Before we begin, I draw Members' attention to a printing error. Priority Question No. 2 on today's Order Paper is shown in the name of Deputy Costello. The question should appear in the name of Deputy Breeda Moynihan-Cronin, and it will be dealt with as though this were the case.
Ceisteanna — Questions.
Treatment of Prisoners.
1 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of all aspects of the regime and practice, including any special privileges or treatment, applicable to the day to day life of the persons imprisoned in respect of the killing of a person (details supplied) in Castlerea; the way in which that regime and practice, privileges and treatment differs from that applicable to other persons detained in Castlerea; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20857/04]
The prisoners referred to by the Deputy are detained in the area of Castlerea prison known as the Grove. The regime applicable to these prisoners is the same as that applied to the other 36 prisoners detained in the Grove area of Castlerea Prison.
The prisoners detained in the Grove must remain inside their accommodation between the hours of 10.30 p.m. and 8 a.m. They are generally free to move around this enclosed area during the other hours of the day and can avail of facilities, including visiting units, a communal kitchen and dining hall, a recreation hall and gym, an education unit and workshops and an outdoor recreation area. Education classes are generally available from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Workshops in this area are generally open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
A high level of trust is placed in each prisoner to conform to the rules of the unit without close supervision. While the regime is not strict in the conventional meaning, the prisoners are held in secure custody. The area is surrounded by perimeter walls, is covered by CCTV and is supervised by prison staff at all times. In addition, there are rules and regulations which have to be adhered to, for example, each house is subject to random searches by prison staff.
The Minister set out the regime applicable to those who are in Castlerea Prison, including the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe. That is the most heinous crime for which anybody could be incarcerated. It has been suggested that they are in receipt of preferential treatment above and beyond the fact that they are in the Grove part of the prison. They are lording it over other prisoners and set down their own rules and regulations as to who may be in their company. They insist that any food cooked for them is not cooked by certain categories of prisoner, for example, those convicted of drugs charges. They do not allow anybody convicted of such charges to work in their immediate vicinity. In addition, on a daily basis they fax down their requirements to the local shop and these are delivered to them. Is that correct and, if so, is it applicable to other prisoners in our prisons? Does the Minister not accept that this is preferential treatment? Why should people who are in prison for such a heinous crime receive this preferential treatment? I cannot think of anything worse than the killing in cold blood of a member of the Garda Síochána.
I believe these people are held on substantially the same terms as other prisoners. Deputy Jim O'Keeffe said they tend to be clannish and exclusionary in their dealings with other prisoners. In an area of free association and dissociation, it is not possible to force prisoners to interact with each other. The regime, effectively, allows groups or sub-groups within the Grove to stick to themselves if that is their desire.
The Grove consists of seven separate houses where inmates live in a domestic type environment. In total, there are 40 prisoners, including 11 provisional IRA prisoners, two INLA prisoners and 27 non-aligned prisoners. Some of the descriptions of the basic accommodation in this area give a misleading impression of luxury and tend to ignore the reality that the inmates there, as elsewhere in the prison system, are behind prison walls and in secure custody.
The Deputy asked about purchasing goods. I am told it is not true that prisoners are entitled to order takeaway food. I understand that from 1973 a regime existed in Portlaoise Prison which enabled prisoners belonging to the provisional movement to avail of the finances of a group called Cumann Cabhrach to purchase what is, effectively, tuck. Items are submitted for purchase on the basis that an officer would make purchases from local shops from time to time where that does not involve inordinate time or inconvenience. Any material or goods ordered into the prison are subject to the normal rules and regulations in place for good order and security.
My main concern is the impact of preferential treatment for these killers on the Garda Síochána and prison staff. It was a member of the Garda Síochána who was mercilessly gunned down by these people. The prison staff are witnessing a situation where, in many ways, these prisoners are lording it over other prisoners. Surely the impact of that is obvious.
