Criminal Justice Bill 2007: Report Stage (Resumed).

Bill recommitted in respect of amendments Nos. 43 to 170, inclusive.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 104:
In page 31, to delete lines 3 to 47, to delete pages 32 to 34 and in page 35, to delete lines 1 to 14 and substitute the following:
"31.—(1) Section 27 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 is amended by the deletion of subsection (3B).".
—(Deputy Ó Snodaigh).

On a point of order, the Tánaiste indicated he would reflect overnight on a number of critical and core issues. If he brought us up to speed on those in his reply, it would be helpful. Also, now that we will not have Report Stage today, could we have his written thoughts and proposals as soon as possible on conclusion of Committee Stage?

The goal posts have moved in the course of the morning and as I have time to consider these matters and consult with my colleagues in Government I would prefer to do that. There has been no dramatic development overnight.

It would be helpful if the Tánaiste could give us notice of his final intentions arising from the Committee Stage debate before Report Stage.

This will have a bearing on our drafting of Report Stage amendments.

Draftsmen are entitled to Easter holidays too and I have been working them fairly hard as the House appreciates. I will, however, do my best to furnish Deputies with the drift of the amendments I propose to bring forward in advance of Report Stage.

How stands the amendment?

The Tánaiste was in possession on a point of order and I do not know whether he had finished.

I contemplated reconfiguring this paragraph in the Seanad to insert numerals and letters on the subsections because some are almost unusable.

There are a lot of "C"s.

I would like to re-state that paragraph in a readable form which should not be beyond the wit of man to achieve.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 105:

In page 31, lines 14 and 15, to delete "other than a child or young person" and substitute "other than a person under the age of 18 years".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 106 to 109, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 110:

In page 32, lines 15 and 16, to delete "other than a child or young person" and substitute "other than a person under the age of 18 years".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 111 and 112 not moved.

I move amendment No. 113:

In page 33, line 24, to delete "other than a child or young person" and substitute "other than a person under the age of 18 years".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 114:

In page 34, line 5, to delete "other than a child or young person" and substitute "other than a person under the age of 18 years".

Amendment agreed to.

I wish to speak on amendments Nos. 115 to 120. They are on the point I have made already about mandatory sentences so I will not repeat them except to say that we dealt with firearms in legislation last year. The fact that we are returning to the issue so soon shows that the Tánaiste does not think we got it right then. There have been several gangland killings in the meantime but we have not had the chance to allow the legislation that was passed last year take effect and to see whether it had its intended effect.

I do not approve of mandatory sentences but I approve of strong sentencing guidelines. The Judiciary should understand the concerns of the legislation and society on these issues. Society wants the Judiciary to come down heavy on drug barons and gangs which shoot one another and innocent victims caught in their crossfire or mistaken targets. That is the basis for these amendments deleting Part 6 until we have reviewed the effectiveness of last year's legislation.

Have we cleared section 31?

The Deputy is correct, we need to do that.

Question proposed: "That section 31, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

In broad terms it is agreed but arising from the debate yesterday the Tánaiste said he would come back to us on issues relating to constitutional points raised. Deputy Howlin's point about the disparity between the €500,000 fine and others that are a fraction of that sum is relevant.

It would be useful to have clarity on these important issues before going into the Easter recess. Deputy Jim O'Keeffe asked how the two processes for possession of drugs sit together, one for drugs of a value greater than £10,000 or €13,000, and the new provision which is of an extraordinarily different order. The Tánaiste thought of withdrawing his second proposal which would clarify our determination on this matter. I am not sure whether we should adjust the €13,000 threshold in the original legislation. Has the Tánaiste thought about this overnight?

I could not imagine a less clear signal than imposing similar sentences for possession of €13,000 worth of drugs and €500,000 worth.

There is a similar tariff accruing.

That is the real problem arising from this section.

As I said yesterday I appreciate the Deputies' point. There is jurisprudence, particularly in Canada, to the effect that it is possible to have proportionate mandatory sentences which, having regard to the value of the drugs, would be absolute and fixed. The downside of this as Deputy Howlin says, in a point with which I sympathise, is that it might be interpreted as saying this is a two-tier offence and that between €13,000 and €500,000 there is a no-man's-land where the law exists but does not mean what it says. If that were the outcome that would be the opposite of what most people in the House would like the law to be, a direction to the Judiciary that the minimum mandatory sentence for significant quantities of drug trafficking is ten years——

Is €13,000 worth a significant quantity?

Yes, exactly. That is the issue. Assuming my advice is correct the question is whether it is an advance to bring it into law or if it will have an unpredicted counter-effect of making offences which are now serious less so. I want to reflect on that and to have an opportunity to consult with my colleagues in Government before making any change in the legislation on that point.

On that basis we could agree the section. We will be returning to it on Report Stage but the Tánaiste has taken the points on board.

It is unsatisfactory that the Minister will reflect on a number of fundamental elements of the legislation while we are being asked to divide on Committee Stage when it concludes later without knowing where he stands, for example, on the mandatory sentencing issue. He stated there has been no fundamental change in the position he indicated yesterday evening. Does that mean he will delete section 24?

I stated yesterday evening that I wanted to reflect on it.

We will have to vote on this Stage at 1.30 p.m. and we would like to know on what we are dividing. It is fair to the House that we should know, as that is a reasonable perspective. I understand the Minister's stated position but will he return in a fortnight to say he has reversed engines and the original draft of the legislation will stand? That would make it more difficult for us to come to a conclusion on Committee Stage.

I will make it clear to Members what I will do in a fortnight and, therefore, they will have ample opportunity to call a division if they do not agree with what I propose on Report Stage.

Does the Minister appreciate our objective is to pass decent legislation and not to use an empty formula such as calling a division on this issue? We have stood up to that mark throughout the debate. What is happening now is the inevitable consequence of the rushed manner in which the Bill is going through the House. The separation of Committee and Report Stages is a slight improvement and it will give everybody time for reflection, but the rushed manner in which the Bill is being taken does not permit adequate consultation and reflection.

I appreciate those comments but I have undertaken to listen to the debate. Just because I am listening to the debate does not mean I must instantly decide a point made is worth accepting.

That is fair enough.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 32 agreed to.

I move amendmentNo. 115:

In page 35, to delete lines 27 to 41 and in page 36, to delete lines 1 and 2.

The Deputy has indicated that he opposes this and other sections. He is not particularly worried about the board of the National Museum certifying firearms but, nonetheless, I get the message that he does not like Part 6.

