Items Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 16 — motions to approve various conventions and draft regulations under section 46 (6) of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994 are to conclude by 4.15 p.m.
Criminal Law Conventions and Draft Regulations: Motion.
I move the following motions:
That Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime, done at Strasbourg on the 8th day of November, 1990, a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on the 2nd day of July, 1996.
That Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, done at Vienna on the 20th day of December, 1988, a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on the 2nd day of July, 1996.
That Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters done at Strasbourg on the 20th day of April, 1959, and the Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters done at Strasbourg on the 17th day of March, 1978, copies of which were laid before Dáil Éireann on the 2nd day of July, 1996.
That Dáil Éireann approves the following Regulations in draft:—
Criminal Justice Act, 1994 (Section 46(6)) Regulations, 1996,
a copy of which was laid in draft before Dáil Éireann on the 26th day of June, 1996.
I am pleased to introduce these motions to seek the approval of Dáil Éireann for the terms of these three important criminal law Conventions and for associated regulations. The completion of the process in approving these conventions is long overdue. I wonder why Ministers for Justice before me did not take the necessary action. Why was the convention on drugs signed in 1989 by Ireland left to one side by the three Fianna Fáil Ministers since that time? Perhaps they will tell me today.
I will outline the provisions of the conventions, and then explain the purpose of the draft regulations and how they are linked to the conventions.
Article 29.5.2 of the Constitution provides that the State shall not be bound by any international agreement involving a charge upon public funds unless the terms of the agreement shall have been approved by Dáil Éireann. The operation by Ireland of these conventions will involve a charge upon public funds and I am therefore asking the House for its approval as required by Article 29.5.2.
The Council of Europe Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters was opened for signature in April, 1959. The purpose of the convention is to establish the means whereby one State can provide assistance to another in the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences. Such assistance usually consists of written evidence, including sworn evidence obtained in court, the search for and seizure of material required as evidence, the service of judicial documents, arranging for the appearance of witnesses at hearings and the tracing of witnesses and suspects.
The Additional Protocol to the convention was opened for signature in March, 1978. One of its main features is that it provides that a contracting party will not be entitled to refuse assistance under the convention on the grounds that a request relates to a fiscal offence. In addition, the Protocol extends the application of the convention in certain respects, including the service of documents and the communication of information on the conviction of foreign nationals.
The United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances was opened for signature in December, 1988 and signed by Ireland in December, 1989. Under its terms, Convention States are obliged to: enact certain national offences regarding drug trafficking and the use of drugs; extend jurisdiction in respect of these offences to national aircraft and ships; provide in national law for the confiscation of the proceeds of drug-related offences, and for the enforcement of confiscation orders made in another convention State; co-operate with each other by way of mutual legal assistance, such as the service of judicial documents and the obtaining of statements or other evidence for use in trials abroad; and co-operate with each other in the suppression of drug trafficking by sea.
There will be a period of ninety days from the date of ratification to the date the convention comes into force as regards Ireland. The Criminal Justice Act, 1994 has provided, both directly and by way of regulations, for the changes to our laws which are necessary to enable Ireland to ratify the convention. Part V of the Act provides for necessary changes to the law on drug trafficking at sea and Part VII provides for necessary changes to the law on international co-operation. The only substantive change which remains to be made, to enable Ireland to discharge its obligations under the convention, is the making of regulations under Part VII modifying the confiscation provisions of the Act so that foreign confiscation orders can be enforced here. Those regulations, which require the advance approval of both Houses, are before this House today. I will go into more detail about them in a few moments.
The Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime was opened for signature in November, 1990. Under its terms, Convention States are obliged to: (a) enact certain national offences regarding money laundering; (b) provide in national law for the confiscation of the proceeds from crime; (c) provide for the enforcement of confiscation orders made in another Convention State; (d) provide for the taking of provisional measures such as freezing property in anticipation of the enforcement of confiscation orders made in another Convention State; and (e) co-operate with Convention States in tracing and identifying property liable to confiscation.
There will be a period of three months from the date of ratification to the date the convention comes into force as regards Ireland. Apart from the requirements in relation to money laundering, in many ways the convention is similar to the Drugs Convention in its provisions on confiscation, except that this convention is wider in that it applies to offences in general, and not simply drugs. The changes to our laws which are necessary to enable Ireland to sign and ratify the convention are, therefore, similar to those needed for the Drugs Convention. The additional element, that is, money laundering, is also provided for in the Criminal Justice Act.
The conventions provide for the making of certain reservations, declarations and notifications by contracting States and Ireland will, on ratification make appropriate reservations and declarations to reflect our laws and will also make the necessary notifications as to procedural matters.
Up to now, Ireland's capacity to assist criminal investigations in other States has been, quite frankly, less than satisfactory, being limited essentially to the taking of depositions for use abroad. The Criminal Justice Act, 1994, with the regulations before the House today, gives us the capacity to enter into the obligations set out in these conventions. The range of potential co-operation will be extensive, from the service of judicial documents to the taking of statements, from searching for evidence to confiscating the proceeds of crime. Apart from the inherent desirability of providing this level of international co-operation, it should be noted that, under these conventions, we will be entitled to the same level of co-operation. Orders made by our courts confiscating the proceeds of crime will, for example, be enforceable in other convention states. There will be no hiding place in these countries for the property of persons convicted before our courts.
The ratification of these conventions will give concrete expression to the Government's commitment to international co-operation on criminal matters, a commitment I know is shared by this House. They will enable us to play our full part in the international fight against crime and I ask the House for its approval.
The draft regulations are regulations which the Government proposes to make under section 46 (6) of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994. Section 46 provides in principle that foreign confiscation orders may be enforced, by way of corresponding Irish court orders known as confiscation co-operation orders. It goes on to provide that the necessary detailed technical changes to the enforcement provisions in the Act may be made by regulation. The section requires the approval of both Houses to be secured in advance of making the regulations, and I ask the House for that approval today.
The purpose of the regulations, therefore, is to modify the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, to enable Irish courts to enforce confiscation orders made by foreign courts, which as I said is a requirement of the convention on drugs and the convention on the proceeds from crime. Under the Act, as we have been discussing recently in this House, Irish courts are empowered, where a person has been convicted of drug trafficking or another serious offence within this jurisdiction, to make an order confiscating the proceeds of that crime. The courts are also empowered to make an order to freeze property in anticipation of making a confiscation order. The regulations modify these provisions so that Irish courts can enforce similar foreign orders against property held in this country.
The regulations constitute technical modifications to the Act. In the interpretation section, some definitions have been modified. For example, under the Act the term "defendant" refers to a person against whom proceedings for an offence have been instituted in our courts, whereas, to give effect to a foreign order, the regulations define a "defendant" as a person against whom proceedings have been instituted in a foreign court. In some cases, provisions in the Act which are not relevant to the enforcement of foreign confiscation orders have been omitted, for example subsections (2, (8) and (11) of section 3.
As regards the changes to Part III of the Act, many of the modifications are uncomplicated in nature, providing only for the simple substitution of the phrase "confiscation co-operation order" for the phrase "confiscation order". Other modifications comprise detailed redrafting of provisions, in particular section 23, dealing with when a restraint order may be made. In that section, instead of referring to intended criminal proceedings before our courts and the making of a confiscation order, there are now references to intended criminal proceedings abroad and the making of an application for a confiscation co-operation order. The modifications will of course apply only where the enforcement of a foreign confiscation order is in question. Where domestic confiscation orders are concerned, the original provisions of the Act will apply.
These regulations are necessary to enable Ireland to ratify important international conventions on criminal law. This will put Ireland to the forefront of international co-operation on crime and will have potentially significant benefits for our criminal justice system. I know that this House is united in its appreciation of the importance of such international co-operation, and I ask the House, therefore, to approve the draft regulations and the conventions before it today.
Over the last few days we had an extensive debate to which many Members contributed. Built into many of those speeches was a recognition of the international nature of much organised crime. That is why this is an extremely important day for us in preparing to ratify these conventions which have been in existence for many years, one dates back to 1978. It is an indication of this Government's resolve to play our part in fighting organised crime, both in this country, other European countries and member states of the convention.
I welcome the measures proposed by the Minister for Justice to ratify the conventions. There is international recognition of the great need for co-operation in the detection and prosecution of crimes involving drug trafficking. There is no other area of criminal law in which the location of assets and the forfeiture of the proceeds of crime is more important that that of drug trafficking. We know that the amounts of money involved can be enormous and that movement across international boundaries is inherent to the process.
The United Kingdom ratified this convention in June 1991 and by March 1992 there were 59 parties to it. The United Kingdom went further and, under Part II of the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act, 1990, gave domestic effect to the requirements of the convention. The Vienna Convention of 1988 deals with illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The purpose of the convention is to promote co-operation between the parties to address more effectively aspects of drug trafficking having an international dimension.
