I do not wish to detain the House but the Minister engaged in some general debate on the background to the legislation and said that he was accused of plucking it out of the sky. I do not know who made that accusation. I have not heard it but the Minister has shown himself to be a dab hand at manipulating many of the comments on this legislation for partisan purposes, which is a pity because we could have a good debate as we are charged with the responsibility of having. It is important to get it right because section 3 is remarkably similar to section 70 of the 2006 Act, which is not working. The Minister has failed to provide the House with a detailed rationale for this. It has been tried only once and on that occasion it was not successful in garnering a solitary conviction. I would like to see a proposal from the Minister that would deal with the weakness or inadequacy of section 70. It is somewhat less than clear. We must get it right.
The Minister said that resources are not an issue but the Garda is operating on a budget of €35 million less than was at its disposal last year. That is a resource reduction. I do not know how that gap is to be filled without there being a resource issue. The Minister mentioned the letter that he wrote to me on 3 July and I share the concern of Deputy Rabbitte because at no stage does the Minister adduce any evidence for any degree of intimidation of jurors and the figures he produced show sets of proceedings and years but it is not possible to separate the witnesses from the jurors. The only reason that I can see for that is that there have been no figures on the table dealing with the number of proceedings that have commenced for offences under section 41 of the 1999 Act between 2002 and 2009 that have referred to the juries.
I take seriously what the Minister has said. I have heard it from Deputy O'Donnell and am satisfied that what has been said has a basis and we should take seriously the claims of the State solicitor for Limerick, Mr. Murray, who has spoken publicly on numerous occasions. In addition to talking about the criminal fraternity he made a serious charge recently. I call on the appropriate agencies of the State, the State prosecution office, and the Garda Síochána to investigate a charge he made when he said:
This unusual piece of legislation was promoted by concern within certain official circles that a tiny minority of solicitors are harvesting information on operational matters and passing them on to the criminal fraternity and effectively acting as criminal intelligence officers for criminal gangs.
That is a most serious charge. The article cites a Garda source who said there was "merit" in Mr. Murray's claims because "gardaí interviewing suspects, under arrest, have matters repeated to them which they feel could only have come from legal people dealing with criminals". I would like these serious issues to be investigated. In addition to the Garda investigating these most disturbing claims the professional bodies, particularly the Incorporated Law Society, should play their part in investigating these most serious charges against members of the legal profession. Later in the course of this legislation we will be dealing with situations in which a judge, often a junior and inexperienced member of the judicial hierarchy, no disrespect to any member of that body, might deal with aspects of this legislation while everyone else is barred, apart from a member of the Garda.
According to the Minister's latest amendment, circulated some moments ago, that judge on his or her own can make a decision based on the evidence of a former garda, someone who is not a member of the Garda Síochána, without the benefit of any legal advice. One reason for this is that members of the legal profession have been "harvesting information on operational matters and passing them on to the criminal fraternity and effectively acting as criminal intelligence officers for criminal gangs". Is that why legal officers will be debarred from certain portions——