I am assured that up to relatively recently a prison officer was sent down to the local shop every day with the prisoners' orders but that has now been changed to a situation where they fax their order to the local shop which then delivers to them. I am also assured that it is not a question of them sticking to themselves, they actually lay down restrictions to the effect that other prisoners who are there for far less serious offences, especially those convicted of drugs or sex offences, are not permitted to have any hand, act or part in the cooking of their food or allowed to work in the same vicinity. Does the Minister accept that this is not a good state of affairs, that it is generally bad for morale and, in particular, that it is bad for the morale of the Garda Síochána, for the reasons I described, and for the prison staff in Castlerea Prison.
The Deputy will appreciate that the situation which obtains in the Grove is one which I inherited. I have not improved or disimproved it in any way. The morale of the Garda Síochána is high. I deplore the incident in which a number of Members of this House and members of another Parliament posed for a photograph with the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe. The photograph subsequently appeared in a newspaper. That was a deeply insulting occasion.
Absolutely. Why did the Minister allow it?
It was not permitted. The particular event has not recurred and will not recur. It amounted to an abuse by those Members of this House of the rules of the prison and I condemn their behaviour roundly.
There is rank hypocrisy in people prating on in this House about human rights and posing with people who took the life of an innocent member of the Garda Síochána going about his duty and leaving his wife a widow. It is not simply a matter of Garda morale, it is a matter of national morale. The conduct of Members of this House has an effect on national morale and this incident betokens a complete and total hypocrisy in standards on the part of those Members.
I agree entirely but the Minister will be judged by his actions, which is what I am raising here.
Liquor Licensing Laws.
2 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed at the impact of the prohibition on persons under 18 being in pubs after 9 p.m.; if he has received representations to have this matter reviewed; if he intends to undertake such a review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20861/04]
Section 14 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003, which substitutes a new section for section 34 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988, generally prohibits persons under the age of 18 years from being in the bar of licensed premises, but not from being in any other part of a licensed premises. A licensee may, however, permit a child, that is a person under the age of 15 years, to be in the bar if the child is accompanied by a parent or guardian, but not after 9 p.m. A licensee may also permit a person aged between 15 and 17 to be in the bar unaccompanied by a parent or guardian, but not after 9 p.m. Naturally, they cannot be served alcohol.
Section 14 also provides that a licensee may allow a child accompanied by a parent or guardian, or a person aged between 15 and 17, to be in the bar after 9 p.m. on the occasion of a private function at which a substantial meal is served to persons attending the function.
It is important to note that the restrictions set out in section 14 of the 2003 Act apply to the bar and not to other parts of licensed premises. People who are now talking about setting up separate rooms for smokers in their premises might reflect on the fact that they appear to have been incapable of setting up a separate partitioned area in their premises for parents and children to enjoy meals after 9 p.m. I wonder whether we are listening to a lot of guff on this subject that is purely driven by profit and not by any common sense distinction. This means persons under the age of 18 years may be in parts of licensed premises other than the bar after 9 p.m. In the case of hotels, they can be in every part of the hotel and in the company of their parents even though their parents are consuming alcohol in any part of those premises other than the bar of the hotel after 9 p.m.
The provisions in section 14 are fully in line with recommendations both of the commission on liquor licensing and the strategic task force on alcohol. They take account of the need to facilitate families while at the same time promoting compliance with and enforcement of the licensing laws. The restrictions are not solely motivated by enforcement concerns. The strategic task force on alcohol recommended restrictions because it felt the presence of children in bars exposed them at an early age to a form of alcohol promotion, which was unnecessary and potentially damaging to them and which undermined the aim of better health for children.
I assure the Minister that this is not guff; it is real. The Minister is correct and was supported by my party in targeting the abuse of alcohol by those who are under age. However, a real issue will affect families on their summer holidays. I go to Dingle for the month of August and will do so this year. The area where I go has no hotel. As the Minister knows, throughout the Ring of Kerry, in west Cork and Galway where people rent houses to take their children for three weeks or a month, the only place such families can have a meal is on licensed premises. Many such places have a window of opportunity of perhaps three or four months in the year and are not in a position to provide a separate room.
