left over after clearing up this mess then we can consider rehabilitation, the soft options and the facilities which should be provided for them. We should not be engaging in an exercise which gives rise to questions among the public about whether we are genuinely committed to dealing with this problem. In recent years politicians have become popular people to attack.
We do not have to know what went on in Cabinet to know that the Minister for Justice was elsewhere when the budget for her Department was slashed. It would be a pity not to refer to the Minister of State with responsibility for rural development, Deputy Carey——
I must call another speaker.
He ignored everything and could not be contacted.
He should reissue a picture of himself so that the people in Castlerea, Mayo, Galway, Sligo and Leitrim can see what he looks like.
If the Deputy read last week's paper he would see that I was in Roscommon.
The people in those areas have not seen him since he came into office.
The Deputy should read the newspapers.
His reaction has been another outburst of rhetoric.
I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all the words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
— welcomes the setting up of an inter-departmental committee to review all aspects of the prison project for Castlerea, County Roscommon, taking into account the social and economic impact on Castlerea and the surrounding area and the need to identify and prioritise measures to address such impact;
— notes that the inter-departmental committee will involve formal input from the Castlerea Development Co-operative Society Ltd.;
— notes that the inter-departmental committee will report by end-December 1995, and that there is a commitment to bring the recommendations of the committee to Government without délay;
— recognises the need, at this time, to examine the State's overall offender management structures and capacity against the background of developments taking place in relation to juvenile justice and the impact of the peace process;
— notes that the Government in deciding to defer the Castlerea prison and the women's prison projects also decided to conduct a full-scale review of offender treatment options generally including the wider use of community sanctions and measures as recommended by the 1985 Whitaker report and more recently in the Prisons Five Year Plan;
— welcomes the measures being taken to prevent drugs being smuggled into our prisons and the provision of treatment programmes within our prisons for those prisoners suffering from drug addiction;
— welcomes the opportunity the peace process presents for reduction in security commitments in favour of greater concentration of Garda and other resources on tackling organised and drug-related crime; and
— commends the comprehensive programme of criminal law reform being undertaken by the Minister for Justice.
I wish to share my time with the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Carey.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
First I would like to respond to what I have heard tonight. I wish to ask those on the Opposition benches where have they been for the past seven years when the single common denominator in the Government of this land was the Fianna Fáil Party. Where was the duo, Deputies Geoghegan-Quinn and O'Dea, for the past three years but in the Department of Justice where, I understand they could not even talk to each other. That was the reason the issue of bail when it arose in January——
They agreed to build the prison.
——and became difficult for the then Government, was pushed to the Law Reform Commission.
They had it in the Estimate.
A Fianna Fáil Minister put the issue of bail to the Law Reform Commission for examination, but it will be a Fine Gael Minister who when she gets that report will take action. It was a Fianna Fáil Minister who pussyfooted and delayed on setting up the National Bureau of Fraud Investigation, but it is a Minister from the Fine Gael Party who has done so after many years of delay.
I remind Deputy O'Donoghue that when he refers to crime figures all he is doing is highlighting the failure of his Government.
The figure of 100,000 crimes, which he decried so much, was reached in 1994. This Government came to power on 15 December 1994, 16 days before the end of the year. The Opposition criticism is not against me, but against Fianna Fáil.
Is the Minister joking?
In 1993 when Fianna Fáil was in Government 98,979 crimes were committed and in 1994 it broke the 100,000 barrier. When Opposition Deputies criticise this Government they forget, because their memories are so faulty that they are referring to their inaction. Prisons did not open on 15 December for the first time. Temporary and early release was not introduced then. I listened to the irresponsible nonsense which Deputy O'Doherty, a former Minister for Justice, spoke tonight——
It was a tremendous speech.
——and I was surprised he did not instruct the Fianna Fáil spokesman on justice a little more on the issues of prison life. Drugs did not suddenly appear in our prisons on 15 or 16 December 1994.
