Garda Síochána Bill, 1996: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Before the adjournment I was dealing with the specific question of the cultural and social changes occuring in society, particularly in urban areas. Changes are occuring in the criminal world also. As can be seen from newspaper headlines, hitmen can be engaged, apparently for a small fee of £5,000, to — in street slang —"take out" individuals. A number of murders have been committed by hired killers in my constituency of Dublin South-Central, on the Drimnagh Road, at a Halloween party at a site on Weaver Street in the Coombe and on Harold's Cross Road, among other locations. The Garda Síochána must be equipped to counteract the sophistication and the brutality of these violent criminals.

It is acceptable that many drug dealers and addicts found with illicit substances in their possession are quickly released because of the shortage of personnel in the forensic science laboratory to carry out analysis. This is a source of great annoyance for local communities, particularly in the south inner city, fighting a rearguard action against drugs. They are mystified as to why known drug pushers are back on the streets so soon following a successful raid on their flat or home by the Garda Síochána. It is not easy for a politician to explain that the reason they are walking the streets so soon after being arrested and charged is that the forensic science laboratory does not have sufficient time to analyse the substance found in their possession before being taken to the courts. It would be good PR for the Garda Síochána if cases could be processed quickly.

While it is important to examine the problem on a national scale and devise a national policy, we have to examine even more closely how we handle policing issues at local level. Given the nature of society we must be more innovative. On the one hand, the Garda Síochána must be the protectors of local communities and, on the other, law enforcers on their behalf.

I have called for the establishment of community policing councils. Everybody realises that the Garda Síochána is centralised and based in headquarters and stations throughout the country. If one leaves community gardaí assigned to neigbourhood watch schemes out of the equation, there is a democratic deficit in the relationship between the Garda Síochána and local communities, particularly in densely populated public housing schemes and flats complexes in the city and county of Dublin.

Any vacuum in urban areas will be quickly filled by vigilantes, most of whom follow a different agenda. They make their services available to hard pressed residents concerned about the welfare of their families and neighbours. Many ordinary decent citizens living in deplorable housing conditions and environmentally unfriendly estates patrol the streets and flats complexes with the best of intentions with a view to keeping the dealers in death at bay. In many instances they work closely with the Garda Síochána, but there are other elements who present themselves, like the Magnificent Seven, as their protectors and attempt to impress them with their ability to disregard the law and physically throw out the furniture of a suspected drug addict, pusher or dealer.

There is a need for a new concept of policing in vulnerable communities. The Garda Síochána should be culturally and socially attuned to their demands and fears. This would allow them to merge in a structure which would make it more difficult for vigilantes to present themselves as the protectors of local communities and do the work the Garda Síochána should be doing for them.

I have called for the establishment of locally based community policing councils. This is crucial to the success of the integrated approach I have advocated. They should be established on a pilot basis in vulnerable estates and flats complexes, particularly in the south inner city of Dublin. They should comprise not only members of the Garda Síochána and local residents but also other professionals in the areas of health and education. Under a revamped housing department structure in Dublin Corporation, housing estate management which has been sadly lacking should be targeted as a key factor.

In essence, the establishment of community policing councils would mean devolving responsibility for policing and associated activities from the centre to the lowest level. The Garda Síochána must be culturally and socially attuned to the needs of marginalised communities. That is the fundamental principal which must inform our approach to policing as we develop new and innovative policing mechanisms to meet the challenges facing us.

There has been a tendency to widen the scope of the debate on the Bill into a general debate on crime. The Bill deals with the more narrow issue of representation within the Garda Síochána. Members should address themselves to what is and what could be put in to it.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important Bill. I extend sympathy to the family and colleagues of the late Detective Garda Jerry McCabe and I wish a speedy recovery to Detective Garda Ben O'Sullivan, a native of my constituency. I hope he will be back on duty soon.

It is unfortunate that the differences between members of the Garda Síochána have become public. Since the foundation of the State, the force has covered itself in glory. Individually and collectively, members of the Garda Síochána helped to build and develop this State and, by and large, they acted in a very common-sense manner in resolving problems. The high standing in which they are held in each locality is evidence of people's trust in them.

The closure of Garda stations in villages was seen as a great loss. The Minister, and the Government, should reconsider the structure of the forces. At the very least, each Garda station should be provided with a patrol car and gardaí should be given mobile phones. Every Tom, Dick and Harry has a mobile phone and there is no reason gardaí should not be provided with what has become a common facility. With the increase in drug abuse, we should also consider training more sniffer dogs and using dogs to control the wilder elements in society. In parts of my constituency, the use of Garda dogs sometimes discourages boisterous members of the community engaged in late night disturbances. Gardaí are not injured as a result.

The present impasse is not doing anything to further the good name of the Garda Síochána or maintain respect for its members. It is important that this matter be resolved soon. There is a problem and it must be dealt with. It concerns the equitable representation of all sections and age profiles in the force. Many gardaí were of the opinion that there was not such representation and, as a result, two bodies represent gardaí — the GRA with 6,500 members and the Garda Federation with approximately 2,500 members.

I acknowledge that the Minister for Justice would face difficulties attempting to deal with both bodies on pay and working conditions of gardaí engaged in similar work. In my party's view it is desirable that there should be one Garda representative body. That would be in the best interests of the gardaí and the public. A strong, unified body representing all gardaí would be in a stronger position to negotiate the best deal for its members, rather than two or three such groups. There is no doubt that compromise is required on all sides to resolve this dilemma. I hope that the common sense displayed by members of the Force will help to solve this problem. Mediation, not legislation, will bring forth an amicable settlement; you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.

Deputy Ahern is using my phrase.

In the past year there has been a great reduction in the morale of members of the force, and the dispute between the representative bodies has been given as the reason. However, this has more to do with the lack of resources available to the force. Confusion as to the future direction of the Garda Síochána is also to blame for this lack of morale. The Conroy Commission in 1972 and the Louden Ryan Commission in 1979 outlined the direction of Government policy towards the force. It might be a good idea to establish a new commission to plan for the future.

Another problem which has lead to a lowering of morale is the reduction in the number of serving personnel. During the BSE crisis almost 300 gardaí were moved to the Border region depleting numbers in other areas. The Minister should consider extending the retirement age to 60 to retain experienced gardaí to fight drug abuse and attacks on elderly people in cities and isolated areas. Due to the new training structures, there is a gap which must be filled between gardaí resigning and new members joining the force.

Lack of resources is causing a problem. Proper facilities must be provided to help members of the force carry out their duties. It is interesting to note that in a reply to a parliamentary question recently, the Minister stated that the Government had reduced funding to the Department of Justice on a percentage of GNP basis in recent years. In 1993, 1.85 per cent of GNP was expended in the Department of Justice. That figure was reduced to 1.84 per cent in 1994, 1.76 per cent in 1995 and 1.7 per cent in 1996. Those reductions occurred at a time when there was an increase in crime, attacks on the elderly and drug trafficking.

It is disgraceful that there has been a reduction in the funding to the Department of Justice. In light of this evidence it is very difficult for the Government to convince people it is really interested in fighting and reducing the level of crime. The Government should reconsider the level of funding to the Garda Síochána to allow its members carry out their duties, as they have in the past, to the highest possible standard.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate. It is apt that a debate on the Garda Síochána should take place in the House soon after the retiring Garda Commissioner indicated that a wide-ranging debate should take place on the role of the force in modern society. Commissioner Culligan's comments, reported in last week's newspapers, were a great insight into the difficulties facing gardaí and should give rise to a much wider debate. Such a debate should consider the function of the Garda Síochána, the merits of establishing a Garda authority and operational, administrative and other matters. In this regard I share some of the concerns expressed by Deputy Eric Byrne. It is important also that such a debate should form a position where the important role played by the Garda in the history of the State is recognised. With the tragic death last week of Garda Jerry McCabe, we were remained of the bravery and dedication to duty of our police force. We owe it to the rank and file members of the Garda to ensure they are in the best possible position to tackle the nature of crime which has developed in recent years.

While Commissioner Culligan rightly pointed out that the overall levels of crime have not increased greatly in the past decade, I am pleased he recognised that the changing nature of crime, such as the prevalence of loutish behaviour among some sections of the community and the greater prevalence of violent crime has created a perception among the public of a greater level of crime. That perception — and it is not only perception — goes a long way towards explaining the reason that, despite the burgeoning economy and the peace process, there is no "feel good" factor among members of the public. What is the benefit of having a few extra pounds in our pockets if we are afraid to let our children play outside in the evening?

It is fair to say the media and some politicians have talked up the crime problems in an unjustified way but they have been able to do so only because of the underlying fear among communities. As Deputy Byrne pointed out, the main source of that fear in Dublin is the problems caused by drugs. We have spoken about the drugs problem in this House on numerous occasions and, while it is appropriate to discuss measures to tackle it, we must also recognise the effect it is having on our communities. In short, it is sapping the life from them.

People living in communities who work with gardaí to tackle the problems experienced in their estates are being subjected to the most awful form of intimidation. As Commissioner Culligan pointed out, this is the environment in which the Garda is attempting to work and while I would welcome the allocation of additional gardaí to tackle this problem directly, I recognise the difficult situation in which they are currently working.

This is the type of debate we should be having in this House. If Commissioner Culligan is correct in saying that since 1960 there has been a breakdown in the consensus underpinning Garda operations, that issue must be urgently addressed. A commission should be established to re-examine the role of the Garda as we approach a new century in which all interested parties, including gardaí, are allowded to play their part. Low morale among members of the Garda is potentially dangerous. A well motivated and vibrant Garda force is critical to public safety and democracy.

