Garda Síochána (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2014: Second Stage [Private Members]

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

We decided to bring forward this Bill again in light of the recent U-turn in Government policy. It is regrettable that the newly discovered policy direction is reactionary rather than genuinely reforming. It has taken a stream of emerging Garda crises to pre-empt even minimal proposals recognising the need for reform in this regard. Reform proposals arising from such origins and prioritising political expediency tend to lack any meaningful and considered commitment and risk producing the weakest legislative structure to underpin that reform. Although reform proposals are often easier to introduce from the top, sustained change is more likely when it is supported and demanded by the public, as this promotes accountability and transparency. The Government is ambitious in its plan to establish an independent police board by the end of the year and we are resubmitting this Bill as a working draft to assist this process. If it is accepted on Second Stage, it can then form the basis for discussion, debate and amendment at a later Stage.

The Bill establishes a Garda Síochána independent board, with monitoring, supervisory and oversight functions over An Garda Síochána. The board's functions include the human rights proofing of all Garda policies, procedures and practices and the provision of detailed codes of practice for all key operational policies and procedures, to include effective compliance measures. The United Nations handbook on police accountability, oversight and integrity states:

An effective police accountability system should include an independent body that has complete discretion in the exercise of its functions and powers, has a statutory underpinning and independent and sufficient funding, reports directly to parliament and whose commissioners and staff are transparently appointed based on merit rather than any affiliation, such as an affiliation with a political party.

In order to effect real reform and de-politicisation of the An Garda Síochána structure, it is imperative that the proposed board is strong and independent in terms of its functions and powers and that there is a clear transfer of accountability of the Garda Commissioner from the Minister to the board. Responsibility for the appointment of senior gardaí, including the Garda Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner, must be transferred from the Minister to the board. There must be real and meaningful commitment by the Government to replace the current unsatisfactory medium of accountability through the Dáil to the more direct method of accountability of gardaí to the independent police board, supported by a newly invigorated system of community policing.

The Bill proposes a 16-member board, to include two Irish human rights and equality commissioners, four members of the Oireachtas, the Ombudsman for Children, the Data Protection Commissioner and the chief inspector of the Garda Inspectorate. It is proposed that the remaining six members be chosen from citizen bodies, with a reserved place for a member of the Traveller community. We believe that consideration should be given to the inclusion of two Garda representatives from the low and middle ranks. This may go some way towards improving Garda morale and involving the Garda Síochána in the process of reform. This would allow the rank and file and middle ranking gardaí more involvement and input in developing Garda policy than under the current hierarchical arrangement.

The Garda Inspectorate, which can look at practices, policies and procedures of the Garda, should be answerable to the new police board rather than the Minister and should have greater powers of investigation, and its reports should be published promptly. The local joint policing committees, JPCs, must become a more meaningful forum for engagement between communities and the Garda Síochána. The JPCs should feed into the board, and given that they would be answerable to the independent police board, it is expected that we would see more of an appetite for engaging, from both sides.

The reforms of GSOC contained in our Bill recognise that its remit was always intended to be investigatory, rather than one of review and oversight. As the United Nations office on drugs and crime has pointed out: "Independent police complaints bodies must have investigative powers, be able to initiate investigations of their own accord and intervene in investigations conducted by the police."

Under current legislation, GSOC is inhibited in this regard, a shortfall which has been highlighted by UN Special Rapporteur, Ms Margaret Sekaggya. A few years ago, the Ombudsman asked the permission of the then Fianna Fáil Minister for Justice to investigate policing at the Corrib gas project under section 106, but was refused. In 2013, we appealed to the then Minister, Deputy Shatter, again to allow GSOC to use section 106 to look at policing at the Corrib venue, and also to examine the allegation of racial profiling by the Garda at the time of the Roma children episode. Again, the Minister for Justice and Equality refused. In this Bill, section 106 of the Garda Act is amended to address this.

The Bill also proposes the extension of section 102 to include sexual assault, under the title of "serious harm". It provides for the mandatory supervision by GSOC of all investigations arising from complaints, strengthens the obligations of the Garda Síochána to comply with protocols to provide information and provides a statutory basic for access to PULSE. All the reforms proposed in this legislation have long been called for by GSOC and others. If the Bill is allowed to progress to Committee Stage, I would like to introduce further amendments in order to give GSOC the power to investigate the Garda Commissioner and to allow serving members of An Garda Síochána to make complaints to the ombudsman. Garda covert surveillance, which is dealt with in other legislation, must also be addressed.

The Bill amends many sections of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, with the aim of de-politicising the police force. It increases the autonomy and independence of An Garda Síochána from central government and from direct ministerial control. The Bill removes excessive powers from the Minister to request information or documents from the Garda Commissioner and removes the direct accountability which currently exists between the two. This third element to the Bill, the effort to de-politicise An Garda Síochána, was completely overlooked by Government speakers, including the former Minister, when it was debated last July. Events since then have demonstrated the need to address the unhealthy relationship that exists between the Garda Commissioner, the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Government.

In regard to Sergeant Maurice McCabe's complaint against the Garda Commissioner, the Guerin report comments: "The process of determining Sergeant McCabe's complaints went no further than the Minister receiving and acting upon the advice of the person who was the subject of the complaint." The then justice Minister simply accepted the Garda Commissioner's response without question. Over the past 18 months, our offices have been inundated with cases of alleged Garda malpractice, from members of the public as well as from former and serving gardaí. We need to have a detailed discussion about how to address these issues. These people have a right to be heard. Government action is required for justice to prevail.

This legislation is submitted as a working draft to stimulate debate and is not proposed as a panacea to all ills. We are now at a stage where we have so many reports and investigations. What all of these point to is the need for a fundamental root and branch review of An Garda Síochána. As Professor Dermot Walsh has pointed out, it is less than a decade since the Morris tribunal reported. He said:

There is no reason to believe that the recent and prospective inquiries will be any more effective in delivering lasting reform. There is a systemic malaise in the Garda organisation that can only be tackled by the establishment of a Patten-style Commission with the remit and resources to conduct a thorough root and branch review of what we want from policing and how we should deliver policing in this country.

It is also crucial that any legislation put forward by Government is accompanied by the political will to actually use it; otherwise there will be no change. Speaking of no change, Sergeant Maurice McCabe is not at work today nor was he there yesterday. He is suffering from harassment and abuse. He has been told by senior officers that he has destroyed the force. He has reported the abuse through the proper channels and still there is no change, which is very disappointing. It is hard to believe that a man who has been so selfless and relentless in the pursuit of justice could still be treated like this, given all we now know.