I mentioned the British law because Article 3 of the Vienna Convention requires parties to establish a range of criminal offences in domestic law. Some of the necessary legislation is in place in this country, but the impression must not go out that all the legislation which is required under the 1988 Vienna Convention is in place because it is not. The Misuse of Drugs Acts and certain provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, meet some of the requirements of the convention, but the ratification of the convention itself per se has no effect in domestic law.
The issue which the Minister and the Government must face is what legislation they will enact to introduce into domestic law those parts of the 1988 convention which do not form part of domestic law at present. I regard today's move, welcome as it is, as a minor step in the process, for the reasons I outlined. While they are effective, as far as section 46 (6) of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994 allows, there is still a lacuna which must be filled. There are also other lacunae which need to be filled.
In recent days there was a debate in this House on organised crime, drug trafficking and crime generally. Yesterday the ongoing internecine dispute between the Government parties was turned into an incestuous dispute within Fine Gael. The chairman of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party laid the blame fairly and squarely on the Labour Party and Democratic Left because they did not and would not support measures which the Minister for Justice put forward more than a year ago. He went further — this is extremely serious — and said that Fine Gael Ministers appointed by the Taoiseach did not give the Minister for Justice the support she required and deserved at the Cabinet table.
If these assertions are true is it any wonder there was never a referendum on bail or that the Minister for Justice, having promised the referendum in March 1995 was unable to deliver; or that having promised new bail proposals in January 1996 found herself unable to deliver within the promised six weeks or that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn, was in a position to cancel the proposed prisons at Castlerea and Mountjoy in the absence of the Minister for Justice. Is it any wonder that with three judges trying to deal with 1,000 indictable offences each year at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court there is a backlog and logjam of serious indictable offences in the Central Criminal Court where more than 50 cases were adjourned in May 1996 and where a very serious offence may not be heard for a period of two years from the date of the first appearance before a district judge? Is it any wonder that 4,000 people are granted temporary release from Irish prisons every year, many on the sole criterion that there is not enough space for them?
The Deputy's party did not provide it.
Nothing illustrates the ostrich-like policy of the Rainbow Coalition Government on crime than the words of the hybrid Minister, Deputy Rabbitte. In an attempt to ensure that he would maintain his status as the Dudley Moore of Irish politicial life, he got one of his friends to write a speech on crime here.
He can write his own speeches.
He spoke of the Fianna Fáil justice spokesman seeing criminals over every fence, in short, exaggerating the position.
The Deputy is beginning to sound like the former Deputy Tunney.
Deputy Rabbitte, Minister of State and hybrid Minister illustrated in that speech how out of touch this Government was with the crime problem. The epithets he used were neither unbecoming nor unworthy of him, living as he does in the rarefied closeted atmosphere where all hybrids hold the high moral ground. Deputy Rabbitte and his party conspired with the Minister for Finance to ensure that there would not be sufficient prison places. He and his party also conspired with the Labour Party to ensure there would be no referendum on bail, no improvement in criminal procedures, and that political infighting within the Rainbow Coalition would take precedence over resolving the problem that existed on the streets in the country.
That is all nonsense and Deputy O'Donoghue knows that. This Government is working very well.
Deputy Rabbitte ensured that we would see a situation where there would be no coherent attempt to resolve the problem and this begs a question, the answer to which is as simple as it is clear. The Rainbow Coalition Government in prioritising its spending decided that the personal glorification of given Ministers when it came to distributing funds was more important than dealing with the crime problem. In this context the Minister for Justice must shoulder some of the blame because it was she, the prison proposals being cancelled in her absence, who defended the decision of the Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn. From there on in, as sure as night follows day, she was treated by her Cabinet colleagues with what I can only describe as political contempt. If Members want evidence of that look at the U-turns. Fourteen days ago, the Rainbow Coalition Government under the direction of the Minister for Justice voted down a minimalist change to the right to silence. Two weeks later the Minister for Justice and the Government decided that there should be a minimalist change to the right to silence.
But a correct one.
Is it any wonder that the public cynicism about these U-turns is the highest ever in relation to our political system. I say no wonder. The Government which decided it would not bring forward a referendum to prevent people who were likely or even definitively going to commit serious criminal offences if admitted to bail has now decided that they were wrong and that the referendum should go ahead. The Government which rejected restrictions on bail last year now proposes to enact precisely the measures I put forward in this House. The Government which saw no need to amend the criminal procedures now see the need to do so. In a fanfare of publicity where everything was subsumed to reflect the egos of those involved in it in a more glorious light, the Rainbow Coalition Government announced a £54 million crime package. It did so only after a motion had been tabled in this House to reflect the serious concern that exists in Irish society regarding the problem. It did not do this of its own volition, rather it was forced to do so. It now transpires, as the dust has settled, that it is not a £54 million package but more like a £14 million package——
That is not true.
——which relates in the main to maintaining garda levels and recruiting civil servants to work on the bureaucratic side of the Garda Síochána.
There is no greater monument to the failure of the Rainbow Coalition to react to organised criminality than the decision to postpone the building of Wheatfield Prison until 1998. It is a monument to a shambles of an administration at odds with itself and the problem in the sense that it fails abysmally to understand what precisely is wrong and how it should be resolved.
I am not the only one saying this. Two eminent members of the Fine Gael Party, Deputies Shatter and Deasy, one of whom served as a senior Minister, have said it. The chairman of the Fine Gael parliamentary party has also said it. He said: "The Minister was left hanging out to dry by members of the Government, including Fine Gael".
The Government is being attacked from within. There is dissatisfaction in the Fine Gael Party and on the Government benches. The members of the Fine Gael Party who have stood up and been counted realise that for the past 18 months the reputation of Liam Cosgrave's, James Dillon's and John Costello's party as the party of law and order in this State has been in tatters. The Fine Gael Party sold its political soul on the day it entered Government with the Labour Party and Democratic Left. Power for power's sake became the all consuming passion.
The Deputy has a short memory.
Once Ministers were safely ensconced in their State cars the truth was out: it did not matter that there was a serious problem on the streets of this country which had to be resolved, what mattered was that the political egos of the Tánaiste and the Minister for Social Welfare had to be massaged and assuaged at all costs. That was done but at a high price. The price is being paid by a suffering general public. Our youth are increasingly finding that hard drugs are freely available to them. The Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party and Democratic Left have yet to pay the price but, as sure as I am standing here, there will be a high price to be paid.
Politicians are not the only people who are dissatisfied, alarmed and appalled at the behaviour of the Government in this matter. The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors indicated yesterday that an attempt was being made by the Government to scapegoat the Garda Síochána. This view is given credence if one studies the comments of the chairman of the Fine Gael parliamentary party who blamed the Garda Síochána for much of the problem stating they had hidden agendas and too many other things to do. As the adage goes, it is a poor workman who blames his tools.
In this instance laying the blame on the Garda Síochána is a convenient way of escaping responsibility. The time has come for the Government and the Minister to realise that the buck stops with them. Over a period of 18 months they were told on numerous occasions that there was a serious problem and when solutions were preferred, be they legislative, pragmatic, practical or technical, they were voted down and dismissed not because they were unconstructive, would not work or did not constitute a positive contribution to the debate but because they came from the Opposition side of the House.
Political expediency is not the answer to the crime problem. It is, however, something we have seen even at the height of the present crisis. When the Fianna Fáil Party originally proposed its Organised Crime (Restraint and Disposal of Illicit Assets) Bill, 1996 the Minister said on RTE television that similar legislation was already in place. The following day, beginning to feel the heat, she rowed back and said that she could accept it in principle. The day after that, as the public's anger increased, she said that it was her view that its provisions were unconstitutional. Last night two Government backbench Deputies said on television that they could not vote for it even though yesterday afternoon members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party had indicated their support.
Where do we now stand in relation to the legislation? What, in the name of goodness, is going on? The time for confusion, procrastination, prevarication, indecision, inactivity and frozen indifference has passed. These provisions do not exist in criminal law, are constitutional workable and reflect the will of the people.
The Deputy is wrong. He will have to change his lawyer and should wait until he sees the number of amendments to be made to it.
From the Department of Justice in its usual fashion?
Not the Department of Justice, but the Attorney General.
The Attorney General is not the font of all knowledge.
I am surprised at the Deputy, who is a lawyer.
Deputy O'Donoghue without interruption.
The Criminal Justice Act, 1994, introduced by the then Fianna Fáil Minister for Justice, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn, provides for the confiscation of assets which are the proceeds of crime and drug trafficking. It also provides for a restraint order to be made in the event that a charge has been made against an individual and that such an order may be made even if no charge has been made, provided the court is satisfied that a charge will be made. The application must be made by the Director of Public Prosecutions to the court.