Today's debate is of a limited nature. It has arisen in response to the collapse in support for the GRA, principally among gardaí in the Dublin Metropolitan Area, and the emergence of the Garda Federation. I share the Minister's view that it is in the interests of gardaí and the public to have gardaí represented by one representative organisation. Moreover, I have the greatest sympathy for the Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, who finds herself confronting this problem in what is already a difficult period in which the Opposition has done all in its power to prevent a rational discussion of the difficulties facing not only the Minister but her predecessors and any potential successor.

There is no doubt morale in the Garda Síochána is currently very low. The reasons for that are known to us all but they have been compounded by the split in the Garda Representative Association. The cause of that split is clear; Dublin members of the force feel unrepresented by the representative structure of the GRA and are particularly bitter about the pensions deal agreed some years ago on the pensionability of allowances. This bad feeling is compounded by the fact that almost £0.5 million per week is currently being spent on Border duties in response to the BSE scare. That has involved the transfer of resources from hard-pressed Dublin stations to the Border areas. It is further compounded by the existence of allowance such as the Gaeltacht allowance whereby gardaí working in Gaeltacht areas are paid an automatic bonus of 7.5 per cent of their basic pay, despite the fact that their workload and conditions are probably far better than those of younger gardaí working in the Dublin area.

Given my experience of the tremendous work done by gardaí in very difficult Dublin communities, there is a strong argument for abolising the Gaeltacht allowance. Gardaí working in difficult areas of Dublin are literally taking their lives in their hands when they go out to work, and it could be argued strongly that they should be given an additional allowance as opposed to gardaí working in Gaeltacht areas where the level of crime is considerably lower than in Dublin.

The Minister's motivation in bringing this Bill before the House is clear. Having done all in her power to bring the respective factions together, she has decided to play hardball. That is understandable. The normal industrial relations machinery was used in this dispute and a highly respected person, Mr. Kieran Mulvey, was brought in to arbitrate, but when his report was presented to the Minister the GRA rejected it. It is difficult to know what other course of action is open to the Minister, having tried the usual channels.

It is questionable whether this legislation will prove successful. The recent walk-out by members of the Garda Federation over what they perceive as a lack of militancy on the part of their own organisation is an indication of how deeply the current split is felt among its members. The dispute on the substantive issues is also being compounded by the intense personal bitterness which has embodied it so far.

Some of the issues in this dispute might best be dealt with by a commission on the Garda in the context of an overall review of its functions and role. Issues to be addressed should include management structures, promotion prospects and the pay and conditions of various ranks of the Garda. It is important also to consider the possibility of establishing a separate Garda authority.

One of the factors relating to the difficulties currently being experienced by the Garda Síochána is the perception that there is an extremely close association between the Garda and the political system. That is particularly unhealthy and unhelpful in relation to the development of a Garda force. There is no doubt that at certain levels in the Garda there is a perception that unless one is supportive of the right political party, it is difficult to be promoted beyond a certain rank. That perception is extremely damaging to morale.

I ask the Minister to defer Committee Stage and make one last effort to resolve this dispute. The nub of the issue is pay and the pension package negotiated some years ago. If the Minister indicated her intention to reopen negotiations, she might not have to proceed with this legislation. I believe she is reluctant to do that, which is understandable. If she indicated a willingness to reopen negotiations if the Garda presented as a united body, it would do much to help bring people together. If that challenge is put to the Garda I hope they recognise that at last the nub of the issue is being tackled and it is in their best interests to work together. A clear signal has to come from the Minister that she is prepared to open up negotiations on pay and conditions.

The other issue to be addressed which is at the heart of this dispute is the need for a fair system of representation within any Garda representative association. To date there has been a serious imbalance in the representation of the Dublin members which is less than a third of the representation for members in other parts of the country. The Bill goes some way towards addressing it but it does not go far enough.

We should consider allowing one member one vote in electing the executive committee. Many of the other representative associations and unions operate on that basis. Resolution of that matter would help to address some of the concerns of members, principally in the Dublin Metropolitan Area.

We are in difficulties when there are serious problems with morale in the Garda. We already have serious problems relating to crime and the breakdown of law and order as well as the growing drugs problem which we seem incapable of tackling. The proposals put forward by Government are not adequate to make an impact on the problem. In that atmosphere, unless the Garda Síochána is united, well motivated and enthusiastic about what it is doing and is valued and treated fairly, a potentially dangerous situation will emerge.

I ask the Minister to think again on this matter and seriously consider establishing a commission on the Garda. There are fundamental problems within the Garda which should be examined by a commission. I am not confident legislation will solve the problem because it does not deal with the issue at the nub of this dispute. Following Second Stage and before Committee Stage will the Minister consider inviting representatives from all the political parties to come up with proposals to resolve this serious dispute? Will the Minister bring the parties together, to examine the problem and see how we can advance the matter with a view to restoring morale to the Garda Síochána?

In dealing with this Bill one would have to take cognisance of the role of the Garda in the development and maintenance of democracy and express appreciation for the role it has played since its inception. The standards it sets are an example for other forces. It plays a role requiring commitment and expertise and the courage of gardaí is unquestionable. The public squabbling which we all witnessed surprised and disappointed us. It was unseemly, unedifying and totally contrary to our perception of the Garda Síochána.

It is understandable that a force that has seen its numbers depleted, its effectiveness in combating crime reduced and has been attributed blame, through a lack of commitment by the Government to law and order, would have a low morale. It has been set an impossible task by this Minister for Justice. Given all the circumstances I praise the thoroughness of the approach by the Garda to solving crime. When the force sees it is not making headway in enlisting ministerial support to rectify primary defects through its representative body it is logical that elements in it would turn on itself. This is what has happened. A certain amount of blame can be attributed to previous administrations and major blame can be attributed to this administration.

There are two elements which need to be addressed in this complex deep-seated dispute. Putting a legislative formula in place does not mean it will work. Somebody recalled the old maxim: "you can take a horse to water but you cannot make him drink". That this Government does not have a criminal justice policy is especially sad when one considers what the Fine Gael Party used to stand for — the just society.

It is as if the Minister has a millstone tied around her neck and every aspiration she harboured is negatived and every move she makes is scruppered. Among the public, law and order is the number one issue. There is a perception that crime pays, particularly petty crime, which inevitably leads to serious crime. Everyone in this House accepts that people are sick to the teeth of the spectacle of panels, committees, subcommittees and commissions all contemplating what to do, knowing full well their remit is a holding operation and any conclusions involving cost will be shot down by elements of this Government. When they privately claim they sacrificed the Minister on the altar previously and that she accepted it because of the lure of the trappings of office, elements in the Government are asking if there is any reason for them to believe she will not accept the tight budgeting that has been part and parcel of the Department since she took office.

We recall the Minister's support for a referendum on bail and we all know the U-turn she had to make. We recall the decision to build additional prison spaces and we know how, in her absence, that was postponed. We recall the packages of reforms to fight crime and lawlessness and we set that against the paltry increase in spending in the Estimates for this year. How can a Minister for Justice hope to gain or maintain the confidence of the Garda in such circumstances?

Deputy O'Donoghue has been the real Minister for Justice in the Dáil for the past 18 months given the number of Bills he has introduced and the number of Bills the Minister introduced subsequently based on the rock solid foundation in the Fianna Fáil Bills. I acknowledge the difficulties the Minister for Justice faces, but she should acknowledge the reduction in Garda numbers — it is unimaginable that there are now 100 fewer gardaí than three years ago. A conclusion of the Garda sergeants and inspectors at their conference was that under this Government there was a run down of the force. That was a significant statement which has to be taken into account by the Government.

The Minister should also address the age profile of the Garda. The same difficulty has had to be addressed in the Army. We also have to ask serious questions about the management and operation of the Garda given the sophistication of modern crime.

The Minister of State, Deputy Conveney, shares my concern about the number of gardaí in south Cork. A random survey I carried out indicated that Ballincollig is short four gardaí; Bishopstown is short three; Douglas and Blackrock-Mahon area are, respectively, two short and Carrigaline three short. Given the crime levels how can one expect a depleted force to combat it?

The way in which the Garda deals with crime must also be examined. Is the approach as sophisticated as it might be? Is the present recruitment policy and the level of expertise demanded as up-to-date as it might be? Perhaps we should consider recruiting people with a higher level of expertise. The training of gardaí has been upgraded and improved significantly. However, other levels of expertise will have to be seriously considered. To show the Garda the Government is serious about crime the Minister will have to demand the extra resources for tackling crime.

Deputy Shortall's references to pay rises and allowances were wide of the mark. I hope the dispute between the two bodies is not just down to pay and conditions. I credit the Garda with a genuine belief they are indequately represented. There should only be one representative body. Although Fianna Fáil will not oppose the Second Stage of the Bill, we will propose the amendments we consider necessary on Committee Stage.

Recent statements display a certain optimism that there is room for manoeuvre. It would be better for the two groups to get their affairs in order rather than to party legislation to impose a solution on them. I would encourage dialogue to give a purpose to the optimism. It is in the interests of the organisations to get together to examine the agreed elements of this Bill and to forget the enmities of the past. They should apply a sense of purpose, unity and decorum to come up with a formula which will satisfy all involved.

The long-term benefit of this legislation is questionable. There is enough legislation on the Statute Book which is not being implemented without adding to it. However, the two organisations have a duty to ensure the image and decorum of the Garda is protected. It is up to the two groups to grasp the opportunity to avoid this legislation being forced through.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Bradford.

Carlow-Kilkenny): Is that agreed? Agreed.

