Firearms (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1998: Committee and Remaining Stages.

SECTION 1.

Acting Chairman

Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, are out of order.

It is extraordinary that thoughtful, deliberate and well-advised amendments have been ruled out of order and we have not been given any reason for this. Perhaps you could assist us, a Cheann Comhairle, now that you have returned, because they appear to be within the rules of the House. The three Opposition parties pooled their brains to devise these amendments to remove parts of the Bill which we found offensive, only to have them ruled out. Perhaps you can advise us why we are in this predicament.

These amendments were carefully considered but in accordance with Standing Order No. 117 and long-standing practice, amendments Nos. 1 and 4 were adjudged out of order as being in conflict with the principle of the Bill as read a Second Time. Amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 5 were consequential amendments and also fall to be disallowed. The Deputies can achieve the purpose of their amendments by opposing the relevant provisions of the Bill.

We have the difficulty that there are subsections which we find acceptable and we will not have the opportunity to differentiate between these and the parts we find unacceptable.

We cannot go into the technical reasons for disallowing the amendments now. If the Deputy has a difficulty my office is available to explain why the amendments are not in order.

(Mayo): I move amendment No. 3a:

In page 3, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following subsection:

"(4) The Minister shall put in place appropriate procedures to ensure that a firearm in respect of which he has issued a certificate or licence to a person ordinarily resident outside the State is inspected against the details on the certificate or licence which has issued in respect of the said firearm, on the arrival of the licence at any port, airport or point of entry in the State and the same procedure shall apply on the licencee's departure at any port, airport or point of exit in the State.".

Like Deputy Stagg, we found three subsections of section 1 quite acceptable. You said, a Cheann Comhairle, that we could achieve the same result by opposing certain provisions but we could only do that if we were allowed to oppose individual subsections rather than the section in toto. We would like to support certain subsections because they meet some of what we seek to achieve, so in voting against the section we would strike down provisions we want to retain.

This amendment endeavours to ensure that the laxity which has applied up to now as regards bringing arms into the country will no longer prevail, so that as and from the enactment of this legislation there will be stringent regulations concerning the bringing of firearms into the State by people who are not ordinarily resident here. Until now a person coming to Ireland for a shooting holiday could enter and leave the jurisdiction through any port or airport without being subject to a check as to whether he or she brought in a firearm. There was also no check as to whether the firearm conformed to the licence or permit granted. There was a major hullabaloo a few years ago about rod licences but here we are not talking about fishing rods but lethal weapons. There has been such laxity and non-implementation of rules in this area that it borders on criminal carelessness. This amendment provides for a cross-check at the point of entry between the document authorising a person to bring a firearm into this jurisdiction and the gun itself, to see whether the two conform. Of equal importance, there will be a similar check when the person leaves the jurisdiction to ensure first, that the weapon also leaves the jurisdiction, and second, that the weapon leaving is the one which was licensed to be brought in.

I support the amendment for the reasons stated. It is self-evident that there should be a requirement that the weapons are checked against the licence at the point of entry. I do not blame the Minister for the old regime because he inherited it but I am not satisfied with his reaction to it. Under the previous regulations a person coming from abroad received a licence for one year from the day he received it. That effectively gave him a licence over two licensing periods because it did not have to be renewed in July, as a licence held by an Irish person must be. This meant the person could bring his gun into Ireland, leave it here, return at any time during the year and be licensed to use it. I appreciate that the Bill gives the Minister power to do something about this but the provision is unclear — it says the Minister "may" rather than "shall" make inquiries, and it would be more satisfactory if it were specified what the inquiries might be and whether they will concern the entry of the gun and the method of ensuring the gun leaves the country when the person does. Perhaps the Minister is happy to accept this amendment.

I support the other speakers. This is a reasonable proposal and in view of the considerable public concern and unease about the Bill, the Minister should at a minimum accept this amendment.

It is extraordinary that Opposition amendments have been ruled out of order even though they do not involve a financial charge. As Opposition Members we have a right to put down amendments as we consider appropriate and those amendments should be allowed to be debated in the House, as far as that is practicable — I do not insist that the Minister should always accept them but I insist on my right, as a Member of this House, to be heard. It is neither fair nor of value to rule out amendments in this way and to refuse to allow them to be debated.

This amendment outlines certain safeguard and procedures which the Minister should accept. As he said earlier, this is an emergency Bill dealing with an issue which is difficult and could even be dangerous if not handled properly, but it has not been given enough thought. The additional safeguards proposed in the amendment can only be of assistance in tracking firearms brought into this country.

We live in a more dangerous world than 25 or 30 years ago, although when the Firearms Act was introduced in 1925, it was a time of instability. In that regard the provisions of the Bill were difficult to get right, although it was achieved. Our difficulty is that those provisions have not been enforced fairly across the board. This amendment provides a possibility to ensure that firearms which are brought in from outside are subject to safeguards and that the public are given the protection to which they are entitled. Under this Bill, Irish citizens will be subject to far more stringent regulation than overseas visitors. This position is fundamentally wrong.

This amendment deals with one aspect of containing risks as regards people who are not known in this country and who come from jurisdictions with very different attitudes towards the ownership of guns. The amendment is the minimum we should consider. It is well thought out and must be included in the Bill if it is to have any credibility.

I also put down this amendment with my Opposition colleagues. There is no control on people arriving and leaving the country with a firearm. They are not being checked going out to ensure that they bring the firearm out of the country. It is a back door method of importing guns.

I will give the Minister an example of what happened in County Kerry. Two individuals came over from England with two pellet guns. They went shooting in County Kerry, missed the train back and had to rush for a subsequent train to get to the airport. They left one of the pellet guns behind and did not think any more of it until five years later when the gardaí approached the uncle of one of the individuals with whom they had stayed. He was asked for a licence for the gun and he told them it was not his but belonged to his nephew. The gardaí eventually contacted the nephew and clarified this.

It is ludicrous that someone can bring a gun into the State, yet there is no check to ensure it is brought out. I am sure there are numerous examples of the same occurrence. There is no control. This amendment is necessary if the Bill is to be passed. This Bill is a liberalisation of the law and should not be passed. However, if the Minister is intent on pushing the Bill through, this amendment must be made. Either the controls are not there or they are not being enforced. This has been a problem for numerous Ministers and is not recent. Now that we are introducing a Bill which deals with visitors, this amendment should be accepted.

It is important that there is more control over visitors. Many of them do not give a damn what they shoot — protected species or not. The Minister must regulate guides who show people around. They should be prosecuted if a tourist shoots a protected species or breaks the law. People are exporting swans or shooting pheasants at the side of the road. This is not right and should not happen. They have no regard for Irish wildlife. There is no game or wildlife in some countries. In Italy, posses are out looking for rabbits to shoot because they have annihilated everything in their path.