Our legislation provides that a revenue commissioner or a chief superintendent of the Garda Síochána can go into the High Court and say it is his opinion that the assets concerned are the proceeds of organised criminal activity. If the court is satisfied that the revenue commissioner or the chief superintendent had reasonable grounds for forming that opinion it may make an interim restraining order. Clearly the assets are frozen at that stage and the individual in possession of them may not use them or dispose of them. The court will make an order requesting the person against whom the interim order is made to file an affidavit in the court stating his assets, where he got them and his source of income for the previous ten years. If the court is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the assets concerned are the proceeds of organised crime then it may freeze them by making an interlocutory order.
In such cases the onus is shifted from the normal whereby the person who is prosecuting will have to prove his case. The presumption has to be rebutted and the person against whom the order is made must come into the court and establish that the goods were obtained honestly and legally. If he fails to establish this then the order is made and the goods are not returned. If after a period of five years the court is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the goods or assets are the proceeds of organised crime then it may dispose of them. If after a period of seven years no affidavits have been filed or if the person against whom the order is made refuses to file them then the court can dispose of the assets to the Minister for Finance, or, alternatively, to the true owner.
Such legislation does not exist in criminal law and nobody should ever again suggest that it does. It is of crucial importance for the following reason. Very often when dealing with organised crime the authorities are unable to obtain sufficient evidence to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt. This legislation will allow the authorities to touch the untouchables. The Vienna Convention specifically encourages the enactment of this kind of legislation. It also permits, but does not require, the reversal of the burden of proof regarding the lawful origin of alleged proceeds and saves, without detailed provisions, the rights of bona fide third parties. The convention not only provides for the freezing of assets, as proposed in the Fianna Fáil Bill, but also provides for the reversal of the onus of proof. Surely the Minister for Justice and the rainbow coalition Government must recognise that, having failed abysmally and utterly in terms of having the courage to lead, they must now follow in the fight against crime.
I notice the Deputy did not say why his party did not introduce the legislation when it was in Government in 1990. I accept that the Deputy was not a member of that Cabinet but he should ask Deputy Ray Burke, Deputy Gerry Collins and Commissioner Padraig Flynn why they did not implement it.
The Minister is being very confrontational about this issue.
It is lovely to see Deputy Andrews in the House.
It is also nice to see the Minister but she is being very confrontational.
The Minister and Deputy Andrews must restrain themselves.
Has the Deputy finished down at the Bar Library, defending criminals etc?
The Minister has made a serious error of judgment in recent days. This debate should be about consensus, not confrontation.
The Deputy should talk to his party's spokesperson about being confrontational.
The Minister should calm down.
Was it the Deputy who wrote the bad Bill?
I do not understand the Minister's attitude and I will refer to it later.
The Minister and Deputy Andrews must restrain themselves.
The debates in the House this week have properly been dominated by the need for laws, political action and the provision of services which will at long last tackle organised crime and put in place procedures and methods to fight fire with fire. The escalation and increasing sophistication of organised crime is only beginning to be debated. Courageous journalists, living and dead, have served the public interest by shining a light on the activities of the untouchables. The assassination of Veronica Guerin brought it home to all Members of the House and the entire nation that we will ignore at our peril the message that some people consider themselves above the law, will stop at nothing and will confront the State brazenly with arms and terror when people get in their way. These people care little for civil liberties or the rights of ordinary citizens, yet they claim the protection provided by civil liberties and due process when they are caught or being investigated. They rob banks and then launder the proceeds of those crimes through the same institutions. They also avail of tax amnesties provided by foolish Governments.
It is difficult to anticipate or predict the creativity of the criminal mind. Their swagger and arrogance undermine the law and confidence in the criminal justice system, while their activities demoralise the Garda Síochána and scandalise members of the public. They use the proceeds of their crimes to buy respect in the same communities they have devastated with drugs. It is clear that so far successive Governments have failed to stop them. We must get it right, now that there is political consensus on the way forward. The Dáil must be courageous and surefooted and we must not be put off at this very important time by the predictable bleating of those who want to hold on to the failed status quo or those who forecast the wrecking of traditional notions of civil liberties.
The Supreme Court has said — and we must be mindful of this when introducing new measures — that the potential damage to society from the use and distribution of controlled drugs is so great and constitutes such a pernicious evil that when it comes to their control the Dáil has a very wide discretion in reconciling the interests of the common good with individual rights. It represents the people and has the capacity, authority and duty to reconcile and balance the rights of the people to live in safety with the rights of those who threaten it.
An important constitutional review group report published today echoed this championing of the public interest and the need to balance the rights of the people to live in safety as against the property rights which are so championed in our Constitution. I support that view.
President Mary Robinson has spoken of the need for a global ethic. Her message is relevant today as we debate these international conventions, measures to improve co-operations to assist individual states to protect their citizens from organised criminality and subversion. There is a need for morality and for the public interest to pervade the professional and commercial world. Organised criminals and terrorists can and do avail of the professions and commercial institutions of the world to launder money which flows directly from their evil trade in crime. There are professional people here and all over the world who turn a professional blind eye to that fact. Casinos, betting offices, property companies, haulage firms, lawyers, accountants and banks must reconcile the public interest, their ethical professional responsibilities to their "clients" and the public interest. The State has introduced laws and regulations in relation to banks and financial institutions but to ignore other institutions and commercial bodies is dangerous and undermines our efforts in this regard. We must seek to analyse how effective these regulations have been to date. Are they being enforced? How many orders have been made under section 32 of the 1994 Act which places an obligation on banks and financial institutions to report suspicious transactions exceeding a particular amount of money?
What action has flowed from that? We must consistently analyse the regulations to see whether they are sufficiently effective and if they are being enforced.
Do the banks need further assistance? Is there political will to assist our financial institutions to champion the public interest? It is futile to create an impression by regulations that procedures are in place to report such matters if in reality the procedures are not effective. In April 1996 we discussed section 44 of the 1994 Act. We approved regulations to seize drug trafficking money. How many orders have been made under section 44 of that Act? There are difficulties too in European States in relation to EUROPOL — the European drugs unit based in The Hague — relating to rivalry and sovereignty matters and a political difference of opinion in individual member states. We also need a single computerised database on criminals in Europe. We need formal co-operation between member states and their forensic science laboratories to enable police to track illegal drugs through the EU and determine scientifically the source of those drugs. We need agreement among European states on jail sentences on drug trafficking offences. All these must be harmonised if we are to come together as a European Union to fight the common enemy of drug trafficking.
We must seek to ensure adequate co-operation in the protection of the external borders of the Union. In Ireland we need an EU funded coastguard service to protect our waters and police our ports. Some 80 per cent of heroin seized in Europe comes from Turkey. We must be as sophisticated as they are. These criminals are highly mobile, very rich, totally sophisticated and can avail of the best possible advice and the legitimate institutions — financial institutions and banks — to launder their money.
The Fianna Fáil Bill which Deputy O'Donoghue moved gives the power to freeze the assets of criminals if we cannot arrest the criminals. Its purpose is to challenge the status quo. Deputy O'Donoghue can look to the constitutional review group recommendations because there will be people who will say we cannot do that, it is unconstitutional. There will be people who will say that goes against our adversarial system of justice, and it does. It is a courageous and radical Bill. We must look at new measures and take a radical approach to tackling crime. That Bill, which must be supported, can be amended in Committee if necessary. It is saying that if the status quo has failed we must look to new ideas.
Inherent in that Bill is the introduction of elements of the inquisitorial system used in other European states under which, as distinct from the adversarial system, there is a provision for suspects to be questioned before judicial officers. The burden of proof is not on the prosecution to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, there is an obligation on the tribunal or the court or the judicial officer to make a determination of facts before the trial. I believe, like the DPP and many others, that our adversarial system is not capable of dealing with modern criminality. It has failed across many areas. We have to consider introducing elements of the inquisitorial system.
Money laundering is a most important front in the battle against organised crime. It is the means by which criminals can legitimise and thus enjoy the proceeds of their crimes, but financial institutions can also be used by criminals as a means of effecting payment to other criminals, for example, to pay for drug consignments. The more successful a criminal is in his activities, the more need he has for money laundering.
The increased integration of financial markets and the EU-inspired removal of barriers to the free movement of capital have enhanced the ease with which criminal money can be laundered and have complicated the process of tracking criminal assets. It is, therefore, urgent and timely that we are bringing in an international dimension to our laws on money laundering. This country has a growing and unhappy reputation as being an artery in the international transportation of drugs so it is time we made an important contribution, as an equal partner in Europe, to the fight against organised crime.
These regulations have come before the House under the Criminal Justice Act, 1994. Despite the various claims as to the credit for this Act, it is inspired by an EU directive like many of our laws which, quite properly, are driven by our responsibilities and our obligations under the European Union. They should have been brought into Irish law by 1 January 1993 but were not passed into law until the end of June 1994.