This section inserts a new subsection, which states: "The purpose of subsections (5) and (6) of this section is to provide that in view of the harm caused to society by the unlawful possession and use of firearms, a court, in imposing sentence on a person (except a person under the age of 18 years) for an offence under this section, shall specify as the minimum term of imprisonment to be served by the person a term of not less than 10 years, unless the court determines that by reason of exceptional and specific circumstances relating to the offence, or the person convicted of it, it would be unjust in all the circumstances to do so."

That is as clear a message as I can state, bearing in mind what the Constitution requires in avoiding disproportionate sentences. It is a clear statement of policy to judges when imposing sentence in respect of grave firearms offences. The policy of the House is that it should carry a ten-year penalty. It does not tie the hands of the Judiciary to do something that would be constitutionally infirm or to behave in a manner——

To what is each section of the 1925 Act related?

The first is related to possession with intent to endanger life.

Will the Minister clarify the "exceptional and specific circumstances" that will apply to avoid a mandatory sentence?

Unless the legislation states the sentence should always be ten years, which has a constitutional implication on the advice of the Attorney General, a formula must be devised that allows the Judiciary to avoid a grossly disproportionate sentence, for instance, in a case where somebody was in temporary possession of a firearm out of sheer curiosity for 24 hours and was not involved in gangland activity. I cannot imagine a circumstance, similar to the Supreme Court in Tiernan's case, when one could intend to kill or endanger life with a firearm——

And have a saving clause. One's wife could be at home with a gun to her head.

Perhaps. There could be extraordinary circumstances but to have a firearm with intent to endanger life is a very serious offence. The norm should be a ten-year sentence and only in exceptional and specific circumstances should there be a departure from the ten-year norm. That is the intent of this section.

Can I take it the "exceptional and specific circumstances" are not being specified? This loose reference will remain and it will be a matter for the Judiciary to decide whether a case constitutes "exceptional and specific circumstances".

If the Deputy has a formulation that is preferable and constitutional, I would love to hear it but I must provide a safety valve constitutionally, which must take a statutory form. If I insert a laundry list relating to coercion, duress and so on, my worry is that I would leave something out and I would be told following an Article 26 reference that the Bill had collapsed.

I favour this formulation.

I also do not have a magic formula but it is important that we tease out the issue. I can understand the use of the word "exceptional" but what is intended by the use of the word "specific"?

"Specific" means they are specified.

The judge. It must be specific to the individual or the offence and it must be articulated by the judge why he is departing from the ten-year norm.

I support that.

Will the Minister outline the list of relevant sections?

Possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life, possession of a firearm while hijacking a vehicle, possession of a firearm to resist arrest or to aid an escape, possession of a firearm in suspicious circumstances — that is the phrase used for possession of firearms in circumstances giving rise to the reasonable inference that one does not have them for a lawful purpose, which is a lesser offence——

That carries a five-year sentence.

Yes. The remaining sections relate to possession of a firearm with criminal intent and altering a firearm such as sawing off a shotgun.

What section is that?

Section 38.

I had questions about the board of the National Museum. My father worked for the museum for many years, he travelled the country to obtain firearms for the museum and there was an anomaly because he had no licence to do so.

The Deputy carried on the family trade.

I have never possessed a gun illegally.

The Deputy always had army council authorisation.

The authority recognised by him at the time.

My father related a sad story about the Garda museum in the Phoenix Park. The museum had a range of weapons which had been discovered or confiscated over the years and which were used to educate staff in the forensic laboratory. When the Troubles broke out the person in charge decided the weapons were in danger of being confiscated by certain forces and they were brought into the yard and concreted over. This heritage, if that is the right word, is in the car park of the Phoenix Park when it could have been bored and given to a museum.

It was the decommissioning of its time.

There is a problem with bored weapons which are for sale in various places in the European Union and, as I have heard recently, in this State. They can be rebored and put back into circulation and that needs to be taken into account by the museum and others. Even though we do not want the destruction of historical artefacts, weapons in museums must be made unusable.

I will not rehearse the debate on other sections but that they are up for discussion shows the last piece of legislation was rushed in the first place. Why otherwise would we have to revisit it in this way?

It was not rushed but took two and a half years.

I know, but the fact that we have come back to it so quickly means the Minister did not get it right.

So, despite all the time the Deputy spent on the Bill, he did not identify the problems.

The Minister did not identify the problems. I did not agree with mandatory sentences, which is the reason for the amendments. I assume, if a mandatory sentence is to apply to somebody caught with a firearm in suspicious circumstances, it would apply to a wife who picks up an unlicensed gun kept in the home. If a person carries out a hijacking or an armed robbery he or she knows what they are doing when they pick up the weapon. A child aged four years was found recently with a loaded gun. Are these suspicious circumstances? What if a person was frightened and could not account for why he or she were in possession of a gun? I know the Minister is adamant the section go through so I will not delay matters.

There are a number of firearms offences, namely possession with intent to endanger life, possession with intent to commit indictable offences and possession with a number of other specific intents. If a garda goes to my house this evening and finds, in my sock drawer, a loaded pistol and there is no explanation as to why it is there, meaning it is my possession rather than, for example, that of a family member, that must be a serious criminal offence. One cannot ask gardaí to go before a jury and engage in a psychological analysis of the accused to ascertain the actual intent. If a person has a machine pistol in his or her house it is not necessary for the prosecution to show it was for the purposes of shooting somebody, planning a bank robbery or threatening gardaí. It is a serious offence in its own right.

If we are serious about countering the threat of firearms, if not ending their presence, gardaí who find a loaded firearm in somebody's drawer must not be forced to leave the property only able to charge the possessor with not having a licence for it. Nor must gardaí fail in a prosecution if they are unable to determine why a person has a loaded weapon.

The offence was brought in to make it clear that people should not possess a loaded weapon. It is not necessary for the prosecution to prove the exact purpose where it is clear from all the circumstances that the person in question did not have the weapon for lawful purposes, such as where they found it in the street and resolved to bring it to the Garda station the following day. Once a person crosses the threshold of criminality it is not necessary to prove specific intent.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 33 agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 116 to 120, inclusive, not moved.
Sections 34 to 38, inclusive, agreed to.

Acting Chairman

Amendment No. 121 is out of order.

Amendment No. 121 not moved.

I move amendmentNo. 122:

In page 38, to delete lines 37 to 39 and substitute the following:

"(4) Not fewer than 50 per cent of the members of the Board shall be women.".

This is a standard amendment of mine and a proposal I have submitted to various boards. I have heard the Minister's arguments to the effect that such a provision would be awkward to implement but we should try, when preparing legislation, to ensure board memberships reflect society as much as possible.