The same will happen here if we do not have proper controls in place. Sadly this Bill will only encourage more of these people to come to this country and blatantly slaughter our wildlife. I ask the Minister to accept this amendment.

Deputy Naughten raised an aspect of this Bill about which I am extremely concerned. I wish to encourage visitors and sportsmen to come here to enjoy themselves. However, we must be careful about the type of sportsmen we encourage. Deputy Naughten outlined some of the activities in which these people are involved and scenes from the wild west are nothing compared to what some people have witnessed. Drinking parties leave guns lying around late at night and early morning in woodland and on river banks.

I am aware of parties of ten or 15 visitors, two of whom may carry gun licences, who share guns. There is no control over or restriction of this. Anyone applying for a gun licence here must have the signatures of a garda and a landowner who gives them a right to shoot on his or her land only. However, visitors can fax their application for a gun licence. They are not vetted and there is no background knowledge of their experience with guns.

In my county, we had a tremendous problem with continental fishermen who cleaned our lakes of stock. The best sportspeople in that regard were English fishermen who had a high regard for fishing rights. All fish, apart from prize fish, were returned to the lakes. The continental visitors brought fridge freezers and blackmailed guest houses into giving them freezer space.

These are not the type of people we want. They will kill our stocks of wildlife and leave nothing for anyone to enjoy. A short-term gain will have long-term consequences. A fishing rod is a harm-less implement but a gun is lethal. We must be careful. People will spread the message that they had a great time here with wild parties and late night shooting.

We want to encourage all aspects of tourism, including shooting in a controlled manner. However, we must ensure there is strict legislation so that if visitors commit a misdemeanour they can be traced easily to pay damages or whatever. In one case, a farmer found one of his cows dead and no one was accountable. I understand where the Minister is coming from but I ask him to think twice. Rushed legislation is never good legislation.

I support the amendment. It is important to control the level of firearms because the availability of the means of committing suicide is a factor in its level. It is well researched, especially in the United States, that the availability of firearms can have an effect on the level of suicides by shooting. I ask the Minister to ensure that the strictest regulations are made to ensure the control of firearms. In doing so, we must recognise our major suicide problem. Last year the rate increased by 14 per cent, to 433, more than one person per day. We must introduce a suicide prevention programme and controlling the means of suicide should form part of that. Control of firearms is one way to control the means of suicide. In the United States one of the main ways males commit suicide is by the use of firearms, because of their availability. Strict guidelines on the maintenance and use of firearms when granting a licence would play a small part in reducing the suicide rate.

I do not propose to accept this amendment. The principle and focus of the Bill is deliberately narrow in that it is concerned with the limitations and restrictions that apply to the consideration of an application for a firearm certificate. It is also a temporary measure which is intended to expire within 12 months.

The essence of the Deputy's proposal is more permanent and is, therefore, not suitable for an emergency interim measure such as this. Although I see some sense in the substance of the proposal, it is a substantive proposal that would require consideration by the review group. The full implementation of the procedure suggested by the Deputy would require the imposition of entry and exit checks for firearms brought in and out of the country by tourist shooters at all ports and airports. That would involve considerable administrative and resource difficulties.

It must also be noted that such persons would have been the subject of consideration when their firearm certificate applications were being processed. At the same time, the idea of spot checks has some merit, but I would want the expert review group to give it full consideration. I would particularly want the Garda authorities, who would have to implement such procedures, to examine the proposal. There are implications for them in terms of manpower and so on. I am not convinced it would be necessary or appropriate to establish a statutory basis for the implementation of such procedures, particularly in a temporary measure such as this Bill. Even if they are considered worthwhile, following their full consideration, an administrative basis for their implementation could be sufficient.

There have been suggestions to the effect that we are liberalising the law. At times I wondered whether contributors were being deliberately mischievous or whether they simply did not read the legislation as presented to the House. I again stress that the Bill does not liberalise the law. Non-resident shooters will be subject to any checks considered necessary to ascertain the application is bona fide and there is no good reason not to grant the firearm certificate. The measures in section 2(5) and (6) considerably strengthen existing controls on tourist shooters. The Minister may revoke a certificate if he or she has reason to believe the holder presents a danger to the public safety and to the peace. This power was not clearly defined in the Firearms Act, 1925. The Minister may also attach conditions to a certificate. The Bill, therefore, augments existing controls on firearms. I disabuse Members of the notion that the legislation lacks credibility or that it will liberalise the law. That is not true.

; It is true.

In its judgment, the High Court decided the procedures as operated did not satisfy the statutory obligations.

That is the procedures, not the law.

If the same procedures satisfy the emergency legislation being brought forward——

The law is being diluted.

——and if additional restrictions are being included in the legislation that existed prior to this, how can anyone claim the law is being liberalised?

It is being liberalised.

It defies logic——

The Minister is ignoring logic.

——and common sense and amounts to a nonsense. The procedures which existed have served us well but, like it or not, the court judgment found they did not adequately comply with the obligations imposed by the Firearms Acts.

The procedures were a nonsense.

The procedures, which Deputy Stagg described as nonsense, have been operated under various Governments, including one of which he was a member, for many years. This legislation is an interim response to a serious matter which has placed the future of a very significant sector of the tourist industry in some doubt.

When the review group has made its recommendations, substantive legislative and administrative changes will follow. Safety and security considerations are uppermost in the provisions of the Bill and in the substantive changes that will inevitably follow the review group's consideration of the matter. The group will take on board the views of those with an interest in this important subject. It is my intention that it will conduct a root and branch review of all aspects of our firearms legislation. It will consider the broad implications of the court judgment on the legislation and the procedures for the granting of firearm certificates to residents and non-residents alike. It will consult a wide range of interested parties, including the National Association of Regional Game Councils as well as tourist, wildlife and conservation interests. The group will receive and consider submissions dealing with the legislative and administrative changes required in the areas of wildlife shooting and firearms regulation generally. Naturally it will give careful consideration to the safety and security implications of any proposed changes in this very sensitive area. The conclusions and recommendations of the review group will not be allowed to gather dust, they will form the basis of the legislation that will follow. That is a significant step forward.

With regard to the concerns of Members about checks on foreigners, a European firearms pass will be required from all applicants from the member states of the EU that issued the document. This pass is issued by the authorities to persons who are legally in possession of firearms and who wish to travel with them to other EU states. The pass contains information on the holder's identity and all firearms held by him or her.

People from the United States can come here, buy a machine gun and get a licence the following day.