Money launderers use a wide variety of techniques: currency smuggling, the conversion of cash into negotiable instruments, the creative use of facilities offered by tax and financial havens, the use of shell companies, currency exchanges and brokerage houses and the use of casinos. This debate on casinos will have to take account of the internationally recognised dangers of casinos in relation to money laundering. We should not allow ourselves to be blinded by science. It was rather disconcerting and upsetting to read in Tuesday's newspapers of the comparative ease with which one major criminal is believed to launder his money. It is alleged that he does so by simply making large cash bets and insisting on payment by cheque.
The 1994 Act imposes certain obligations on designated bodies to report suspicions of money laundering. I note that betting shops and on-course bookmakers are not deemed to be designated bodies for the purposes of the Act. The Act gives the Minister power to designate bodies other than those described in the Act. I call on her to consider introducing regulations that would make the betting industry subject to the reporting obligations of the 1994 Act. Obviously, some practical details would need to be worked out, as was the case when we imposed such regulations and obligations on the banks. They were given time to train staff and to prepare for the legal obligations to which they were being subjected. The Government must consider widening the scope of the term "designated bodies" to include casinos and betting offices. All methods used by criminals to launder money must be brought within the ambit of our money laundering legislation.
Does the Minister consider we have adequately implemented the EU directive on which the 1994 Act was based? Much of the meat of the money laundering regime is left to guidelines prepared by a body known as the money laundering steering committee which operates under the aegis of the Department of Finance and includes representatives from the relevant Government Departments, the Central Bank, the Garda and major representative bodies of the financial sector. It has done some valuable work, including the preparation of detailed guidelines for the various financial areas. However, I question whether it is appropriate that such important matters should be dealt with on a non-statutory basis. It smacks too much of self-regulation which in other jurisdictions has been associated with an increase in money laundering.
The Government must provide leadership and political authority on these matters. It did a political U-turn this week by accepting a range of measures it previously treated with contempt. While this is in the public interest, it was public outrage that forced the Government to make the U-turn. It casually nodded through measures it treated with derision and contempt last February.
I never treated anything the Deputy proposed with derision and contempt. Please do not accuse me of that.
The Minister treats us all like that. For her own sake, she should keep quiet.
I read into the record last night some of the comments the Minister made on the proposals I put forward in February. The Minister and some of her Government backbenchers made contemptible comments about me and the Opposition for proposing radical reforms of the criminal justice system.
I did not do any such thing.
They called them fanciful nonsense——
That is not one of my expressions.
——glaringly unconstitutional and daft. Those comments were thrown across the floor when we made constructive proposals, which the Government has now accepted. Is it any wonder people are cynical about politics? The Government has developed a new found constructive approach to the constructive proposals put forward by the Opposition, but its new found approach is based on fear. It is obvious the Government is on the run from the people.
Words such as "immediate" have lost their natural meaning. The Government announced its proposals as swift, immediate and radical action, but they are unravelling before our eyes. Immediate now means in two years' time. The building programme is a jumble of figures, concocted in haste and it is also unravelling before our eyes. The Government appeared to be unaware of the comprehensive review of the Garda Síochána structures being carried out by a group of consultants.
That is wrong. It is on information technology.
This is not the first time the Minister for Justice has come into the House without the facts on her area of responsibility. That is at the heart of the crisis management of the Minister and the Government.
There was never a more important time for sure-footedness in the Justice field. We are faced with unprecedented levels of sophistication and terror from organised crime and subversion. The capacity to backtrack, to make decisions and then reverse them, to accept proposals and then reject them and to reject proposals and then accept them, is unacceptable. We are swinging from place to place. We are in a leaking boat and our citizens are losing confidence in the system, but the spindoctors will probably give them their version of events.
This is a large Government. It is selfbloated by an unprecedented level of programme managers, media spindoctors, advisers and consultants. As the Government increases, the relevance of the Dáil diminishes. The Dáil reform measures merely nibble at the surface in terms of the primacy of this Parliament. The accountability structures from the Executive to the Dáil have not improved, if anything they have diminished. I have served in Opposition for only four years but I have marked two separate Administrations. This Administration is less transparent and less willing to give information, which is ironic when one considers that the last Government was booted out of office because it failed the test of accountability to Dáil Éireann. Lessons were not learnt from that debacle. This is a serious development in our democracy.
It is practically impossible to get information from the Executive by way of parliamentary question. The report on Dáil reform will be meaningless because the structures of accountability that deal with parliamentary questions have not changed. There must be root and branch cultural reform of the method by which the Executive responds to parliamentary questions, but the Government does not intend to do that. My main recommendation to the sub-committee dealing with Dáil reform was that a root and branch reform of the structures dealing with parliamentary questions should be carried out.
The last Administration failed on many occasions to reply properly to parliamentary questions and this one has done likewise. It is even more unwilling to supply information. I am persistently thwarted by the replies I get to parliamentary questions. One would need to have the persistence of Veronica Guerin, who would not go away and because of that she was murdered. The House must learn that accountability to Dáil Éireann is not mere fiction. It is essential in a democracy that a parliament is relevant and holds the executive to account. That is not happening here at the moment. Throughout a series of near misses this year on the Duncan extradition case and other matters, we have seen this House swept aside with incomplete information. A question was tabled in respect of which the Government had six weeks notice, yet the Minister for Justice was permitted to come into the House without being in possession of the facts for which she has political responsibility. It goes to the heart of the people's diminishing confidence in this Administration.
I welcome the motions which are an essential part of the participation this State, as an equal partner in Europe, must play in introducing measures to stop international money laundering and drug trafficking.
I wish to share my time with Deputy Costello. Organised crime poses a grave threat to our democracy and our people. The Labour Party, with its Government colleagues in Democratic Left and Fine Gael, is prepared to take whatever measures are necessary to tackle this problem at a law and order level. We must eradicate the drug barons and the crime lords from our society by legal means.
The drugs crisis is a huge problem. In Dublin alone it is estimated that between 70 and 80 per cent of all crime is drug related, yet less than 2 per cent of our police force is directly engaged in the fight against drugs through membership of a drugs unit.
There is more than one drugs problem. Opiate addiction is largely confined to Dublin and its inner city. So called soft drugs, like ecstasy, are widely available at other centres throughout the country. Measures undertaken by the Government since it announced its package of anti-drug measures in July 1995 have been most useful and successful. There is no doubt that more resources are being directed at this problem than heretofore. However, we have always believed that these measures are not sufficient to tackle the scale of the problem which now exists.
There are two obvious ways of containing the drugs problem. The first — supply reduction — advocates measures like the establishment of an anti-organised crime unit. If we are to reclaim our streets and communities from organised drugs related crime, all the powers of search and arrest, entry and seizure, confiscation and sequestration, as well as electronic and other forms of surveillance that are vested in different agencies, must be combined in one all out assault. Our first aim must be to reduce the amount of drugs on the streets. Our second aim must relate to demand reduction; reducing the level of demand for drugs and, consequently, the impetus for people to supply them. The third aim must be to ensure adequate treatment facilities for those with addiction problems.
While the level of demand for drugs remains as high as it currently is there will always be people ready to fulfil it. For every drugs baron we lock up there will be another to take his place. There is more to solving this problem than passing legislation. We must reduce the grip of heroin on individuals and, through that, liberate their communities.
Veronica Guerin was aware of the social dimension of the drugs problem. The Health Research Board's document entitled The Drugs Menace and Organised Crime indicates how strong that dimension is. In her work, Veronica Guerin was subjected to extraordinary levels of intimidation, but intimidation of varying degrees in communities ravaged by drugs is a fact of everyday life for those seeking to fight back against the drug barons.
I welcome the new measures announced by the Government to fight organised crime and the drugs menace. They will cost money but the problem is already costing us money in terms of Garda resources, high insurance premiums and health costs including those associated with family breakdown and stress. The exact amount of money is difficult to gauge. Addicts have habits of varying sizes and intensity. Heroin fluctuates in price but the community at large is in no doubt about the extent to which the drugs problem impinges on their quality of life.
The Government is now embarking on a war against drugs barons and crime bosses. Every arm and resource of the State must be used in this fight. The package announced by the Government this week is only the first step in the fight against the godfathers who wish to destroy Irish society. I fully support the motions before the House.
I congratulate the Minister on introducing these three motions and the motion on the draft regulations to the Criminal Justice Act, 1994. However I castigate those who were in power for so long. Deputy O'Donnell's party was in power from 1989 to 1992, but did nothing. Deputy O'Donoghue's party was in power from 1987 to 1994, a period of seven years, but did not introduce any of these motions, the last of which was available for introduction in 1990.