It is regrettable that the Minister had no option but to introduce this unwanted legislation. We would all prefer if the Garda was able to conduct its own business and the GRA should be able to do that. However, I take with a grain of salt the comments of Opposition speakers who said that every effort should be made to bring together the three warring factions. This problem did not arise in the past few days or weeks; the previous Minister for Justice was involved in the matter. I understand from Kieran Mulvey and others in the Labour Relations Commission that everything possible has been done but there has not been a break in the deadlock. It appears that irrespective of what is proposed it is rejected by some group. While any division in the representative status of the Garda Síochána is regrettable, the current bitter squabbling among the rival factions in the force is disgraceful. Those who watched the 1984 GRA congress in Galway on television were disheartened by the unexpected scenes. Like all Members, I support law and order and the efforts of the Garda to resolve the problems in our society, but there comes a time when somebody must shout stop. Most of the representatives do not want this public row to send out a wrong signal. They want the public to know their efforts to combat crime and maintain law and order is still a priority. I hope the hierarchy in the Garda hold a similar view. Public perception is very important and many citizens cannot understand why a Garda force, charged with the responsibility of maintaining law and order, should publicly squabble on television every other night. Neither the public nor individuals in the force want this to continue, but it appears some people are not prepared to retract. This is a common difficulty in industrial relations matters.

The Oireachtas has been asked to resolve the difficulties in the force but I will be the first to admit that this legislation may not be successful in doing so. This is not an issue any Government would want to bring before the House. It is similar to asking the Dáil to give a direction to, say, the IFA or the ICMSA, something we should not be asked to do. However, for the benefit of the public something must be done to resolve the dispute.

I support the Minister's efforts in this regard and concur with some of the comments of Members from all sides. It appears that, while some have doubts about certain sections of the Bill, Second Stage will be agreed unanimously. When this is communicated to the warning factions perhaps they will realise there is no place for any more foot dragging. Perhaps this will be the spark that will make them do what they should. They will know the Dáil is not divided on the matter, and I presume the same will apply in the Seanad. They will know we want them to do what is right for the force, the prevention of crime and maintenance of law and order.

We have always been blessed with an excellent police force which has had to meet ever-changing demands. Worthwhile changes have been made. With the new training schedule for Garda recruits in Templemore we can look forward to a better trained force that will be able to deal with its ever-changing role in society. The leadership in the force and the Minister for Justice have taken positive steps in this regard. Law abiding people believe the Garda Síochána should provide leadership. In most parts of the country, particularly in my constituency, gardaí are held in high esteem. However, in some of our cities there are "no-go" areas and those negative vibes tend to spread. It is important that the electorate maintain confidence in the Garda Síochána and that the force continues to earn that high esteem. Its case will not benefit from two or three groups in the association squabbling on television. That sends out the wrong signals.

I understand there are good law people on all sides in this dispute, but their views are entrenched. While I do not wish to predict Members' actions, it appears the 166 Members will send out a signal tonight that the Dáil supports the Second Stage of this Bill and that we want the factions in this dispute to put their house in order immediately. No amount of speaking out of the said of the mouth on television will overcome the next step. The people involved must accept that the Dáil is at one on this matter. This is an ideal opportunity for them to take on board some of the recommendations, which will satisfy the vast majority of the membership.

Despite what has been said for political reasons by Members of the Opposition, a great amount of spending is undertaken — it is ever-increasing — regardless of which party is in Government. For as long as I have been a Member of the Dáil, irrespective of who was in Government, I have heard political talk to the effect that the Garda force is under-funded. As a Government we must ensure that the Garda is given the necessary funding and technology because the people who commit crime move with the times.

In the first instance it is very important that the feud between the warring factions be settled. We debate many issues here relating to bail and so on, but I hope that as a result of this debate the gardaí who have served us well down the years will solve this problem, which is simply a blip in the force but is potentially very dangerous. I hope when the Bill is passed — I think it will be passed unanimously on Second Stage — the people involved will take note of the thinking of all elected representatives. If they do, they will be seen to be able to put their own house in order and they will be stronger as a result. There are many issues I would like to refer to on this occasion but I will allow my colleague to contribute.

I thank Deputy Connaughton for sharing his time with me. He finished his contribution on an important note in that he referred to the expectation of the House and the public that the problem of the division within the Garda representative associations will be resolved. The extent of the problem became clear from reports of a Garda conference last year, which was almost in a state of anarchy. One would not expect such a display at a Garda conference. I accept that in the heat of the moments things are said and done which might not be on another occasion, but that presented a very negative and damaging image to the public and the Minister for Justice had no choice but to act as she did. There must be a demand from Government that the representative associations get their act together, resolve their differences and fight crime rather than fighting each other.

Deputy Connaughton referred to the fact that we regularly debate law and order in this House. Practically no day passes when on the Order of Business a question is not asked of the Taoiseach or Minister for Justice about the need for further legislation, amendments, extra money and so on. I congratulate the victor in the Dublin West by-election, Deputy Lenihan. My efforts were obviously unsuccessful on behalf of the Fine Gael candidate — I had expected, from reports in the papers and on television and radio, that the main issue on the doorsteps would be crime. I was in the Dublin West constituency for only five or six days and did not get a representative sample of the views of the entire constituency, but the law and order issue was not as profoundly debated as I would have expected.

Perhaps the statement last week by the Garda Commissioner, Mr. Culligan, that the media paints too black a picture of crime and the breakdown of law and order is not far removed from reality. I accept that there is a problem in that regard, which needs to be tackled, but perhaps we should not take matters out of context. The problem can be contained and a united, effective Garda force can play a major role in that regard. It is important that this legislation, which the Minister has introduced reluctantly, is passed so that the Garda is forced to get its house in order.

The attitude today to law and order is significantly different from that adopted when the Minister introduced this Bill. The dreadful events of last weekend, the murder of a detective garda and the injuries inflicted on his colleague, brought home once again to all of us the dangers faced on a daily basis by the Garda and the fact that there is a very thin dividing line between democracy and anarchy. It reminds us that gardaí on the beat are the protectors of democracy. I wish to be associated with the many expressions of sympathy to the family of the late Detective McCabe. As co-chairman of the British-Irish Inter-parliamentary Body I had dealings with him in the run-up to the meeting of that body in Adare last April. His assistance and that of his colleagues on that occasion was greatly appreciated by all members.

The injured garda, Detective O'Sullivan, is a native of the Mallow area which I represent as part of the Cork East constituency, and I wish him a speedy recovery. The events of last weekend have caused us to reflect deeply on the role played by the Garda. While we are critical from time to time of the Garda and demand the impossible from members of the force on a daily basis they put life at risk to uphold democracy and protect the freedom we take for granted.

I hope the difficulties and arguments which led to the introduction of this legislation — the Minister said she had no option but to introduce it — will be resolved. It would have been preferable to do so without legislations, but other options failed and the Minister had to respond by way of legislation. I support the Bill which is not complex and we expect it will have the full support of the House. I hope the message will go out from the Oireachtas to gardaí of all ranks that we are not cracking the whip or being overly critical of them; we are simply responding to the need for a united Garda force so that it will be more effective in the battle against crime.

(Wexford): The outpouring of sympathy and horror felt by the people of Limerick and of the country in response to the shooting dead of Garda Jerry McCabe and the wounding of Garda Ben O'Sullivan shows the high esteem in which the gardaí are held. I wish to be associated with the words of condolence to both families on a horrible and cowardly act, carried out by people who should have learnt that such violence is no longer acceptable. The achievement of peace is now uppermost in the minds of all right thinking Irishmen and women, North and South, and the cowardly killing of gardaí cannot be tolerated.

It is unfortunate that we now discuss a Bill which tries to bring different factions within the Garda together. Various Ministers for Justice have tried to resolve this dispute, which has left us with two representative bodies. Judging from media reports at the weekend, a third body may split from the breakaway organisation. This is regrettable because the gardaí are much respected and any organisational break-up or infighting will lead to a public lack of confidence. If a serious crisis in the State should occur, the gardaí, regardless of what representative body they are in, will undoubtedly react and will not decline to go to certain areas because of the body to which they belong. However, perception is highly important — the public must see that everything is right within the Garda Síochána and that it is acting in the public interest.

I am not sure the legislation will work. Even at this late stage, we should appeal to the various Garda representative associations to put their differences behind them and prove that they can work together. The Minister should perhaps row back and allow the gardaí more time to resolve their differences. In this Bill she may be taking too many powers to herself and devaluing the role of the Garda representative bodies.

Morale within the Garda Síochána is at an all-time low and the Government does not help this by seemingly making up a justice policy as it goes along and reacting to issues as they arise. We live in changing times and today there is less respect for authority, irrespective of what it may be. Parental control has never been weaker — young people are allowed to walk streets, highways and byways late at night and no one seems to care where they are or what they do. We are faced with serious crime and drugs problems which are escalating by the minute. Murders are on the increase and contract killers and vigilantes are the order of the day. The Department of Justice, the Minister and the Government seem to be doing little to deal with these problems. All these issues affect the public, who expect the gardaí to protect them as they did in the past. However, how can they deal with escalating problems of these proportions in crime, drugs, etc. if there are fewer gardaí than in 1993 and there is no leadership from the Department of Justice?

The time has come for an urgent review of the operations of the Garda Síochána. Gardaí from my area, particularly the older officers, had great respect for the Conroy commission of 1972 and the Ryan commission of 1979. They felt their reports were of tremendous value, as they looked into the workings of the force and made recommendations, many of which were implemented. This gave gardaí the satisfaction of knowing that the Ministers for Justice of those times — whether from Fianna Fáil or the Coalition — had a definite interest in looking after the welfare of gardaí and responding to the changing times. The force was far happier then. Now, 17 years after the Ryan commission, gardaí feel a new commission is necessary to review or give an overview of Garda operations. Gardaí have far more issues to deal with and it is time to consider how the force should proceed into the next century.