If the application is successful, the pass is amended to show the date during which the holder may enter the State and specifying the firearms he or she may bring. Residents of other states will be required to provide sufficient documentation to show they satisfy the requirements of the Act. Due to the differences in firearms legislation between various states, this documentation can take a variety of forms. Firearm permits and hunting licences will be sought if they are issued by the applicant's home country. The Bill entitles both me and the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands to make any inquiries considered appropriate to the term and suitability of an applicant.

Notices are issued to hunters setting out the situation in relation to the Wildlife Act, 1976.

What can one do about it if they do not abide by them?

In accordance with a form they complete, visitors are obliged to provide very detailed information about their comings and goings. Deputy Stagg is right in saying that one can legislate but one cannot be absolutely assured in every single case that the legislation will be obeyed.

There is no sanction.

The legislation being put forward in the House does not liberalise the law on firearms which, incidentally, are among the most restrictive in Europe. There are very good reasons for that.

Deputy Neville referred to the possibility of firearms being used in tragic cases of suicide and this matter was also raised by his Party Leader on the Order of Business last week. The question is whether an opportunity will be taken to see if any improvements could be made through this Bill in the context of the alarming and disturbing growth in the level of suicide.

The principle of the Bill is deliberately narrow in its focus. It is confined to the limitations and restrictions for granting firearm certificates and hunting licences to non nationals visiting as tourists. The Deputy will be interested to know that the report of the national task force on suicide, which was launched earlier in the year by my colleague, the Minister Health and Children, Deputy Cowen, called for the relevant authorities to produce and make available for distribution a code of practice for the safe storage and disposal of firearms. While such a code of practice has been produced by the Garda authorities for distribution to Irish shooters, and is in the course of being revised and updated, no similar code is distributed to shooter tourists. In light of this, I have asked my officials to produce a similar code in consultation with the Garda authorities for distribution to visitors as soon as the reissuing of firearms certificates commences.

That is as far and as well as I can put it. Suggestions to the effect that the law on firearms and the issuing of certificates and hunting licences are being liberalised are wide of the mark.

(Mayo): This is an appalling performance by the Minister. I am extremely surprised that he has allowed himself to be stampeded into this by his colleague, Bord Fáilte and vested interest groups. The figure of £21 million is spurious. As Deputy Stagg said in his contribution, one only has to do simple maths to see that the figures do not add up.

Seven thousand pounds for two days.

(Mayo): Absolutely. There is an inconsistency in the figures. Just over ten days ago, the first press statement put out jointly by the Minister and the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, had two contradictions within it. One, from the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, said 4,000 people, while the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands referred to 3,000. That was repeated today so, obviously, there was no co-ordination.

From the point of view of someone who vaunted himself in Opposition as being the Minister for zero tolerance, it is appalling to bring about a fundamental relaxation in gun laws, of all things, which will allow a dilution of laws that have stood us in good stead. The Minister will be singularly culpable if anything disastrous happens, as could well occur in the kind of global village the world has become.

It is there in black and white. The Minister is saying that notwithstanding anything in sections 4 or 8 of the Firearms Act, 1925, he will dilute the legislation that has stood us in good stead. Section 4 of the Firearms Act, 1925, states:

Before granting a firearm certificate to any person under this Act the superintendent of the Garda Síochána or the Minister (as the case may require) shall be satisfied that such person——

(a) has a good reason for requiring the firearm in respect of which the certificate is applied for, and

(b) can be permitted to have in his possession, use, and carry a firearm or ammunition without danger to the public safety or to the peace, and

(c) is not a person declared by this Act to be disentitled to hold a firearm certificate.

Section 8 of the Act sets down the categories of people who would be disentitled, including any person under the age of 15, of intemperate habits, of unsound mind, who has a criminal conviction, who is subject to the supervision of the police, or is bound to keep the peace.

The Minister is effectively watering this down. One only has to look at the wording in section 1(1) of the Bill:

the Minister, before granting a firearm certificate to a person not ordinarily resident in the State, shall be of the opinion that the application is bona fide and that there is no good reason to refuse to grant the certificate.

How will he form the opinion on whether the application is bona fide?

If I come into the country from Brussels and apply for a firearm certificate for five days shooting rights in County Mayo, what check will be carried out on me in this jurisdiction by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform under the provisions of the Firearms Act, 1925? What consultation was there with the Garda Síochána? Was there any meeting with the Garda Commissioner as to whether the Garda authorities are satisfied with this relaxation?

The Minister has vaunted the European pass as one of the qualifications for getting a certificate. Has he read the judgment of Mr. Justice Quirke when he spoke about such passes in the most disparaging terms? Such a pass is obtainable on request by citizens of many European states which have not even enacted firearms legislation and where hunting licences are readily available without any investigation.

This is the documentation the Minister is talking about as allowing somebody to come here and qualify under our existing stringent legislation. Section 1 is a dilution of the existing law — a watery, imprecise requirement which is both ineffectual and a nonsense. It is a fig leaf to provide 3,000 or 4,000 people with firearms certificates and save the tourist season that is under threat because the Minister will not set out a simple questionnaire that we sought as a means of establishing whether somebody is qualified to hold such a licence.

Section 1(3)(b) states:

In any case, any other permit, licence, authorisation or other document duly issued by an appropriate authority or body outside the State which the Minister considers acceptable.

Why has the Minister not inserted the words, "any other document authorising the carrying of a firearm"? "Any other document" could be a television licence, a dog licence or a dipping certificate. I have never come across more rushed, ineffective and careless legislation than this. It should state in clear and unequivocal terms "any other document authorising the carrying of a firearm".

On Second Stage I said that this would be open to a constitutional challenge and it is. We are enacting legislation which sets down so-called specific requirements for non-residents. It could be a non-resident Irish person. An Irish person working in Brussels could decide to come to this jurisdiction and avail of the new lax regime the Minister is introducing. However, the same person's brother who is domiciled in this jurisdiction would have to be rigidly bound by the provisions of the Firearms Act, 1925. The Minister is introducing two different regimes, not alone between European and Irish citizens but between Irish citizens living in this jurisdiction and those living abroad. The Minister can rest assured this will be challenged and it will be struck down. What Deputies Stagg, McManus, Naughten and I have said will be fully vindicated. The Minister is going down the wrong road in this regard. It is a foolish, careless and dangerous road.

I am disappointed the Minister has rejected this reasonable amendment, particularly when our other amendments were ruled out of order. He indicated his belief that it is reasonable but he said it is not required because this is emergency legislation and the matter will be considered in the substantial Bill. However, this is not a temporary measure. The Bill has an automatic life of one year and the Minister may extend it for another year, which is a long time. Many people could get into this country with guns in that period and use them to destroy wildlife in the way described on Second Stage. I would like strong restrictions so that we could vet and corral these people when they come into this country to stop that happening.