While it is too late for this season, during the school holidays the family should be permitted to have their meals in such places. I am not talking about big towns but small areas many of which could not be called villages, mainly by the sea. The only place people can get some food is on licensed premises. Many families are on a budget and while we know Ireland is not a cheap destination, we are trying to encourage people. Many families go to pubs because they are perceived to be cheaper than hotels. While I agree with the Minister that we must be very concerned about under age drinking, what I am discussing will not lead to that. When we were younger and our parents took us away in a caravan or whatever, we went to a place where music was played and 99.9% of us did not end up as alcoholics or with a drink problem because our parents were with us.
On Committee Stage, I raised my concerns and the Minister advised that the vintners were not lobbying for this, probably because they were caught up in the haze of the smoking ban at that stage. I know the hoteliers lobbied the Minister and I asked him whether he had received representations to have the matter reviewed. Bearing in mind the picture I have outlined, the Minister should review the matter and make a change just for June, July and August.
In the near future I hope to introduce a major consolidating Bill to consolidate all the law relating to licensing for the sale of alcohol. In that context I will consider positively any measure that makes common sense. However, common sense must be built into any proposal that might be introduced. While addressing a hotel in Dingle we must also address a hotel in Temple Bar. While addressing a small hotel we must also address a large hotel. While addressing a one-room pub we must also address a super pub.
If we can have a law to allow children to remain on licensed premises in the company of their parents without creating the equally unacceptable situation where gardaí would enter a hotel in Dublin find 17 year olds propped up against the bar and be given the excuse that their parents are elsewhere in the hotel, I would like to see it. However, when this issue arose in the 2003 legislation and since, no one has proposed a workable way to distinguish between the small bar or hotel in Dingle and the big bar or hotel in Dublin, which would allow a garda go to the owner of licensed premises with a 17 year old at 10 p.m. and find out whether the owner asked for identification and why the 17 year old is on the premises.
If somebody can propose a common sense solution, I would be the first to grab it. However, I have not heard it proposed yet. For all of the resources available to hoteliers and vintners, they have not been able to make a proposal as to how the seasonal issue which the Deputy mentions can be married with the need to stop under age drinking.
Before the introduction of the 2003 Act, I was visited by a woman from the west whose under age daughter was found unfortunately dead in a ditch beside the road, having been served in a pub while her parents were away on holidays. She pleaded with me to do something to prevent that happening again. The only practical way of enforcing the evidence of age cards is to ban under age persons during some hours from the bars of licensed premises. If someone can make a common sense proposal that marries what the Deputy wishes to see and the requirements of a generally operable law, I would be the first to grab that opportunity if it were placed before me. I have not seen it yet and it is not for want of effort on my part to think out solutions that would be workable.
I am delighted to hear that the Minister is willing to listen. Last August in the good weather some people did not leave the beach until 7 o'clock or 8 o'clock, which gives very little time to get something to eat. I suggest the Minister should extend the time limit to 10 p.m. in June, July in August to give people time to eat their meals. I abhor celebrations like holy communions and christenings being pub orientated. I am talking about food and providing a service for families. I understand the Minister's difficulty. If the time limit was changed for the summer we could revert to 9 p.m. for the rest of the year. The same problem does not arise during Christmas holidays, only in summer.
I will consider this in the context of the forthcoming legislation if we get around to considering it. By the way, when I said "guff", the guff to which I objected referred to owners claiming they could not adapt their pubs to install a glazed partition for a special room adjacent to the bar in which children and their parents could eat. However, when smokers came lurking on the horizon, they claimed it would be very easy to subdivide premises to allow a smoking area. What was so difficult in the context of food became so easy in the context of smoke and I regard that as guff.
