Leaders' Questions

In a report published this morning, the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, showed that young people are at a particular disadvantage as a result of having multiple quality of life issues, including overcrowding, financial issues and so forth, while a survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions indicates that many families find it very difficult to afford the costs of children going back to school. When one compares that with the Central Statistics Office, CSO, figures relating to Irish economic growth which state that the Irish economy grew by a staggering 26% in 2015, one gets a real sense of the disconnect between the official figures and the reality for ordinary working people as depicted by the ESRI and the Irish League of Credit Unions.

The CSO figures are not a bolt from the blue in the sense that we have known for some time that we do not have a proper, accurate statistical model for calculating the actual size of the Irish economy. This has very serious impacts, including on our budget planning, investment policies and our fiscal strategy. At a stroke it undermines fiscal rules and the fiscal treaty, because nobody believes the figures. Mr. Paul Krugman, the Nobel laureate, has described it as leprechaun economics. Mr. Philip Lane of the Central Bank apparently went to the CSO last Monday to tell it that the figures are not real and do not accurately reflect the size of the Irish economy. There is economic growth, but clearly it is not in the order of 26%. As one economist said, I believe it was Mr. Tom Healy of the Nevin Economic Research Institute, NERI, even the Soviet Russia in the 1930s did not publish statistics of that scale. Others have also commented on the farcical nature of these figures. This damages Ireland's international reputation.

As I said, this should not have been a surprise, although the scale of it has been. However, we have known for some time that our capacity to reflect our economic growth accurately has been impaired. Consider the budget figures of the past two to three years and the accompanying documentation. Hidden in the documentation was an acknowledgement by the Department of Finance that it could not explain tax buoyancy, particularly corporate tax buoyancy.

Does the Deputy have a question?

Certainly. I have 22 seconds left to ask it. I put it to the Taoiseach that at the core of this are the actions of such a model and any effort made in recent years to get to grips with this reality. Does he accept that the figure of 26% is farcical and damaging to the country internationally? Will he ask the CSO to design a new model to capture accurately what is happening in the economy, taking on board the globalised nature of the world economy and our interaction with it?

First, the figures produced yesterday are unprecedented. They do not reflect accurately what is happening in the economy. Obviously, the figure of 26% is unprecedented and significantly stronger than the previous estimate of 7.8%, but it is important to note that is due to exceptional factors. It highlights the complexity and difficulty in interpreting the macroeconomic data in Ireland. The figures reflect a number of factors, including the impact of relocation of entire plcs to Ireland. This would have significantly boosted investment and net exports. Net exports contributed 18% to the 2015 growth figure. Contract manufacturing played a role in the figures. This occurs where an Irish-based company with another manufacturing unit abroad manufactures and sells products to other countries from that unit but is still based in Ireland.

While the headline figures can be exaggerated in an Irish context and will obviously be the subject of intense scrutiny, other indicators such as the level of consumer spending, the rise in the level of employment and the continuous drop in unemployment trends, as well as taxation receipts, confirm that there is a strong recovery rooted in the domestic economy in Ireland. That domestic demand - spending by Irish businesses and Irish people - is also growing strongly. It is an opportunity arising from the many sacrifices made during the years.

The figures predate the decision in Britain in the referendum. Obviously, there has been a sharp depreciation of sterling since that decision and a deterioration in the outlook for the UK economy. While it is an unprecedented figure, the fact is, based on growth projections in real terms, the growth levels seen in 2015 were both a one-off and exceptional in nature. We cannot make policy on that basis, but the CSO takes into account in compiling its figures issues such as aircraft leasing and manufacturing here by companies that have units abroad. As noted in the summer economic statement which was debated in the Dáil some time ago, the Department of Finance will prepare a full macroeconomic projection in advance of the budget in October. It will include updated estimates of economic growth, the public finances and whatever fiscal space is available to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, taking account of developments up to that time, including the latest CSO numbers and the decision in the United Kingdom.

The Taoiseach's time is up.

The Taoiseach did not answer the question, which was whether he would commission the CSO to design a proper, accurate way of calculating the real size of the economy. Professor John FitzGerald, formally of the ESRI, has attempted to do this as an individual. It is shocking that the Department of Finance and the Taoiseach's Department did not work years ago to create a proper model to calculate the size of the economy. The figures are not unprecedented. They are false in terms of what is happening on the ground and the reality in the economy. The CSO says it is including - not taking account of - the impact of aircraft leasing, corporate inversions and contract manufacturing, but none of this impacts on real jobs and investment in the economy, as the thousands of people who are struggling realise.