The Progressive Democrats are forever whinging and oppose all tax and spending proposals. They do not want anything to be spent yet they want everything to be done. How this is to be achieved is mind boggling.
Deputy O'Donoghue really takes the biscuit. I am as surprised as the Minister for Justice that Deputy O'Donoghue's party — which has discovered crime since leaving office at the end of 1994 — did not ratify any of these conventions while it held the ministerial portfolio for Justice. Where then is the priority of this national emergency which Deputy O'Donoghue has proclaimed since his arrival on the Fianna Fáil Front Bench? I am becoming increasingly weary of listening to Deputy O'Donoghue's tirades in this House. His rhetoric bears no resemblance to Fianna Fáil's achievement in the justice portfolio. I would give Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn far more credit for her time in St. Stephen's Green than Deputy O'Donoghue for what he is prepared to do.
How Deputy O'Donoghue purports to blame the Labour Party, or for that matter Democratic Left, for the shambles of our criminal justice system really is mind boggling. Unlike Fianna Fáil, whose tenure in the Department of Justice has been considerable, a Labour Minister has not held that portfolio. If Labour had held that office we might not be in the sorry mess we are in at present.
I am pleased the Government has decided to promote changes in the bail laws, although I would not like to stand next to Deputy O'Donoghue when he finally realises such changes will not eliminate crime. It might be possible to take the Deputy's concerns about crime seriously if he was prepared to be tough on issues which affect levels of crime other than criminal justice measures.
If he is interested in the causes of crime he might do well to open his eyes when next he is in central or west Dublin and, having done so, he should have a word with Deputy Cullen and Deputy McCreevy who are of the same rather bilious nature as himself.
Having listened to him earlier, I was reminded of the description by another Member that Deputy O'Donoghue is somewhat "like the Bull McCabe, who rages from Caherciveen to Leinster House while widows cower in the bushes as he goes by". That is a very apt description——
Say that to the victims of recent crime. The Deputy is not worthy of epithets, but he should repeat those words outside the House.
——listening to somebody who talks all the time about special measures, while the only interest the Deputy ever has is one of repression. He has not made any statements about the causes of crime such as disadvantaged areas of high unemployment which give rise to the problems we now face. I would welcome a little balance from the Deputy who is spokes-person on Justice.
Even though the Council of Europe convention on money laundering was introduced in 1990 and the drugs convention was introduced in 1988, at both of which times the Deputy's party was in power, they are only being ratified now. Similarly, the mutual assistance convention between member states, which was introduced in 1959, is only being dealt with now. Successive Governments have failed to deal with these measures, which are long overdue. If they had been introduced at an earlier stage, more progress might have been made in dealing with the terrible problem of crime.
The convention on mutual assistance is an extremely important measure in view of the extent of the drugs problem worldwide. Interpol has a major role to play in this regard. Since the tragic death last week of Veronica Guerin, who was assassinated because she was getting too close to some of the drug barons, we have read in the papers that many of the drug barons are away on holidays, in Malaga, Amsterdam and the Caribbean. It is obvious that those people are wealthy. The convention on mutual assistance between countries is essential to deal with money laundering, improve co-operation in investigation matters and identify assets of criminals from Ireland who launder money abroad and vice versa.
The murky arrangements between Nationalist and Loyalist paramilitary groups have, to a large extent, been responsible for many of the contacts made abroad. That matter must be considered very carefully. We must be prepared to go to the four corners of the globe to pursue drug barons from Ireland who use other countries to launder money and smuggle drugs. Those people must be prosecuted under this convention. The convention will speed up the exchange of information and documents and will assist in co-operation, particularly in terms of extradition.
Under the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances all member states are obliged to enact common legislation in this area. It is important that specific offences be common to all jurisdictions that are party to the convention. That will be of enormous assistance to police forces in pursuing ill-gotten gains. The convention extends jurisdiction in terms of aircraft, ships and marine activities. This is extremely important for Ireland because, with the exception of ecstasy which is manufactured here, drugs are imported through our airports and sea ports. This is a desirable element of the convention which, if it had been signed sooner, would have enabled us to cooperate to a greater degree in preventing the importation of illicit materials.
The convention on crime deals with money laundering, search, seizure and confiscation. We are obliged to enact common legislation in this area also, which will be of assistance in enforcement, freezing assets and property and so on. This convention applies not only to drugs but to all offences, which is desirable.
On the draft regulations under section 46, the approval of the Oireachtas is required to enable the courts to enforce confiscation orders made by foreign courts, thereby ensuring the mutuality of the convention.
All those conventions, which are long overdue, should have been introduced by the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Government. The conventions will enable us to be good Europeans and to co-operate with our neighbours in the pursuit of crime. They will ensure that there is no hiding place in our jurisdiction for the perpetrators of crime. Ireland has long been considered as a place where criminals find it easy to launder money, and we must plug that loophole. I welcome the recent Government decision not to introduce legislation to allow a casino to open in Dublin. Casinos are notorious as centres for money laundering and the profits from drugs could be easily laundered through a casino.
At last we are achieving unity of purpose in dealing with this problem, which has been festering for a long time while successive Governments stood idly by. The Opposition motions on crime and drug trafficking, which have been accepted by the Government, together with the Government's package of measures on the Garda and prisons — there is a comprehensive Labour Party document on this issue — will be considered in conjunction with the motions on international co-operation. We are in a position to seriously tackle this problem, which originated in deprived areas. However, rather than dealing with it purely by providing for more Garda personnel and more prison places, a broad package of proposals must be introduced.
As well as setting up special crime units to deal with supply reduction and designating courts to fast-track prosecutions, a set of proposals is necessary on demand reduction. I welcome the Minister for Education's announcement last night of the school awareness programme dealing with substance abuse awareness and prevention and the antiheroin programme. The major problem, particularly in deprived areas of Dublin, relates to heroin. Teachers are being trained to implement these programmes and a 24-hour help line is proposed to make people aware of the services available.
There must be a broad approach to the question of treatment. There are hundreds of addicts in this city queueing up for methadone substitution, counselling, therapy and rehabilitation, but there is an insufficient number of satellite community clinics and detoxification beds — there are only 24 detoxification beds for the entire city, which is totally inadequate. It is difficult to get general practitioners to treat drug addicts. Family doctors refuse to treat HIV patients and drug addicts. When the Eastern Health Board tried to put together a team of general practitioners in the city, only ten volunteered, which represents an outrageous response. What is the point in taking a Hippocratic oath if doctors are not prepared to treat people who are ill? It reminds me of the time when leprosy was a major disease in Africa and other areas and that problem was not dealt with by the medical profession but by volunteers who risked their lives to help those people. There is an onus on general practitioners to deal with this problem.
Previous Governments treated the problems of crime too lightly. They hoped it would not get out of hand or that it would disappear of its own accord, but the callous murder of Veronica Guerin has given us a reason to focus on the issue. If we do not deal with the problem of crime now, having allowed it to fester for the past 17 years, we will never resolve it. I trust this package of proposals will be implemented efficiently by the statutory organs of the State and all the relevant personnel to ensure this scourge is eliminated from our country.
I congratulate the two previous speakers on the tenor of their remarks. That is the spirit in which this debate should be conducted. I would say to Deputy Costello, however, that the Labour Party was in Government for 11 of the past 16 years while Fianna Fáil was in Government for approximately seven of those years. Those are the facts. It is irrelevant to the debate for the Deputy to suggest that Fianna Fáil nor the Labour Party did or did not do something to address this problem. The politicisation of the debate by Deputies is an error of judgment on their part; those of us in this parliamentary Assembly should stand side by side in the fight against these gangsters in our society.
In their time in office Fianna Fáil Governments did their duty by the State. Previous Ministers for Justice including Deputy Gerard Collins, Deputy Ray Burke, Padraig Flynn and Deputy Máire Geoghegan-Quinn were seen as Ministers of courage and outstanding integrity. I am not suggesting Minister Owen does not have these qualities. She has an extremely difficult task in circumstances which have effectively got out of control since this Government came to power. That is an unfortunate coincidence but it is a fact.
It appears to me, as a Member who has served in this House for many years, that we have not tackled the problem of crime and that we are only now coming to the realisation that we have a national emergency on our hands. In those circumstances we must deal with the problem as a national emergency.
The Minister is undoubtedly under great stress and strain, and I sympathise with her in her dilemma, but I urge her to adopt the politics of consensus rather than the politics of confrontation. In the past number of days, and I say this with great respect to her, she had adopted an aggressive, arrogant attitude to the effect that she is right and we are wrong. That is not the way to deal with this problem. The way to deal with it is to stand side by side in an all-party context and stop the political quibbling.