Deputy Owen is the Minister, she is not in Opposition anymore.
The criticism by the Opposition is self-inflicted. When I was appointed to this position I inherited all the problems they listed but I am talking action on a number of issues where it was needed for years.
We inherited an unholy mess.
It will be a Fine Gael Minister who will take the action necessary. I inherited the problem of chronic overcrowding in our prisons but I will take steps to solve that problem in the coming years. I have never shirked the responsibility of this office or been guilty of the kind of disloyalty which the Opposition is trying to push on me. As a Minister I will share the responsibility of being in Government. I will not be pushed around by the Opposition because it suits Members to make these speeches.
We are not pushing the Minister around, it is the Labour Party.
The Labour Party is not pushing me around.
The Minister should speak to the Tánaiste.
I am sorry to disappoint the Opposition, but the Government is working extremely well. Some of the comments made tonight shock me beyond words because those who are to the forefront in the fight against crime are the 11,000 or so members of the Garda Síochána, a service and a force which has served this country admirably since 1922 when my grand-uncle was part of the founding group. Every word of criticism which the Opposition has made is an implicit criticism of the work of the Garda Síochána and that is a disgrace. As a former member of the Garda Síochána, I was surprised to hear Deputy O'Doherty make the implicit criticism——
I know the circumstances. The Minister should ask them what they are saying about her.
I am well able to take criticism. I do not need to run away and hide behind anyone. I hope I will be here for a long time before the Deputy gets an opportunity to return to the Government side of the House.
Let us have the same level of order which obtained for the previous speaker.
It is understandable that the deferment of the Castlerea Prison project — I say again the deferment — is the source of concern to the people of Castlerea and it is right that they should receive reassurance that the social and economic impact of the decision will be addressed. I wish, therefore, to inform the House that I propose to establish immediately an inter-departmental committee to review all aspects of the prison project for Castlerea taking into account the social and economic impact on Castlerea and the surrounding area and the need to identify and initiate measures to address such impact. The committee will report by the end of December 1995. The recommendations will be brought to Government without delay.
I wish to stress that the inter-departmental committee, which will be chaired by an Assistant Secretary in my Department and will have senior representatives from the other Departments, will as a matter of priority consult with the Castlerea Development Co-operative Society so as to ensure that the measures identified to address the impact of the deferred decision are informed not only by broad criminal justice and related considerations, but also by local concerns and insights.
I have been made aware by my colleague, Deputy Connor, that in the 1980s a number of industries ceased production in County Roscommon, including the loss of Fenner Stone and Triteach (Ireland) Ltd. in Castlerea with a net loss of 432 jobs in the county. While some of the lost industries have been replaced, the loss of industrial jobs has continued over the past ten years. I remind Deputy Doherty that his party was in Government during seven of those years.
From 1986 to 1991 the population of Castlerea fell by 9 per cent, one of the more marked percentages in the country. In 1936 to get elected to the county council approximately 1,800 votes was the quota but in 1991 the quota dropped to approximately 910 votes. I will return to a specific focus on Castlerea before I conclude my statement, but first I would like to say more about the background to the deferment decision and to comment on various other matters addressed in the Deputy's motion.
I wish to emphasise that the provision of 210 additional prison spaces at a cost of approximately £30 million, as envisaged in the Management of Offenders — A Five Year Plan published by my Department last year, had the objective of facilitating enhanced offender management capacity. It was, of course, only one of a number of initiatives to tackle the acknowledged difficulties in our prison system. What needs to be stressed straight away is that the need for enhanced offender management capacity has not, all of a sudden, disappeared. It does not mean that we no longer have need to provide resources and facilities, but there is need to look at how offender management capacity should be enhanced. We must look, for example, at the provision of high security prison places allied to alternative types of custodial facilities, whether perhaps certain offenders could be managed at the same or less cost and so on.