If the Government is serious about real and meaningful reform of An Garda Síochána, it has much work to do. Placing an independent police board on top of the existing Garda structure will not solve the problem and would merely give a false gloss of legitimacy to a dysfunctional police force, which does not amount to a service. The Government could demonstrate its commitment by allowing this Bill to proceed past Second Stage - and not just parking it there, by committing to a strong police board, by publishing the Roma children report immediately, by investigating properly within one of the proposed reviews the allegations of Traveller racial profiling, and by committing to the publication of all Garda codes.

If the new Minister is genuinely committed to a new and reforming approach, I ask her to immediately permit GSOC to open a section 106 inquiry into Corrib Gas. What happened to the people there beggars belief. An Garda Síochána has always been at the mercy of the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Government of the day, accountable to them, and under their influence, when it suited Government members. Professor Dermot Walsh has warned that such "a huge concentration of police power in the hands of central government in the absence of adequate constitutional checks and balances is uncomfortably close to the arrangements associated with a police state". Professor Walsh's warning is hugely important, given An Garda Síochána's monopoly on legitimate use of force in civil society. The citizen has a right to protest peacefully, but that is not what happened at Rossport, where democracy was suspended to facilitate the interests of Shell. Civil liberties were eroded, and repression, criminality and a lack of accountability became the order of the day. The people of Corrib deserve justice. The people of Ireland also deserve justice.

I wish the Minister the very best in trying to bring us the police force we need. I have no doubt that it will not be easy but where there is a will there is a way. We can introduce all the legislation we like, but without the political will to make it happen, nothing will change.

In a certain sense it is an indictment of the Government that we are still here discussing this matter. When we raised these issues last year we were laughed out of court with a stream of backbenchers lining up to say how great everything was in the force and how we were somehow undermining if. The people who were in the Visitors Gallery are back again a year on. Nobody in the media wanted to listen to their stories or the horrendous injustices they had experienced. Yet here we are almost a year later and thanks to the persistent and heroic efforts of Sergeant Maurice McCabe and Mr. John Wilson the ideas which were laughed at last year are being accepted by the Government and in some ways nearly promoted as its own. While it is good that the Government will not oppose tonight's Bill - or so we believe - it is meaningless unless it is advanced to Committee Stage and we can begin to get our teeth into it. The principles of an independent police board have now been established. The dogs on the street know that is what we need.

As Deputy Wallace said, putting such a board on top of the existing Garda Síochána will not make a blind bit of difference; much more is needed. We are at a crossroads in terms of policing in this State. We need a Patten-style commission where we look at everything. The days when An Garda Síochána was constituted at the foundation of the State were completely different from the modern Ireland. We do not need a police force, but a police service for the modern era. We need to look at dealing with its goals, objectives, recruitment, promotions, transparency, accountability, etc. While it will take time, the Minister will be judged on whether she is serious about it by how the issue progresses in time because this goes much deeper.

The Morris tribunal report referred to a few very unruly gardaí and there has been much talk about a few bad apples. The reality is that there are many more than a few. They are still the minority, but it is an institutional problem and the measures put in place did not deal with it. The only reason the bad apples got away with it is because their colleagues and those in authority refused to deal with it and covered it up, which allowed it to continue. This did enormous damage to many of our citizens.

It is well known that many of those gardaí, who participated in the appalling crimes associated with what was known as the "heavy gang" in the 1970s and 1980s, ended up being promoted in later years. As Deputy Wallace said, the current treatment of Sergeant Maurice McCabe shows that ethos. It is interesting that when his access to PULSE was restored thanks to the Minister's intervention, the letter he got informing him was at best begrudging. It contained pages reminding him of his responsibility under the Data Protection Act, very like what the former Commissioner, Mr. Callinan, did in order to tell Mr. John Wilson and Sergeant Maurice McCabe to button it at the time that the penalty points issue first came out.

The Minister may think that some of the public statements being made by the acting Garda Commissioner about welcoming a new approach and an open culture are true, but I do not believe them to be true. We have had testimony from serving members of the Garda indicating that behind the public door they are being told to shut it, not to shoot their mouths off and not to participate in this. Last week senior members of the Garda undermined GSOC by saying that GSOC was not a body gardaí should go to under some spurious excuse. Based on information I have used here before, it is our very clear understanding that the former Commissioner, Mr. Callinan, contacted all the Garda representative organisations and asked them to issue public statements undermining GSOC. This is a systemic problem and we need to look beyond just patching it up.

Over the past week I have received two letters from serving and retired gardaí, who have 50 years of service between them. I will read an extract from one of them. This garda sergeant stated:

I have been in the force for over 30 years and I am letting you know that interviews are currently being held for the promotion to the rank of sergeant and inspector and that the competition is in its final stages...

The method of choosing the successful candidate is the same as it's been for years - who you know, play golf with, the chief or the super, or have a super or a chief in the family. I am not saying everybody got promoted in this way, but a large number did. I believe this system has led to where we are today - some fine members have been overlooked year after year and they eventually give up and become disillusioned.

Some of the people being promoted this year will be the future chiefs and commissioners. I think this competition should be brought to a halt until an independent authority is set up to oversee the organisation.

I agree with that. If we are serious we have to look at that and we have to look at recruitment from the bottom as well. We have previously made the point that it is hard to see how anybody currently at the rank of assistant commissioner or higher could possibly be part of the leadership of a new force because much of the information on the problems that have emerged were not just given to the former Commissioner and former Minister; many among the senior ranks of the Garda were well aware of them also.

I wish to mention a few cases. The first one relates to Mr. Ian Bailey, which is central to many of the allegations around the tapes and so on. There was a horrendous fitting up of a citizen and his partner. Yet we know, because we mentioned it here last year, that in 2001 a report done by the former DPP stated that the behaviour of the gardaí was outrageous. Mr. Bailey's team has reckoned that it has cost the State €40 million to €50 million in trying to fit him up in the intervening 18 years since this started. It is not just a financial cost, it is a human cost to him and his partner. It is also a human cost to the family of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

There is also the fact that there is a murderer at large. However, the State continues to defend the case being taken by Ian Bailey.