The Garda lacks resources at present. Regardless of which Government is in power, it spends a great deal of money and we should see whether we are getting value for it. Are the gardaí operating in the areas where they should? Should they have priority areas? Are they operating efficiently and as best they can on behalf of the public?

My town, Enniscorthy, probably has adequate gardaí to deal with its problems, if the officers were left there. However, they are sent on special operational patrols or are called away on Boarder or explosives duty, which means that at times a minimum of resources is left to police the local area. Up to this week, two gardaí remained all day in a local quarry to look after explosives. That is a worthwhile job but as one garda said to me recently, while the officers were there to ensure the explosives were not taken, bomb experts could be wiring them to the moon. The Army, which has expertise in this area, could be doing this job to allow the gardaí who have been in the quarry for weeks or months to go back on the streets to deal with crime, vandalism, etc. and get to know the local people. The handling of explosives is an important task but it should be hived off to the Army, who have experts in this area.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry has decided it is important to deal with the BSE scare and the agricultural structure——

Acting Chairman

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle has already reminded Members that they cannot depart from the Bill.

(Wexford): It is all related to the Bill.

Acting Chairman

Relate it to the Bill then.

(Wexford): I am making the point that gardaí were removed from stations and transferred to Boarder duty, up to Deputy McGahon's area. That is worthwhile work but at the same time, Army personnel are sitting in barracks. Soldiers could be doing this duty while the gardaí deal with the crime problem, not just in Dublin but in rural Ireland. The escalating crime level in all areas needs to be tackled.

The split in the Garda representative associations was unfortunate. Successive Ministers have tried to solve the problem and it should be possible even at this late hour for the associations to amalgamate into one effective body. This would enable members to continue the effective work they have carried out for many years, that is protecting citizens. The Garda Síochána who have given a tremendous service to the State since its foundation are held in high esteem by the public and it is a pity this problem has been allowed to drag on. I am not being critical of the Department of Justice but someone in the force should have had the ability and power to say, "enough is enough, it is time to deal with this problem". Obviously no one was sufficiently strong or dedicated to resolve the problem within the force. There seems to have been a power struggle among individual members who regard themselves as greater than the force. I would remind those individuals that the continuation of the Garda Síochána as we have known it is much more important than any individual or power struggle. The level of crime is at an all time high, people are being murdered on a daily basis in Dublin and vigilante groups are being set up. I do not agree with these groups and if we hand over the streets to them then we will be in serious trouble. It is very important, therefore, that the Garda Síochána resolve their problems among themselves and that they close ranks and set up one strong and vibrant association which will represent the interests of all members. A splintered force will not serve any purpose and will not be in a position to fight its case with the Department of Justice in terms of pay structures, better working conditions and increased manpower. Their best interests can only be served by having one strong representative organisation. The confidence the Garda have built up among the public over many years can only be restored by the setting up of one representative organisation which is unified in terms of purpose and the desire to deal with the criminal elements in society.

Even at this late hour it is important for the members of the Garda Síochána to get their act together and set up one organisation so that the Government does not have to introduce legislation to bring them together. I am not sure this type of legislation is in the best interests of the Garda or of the public whom they serve. I appeal to the representative associations to bury the hatchet, pull together and ensure that one strong organisation represents all their members and that they are seen to implement strong safety measures on behalf of the public whom we represent.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate on my favourite subject. Many of my views on it are known and in some places, particularly here, I am considered to be politically incorrect and extreme. However, I believe my policies have strong support not only in County Louth but in all counties, including Carlow.

Acting Chairman

Perhaps the Deputy would not deal with policy at present.

The Chair understands my position. Before I deal with the Bill, I wish to extend my sympathy to the family of the garda who was murdered last week. In doing so I also extend my sympathy to the families and relatives of the 29 gardaí who have died while on duty since the foundation of the State. Fifteen or 16 of these gardaí were killed by the IRA, the enemies of the State.

Despite a few personal hiccups with one or two of them — this is understandable as there are difficult people in every walk of life, even in politics — I have always been a strong supporter of the Garda Síochána. However, I have not been very happy with them in recent years. The split in the representative associations is an absolute farce and the near riot at the annual jamboree in Galway some years ago was a disgrace to the force and the very good men——

And women.

——who have served in it over the years. It was the worst PR exercise they could have engaged in. Thankfully this exercise was not repeated at the most recent conference. I congratulate the Minister on having the savvy to take steps to end this farce between the two organisations.

The recent case involving the young garda in Cyprus exemplified the problems being experienced by the Garda. Respect and discipline have disappeared quickly from our society. A society which prevents a young father or mother from gently chastising his or her child cannot expect obedience in society in general. The behaviour of this impertinent young policeman who has been on a holiday for 13 months on a sun-kissed island and told Brendan O'Carroll type jokes to the Minister is an indication of the lack of respect, obedience and discipline in the country. The Garda generally do a very good job but I would like to see a reinstatement of the community policeman or garda. No matter how many sophisticated or technological aids are put at their disposal, there can be no substitute for the presence of a garda in an area.

When I was young there was a famous old garda, Joe Gaffney, the "Lugs" Branagan of Dundalk, who was feared by its criminal element. Whenever there was a small robbery — they were all small in those days — Joe would have known the likely culprit, and apprehended and effectively dealt with him in his own way. Almost single-handedly he kept the criminal element in Dundalk under control. The replacement of community gardaí, by three of four gardaí sitting in squad cars, has allowed small and large time crooks to move around more freely and knocked on its head the old adage that crime does not pay because crime today very definitely does pay.

The answer lies in the speedy reinstatement of community gardaí; they should be equipped with hobnailed boots and put out on the streets. They should live among the community and establish roots there rather than be continuously transferred. That would constitute one method of effectively apprehending emerging criminals, and nipping them in the bud before they graduate into big-time criminal activity.

The Minister has logically proposed one Garda representative association. This was also suggested by Deputy Lenihan this morning. Nobody wants to deny the Garda their legal entitlements and the Minister's proposals were advanced in the best spirit and in the Garda's best interests.

On the remarks of Commissioner Culligan on crime levels, I take no comfort from his claim that statistically crime levels are down. We should remember that the devil can quote scripture to suit himself. The overall levels of violent crime are at an unprecedentedly high level. While those levels may be somewhat higher in the past 18 months than when Deputy Lenihan's party was in office, nonetheless, by the time his party return to office they will have climbed inexorably; that is the reality of life. Until draconian measures are taken to deal with law and order, crime levels will not fall. Present bureaucratic measures, with bureaucratic, desk-bound Garda are totally useless and insufficient. The Garda, the barometers of crime, can guage its level. In that respect some comments of members of Garda representative associations over the years have been spot-on. Unfortunately, because of the bureaucratic system which stymies all of us, no cognisance has been taken of them. To a large extent the Garda have been tied by bleeding hearts, people who advocate civil liberties, who talk about a Utopian society, when there is none. In today's world there is developing an ever-increasing criminal mentality, a criminal society.

Some time ago I read reports of a 21 year-old man who had committed 20 crimes against tourists. I feel sorry for anybody who talks of rehabilitating such a person because there are some incapable of being rehabilitated. Equally we should remember that people are not born into the criminal classes; they class themselves through their involvement in criminal activities.

The current crime position here is appalling. Some short time ago four women were murdered in one weekend, the most recent being in Glasnevin. There is real fear among women generally. In addition, the crime of rape, virtually unknown when I was young, is now rampant, statistics showing there were approximately 2,000 reported incidents last year. What about those that have not been reported? That is a heinous, despicable crime on which my views are fairly well known. I firmly advocate the use of the knife for persistent offenders. There should be mandatory sentencing for anyone who descends to that level, with no parole for "good behaviour".

I come now to the callous murder of Detective Garda McCabe last Friday. I was amazed at the Taoiseach expressing surprise that the IRA did not apologise or express any sympathy for that appalling act. The Taoiseach's surprise took my breath away. We should remember that organisation has taken the lives of 64 per cent of the 3,800 people — these are their own figures — butchered in the North. They have taken the lives of 15 Garda, three Irish Army officers over the past 15 years and the life of a young County Louth farmer, the late Mr. Tom Oliver, who left seven children, the youngest of whom was only three or four years old. They will continue to take life because of the ambivalent, appeasement policies pursued by the British and Irish Governments against the greatest terrorist gang the world has known since Adolph Hitler.

Indeed the numbers of gob-shites in this country who believe in the peace process beggars description. On the very evening the ceasefire was declared by the IRA I spoke in this House and expressed my reservations saying I did not believe it. The most revealing contribution here was that of the late Deputy Neil Blaney, who was probably closer to the republican movement than any other Member in recent times. He did not believe it either and I still do not believe it. I do not believe one can marry unionism with republicanism, they are worlds rather than poles apart. I would not believe even a remark like "God save you" coming from the IRA who, having declared a truce, callously took the lives of two newsagents in Canary Wharf and the life of the late Mr. Kerr, a Newry postal worker, within six weeks of declaring peace.

The latest atrocity has been the butchering of Detective Garda McCabe in Adare and the serious injury of his colleague, Detective Garda O'Sullivan, in pursuit of money, but tickets to American and Armani suits must be purchased. These atrocities will continue indefinitely because the IRA has no intention of observing peace. They declared a ceasefire as a PR stunt for the gullible public. I found it difficult to take the spectacle of the Irish Dr. Mengele, Gerry Adams, coming into the Dáil Chamber when Yankee Doodle Dandy, Bill Clinton, was here looking for Irish votes. What was Gerry Adams doing poncing around this Assembly on that day, a man against whom Leinster House has been guarded day and night by the Garda and the Army for the past 25 years. He was brought in here on that day, but he had no right to be here and I bitterly resent it.