The Minister keeps repeating ad nauseam that he is not liberalising the law when he is. He is deliberately reducing the qualifications for people who do not live in Ireland to get a gun licence. If he is not doing that, he does not need to do anything because the rules for getting a gun licence are in the Firearms Act and they are clear and onerous, as described by the judge. The Minister is removing these strong safety measures and accepting in their stead a pass from an authority.

I take the example of a US citizen who can buy anything from a machine gun to a hand gun by walking into a shop. He will automatically get licences for up to 30 weapons at a time. In most states his criminal record is not required to be checked, yet he has a pass. He can come here, present his pass and get a licence to bring guns into the country. I know one American who came here and brought in 24 guns. I am sure the Department is aware of him as well.

The Minister is deliberately differentiating between the tough regime which exists for issuing licences to Irish citizens and the softer regime for people from other countries. I know he is not confused because he is intelligent and clever and a capable lawyer and he is not confusing me. However, he is trying to confuse the House by saying he will now have a regime for issuing licences where previously no regime existed. The law was ignored by people with whom I and the Minister were in Government and Governments the Minister supported when he was not in office and anyone who applied for a licence got it. That was in breach of the law and the High Court has established that.

I welcome the fact the Minister is putting a régime in place because that is an improvement. However, in doing so, he is diluting the law so that it will be legal for people from Italy who shoot songbirds and people from France who shoot protected species, both the fur and feathered variety, on a regular basis to get licences. That differentiation in our law will be seen by the courts to be unfair, unbalanced and probably unconstitutional. I will support the organisation to which my local game club is affiliated, NARGC, if it takes the Minister to court on this law and I urge it to do so. The Minister will use his majority in the House to bludgeon this measure through. I will speak later about other provisions in section 1 which are not directly related to this amendment.

The Minister said that even if this amendment was passed, he would not have the resources to police the holding of guns. We cannot afford not to have the resources to do that. We must provide the resources to the gardaí to ensure that they can do proper checks on guns held in this country. The Minister is encouraging people to flout the law by saying he would not have the resources to do the checks which this amendment would require. Resources will be available to record and check guns held by our citizens, but a handful of people — 4,000 a year if the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is right and 3,000 a year if the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands is right — will be entitled to bring guns into this country and sell them illegally. Most of the other things they do are illegal as well but there is no sanction against them. The Minister has not dealt with the fact that these people have breached the Wildlife Act. Sanctions have not been imposed on them because they do not live in this jurisdiction.

There will now be two forms of gun registration, of which one will not require records to be kept. The gun will be allowed into the country without being checked at the point of entry and there will not be checks to ensure it is taken out again. I am sure a trade will develop in illegal Italian, French and German guns. It is unlikely a trade will develop in British guns because they are so expensive.

I ask the Minister to examine his attitude to this two year Bill. My experience is that if it is possible to let a Bill run for two years because of the pressure on the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for space for other Bills, it will be allowed to run for two years and an order will be made for the second year. I ask the Minister to examine the consequences of doing so and to stop telling us he is not diluting the law. It is patently obvious that the purpose of this Bill is to dilute the law so that the Minister can give licences to foreigners to come to Ireland. If that is not the case, why is he not diluting the law or making the same rules for Irish citizens? The list of people who are exempted from getting gun licences will not be included in the new regulations because the Minister says he has no way of checking it. He is diluting the law and introducing a two way system, one for Irish citizens and one for non-resident people who wish to come here. I look forward to the Minister's response.

I am disappointed the Minister will not accept this important amendment. Without it, the Bill would be more aptly called the cowboy liberalisation Bill because it encourages people to come here and flout the law. We have no control at the point of entry, while these people are in this country or on when they leave it. They can bring in whatever guns they wish and shoot whatever they like while they are here and then leave it behind or sell it before they go. We are talking about approximately 15,000 to 16,000 guns which will not be regulated and will be freely available. The 4,000 people who come here every year each bring three or four guns with them. No one has any control over whether they leave the State.

Gardaí can guarantee the credentials of a resident but there are no controls on anyone coming into the country because they are not checked in this State or in the vast majority of EU member states. There are four EU member states in which there are no licensing requirements for firearms.

The Bill will give foreigners similar liberties here. Non-nationals can get a gun licence abroad without requiring any credentials and bring them in here and use them freely.

The Minister talked about the restrictions in the Bill, but it will encourage an abuse of the law as stated by the other speakers. The Minister has been forced into this position by his ministerial colleague. In Opposition the Minister spoke of the need to be strong on crime, for which I commend him, but he has failed in that regard since he came into office. He is liberalising the legislation on firearms in this country for non-nationals. They can bring in more than 500 rounds of ammunition, yet a national can only hold up to 50 rounds of ammunition. Instead of liberalising the law, we should restrict it for foreigners because there are fewer controls in other EU member states. We should make the law more restrictive by ensuring guides are licensed. They should be liable to prosecution in the same way as the individual involved if they are caught doing anything illegal, whether shooting a protected species or whatever. There is mass slaughter of wildlife here. Licensing guides would bring in revenue which could be used to protect wild fowl and ensure there would be a greater number of them in future.

As a result of this legislation and the lack of resources being put into gun clubs, in a few years time we will end up like Italy, with ten out of 12 people running after one rabbit. All the wildlife in Italy has been shot. That will happen here if the Minister does not restrict the current practice. I am disappointed he will not accept this amendment. He agrees with it in principle and he should reconsider it between now and Report Stage and accept it.

I, too, am disappointed the Minister has refused to accept this amendment. I am also disappointed with the line he has tried to sell us, that he is not liberalising the law. I expected more of him. I would have preferred if he had been honest and said it is expedient that he creates a two tier system and that Irish people will be at a disadvantage compared to overseas visitors. That would have been a more honest approach, but he has consistently denied the fact that he is weakening the current law and, in effect, liberalising it for overseas visitors, who will be treated differently from Irish citizens under the law.

Many people who follow this debate will find it hard to stomach that the Minister, who made his reputation on calling for zero tolerance, saying he would ensure the law is always held in high regard and that there should be compliance with the law on a mass scale, is putting himself in a position where he is likely to be back in court and again found in the wrong. I would have thought once is enough. The judgment of 12 June related to a range of subjects and, on the specific question of the assessment carried out in respect of overseas visitors bringing in firearms, it states that the procedures adopted by the Minister and his Department are not in accordance with the law.