The wreaths on the railings outside Dáil Éireann were not only a tribute to the assassinated journalist, Veronica Guerin, but an indication that the majority of the public were dissatisfied with this parliamentary Assembly and with us as their representatives. On the scale of human values, Dáil Deputies do not rate very highly at this time.
We must depoliticise this debate and get down to the job of fighting this evil in our society as one group rather than having a disparate spreading of our energies. The only people that will help are those whom we seek to expose and imprison.
Snide remarks from the Minister about my being down in the Law Library are unhelpful. I declared my interests in the Register of Interests. I am a barrister. I had to work up my practice for the fifth time over so many years and I have done that successfully. I balance that, however, with my obligations to my constituents and the constituency I represent. People have given me a mark of confidence in successive elections. I will seek that support in the next election and I believe I will get it. I am not making any apologies. If I have been down in the Law Library I will say so. I have never hidden anything in my public life.
I see myself as a long serving Dáil Deputy who has a responsibility to this House and to the Minister who I acknowledge has an enormous task on her hands. I pay tribute to her courage and integrity but she should focus her mind on that task rather than attacking people like myself and my honourable colleague, Deputy O'Donoghue.
In that regard the previous speaker criticised Deputy O'Donoghue. Of all Deputies in this House over the past number of years, his record on justice matters bears scrutiny along with that of Deputies from every party, including the Minister's own record since she took office.
I wish the Minister for Justice well in her war against organised crime, particularly the drug barons who operate not only in Dublin but in Limerick, Cork and, to a lesser extent, in Galway. The Minister has engaged in the politics of confrontation rather than the politics of consensus but the House needs consensus to tackle this problem. We all have a responsibility to stand up and be counted and to stand side by side in the war against drugs.
I strongly object to the actions of the gangster who recorded gunshots on Deputy Shortall's telephone answering machine. Unless we stand up and support her at this time we will be seen to be failing in our obligations to parliamentary democracy and to this House. I deplore in the strongest terms that threat against Deputy Shortall. It is wrong and it is cowardly. It is very easy to record gunshots on a telephone answering machine but this was is being conducted in a manner of subterfuge and, by definition, under ground. We must expose people like the gangster who made the threatening telephone call to a Member of this House.
I am prepared to stand up and be counted. If these criminals want to come after me, I am a big enough target, but I will not shirk my responsibilities. The Minister has my unequivocal support in this fight against crime, and if she wants the support of the Leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy O'Donoghue or all members of the Fianna Fáil Party, she will have it without reservation. I urge the Minister, however, to lower the tone of the manner in which she is trying to justify her own position. She does not have to justify her position. She is doing her best and we are doing our best. We do not seek credit, but she should give it where it is due. She should not dismiss us out of hand.
I deplore the assassinations of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe in Adare and Veronica Guerin in any free, democratic and, in this case, republican society. People are entitled to live and to the freedom of their views which this democracy gives them. They should not be killed for expressing those views. Veronica Guerin should not have been killed under any circumstances, least of all for writing articles which exposed crime. Detective Garda Jerry McCabe was shot for doing his duty and for being a member of a decent and honourable group of people, the Garda Síochána. I have nothing but the greatest regard and respect for the Garda.
I urge the Minister to temper her views. We should have the Garda Síochána on side, as it wants to be. It needs all the assistance it can get. The Minister should be praised for announcing an increase in the membership of the Garda Síochána. I also welcome the deployment of people from within the Garda bureaucratic structure to the city streets. It is not all bad news. Leadership is made up of many qualities. It is a chemical makeup which one either does or does not have. I am concerned that the Minister's attitude does not reflect the chemical ingredients required for leadership in this war against these criminals.
The message should go out from this debate that we are serious about this national emergency and that we are not afraid to express our condemnation of the killing of people who are doing their duty on our behalf, whether they are journalists or members of the Garda Síochána. We must defend their right to be members of whatever organisation they want, although we may not like the organisation. Organisations are entitled to survive, except those such as the Provisional IRA and other terrorist organisations. They are not entitled to survive in a democracy because they fly in the face of what we believe in — freedom to express our views and to go wherever we want without hinderance, which is fundamental in any democracy.
The decision to have a debate on crime at the end of the month is an extraordinary error of judgement. We are giving the criminals a months' notice to put their illegal and ill-gotten gains away, to do their laundering, to get rid of their drugs and to become cleansed. It is an extraordinary error of judgement not to have this debate this week or next week. I know we are talking about crime today because of the Minister's requirement to bring in the regulations under the convention. However, the decision to have a debate at the end of the month on this important subject is an aberration.
The Vienna Convention of 1988 deals with illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The purpose of the convention is to promote co-operation among the parties to address more effectively aspects of drug trafficking with an international dimension. Article 3 of the convention requires parties to establish a range of criminal offences in domestic law. Some of the necessary legislation is already in place. The Criminal Justice (Misuse of Drugs) Act and certain provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, meet some of the requirements of the convention.
The Criminal Justice Act, 1994, was introduced by the then Minister for Justice, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn. It was probably one of the most far reaching Bills introduced since the foundation of the State. Unfortunately, she did not have the opportunity to implement its provisions. The present Minister has the honour of doing that. The Minister should, as a matter of urgency, introduce the necessary regulations to deal with this battle which looms ahead.
In England, Part 2 of the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act, 1990, was passed specifically to give effect to the requirements of the convention. The ratification of the convention has no effect in domestic law. Article 3 of the convention requires parties to establish a range of criminal offences in domestic law. These include not only offences of production, cultivation and possession of drugs, but also the manufacture, transport or distribution of equipment, materials or specified substances knowing that they are to be used for their illicit cultivation, production or manufacture. Organised drug trafficking is directly attacked by the creation of the offence of organising, managing or financing drugs offences, and of a series of offences of participation in laundering the proceeds of such offences. These offences may be committed by the drug traffickers when they try to launder the profits. In United Kingdom law the money laundering provisions of the Drug Trafficking Offences Act, 1986, caught only other persons. A more extensive provision meeting the requirements of the Vienna Convention was created by the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act, 1990. The convention goes into considerable detail on such matters as the need for heavy penalties and a long limitations period.
It is now emerging in the United States that the petty criminal has literally been getting away with murder in relation to the sale of drugs. We must begin by tackling the petty criminals because they are the faces of the cowards who sit in their mansions which have swimming pools or equestrian centres, as was mentioned in the case of one individual. That is not good enough. That man is entitled to a fair trail, but he does not give others one. It would probably be wrong to single him out in advance of any charges he may have to answer in future. The fact that people can make millions of pounds out of drug trafficking is surely anathema to all we stand for. That is why this side of the House welcomes Deputy O'Donoghue's excellent Organised Crime (Restraint and Disposal of Illicit Assets) Bill, 1996. It is not good enough to abuse Deputy O'Donoghue for doing his duty. He did what the Minister should have done.
I pay tribute to him for his work in the national interest in assisting a Government which sometimes appears to be spread all over the place in terms of addressing this major problem. It may appear I am doing what I said I would not, politicising the debate, but I am not.
I support much of what was said about law and order. Like other Members, I have taken a strong approach to it over a long period. We need to adopt a double-barrelled approach to the problem, if it is to be dealt with effectively. We need to take a law and order approach which I strongly support because if we do not the most feeble in our society, young children who are preyed upon and induced to take drugs and old people who are afraid to leave their homes, will suffer most. What greater human right is there than the right to life and the peaceful enjoyment of one's home? Supporting a strong law and order approach is consistent with human rights and protecting the feeble and needy members of society.
In tandem with that approach we also need to address the source of social injustice in our society. I am not a bleeding heart politician who will apologise for or exempt anybody from the punishment they might deserve for being involved in crime, I am involved in the community and strongly of the view that a double-barrelled approach, that of law and order and dealing with the source of social injustice in communities, is the most effective way to redress these problems.
There was a time when a Deputy could effect the transfer of a garda, which was a serious abuse of power. However, Members are fearful of speaking their minds and are not prepared to repeat inside the House what they say outside it. Many members of the Garda management are committed to their jobs, but there is a great deal of concern about the effectiveness of the Garda Síochána and we should support its examination, particularly that of the senior Garda management, which is taking place.
There is no point in laying the blame for the problem of the door of the Minster for Justice, that is a cop-out. The Minister and the Government of which I am a Minister of State are primarily responsible for law and order and I accept that responsibility, but those to whom we have given authority, including the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Garda Commissioner, Garda management and staff must be held accountable for the efficient and effective discharge of their responsibilities. Under the Constitution the other arm of Government, the Judiciary, which is independent in the exercise of its duty, must consider its operations and in so far as the Government has a role in the efficient and effective administration of the courts, it must make that arm of Government more effective. I heard a judge commenting on this in the context of successive Governments, but she is part of the judicial wing of successive Governments. If we lay all the blame at the feet of the Minister for Justice, we will do a grave injustice to the memory of Detective Garda McCabe and Veronica Guerin. All we will do is trade untruths. It is time we had the courage to say there are other people who have authority and they must be made account for it. It is time we took back some of the power to this House to manage our affairs. Those of us involved in the community have firsthand knowledge of the problems facing people.
