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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 17 Nov 2010

Vol. 722 No. 2

Priority Questions

Garda Operations

Alan Shatter


37 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he has received a report from the Garda Commissioner on the policing of the student demonstrations that took place outside Leinster House and in the vicinity of Leinster House on Wednesday 3 November 2010; the number of gardaí injured as a result of objects being thrown at them and the nature of the injuries sustained; if he has received or is aware of any complaints made by students who participated in the demonstration and if he has any concerns regarding the approach taken by An Garda Síochaná in dealing with some demonstrators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42917/10]

In the policing of demonstrations, the Garda Síochána, while respecting the right of legitimate protest, has a duty to ensure as far as possible that peace is preserved and public order maintained, and that lives and property are protected. The safety of the gardaí involved is also an important consideration. In preparing for demonstrations, the Garda Síochána must take into account a number of important factors, including the anticipated numbers, the profile of those likely to be involved and any intelligence relating to the event. Once a protest starts, the Garda Síochána must constantly monitor and evaluate the situation and be ready to make tactical decisions based on the prevailing circumstances.

Public order training forms part of normal training and additional specialised training is provided for members selected for duty with divisional and regional public order units. Further training is provided for officers in the management of incidents requiring the deployment of public order units.

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is the statutory body charged with the independent oversight of policing in this jurisdiction. To date, it has received 36 complaints regarding the policing of the demonstrations. Of those 36 complaints, 20 have been determined to be admissible, 15 have been determined to be inadmissible and one complaint has been withdrawn. Admissibility is simply a neutral determination that a complaint meets the statutory criteria for investigation but has no other significance. A senior investigating officer has been appointed to oversee the investigation of these complaints. The Ombudsman Commission is fully independent in the exercise of its functions and it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment at this stage.

As regards injuries sustained by gardaí during the protest, I am advised by the Garda Commissioner that one member required treatment in hospital for a broken nose, while a second member was hit in the face with a bottle.

Does the Minister agree the maintenance of peace and public order when demonstrations take place is of crucial importance? Does he agree that any person who injured a garda at a demonstration deserves condemnation? It is of particular importance that respect is shown to members of the Garda Síochána exercising their policing duties on behalf of the public. Does the Minister acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of students participating in the demonstration behaved perfectly properly, demonstrated in a peaceful manner and made known their views on the subject matter of the demonstration? Does the Minister acknowledge that some of the events that occurred that day are reason for genuine public concern? Some of the incidents and events are contained on images accessible on YouTube and are cause for concern.

I concur with Deputy Shatter in his views regarding the duties and responsibility of the Garda Síochána to police events such as this in a reasonable way. I also concur that they represent the greater good in maintaining order in marches such as this. I concur with the point that the majority of students were well behaved. The president of the Union of Students in Ireland, Mr. Gary Redmond, said on the day that he was saddened by the actions of a minority of protesters. It is clear there was a strong effort by a number of people who are not students, or if they are, were associated with a number of groups there to cause trouble. I completely concur with Deputy Shatter.

Does the Minister agree that in demonstrations such as this, where there appears to be a minority intent on creating trouble, it is of enormous importance that the Garda Síochána is conscious of who these people are, that there is no overreaction and that innocent individuals behaving correctly do not find themselves confronted in an aggressive manner so that they feel threatened or are unnecessarily manhandled? It is of great importance that the Garda Síochána, in maintaining order, is not a cause of disorder and fear on the part of those lawfully demonstrating. In the context of the manner in which this event was policed, aside from the issues investigated by the Garda Ombudsman, is a review of policing methods being carried out and is further consideration being given to a different approach to future demonstrations? Has the Minister sought such a report from the Garda Commissioner?

There is ongoing training of Garda personnel, normal personnel and specialised units with regard to public order. The Garda Síochána reviews and learns from the situation every time an event such as this takes place. Each situation dictates the type of response from the moment it occurs. Due to a number of incidents, the Garda Síochána had to engage with those causing trouble but it did a great disservice to those who were there legitimately and peacefully to protest.

I discuss these issues on a regular basis with Garda Síochána management. I will be liaising with the Garda Commissioner when he has an overview of the incident that took place.

Will there be a report on this event?