If zero tolerance means anything, it means ensuring everybody is the same before the law. We cannot have a system upheld in our courts whereby people who live abroad, Irish or not, can easily get access to a firearm and bring it in here to use for sport or recreation. That is an untenable situation for any Minister, but particularly for one who places such virtue on the principle of the fundamental importance of the law. He is changing the law to make it more liberal for particular individuals who live overseas and no one can say otherwise. He may say he is not doing that, but it is clear he is; if he was not we would not be having this debate and there would not be a Bill under consideration.

The Minister said he was unable to accept this amendment because of a lack of resources. I put it to him that under section 1(4) which states "The Minister may make such inquiries as he or she considers appropriate as to the suitability of any applicant" he is putting all the responsibility on the Department to do the donkey work, that of making the necessary inquiries to determine whether somebody is suitable. Why should the applicant not provide the necessary information and the evidence required by the Department before a licence is granted? Under the approach adopted in the Bill the Department will have to carry out the necessary checks and balances to trace the information required. Who will it approach? I presume it will contact the police in other countries, the police who the Minister said were unable to give satisfactory guarantees in respect of people coming here. How will that system work? It will create problems for the Department and the Minister will have to depend on the source of information which he said could not provide satisfactory guarantees. The responsibility in this regard must lie with the applicant. Nobody is forcing anyone to come to Ireland. Strenuous efforts are being made in the Department to stop people coming here. If they come here fleeing from persecution, they are refused the right to work, to dignity and to independence, but those who come here with money in their pockets are given immunity. They can bring weapons in here that can kill humans as well as bird life, but the checks and balances we expect as of right and that apply to our citizens, who are no more venal than people in any other European country or elsewhere, do not apply to visitors from other countries.

We are nearing the point where we have lost the run of ourselves in respect of tourism. We must establish fundamental protections that apply in any area of tourism. I cannot think of any area more fundamental than this because it relates to weapons that can kill. I pay tribute to the Fine Gael Deputies who are primarily responsible for this amendment. Deputy Stagg also played a part in drawing up this carefully phrased amendment. If accepted, it would send out an important signal that we will not provide a haven or wide open spaces where people can misbehave as they choose and not act in accordance with the best standards and practice in relation to wildlife, that we will set down the parameters for conduct and put in place the necessary controls to ensure those are adhered to.

In Opposition the Minister made many speeches to the effect that zero tolerance is about ensuring that the law is upheld in respect of aspects of law breaking, which individually do not constitute major criminal acts, to ensure there will be less major crime as a result of a general standard of good behaviour. In this instance, the Minister is enabling bad behaviour. He is providing for it in ensuring that overseas visitors do not have to prove anything, as far as I can see, except that they can apply for a licence. Where there is a difficulty the onus will be on the Department to ferret out the details and chase the police in Belgium, the US or wherever to find out about the person. At what stage will that be done? Will it be when it is too late? People were shocked by the laxity which pervaded the Department which was evident in the judgment.

I give no excuses for any Government because it is clear it is not a practice which lies solely at this Minister's door. We all recognise that and we do not need to be told. However, it is the Minister's responsibility to deal with it now and not have to face a judge at some future time to argue that it is right to treat Irish citizens who live here differently and to discriminate against them as in this Bill. Will the Minister reconsider this amendment?

I appeal to the Minister, who is a reasonable man who takes his position extremely seriously, to listen to what is being said with sincerity on this side of the House. I believe he is acting under pressure from Bord Fáilte. Bord Fáilte is reckless in its claims about the benefit to this country of this type of tourism. I will not decry Bord Fáilte because it has done an excellent job in promoting Irish tourism worldwide, but it sometimes gets it wrong. It is getting it seriously wrong here in attracting coarse fishermen from the Continent, to which I referred in my last contribution, to the extent that the coarse stocks were nearly wiped out in the general area of my constituency, the catchment area of the Erne waterways. The stocks were practically wiped out by irresponsible continental fishermen arriving with fridge-freezers, cleaning out the stocks of eel and perch, and bringing them home and making a profit on their holidays. Legislation had to be introduced to curtail this activity. The Minister is now introducing legislation to make it a free for all, to do in the game shooting area exactly what was done in the coarse fishing area. The stocks will be wiped out.

The Minister should place an embargo on new licences for visitors for 12 months or two years. Genuine people are concerned with protecting wildlife and increasing the stocks of wildlife will breathe a sigh of relief and nothing will be lost.

However, everything will be lost if the Minister rushes this Bill through the House tonight. He will make it easy for people, of whose background we have little knowledge, to come to Ireland, get guns and shoot willy-nilly at anything which comes in their path.

The dangers of this practice has been well debated. I accept what Deputy Stagg stated, that the Minister intends to review it in 12 months but that it will drift to two years. The Minister will be aware that, with the amount of legislation from his Department which is backed up waiting to be introduced to this House, that review could be in three or four years. When the Minister gets around to it, all will be lost.

I have met tourists who come here for the shooting season and they are responsible people. However, once the word gets out, as it did to the continental fishermen, it will be a different matter. The English fishermen are gentlemen and they always respect the fish stocks and ensure they play their part in maintaining those stocks. No doubt excellent sportsmen come here, but what if the message gets out that it is easy to get a gun licence in Ireland, that people should come over for a wild weekend party, drink plenty of booze and hand around the guns? If a party of ten people comes here and two members have gun licences, can the Minister tell me who will use the guns? Are people restricted from shooting during the hours of darkness? I am aware of high-powered battery lamps being used to spotlight wildlife. The danger to farm animals, farmers tending their stock or anybody walking around the countryside whenever the shooting takes place must be taken into account. There are responsible people from foreign gun clubs who come here, but this Bill will open an avenue to the type of people we do not want. Bord Fáilte will be negligent if it forces the Minister into this and encourages him to introduce legislation from which we will not gain any great reward.

Will the Minister reconsider the Bill, withdraw it and introduce it at a later stage when he has properly amended it? This is the daftest Bill to be brought before this House. I agree with all the previous speakers, every one of whom made valid points.

Deputy Boylan spoke about Bord Fáilte and I am sure it is playing a major part in advocating this Bill.

I doubt it.

If Bord Fáilte is involved, it will probably count the guns and dead animals and use the numbers at the end of the year to say there were so many visitors to this country. That is the way Bord Fáilte operates.

I am totally opposed to this Bill. When we see how violent society has become and what has happened in America in recent months, where young children of 12 and 13 brought guns into schools and shot their colleagues and teachers, we should tighten up the law rather than relax it.

There cannot be a two-tier system. There are too many of them already. This Bill is dangerous. If visitors, about whom we know nothing, know it is easy to bring guns into this country, a business will be set up to sell on imported arms to people here. The Minister must remember that there are enough criminals here who can get arms and murder people without people coming from other parts of the world giving them more powerful guns and weapons. The Minister should accept the amendment tabled by many Deputies.