I was shocked by the death of Detective Garda McCabe in the exercise of his duty, but many of those who expressed shock at his death have had a sneaking regard for the IRA down through the years which introduced a level of tolerance of murder, mayhem and violence to our community. Those who have a sneaking regard or gave succour to the IRA must examine their consciences, not only in the context of the murder of Detective Garda McCabe but that of Veronica Guerin because a level of violence has been allowed to increase in our community which has resulted in those unbelievable losses.
The late Veronica Guerin was a friend of my wife and her murder is a personal loss. My wife and Veronica grew up in the same housing estate and played on the same basketball team and members knew Veronica Guerin from coming in and out of this House. If we are to do anything in memory of Detective Garda McCabe and Veronica Guerin, we should tell the truth, that many people who have authority must be made accountable. That includes the Government, but also others.
Unless there is an integrated approach in dealing with law and order, we will fail in that task. The Government and the Minister for Justice seek to adopt an integrated approach in the context of the measures announced and those that will be announced on 25 July. I do not agree with the criticism expressed by Members and others outside the House that we should not wait until 25 July, which is only three weeks from today. The Government announced many measures and it will have more to say on 25 July when it has considered the remaining areas that need to be addressed. It is important to take that breather to ensure that everything is not seen to be a knee jerk reaction.
I am a strong law and order supporter and I do not need to rehearse that argument. In the past three years a good deal of legislation has been passed including the Criminal Justice Act, 1993, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993, the Criminal Procedure Act, 1993, the Criminal Justice Public Order Act, 1993, the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, the Courts and Court Officers Act, 1995, the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Bill, 1996 and the Criminal Law Bill, 1996 currently before the Dáil as well as the measures we are debating today, the motion to approve a Convention on Money Laundering, motion to approve a Drugs Convention, motion to approve a Mutual Assistance Convention and Additional Protocol and the motion to approve Draft Regulations under section 46 (6) of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994.
There is much law in place and more promised. For example, the Government promised to examine the law on bail and to bring forward appropriate proposals. When we have introduced all the law required this House must turn its attention and energies to the substantial breakdown of order generally in society.
Let me give some examples. In all cases it is not a matter of inadequate resources as in most they have been provided. As Deputy Briscoe knows, the Eastern Health Board has devised a plan to introduce community-based drugs treatment centres. Drugs are the cause of most crime in society. Why do people mug others? Usually it is to obtain money to purchase drugs. Yet there is very strong resistance on the part of almost all communities to community-based drugs treatment centres to tackle the drugs problems.
The next question that needs to be posed is: what is the consequence of that resistance? It is that in many churchyards and schoolyards dangerous, lethal needles are abandoned which can be picked up by children. We are not taking measures to support the relevant agencies and authorities to tackle this problem. Sometimes the very people who hold themselves out as the friend of the man in the street, as being concerned for the dreadful conditions in which people live, have not got the guts to give some leadership to the communities they represent or convince them that this type of programme must be positively approached and implemented.
I am sure the Eastern Health Board programme, in isolation, constitutes the solution but it is one attempt in that direction. It should be given a chance so that it can be reviewed or adjusted to ensure maximum effectiveness.
Does the Minister of State think we could bring the Labour Party with us on that proposal?
The Deputy would need to check on his own party first who played on both sides of the fence.
On access to third-level education, the reality is that in parts of the county of Dublin it is approaching 50 per cent while in the inner city — those areas experiencing most of the crime problems, with open drug selling — the percentage is of the order of 15 per cent. Yet we spend in the order of £74,000 annually to keep a child in care and God knows what amount of money to keep people in prison.
In addition, a sum of £5 million was spent recently on refurbishing a flat complex which had fallen into disrepair, but no funds were provided for its continued maintenance. We must find sufficient resources to target those areas and support the Minister for Education in her efforts.
How often have we spoken about estate management but also tolerated the bad practice within Dublin Corporation — there are almost 10,000 flats between the canals — of bad management and bad trade union practices with the result that there is practically no estate management of those flats, where there is breakdown in law and order. If we allow this to continue, as sure as night follows day, that disorder will become imbedded in our community and it will become ever more difficult to redress the problem.
In addition to tackling problems of law and order we must deal with societal injustice. There has been much talk in this House about the need to provide additional prison places. There must be places for those sentenced to their full term. On the other hand, those who do not pose a threat to society should not have to go to prison, we should devise other penalties. For example, the person who does not pay his or her television licence should have their set confiscated. Prisons should not be places one enters without a drugs problem but emerges with one.
Has the need for rehabilitation within our prisons system been addressed? Young mothers regularly plead to have their sons serve their sentence in Cork, anywhere, but not in Mountjoy prison. They tell me their sons never touched drugs before. We need to advise and implement a regime to reform the prison system, beginning with the appointment of an inspector of prisons. We must acknowledge that this problem threatens us all in one way or another, if not mine, other people's children. Unless we address this issue all we are doing is adding something else, in this case prison, which is supposed to be part of the solution, to the problem. That is not bleeding heart politics; it is practical politics.
I was pleased to read the Denham report on the courts. State institutions such as the courts need to be made more efficient. Part of the solution lies in the hands of the judges. Politicians do not always reside in their constituencies but most do and are on call morning, noon and night. Some of us spend a disproportionate amount of our time in the inner city where there is a small electoral turnout, no traditional support for centre parties, no great dividend, but do so out of genuine concern for those communities. I wish the judges would do likewise. I am not attacking judges — this is by way of constructive comment — because I do not believe many judges understand the reality of the problems.
I will give an example. When Dublin Corporation endeavoured to evict drug pushers known to be preying on children in flat complexes — one complex comprised between 300 and 500 flats with a population equivalent to that of a large village or small town in rural Ireland — it came up against a conservative approach by judges who required three or four witnesses. How could the corporation obtain three of four witnesses when people are being intimidated? If judges moved more within communities and saw the effects of crime on people, they would become more pragmatic in addressing the problem. We should adopt the Denham report concept of a courts authority administered by a very hard-nosed chief executive who will not be intimidated by judges. None of us can be judges in our own cause. We need somebody who will be strictly charged with rendering the system efficient, effective, will find the requisite resources in imaginative ways, including the use of some generated by the courts.
There is a need for an overall review of the Garda Síochána. I say to Garda management and the Garda representative bodies, that as we are confronted by a serious general crime problem there is no point in knee-jerk reactions. Nobody wants to denigrate the Garda; we want to boost their morale and to work with them, but all is not well in the force and there is no point in pretending otherwise. Everybody has been saying so sotto voce; it is time it was said openly. We can be proud of most of the operations of the force. We support the Garda in their task and meet representatives regularly. However, there is a need to examine some sections of the force where inefficiencies exist. There is much talk about their pay and conditions, which are determined independently, but we should also examine some of their working conditions, for example, the condition of some of the stations. An improvement in conditions would boost morale.
There is need for us to accurately assess the extent, levels and intensity of the crime problem confronting us, Garda statistics alone are not sufficient. They reflect the crime rate, just as the unemployment statistics reflect the unemployment rate but they do not reflect the prevailing rates or effective prison sentencing. We need to take a more general approach to the publication of crime statistics which incorporates prisons and court sentencing. Some judges are very imaginative in their use of sentencing.
On local development, I am the Minister responsible for local development and I have an integrated plan to tackle disadvantage. It concentrates on employment, education, training, environmental improvements and estate management training for tenants which is very important; tenants should be trained with the Garda Síochána and with the local authorities to take back control of their estates. This plan has been examined by the OECD, warts and all, and it said we not only have a very worthy system which not many Members of this House understand — as it evolves I hope people will understand it — but something we could offer to the rest of Europe as a way of dealing with the breakdown of order and justice. We have not ever at any time in our history been materially so well off, yet we are developing a two-tier society. We must tackle societal injustice effectively as well as taking a strong law and order approach. If we do not do both together we will diminish the effectiveness of our approach to dealing with a serious problem. I hope our approach will be comprehensive and integrated and we will not fear to stand for social justice as well as standing against organised criminals.