Juvenile Offenders

Pat Rabbitte


38 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will confirm that just three anti social behaviour orders have been placed on young offenders since the legislation was enacted in 2006; the reason this power has been used so little having regard to claims made at the time the legislation was published of the role they could play to reduce anti-social behaviour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43091/10]

The Children Act 2001 was amended by Part 13 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 to provide for civil proceedings regarding anti-social behaviour by children. These provisions, which were commenced on 1 March 2007, set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour by children. They are just one element of the Government's policy on youth crime, which is set out in detail in the national youth justice strategy 2008-10. The approach adopted by the Government involves an incremental process of diversion from the formal criminal justice system, community sanctions as alternatives to custody and detention as a last resort. In the case of anti-social behaviour, the diversion process includes the use of warnings, good behaviour contracts and anti-social behaviour orders where appropriate. In the event that the behaviour warning or good behaviour contract fails to change a young person's anti-social behaviour, it is only then that further measures such as the anti-social behaviour order or other diversion approaches might be used.

For this reason the number of anti-social behaviour orders should not be considered in isolation but must be viewed as part of a wider incremental process to deal with anti-social behaviour. I am informed by the Garda authorities that, up to 30 October 2010, 1,541 behaviour warnings have been issued to children, 15 good behaviour contracts have been made with children and three behaviour orders have been issued by the courts. It was always the intention that this approach to anti-social behaviour would operate as part and parcel of the Garda diversion programme.

The diversion programme operates in accordance with Part 4 of the Children Act 2001, as amended, and under the general superintendence and control of the Garda Commissioner. The aim of the programme is to deal with children who offend, by way of administering a formal or informal caution, thus diverting the offender away from the courts and minimising the likelihood of further offending. The programme has proven to be successful in diverting young persons away from crime and anti-social behaviour by offering guidance and support to juveniles and their families. In the event that warnings or good behaviour contracts prove inadequate to deter a young person from anti-social behaviour, the next step is to use the structures of the diversion programme before resorting to behaviour orders or criminal prosecution.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The 2009 annual report of the committee appointed to monitor the effectiveness of the Garda diversion programme showed a reduction of 13% in the number of incidents referred to the programme and a 14% reduction in the number of children referred, compared to 2008. Alcohol offences were down by 22% compared to 2008. I commend the work of An Garda Síochána and, in particular, juvenile liaison officers and community gardaí on their excellent work with young people.

Why does the Minister think the anti-social behaviour orders have been such a complete and abject failure?

I do not believe they are. We have had this discussion already. A hallmark of the success of the anti-social behaviour orders is that so few children have been brought to court. The idea behind the system is to divert children away from the courts and to engage with them in an incremental way. As the Deputy can see from the figures, that is the strong advice from the experts in this regard, especially the Garda. They say that when they engage with young people who come to their attention for anti-social behaviour, and when they deal with their wider family, in particular in the context of the contracts, and contacts before they enter into the good behaviour contract, those children do not again come to the attention of the Garda Síochána.

Is it not the case that since the law was invoked in 2007 three anti-social behaviour orders have been made? Is it not the case that the Garda Síochána does not in reality operate the system? The Minister has referred to 1,541 warnings. Is it not the case that they are entirely meaningless? Since the Garda Síochána was established in 1922 gardaí warned young fellows. What does that have to do with it?

The Minister is getting a reputation for saying whatever comes into his head. He said the bank situation was a fiction. He has a habit of just staring the facts in the face and denying them. Is it not the case that the most serious problem in my constituency, and in most urban constituencies, is low-level anti-social behaviour by young people in communities who are torturing law-abiding citizens in their own homes? Those youngsters target vulnerable people. They attack their homes and insert obscene and lighted material through their letter boxes, damage their cars and pester people who live alone, especially women and immigrants. That is happening everywhere. Three ASBOs have been implemented since 2007, yet the Minister has informed me the system is an outstanding success. What is the point in having Question Time with him?

Deputy Rabbitte seems to think the more anti-social behaviour orders are made the more successful is the system. I disagree on the basis that the concept of this procedure is that it is used in an incremental way. Fewer orders and a reduction in the number of occasions the Garda Síochána brings young people before the courts is a hallmark of the success of the system. Deputy Rabbitte is trying to encourage the Garda Síochána to serve ASBOs on every child who comes before it, whereas if the Garda interact with them and their families before it gets to the stage of bringing children to court the situation will be improved.