In the course of Mr. Bailey's litigation and prior to a Supreme Court hearing on his appeal against a High Court decision to extradite him it emerged that the French authorities were acting on the basis of a flawed European arrest warrant prepared on foot of information supplied by gardaí who had been named in the Director of Public Prosecution's report as having behaved improperly. One could not literally make this stuff up. We highlighted this matter in the Dáil last year and no one even batted an eyelid. In short, it did not cause waves. Subsequently, other information emerged and media outlets recently reported that three former senior officers, in the context of the case to which I refer, had used improper influence on a former Director of Public Prosecutions via Malachy Boohig, State solicitor for west Cork, in order to bring about the prosecution of Ian Bailey. Mr. Bailey's legal team has been informed that these officers are former Chief Superintendent Dermot Dwyer of Bandon, the State's most senior detective at the time, former Chief Superintendent Seán Camon and the former assistant commissioner for the south-west division Martin McQuinn. Evidence given by the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr. Eamonn Barnes, indicates that pressure was exerted in order to force a prosecution in the Bailey case. In addition, Mr. Boohig has stated he was informed by a garda that he was aware that he had attended college with the former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, John O'Donoghue, and that he was directed to talk to him in order to have a prosecution pursued.

This is an extremely serious issue. What makes matters worse for me is that the names I have just mentioned are not new. Former Chief Superintendent Dermot Dwyer's name also popped up in a dossier produced by former garda Jack Doyle who was the subject of a television programme in 2001 and revealed that gardaí were involved in selling drugs and allowing criminals to get their hands on some of them. The dossier to which I refer which was presented to Mr. Michael McDowell contains allegations to the effect that the individual in question who has also been named in the Ian Bailey case was given tens of thousands of pounds by a major criminal gang. A root and branch review is required.

I am loath to interrupt, but I must point out that Members should not comment on or criticise people outside the House.

The point is that these matters run deep. The Minister is in possession of correspondence from a former garda involved in the Baiba Saulite case which was also provided for the Taoiseach. The former officer in question indicated that he was shocked when the former Garda Commissioner stated there were only two whistleblowers within the force. The individual to whom I refer had approached the confidential recipient and made reports to the effect that the abduction of Baiba Saulite's children had not been handled properly and that if this had not been the case, she might not have been killed.

Yesterday I met another former garda who had been driven out of the force in the 1990s having suffered severe harassment and persecution. That individual also compiled a dossier of very serious crimes which were not dealt with. In the intervening years the said individual has come into possession of evidence which suggests there is someone in prison for crimes which they could not possibly have committed and who identified the actual perpetrator as a person about whom the garda in question had made the original report in the 1990s. Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, now an MEP, has also referred to stories related to him by serving gardaí.

I am referring to gardaí, but what about ordinary citizens such as the family of Patrick Nugent, a banqueting manager at Bunratty Castle who allegedly was the victim of a heart attack at 23 years of age at a party attended by two gardaí? The record of the verdict at the inquest into his case in 1985 stated that while it was an accidental death, the jury had attached a rider to its findings as a result of the suppression of evidence by witnesses to the event. The jury was far from satisfied about the circumstances in which Patrick Nugent had sustained the injuries which caused his death. Accordingly, it issued a request to the then Minister for Justice to have the matter investigated because Mr. Nugent's right to life had not been protected. Almost 30 years have passed and it still has not been investigated and Mr. Nugent's family has not received justice. In the context of this matter, I also refer to Marie Maxwell whose mother, Dolores, died in very sinister circumstances; Tom Kennedy who has evidence that he paid for land which he purchased from his brother but that he was conned out of it by a rogue solicitor, Kevin Tracey; and the Smith family from Cavan who were the subject of malicious complaints and serious Garda harassment for trying to defend their rights.

The question that arises relates to what is going to be done to bring closure in the various cases to which I have referred. Vague references have been made to establishing a forum to deal with them. As Deputy Mick Wallace pointed out, our offices cannot deal with the scale of what is involved. There is a need for a commission of investigation similar to that which investigated the matters relating to the Magdalen laundries to be established in order that people might, as a first step, have their stories heard and obtain an acknowledgement of the wrongs done to them. Such a commission might also lead to their obtaining justice. We can discuss the concept of a new police service for a modern Ireland, but unless we deal with the crimes and injustices of the past, we can never move on. As I informed her on an previous occasion, the Minister has an unenviable task. However, she also has a major opportunity to make matters better for the good gardaí who joined the force for the right reasons and want something more and for those citizens whose respect for the force has been crushed as a result of the way in which they have been treated. Those to whom I refer want an opportunity to obtain justice and we need to find ways to give it to them.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this new and radical legislation, the Garda Síochána (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2014. I thank Deputy Mick Wallace for bringing forward the Bill which I will be strongly supporting because it should be a major part of the reform agenda. The people are crying out for change, reform and accountability. They are also crying out for professionalism in the police service. I thank Deputies Clare Daly, Mick Wallace and Luke 'Ming' Flanagan for the work they have done on the whistleblower issue. They were the first to highlight it, as well as the scandals in the justice system. The role of Independent Deputies is to challenge, reform and change the system and the legislation before the House is part of that process. The status quo, the system and politics must all change. In that context, politics must change radically. The Government and all political parties in the Dáil should support this important Bill.

We recently lost a Minister for Justice and Equality and a Garda Commissioner. This is the time for the Government to put up or shut up. It should support the Bill 100%. We need to stop pussyfooting around and get on with the so-called democratic revolution. All we have had up to now is talk and plámás. The Bill would make a difference and we owe it to the citizens of the State to have it enacted. We also owe it to the victims of cases in which there have been gross miscarriages of justice to have the legislation enacted. The families in question need answers and the truth. Above all, however, they require justice. On previous occasions reference has been made to the case of Shane O'Farrell, the cases brought to light by Dr. Richard O'Flaherty of Limerick and the many cases publicised by the great journalist Gemma O'Doherty, the Shane Tuohey case and the Preston case. In addition, there is the case of James Sheehan in County Kerry, in which gardaí illegally planted a gun and destroyed his life and good name. I met him and I am convinced that what he says is an accurate reflection of what happened.

I was absolutely shocked and horrified by what Deputy Mick Wallace indicated was still going on in respect of Sergeant Maurice McCabe. It is an absolute disgrace that the bullying and intimidation are still happening. Where are the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors and the other representative organisations which should be defending Sergeant McCabe? Where is the acting Garda Commissioner when all of this is going on? I commend the other whistleblower, John Wilson, for the magnificent work he has done on all of these cases. The agenda pursued by Sergeant McCabe and Mr. Wilson is designed to try to provide a policing service we can trust and support. It is not, as some have stated during previous debates, anti-Garda in nature. We all have brothers, sisters, cousins, etc., who serve in An Garda Síochána.