In other words, the Castlerea project is deferred — I stress deferred — not because the need for enhanced offender management capacity has disappeared but because it is entirely appropriate that the Government should take stock with a view to ensuring that the best results are achieved. It is widely recognised that the whole question of imprisonment and what it achieves is a complex one and that the situation is constantly changing and requires ongoing review and assessment. The five year plan, which was issued specifically not as a blueprint but with the aim that it would encourage discussion on offender management issues, itself underscores this point. I am sure Deputy O'Donoghue has read it but if not I would be happy to send him a copy.
There is also the particularly relevant point that the Government's programme for renewal includes a commitment to examine the question of the setting up of a prisons board. As I have already indicated, that examination is under way. Also highly relevant are the material impact on custodial capacity of the peace process and, of course, developments in the juvenile justice area. As Deputies will know, juvenile justice will be the subject of major of legislation which is at a very advanced stage of preparation in my Department. This was not at an advanced stage when I took over in the Department. All these elements argue unanswerably at this time for the need to take stock. While there is a need to take stock in terms of ensuring the proper development of offender management capacity, there are also, of course, budgetary considerations. This Government is committed to achieving 2 per cent real growth——
——in gross current supply services expenditure in 1996. As the House is aware, the Government is reviewing the 1996 budget proposals. This review extends to all Ministers, including the Minister for Justice. In order to ensure a strategic approach to the allocation of available resources, all existing policies and expenditure will be examined with the aim of maximising benefits within the Government's spending target for 1996. In this context, the Government examined a number of projects.
Proceeding to other relevant criminal justice issues which have been raised — first, in the matter of alternatives to custody, I propose to discuss the possible extension of community based alternatives with both the President of the Circuit Court and the President of the District Court. I will be requesting both Presidents to discuss the matter with their colleagues. I am aware that the President of the Circuit Court is now holding meetings with all the Circuit Court judges at which this issue could be discussed while alternatives to custody" could be placed on the agenda of one of the regular statutory meetings for the judges of the District Court by the President of the District Court.
I am providing a total of £413 million this year in the Garda Vote which will ensure that the Garda authorities have available to them sufficient manpower and resources to tackle all aspects of modern day crime. Over 400 gardaí were recruited last year and the aim of maintaining the strength of the force at about 11,000 members stands. I am also confident that we will have worthwhile redeployment of Garda manpower from Border areas on an ongoing basis. The Garda authorities have already decided not to replace members in the Border Divisions and I can tell the House that the strength of the Border Divisions has decreased by 53 since 31 July 1994 due to retirements, resignations and the reassignment of 16 probationer gardaí to Dublin following graduation. The gardaí who would normally fill these vacancies have been assigned to areas of most need by the Garda authorities.
In these days of continuous technological progress. I am sure the House will agree that the Garda Síochána should avail of the latest technology to assist them in the prevention and detection of crime. In line with this policy, I have provided funding this year for the installation of closed circuit television cameras in Dublin city centre as an aid to policing. The installation of a closed circuit television system for the Temple Bar area is the first such project to be undertaken and I expect that these cameras will be operational shortly.
A code of practice for its operation is being prepared and this will be available to the public. I am confident that the proposed system will have a beneficial effect on crime prevention and crime detection and also on the quality of life and business where this technology is applied. The confident expectation is that it will prevent certain street incidents and crimes and allow for better deployment of Garda manpower and resources to the point of need.
In recent years the Garda has been returning to a more community oriented form of policing. Schemes have been started in a number of the highly densely populated urban areas, in Cork, Dublin and Limerick. There is a proposal for a similar scheme in Waterford. These schemes have the benefit of identifying young people at risk who move into lives of crime and giving them some alternatives to a life of crime. This is an inexpensive way of ensuring that young people who might end up in crime do not do so.