The idea was to prevent children from going into the criminal justice system. This is a civil procedure designed to allow a little more flexibility in terms of how one interacts with children. I am very supportive of the fact that we should divert children away from the criminal justice system and not bring them to court, penalise them or put them into prison and to use anti-social behaviour legislation to interact with them in a much more holistic way. It goes against the philosophy Deputy Rabbitte's party sometimes espouses for him to say that the more ASBOs that are implemented the more successful is the system. I disagree with him.

What I am trying to do is provide protection to communities and persons who are adversely affected by anti-social behaviour. For the Minister to say I am trying to encourage the Garda to apply an ASBO to every child when three have been applied since the system was introduced is fantastic and ridiculous.

Is it not the case that the Minister committed to a range of measures in this area in the programme for government but that he has not implemented any of them? It is very easy to introduce legislation on ASBOs, in the same way it is easy to enact legislation in other areas. There is a commitment to providing a community pay-back scheme that will require offenders who are not subject to automatic long terms in prison to provide real services for communities they have damaged. Another commitment is to provide a system of parental responsibility for criminal damage. A further commitment is to create anti-social behaviour action teams. There is also a commitment to legislate to allow gardaí to issue restriction orders. There are 29 other commitments. Is the programme for government to have any credibility or is it just for the optics? The Minister has outlined a range of commitments but he has not implemented any of them.

As the Deputy should know we have funded a number of very successful restorative justice projects that are up and running. Over time I would like to see more use of them across the various courts. Equally so, since I became Minister I introduced significant reform in terms of trying to use community service orders as an alternative to prison in order to allow pay-back to communities. I refer to community service orders to assist tidy towns groups in graffiti removal and other such tasks.

To return to ASBOs, I implacably disagree with the Deputy on what he, in effect, is trying to do. I accept there is a problem with anti-social behaviour in the country. There are other laws, apart from the ASBO legislation that could deal with the matter and no doubt they are used by the Garda Síochána in that respect. The principle behind the legislation is, in effect, that the fewer orders made and the fewer occasions on which children are brought to court, which is the ultimate sanction, the more successful the scheme is because one has already intervened with the children and their parents and they do not come to the notice of the Garda Síochána any further.

Garda Investigations

Alan Shatter


39 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to an article (details supplied) relating to the death of Fr. Niall Molloy on 18 July 1985 regarding the investigation conducted into his death and the trial that followed; if in view of the revelations contained in the report he will ask the Garda Commissioner for the investigation into Fr. Molloy’s death to be reopened so that the facts surrounding his death may be re-examined with a view to determining whether any new prosecution should take place; if he intends to ask the Garda Commissioner that an assistant commissioner now conduct an investigation into the original investigation that occurred and examine all relevant files and papers to report on whether the initial investigation was properly conducted or, as an alternative, to ask that the Garda Ombudsman undertake such further investigation and report on the matter [42918/10]

Pat Rabbitte


40 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the call made by the family of Fr. Niall Molloy, who died in violent circumstances in a house in Clara, County Offaly, in 1985 for a new garda investigation into the case in view of new information that has emerged; if he will request the gardaí to re-open the investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43092/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 40 together.

The incident to which the Deputies refer was the subject of investigation by the Garda Síochána, which resulted in the submission of an investigation file to the law officers, who directed that a person be charged with manslaughter and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. At the subsequent trial, directions to acquit were given by the judge.

Following representations which I recently received, I requested a report on the matter from the Garda authorities. I am informed by the Garda authorities that, following the publication of the article referred to by Deputy Shatter, representations were also made to the Garda Commissioner requesting an investigation of the matters raised in it. The Commissioner arranged for a detective superintendent to meet the persons making the representations, particularly in the context of an assessment of whether there is new information or evidence available which could be pursued. I expect to receive a further report from the Commissioner when that assessment is completed.

The Criminal Procedure Act 2010 introduced a significant change to our laws governing the status of acquittals, by providing that an acquittal can now be set aside and the person re-tried where new and compelling evidence emerges. Previously, an acquitted person was entitled to an irrebuttable presumption of innocence. However, the Act's provisions do not apply to historical cases — they apply only to persons tried and acquitted on or after the date on which the provisions were commenced, that is, 1 September this year. This absence of retrospective effect stems from our constitutional framework.

Could the Minister indicate to the House when the meetings that are to take place as arranged through the Garda Commissioner will occur?