The Minister seems to have covered this issue by providing that at least one member should be a woman and one a man. I approve of the approach whereby the third post is open to the most appropriate candidate.

On the section, the Minister proposes to establish a Garda Síochána executive management board, which seems to be a pale imitation of an independent police board or Garda authority. The proposal seems to be a substitute plan on the part of a Minister who has set his face against the establishment of an independent police authority.

The executive members of the proposed new board will all be substantial figures in terms of experience in the Garda Síochána. There are to be three non-executive members and it is right to have lay participation in a board of this nature but I hope it will involve people with some expertise in representing the public in this field.

I am not suggesting that they would be barristers or solicitors, even though I have nothing against either of those professions.

I thank the Deputy.

There are individual cases. Lay people can find it difficult when they find themselves in situations with very strong personalities. By virtue of being in these positions, such people have strong personalities. Equally, they have a wealth of experience in the area. I am concerned that this experience could be used to nullify the argument that the person who is not a professional in that area might have. How will the Tánaiste ensure that will not happen? Will we have people who are experienced in putting the case or making an input in terms of how the Garda interact with the average person on the street?

We all occasionally get complaints — I am sure the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform gets them more than any of the rest of us — about the behaviour of gardaí. It can be hard to talk to someone with that wealth of experience, force of personality and enormous presence by virtue of his or her position. I would like the Tánaiste to outline how this can be done. It is difficult to do but it needs to be done. We need to ensure that the public will have a high degree of confidence in this type of board. I do not necessarily believe that it should merely contain the professional classes, members of which by their nature probably never get mistreated by the Garda.

The issue of corporate governance of the Garda Síochána is important. For that reason, the Government authorised me to ask Independent Senator Maurice Hayes to establish a group to advise on this area. He has given me his report, which I have published. We have also received a report from the Garda inspectorate. Happily, there was considerable overlap between the two in their approach. Paragraphs 9 and 10 of the report of Senator Maurice Hayes's group read:

9. A prerequisite for progress, in our opinion, is to get the top structure right. The present structure of a management group of 15 meeting monthly should be replaced by a more tightly knit and focused executive group meeting weekly under the chairmanship of the Commissioner — this would provide strategic leadership, drive change, allocate resources, set targets, monitor performance and maintain professional standards and managerial efficiency. It would also free the Commissioner of much of the day-to-day detail and leave him free for the strategic task of leading the organisation through a period of rapid change.

10. Our preferred top structure would comprise a Board of Management, meeting weekly, chaired by the Commissioner with three Deputy Commissioners (one of whom would be a civilian with appropriate experience of finance, HR or change-management in large private or public sector organisations). We wish to give further consideration to the possibility of providing a review and challenge capacity within the Board at crucial stages in the annual planning cycle by the introduction of two or three persons with relevant experience at a senior level in the private and wider public sector. We will return to this issue in a later report.

In response to what Deputy O'Keeffe said, this is not envisaged to be a pale imitation of an authority. This is an executive board, which meets the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners weekly to ascertain progress on particular areas, for example, radio communications, civilianisation, etc.

Since the commissionership of Daniel Costigan, the force has always had a garda at its head and a structure with gardaí in the top positions. This may be acceptable in one sense because it helps it to be a disciplined organisation and it means that people who join the force see they can go the whole way to the top, as it does not have outsiders, an officer class or executive class telling them how to run the force. I am happy and comfortable with that concept. However, there is a downside to it. There are people working in banking, insurance, the public sector etc. who have tremendous experience of operating other large organisations and who could make a great input on an executive basis to assist the gardaí who have come up through the ranks and have been involved from the level of investigating crimes to being in charge of a division of the force.

This has nothing to do with an independent police authority. This is a management board that is supposed to assist the gardaí at the top of the organisation to make hands-on decisions to drive the force forward and to drive change. I am very appreciative of the way in which the Commissioner has driven the process of change in recent years. The Garda Síochána is tremendously proud of its reputation. It has had its own way of doing things for a considerable time. It is difficult and challenging for somebody who has come to the top of an organisation of which he is tremendously proud to announce that he is changing the way it is to be run and is bringing in other people to assist him. This House owes a huge debt to the present management of the Garda Síochána for its willingness to drive and accept change and be champions of change within the force.

Deputy Lynch asked me whom I had in mind. I certainly do not have barristers and solicitors in mind as the candidates. It could be that some barrister or solicitor might be suitable. However, it would not be either an indicator or an advantage to be either a barrister or solicitor for this job.

We would not want people who are merely pals of the Taoiseach.

Exactly. That is also true.

The plasterer.

Plastered or plastering.

We have in mind a system of public appointment. I considered all the possibilities involving some competition. However, I am sure that a top executive in a bank, chemical company, computer company or whatever would not submit himself or herself to a public examination before the Houses of the Oireachtas and then rejection in some competitive process or to controversy in such circumstances. One of the problems we have in public appointments is that the more nominally transparent and accountable the process of appointment, frequently the greater the reluctance of anybody with intelligence in their head to get involved in the process. They do not want people standing up and decrying them in speeches and pointing out that they have a first cousin with a criminal conviction. They will not go down that road if we have a process equivalent to the American Senate hearings for judges. They will just say that life is too short to be humiliated in public and have their life turned over in public.

Of course character background investigations for these people will be required because it would cause great scandal if a corrupt or compromised person was appointed to one of these positions and it would destroy the Government that attempted to do it.

I do not know about that. Some have been able to put odd people on ethics committees and committees of public accounts.

I believe it would destroy a Government that attempted to do it. I have explained what Senator Maurice Hayes's group had in mind, which is having top level executives with the capacity to assist the Garda Síochána to do its job. As a barrister, I can say that most barristers have no experience of operating at such a level. Mismanaging their own time and managing one secretary is about the full extent of their administrative experience.

The Tánaiste has proved the point. That is my problem with him.

Naturally, there are exceptions. There are tremendously talented barristers. One need only mention somebody such as my predecessor as Attorney General, Mr. Dermot Gleason, who has a significant job in the private sector. However, being a barrister is not a passport to such jobs. I believe in barristers being sole traders and single, independent, rugged individuals, but that life demands from them that they never really get involved in large-scale administration. Perhaps the length of the tribunals has something to do with the fact that barristers are taking on roles which are organisational rather than otherwise.

That is what I have in mind. It is not a pay limitation or a substitute for an independent police authority. This is an executive entity that is supposed to move on the agenda of change in the Garda Síochána.