I hold Mr. Adams and Mr. McGuinness guilty by association of the murder of hundreds of people. The biggest weakness in a democracy is the inability of Governments to tackle terror at the level it has reached here during the past 25 years. The only man who could deal with terror here in recent times was Eamonn de Valera who put them up against a wall, shot them and quickly nullified the threat in the 1940s. We have wasted too much time and the people are fed up with the problems in the North. Many of them want to build a wall around it and sent it floating into the sea. I am a Dáil Deputy representing Dundalk, which is a couple of miles from the Border, and nobody has ever come to me with a problem about the North. The people of Dundalk and other parts of the South do not want any involvement with that tragedy. We are now taking tea with the people who are guilty by association of last week's murder of Detective Garda McCabe. As the Supreme Court decided some years ago, there is absolutely no difference between Sinn Féin and the IRA. It is a farce that we allow a difference to exist. Any known supporter of Sinn Féin or the IRA should have been rounded up and put in the Curragh Camp last week following the awful murder of Detective Garda McCabe. Ritual condemnations are all very fine in this House, but we need action. The only way to deal with terror is for the State to counter it.

Deputy McGahon's contribution was characteristically forthright. I liked it because too many Members make unctuous and bland speeches while others are the product of script practice. I do not work from a script, I have been unambiguous in speaking out against the IRA and Provisional Sinn Féin and, therefore, I have no hesitation in speaking today. However, Deputy McGahon was over the top in regard to some areas. There is no proof that internment would in any way eliminate Sinn Féin-IRA from our society. I am opposed to the reintroduction of hanging. Retributive justice is no good. How would we feel if the Birmingham Six, the Guilford Four and many others had been hanged? We would feel we had been part and parcel of that injustice. I know Deputy McGahon's views and I will not go down that road. A hangman could not be found in Europe, one would have to be brought in from a repressive South American regime, which would be unacceptable to our people. I agree we have tried the olive branch and that people have thrown it back in our face.

The incident of which the Deputy spoke took place in Adare not too far from Limerick city, of which I am Mayor. I know some of the people concerned in the IRA there. There are not hundreds of people involved in the IRA there. It is not a nest of terrorists or a no-go area. A small number of hardened IRA activists are there and they have a small number of supporters. They have given Limerick city and county a bad name, but are not representative of Limerick people. As Mayor of that city I can say openly and honestly that we are ashamed of what has happened. A dog would not be killed in the same way Detective Garda McCabe was shot last Friday. It was dreadful and should never have happened in our society, especially given that the people concerned are preaching peace.

And justice.

Sinn Féin is preaching about injustice, discrimination and victimisation. What more victimisation or discrimination can there be than to take somebody's life in cold blood? It has no right to take anybody's life or to act as judge and jury. Two wrongs will never make a right. Irrespective of what has happened to Nationalists in Northern Ireland, it has no right to kill people in cold blood. Deputy McGahon is correct about the number of the innocent people who have died needlessly, killed by bombs or guns. That cannot be justified. No cause can justify such killings or give people the right to take lives.

I said in the House before that ideology must serve people, not the other way around. Any ideology, communism, nationalism, capitalism or any other "ism" must serve people first, not the other way around. That incident was a terrible tragedy and, like Deputy McGahon, I extend my condolences to the late Detective Garda McCabe's widow and family and other families of gardaí who have been killed, to whom he referred.

Since last week's atrocity I have thought of previous injustices, public officials who were killed in the course of their duties. To my knowledge Detective Garda McCabe was the only detective Garda to have been killed in Limerick. The late Pat Nugent, a public official, was killed in Bunratty some years ago. He was a banqueting manager of Shannon Development Company which held medieval banquets in Bunratty Castle. He was 23 years old, a teetotaller who was given the job of trying to stop the pilfering of food and drink from Bunratty Castle after banquets and other functions. His life was taken needlessly and I have felt for his family because nobody was brought to justice for his killing. I hope that the killers of the late Detective Garda McCabe are brought to justice and full justice is applied, but I would not go down the road advocated by Deputy McGahon.

It would be madness to have 25 more years of killing in Northern Ireland and for those troubles to spill over here. Who wants that? An attempt has not been made to appease Sinn Féin-IRA, but a balance had to be struck between keeping them out in the cold and attempting to bring them in. The involvement of President Clinton was well meaning. He did what he could as President of the strongest, largest and wealthiest country in the world to endeavour to bring pressure to bear on IRA-Sinn Féin to bring them back into the democratic process, and that was worth doing. It is easy to talk with the benefit of hindsight. There was euphoria and some ambiguity to which Deputy McGahon referred. Issues were swept under the carpet at that time, but they have come out from under it now in a disgraceful way. We are not squeamish either about facing up to those things. The Deputy is right in what he said about the difficulty of finding a formula or a panacea that will bring militant Unionists on board. I am not talking about the former para-militaries on the loyalist side. They are making the most sense in the tower of Babel that is Northern Ireland today. They are endeavouring to speak in a practical way and to have an open mind about the future and I support what they are saying. Other people, for example, the DUP, are going in the opposite direction from Sinn Féin-IRA. There is an attempt being made to bring them towards the centre. That is the only way to find a solution to the problem, not by extreme Unionism or extreme nationalism, but by endeavouring to find a common mean, a common ground between the two. There must be room for good will and compromise. That is the only way forward. To say one is in favour of compromise does not mean one is a weak person. It takes a strong person to know when to compromise and to act accordingly. We need somebody to act in that way now on both the Nationalist and the Unionist sides, people who will put themselves above narrow, sectarian, sectional interests and say the time has come to cry halt to the bloodshed, to go forward together and work out our future on this part of the island.

The Chair has intervened on a number of occasions in the course of the debate to remind Members to stick to what is relevent to the Bill.

I appreciate that, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, but the Chair can blame our colleague, Deputy McGahon, for taking me down that road.

The Deputy has come a long way.

I will obey the Chair. He is right in what he said. However, it would be more than flesh and blood could stand if I did not say some of those things, and I hope the Chair will bear with me. Let us hope we will have an end to private armies and protection money being paid out to certain people on this island.

It would be wrong for this House to support any concept of two rival Garda groups, because one group would up the ante or try to outmanoeuvre the other. The public spectacle of that could not be tolerated in a democracy. We have seen enough of recrimination and bitterness among gardaí. Even though we have heard some unctuous statements about the Garda Síochána, they have not done themselves justice by their squabbling and internecine differences that have surfaced nightly on television and radio and in the press. It should never happen that rival groups in the Garda Síochána should fight it out in the public domain. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that we look to the Garda Síochána to give an example in our society. We look to the Garda to uphold the law and to be seen to uphold the law among themselves as well as everybody else. We will not go down the road of more recrimination and more bitterness. We have had enough squabbling among the Garda Síochána. The time has come for them to behave as mature human beings and to give an example to all of us by sitting down together and working out their differences.

I have spoken to some of the people who attempted to mediate, for example, Kieran Mulvey and John Horgan, the former chairman of the Labour Court. It is a can of worms and if it were opened up fully the Garda Síochána would not come out of it very well. It would be better if the dispute were ended before it goes further. It is a disgrace to everybody concerned that the Minister should be forced to put a Bill before this House to knock sense into the Garda. It should never have got to that stage. There are experienced people in the Garda and sophisticated machinery is available to them to sort out their differences. I appeal to them to pull back from the brink because they will not come out of it very well if everything is brought into public view.

There have been differences between the groups for some time and no attempt has been made to bring them together. The rift has widened and the parties have become far more bitter, to the detriment of democracy and goodwill towards the Garda and to the detriment of law and order. We are living in a time of unprecedented crime. The Garda can learn from other western democracies where a similar growth in crime has occurred, where there has been similar development in drug taking with ancillary theft, crime and so on. We can learn from those countries. The Garda must learn to become a modern sophisticated force as the Army is trying to do. The reform of the Defence Forces should take place in parallel with the reform of the Garda. I support the call for a commission to look into the role of the Garda in our society and bring about a modern, honest, efficient, intelligent, united Garda force. People might say that is a pipe dream, given the difficulties. However, there is no reason not to strive towards that.

The leaders of both groups in the Garda must learn to subordinate their own personal, private, narrow, sectoral interests in the interests of the public they serve. We are all public representatives. We are public representatives in this House. The Garda Síochána are public servants. They must learn to behave as such. It would be wrong if the Garda Síochána thought they had unrivalled liberty and licence to do as they wish in our society or exert pressure because there is too much overtime. If there is a need for more gardaí, we can take them on. There must be control of overtime — it should not be entirely at the discretion of the force when overtime shall apply. There must be balance, and the rules that apply to other workers in our society should apply to the Garda Síochána also. The Garda are not a law unto themselves. They must behave in a democratic way that is acceptable to ordinary people and, above all, to this House.