We want a meritocracy. We want the good gardaí to be protected and to be able to get on with the job. These are the gardaí who want to be accountable to the citizens of the State and obey the law of the land. That is why the Garda Síochána (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2014 is important legislation.

The Bill aims to strengthen the independence and impartiality of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and provide for the establishment of a Garda Síochána independent board with monitoring, oversight and supervisory functions over An Garda Síochána. The legislation would create a power-sharing arrangement between the board, the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Garda Commissioner. For me, that is common sense and a part of the reform agenda. The establishment of a Garda Síochána independent board with monitoring, supervisory and oversight functions over An Garda Síochána would be an important step in strengthening the democratic accountability of An Garda Síochána. This is necessary to promote public confidence and trust in the force but it is something we have ignored. In the debate in recent months Government parties and other major parties have failed to listen to the whistleblowers and Independent Deputies and in so doing have damaged trust in the Garda. The Minister must act now. We need reform to build up trust because many good people are suffering. I gather the Minister will accept the legislation and this is positive but as well as accepting legislation we need reform and support for good honest whistleblowers in the Garda Síochána.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the Garda Síochána (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill. I pay tribute to Deputy Wallace for bringing forward this legislation. As we know, similar legislation was brought forward last year. The families of the many people throughout the country who have suffered grievous wrongs at the hands of gardaí and Garda malpractice attended the House for the debate last year. Yet, here we are 12 months on debating another Garda (amendment) Bill. The same families will come to the House tonight and tomorrow night. It is wrong and the process should not have taken this amount of time.

I understand the Bill may be accepted by the Government. I hope that is the case because then perhaps we can begin to see the necessary changes.

Too many people throughout the country have suffered. Too many families have suffered and continue to suffer because of wrongdoing, malpractice and illegality carried out by gardaí. This is a symptom and the result of an organisation having unaccountable power. This is at the root of the problem and this is what the legislation seeks to end or achieve. Any organisation, no matter what, in any state which has vast amounts of power and which is unaccountable will behave in such a fashion. It is an institutional problem within the Garda. This is a problem because individuals within the Garda believe they can act with impunity or in a way that impinges on citizens' rights. This, in turn, destroys citizens' lives and forces families to suffer for years afterwards because of certain events.

I know one such family personally and I have discussed their case. I am referring to the family of Shane Tuohey. He died many years ago in Clara, County Offaly. It appears he was assaulted and fell into a river or was thrown in. A search for his body lasted several days. The Garda actively hindered the search for his body.

I have participated in several tragic searches for people who were lost in Donegal. The Garda has facilitated those searches, co-ordinated them and provided personnel for them. Whenever I hear of a tragedy in the country involving someone's body going missing or lost in a river I think of Shane Tuohey's family because gardaí actively hindered that search and, after his body was found, they hindered getting to the facts of what had happened. That wrong continues to this day. The Minister must create a situation whereby families such as the Tuoheys can have their stories heard, secure a proper investigation and receive some closure following the events. There are too many families like them throughout the country and too many individuals who have suffered in the same way.

I submitted to the previous Minister, Deputy Shatter, evidence of a District Court judge who used confidential information provided by the Garda to secure an injunction against individuals in Donegal 16 years ago. That is still in place and they cannot get it removed. What was the response of the then Minister, Deputy Shatter? In one of his last days in office he wrote to me hiding behind constitutional provisions and stated that he could not investigate the matter or have any input into the case of a complaint against a District Court judge. However, he could investigate what the Garda did to provide the information to the judge which allowed him to make the injunction. These things need to be dealt with. I will resubmit the evidence to the current Minister and I hope she will consider it in a more open manner. These are the type of issues that must be addressed.

For too long in this country there has been a tendency to attack the messenger. We have seen whistleblowers attacked and we have heard of the ongoing attacks on Sergeant Maurice McCabe over the allegations he has made, allegations which have proved true and which have led to the formation of a commission of investigation. We see this all the time and we have seen it too many times.

In Donegal we had the Morris tribunal. When the Morris tribunal was running the whole concern within the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, officialdom and the political hierarchy in this House and in the country was to ensure that the matter was contained within Donegal. The view was that it was a Donegal problem, it was up there and up there they are different and such things only went on up there. However, we know now that these things went on throughout the country.

An opportunity was lost with the Morris tribunal to deal with the matter once and for all and to do so properly. Now, we have an opportunity to deal with it again. I call on the Minister to ensure that the matter is dealt with properly, to ensure that we have a Garda service and a police service in this State that people can be proud of, one that the members who serve can be proud of and one that is accountable to an independent body and to every citizen in the State. That is vital and it is what is needed at this stage.

This legislation addresses all the things that have been highlighted as being wrong with An Garda Síochána. It provides for the appointment of an independent Garda Síochána board. It strengthens the role of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. Deputy Wallace has said that the Bill needs amendment on Committee Stage, if it is accepted, to strengthen the provisions further. That is vital. The situation whereby GSOC must use gardaí to investigate allegations against gardaí must end. GSOC must have its own investigators and investigative powers and must be totally independent of the Garda when it is investigating allegations of wrongdoing.

We need to increase the autonomy and independence of An Garda Síochána and this is provided for in the Bill. A power-sharing arrangement between the board, the Minister and the Garda Commissioner is proposed. We must have direct accountability of the Garda Commissioner to the board rather than to the Minister. We must break the political links we have seen in the House, those used by the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, in making allegations against Deputy Wallace and used to make public confidential information that he was provided with by the Garda Commissioner.

These things must end and things must change from now on. That is not an easy task and I realise it will take time. However, this legislation has been introduced and it can provide a road along the way. Deputy Clare Daly suggested we need a commission along the lines of that which dealt with the Magdalen laundries, whereby people and their families have the opportunity to tell their stories and have their stories recognised and investigated. That is the only way to bring closure and to bring an end to the pain that these families have suffered. We have the opportunity to do that now and we should ensure it happens.