There is a time limit on the debate so I do not propose to delay the House on this issue. Whether it is a pay limitation or a halfway house towards an independent police authority is not relevant at this stage. In the absence of a police authority, I support it.

It is a step in the right direction.

Yes. With regard to its composition and who can be a non-executive member, all such legislation appears to carry a standard provision, inserted by the bureaucracy, providing for the exclusion of Members of the Oireachtas from being considered for membership of boards. I object to that. It is not that I have an interest in being a member but I believe there are certain circumstances where Members of the Oireachtas, appointed in an open and transparent fashion, could offer a considered viewpoint to some of these bodies. Subsection (9) provides that a person ceases to be a non-executive member when he is nominated as a Member of Seanad Éireann. Who has contributed so much in terms of thoughtful analysis and proposals for the development of the Garda Síochána and contributed so significantly to Northern Ireland as Senator Maurice Hayes? We are providing in legislation that even if we wanted him to be appointed a member of this board, we cannot.

I will not make a great deal of the matter. To enable us to proceed to other provisions of the Bill, I will support these sections.

My amendment was ruled out of order. It offered a separate model and formulation. If the Minister believes that at some stage we should have a police authority, this is the time to establish it. Has the Minister given any thought to the remuneration that would be available to the non-executive members? It will be subject to discussion between the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Minister for Finance. A substantial package would be required to attract the type of person the Minister mentioned, that is, somebody in a top job who is capable of dealing with up to 15,000 personnel and the range of other functions that would have to be undertaken by the management board.

Some of the other members of the board, the executive members, might not be happy if somebody was receiving higher remuneration than them, despite the fact that they would have a greater burden. The Garda Commissioner, for example, would not be just a member of this board but would have all the other duties that go with his position. What will be the relationship between the Garda Síochána executive management board and Kathleen O'Toole, Chief Inspector of the Garda Inspectorate?

Will I speak on the other amendments I have submitted?

We are dealing with amendment No. 122 only. There will be an opportunity to say something further in the debate on other amendments and on the section.

Amendments Nos. 123 and 124 are alternatives and amendment No. 127 is related. Amendments Nos. 123, 124 and 127 will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 123:

In page 38, line 43, after "Minister" to insert the following:

"following ratification of the nomination by both Houses of the Oireachtas".

This amendment seeks to give democratic legitimacy to the nominees. The Minister said he does not want to have a US Senate style inquiry. That is a fair point, but it would strengthen the position of the nominees if they were subject to ratification in the Dáil. I do not envisage it being a scrutiny because if there were anything that would debar the nominees from membership, it would come to light in due course. It would be proper if the nominees were given the democratic authority of the House with regard to their role.

I listened with interest to the structural changes suggested by the Minister. Perhaps he would send me a paper or a couple of paragraphs on how he envisages this working. He mentioned it in a reply to a parliamentary question about our model, which is the Garda authority. I would like to examine his proposal and he might afford me the courtesy of sending me a paper on the structure he envisages, the role of these individuals and how they would make an impact. There is a crying need for the structures that exist, which date from the 1920s, to be reformed.

There are two power points in the current structure, the Minister and the Garda Commissioner. The Minister is not responsible for operational duties. He has been accused of directly running the show from St. Stephen's Green but, in truth, he does not. The operational decisions are made by the Garda Commissioner, who is not subject to democratic scrutiny for operational matters. If one tables a parliamentary question about an operational matter, one will be told that it is a matter for the Garda Commissioner and the Minister has no responsibility for it.

Somebody needs to move that forward for the 21st century, where there is an agreed democratic plan and an accounting role. The Garda Commissioner is the Accounting Officer. Will his degree of accountability, even before the justice committee or the new security committee envisaged by the Minister, which I wish to see explained in plain writing, include being open to scrutiny with regard to operational decisions or will it simply be for moneys spent and value for money? A careful line must be drawn in this regard. It would be disastrous if either the Minister or the Oireachtas tried to micromanage the operational duties of the Garda. I would not support such a course.

For that reason, and having given great consideration to the matter, I am wedded to the concept of a democratic Garda authority giving general guidelines in terms of policing plans and objectives and objectively setting the resource and manpower needs within the democratically determined work programme. This would be mirrored at local level by the local policing committees which would devise local policing plans. The plans for Kilmuckridge in my constituency, for example, would be different from the plans for Darndale, while those for parts of Limerick city would be different from those for rural Connemara. After years of my knocking on its door, there is the beginning of an agreement in the House that the Garda Síochána needs to change structurally and that the current structure is not working.

We will not have time to deal with those matters today and I do not propose that the Minister read his views into the record of the House today, but he might send them to me over the break. I am happy that this is a step in the right direction, but I am anxious in the 40 or so minutes left to us to get on to the next sections of this Bill.

I do not say this to underplay my concern and belief that the structures and management of the Garda Síochána are principal issues in determining its effectiveness.

I will set out all the thinking I have done in public and departmental thinking and have a letter saying all these things sent to the Deputy. I share his passion for reform, which is why I said earlier that the Commissioner, who is in the difficult position of keeping the Garda Síochána functioning and, at the same time, changing it, which is a very difficult position for anybody to be in, has led the process of reform while being in the middle of the battle against crime. This is not an easy position for anybody to be in and he has done a tremendous job.

However, there must be change and everybody in the Garda Síochána knows this. All I will say is that just as the Deputy and I are passionately committed to that proposition, I am equally passionately committed to the notion that there must be accountability to this House for the Garda Síochána.

That can be achieved.

We will find a way of achieving it.

What I find most disturbing, and I will not be provocative, is that if one is faced with something like the RTE authority, even the good and great, even independently appointed by the Commission for Public Service Appointments or selected according to some process, in the end, some issue will arise where the Minister of the day says he or she does not agree with what those people are doing.

That would be a different model. It would be structured differently.

One is then faced with the question of whether the Minister sacks them en masse and says that he or she is putting in new people who take a different view of, for example, the fight against drugs or gang crime. I do not think that is a good idea.

If that is the major issue, we will find a solution to it.

We have an independent Garda authority, of which the Deputies opposite are members. The real thing is for this House——

It is a toothless one if that is the truth.

That is the point. The capacity of the Commissioner as Accounting Officer is purely financial. He makes budgetary decisions and it is a powerful position. Generally speaking, his accountability as Accounting Officer is to the Committee of Public Accounts. There is no reason the Commissioner and the deputy commissioners should not be regular attendees before a policing and crime prevention committee of this House where they are asked about the policing plan, their annual plan and developments that have emerged in the recent past and, without micro-managing them, asked to publicly state whether they agree with the Minister's assertion that they have enough resources. They would not be brought into conflict with the Minister because, obviously, that would not be desirable, but those kinds of questions would be probed. For example, they would be asked what resources they have for the national drugs unit.