It is a sad day that we have to discuss this Bill just a week after Detective Garda McCabe was killed in cold blood in Adare, County Limerick. Having had a large funeral and tributes paid to him in the House, he should not be forgotten. There is a human dimension to that tragedy. His wife and family will never forget him or how he was killed. Nobody deserves to die in that way. Nobody has the right to take innocent life. It must be condemned unreservedly. It is not to the credit of the people in Sinn Féin that they have been ambiguous about this. An Post went to Limerick with cheques for old age pensioners and people on the dole. I see nothing patriotic or good about taking money from unemployed people and pensioners, as the perpetrators of this crime were intent on doing that day. Let us think deeply during the course of our discussions on this Bill. Let us think about Detective Garda McCabe, that he will not have died in vain. Let his heroic death and the sacrifice he made be an example to his colleagues in the Force, and let them act accordingly in an intelligent and democratic way by coming together to sort out their differences in a way that is acceptable to all of us. We are pointing the finger at the Unionists in Northern Ireland and saying that their stance of "not an inch" is a disgrace to democracy, that they have an obligation to sit down with other constitutional politicians to look at the future of Northern Ireland in a fair and just way. The Garda themselves are no example to the Unionists or anybody else while they behave as they are behaving now, in a petulent, childish and aggressive way towards each other. They cannot point the finger at anybody, certainly not at the Unionists, while they behave in this way themselves. In a small country with a small population and many problems endeavouring to maintain a high standard of living on the fast superhighway that the modern world is, there is no going back to the old days. We cannot have our loaf and eat it in terms of accepting the good points of our society and ignoring the bad. The Garda have a duty, a responsibility and an obligation to put their past differences behind them, to come together before this Bill goes through this House in its five stages, before they are forced and dragooned into one body. Those recriminations could still fester, no matter what the legislation. The Garda have the solution in their own hands. I appeal to them to use common sense, to put their past differences behind them and give an example not only to their members but to society as a whole and bring about a solution to this problem.

It is unfortunate that this Bill had to be brought before the House. I am sure nobody regrets it more than the Minister who, given her background and the history of this country, is a great champion of the Garda Síochána. Before I speak on the Bill, I want to publicly offer my sympathy to the wife and family of the late Garda McCabe from Limerick who was cold-bloodedly murdered on Friday morning last by the IRA. Let there be no pussyfooting about who was involved. There should be no ambiguity. It should be clear to people what is happening in this country. It was a brutal, callous, cold-blooded murder of a member of the Garda Síochána. I did not know Detective Garda McCabe and his name had never been mentioned to me but strangely his son is a Garda in my constituency, on Border duty in County Monaghan as a result of the BSE scare. The son is following in his father's footsteps.

From what I have read of Detective Garda McCabe he was a fine family man. He has gone to his eternal reward far too early. Any man would be proud of his fine family. Thousands turned out for his funeral to pay tribute to him and to support his wife and family. The attendance showed the public abhorrence of his callous, cold-blooded murder by parasites, a slur on our country. Those who murdered him are nothing less. I compare them to murdering dogs in the dark of the night after sheep on the side of a mountain. I hope this will never be repeated.

I am appalled and disappointed that Sinn Féin could not join in the condemnation of the murder. That shows the road that party is travelling. The members of Sinn Féin are at a crossroads, they have not made up their mind and time is running out for them.

The Garda Síochána has served the country well. Coming from a Border constituency I pay tribute to them for preventing the overspill of violence in Northern Ireland during the past 25 years, although some difficulties were experienced in towns such as Belturbet and Monaghan. The gardaí were there when they were needed and were prepared day in, day out to give their life to defend the people and uphold democracy. That can never be forgotten. That was the reason the force was established and it has upheld that great tradition.

It has become more difficult in recent times for a garda to do his duty. The drugs scene and the type of crime has changed the way gardaí operate. They have succeeded in adapting in many instances but they encounter major problems with well armed and equipped mobile criminals and drug pushers. Given the support they deserve, the Garda will overcome those problems and deal with those involved in activities that contaminate the youth, the next generation. For that reason it is sad that the Minister should find it necessary to introduce this Bill.

The Minister tried various means to bring together the groups involved in this dispute. It is understandable that difficulties would emerge in such a large organisation but it is sad that the members of the force could not reconcile their differences and organise themselves properly to be able to negotiate on behalf of their members, which is what the Bill is about. I do not doubt that the various sections of the Bill address that problem. The role of the Garda Síochána is so vital that we cannot take this Bill lightly. After its enactment I ask the Garda to rally together and accept the provisions in the Bill that address their problems.

I have the highest regard for the work of the members of the Garda Síochána. At this historic stage of our development following Monday's all-party talks on North-South relations, the role of the Garda Síochána will be extremely important. There are mavericks in society who want to exploit the difficulties in Northern Ireland for their personal gain which has nothing to do with national unity. It is simply a disguise for armed robberies of banks, post offices or, as Deputy Kemmy said, robbing the old and those on social employment schemes, as was their intent in Adare, County Limerick. Those people are ruthless. They masquerade under the umbrella of the Tricolour and will parade on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday but have little reverence for the flag and use it simply as a cover to allow them continue in their callous ways. They have no respect for life and the Garda force is well aware of that. Detective Garda McCabe and Detective O'Sullivan were simply doing their duty on Friday morning last when they got in the way — Detective Garda McCabe was murdered. I wish Detective Garda O'Sullivan who was seriously injured a speedy recovery to health on behalf of the people of Cavan-Monaghan.

The day Irish people lose respect for the Garda is the day we go down the road to anarchy. It was emphasised by the vast turnout at the funeral of Detective Garda McCabe that 99 per cent of Irish people respect the Garda Síochána and appreciate the work its members do to protect their interests. At times we may get annoyed with the Garda but its members go about their duties in a very professional manner.

The Garda Síochána, no more than any other organisation, has black sheep. It is to be expected that occasionally the force will be infiltrated by those intent on passing inside information to illegal organisations. Fortunately this rarely happens. Ninety-nine per cent of the people respect the Garda Síochána and 99 per cent of the members of the force deserve that respect. Long may it continue.

I appeal to the gardaí to reconcile their differences and come together as a force that can be the pride of the nation.

I join with previous speakers in welcoming the Minister's overdue initiative. I compliment her on the introduction of this very comprehensive Bill.

I beg the indulgence of the Chair to stray a moment from the specific purpose of the debate to join in the expressions of sympathy to the wife and family of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe and the members of the force on his brutal, senseless and futile assassination. I also send my good wishes to the family of Detective Sergeant Ben O'Sullivan and wish him a speedy recovery.

The level of support among the community for the Garda Síochána became apparent after the shocking events in Adare last week. The thousands who filed by to pay their respects, attended the funeral service and lined the streets in Limerick for the cortege is testimony to the widespread support latent within the community for the Garda Síochána and the invaluable service it provides. Many of us on occasion have reason to grumble about particular actions, but the bond of trust and the recognition of the service the Garda Síochána has diligently provided since the foundation of the State is an essential cornerstone of our democracy. This has enabled it to flourish and prosper and reach the level of maturity it has reached. No one epitomised this more than Detective McCabe and his colleague. I did not know the Garda personally but from the tributes paid to him by his colleagues and friends he appears to have been an exemplary member of the force. As Deputy Boylan said, this is the hallmark of practically every member of the force. I pay tribute to the gardaí in my own constituency for the courteous and diligent manner in which they go about their duty.

It is, therefore, regrettable that we find ourselves having to legislate to force a reconciliation on the representative side, all kid glove attempts having failed. The Bill is over due because the dispute was beginning to have an effect on public confidence which is essential if gardaí are to carry out their duties effectively and speedily.

The option of having two representative organisations has been mentioned in recent weeks. This could not be countenanced in any circumstances as there would be a tendency to engage in oneupmanship and competitive bidding for members while public confidence in the Garda Síochána would be undermined. The GRA conference broke up in awful circumstances, as we saw on our television screens. In one fell swoop that served to bring the force into disrepute.

There is a need to preserve public confidence in the Garda Síochána. A number of recent incidents have served to undermine it. The rural policing regime has not served the interests of either the public or the Garda well. It is important that gardaí are accessible and known to the community they serve. While they may be more mobile and cover a greater area the element of personal contact has been lost with the result that they are not picking up the titbits of information that are so essential to resolving and preventing crime. Therefore, the Minister should give serious consideration to making it compulsory for gardaí to live in the community they serve. The chief superintendent has not been resident in the region I come from for well over a decade. Most of the people who have filled this position have been sent from Dublin and whisked back after a period of eight to ten months. There has been no continuity. The Minister should seriously consider this aspect by way of helping to cement the bond between gardaí and local communities.

Every day of the week gardaí are in court. Some time ago there was an incident in Cyprus involving a member of the force and the Minister for Defence. In the court hearings which followed, sworn statements were made by members of the force. It is vitally important that we can retain confidence in members of the force when they make statements before the courts. I would consider it a serious breach of the code of conduct of members of the force should it be compromised by the incident in question. If that is the case further action on the part of the Minister will be necessary. The Garda Síochána and the courts are an essential cornerstone of our democracy and that should not be jeopardised in any way.

I welcome the Bill which is long overdue. The festering row which has continued for close on two years has not profited the Garda Síochána in general. One tends to have at the top of organisations such as political parties, trade unions, the GRA and the Garda Federation personnel who are removed to a certain extent from the people they represent. There is an anxiety among rank and file members of the Garda that the arguments being fought out in their names are not in their interests. It is important that there should be a properly constituted democratic body to represent their interests. To a certain extent the GRA and the Garda Federation have been hijacked for reasons which do not serve the best interests of the members they purport to serve. This legislation will resolve once and for all the infighting and squabbling which have done little either for members of the force or the community. It should, therefore, be welcomed.