Does the Minister agree that the recent revelations are disturbing and indicate the possibility that the integrity of the investigation into the death of Fr. Molloy was compromised, and second, that serious question marks arise about the manner in which the matter was dealt with at trial in the context of the judge directing that the charges be dismissed on the possibility that Fr. Molloy died as a result of a heart attack in the context of the Coroner's Court establishing that he died as a consequence of a vicious assault?

In addition to interviewing those from whom representations have been received and additional information furnished, will the Minister ask the Garda Commissioner to examine the manner in which the original investigation was conducted because there are now substantial concerns that crucial evidence was not taken account of, and in at least one instance was not made available in the context of any prosecution that did take place?

I am not aware of when the discussions with the two people will be held, but I understand one has already been interviewed and the other, who is a third party and a relative of some of the people involved in the incident, will be interviewed in due course.

There was serious concern in and around the time of the trial and subsequent to it. There were also suggestions that it be re-opened. If any new compelling evidence comes forward, it will be a matter for the Garda Síochána. I cannot intervene in the re-opening of a criminal file by the Garda. If there is any new evidence, I would urge people in whose possession it is to come forward and give it to the Garda.

Does the Minister not agree the story published in the Irish Independent by a reputable journalist is profoundly disquieting and ought to be a cause for concern for the Minister for Justice and Law Reform of the day? I thank him for the minimal information he has given Deputy Shatter. It is a great deal more and different in character from the information contained in the written reply he gave me approximately ten days ago when he essentially washed his hands of the matter. I welcome the change of heart over there, but it raises questions about written parliamentary questions and the way they are treated by Ministers and Departments.

Is the Minister not concerned that an inappropriate direction was given to the jury in this case, one that warrants the Garda's re-opening of the case? Nothing prevents him from expressing an opinion as to whether the facts as set out in the story justify the Garda re-opening the investigation to determine whether a new prosecution might be mounted.

The issue goes back as far as 1985 or 1986. At this remove and due to the separation of powers, it would not be appropriate for the Minister for Justice and Law Reform to comment on the holding of and procedure followed in the trial by the judge in question. In the aftermath of the acquittal and the closing of the criminal trial, significant efforts were made to re-open it. On 9 December 1986 in Dáil Éireann, former Deputy Michael Keating asked the then Minister for Justice whether he intended to accede to the request of the relatives of the late Fr. Niall Molloy for a sworn inquiry into the events surrounding his death. The then Minister, Mr. Alan Dukes, stated. "This case has already been the subject of a Garda investigation, a criminal trial and a coroner's inquest, which is, in effect, a sworn public inquiry." He also stated:

The holding of a further sworn inquiry could be justified only if there were some likelihood that some new facts would be brought to light. As there does not appear to be any such likelihood in this case I do not see how any further inquiry could be justified.

As a result of the recent publication in a newspaper, the Garda is in the process of discussing the issues with the people involved and those who have made representations, including the journalist. It will be a matter for the Garda Síochána to re-examine the question. It is not something in which I can intervene.

I want to allow further supplementary questions.

Will the Minister assure the House that, in the context of the Garda re-examining the matter, the discussions and interviews to be conducted will go beyond the journalist and the second individual? The Garda should interview other individuals who are available and who may have information that could assist in determining whether a further criminal prosecution is warranted. If the Garda re-investigates the matter and it emerges that someone other than the individual who was originally prosecuted is appropriately brought before the courts and has charges pressed against him or her, does the Minister agree that no obstruction in the context of the 2010 Act would prevent that from occurring? Does he agree that the mere interviewing of two individuals is not an adequate re-investigation? Given the revelations now available and which contain different and additional information from that available to the former Minister, Mr. Dukes, is it not appropriate that the Garda would engage in a far wider investigation than merely speaking with two individuals? Will he assure the House the Garda will do so?

It would be entirely a matter for the Garda to decide. It has received representations from two people. The Garda Commissioner has appointed a detective superintendent to prepare a report and interview the people concerned. If the detective superintendent believes other people should be interviewed as a result, I have no doubt he will do so.

Deputy Shatter is correct regarding the prosecution of someone else. The Criminal Procedure Act 2010 is not relevant in this respect. However, the prosecution of another individual is a matter for the Garda Síochána and is not something the Minister can direct. It would be done only on the basis of new evidence being available.