It is not good enough that no one in official Ireland has attempted to address this by coming up with an accurate home-grown model that takes all of this into account, strips it out and gives us a proper figure.

Thank you, Deputy Martin.

It is essential that this be done, in terms of how we plan our budgets and economy but also in terms of our international reputation. Unfortunately, the international world looks at this with some degree of ridicule and disbelief. There was a time when we would haughtily go around the place questioning the Chinese or the Russians for their economic statistics. Can we really go abroad and hold our heads up high-----

You have made your point, thank you.

-----about Irish official statistics? No one in their right mind believes Irish official statistics. This cuts to the heart of our credibility in terms of presenting economic data. This is a serious issue which needs urgent addressing by the Taoiseach's Department, the CSO and other related State entities.

It is true to say the CSO is quite independent in how it does its analysis, but it does take these factors into account. Changes have occurred, such as the transition of entire public limited companies to Ireland and the transfer of a significant amount of intellectual property, contract manufacturing and the scale of aircraft leasing. The Deputy is right in terms of these figures boosting GDP. There is no proportionate increase in employment. These are figures which are compiled accurately by the CSO and they take into account those changes that have taken place in the international economy. The Deputy is aware of the changes made by the Government in terms of complying with base erosion and profit shifting, BEPS, and the OECD in terms of having got rid of the double Irish concept. The issues of aircraft leasing, contract manufacturing, intellectual property moving onshore here and the transition of entire public limited companies has boosted these figures.

Thank you, Taoiseach.

The Department of Finance will set out its projections later in the year, but it will also base its policy on a more normal growth rate, such as has been predicted by the Department, of in the region of 3.5% to 4%. I agree that an extraordinary elevation of 26% based on some of these factors and others, such as the depreciation of sterling, do not impact in reality on big numbers in terms of employment-----

Thank you, Taoiseach. The time is up.

-----but it is important that on the underlying issues the growth in jobs and consumer spend and the drop in unemployment is where the real value of the economy is and the projections will be based on 3.5% to 4%.

With regard to the real value the economy, most schoolchildren have finished their studies for the summer and I hope they and their parents are enjoying the holiday break. For many parents this time of the year is one of worry and stress as they face the prospect of challenging costs associated with children returning to school in September. The report released by the Irish League of Credit Unions this morning highlights starkly this reality. The report finds it costs almost €1,000 a year to send a child to primary school and €1,500 for secondary school students. These are huge sums by any stretch of the imagination. This is bad enough, but picture the additional stress of many families with more than one child going back to school. The report also finds that more than 80% of parents feel the costs associated with sending their children to school are a significant financial burden. This is the value of the real economy and 80% is a lot of parents. Alarmingly, almost one third of parents find themselves in debt. They borrow an average of €357. This debt multiplies for those with more than one child going back to school. Some are turning to unscrupulous moneylenders and other short-term high-cost borrowing sources to put the money together to provide for their children.

This is totally unacceptable, particularly when one takes into account the wider cost of living crisis, which is crippling families, and rising rents, mortgages, insurance costs, property tax and child care. This State is supposed to have free education in order to ensure that all citizens enjoy a decent opportunity in life. That is clearly not the case. Parents and children alike deserve better. More than one in ten parents are forced, we are told, to cut food bills in order to cover back-to-school costs. What has the Taoiseach done about this? He has made it worse. He has cut the back-to-school allowance by half since 2011. However, it is not too late. The Taoiseach could take some positive measures now and the State can afford them. He could increase funding to the school books grant scheme by 30%. He could increase funding to the school meals programme by 40%. He could increase the capitation grant to primary and post-primary schools. However, the biggest measure he could bring in is an increase in the annual back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance by €50. We costed this in our alternative budget for 2016. The total cost is €50 million for all these measures and €15 million in respect of the back-to-school allowance. That is clearly affordable. Why does the Taoiseach not send a clear message to the 80% of parents who need help with the cost of sending their children back to school? I ask the Taoiseach to agree to very modest propositions.

For a great number of parents the school year begins when the summer holidays begins because the implications of the costs of returning to school begin to exert pressure at that point. Child benefit has increased and access to free GP care for younger children is a saving to parents. We strongly support any measures that can be taken to reduce uniform costs for parents, including measures such as generic uniforms or those onto which the crest can be sewn. The Minister for Education is looking to introduce a stronger complaints procedure and a charter for parents. It is very necessary that during the course of the school year the school management and school authorities discuss with parents the projections for the following year. Where costs can be reduced, there is a saving all round.