I have dealt with the drugs problem in this House on numerous occasions since I became Minister. As I have already said, the problem is a complex one. Successive Governments have recognised that the problem must be tackled on a number of different levels. To this end the multi-agency approach, involving the Departments of Health, Justice and Education and their respective agencies, has been recognised by the Government as providing the best possible framework to deal with the problem. Essentially, we must deal not just with the supply of drugs but also with the demand. We must focus on both parts of the equation. This precisely is what the Government strategy to prevent drug abuse is about. It proposes a multi-disciplinary approach requiring action in the areas of supply reduction, demand reduction and increased access to treatment and rehabilitation programmes. In other words, the strategy calls for integrated action on the problem on a number of different levels.
Before dealing with the drugs problem in prisons, I shall deal in some detail with the law enforcement response to the drugs problem. Let us be quite clear about what is happening on the ground. All Garda drugs units throughout the country are co-ordinated on a national basis through the National Drug Administration Office in Garda Headquarters which is staffed by full-time gardaí with a detailed and specialised knowledge of the drugs problem.
In Dublin, which is the main area where heroin is a problem, many drugs units have been established in each of the city's five Garda divisions. I have already told the House many times where they are located. There are also full time drugs units in Cork, Galway and Limerick. While the strengths of individual units naturally fluctuate, we have never had more specialist gardaí committed to the fight against drugs. The Garda and the Customs and Excise Service, supported when required by the Defence Forces, have had a number of significant drug seizures.
While on the subject of inter-agency co-operation, the House will be aware that my Department is finalising a detailed and comprehensive report on important aspects of law enforcement in relation to the drugs problem here. Based on that report, I am preparing a set of comprehensive and far reaching proposals which I will bring to Government very shortly. The main task of the report was to identify the best arrangements for achieving a cohesive and co-ordinated response to the drug trafficking problem by the existing law enforcement agencies, and the proposals will be mainly concerned with this aspect. If it had been expedited, that report could have been brought forward by the former Minister for Justice. I am bringing it forward now during my term of office so that I can expedite and put into place the new arrangements which this country needs to attack drug trafficking.
The House is aware of the level of drug abuse in Mountjoy prison. It is difficult to know its true extent because it is a covert activity. What cannot be denied, in common with the experience in other jurisdictions, is that drug abuse by prison inmates is a serious problem. Finding solutions, as any former Minister for Justice will readily confirm, is extremely difficult. Considerable ingenuity is employed by offenders inside and outside prison to ensure that supplies to those in custody are maintained. Prison management's strategies must pass tests of practicality and acceptability in human rights terms.
There are a number of proposals already being put in place in the prisons which will begin to tackle some of these problems — proposals that could have been put in place last year or the year before by the former Government but will be put in place by this Government. I am confident that a number of these facilities will be in place before the end of the year.
I accept that our criminal procedures need to be as efficient as possible. I assure the House that I will introduce all the necessary legislative reforms. Work on a number of important measures is at an advanced stage. It is only right that I should mention that there is already a huge body of criminal law which is used successfully day in and day out to bring perpetrators of crime to justice. The measure of what is happening in the criminal justice system is not the production of Bills but how effective those Bills are.
They are not working, nor are they providing prison places.
The ones which are in place are already working and people are being locked up as a result. It is entirely wrong and irresponsible of anyone to suggest there is not already a wide range of powers available, or that there is some legislative magic wand which can be waved which will resolve by itself the problems of our criminal justice system.
Who suggested that?
What are needed are well thought out proposals which are likely to prove effective in practice and meet constitutional requirements. It is fine for Deputy O'Donoghue to say his Bill is constitutional but it is my responsibility as Minister for Justice to ensure any legislation passed in this House is valid. He does not have to stand over the legislation when it is found to be unconstitutional.
I will stand over it because it is constitutional.
The House will appreciate it is not open to the Government to throw together legislative bits and pieces, confer a grandiose title on them, and pretend what is at issue is worthwhile reform of the law. The number of Bills introduced is not a measure of legislative effectiveness. We are not doing mathematical calculations when introducing Bills. We wish to introduce effective and worthwhile legislation.