The idea that I must keep batting forward——

That structure does not yet exist.

That is the point I am making.

This is a Parliament with 166 people for a population of 4.5 million or whatever it is. I know we have fewer people than the Parliament at Westminster, but its committee system works better than ours.

Their seats are slightly more secure, by and large.

That may be so, but it works better than our system. We must be slightly humble and ask why systems of scrutiny at Westminster are far more effective than ours. That is an endemic problem for us.

Resourcing Parliament is part of that.

It could be due to multi-seat proportional representation or many things, but Westminster seems to do it better than us.

Is the amendment being pressed?

The Minister did not respond to the amendment. Is he opposed to it?

I am opposed to it for reasons I have outlined.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 124 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 125 and 126 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendmentNo. 125:

In page 39, line 1, after "in" to insert the following:

"the application of best practice in human rights compliance,".

This amendment is self-explanatory and similar to other amendments I have proposed in respect of various pieces of legislation. It is also similar to amendment No. 126. Even though we are talking about strategic and financial management and management of human resources in terms of the Garda Síochána, we must remember what is being managed. People who are appointed by the Minister should have some type of expertise or experience in respect of human rights or best practice in human rights compliance.

We should ensure that this category of experience and expertise, which is important, is clearly added to the list. We want to give more than a signal to the notion of the value of experience and practice in human rights. I am slightly afraid that we are talking about management consultants almost like cost accountants and it is important to rebalance that with the sentence I have suggested.

All I am saying is that there are many qualifications and that experience covers many things. I do not want it to be thought that this management board is there to supervise human rights in the force.

We do not necessarily want them to be cost accountants either.

No, but I want to try to transform the executive capacity of the force and improve it dramatically. I do not want to be a position where I need to have professors of sociology there. That is not what this is about.

I would be happy if the Minister indicated that he would have regard to——

I can give an oral indication that these issues are ones to keep in the back of one's mind when one is making an appointment. However, I do not want to be in a position where, somehow, professors of social science are more eligible than somebody who has actually managed an organisation.


I really want experience in the management of a large organisation. Experience in the social sciences does not necessarily qualify one to do that, no more than being a lawyer does. If I was tough on the lawyers earlier, I must also be tough on academics and social scientists. They are not necessarily the people to whom one would give top executive positions. If I may say something——

Can we get to the section?

I wish to speak about the amendment. Deputy Ó Snodaigh asked about remuneration. It must be flexible. Obviously, one will not pay them more than the Commissioner because that would be——

It is not a full-time job.

It is not a full-time job, rather it is a weekly job. They are non-executive directors. I cannot say it is going to be €20,000 or €50,000. I do not know. However, it must be sufficiently attractive to get somebody of capacity to devote at least one day a week to the job.

The Minister might be available.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 126 and 127 not moved.

I move amendmentNo. 128:

In page 40, line 8, after "review" to insert the following:

"and advise the Garda Commissioner, the Minister and both Houses of the Oireachtas on".

This amendment aims to ensure that the function of the board is to advise the Garda Commissioner even though he or she would be a member of the board. At the end of the day, the Commissioner will be making decisions by himself or herself. It aims to ensure that the function of the board is also to advise the Minister and that part of its job is to advise both Houses of the Oireachtas. I am not being prescriptive in respect of how and when this advice must come to the Houses, but this should be one of the board's functions.

The function of this board is as an executive board. Its function is not to advise the Oireachtas or me, but to get stuck into the executive functions of the Garda Síochána. While I appreciate what the Deputy is getting at, I do not want to go down that road.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 129:

In page 40, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

"(2) Provision may be made by order for the transfer to the Board of any of the management functions of the Commissioner, so that upon such transfer the Commissioner shall be accountable to the Board in respect of the functions so prescribed.".

I confess this is a "try on" amendment. I had originally decided to graft in the entire Garda authority Bill that I had drawn up, but it was far too complicated to do that in the time available. However, it would have increased the length of the Bill somewhat. I tabled this amendment simply to indicate I am wedded to the notion of a Garda authority. We have already rehearsed the issue and I will read with interest the Minister's views on his own structure and see if we can build consensus on these matters.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendmentNo. 130:

In page 40, lines 17 and 18, after "performance" to insert the following:

"including the distribution and stationing of An Garda Síochána members throughout the State".

This amendment is self-explanatory. The amendment gives an additional job to the board to review. It is probably included the Bill, but I wanted it to be stated.

I want to leave that function with the Commissioner.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendmentNo. 131:

In page 40, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:

"(3) The Board shall also keep under review the recommendations of the various Joint Policing Committees and the implementation of those recommendations by the Minister and an Garda Síochána.".

Joint policing committees were set up last year and they have a function to make recommendations. This amendment tries to ensure these recommendations get a proper hearing on this board.

It is not intended that the board would have anything to do with the Minister of the day or his responsibilities. I am very anxious that the joint policing committees be rolled out, but their primary relationship is with gardaí at a local level. It is not——

Is there an ongoing evaluation of the pilot programmes?

There is no evaluation currently. I went ahead with a number of the joint policing committees in order to get the CCTV systems up and running. I had boxed myself into a corner as I could not put in a CCTV system without a local policing committee to approve it. There was a slightly arbitrary approach to decide which places got them. I hope to roll them out right across the country. We have seen them in operation long enough.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 132 not moved.

I move amendmentNo. 133:

In page 40, line 39, after "receipt" to insert "and no later than two weeks".

This is to ensure there is a timely publication of the report when submitted. A quick turnaround is required.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 39 agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 134, 135 and 139 are related and may be taken together.

I move amendmentNo. 134:

In page 41, to delete lines 3 to 5 and substitute the following:

"42.—(1) The Minister, both Houses of the Oireachtas or the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, with respect to any matter considered by him or her or them to be of public concern, shall by order appoint a person to-".

The intent of these amendments is to ensure there is accountability to the House and a quick response. They try to ensure both Houses of the Oireachtas have the opportunity on all occasions to deal with changes in terms of reference and so on.

This provision is designed to allow for special inquiries to be held on a number of aspects of the Garda Síochána, such as administration, operation, practice or procedure or the conduct of members. For example, if it was alleged that members of the Garda were or were not favouring a particular insurance company in a manner that has been recently alleged, but heavily denied in today's newspapers——

It is just one insurance company. The pilot that was authorised also causes great concern.