Is it not the case that the difference between the answer given in December 1986 and today's situation is that such new facts as referred to by the then Minister for Justice have emerged? For example, these new facts relate to the time lag between the death occurring and the Garda being called, the fire in the Offaly coroner's office and the destruction of the file, and the retired sergeant who was first on the scene proffering new information, if not new evidence. Are these not the new facts in respect of which the Minister for Justice in 1986 seemed to say the case would be re-investigated?

I am not asking the Minister to make a judgment or to interfere inappropriately. Rather, I am asking him to say there is sufficient information surrounding this affair for him to say he is disquieted. I am not asking him to refer to the trial that took place, although a member of his party who was then a journalist wrote a timely paean of praise to the judge in that trial despite the fact the decision to direct acquittal caused uproar at the time. Could the Minister be more forthcoming?

Does the Minister not believe this would be an appropriate case for a commission of investigation under the recent Commission of Investigations Act? The facts are so disturbing and profoundly disquieting that the family, which is only looking for the truth, deserves to have the allegations, new information and new evidence, if it be new evidence, tested. Is the fastest and cheapest way to do this not a commission of investigation? Is this not a matter for the Minister rather than the Garda Commissioner?

The appropriate authority is the Garda where the investigation of criminal aspects is concerned. Regarding the investigation at the time, the then Minister stated:

I wish to make the point that the State took every possible step to ensure the full facts of the case emerged at the inquest. Senior and junior counsel were appointed to represent the State and all of the statements made to the gardaí and Garda maps and photographs were made available to the coroner.

Again, the reopening of this case is a matter for the Garda authorities. It is not for the Minister for Justice and Law Reform to give an opinion in relation to this. I do not have the luxury that Members of the Opposition have. I see they have already committed themselves, if they get into Government, to a full review of this issue. Perhaps Deputy Rabbitte will have a different power when he is on this side of the House, but I have to adhere to the separation of powers principle regarding the investigation.

The commission of investigations is a matter for the Minister.

Yes, but there is already a request for a reopening of this issue by the people concerned to the Garda Commissioner and the Garda authorities. A process is now in train and a detective superintendent has been asked to produce a file.

Proposed Legislation

Alan Shatter


41 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his views that pre-existing commercial leases which prescribe upwards only rent reviews pose a serious threat to the economic viability of many businesses and to the protection of employment and the action he proposes to take; if his attention has been drawn to any reports of landlords incentivising commercial tenants to agree artificially high rent increases in order to provide artificial rent comparators for the purpose of other rent reviews under arbitration; if he proposes to introduce any legislation to criminalise such arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43190/10]

The issue of upward only rent review clauses, and the difficulties which rigid adherence to such clauses is causing for the retail sector in current economic circumstances, has been raised with me by various retail and tenant groups. I have been very consistent in espousing the view that there is a need for a flexible and pragmatic approach to rent review negotiations arising in the context of existing contractual arrangements. It is self-evident that it is not in anyone's interest that vacancy rates increase to an unacceptable level because of a reluctance to offer sensible concessions to traders who are in difficulty.

The Deputy will be aware that I have legislated to prohibit upward only rent reviews in leases entered into on or after 28 February of this year by way of section 132 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009. Similar action in relation to existing leases was not possible for legal and constitutional reasons. There are indications that the commencement of that section has had some persuasive effect in relation to those lease arrangements, although I am sure that there is further scope for additional flexibility in this area.

In March of this year I established a working group to look at certain issues around the arbitration process and the adequacy of the information available to all parties in the context of rent reviews. The report of the working group was published on 17 August last. The group recommended the establishment of a public database containing relevant details of letting arrangements and rent reviews in the commercial property market. An appropriate amendment is being developed within my Department for inclusion in the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009 which would see the property services regulatory authority being given responsibility for the management of the database. The precise operational details pertaining to the database are in the course of finalisation.

Also among the group's recommendations is the adoption, by landlords and tenants alike, of the rent review arbitration code which was appended to their report and which is intended to achieve a uniform and transparent procedure for the resolution of disputes in the sector. I have publicly endorsed the group's recommendation in this area and have been in contact with bodies which were represented on the group to encourage them to commit to the code.