Throughout the past year when the issue was debated all the Deputies on the Government side trotted out to say how great everything was and how wrong we were. They attacked Independent Members for raising such difficult issues. I am pleased to see that this has changed. I hope the Government side will come out tonight and tomorrow night and support this legislation. They should recognise and acknowledge everything that has gone on in the past year and what we now know. This includes revelations from the whistleblowers, the penalty points fiasco, the GSOC bugging fiasco and allegations of racial profiling within the Garda. Furthermore, we have seen the Guerin report and the subsequent commission of investigation. We need to ensure that works and is carried out properly.

I hope everyone on the Government benches will support this legislation.

The Labour Party has highlighted how it published a document in 2000 calling for a Garda authority. It has now published another document, but it did nothing while all of these allegations were being made or during the House's debates. It stood by its man when the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, defended himself in the House when it should have asked whether there was an issue that needed to be examined. For too long, the Labour Party has been the lapdog in government, standing back and letting such things happen. That can no longer be the case.

Deputy Fitzgerald has made many right statements since becoming Minister. She mentioned that she would address many of these issues. This legislation will help her along that road. It has been drafted and is ready to go. I call on her to ensure this legislation is passed, that we get an independent Garda board, that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, be changed so that it might operate independently and that we get what we need, namely, a fully and democratically accountable Garda service and, for the betterment of everyone, an end to the days of people holding unaccountable power.

I understand the Minister is sharing time with Deputies Connaughton, McHugh and Feighan. The Minister has 15 minutes.

I welcome the opportunity to respond on this Bill, which has been introduced by Deputy Wallace. The Bill's tabling comes as debate continues on the various matters addressed in the report to the Government by Mr. Sean Guerin and other recent issues of concern, which have been well articulated by Deputies. We discussed these issues most recently two weeks ago in the course of the statements on the Guerin report.

The Government and I are committed to a programme of reform of the Garda Síochána and the justice system generally. Deputies Clare Daly and Finian McGrath mentioned that good gardaí and policing exist. It is important that I comment in that regard. When I last discussed the Guerin report, I mentioned that I had attended the Garda memorial day in the Dubh Linn Gardens at Dublin Castle to honour the memory of members who had been killed in the line of duty. I again wish to acknowledge the substantial contribution that many members of An Garda Síochána have made in preserving the security of the State. I am sure other Deputies would agree.

It is essential that members of the public have full confidence in how the Garda carries out its functions, which include the exercise of extensive powers and responsibilities. Currently and regrettably, however, that confidence has been undermined. As the Minister for Justice and Equality, it is my objective to restore confidence in the work of An Garda Síochána and to support the men and women of the Garda in fulfilling their duties in keeping our communities and country safe.

The Guerin report contains deeply disturbing findings. Following its discussion by the Cabinet, the Government immediately announced its intention to establish a commission of investigation to examine the specific items identified for further investigation by Mr Guerin. He found that almost all of the cases he examined warranted further investigation. The range of issues that emerged are being referred to the commission.

The Government has also initiated a comprehensive programme of reform to address the wider systemic failings that have emerged from the report. Clearly, there are systemic issues. Many of the Deputies who have contributed referred to them. When the Morris tribunal report was published, people wondered whether the issues identified related to Donegal alone. When the Guerin report was published, people wondered whether just those counties were involved or whether it could be assumed that wider issues similar to those discovered in the previous report were at play. While Mr. Guerin was not definitive on this question in his report, he commented on the wider, possibly systemic, issues.

The spectrum of issues that must be addressed is complex and deep rooted, ranging from high-level issues such as oversight, change management and the role of whistleblowers to local administration and internal communication as well as to clear matters of basic policing, performance and human resources. Cultural issues must also be addressed and a change of culture is required. The Acting Garda Commissioner has stated this as well. She is committed to the kind of change that we need.

Many cases have been mentioned during this debate. I acknowledge the importance and necessity of seeking justice, resolutions and answers for those families that have experienced injustice. Deputies will appreciate that I cannot comment on the individual cases to which they referred, but I am prepared to have the relevant matters fully pursued. I ask the Deputies to provide me with the relevant details. Quite a number of cases have been already referred to the Department of Justice and Equality or to the Department of the Taoiseach and other cases are outstanding. I am actively pursuing specific measures to ensure these complaints are properly and effectively addressed. I will comment further on this matter in the near future.

This is not about change for change's sake. Rather, it is about comprehensive and sustained corrective action to address all relevant matters. A range of initiatives is required to deal with the spectrum of issues most recently raised in the Guerin report. If we do not do this, we will not achieve the objective to which Deputies have referred, namely, providing the country with the police force it needs, operating to the highest professional standards and ready to meet current and emerging challenges.

Everyone acknowledges that there are good gardaí, effective investigations and good work being done by the Garda around the country. However, this debate is focusing on those areas where there are serious problems that need to be addressed. As I advised the House two weeks ago, the necessary reforms include such measures as opening up to competition future appointments to the position of Garda Commissioner. Advertisements for the position will begin in July. The Garda Inspectorate is to carry out a comprehensive inquiry into serious crime investigation, management and operational and procedural issues arising from the findings of the report by Mr. Guerin, taking into account the implementation of the recommendations that the inspectorate made in earlier reports and work it already has under way. I have met the Garda Inspectorate and held a detailed discussion with it. I have written to it requesting it to carry out the work required following the Guerin report and to make recommendations. There will be an independent expert review of the performance, management and administration of the Department of Justice and Equality. I will make further announcements in this regard in the near future.

Amendments to the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013 will be enacted to enable a Garda whistleblower to report his or her concerns to GSOC.

Furthermore, with specific reference to GSOC, I can confirm to the House that a new Bill will be introduced at an early date during this Dáil term to strengthen the remit and powers of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. Some of the measures being considered here are bringing the Garda Commissioner within the scope of the complaints that can be referred to GSOC, the capacity of GSOC to initiate reviews of Garda practice and procedure without reference to the Minister for Justice and Equality, and the police powers it can exercise when conducting investigations.

The Government's programme of reform also involves the establishment of an independent Garda authority, which is the subject of the Bill before the House. The Government has signalled that the new body is to be operational by the end of the year. That is an ambitious target but one we want to meet. This development will bring about the most fundamental change in governance arrangements for An Garda Síochána since its foundation.

As Deputies will appreciate, such a significant reform requires equally significant deliberation and consideration. A new Cabinet committee on justice reform, chaired by the Taoiseach, has been established to oversee the development of the proposals for the independent Garda authority and other associated reforms of the policing and justice systems. As part of its activities, the Cabinet committee has initiated a public consultation process inviting views on a range of issues, including the new authority and matters relating to GSOC, and I will initiate further public consultation in the weeks ahead. In addition, the Members of this House will appreciate that the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality is undertaking work along similar lines. It has had the hearings. There will be more tomorrow, and its members will visit neighbouring jurisdictions to examine how independent Garda authorities work in other countries. I strongly support the need for the full engagement of Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas in this programme of deliberations.