For years I have talked in this House about the right of citizens to walk our streets in safety. From time to time we read in the media about the poor attendance in this Chamber when there is an important debate such as we are having today. However not one member of the media is in the press gallery while this debate continues. I hope they are listening in their rooms, because my quarrel is with them. For years I have been portrayed as right wing and as a fascist because I wanted something done about law and order. Last night I watched Derek Davis's programme and was sickened when I heard people like Mr. Duffy speaking, the liberals who opposed me when I spoke about the need to introduce laws and to have places of secure detention for young people, particularly those under the age of 15 when we did not have one secure place of detention. The journalist, Derek Davis, covered the opening of Loughan House for RTE when, for the first time we had a place where we could contain 20 or 30 of the worst young criminals. It was described as a children's prison and as being contrary to human rights. The cost of running the place was enormous and it had one teacher to every five inmates. We had children who had committed the most dreadful crimes in open centres that could not contain them. I was accused of extremism when I went so far as to say parents should be held responsible for the activities of their children. The crimes we are witnessing today are being committed by people who in the 1970s were the youngsters who could not be contained who have now grown into the gunmen of the 1980s and 1990s. I am very frustrated and angry, and the people who criticised me then have the cheek to call for more action now and to ask what is the Government doing.
Successive Governments have been reluctant to take the necessary action to protect our citizens because of pressure from the media. I told the former Taoiseach, Mr. Charles Haughey, we needed in the Department of Justice a person who was not afraid of bad publicity, because we had a fight to fight on behalf of the people. Our citizens cannot walk the streets in safety any more because we have forsaken our responsibility. The record of this House shows that I said that if the State did not act to protect the citizen, subversive organisations would come to their rescue, and this is happening. In my area subversives are deeply involved in some of the concerned parents' groups, and when it comes to election time the subversive elements will remind those people about who looked after them when they were in trouble. When drug dealers are murdered in the streets — I will not mention by whom, although we have a pretty good idea — there is an outcry at people taking the law into their own hands, but the ordinary man and woman in the street thanks God somebody is doing something about the problem. I am so angry, because I do not want that to happen. My compassion for the victim is what makes me feel so strongly on the question of law and order.
Whether we like it or not there is a state of emergency. It is no use saying otherwise. This has happened because people like Vincent Browne, who are always trotted out whenever there is a situation like that created by the dreadful murder of the journalist, Veronica Guerin, have been saying for a long time that criminals are entitled to their civil rights. These murderers and criminals do not recognise other people's civil rights. Why should we recognise theirs? We should open up the Curragh and intern them. People who are caught selling drugs, purchasing drugs, or selling them to get their own free deals should be taken out of circulation. There are about 800 drug pushers in the south inner city of Dublin alone selling 2,500 deals a day, but we are not doing anything about it because we do not have the prison spaces, etc. The people are at the end of their tether. When I suggested holding parents responsible in the 1980s, the newspaper Southside described my ideas as Victorian. I said in this House that the hooligans of the 1970s would be the gunmen of the 1980s and 1990s. I have been proved right.
Deputy Mitchell and I, and other public representatives, met the Dolphin's Barn traders not too long ago, and they told us the most horrifying stories about life in that area of Rialto and Dolphin's Barn. Through the good offices of Deputy Mitchell, the Garda Síochána put in a task force. Only today I spoke to the people again and they told me the task force was good for a few days but then disappeared and the criminals are back again selling all sorts of stolen goods as well as drugs — shoes, clothing of all descriptions — and nobody is doing anything about it.
When confiscating profits, how will we deal with drug barons and criminals who get family members to keep some of the money in their accounts? There is a story in today's evening newspaper about drug criminals who have already transferred assets out of this country since we, in Fianna Fáil, introduced our Bill. That is happening at an ever increasing rate. God knows how they are transferring them. To a large extent I hold some of the building societies who held money for these people responsible. I do not know how they got away with it.
I predict that the next stage in this saga will be the corruption of officials, gardaí, civil servants, judges and possibly politicians. It has happened in other countries such as the United States and Colombia. Why should this country be an exception? Vast sums of money are available and we must deal with that. If we do not recognise that possibility there is no hope for this country over the next 50 years because a totalitarian state will emerge in which nobody wants to live. We have a right to defend our democracy. We thought nothing of introducing internment over the years when the political situation worsened. There are even more grounds for introducing internment to deal with current criminal activity. I urge the Government not to be afraid to take the necessary action.
There is low morale among the Garda and I do not blame them. I would be most unhappy working under conditions where lawyers make all sorts of excuses. There was a law lecturer on the television programme in which Deputy Byrne participated last night. Their job is to defend the criminal at any cost and look for loopholes. We are fighting the lawyers as well as the criminal element in many of these cases.
I was very impressed with that lady's contribution. There are lawyers in this House. The Deputy is standing beside one.
I did not identify that particular lady. I am just talking about some of the lawyers who make a good living from these drug barons while knowing exactly what they are. They may even be advising them on the transfer of assets.
This country is in trouble and we have a serious problem. We must tackle it firmly and show the people that we are determined to do so. It is interesting that throughout this debate not one member of the media has invited me to give an interview. I was always known as the law and order man.
Deputy Mitchell referred to the attempts we are making to open a clinic in the inner city and the opposition which Deputy Byrne, Deputy Mitchell and I have received from some local people. I am sad to say that a member of the Labour Party has not been fulsome in his support. The Labour Party should have been to the fore in doing something to treat young people who are up to their eyes in drugs. I hope the Minister of State, Deputy Burton, will have a word with this person.
I hope the Deputy will have a word with his colleagues in the Blanchardstown and Dublin west area. Their contribution would be appreciated.
I am only concerned about my own constituency. Deputy Mitchell, Deputy Byrne and I have been staunch in our support of action on the drug problem. We have acted as one and I wish there was more cross-party co-operation in other constituencies. However, that is not our problem, I am elected to do a job in my area.
I compliment the Minister for Health on the amount of money he has allocated to combating the drug problem. It is not enough to introduce penalties and lock people up. One must counter the effects of drug abuse. Parents of young people come to us for help to get their children off drugs and we must do so.
I want to see more evictions of drug pushers from corporation complexes. Many years ago Deputy Mitchell and I had a resolution passed by the housing department providing that anyone convicted of selling drugs would be evicted by the corporation and the corporation would be under no obligation to rehouse them. There have been a couple of cases, but it has been difficult to get convictions against some drug pushers.
Night courts should be used for road traffic offences such as driving over the alcohol limit. Community work should be required of those convicted of white collar crime. It could involve building prisons, which we need urgently. It is not enough to say we only need them temporarily. We must do something about this problem.
Deputy O'Donoghue said recently that organised crime is concerned with the illicit accumulation of wealth. He said that the death of Veronica Guerin gives rise to a question which we in this House and this country generally must answer. He asked whether we are prepared to continue to tolerate the unhindered existence in our society of people who have accumulated vast and unexplained wealth from criminal activity. That is the kennel of the problem. Whether we are in Government or in Opposition we must unite as one assembly in the common fight against drug abuse. If we do not, we will have failed everyone.
The media also have a role to play. Politicians should not be intimidated by the media if labelled right-wing or fascist. I hate these terms and I do not fit into either category. I believe in the protection of our people and I have spoken in my constituency about the rights of people.
Every meeting in our constituency which is attended by Deputy Byrne, Deputy Mitchell and myself has law and order on the agenda. At residents association meetings people are crying out, not just about drugs but also about burglaries and addicts stealing to feed their habits. We hear them; the Government and the civil servants who advise the Ministers must hear them and enact laws to deal with the problem. If a measure cannot be implemented because it is unconstitutional, we must find a way to pass the necessary law.
We are told that certain things can only be done if a state of emergency is declared. A state of emergency exists and everybody in this country is saying it. For God's sake let us do something about it and be seen to do so. We have worked and tried so hard. If we fail now, we will have let everyone down.
I hope that politicians will show courage, introduce the necessary legislation and ignore the so-called lily-white liberals. They are not liberals but would rather see people suffer than do something about these murderers and criminals who openly flaunt their wealth. It is a horrifying indictment of us all that they have been able to do this for so long. Life has become unliveable in every section of society, but particularly in the poorest sections who are the greatest victims and suffer the most. We have a responsibility to these people. Let us hope we can do something about it now.
Two of my constituency colleagues, Deputy Briscoe and Deputy Mitchell, are present. I confirm Deputy Briscoe's comment that we work in difficult circumstances and with unity of purpose. Treatment services is one of the key and most politically difficult areas in which we involve ourselves.
If we are to be successful we must tackle the accumulated wealth of the drug barons. They are not all huge barons; many of them have come from the ghetto themselves. They lived in poverty in inner city flat complexes, but now act as a shining example of how one can make money from crime. This has led to a new generation coming on stream in their hundreds. The obvious signs of the wealth accumulated from drug dealing attract them to gain a foothold and wealth and get out of the ghetto.
If a constitutional referendum on the right to private property is needed to freeze and seize the assets of drug barons, I will be happy to support it. If legislation adopted by the House on freezing the assets of so called drug barons has not been properly thought through, they will use the best brains in the legal profession to test its constitutionality. That would be a setback to the democratic process.