During the course of its deliberations, the group noted the potentially distorting effect which agreements made between landlords and tenants which are outside the terms of the lease may have on the letting market. These so-called side agreements can include matters such as rent free periods and contributions to fit out costs. In certain cases, such agreements can mean that the true value of the rent agreed may, in reality, be less than that appearing on the face of the lease. The need to ensure that the parties to a rent review have access to all relevant information was a key motivating factor in the recommendation for the establishment of a database, which I am fully committed to implementing.

I am satisfied that concerns in this area are being addressed as far as possible. While I can say that the operation of the law will continue to be reviewed in my Department, I do not think that criminal sanctions of the kind referred to by the Deputy are necessary or feasible.

Will the Minister acknowledge that there is a continuing problem in this area, in particular with institutional landlords in the context of retail outlets seeking to address issues of rent reviews? To maintain the capital value of their balance sheets, they are resisting any type of new arrangement, other than one that involves a rent increase, or at the very minimum rents remaining at current levels despite the collapse of commercial rental values.

Will the Minister also accept that it is a substantial difficulty in the context of any arbitration work, where an arbitrator in determining rents has to look at comparators, for example, with an individual shopping centre or town centre? If the only comparators of recent vintage available are those which show substantial rent increases, with secret incentives having been provided to tenants to agree to those rent increases, does he agree that this is distorting the market, putting other tenants in a very unfair position and rendering the arbitration process practically impossible?

I suggest two things to the Minister. The first is that this sort of conduct, an incentivised rent increases so as to artificially inflate rents, should be criminalised. Since the legislation he mentioned was enacted, there is an alternative legal opinion from a very eminent senior counsel indicating that in the current market situation, amendments of current leases by statute to allow for rent reviews downwards, or I should say amendments of leases concluded prior to 28 February last, would be constitutionally permissible. Is the Minister willing to bring forward legislation to facilitate this on the basis that, if necessary it would be a Bill the President might determine should be sent to the Supreme Court for a constitutional decision?

I would be loth to criminalise the giving of incentives regarding leases because that, in effect, would be to criminalise contractual discussions and negotiations between two people who have free will and are probably well advised. I suggest that criminalising that type of activity, even though people might not be too happy with it, would be very detrimental to the property market, which is in difficult circumstances as it is. To introduce criminal sanction in that respect would make matters even more difficult.

I have been looking at the property pages over the last while and I know from own area that many landlords renegotiated substantial reductions with tenants, but that did not seem to happen in certain parts of Dublin. Nonetheless, it happened elsewhere in the country. I accept that for whatever reasons landlords were not willing to reduce the rents, but by and large the vast majority of them did because half a loaf is better than none. They are better off getting something from tenants, if not the full rent. However, there may be other issues involved. Bank institutions, in particular, for example, would require the rent as originally intended.

Regarding legislation, the Labour Party introduced a Bill and we looked very carefully at it and at senior counsel opinion produced by one of the organisations involved in this area. I went back, time and again, to the Office of the Attorney General and spoke to him about this on many occasions. It boils down ultimately to the fact that the Oireachtas cannot intervene in a contract previously made between two individuals, who no doubt were independently advised. It would be totally unconstitutional for us to pass an Act on that basis. If that were the case we could re-write every contract made by private individuals right across the country. The Attorney General's office has looked into the minutiae of this and concluded that we could not retrospectively change contracts previously entered into.

I am pleased the Minister has indicated he is going to make an amendment in the Bill when it comes before the House on Committee Stage. Will that database prescribe that the address of premises be included, as well as the rent and the date it was fixed, together with other arrangements relating to the organisation of a new rent for an existing lease, including those agreed before February 2010, or where new leases are entered into, the additional arrangements made such as six-months free rental or where a landlord agrees to spend a substantial sum on refurbishing a property in return for an increased rent?

The purpose of the database is to ensure as much information as possible is made available publicly thus ensuring a transparent process which will provide individuals with relevant information in regard to the vicinity of the particular location wherein they intend to rent. We believe the property services regulatory authority is the relevant authority to provide this database. The Deputy will be aware that enabling legislation in this regard is passing through the House. Ultimately, as much detail as possible will be made public.

It is indicated in today's newspapers that Abercrombie and Fitch will shortly open a store in Dublin city centre. Last week, there was a clear indication in the property supplement that rents in respect of new leases have decreased because of recent legislative changes made in this House, which is to be welcomed.