Work is at an advanced stage in my Department on a series of comprehensive measures. The overriding concern will be to ensure progress and that action consistent with the aim of the protection of the community is taken by my Department. I can assure the House the Government will take whatever steps are needed to achieve that purpose.
To return to Castlerea, from what I have said the House will have a better understanding of the valid considerations which prompted the need to defer the prison project. I hope the House and the people in Castlerea who are concerned about the decision will recognise in the establishment of the interdepartmental committee a real determination to come up with measures. I would be happy to come here at any time, as I have done since I became Minister. Deputy O'Donoghue and his colleagues do not frighten me with their hyperbole and fancy language.
We are not trying to frighten the Minister.
I will update the House at any stage on progress on the issues I mentioned. I commend the amendment to the House.
In supporting the Minister's amendment I welcome the formation of an interdepartmental committee to review all aspects of the prison project in Castlerea. This review will take into account the economic and social impact on Castlerea of the deferment of the project and will identify and prioritise measures to address such impact.
I am particularly pleased that the Castlerea Development Co-operative Society will have a formal input into the committee's work. This will ensure that the local community, which most directly affected by the decision, will have a real opportunity to make an input to the work of the committee. This is in line with this Government's commitment to root development policy in the community itself.
Does the Minister think they are complete fools?
How dare Deputy O'Donoghue say that.
Poor Deputy O'Donoghue is frustrated. It must be terrible to find oneself in Opposition by default.
The writing is on the wall.
Deputy Doherty interrupted earlier to say I was missing when the people of Castlerea were looking for me.
The Minister is using up his time and he has a great speech.
I met his friends from the Castlerea Development Co-operative Society in the Department and I told them I would lobby effectively on their behalf. I am now giving evidence of that lobbying.
The Minister is a scream.
At least I will be represented on that committee, whatever about Deputy Doherty. The Government must continually——
It will limp home.
It will not be limping. If the Deputy looked at his local newspaper last weekend he would I was not limping. I was photographed and came out well.
The Minister always looks well in photographs.
The Minister without further interruption.
The Government must continually reappraise public spending in the interests of the economy. This is a process all Governments must engage in and I am sure when Deputy Doherty was a Minister he was involved in it. I do not want to look into the history of the Department of Justice but someone may examine his record when he was there.
This is a real "Cha and Miah Show".
No further interruptions from either side of the House.
I am sure he was not Santa Claus all the time. It is in the interests of the west as much as anywhere else to have a sound economy. The people of Castlerea are being asked to make a major sacrifice but no one would thank this Government if public finances were managed carelessly.
What about the Burren?
No further interruptions, Deputy.
That is not an interruption. It is a point of information.
Unfortunately, when adjustments are made to planned expenditure communities suffer, in this case Castlerea. It is unfortunate but it is not the first time communities have lost expenditure projects on which they had placed their hopes.
The Minister will mention the wall of commemoration next.
There are two walls for Roscommon.
The important thing is to rally around and continue to work for a positive future. In this regard I emphasise that the Minister——
I have no wish to suspend business during the course of Private Members' time but I will do so rather than preside over such an unruly debate. The Minister of State, without further interruption.
The Minister rightly used the word "deferred" when speaking about this project. I feel great empathy with the people of Castlerea. I understand the frustration they feel and I know how they had placed their hopes in this project. In the past few months I have visited many towns in the west like Castlerea which are in need of investment, towns which have lost population through emigration. I have also seen the great spirit and energy of the people of the region.
That must have been at the movies.
It is extremely regrettable for the people of Castlerea that this development has been postponed. The provision of a prison service in a town like Castlerea would obviously have a huge impact on the economic fibre of the region but the provision of public services in any area is only one aspect of development. Individuals, private companies and voluntary organisations have achieved a great deal of progress in the west already and will continue to do so in the future.