I want to make it clear that the Government supports the underlying principles behind the Bill introduced by Deputy Wallace tonight. This Bill provides an early opportunity to reflect on some of the key questions involved in establishing the authority, for example, matters relating to the composition of the board. Without wishing to express any definitive opinion on the question of the membership of the oversight body to be established in respect of the Garda Síochána, I would have some concerns, in terms of some of the proposals in the Bill, that officeholders whose functions could involve the scrutiny of policing activities should also have a significant role in directing An Garda Síochána, as proposed in the Bill.

While I appreciate the sentiment behind the approach the Deputy has adopted in his Bill, the potential for conflicts of jurisdiction is obvious, and I do not believe that some of the individual officeholders named in the Deputy's Bill should be placed in a position where such conflicts could arise. I make that comment by way of observation of some of the elements of the Bill.

The Members of this House will appreciate that An Garda Síochána is also the security and intelligence service for the State. This is a further issue I believe has to be the focus of particular attention. It goes without saying that it is a vital area for the country and for everyone in it.

Under the Deputy's Bill, the functions of the proposed policing board would extend to the security field. This is one of a number of specific topics currently being addressed by the Cabinet committee on justice reform. Pending the consideration of its conclusions by the Government, I do not propose to express a view on the approach that should be adopted with regard to security matters. However, I would emphasise that it is a very important matter that requires detailed examination with reference to any new Garda oversight legislation.

As I have indicated, the Government has made an absolute commitment to bring forward legislation as a matter of urgency to establish a new independent Garda authority. That is why the Government has decided it will not oppose this Bill on Second Stage, as it is broadly aimed at the same objective. However, it is critical that, in what will be the most important development in the governance and oversight of the Garda Síochána in its history, we get this right. I am sure every Deputy here would agree with that. This is a fundamental review and change in the structure and organisation and we must consider very carefully the approach that should be taken regarding the composition and appointment of the authority, its powers and functions, its relationship with the Minister for Justice and Equality and Government and, more generally, its accountability. These are serious issues that require the most serious deliberation and this is a process that is under way, under the guidance of the Cabinet committee on justice reform, which is chaired by the Taoiseach, and in a number of other arenas also.

We are treating these issues, therefore, with the seriousness and the urgency they deserve. This will see the introduction of two Bills, one to enhance the powers and remit of GSOC and one to establish the independent Garda authority, and I look forward to debating these proposals with Deputies. I cannot comment on the individual cases mentioned earlier but we need to put a process in place to deal with the particular issues raised by Deputies regarding the cases mentioned. I have also heard what was said tonight in regard to Sergeant McCabe, and I will raise that matter directly with the Garda Commissioner.

The Government is not opposing the Bill as it is broadly aimed at the same objective of the Government. I look forward to further discussions with Deputies in this House, and in a range of arenas, on the precise issues that need to be worked out as we move towards the establishment of an independent Garda authority.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak briefly about the Bill. I congratulate the Minister on her new role. She has been thrown in at the deep end, so to speak, at a very serious time for An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice and Equality. I want to mention also the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, who admitted that mistakes were made in this area in recent weeks but who did very fine work in his role as Minister for Justice and Equality over the past three years.

It is important to acknowledge the role Opposition Deputies played in consistently highlighting this issue in recent years. I admit that as a backbench Deputy I did not fully acknowledge the extent of many of the issues raised over an extended period. It was only when I got an opportunity to hear from Sergeant McCabe at a Committee of Public Accounts briefing that I understood many of the concerns he was raising. Not only was he raising very serious concerns, but there was methodology in the way he was presenting them. He could prove how this was happening, back it up with factual information, and show that the problem was extensive. That is the first time I realised the seriousness of the issue. Sergeant McCabe has done the service some good, despite the claims made earlier about his current treatment, but we now must attempt to rebuild confidence in the Garda Síochána.

A point made repeatedly here is about the number of gardaí who are very good at their jobs. That is the case because 95% of them do a sterling job on a daily basis, and we depend on them for our safety and security. It is important that while this work goes on they are allowed do their jobs.

I want to briefly touch on the area of discretion, which is an issue that arose when Sergeant McCabe spoke to us. In fairness, he did not have an issue with that because all gardaí must be able to exercise discretion at some level, particularly those who work in small rural communities. In terms of their ability to work with local people they know and understand, gardaí must be given that discretion to allow them do their jobs, but if we take that from them we make their job nigh on impossible. Sergeant McCabe did not have an issue with Garda discretion but with the way it was being abused by other people in the force, and that is something we must acknowledge.

The Bill brought before the House by Deputy Wallace makes a good deal of sense on the basis that the Government is broadly agreeing with many of its proposals. The objectives of the board as stated were to promote public trust and confidence in An Garda Síochána, which is hugely important. As politicians, we all know there is a level of cynicism around everything we do, regardless of whether it is good or bad. We cannot allow that to happen in our Garda force for the foreseeable future considering the role its members play.

The aim of the Bill is to provide an independent means of oversight, monitoring and supervision of An Garda Síochána. That should be welcomed. Gardaí play an important role in society but that does not mean they can work at their own whim and take action as they see fit. It is important they are accountable not only to this House, but to a board made up of different people and organisations. One part of the Bill states that they should come before the Committee of Public Accounts, which they and the Garda Commissioner do already on a regular basis, but it is important that they can come forward and explain the way appointments were made, decisions taken and policies rolled out.

I welcome the timeline set out by the Minister, which is hugely ambitious. Much of what has arisen in the past six months is as a result of a culture that has existed for some time and will not be fixed overnight. Many of the people involved will remain in the Garda force for a number of years. More than anything else, a cultural sea change is needed. We can provide an independent board with the powers to do this. We must also support the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission in its role. It is important that there is a healthy friction between the force and GSOC. There is no point in their agreeing on everything because that would mean somebody was not doing their job. There must also be a healthy friction between the Minister and the Garda Commissioner. This will ensure both are doing their jobs right.