3 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of the criteria used in the nomination and appointment of members of the Judiciary; and if he has plans to review the present system. [21215/04]
The Judicial Appointments Advisory Board was established pursuant to the Court and Courts Officers Act 1995. The purpose of the board, simply put, is to identify persons and inform the Government of the suitability of those persons for appointment to judicial office. By definition, the board's remit is advisory and the ultimate decision as regards appointments of persons to the Judiciary rests with the Government.
The board consists of the Chief Justice, the Presidents of the High Court, Circuit Court and District Court, the Attorney General, nominated representatives of the Bar Council and the Law Society and three lay persons nominated by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Section 14 of the Act enables the board to adopt such procedures as it thinks fit to carry out its functions. In practice, the board places advertisements for applications for judicial appointments in the national press and requires applicants to complete a detailed application form which includes questions on their practice, their professional qualifications, education, character etc.
Under section 16 of the Act, where a judicial office stands vacant or before a vacancy in a judicial office arises, the board, at the request of the Minister, submits to the Minister the names of all persons who have informed the board of his or her wish to be considered for appointment to that judicial office and the names of at least seven persons whom it recommends for appointment. With one exception, since the Act came into operation, persons have been appointed on foot of the recommendation from the board. In the sole exception where it did not happen, the person had been previously recommended and it was not possible in the unique circumstances of the case to go through the advertising process on a second occasion.
The Government, when advising the President on the appointment of a person to a judicial office, must first consider persons who have been recommended by the board. It is important to note that the board cannot submit nor recommend the name of a person unless that person meets the eligibility criteria set out by law for the post in question.
The board cannot recommend the name of any person unless, in the opinion of the board, the person concerned has displayed in his or her practice as a solicitor or barrister a degree of competence and probity appropriate to and consistent with the appointment concerned, is suitable on grounds of character and temperament, is otherwise suitable for appointment, complies with the provisions on taxation and undertakes to undergo training. Those are the criteria by which the Judicial Appointments Advisory Boards operates. It gives a shortlist to the Government, from which the Government selects.
Would the Minister consider bringing forward proposals to depoliticise the appointment procedure for judges? This would certainly remove the perception of political bias in their selection. I accept that in most cases the Government has taken the recommendations of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board and given them to the President. If that is the case, why not remove the politicisation of the office of judge? In many countries the judicial appointments body is independent of Government. I think that would increase the stature of the judges we appoint.
Why not look at countries such as the Netherlands where half of the judges are appointed straight from college? Young graduates would be appointed and I believe they would be a fantastic addition to the way in which the Judiciary operates. We would benefit from an examination of what goes on abroad. The Judicial Appointments Advisory Board puts forward names to Government, which does not necessarily take those recommendations on board. I suggest the stature of the Judiciary would increase if the perception of the taint of political bias were removed. There are good examples as to how that can be done if we were to look abroad.
It makes sense to have the Presidency the Judiciary and the Legislature separate in so far as we can. I am at a loss to understand the reason we demean the Judiciary by putting them through this process of political vetting. I hope the Minister will consider other means of appointment. I accept that judges must be competent, have a degree of probity appropriate to the office, be of good character and temperament, but I suspect we might recruit better judges if the selection body was removed from political influence.
The common law system throughout the world has a different concept of the Judiciary from the civil law system referred to by the Deputy. In the common law system, the Judiciary has much more power than the Judiciary in civil law systems, their function is different, they are neither investigative nor prosecutorial in any shape or form and they are not career public servants. They are people chosen, usually in their mature years, on the basis of carrying out an arbitral role, which is quite different from the civil law system of investigative magistracy.
One of the strengths of the common law system worldwide is jury trial, which is another form of independent arbitral justice. No country with jury trial has ever succumbed to internal tyranny, whereas all the great tyrannies of the world have emerged in countries which have had the civil law system, which is an interesting historical fact. One of the great strengths of our Constitution is the significantly important role that we accord to the Judiciary.