I have a personal interest in the Garda Síochána. I must inform Deputy Lenihan that I come from a family with strong republican traditions. It has been annoying to listen to members of other political parties referring to their organisations as the only republican parties. My grand-uncle, Joe Ring, was the first assistant commissioner of the police force. Not many people are aware that he helped to establish the Garda Síochána. If the Ring family had been supporters of Fianna Fáil, I would probably be in President Robinson's position in the Phoenix Park. That is not how things are, however, I am proud that my grand-uncle helped to set up the Garda Síochána. I have always been a supporter of the Garda Síochána. I believe in law and order and the need for a strong police force. From the first day a Government was formed in this country, the Garda Síochána supported it. I compliment the present Garda Commissioner and his predecessors for the service they have given.

I take this opportunity to sympathise with the McCabe family. I wish a speedy recovery to Detective Garda O'Sullivan and I also sympathise with his family who have undergone a stressful time during recent days.

I had believed that the day of the ballot in one hand and the armalite in the other had passed, but this is not the case. Murder is murder. The murder of a member of the Garda Síochána must be condemned by everyone. Regardless of the side of the Border on which they live, politicians must condemn this act. If they refuse, they should not be permitted to enter the democratic process. The day of the armalite and the bullet is ended. The people have spoken and they want to be represented by democratically elected politicians who will support those who protect the citizens of the State on a daily basis.

I am aware that the Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, did not want to introduce this Bill. She brought it forward because there was a major disagreement among members of two splinter groups. It is not right that we should see people on whom we depend to protect us, and who do a good job on behalf of the State, appearing on television to wash their dirty linen in public. The people of Ireland have become nervous about this because they have always supported the Garda Síochána. The Minister gave the gardaí every opportunity to reach an agreement, but this did not happen.

I am reminded of certain parishes in the west where parish priests and curates need separate houses. On Sunday mornings they stand on the altar and preach to people about how they should live together and be loving and kind. However, they cannot live in one house. The Garda Síochána must live in one house, support each other and have one organisation to represent them. The Minister for Justice has more important things to do than come before this House to put the Garda's business in order. She does not want to interfere with their business. She wants gardaí to have an association to represent them in negotiations on pension rights, wages, etc. I support the Minister because she is right. It is not right that we should see the people we respect and support fighting on television.

The Garda Síochána have my full support. There are gardaí in my constituency who do not like the way I voice my opinion on rural stations or my view that they should reside in the area in which they work. I strongly believe this should be the case. Deputy Creed stated that the local chief superintendent has never resided in his area. I live in Westport where three superintendents were trained during a period of twelve months. Trained for what? They travelled from Dublin, were given promotion and spent time fishing. The people got to know these gardaí and gained confidence in them, but they returned to Dublin when a crime occurred. I believe that legislation will come before the House in the future which will oblige prospective gardaí to sign a form stating that, on joining the force, they will reside in the area in which they work. The State will encounter trouble when gardaí lose contact with people in rural communities.

The gardaí have done a wonderful job since the inception of the State. Last year a serious situation arose when a number of murders occurred in a short space of time. Not many representatives of the media, who are critical of politicians at times, are present in the House this evening. A number of television programmes such as "Prime Time" focused on the murders to which I refer. I compliment the Garda Commissioner, who is retiring on 19 July, and the members of the force for the marvellous job they did during that time. Most of the murders that took place were solved. However, the gardaí did not receive the same publicity or media coverage in this regard as they did when the crimes took place. The media merely referred to that fact that people were arrested for particular murders. There was no "Prime Time" special to congratulate the gardaí on the great job they did. They have the support of the State and every Member of this House and should keep up the good work.

We live in a State where people must be protected. When they go to bed at night, people want to know that the Garda Síochána will protect them. To the men of violence and the people who could not find it in their hearts to condemn the murder of a garda I say, "Shame on you". They have an opportunity to enter the democratic process and have been given a mandate to represent the people who elected them at the peace talks. They will be able to express their views and could perhaps suggest how the Garda Síochána might assist the RUC in protecting people in Northern Ireland.

I reiterate my support for the Garda Síochána and my belief in law and order. There is no place in this State for those who do not support the Garda. I have a long association with the Garda Síochána. My grand-uncle lost his life in the service of this State and, were he alive today, he would not like to see internal squabbling in the Force. As I stated earlier, he helped to establish the Garda Síochána. I suppose it would be called political bias now but an unprecedented number of people from the west joined the Force at that time. I am glad that many people from that part of the country remain anxious to become gardaí because they believe they have something to offer this State.

The Minister did not want to introduce this Bill. She gave the gardaí every opportunity to resolve their problems. I call on all organisations representing gardaí to get their act together. This House, the State and the people support the Garda Síochána. The people showed their support when Detective Garda McCabe was murdered and showed that they will not tolerate such actions.

We support the organisations representing the gardaí, and the public demonstrated their support when they turned out to pay their respects to one of its members who lost his life last week. The public will not tolerate such action.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, de réir dealraimh, tá gá leis an mBille seo act tá súil agam nach mbeidh gá leis nuair a bheidh an dara léamh thart. Mar tá súil agam go mbeidh na gardaí ar fud na tíre níos ciallmhara ná mar atá siad faoi láthair agus go mbeidh deireadh leis an squabble atá eatarthu faoi láthair. Ní dhéanann sé maitheas ar bith do na Garda agus ba mhaith leis na daoine a bheith cinnte go raibh na gardaí ar obair lena chéile agus nach raibh aon troid ann. Ní thugann sé sampla ceart don gnáthphobal, go mbeadh daoine atá ag tabhairt aire dóibh ag troid eatarthu féin.

Tá súil agam nach mbeidh aon ghá leis an mBille seo mar go mbeidh na Gardaí ag éisteacht agus go ndéanfaidh siad rud éigin chun go mbeadh ceardchumann amháin acu nó federation nó pé rud é — beidh ainm faoi leith ag an Aire dó — agus go mbedih siad le chéile sul i bhfad.

Like many previous speakers I express my admiration for the work of the Garda since the foundation of the State. Gardaí have always been respected by the decent people of this country. I join other Members in expressing my sympathy to the families of Detective McCabe and Detective O'Sullivan in their time of sadness.

The people who turned out for the funeral of Detective McCabe in Limerick were expressing the views of the majority of people who show great respect for members of the Garda and abhor the callous murder of Detective McCabe. As Deputy McGahon said, one would not kill a dog in the manner in which Detective McCabe was killed.

The criminals who murdered Detective McCabe were not caught unawares, they did not fire their guns to defend themselves. They shot in cold blood a decent man who was doing his duty and who had served his country well. Nobody can console the families of these two detectives in their trauma but it must be some consolation that so many people turned out for the funeral of Detective McCabe. In fact, the removal of his remains was delayed by almost four hours.

The public depend on gardaí to maintain law and order and they believe they should be a united force. I find it difficult to understand the current dispute. It would be easier to understand if the Garda were at loggerheads with the Minister over pay or conditions, but one wonders what motivates a group of people to split in such a bitter way, considering their position in society. What is the reason behind such a bitter dispute? If it were a question of power, that would be an unusual cause of the dispute. I am sure people have lost money as a result of the dispute in travelling around the country, despite their expenses, and that makes it more difficult to understand the reason for all this bitterness.

The public must wonder how members of the Garda can concentrate on their duties with this dispute in the background. Because of the type of work in which they are engaged, they must be alert and clear-thinking at all times when trying to solve crimes and apprehend the criminals who are doing so much damage across the country. If the public suspect that gardaí are spending their free time planning ways to overcome the opposition in this dispute, they will lose respect for them and that would be unfortunate. If the gardaí are held in low esteem, the co-operation and help they need from members of the the public will not be forthcoming.

It is vital that this dispute does not continue. As Second Stage of the Bill is almost complete, I hope gardaí around the country will read extracts from this debate and agree to some form of arbitration, thereby bringing an end to the dispute.

The Minister did not want to bring in this Bill. Nobody likes to have to tell a group of people to unite and from one union. As a former teacher, I know the Minister for Education would find it difficult to introduce a Bill forcing teachers to form one union.

The Minister for Justice must take action and if she is forced to proceed with the Bill, it will be a reflection on all gardaí who will be seen to dig in their heels on this issue. That is not welcome in the present climate where people attending the negotiations in the North are digging in their heels and holding to their extreme views. If the Garda force the Minister to act in this dispute, it will be a serious reflection on the force, which would be unfortunate.

I have no relations in the Garda Síochána but I wonder if we are reaching the stage where certain standards will be introduced in the recruitment of gardaí that may not be helpful. Young people fortunate enough to achieve high marks in their leaving certificates are expected to study medicine, veterinary medicine or pharmacology in college. They are so intelligent when they graduate they do not want to work with people but engage in medical experiments, research, etc. That is not a wild statement. If the points system continues to attract students into medicine, problems will arise in future.

Similar problems may arise in terms of Garda recruitment. There was a time when a well built man from the country with sixth class primary school education could pass the Garda college entry examination. Many of them did pass it and went on to rise in the Garda ranks in later years. They were good men who were prepared to become involved with the local people. They played football and other games with them and they knew what was happening in their communities.

There is a danger that new members of the Garda, who may have honours leaving certificates or even degrees, will find the life of a garda a little mundane and unrewarding. If so that should be examined. In the long term we want one representative body for a happy united Garda force which is prepared to patrol the streets. Since I came into the House every TD talks about this on a regular basis. Squad cars are the greatest scourge since the Famine. They are great vehicles for getting from one place to another quickly but if somebody wants to break into a house and knows when the Garda car will pass he has the next six hours to do it. It is still important to see the Garda on the beat but that does not find favour with the Garda authorities. One will always be shot down on that matter and will be told we are in modern times. That is the reason I worry about the standard of education. If the garda would prefer to deal with computers, hi-tech cars and so on, is that why he is not prepared to go on the beat. In the past they all seemed to be on the beat and when one passed through a town one always saw gardaí on the beat? I am told now it is a waste of time but. I am not so sure. If they are on the beat they know and are known to the people and young people see them in a friendly atmosphere and will develop respect for them. The squad car makes no impression. It is ideal for getting quickly to the scene of a robbery or an accident, but patrol duty in a squad car serves little purpose.