Like Deputy Boylan, I see visitors regularly because I come from a tourist town. There are two things people hate about the tourist season. They hate to see American drivers. I assure the Minister, between now and the end of the summer, two or three people will be killed in my constituency with these fellows driving on the wrong side of the road. Such people are brought to court the following morning and fined and that is the last we hear of it. The other people we hate to see arrive are those who, on a fine morning at 6 a.m. or late in the evening, get out of their cars to go into hotels in the west looking like US Army men with all their equipment and guns. It is dangerous and off-putting and I am very worried about it. For many years people have been complaining about the way these people hunt. They shoot anything which moves or flies, be it a pigeon or whatever. If the Minister put his head above ground they would take it off too.

The Deputy might not be sorry.

The Minister would keep his head down because these fellows do not have much respect for birds, life or Ministers.

This amendment was tabled by reasonable people and was carefully thought out. I ask the Minister to reconsider it. I know he said he would look at it in two years but he and I know what will happen. It will be addressed by ministerial order. It will not be looked at again and this legislation will be in place for the next 20 years.

We should send out the law and order message. I will support the Minister in sending out that message. Like many others, the Minister laughed at me when he was on this side of the House——

——when I asked the House to put gardaí on the River Shannon. I believed there was a need for law and order and that criminals had to be dealt with. We should not send out the message that we want foreigners to come here with guns. Some will seek to create a market in guns. There are always such people. I hope the Minister accepts the amendment.

To say the least, this has been an interesting discussion. It is only a short step from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some of the contributors would have been hired as scriptwriters for "The Alamo". The liberal scenario painted by some Members is as fanciful as it is nonsensical. The law is not being liberalised under the provisions of this legislation.

On a point of order, in saying the law is not being liberalised the Minister is misleading the House.

That is not a point of order. The Deputy should, please, allow the Minister to continue.

Will he allow me to intervene?

The Deputy will have an opportunity to do so when the Minister completes his contribution.

What he said was outrageous.

Think about the General.

I am trying to deal with the points raised. The law is not being liberalised.

May I ask the Minister a question?

No. We are on Committee Stage. The Deputy will have an opportunity to make his point.

What is the difference between the two regimes? The Minister will not answer.

On the successful High Court action, the proceedings were initiated on 4 March 1996 when Deputy Higgins was Chief Whip and Deputies McManus and Stagg were Ministers of State.

What difference does that make?

Will the Minister stop stating the obvious?

It was open to the rainbow coalition to amend the law but it failed to do so.

That was better than what the Minister is doing.

The procedures then in operation pursuant to the Wildlife Act, 1976, and the Firearms Act, 1925, were criticised by the court.

——The procedures not the law were faulty. Is that correct?

In its wisdom, the court held that the procedures were not consistent with the obligations set out in the legislation.

We can take it from that long sentence that the answer is yes.

It was open to the rainbow coalition——

And previous Fianna Fáil Governments since 1925.

——to amend the law but it failed to do so.

I ask Deputy Stagg to please stop interrupting. The Minister has a right to reply. The Deputy will have another opportunity to contribute, if he wishes.

That is a matter of history and an incontrovertible fact. It cannot be denied.

That is what it is.

There is a difference between the numbers of licences issued by the Minister for Arts, Culture, Gaeltacht and the Islands and me for the following reason. The number of hunting licences issued is lower than the number of firearms certificates. A total of 3,200 hunting licences were issued for the 1997-98 season. The number of firearms certificates is normally greater as an individual with a hunting licence may be issued with a number of firearms certificates.

Twenty-four in one case.

A certificate is issued in respect of each gun carried. To respond to Deputy Naughten who commented on the position in regard to wildlife, the protection of species remains unaffected. The protection afforded under the Wildlife Act, 1976, has not been affected by this legislation.

The Act is not being enforced.

There is no protection.

The regulation of game shoot promoters is being considered in the context of the forthcoming Wildlife (Amendment) Bill. Such a provision would be of considerable importance. The Bill is also likely to contain provisions providing for powers of detention, search, seizure and forfeiture as well as penalties which are likely to be substantially increased.

Deputies referred to the possibility of Dunblane type incidents and the easy availability of handguns and repeat rifles in the United States. We do not grant certificates except to limited categories of firearms, that is, shotguns and rifles of a certain calibre.

Departmental officials are as concerned as any Member to ensure the risk to the community is minimised in so far as is humanly possible in making decisions about issuing licences and firearms certificates. Any suggestion to the contrary is disingenuous and untrue. In deciding whether a firearms certificate should be granted an individual is required to submit a firearms permit from the country of his or her residence, checks are carried out to ascertain if there have been convictions in this State, and an individual's age is checked. The licence is confined to a category which is acceptable, that is, a shotgun or rifle. If necessary, a reference can be asked for such as a police document stating that the individual has not been found guilty of a criminal offence in the country of his or her residence.

(Mayo): Is that done?

In addition to these checks, the applicant must have a hunting licence from the Department of Arts, Culture, Gaeltacht and the Islands and submit evidence of permission to shoot on lands. He or she must also produce an Irish address.

Deputies asked what precisely is meant by the reference to any other document which the Minister might require. This would allow a statement or reference to be sought from a reputable person. In other words, it would not be a permit or authorisation but could be acceptable to verify the bona fides of the applicant. It could include a statement from the police or other authority. Deputy McManus suggested that the onus of proof should be placed on the applicant. Police forces throughout the world may give confirmation that an applicant has no convictions but the experience of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform indicates that they will not guarantee that an applicant is of sound mind and temperate habits. It is difficult to blame them for that because police forces do not have professional expertise in these areas.

What about the gardaí?

They have such expertise at their disposal.

(Interruptions.)

Members will allow the Minister to continue without interruption.

I doubt whether Opposition Members in their collective wisdom could certify if an individual is of sound mind.

How do the gardaí manage to do so?

In that case, how will the Minister legislate for Irish citizens?

As a famous British Law Lord once said when asked when a man could be regarded as drunk, "A man is drunk when he is lying prostrate on the ground and he falls off".

(Mayo): That is a real Kerry saying.

It will be accepted that no police force will give the guarantee which some Members seem to be indicating is easy to acquire. We have had enough of those kind of simplistic notions for one day and people should address the complexity of the issue and not try to dress it up as something it is not.

Let them all in, let them shoot what they want.

This is a temporary and short-term measure which is necessitated by urgent demands.

It will be in force for two years.

I have taken a second major step by establishing a review group to conduct a root and branch review of the legislation affecting wildlife and firearms licences in Ireland. I made it abundantly clear on several occasions that the advice available to me indicates that comprehensive change is necessary because there are implications in the High Court judgment for all aspects of granting firearms certificates. That is a matter of concern to everyone, even those with only a passing interest in this subject.