Deputy Wallace is correct in saying that if we are serious about bringing about public trust and confidence in the Garda Síochána then this Bill must progress to Committee Stage as soon as possible. This Bill, or another similar to it, was brought before us a year ago. As I stated earlier, I did not perhaps at that stage understand the seriousness of some of the issues that would arise. I believe the Government now fully understands the seriousness of these issues. It is important that the timeline as set out is adhered to and that most of the institutions required are established prior to Christmas, thus restoring trust and confidence in the Garda Síochána.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I agree with the previous speaker that in terms of our exploring all avenues and possibilities in the creation of a new independent authority, time is critical. This should include examination not only of best practice in Northern Ireland, which I know the Minister will be looking at, but internationally. We must also be conscious of what can happen when an independent authority is established too quickly. The Health Service Executive was set up far too quickly. It was ill-thought out and unplanned. In my view, many of the failures of the HSE resulted from a lack of clarity, preparation and clear thinking in terms of how it should operate. It is important that we learn from our mistakes.

I believe that the current Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, in terms of her track record in setting up a new Department, is the right person with the right credentials to establish the new authority. Her experience in that regard will be critical in the development of the new authority. I have some reservations about the new authority in terms of where the line of responsibility lies with respect to the Garda Síochána and the Minister. Obviously, this will be teased out as the Bill progresses. I agree that there are whistleblowers who have legitimate concerns. A more recent issue that has been raised is whether there is a need for whistleblowers for these whistleblowers. All of these issues need to be ironed out. In the consideration of these issues by the various committees, time is critical.

I have learned from conversations I have had with gardaí that the biggest crisis within the Garda Síochána is its inability to respond. As with all other sectors, the Garda Síochána was hit by cuts, including in respect of the replacement of its aging fleet, leaving many gardaí patrolling areas in Fiesta vans. There is a great deal of country terrain in my constituency. The Coast Guard fleet, in terms of its ability to access rough terrain, is a fabulous asset to our communities. The Garda Síochána also operates in tough terrain. Consideration should be given to investment in a new fleet that can adapt to different terrains throughout the country.

In terms of resources, there is no sergeant in Raphoe Garda station. There are many gaps within the force. In my view the real crisis is the difficulty of response by the Garda Síochána owing to a lack of personnel. While the embargo in respect of recruitment has been lifted, it will be some time before new gardaí are appointed. We must look at what can be done now. For example, consideration could be given by the Minister to deploying young single gardaí, male or female, in administrative functions in the larger Garda stations from Dublin to Donegal. Perhaps if they come to Donegal they will find a reason to stay. We should look at incentivising gardaí to move to more rural areas.

It would be remiss of me not to refer to Border areas such as Muff, Killea and Carrigans, which are small, sleepy towns located close to the urban sprawl of Derry city, which has a population of 120,000. Despite all of the sophistication of modern communications systems and IT and the very positive involvement with the PSNI, the greatest asset to a garda in a rural or urban area is knowing his or her community. This is difficult to do with limited resources and minimum gardaí on the periphery of a city such as Derry. The message must go out to small communities such as Muff, Killea, Carrigans, St. Johnston and Quigley's Point that consideration will be given to allocating even one additional garda to the stations in those areas.

Thank you, Deputy.

We got an important message from the electorate last weekend. Rural Ireland is crying out for something to be given back. We could respond by addressing the shortfall in Garda resources in rural areas. We must take on board the message from the electorate. Many good councillors got caught up in the crossfire of last weekend's elections and have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. It is important that we heed the message and that we also remain conscious of the people caught in the crossfire.

The Deputy has strayed far and wide and must conclude now.

More than 90 years ago a young man named James Feely was one of the first recruits to the Garda Síochána, which defended the institutions of this State. This young man was a Sinn Féin councillor and commander of the IRA in Roscommon who went on hunger strike. He was also my mother's father. I come from a family that have had huge confidence in the Garda Síochána. I come from a community that always looked to the Garda Síochána with respect. The Garda Síochána secured the safety of this State and ensured that communities and the country were safe.

I have always had and continue to have huge confidence in the brave men and women of the Garda Síochána. They have a difficult job to do. This Bill is to be welcomed. I thank the Minister for supporting it. It is important to acknowledge the job being done by An Garda Síochána. My grandfather was from Ballina, where my mother was born. They later moved to Cahir, County Tipperary and then to Rush, County Dublin. As a garda, my grandfather's responsibilities included checking that people had lights on their bicycles. The men and women of the Garda Síochána now have a much more complicated job to do.

I agree on the need for reform of the Garda Síochána. There have been many system failings. I thank the whistleblowers for bringing these failings to the attention of the authorities. I believe there is a role for whistleblowers but that their concerns should be brought to the attention of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC. I do not believe that these important matters should be the focus of television or radio programmes.

There should now be an independent review of how best to manage these concerns.

I agree with the strengthening of the functions of the Garda ombudsman and the establishment of a body to be known as the Garda Síochána independent board which is to have monitoring, oversight and supervisory functions. I thank the Minister for not opposing this Bill on Second Stage. The Government, politicians and rest of the country have a lot of work to do to regain the full support of the men and women of the Garda Síochána. The public certainly has to have full confidence in how the Garda carries out its functions.

Deputy McHugh mentioned the Good Friday Agreement. We can work at a cross-Border level in this regard to ensure the Garda works in co-operation with its counterpart in the North.

The men and women in the Garda Síochána have been kicked about. Sometimes the fight is not what it should be about. There are issues that have arisen that have been out of the control of the Garda. As a politician, I will stand shoulder to shoulder with the members of the Garda Síochána. Whether circumstances are good or bad, one will not hear me criticising them. I value their job. They defended our country when there were people trying to undermine the stability and democracy of the State. I, for one, will stand shoulder to shoulder with them, and I will not undermine the Garda Síochána. I thank the force for the work it has done since the foundation of the State. It has one supporter here in Frank Feighan, Teachta Dála for Roscommon-South Leitrim.

We welcome the intent of the Bill. My party supports the principle of the establishment of an independent policing authority. We have discussed that recently in regard to the Guerin report.

I have some comments that are relevant to the Bill. We have just had a local election that gave us all an opportunity to engage more with the public than we ordinarily do outside an election period. The Minister's colleague, Deputy McHugh, made a point on Garda stations in rural communities. I echo this point because it came home to me quite forcibly when canvassing in parts of my rural constituency that people, particularly the elderly living in isolated places, are most concerned about crime. It would be very beneficial for us all if the new Minister took a position on the closure of Garda stations. We have had a long-running and quite contentious debate in this House on the programme for the closure of stations across the country. As the Minister knows, up to 140 have been closed. We need to rethink this and the Government needs to adopt a position on it.