Perhaps, but let us suppose that something like that emerged and it was not a matter for the Garda Ombudsman Commission to look at it, I want to be in a position to have an effective means of inquiry to get at the truth of such a matter. In drafting the Garda Síochána Act 2005, we discovered that we had watered down the scope of our capacity to appoint a special inquiry, in anticipation that the Garda Ombudsman Commission would be carrying out the whole inquiry. In the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the pendulum swung too far and we did not want to have tribunals and commissions of inquiry on relatively simply, single issue items. That is what this section is all about.

The fact we are amending the Garda Síochána Act 2005 at this stage highlights the point we constantly make that these issues were not fully dealt with at the time the Bill——

How long did it take? We had two to three years to do it.

The final stages were rushed. Having said that, the change proposed makes much sense and the particular example quoted by the Minister highlights the need for power being there to inquire into issues like that insurance case. I have no idea if there is any substance to the report. In fact, it has been heavily denied. However, if there is a scintilla of evidence to support the point raised in the article in The Sunday Tribune, there should be a power to inquire into it fully.

I read this section and I was not quite certain what it was about. I thought it was just a saver clause to provide a legislative basis for an inquiry into something which happened that was not covered in the rest of the Bill. However, the matter raised by the Minister should be a matter for the Garda Ombudsman Commission. If we are to establish a robust system with 100 investigators, then that would be the mechanism to deal with matters like this.

There may be other matters that would not come under the remit of the Garda Ombudsman Commission, or some matter might be so urgent that the commission would not have the resources to deal with it as a matter of urgency. Therefore, I have no difficulty with the availability of this clause, but I would not like it to undermine the authority and scope of the Garda Ombudsman Commission.

I wish to make a point about the issue raised in The Sunday Tribune. Two allegations were made. The first dealt with Quinn Direct, which has been robustly rebutted with an allegation of forgery. This is an extremely serious matter and I have no doubt it will take its course and the truth will out.

The second allegation relates to what appears to be an exclusive arrangement entered into by the Garda Síochána and AXA Insurance. I am deeply concerned about this and have tabled several parliamentary questions today, which I am sure will be answered. I understand the pilot scheme in my county, which was supposed to run for six months, is still ongoing. Having read the report last Sunday, I made some inquiries and discovered that it has been ongoing since the middle of 2005. Under this arrangement, gardaí must telephone this particular insurance company's designated towing company within 45 minutes in respect of any vehicle bearing its sticker that needs to be towed. However, a different tower applied through the tendering process to be the official Garda tower for my county and his drivers were vetted by the Garda and so on.

This issue certainly needs to be examined.

Yes. These are two separate allegations. The public rebuttal of one does not undermine the seriousness of either or the need to investigate both.

There is a third issue that should be investigated. This is the allegation that certain arrangements were made whereby solicitors were engaging in practices not principally to the benefit of their clients but for their own gain. As a non-practising solicitor, this is an allegation I take seriously.

What will be the fallout from these three issues? Moreover, there is a fourth issue in that there has been an allegation of forgery. What, if any, will be the position of the Garda Ombudsman Commission, which was established under the provisions of the 2005 Act we are now amending? That commission is not yet operational. Is there a date for commencement of its operations?

I understand the ombudsman commission plans to commence operations on 8 May. This is a welcome development. I remind Members that the establishment of a body of this type requires huge preparation. If the commission were to open its doors before being certain of how it will do its work, it would be discredited almost immediately. It is independent in making its decisions and the chairman is a High Court judge.

The Minister can refer matters to the commission.

However, I am not in a position to direct the commission to initiate a particular inquiry. This means that in a case where everybody in this House sought an inquiry into a particular matter, for example, I might not be able to initiate it. This is another reason for having an alternative means of inquiry. The commission might decide it is not its business to conduct a particular inquiry, perhaps because it does not consider it to be as serious as does the Oireachtas or because it takes one view or another of its area of competence or priorities. In such circumstances, I might be unable to direct that an inquiry be undertaken. That is what this section is all about.

We are satisfied with that.

I dealt with the three issues to which the Deputies referred during Leaders' Questions yesterday. The forgery, if it is a forgery, is a serious matter whatever way one looks at it. I will look into the matter raised by Deputy Howlin in regard to AXA Insurance. The Garda Commissioner regards all these as serious matters.

The allegations are based, as I understand it, on the allegedly forged document. I do not know what the Law Society will do about it. As I said during Leaders' Questions, everybody wants to encourage speedy resolution of these cases and to ensure solicitors do not benefit by slowing them down. Financial realities must reflect and be in harmony with ethical obligations. It is unhelpful to remunerate lawyers the longer they delay in dealing with cases.

Nor do we want fraudulent or unethical shortcuts.

Exactly, it is a question of balance.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 135 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 136 and 137 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendmentNo. 136:

In page 41, line 15, after "appointed" to insert the following:

"with the approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas".

The Minister referred to occasions when he might come under pressure from the Oireachtas to initiate special inquiries. My amendment seeks to ensure the Oireachtas will play a role in that regard. The wording of subsection (2) suggests the Minister may initiate such inquiries off his or her own bat. Given that the Garda Ombudsman Commission cannot deal with cases retrospectively, there may well be instances where events come to light that might require the Minister to direct the establishment of such inquiries. This is one of the flaws in the legislation establishing the commission.

I do not propose to go down this road. What is envisaged in this section is not necessarily a tribunal of inquiry substitute. The provisions could be employed in many different circumstances. Looking ahead, I do not propose to accept Deputy Ó Snodaigh's amendment No. 138, which proposes that all reports should be published. If I go down that road, I will get into issues such as those that arose in the In re Haughey case, for example, including natural justice, adversarial procedures and so on. I want to ensure the system is flexible and adaptable.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 137 not moved.

I move amendmentNo. 138:

In page 42, to delete lines 15 and 16 and substitute the following:

"(10) The Minister shall publish any report received under this section unless to publish it or to publish parts thereof would prejudice future criminal proceedings in which case the parts in question may be blacked out.".

The Minister addressed this issue in his response to my amendments Nos. 136 and 137. This amendment provides that parts of the report likely to prejudice future criminal proceedings may be blanked out. I would argue this point if we had more time. The public has a right to know the details of special inquiries initiated by the Minister except in cases where publication may interfere with criminal proceedings.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 139 not moved.
Section 40 agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 140 and 141 not moved.
Section 41 agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 142 and 143 are alternatives and may be discussed together. If amendment No. 142 is agreed to, amendment No. 143 cannot be moved.

