Garda Síochána (Amendment) Bill 2015: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to establish a Public Order Unit for Dublin City Centre charged with improving and maintaining public order and safety in the Dublin City Centre area as set out by the Garda Commissioner.

It is fair to say that crime in Dublin city centre and the Dublin area in particular, has been out of control for some time. Deputy Dowds has informed us of shootings in Drumcondra this morning which further proves the point about the crime situation that my party colleagues and I have been making for many weeks and months. The situation is out of control on a number of levels, from the highly organised gangland criminality down to the low level petty crime to which some people are being subjected. The statistics for all crime categories in Dublin are going the wrong way and, unfortunately, the Government response and reaction has been far from adequate to deal with this scourge in our capital city. The response to date has included measures such as the closure of Garda stations in Whitehall and in Stepaside, for example, in addition to many other Garda stations around the country and in the Dublin commuter belt which have been closed. The public are very angry and annoyed that the Government has not prioritised this issue. Throughout the lifetime of this Government, from 2011 up to 2014, it maintained the moratorium on recruitment to the Garda Síochána. What drives people crazy is that at the same time the Government allowed recruitment to the Defence Forces. The situation in An Garda Síochána is critical and the current membership is 12,799. On any given day, 500 gardaí are out sick, either long-term or short-term, for various reasons. Today, 1,498 members of An Garda Síochána are eligible to retire. To be added to the mix are 235 members who are on incentivised career breaks, yet only 299 are in training in Templemore. The situation is moving in a very critical direction.

The Garda Commissioner appeared before the justice committee yesterday. She informed the committee that Templemore has the capacity to deal comfortably with 500 recruits per annum. We are moving towards a critical stage. Manpower is the Garda Síochána's main resource and members need to be out on the streets dealing with criminality in our communities. The Garda Commissioner has to deal with a dwindling resource of manpower.

There is no recruitment to the Garda Síochána Reserve. Hundreds of people are offering to give of their time to the State freely and voluntarily to act as Garda reserves in order to help protect people's lives and property. The Government is failing in this regard also.

Yesterday we heard from the Irish Tourist Assistance Service that up to 700 tourists experienced crime in the capital city last year. Seven hundred people were mugged, had their pockets picked, were assaulted, had their luggage stolen or were engaged by a criminal in a criminal act. That is 700 people in one calendar year. On behalf of my party I have been calling for a dedicated public order unit to be established for Dublin city centre in recognition of the rising crime statistics and to address the issues raised at meetings of the justice committee by the representative associations, including the organisation, Dublin Town, the Dublin City Business Association, the Irish Hotels Federation, the Licensed Vintners Association, the Restaurant Association of Ireland and the Temple Bar Company. They told the justice committee about their experiences of crime in Dublin city centre. The obvious solution is to establish a dedicated public order unit. This Bill proposes to establish a public order unit for Dublin city centre charged with improving and maintaining public order and safety in the Dublin city centre area as set out by the Garda Commissioner and charged with liaising with Dublin City Council, the Dublin Business Improvement District and other city centre bodies, as may be designated by the Minister for Justice and Equality.

The Bill proposes that the Assistant Commissioner for the Dublin metropolitan region would be charged with reporting quarterly to Dublin City Council on the impact of the public order unit. The Garda Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner would report to the Oireachtas annually on the work of this dedicated public order unit.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to present this Bill.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.