The Constitution also provides that it is the Executive which nominates the Judiciary and that is common to common law systems. Under the Constitution, the Government of the day advises the President to appoint people to be judges. Without a constitutional amendment, that right must remain vested in the Executive. The days of party political appointments are over and if one looks at the pattern of appointment in recent years, one will see the previous pattern, which existed a long time ago, of party political appointments has, largely speaking, come to the end. That is a good move. It is good that Government chooses people who are known to it to be supporters of Opposition parties for appointment to the Bench. I am happy with that pattern. If one checks the recent record, one will find that has happened more frequently now than ever before.
I am not attracted to a clone of the civil law system. We could have much more politicised appointments of judges, such as happens in the USA where every judge is the subject of an intensive mangling process in which the Houses of Congress sometimes examine in great detail everything to do with the judge, and quite political considerations come into play as to the outlook of the judge and so on. I do not think that is a desirable model to follow.
Strategic Management Initiative.
4 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on and if he proposes to implement the proposals contained in the final report of the Garda SMI implementation steering group to downgrade five divisional Garda headquarters and up to 30 district Garda headquarters; the way in which and when he intends to proceed with this; if he has identified possible locations for downgrading; the details of the factors that will be taken into account in making such decisions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20858/04]
The strategic management initiative in the Garda Síochána has been under way since 1997 and a great deal of work has been done. Far-reaching recommendations in a previous Garda SMI report on performance and accountability have been included in the Garda Síochána Bill which is before the Seanad. The current report is the final one of the Garda SMI implementation steering group. It deals with important aspects of the organisation and structure of the Garda Síochána, and I believe it will inform the Garda Commissioner in the kind of strategic planning envisaged for the Garda organisation when the Garda Síochána Bill is enacted.
In compiling this report, a lengthy process of consultation was undertaken by the Garda SMI implementation steering group and a related review group. This was an inclusive, consultative process, involving Garda management, the Garda representative associations, officials of interested Departments and outside consultants. Their task was to give advice and make recommendations as to how the challenging and wide-ranging proposals for change and enhanced efficiency in the Garda Síochána, which were made in an earlier report of the 1997 steering group, could be translated into reality.
The Garda SMI report makes recommendations on the reorganisation of Garda regions, divisions and districts throughout the country, including the reduction of the number of regions by one, the number of divisions by five and the number of districts by between 20 and 32. The Government and I have made no decision on this or any other proposal in the report. In this and many other aspects of the report, the Garda Commissioner, under the terms of the Garda Síochána Bill, will have enhanced responsibilities in preparing proposals for organisational reform, and I believe that this report will be of considerable assistance to the Garda Commissioner in that task.
Does the Minster accept that these proposals, if implemented, will involve substantial downgrading of Garda headquarters throughout the country? The number of divisional headquarters, where a chief superintendent is stationed, will be reduced from 22 to 17 and the district headquarters, which I understand number approximately 130, could be reduced to fewer than 100.
Does the Minister recognise the bond that exists in cities, towns and villages throughout the country between the people and the Garda Síochána? Does he not see that, if this proposal is implemented, contact between the Garda and communities will be diminished? Will he agree that the theory behind this proposal is to centralise the Garda in Dublin and throughout rural areas? We could end up in the position where people's only contact with the Garda would be in situations of conflict and this is the wrong approach. The Minister appears to be adopting a Pontius Pilate reaction to the report in that he implies it will be for the Garda Commissioner to implement. Has he any stance on the issues I have raised?
I do have a stance that reform of the Garda Síochána is definitely needed. I do not accept the proposition that the distribution of the Garda Síochána, which has much to do with the 19th century distribution of the RIC in Ireland, rather than 21st century conditions and circumstances, needs to be reformed. I have no problem in saying that. Likewise, our changing demographics will clearly have implications for the Garda Síochána. The fact that our population is becoming increasingly urbanised and that the numbers are rising, are issues which require a response in terms of the organisation of the Garda Síochána and, lest it be forgotten, its size. That is why it is necessary to increase the size of the force.