The Government needs to give serious thought to the effect of early retirement from the force. Some of those who are retiring have the option to work for another couple of years. Most leave the force at the first available opportunity, which poses a fierce challenge. While I acknowledge that recruitment and training have recommenced and that it will take a while for this to have an effect on the system at the intake point, I must draw attention to the large exodus of ability, experience and intelligence. This is hampering the capacity of the force to investigate crime, protect victims of crime and, I hope, help these victims to achieve justice through the criminal justice system. This needs to be factored into the approach of the Government. There is a very multifaceted approach to An Garda Síochána at present. Everybody in this House supports it. We are all on the one page and that is to be welcomed.

With regard to the establishment of the proposed independent policing authority, we support the Bill. I have noted that the Minister has stated the Government is not opposing the legislation, which I welcome. As the Minister knows, the justice committee is undertaking work in this regard. She alluded to the fact that we are travelling to Belfast and Scotland. The trip is scheduled for the second week of July. We are to meet the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and representatives of the PSNI, and then we are to meet the two relevant bodies in Scotland. This will go a long way towards informing me and other members of the committee about how exactly we should structure the board of the new independent policing authority. Tomorrow we are to have another round of hearings. The acting Garda Commissioner and Ms Nuala O’Loan are to present their views tomorrow and I look forward to that engagement.

We have a great opportunity to reinvigorate the force. The engagement I have had with the Garda over the past three to four weeks, since the broad acceptance of the principle of the establishment of an independent policing authority and its being placed on top of the political agenda, has demonstrated to me that members of the force have almost entirely welcomed the initiative. It is very good that there is such buy-in throughout all ranks.

As a consequence of the closure of the Garda stations, there was a promise that the Garda would roll out mobile Garda clinics utilising community facilities. I raised this with the Minister's predecessor, Deputy Shatter. He did not express much interest in following through on it. I tabled a number of parliamentary questions and the information I required was not available. As part of the reassurance to communities, we need to examine seriously how the areas in which Garda stations have been closed have been compensated through the provision of the service promised at the time of closure.

We are all on the one page with regard to the position of GSOC. In my name I published for my party a Bill that seeks to enhance the powers of GSOC to give it what it has been looking for. There has to be greater mutual acceptance involving GSOC and the Garda Síochána. When we questioned representatives of GSOC recently at the justice committee, they still said they were meeting resistance from some people within the force when carrying out their work. There is obviously friction but there has to be oversight. In our profession, there is oversight. There is oversight in pretty much all organisations; it is a fact of life. We may not like it and we may crib about it but we must have it. That is the way of the world. We need to be able to ensure that both bodies can work efficiently. Ultimately, having issues dragging on for years is not good enough. We must not allow the continuation of circumstances in which one agency of the State frustrates another when both are mandated by the Houses on behalf of the people to serve the public. Collectively, we must make every effort to ensure that one does not frustrate the other and that the two complement each other. That will be difficult to achieve but we should bear in mind that the bodies exist to serve the public interest.

In the main, my party supports the Bill, although there is a lot of detail we have to consider. The Minister said in her contribution that the issue of State security needs to be teased out, and it is an issue that came up at hearings with some of the groups that have come before the justice committee to date.

I will conclude on that point. We support the broad principles of the Bill and we are happy for it to proceed. However, we would have some concerns and we would seek to amend some details if it were to progress further.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille seo, mar aon leis an mBille a bhí ann anuraidh. Tá sé tábhachtach agus tráthúil go bhfuilimid ag plé é seo agus go bhfuil sin tosaithe, mar tá gá le hathrú suntasach, agus go dtarlódh an t-athrú sin go tapaidh.

I congratulate the Minister on her promotion. I have a degree of confidence as yet that some of the actions that are required will be carried out. I wish her well in that and hope my faith in her delivering it will not be let down.

There is a job of work to do and it is not party-political. Society in general has to have a huge degree of confidence in the police force that is preventing and detecting crime, given it has a lot of powers invested in it. If we do not do what is intended in this Bill, with the addition of whatever changes are required on Committee Stage, when my party would put forward a number of amendments, then we would be standing still and letting down the public. We would also be letting down those within An Garda Síochána and those who are now, regretfully, out of the force but who brought us to this stage, namely, the whistleblowers, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude.

The last major reform of An Garda Síochána and the last change to the institutions that administer and oversee the force was also prompted by whistleblowers. It is a pity it has to be people such as the most recent whistleblowers who take the flak for a number of years before the institutions of the State listen to them. Thankfully, we are now listening to them. I thank Deputy Wallace for putting this before us again.

In 2005, during the discussions on the Garda Síochána Act with the then Minister, Mr. McDowell, in the House and in committee, I argued that we needed something similar to what had happened in the North in regard to the Patten Commission. I argued that we needed to set up institutions that were more independent than those being set up at the time and that we needed changes in the structures of An Garda Síochána which would reflect more modernity than was then reflected within it. At the time, the then Minister argued this was wrong, that what had happened in Donegal was an isolated case and that there was not a level of corruption, incompetence or bad faith within An Garda Síochána which would warrant what I was calling for.

I do not believe the level of malpractice which we have seen to date is at an end, although we have seen it in isolated incidents. The vast majority of the members of An Garda Síochána are hard working, diligent, committed to the job, courteous and genuinely concerned about the communities they are sent to protect and to serve. I have had occasion in recent times to engage with a number of members of An Garda Síochána at different levels and every one of them was professional in their manner. However, like every large organisation, there are always bad apples. The job of those in this House is to ensure that whatever system we have to regulate large institutions, especially one which has the level of power of An Garda Síochána, would have a proper oversight method which is independent and can be above politics, so we can hold these institutions to account when mistakes happen or when crime is exposed within them.

I welcome the Bill. It is important that we put it into committee as quickly as possible, deal with it there and make it the best piece of legislation we can. This will hopefully address some of the flaws within An Garda Síochána, although other problems will only be addressed when the State properly resources the Garda with the most modern equipment and other resources to ensure it can prevent and detect crime in our society. As I said, we hope to engage with the Bill on Committee Stage, when every Member of the House can put forward their ideas to ensure we have international best practice and ensure people look at this State as being an example to the world. At the moment, we seem to be a laughing stock to the world.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 9 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 28 May 2014.