I have seen many examples of this creativity and initiative as Minister of State with responsibility for western development and rural renewal. I have seen tremendous signs of hope for the west. I have seen at first hand the vision of the people of Foxford, County Mayo, which has resulted in tremendous development for the area. Only last week I opened a bakery in Ardara, County Donegal — after the change of Government Deputy Gallagher was not available. That bakery exports bread daily to the UK.
"Let them eat cake"— the Minister knows who said that.
This is bread, Deputy Doherty, not cake.
I also visited Kilcar which has a number of thriving textile industries. In my county I have seen the fruits of a successful Leader I programme. As well as this, the number of tourists visiting the west is set to increase dramatically. Overall the population of the country will be surpassed by the number of visitors this year.
We have seen the expansion of numerous industries in the west, such as Fruit of the Loom. In recent days 217 new jobs were announced for the west so the position is not all gloomy. The people of the west are determined to prosper and through various voluntary organisations and Government agencies they are empowering themselves with the confidence and skills to plan for a better future.
With regard to agriculture, in a serious effort to maintain people on the land, especially with small quotas——
I am sorry, Minister, but your time is exhausted. I must ask you to conclude.
I have one final point.
I cannot permit it.
He was interrupted.
So were we.
I recently examined figures for 1994 for employment by companies assisted by IDA Ireland. Of the 17,076 such jobs located in the west, only 668 were in Roscommon — that is 4 per cent. In other words, Deputy Doherty should look into his heart. After seven years of Fianna Fáil in Government only 4 per cent of international jobs went to Roscommon. That is a sad commentary.
Fianna Fáil did not look after Roscommon. It speaks for itself.
Fianna Fáil should hang their heads in shame.
The Minister will be aware that there is a profile of her in the current edition of a well known satirical magazine which states she did not get where she is today without being tough and that she niggled a few politicans during her climb to power——
Did I upset the Deputy's daddy?
She might try her best but she would not succeed.
Well, she will not upset me. Unfortunately, however, we have not seen that toughness either at the Cabinet table or in relation to criminal justice. We need to see some toughness from the Minister and her Department. She may have risen to power by being tough but we certainly have not seen it since she has come to power.
Crime is now an integral part of modern Irish life and, quite simply, there are now more people who are prepared to commit crimes. Drugs pose a major threat to the fabric of our society and represent a major challenge for us all. They are now widely available in every part of Ireland and on every street in Dublin. Young lives are being destroyed. Drug crazed youths are robbing our shops, garages and factories and burgling our houses. Some shops in my constituency have been broken into three or four times this year. We have to act now as a society — the time for rhetoric is over, as other speakers have said.
In recent weeks I attended a number of public meetings on crime in my constituency and, believe it or not, the public is very well briefed on the issues involved and why criminal justice is failing and is not prepared to tolerate it any longer. That is why the decision to cancel the prison at Castlerea and the women's prison in Dublin is unbelievable. The public cannot comprehend the priorities of a Government which would cancel 210 much needed places of detention at this time.
The public knows we have a revolving door system which is the laughing stock of the criminal world because there are no places of detention for many criminals. A criminal will be back out on the street the day he is convicted of a crime because there is no place to put him. The Government's priorities are wrong. I appeal to the Minister to fight her corner on this issue in Cabinet because she would have support from the public if she did so. Unfortunately, justice does not appear to be getting a fair play from this Government.
I have a certain amount of sympathy for the Minister, believe it or not. The public knows that many crimes are being committed by people out on bail. The Minister rightly called for a constitutional amendment to the bail laws — and our spokesperson, Deputy O'Donoghue, brought forward a Private Members' Bill on the issue — but, unfortunately, the Labour Party and Democratic Left blocked her. Fine Gael, the party of law and order, should tell the two parties with which it is in Government that they can no longer block tough measures to deal with criminals because the public will not tolerate it. Everybody in this House tonight would agree with me on that. Tough measures are needed and I question whether Labour and Democratic Left have the ability to implement what the public is crying out for.