It is not a Pontius Pilate act on my behalf. I am bringing forward legislation in the Oireachtas which has been broadly welcomed in which day-to-day management and control will be vested in a tangible way in the Commissioner, on the basis of statute. At present, under the 1924 legislation the distribution of the Garda Síochána is, theoretically, still a matter for my decision. I do not believe that giving the Minister of the day the right to move Garda resources from this town to that town, as envisaged in the 1920s, is the proper way to run a police force. It is important to keep the Garda away from political interference. This House would be the first to raise its collective eyebrows, if I were suddenly to announce that gardaí should be transferred from, say, Cork to Limerick or from Limerick to Dublin or vice versa on the basis of my judgment of the situation instead of on the good, reflective policy making of the Garda Commissioner.
The slimming down of some Garda branches does not have implications for the large numbers of gardaí across the country. I believe the coming weeks will show it is vitally necessary to have a proper chain of command and accountability within the Garda Síochána.
We are not talking about day-to-day matters when discussing the downgrading of Garda stations. As regards the size of the force, I am surprised the Minister even mentions it since that was the greatest con job of the last election. We are still missing the 2,000 gardaí. If these proposals are implemented, will that not have an enormous impact on the opening hours of stations? The only stations with assured 24-hour opening will be the 17 divisional headquarters.
I will not deal with the first two points because the Deputy will have his reply soon enough. On his point about Garda stations, I would like to inform the Deputy that in the Dublin metropolitan region, at any given time there are 34 sergeants and 60 gardaí engaged in station office duties. When rostering is taken into account, that means 177 sergeants and 312 gardaí are permanently allotted to station duties in the Dublin area. In some cases many of them might be better deployed on the streets or doing core Garda policing functions outside the station.
I have made the point on a number of occasions that Tiger Woods could, from a point in St. Stephen's Green, drive a ball to Pearse Street, Harcourt Terrace, Kevin Street and Harcourt Square Garda stations.
He used to be able to. He is not now.
Would the Minister not be patriotic and talk about Padraig Harrington?
He could hit four Garda stations with a good drive from that area. All of those stations have to be manned at night. They must all have the complement of gardaí I have just mentioned attached to them. We must change a little. There is no point in pretending that everything must remain the same. However, I agree with the Deputy that we have to maintain the strong links between the ordinary people and the Garda Síochána. We cannot have a Garda service which is provided by commuting gardaí at a great distance from the community they serve. We must strive to maintain the links between the Garda Síochána and the community in which it is based and within which it is working.
5 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the estimated cost to his Department of security arrangements put in place as a result of the visit of President George Bush; the number of Garda personnel and Garda hours involved in the operation; his views on whether the level of security was necessary especially having regard to the disruption and inconvenience caused to persons living in the Shannon area; the number of arrests made arising from the security operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20862/04]
I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is not yet possible to provide accurate estimated costs of the security arrangements for the recent visit of the US President. I do not want to give inaccurate information. It is worth pointing out, however, that the visit by President Bush was important, both nationally and in the context of Ireland's successful Presidency of the European Union. Accordingly, any costs involved should be considered to be part of the normal expenditure required for Ireland to maintain its national and international obligations vis-à-vis the United States and the European Union.
The extent of the operation which was put in place for the presidential visit to Ireland by the Irish security forces, both Army and Garda, is equivalent to the commitment that would have been made by any other member state of the European Union. It was not excessive in the circumstances and is what would have been expected by the people.
In case the Deputy might think I am evading the question of the magnitude of the expenditure, it will run to several million euro. I imagine it will be between €3 million and €5 million.
It was €4.9 million in the reply the Minister gave me last week.
I imagine it will be in that territory but I am not in a position to give an absolute figure at this stage.
The Minister told me it was €4.9 million.