I move amendmentNo. 142:

In page 43, to delete lines 32 to 43, to delete pages 44 to 46 and in page 47, to delete lines 1 and 2.

Last year, this House began the process of criminalising fishermen. Section 42 goes further in this regard. It is yet another instance where we are returning to legislation that was dealt with only a short time ago. The Minister obviously got it wrong in his own view and in terms of his agenda.

This section grants significant additional powers to fishery protection officers and the Garda Síochána. It is included among provisions relating to unrelated issues. This legislation was presented to the world as being aimed at gangland crime and drug dealers. Yet, it includes provisions in respect of fishermen. I do not understand why such provisions are included in this legislation. I agree we need to regulate the fishing industry and ensure those involved do not break the law. However, to equate a person who has exceeded his or her fishing quota with a person who brings into this country €500,000 or €1 million worth of drugs or who has shot innocent bystanders is stretching things a bit.

My amendment seeks the deletion of this section. If this provision was presented in another format, in a more reasonable fashion which does not seek to decimate the fishing industry by allowing hoover-ships and other countries to denude our fishing stocks, I might have some sympathy for it. However, its inclusion in this legislation will result in more people being forced out of the industry and to more clashes between fishermen trying to make ends meet and fisheries protection officers who seem to have a habit of going after the smaller fisherman rather than those who have bought, with the benefit of major grants, hoover-ships which are hoovering up fishing stocks in the Atlantic. The Government and European Union should never have allowed this to happen.

The Criminal Justice Bill 2007 is trumpeted by the Minister as his answer to gangland crime. It is extraordinary that in the middle of it are proposals to further criminalise those involved in the fishing industry. They resent the juxtaposition that arises from their being associated with gangland crime and they have a point. The notion of equating the committing of an offence by a person who may have exceeded his or her EU fish quota with offences committed by those involved in gangland crimes and drug trafficking is unacceptable.

The criminalisaton of the fishing community by Government by way of the enforcement of these provisions bears no relationship to the type of technical offences committed. Currently, the sea fisheries protection officers out-number those involved in the national drugs squad, which is crazy. The national drugs squad comprises approximately 50 members, not its full complement. Yet, we have 54 sea fisheries protection officers including 35 current members and the recruitment of 19 new officers. This is a crazy way of enforcing our laws. The Minister may respond saying the national drugs squad is assisted by many members from different divisions around the country who also deal specifically with drug crimes. That is a fair point until one completes the comparison. Under the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006, the 54 sea fisheries protection officers to which I refer, all 13,000 Garda, all permanent members of the Defence Forces not below the rank of leading seaman and all Customs and Excise officers, working on behalf of Revenue, are classified as sea fisheries protection officers. The fishing community resents being lumped in by way of this legislation with gangland criminals and drug traffickers given many of the offences committed are technical in nature and should never reach the Criminal Court.

Amendment No. 143 seeks to address the point in respect of an attempt to commit an offence. My argument will be reinforced by my colleague, Deputy McGinley, who also comes from a maritime constituency.

I am conscious we will be all shortly caught in the net of time. I am most anxious to speak on the issue of detention periods. However, I have a few observations on this matter.

The Minister said on Second Stage that he was doing a favour for his colleague, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Dempsey, by piggybacking this issue into the Bill. I do not believe he has done him or his Department any favours.

This Bill was presented as an urgent package to deal with crime as a result of the development of drug gangs in particular and the series of gangland murders that occurred at the end of last year. That tight focus must be maintained if we are to justify this Bill being frogmarched through the Oireachtas at a rate of knots without an appropriate allocation of time to allow for the checking of all provisions. There is no need for this provision to be piggybacked into this legislation.

This is a most inappropriate vehicle to deal with changes in maritime law. It is insulting to the fishing industry which is already on its knees. Communities like Kilmore in my constituency are reeling from the pressures of a declining income from fisheries. There are real issues of concern with not alone boats but houses being repossessed. The fishing industry needs a sympathetic ear and should not be included in a package of measures designed to deal with gangland murderers.

This provision should be withdrawn from the legislation in the interest of the Minister's stated objective that it is a tight and comprehensive package focused on gangland criminality and in the interest of the development of some level of decent relationship between the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and seafaring communities which many of us represent.

I am glad to have an opportunity to say a few words on this matter. As my colleague, Deputy O'Keeffe, stated, I come from a fishing community. One could say I was born and reared in a fishing port and I continue to live there. I have witnessed many changes there during the past ten or 15 years. When I was much younger, some 30 or 40 half decker boats left the port of Bunbeg. One would not see two boats leaving that port nowadays.

I am amazed that the Criminal Justice Bill 2007 seeks to lump in fishermen with big criminals and drug barons. This is, as Deputy Howlin stated, a reflection on fishing communities who are trying to make a living at great danger to themselves. They have suffered so much in the past. There have been many tragedies at sea in Donegal, along the western coast and in many other European countries. They are on their knees at the moment. Killybegs was always known as the premier fishing port in this country, perhaps even in Europe. Currently, however, Killybegs is virtually a ghost town. Some €300 million or €400 million worth of ships are tied up to the pier and they will probably not go out until next October.

Fishermen were targeted in the maritime legislation that went through the Oireachtas in 2006. They were criminalised for major infringements that are dealt with in other European countries by fines or administrative measures. Here in Ireland, however, we always go that extra mile, as a result of which the fishermen are under pressure now. I am amazed that fishermen are being targeted once more by this Bill, which deals with serious criminal matters. It is a piggyback exercise by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources who, incidentally, said last year that he would examine the decriminalisation issue by amending the legislation. Instead of that, however, he has gone a step in the other direction.

There is widespread dissatisfaction about this draconian measure, which I want to convey to the Minister. As Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, we are all in favour of conservation, including fishermen. Fish constitute a renewable resource but if stocks are to be vacuumed out, they cannot be renewed. Fishermen are interested in the future of their children and grandchildren, but this legislation is an example of using a sledge-hammer to crack a nut.

Has there been any consultation with fishermen? Has the Minister consulted the industry about this legislation? If consultation had taken place, the Minister would find that fishermen feel hurt and insulted, given that the Bill comes on the heels of what occurred last year. On behalf of the fishing community I represent, I ask the Minister to accept this amendment.