If the legislation is not passed, there is no doubt that jobs will be lost, businesses forced to close and a substantial loss to the economy.

Rubbish. The majority of their clients are Irish citizens. They said the same about pike fishing in the Minister's constituency.

More will be lost in the long term if this legislation is enacted.

The Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands will be obliged to pick up the pieces.

There is also no doubt that considerable difficulty would be created for many citizens and their families who depend, to a larger or lesser extent, on this business for their livelihoods.

Irish citizens are the ones who support these people.

Having said that, it must be made clear that the protection of Irish wildlife and compliance with the highest standards is a matter of as much concern to me as it is to other Members.

The Minister is doing nothing about it.

That is why the legislation has been crafted in an extremely careful way. The procedures which will come into operation in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, following the passage of the Bill, will not be relaxed. In point of fact, because of this legislation, two additional safeguards will be put in place, namely, that the Minister will be empowered to revoke licences and impose conditions.

I am sure the people to whom we are referring will be terrified.

How can anyone state that the legislation is liberalising the law in respect of firearms certificates or hunting licences——

We can do so because it is a simple matter of fact.

——when the procedures that were utilised pursuant to the Firearms Act, 1925 and the Wildlife Act, 1976, will be used in future in conjunction with additional safeguards?

The regulations, not the law, are at fault.

As a Dáil colleague of mine — he also lives in County Kerry — often says "It makes no sense at all only nonsense".

Our fellow Irishmen in Northern Ireland, who make regular visits to the Republic for shooting purposes, have not been able to obtain firearms certificates since 12 June 1998. The Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands have refused to issue hunting licences and firearms certificates in the past. Everyone who applies does not always obtain a firearms certificate. Where applications for hunting licences are refused, it follows as a matter of course that firearms certificates cannot issue. In addition, applications for firearms certificates have also been refused in their own right.

The review group will consult widely with everyone interested in this important subject. This will lead, in turn, to comprehensive change in legislation dealing with firearms certificates and hunting licences in this country. The review of the Wildlife Act, 1976, will lead to fundamental changes in the law relating to this area. In short, the recent High Court judgment will be a catalyst for major change in these important areas. I have sought to bring forward legislation to regularise the position — in so far as that can be done — while showing the greatest concern for public safety, the protection of wildlife and the protection of people's livelihoods.

(Mayo): It is important that this matter should be pressed to a vote. The people must be made aware of the Minister's opposition to a sensible safety procedure in respect of checking the bona fides of foreign nationals, establishing the identity of the firearms in their possession and ensuring that such firearms conform with the certificates that have been granted, and likewise at the point of exit.

What consultations were held with the Garda Síochána in respect of the legislation? Was the Garda Commissioner consulted? If a resident of The Hague applies for a firearms certificate to shoot in this country, can the Minister guarantee that thorough investigations will be made into their suitability to hold such a certificate under the seven qualifying subsections of the 1925 Act?

I reiterate that if the Minister was not changing or diluting the law he would not be doing anything at all. The High Court decided that the 1924 Act, as amended by the 1964 Act, is perfectly good law. We are diluting that law to allow foreigners to obtain licences to shoot in Ireland without the imposition of proper controls. I have sincere sympathy for the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands and the departmental staff who will have to pick up the pieces when the hoards of foreign nationals have been encouraged to come to Ireland to shoot anything they can find.

Section 1 is the essential section which provides "no good reason" as the basis for decision. It is the essence of bad law. There is not a worse reason for making a legal decision than that there is no good reason not to. That theme runs through the Bill. Any action that the Minister should take is qualified to death, so to speak, so that if he does nothing he is in the clear. An example is section 2(3) which provides that "The Minister may make such enquiries as he or she considers appropriate as to the suitability of any applicant .". It is double qualified in case there is any chance of error. It is as if the draftsman read it only once and the Bill was cleared with all possible qualifications to safeguard the Minister and the Department.

What sanction will the Minister, the Department or the Garda have against a French person who is licensed to shoot if that person shoots songbirds? Does the Minister agree that Irish citizens will demand that he concedes to them the same regulations as will apply to foreigners?

I am reluctant to intervene at this point but having heard some of the hysteria from the Opposition I felt it important to do so. As a Minister I had some responsibility in this area. Many people come to shoot in my constituency every season and a lot of the business is repeat business from professional people who have been shooting for a number of years.

The business to which I refer is run by a hotel which has its own lands for shooting, rears its own birds, organises the shoots and employs a fully professional shooting expert to organise the business. The company imports about 110,000 eggs each year from the US and it rears the birds which feed on about 14 to 15 tonnes of wheat a week.

I am in favour of that. We are not in favour of shooting blackbirds.

This concern rears birds for shooting, including partridges, pheasants and mallards, on its own lands in a controlled environment. It is a lucrative business which is highly organised and specialised. Deputy McManus will be aware that there is a similarly organised concern in County Wicklow. The gun clubs which have been at loggerheads with some of the companies which rear the birds buy birds from them. It is an established practice.

It is a worthwhile business which employs many people. The estate in County Clare imports eggs, rears birds, organises shoots and has a trained, professional guide in charge. In the last 11 years there has not been an accident there. Those involved are very skilled and highly professional. There is no fear of mass suicide arising from this skilled operation. There is no record of accidents or anything of that nature.

There have been complaints about indiscriminate shooting and the cases of which I am aware involve only a small minority of shooters. Nearly all have been at the behest of a local gillie or guide——

Or a poacher.

That may be so but there have only been a few cases which have been investigated by the wildlife service——

It is widespread.

Deputy Stagg had the opportunity to contribute and he should have made his points at that time. I ask him to allow Deputy Daly to continue without interruption.

I do not wish to get involved in an argument with Deputy Stagg. It is obvious that he is not familiar with this business. I am aware there were isolated incidents which were investigated by the wildlife rangers and that prosecutions followed.

It would be unfair to send out a message that this business is irresponsible because it is not. The regional game councils should settle their differences with the business operators because, in most cases, they depend on them for the supply of game for their shoots. I cannot accept a situation in which a vested interest will try to damage this lucrative business.

Deputy Daly thought a rod licence was a good idea and he introduced it.

The Deputy's party voted for it.

We did not.

Deputy Stagg, if there are any further interruptions from you I will ask you to leave the House.

This is something of a baptism of fire.

The Deputy should keep his head down.

