That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to exempt charity events and local community based festivals and events from policing service charges and to provide for related matters.
The Bill is a response to allegations that members of the Garda Síochána have been charging local community groups for the policing of local festivals and events. It is unacceptable that local community, voluntary and charity groups are expected to foot the bill for policing services and events and festivals. These groups are made up of committed and hard-working volunteers who plan and organise events and festivals to benefit local communities and businesses. Such groups often have to fund-raise to make such events happen and it is unfair to require them to pay for the work of the Garda Síochána on top of this. Charity events, community fairs and annual parish festivals are the lifeblood of rural communities. Such events encourage tourism and contribute to community spirit. It makes no sense to demand that organising committees pay for policing.
In my county, Donegal, the thousands of euro demanded of one festival organising committee far exceeds the grants given to the festival by Donegal County Counsel and Fáilte Ireland. One arm of the State is paying for the services of another while local communities are burdened with the cost. Organisations that organise large-scale, commercial concerts and events that generate large revenues and profits should cover the cost of policing such events. However, section 30 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which allows for requesting such payments, must be amended in respect of local community events, festivals and charity events, in order to protect our local groups and encourage local tourism. The Bill does that. It amends section 30 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to exempt local cultural and heritage festivals, fundraising events for registered charities, local events organised on a voluntary basis and events that reinvest all profits for the benefit of the local community from the obligation to pay for policing services.
Last week, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, said a policy review would suffice to address the problem. I urge the Minister and her colleagues to review the Bill in the hope that they will see the merits of a legislative safeguard to address the issue. The Bill is aimed at protecting our local communities and festivals and I hope the Government will support its passage through the House.