It is Deputy Costello's priority question.
That is a ridiculous answer. I read in a newspaper article the specific amounts given in reply to Deputy O'Keeffe last week. I already had this question down. The Minister is not even able to give me provisional amounts here. He gave the blandest answer one could possibly imagine. He has given no indication of the costs of this operation and no information regarding the number of gardaí involved.
Has the Minister read the question? I asked for a number of things. Can he give answers? I asked for the estimated cost as regards security arrangements and the number of Garda personnel involved. That would surely not be a matter that would have taken long to put together. This would have been known before the President's visit. I believe there was an answer on that.
I asked about Garda hours involved in the operation, the level of disruption and the number of arrests made. It is not good enough that nearly a month later the Minister is not able to tell the House the number of arrests made. He simply has not answered the question. I am totally dissatisfied with that answer. It has avoided the question, no effort was made and there is nothing specific in the Minister's answer.
These are priority questions, after all, but the Minister has not given us a priority answer. Was the visit not something of a photo opportunity? When one considers that President Bush went to bed almost as soon as he arrived in Shannon, were the arrangements not somewhat farcical? It was really a sleep-over for the President on his way to the NATO summit. The main photograph that emerged from the event was of the President in his underwear. The Minister is unable to give me details of the security arrangements, such as how much they cost, what the numbers were, how many people were arrested and the amount of disruption that was caused. I am seeking such answers. Was the entire visit not manipulated by the President to get a nice cosy photo opportunity for his presidential re-election campaign?
I gave Deputy Jim O'Keeffe provisional figures last week.
I asked a priority question.
I presumed Deputy Costello was asking me to be more exact, precise and definitive in that regard. As he is aware of the answer I gave Deputy O'Keeffe last week, I presume he is aware of the magnitude of the expenditure involved.
That is a ridiculous answer. I want an answer to my priority question. The Minister could have made some effort to answer it.
The answers to questions asked in this House are designed to inform the public. I do not resile from the provisional estimate I gave Deputy Jim O'Keeffe last week, but I cannot be more specific at this stage until all the sums are in and the calculations are done.
The Minister has not given me a provisional answer.
The Deputy read the answer I gave Deputy O'Keeffe. Does he want me to repeat myself constantly in the House? Approximately 3,800 gardaí were involved in the security arrangements. I have not received a more accurate estimate of the Garda man-hours involved than that on which the provisional figures I gave Deputy O'Keeffe last week was based. I inform Deputy Costello that seven arrests were made during the Garda operation, which was much less than had been provided for in the contingency arrangements. The Deputy knows that a warehouse facility adjacent to the airport was designated as a temporary Garda station in case more arrests were made. A small number of arrests was made, happily. The proceedings at Shannon were peaceful and amicable, generally speaking.
I wish the Minister could have provided that minimum level of information when he gave his initial reply. He has informed the House that 3,800 gardaí made seven arrests. He referred to the provisional figures. Why did he not give such details at the outset, instead of saying that he did not have figures? Does the Minister think that a fair balance was struck between the rights of local citizens in the Shannon area, who suffered a certain amount of disruption, and the security requirements? A warehouse was opened up and many gardaí were employed but there was no trouble, as far as I can gather. Given the level of disruption and inconvenience that was caused, does the Minister think that the attitude of the State was excessive or heavy-handed?
I do not believe the State's response was disproportionate. If I had ignored the Garda Commissioner's advice about the appropriate level of security, or said on financial grounds that I would not grant him the resources he sought as necessary for the proper policing of the occasion, and there had then been different scenes and a different outcome at Shannon — if there had been a major collapse in public order, for example — I would be accused of personal culpability. I do not agree that most people in the Shannon region have a negative view of the summit that was held there recently. It was successful in that the names of Shannon and Dromoland Castle were broadcast internationally. The general ambience came across positively in the media. The local economy will benefit as a result in the fullness of time. International name recognition is very important.