I wish to give notice that we will table an amendment to section 1 on Report Stage to the effect that a firearms certificate can only be granted to a person who has received a booking certificate from a licensed guide, where a licensed guide is defined as a person who has been licensed by the courts as an individual suitable to carry out such a role. This amendment will ensure that if we do not supervise the import and export of firearms we can supervise them while they are here.

Deputy Daly was talking about the exclusive, super-rich clubs attached to some of the more prosperous hotels with private grounds. There may be a similarity with the passports for sale mess which we are trying to tidy up. These clubs should also be investigated because they have guns on the premises which are handed out to those with buckets of cash to spend.

I appreciate that the Minister is concerned about this issue but he is getting bad advice. Bord Fáilte has done excellent work but it has been wrong in the past and it is getting it wrong now by promoting this aspect of tourism. It needs to be handled very carefully, otherwise we will wipe out the industry we are trying to promote.

If the word gets out that they can get a licence we will attract the wrong type of groups. If one or two people get a licence and the guns are available they can be passed around the group, perhaps to people who have taken drink. I am not referring to exclusive clubs but to groups of people. We have seen it in other aspects of sport throughout the world. We saw soccer hooliganism in which professional people were involved. We should not be fooled, and we should be very careful. What power has the Minister to prevent other members of a party of ten or 12 people, two of whom have a licence to handle guns, availing of the use of those guns at all hours of the day or night?

In this world one can only do one's best. It is not possible to give absolute guarantees about what might happen in the course of a day, a week or a year. The procedures in place will remain. They are the same procedures as before, and they will continue to be operated with the additional two restrictions. Should there be a tragedy, it will not have been brought about by this legislation.

The law is being changed in that the restrictions in the 1925 Act are being replaced by the provisions in this Bill. The law is being changed because of the High Court action, but the procedures remain the same. Some people here have decided, for reasons best known to themselves, that change means liberalisation, even if it is temporary. I have explained the true position ad nauseam. Deputy Higgins asked whether the Garda Síochána had been contacted on this matter. They have been kept informed of developments throughout and we have received no observations in relation to this matter.

(Mayo): Were they consulted?

The Minister, not the Garda Síochána, grants certificates in the case of non-nationals and the local superintendent grants certificates in the case of nationals.

(Mayo): The heads of the gardaí are on the line.

The Garda authorities were kept fully informed of these proposals.

The sanctions that Deputy Stagg seems to think do not exist are in the Wildlife Act, 1976, although it may be true that they have not worked well.

Can they be applied to non-nationals?

Deputy Stagg will have an opportunity to contribute when the Minister has finished. I warned Deputy Stagg that I will have to ask him to leave if he continues to interrupt.

There is a review under way by my colleague in the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, and I understand that a new Wildlife Bill will be published in the autumn. My understanding of the position is that Garda Headquarters refer copies of the firearms certificates to the local gardaí who are, therefore, aware of the details of visitors to their specific areas who are in possession of firearms.

(Mayo): They already have a certificate at that stage.

Deputy Higgins will have another opportunity to contribute.

(Mayo): This is reckless, wrong and dangerous.

Any attempt to create the impression that the procedures are loose is clearly an attempt to put a smokescreen between the public and reality. The reality is as I have outlined on numerous occasions throughout the day. The same procedures, with additional restrictions, are now in place as before. I cannot put it any further than that. I would have thought any reasonable person would accept that.

If people feel there should be further restrictions, they should put those proposals on the table in the context of a review, then we can talk about doing something constructive. This legislation, because of its fundamental importance to so many people, is not something with which Deputies should play politics.

The Minister partly answered the question. If a Frenchman shoots a blackbird, which is illegal, is it possible for the Garda Síochána to issue a summons and bring him to court? The answer is "no". If he is not resident in Ireland he cannot be summonsed. That is the difficulty. There is no sanction.

If a person commits an offence on Irish soil, that person is amenable to Irish criminal law and it is possible for the Garda to initiate a summons against him or her.

Where will they serve it?

I accept there are practical difficulties in regard to non-nationals. That is why I said earlier it is possible that certain provisions of the Wildlife Act, 1976, may not have worked very well. If it is Deputy Stagg's view that this legislation needs to be strengthened, he is free and able to put forward his view to the Minister with responsibility for the new Wildlife Bill which will be produced in the autumn. It is also open to him to put forward any views he may hold — as other interested parties may — to the expert group which will review the issuance of firearms certificates and hunting licences.

What that means is that there is not a damn thing the Garda Síochána can do about a Frenchman with a licence given to him by Minister O'Donoghue's Department if he shoots a swan, except to take the swan away from him if they find him. That is a big problem.

Obviously the enforcement of any law can give rise to practical difficulties.

Four million people are exempt every year.

If, for example, a foreign national litters the streets, that is a criminal offence. It may well be that the individual will have left the jurisdiction prior to a summons being issued. The same practical difficulty arises there as in relation to several different kinds of offence. If the law needs to be amended in respect of the area where Deputy Stagg would wish it to be amended, I suggest he put forward his proposals in the context of the new wildlife Bill.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 50; Níl, 69.

  • Barnes, Monica.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Higgins, Michael.
  • Belton, Louis.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • Broughan, Thomas.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Cosgrave, Michael.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Penrose, William.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Perry, John.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Enright, Thomas.
  • Reynolds, Gerard.
  • Farrelly, John.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Gilmore, Éamon.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Upton, Pat.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Wall, Jack.

Níl

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Kitt, Michael.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Blaney, Harry.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Brennan, Matt.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • McDaid, James.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • McGennis, Marian.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • O'Donnell, Liz.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • O'Flynn, Noel.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • Ellis, John.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • O'Malley, Desmond.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Fox, Mildred.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Wade, Eddie.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Wright, G. V.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Barrett and Stagg; Níl, Deputies S. Brennan and Power.
Amendment declared lost.

I propose that all Stages be completed now by one question, if that is agreed.

Is that agreed? Agreed. I am now required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: "That each of the sections undisposed of is hereby agreed to and the Title is hereby agreed to, that Report Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed."

The Dáil divided: Tá, 69; Níl, 50.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Kitt, Michael.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Blaney, Harry.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Brennan, Matt.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • McDaid, James.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • McGennis, Marian.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • O'Donnell, Liz.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • O'Flynn, Noel.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • Ellis, John.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • O'Malley, Desmond.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Fox, Mildred.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Wade, Eddie.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Wright, G. V.

Níl

  • Barnes, Monica.
  • Higgins, Michael.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Belton, Louis.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • Broughan, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Cosgrave, Michael.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • Penrose, William.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Perry, John.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Reynolds, Gerard.
  • Enright, Thomas.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Farrelly, John.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Upton, Pat.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá , Deputies S. Brennan and Power; Níl, Deputies Barrett and Stagg.
Question declared carried.