I regret this Bill had to come before the House although I could talk about falling standards, the increase of crime levels which is questioned by those in charge and the fact that so many old people are in danger in their homes. People would feel safer if they had a united Garda body prepared to give its time to protecting and caring for them. They do not want to think the Garda force does not have its mind on the job, particularly a certain group which is leading the fight in this division. It would be much better for the Garda if it became a united force in every sense of the word.

I sincerely hope that regardless of what happens the Minister will not have to implement this Bill. I hope the Garda throughout the country will realise it is not good if it, as the upholder of law and order and high standards, has to be forced to unite. For the good of the country and the force I hope it will agree to unite.

On behalf of the Minister for Justice I, like other speakers, wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to the late Detective Garda McCabe. I wish to associate the House with condemnation of the tragic reprehensible incident whereby Garda McCabe's family has been deprived of the breadwinner. We attended the obsequies on Sunday evening last and it brought home to us in graphic and stark terms the magnitude of the death of the breadwinner of a large family, a man who was highly respected. It serves to renew our resolve that there is no place in this society for people who carry out such deeds. Likewise we send our best wishes to Garda O'Sullivan for a full and speedy recovery.

I thank all Deputies for their contributions to the debate. There has been broad acceptance by all parties of the need for this legislation to resolve this damaging dispute. The Government appreciates that the Opposition do not propose to divide the House on the issue. That will give a clear message from this House concerning the serious and damaging nature of the dispute which has affected the force for some time.

Deputy O'Donoghue referred to the Garda Federation's wish to have the Mulvey report implemented and failing that, that the federation be afforded recognition. I am pleased Deputy O'Donoghue and other Deputies accept there should be only one representative body for the Garda rank. A number of recommendations of the Mulvey report are incorporated in the Bill. These relate to the appointment of a president, vice-president, general secretary, trustees, the adoption of standing orders and the reconstitution of the Central Executive Committee to give more proportional representation to DMA gardaí. The other recommendations in the Mulvey report are essentially matters which are not appropriate to this legislation. His recommendations concerning the establishment of subcommittees by the GRA on various topics, the appointment of an external ombudsman to sort out internal disputes, the exhortation to avoid legal recourse and instead avail of the ombudsman services, that existing officers and officials in paid employment should have the option of having their contracts bought out are all matters which can only be acted on by the association itself, if it so chooses.

Deputy O'Donoghue also referred to the Minister's alleged failure to meet the GRA. The Minister met all three parties in the dispute, including the GRA, on four occasions: 22 February 1995, 20 March 1995, 24 July 1995 and 21 May 1996. The Minister's efforts at reaching agreement with the bodies could be described as exhaustive. The attitude of Fianna Fáil, as indicated by Deputies O'Donoghue and Lenihan, is that it will support the Bill — I appreciate the support from the Opposition — but that the Minister should meet all parties again to attempt a resolution before the Bill reaches Committee Stage. As the Minister indicated, this Bill came about precisely because exhaustive efforts aimed at reaching a consensus have failed. Nonetheless, I am sure the Minister will consider what Deputies have said.

Deputy O'Donoghue mentioned the GRA criticism of the power in section 4 to disestablish a representative body, the suggestion being that this is excessive. The power to disestablish is a power which, as the Minister said in her opening remarks, a Minister would be slow to exercise. It is the last resort option which will carry the full authority of the Oireachtas, but if a representative body refused to implement the changes required, that would be a serious situation and would require a serious response.

Deputy O'Donnell referred to the view, which she does not share, that the Bill is contrary to the Constitution. Article 40.6.1 iii. of the Constitution guarantees the right to form associations and unions subject to public order and morality but it also provides that laws may be enacted for the regulation and control of the exercise of that right in the public interest. In the 1988 Haughey case, the Supreme Court acknowledged that a reason for public concern and public interest was the possibility of multi association agitation or industrial action by the Garda in the sensitive areas of pay, pensions and conditions of service. In that case section 13 of the Garda Síochána Act, 1924, was deemed constitutional in so far as it permitted refusal to establish more than one association with the objects of pay, pensions and conditions of service. There is no reason to believe the court would look at the matter any differently when it came to consider this Bill.

Deputies O'Donnell and Lenihan also asked how the Minister could satisfy herself that section 2 has been complied with, saying the Bill should not specify the extent of the majority required to be deemed sufficient. The purpose of the Bill is to reconcile the different groups in one organisation and if this is achieved the provision would be superfluous.

A number of factors must be considered by a Minister in determining whether such a majority exists. There is, for instance, no obligation on any member to join the representative association and the extent to which members voluntarily choose not to join an association will have to be assessed. Thus, a certain flexibility is needed which would be lost if a precise figure was specified. The Minister will be concerned whether the association is one with which she can negotiate deals that will please the rank as a whole.

Deputy O'Donnell asked what an order establishing an association would achieve and pointed out that there would be no official representative body to negotiate. If an association was disestablished it would be open to gardaí to come together to found a new organisation, truly representative of the rank and file, for recognition. The disestablishment of the GRA would not of itself directly dissolve the association, although that could be the ultimate effect. Disestablishment would, of course, mean the loss of negotiating rights, the revocation of secondment arrangements from the force, the loss of direct funding from the State and the removal of payroll deduction facilities for the organisation.

Deputies Dukes and Lenihan raised doubts about the need for the provisions of section 10 of the Schedule which require that the appointment of a general secretary shall, in certain circumstances, be subject to the approval of the Minister who may attach such conditions to such approval as he or she thinks fit. These circumstances are when the general secretary is a member of the force but not a member of the association or when he or she is not a member of the force.

Under the existing regulations the Minister already has such power in relation to non-association members of the force becoming general secretary. This power is being extended to cover the new situation created by this Bill, that is, the appointment of a general secretary who is not a member of the force.

In tandem with the establishment of the GRA in 1978, an agreed report on the Garda conciliation council and a memorandum of understanding with the Garda associations were drawn up which deal with, among other things, the prohibition in the Garda conciliation scheme on public agitation regarding claims, the confidentiality of negotiations, affiliation with outside groups and discipline. Those agreements are with the relevant representative bodies, membership of which in the case of the Garda association is confined to members of the force at Garda rank. It would be necessary for the Minister for Justice to satisfy herself that a general secretary who is neither a member of the association nor the force is subject to these agreements.

Moreover, a general secretary of a body representing gardaí would, of necessity, be in possession of information of a sensitive nature, some of which would pertain to the security of the State. Therefore, it is appropriate that such a person would be subject to some constraints in relation to public utterances, dissemination of information and so on.

Deputy Eric Byrne spoke generally on crime, including the drug problem. Deputy Michael Ahern and Deputy Shortall made general points about crime levels. I will have the points made conveyed to the Minister.

Deputy Lenihan raised the issue of the independence of the association whose rule book, so to speak, is set out in detail in the Schedule to the Bill. The fundamental rules of procedure and organisation of all the Garda associations are already set out by way of regulations made under section 13 of the Garda Síochána Act, 1924, which allows for establishment of Garda associations and under section 14 of the Police Forces Amalgamation Act, 1925, which allows the Minister to make regulations in relation to the formation of such representative associations.

As the Minister indicated, the reason these provisions are being made by way of legislation and not by regulation as heretofore, is that she has been advised the detailed provisions enshrined in the legislation carry with them the full authority of the Oireachtas and are less open to court challenge.

The Deputy also raised the question of the level of consultation on the Bill. By definition this Bill comes about because of a failure to reach a consensus. Elements of the Mulvey report are included in the provisions of the Bill and other provisions come about as a result of the detailed discussions with the dissenting parties. As recently as 20 February 1996 the Minister circulated a document to all gardaí setting out the intended provisions of the Bill. On publication the Bill was sent to the three groups and on 21 May 1996 the Minister met the three groups to discuss the Bill.

Deputy Lenihan also raised the issue of the right of the general secretary and deputy and assistant general secretaries to attend meetings of the Central Executive Committee. It will be a matter for the elected CEC to decide whether these officials can attend its meetings. If their absence will cause administrative difficulties this is within the power of the CEC to remedy. They may give the officials leave to attend and speak as required.

The Deputy also queried the appointment of the president and vice president under section 9 of the Bill. This section provides that these posts shall be filled by members of the CEC upon election by the annual conference. It provides that candidates must be nominated by at least two divisions and where only one person is nominated, that person shall be deemed to have been elected by the annual conference.

Deputy Lenihan referred to the operation of section 6 of the Bill dealing with the review of disciplinary decisions where there are current civil actions on such disciplinary measures. The Deputy will be aware that the Minister stated in respect of this section that one of the considerations she cannot ignore is the current legal proceedings and that will inform all her actions in relation to this section.

The Deputy also referred to the Garda college in Temple more continuing to have an entitlement to a seat on the CEC. One of the most contentious issues in this dispute was the perceived imbalance in the make-up of the GEC to the detriment of members in urban divisions. The revised CEC will total 30 members and the Minister does not see how a section of the force containing only 60 members could continue to retain a seat on the CEC.

I thank Deputies for their contributions to the debate. The level of participation is an indication of the interest in the Bill. Although some Members took poetic licence to extend the realm of the debate, it has served to focus attention on an issue that has aggravated the administration to the Garda Síochána for some time.

Question put and agreed to.