I share the concerns expressed by Deputies about the fishing industry. However, the dagger pointed at the throat of decent, honest fishermen all around Ireland is held by a minority who break the law, destroy our capacity to fish and bring down the wrath of the EU Commission which will take steps against us, as happened recently. That is the dagger at the throat of every innocent, decent fisherman around Ireland. This is not a draconian measure.

It should not be in this Bill. A measure should be brought forward by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

It is purely to give fisheries protection officers the right to search premises. If they do not weed out the tiny minority who are betraying the great majority, we will have worse consequences next year. More boats will be tied up and the cycle will be repeated. The point was made that the measure should not be in this Bill, but I have explained honestly and patiently why it is in the Bill. The measure is no more an insult to fishermen than the inclusion of the Garda Síochána management board, which is also in the Bill, is an insult to gardaí. It is not intended to have that effect.

We could have a separate debate on this subject with the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, on another piece of legislation. Bearing in mind the urgency of making our fisheries protection law system effective, and to stop another catastrophe whereby a few traitors could destroy fishing prospects for another season, the Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, asked me to include this provision in this Bill. That is why I have done so. I am not accepting the amendments.

I do not think they are traitors. It has more to do with the foreign invaders that we have less fish stocks than before. There is a logic to the Garda management executive board being included in this legislation. The Minister has said that unless we get the management of the Garda Síochána right it could hamper the fight against crime, so the more effectively it is managed, the better. However, there is nothing in this part of the Bill that relates to gangland crime or drug dealing. It concerns fisheries. Last year, following the highly controversial Sea Fisheries (Maritime Jurisdiction) Act, the Government promised to work with the industry to ensure that it could flourish in future, but that has not happened. The inclusion of this provision is a disgrace. There has been no consultation with the fishing industry, not that there was any consultation on most of this Bill anyway. The Minister should withdraw the measure, return it to the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, who first landed it in his lap, and tell him to do his own dirty work.

The Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, should introduce his own legislation and fight it out with the fishing industry spokespersons and Deputies representing coastal communities. Those areas have been suffering because of the EU fisheries policy and this State's failure to protect our fishing stocks against foreign invaders and the few within the Irish industry who cut corners and abuse the system. The majority of fishermen are eking out a living but they deserve a lot more consideration and support from the Government. In recent months, however, all they seem to get is more and more criminalisation of their industry and their livelihoods.

Like Macbeth, the Minister has seen a dagger before our eyes, but fishermen genuinely think the dagger is being wielded by the Government. Whatever the Tánaiste may say, associating fishermen with gangland criminals in the Bill is not the right way to regulate the fisheries sector. The main points on that issue have been made eloquently by my colleagues, but the Tánaiste might consider a specific point in my amendment concerning search warrants.

As is normal, the measure provides that a judge, on hearing evidence on oath given by a sea fisheries protection officer — one of the many to which I referred — and if satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that evidence of, or relating to, the commission of an offence to which this section applies is to be found, may issue a warrant. The words "or relating to the commission of an offence" have been drawn to my attention by representatives of the fisheries sector who suggest they could lead to a wide interpretation. In certain circumstances, they could lead to sea fisheries protection officers seeking a warrant on dubious grounds, purely on the basis of suspicion without any evidence. On that basis, the premises of law-abiding, fully compliant fishermen could be subject to searches as a result of a warrant issued by a judge of the District Court. Apart from the general point, which has been eloquently argued, the Minister might consider my specific point now or on Report Stage.

On a point of order, we have only one minute left.

I wanted to come to that on Report Stage. Are we on Report Stage?

The time is up now.

What do you expect us to do at this stage?

It is 1.30 p.m. and I have to put the question under an order of the House.

On a point of order——

Before the Chair puts the question, we are only on section 42.

The Deputy is talking the debate out.

I reject that suggestion. There is no question of that; every point made here was reasonable and constructive.

On a point of order, this is an important section but it is not germane to the Bill or to the justice spokespersons. This should be dealt with properly by the marine spokesman. I resent it being here and taking up the scarce time allocated to this Bill. This is an insult to fishing communities.

On a point of order, a number of significant issues have not been reached and I will have to make a determination on behalf of my party regarding how we stand on this Bill. I do not know what is included in Schedule 2. Is it the Minister's intention to alter that Schedule? Section 48 on seven-day detention for questioning has not yet been discussed. Will the Minister simply keep what is in the Bill in this regard? We have not discussed the observation that this is unconstitutional and I cannot support it without hearing the Minister's reasoning. We need a few minutes to do this.

I have given the House my reasoning behind sentencing provisions. Regarding the detention provisions, I carefully considered, as did the Attorney General, the newspaper article to which the Deputy refers. I am satisfied that the provisions are not unconstitutional or in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Attorney General has advised me that this is the case. If these provisions were unconstitutional it would follow that the existing drug trafficking in respect of extended detention are also unconstitutional and I have no reason to suspect that that is the case.

It is clear in my mind that the extended detention provisions are necessary to deal with tiger kidnappings involving firearms, murders involving firearms and so on. I have every reason to say to this House that the existing detention periods are not adequate in these circumstances. Gardaí find themselves trying to put together forensic materials and make inquiries of witnesses but must release people in certain circumstances while inquiries are still taking place.

All this is subject to judicial control. The suggestion that this is not a function of the Judiciary is a novel proposition that I reject. It has no echo in European law and no echo in the laws of these islands. It is a function of the Judiciary to exercise a role in detention powers.

As the person in possession, I wish to say that we are on section 42 of a Bill with 55 sections. We have not had the opportunity to consider those sections and there are another 30 or 40 amendments that we have not had the opportunity to consider, some of which are serious.

Is the Minister going to push on and ensure that Committee Stage now ends, having had a constructive and positive debate during which very serious points were raised on the sections and amendments so far? Is the Minister to push this through or has he further proposals to make at this stage?

We made an agreement on the floor of this House today. I am not tearing it up and if Deputy Jim O'Keeffe chooses to resile from it that is his problem.

I want good legislation. If the Minister wants to push this through without debate it is on his head.

The Deputy is resiling from an agreement he made two hours ago.

As it is now 1.30 p.m. I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: "That those amendments in respect of which the Bill is being recommitted and not disposed of which were set down by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform are hereby agreed to; in respect of each of the sections undisposed of, that the section, or, as appropriate, the section, as amended, is hereby agreed to, that Schedule 1 is hereby agreed to, that Schedule 2, as amended, is hereby agreed to, that the proceedings on recommittal are hereby completed and that the Bill, as amended on recommittal, is accordingly reported to the House."

I strongly object to the fact that we have not had a chance to finish the Bill, but for technical reasons I will not oppose this.

Question put and agreed to.