On 11 May 1995 the Minister informed the Dáil that she would introduce a comprehensive set of proposals to deal with the drugs problem. That is extremely urgent and I hope she brings it forward as quickly as possible. Our spokesperson, Deputy O'Donoghue, has brought forward very radical and comprehensive proposals to deal with the drugs problem. We need a special detention unit for drug addicts so that the process of detoxification can be carried out, and measures to stop the circulation of drugs in prisons. Tough laws for drug pushers and suppliers and the detoxification of addicts must be central to any scheme dealing with the problems of drug addiction in our communities.
More gardaí are needed on the beat. The public cannot understand why the Department of Justice is reluctant to put gardaí on the beat. Of course, resources must be put into new technology and we have much more sophisticated ways of dealing with crime. However, I am convinced that the way to deal with crime at the very heart of our community is to put gardaí on the beat. I am flabbergasted that the peace process has only resulted in 16 new gardaí being brought to the Dublin area. What is happening to the resources?
That is only those particular ones; 88 came from the last lot.
In the region of 50 gardaí have left the Border areas due to resignations, retirements and so on. That is not the way to deal with crime in Dublin. We need to fill those places and put more gardaí on the streets of Dublin.
They are filled.
The emphasis must be put on the victim who is left out of the current debate. Civil liberties groups and so on who discuss the criminal justice system forget about the victim. More support is needed for victim support groups because it is victims who are suffering in the current situation.
The public knows that current laws are inadequate. We need the Juvenile Justice Bill, with the possibility that parents would take responsibility for some of the actions of their children, put on the Statute Book as quickly as possible.
The Government's amendment is totally inadequate and unbelievable. I am aghast at the possibility that the Government could put forward such an amendment which is basically waffle and refers to interdepartmental committees, study groups and reviews. I am long enough in politics — which is not that long compared to some Members — to know that mentioning the word committee" is a way of getting somebody of the hook. If something is sent to a committee for a few months, it is hoped the issue will die down. It is very hard to resurrect the report of a committee. Many committees have reported over the years. Their reports often gather dust and it is difficult to get the right political climate in which to resurrect them. We have heard waffle and the Minister has kicked to touch tonight with references to setting up committees, reviews and interdepartmental committees.
The Castlerea prison has been cancelled, which nobody can understand.
It has not.
The people know that prisons are totally inadequate. We needed a positive decision. Just when crime was beginning to snowball on the streets of Dublin and the public was demanding action on the crisis, the decision was made to cancel the Castlerea prison. Everybody knows that more places of detention are required. I wonder whether this interdepartmental committee will ever see the light of day.
As I said, the legislation is inadequate. Our spokesperson on justice has brought forward several Private Members' Bills. We have been promised a Juvenile Justice Bill, a Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, a Fraud Offences Bill, a Criminal Law Insanity Bill, a Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Bill, a Criminal Law Bill to provide power of arrest without warrant for serious offences and a Bail Bill. Unfortunately, it seems that the Bail Bill was cancelled a few weeks after it was promised. When will we see all this legislation?
When our spokesperson Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn was Minister for Justice she brought forward a number of significant Bills to deal with the crime issue.
She left a great deal behind too.
The most significant one was the Public Order Bill. She was attacked by the Labour Party and Democratic Left who did not want tough action to deal with gangs of youth threatening ordinary, civilised people, having cider parties on greens and being generally disruptive. The Public Order Bill was introduced to give the Garda more powers to deal with that. The public knew the Garda did not have enough power to break up a cider party. Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn introduced it and the Garda welcomed it. It was not supported in the main by Labour and Democratic Left who are the Minister's partners in Government. Time and again they have refused to support tough measures to combat crime. We have been told the Fine Gael is the party of law and order, but unfortunately, that is a myth. Fianna Fáil is the only party prepared to take tough measures. As the next general election will be fought on the issue of crime, the Minister's Cabinet colleagues should give her more support, otherwise they will find themselves in difficulty.