Regarding textbook costs, an agreement was reached with the Irish Educational Publishers Association a number of years ago by the former Minister, Ruarí Quinn, which resulted in the agreement of a code of practice in this area. That code commits the publishers to limit the publication of new editions and to maintain editions of books in print unchanged for at least six years so that there is a clear follow-through. The publishers have also given clear assurances that they will sell textbooks to schools at discounts so that schools can purchase textbooks in bulk to stock book rental schemes, which are an important way of reducing costs for students as well. Book rental schemes are clearly the most effective method of reducing the cost of school books for parents across the country.

Since 2011, school book grants have been protected. There has also been an increase in the investment to ensure that all primary schools can offer book rental schemes. There was €6.7 million spent in 2014 to give seed capital to 400 schools in the primary sector that do not have book rental schemes so that they could establish them, and in 2015 and this year we have been increasing that investment to give additional support to other schools which already had book rental schemes established before that point to allow them to expand their schemes. There has been a €15.6 million investment specifically on expanding book rental schemes in primary schools over these three years, and that is on top of the €15 million that was spent on book grants for all schools which can be used for the maintenance and upkeep of the book rental stock. Returns for September 2015 indicate that 94% of primary schools and 65% of post-primary schools operate a book rental scheme.

Finally, the Minister published last week the schools admission Bill, which prohibits the charging of fees or seeking of payment or contribution as part of the school admission process or for continued enrolment in the school, which is a further saving, recognising that this was an imposition on parents.

I do not know. The Taoiseach took two and a half minutes to say "no" without mentioning the word "no". I proposed very modest measures which would cost the State €65 million in taxpayers' money. This money does not belong to the Taoiseach, Fine Gael or the Independents. I presume the Taoiseach will not act on my proposals. The back-to-school allowance does not cover the cost of getting children back to school. Although the Taoiseach said he had increased child benefit, this is after he cut it. He has reinstated some of it.

This year, we celebrated the centenary of the 1916 Proclamation. It is done and dusted. The Proclamation was taken out, patriotic rhetoric was stated at commemorations, and now the Proclamation has been put away again for another 100 years. The Government gave free copies of the Proclamation to schools, schools which include children living in deprivation. UNICEF has shown that one third of Irish children suffer from material deprivation in households that cannot afford essential items. These reports tell us what we know if we run clinics in our constituencies and if we are connected with and embedded in our communities. The Taoiseach, in his non-answer, has chosen to ignore this crisis. We have offered constructive measures which would ease this. The €65 million would go a long way to relieving distress on families. Again, I ask the Taoiseach to just say "yes" and to increase the allowance, even by way of a supplementary payment to parents in the coming months.

The Deputy is perfectly entitled to propose costed views for this or any other sector. I have pointed out some of the ways benefits have been increased for parents of young children through GP access, child benefit and the restriction on charging of fees under the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill. There are 18,700 applications for back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance and there is a dedicated unit in the Department of Social Protection dealing with the area.

The Deputy has put forward a point of view. The way the system has changed within the House with the new regulations means the Committee on Education and Skills will have an opportunity to give its opinions on the presentation of the budget for 2017. Everybody can support a reduction in costs for children, particularly regarding uniforms, generic uniforms and school schemes for rental and loans. The Deputy's point on the €50 million can be considered in the context of the preparation of the 2017 budget.

Arising from Deputy Micheál Martin's earlier question, people might have an inflated view of how much the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform would have as a consequence of yesterday's CSO figures. His opportunity to raise expectations is not there. Growth will be limited to a very reasonable amount and the Minister is still restricted.

What does the Taoiseach think of the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, complaining to the Standards in Public Office Commission, SIPO, in March 2016 about Frank Cushnahan, given that it knew in March 2014 that this gentleman was in line for a backhander of £5 million?

Deputy, please, do not make allegations against somebody outside the House. It is not in order.

Given that Ronnie Hanna was arrested in May 2016, can we expect NAMA to complain about him in May 2018? Aside from Frank Cushnahan, the arrest of Ronnie Hanna has brought Project Eagle back home to Dublin, yet the Government wants to bury its head in the sand.

It is more than a year since I first gave the Garda the name of an individual who paid €15,000 in a bag in order to get favourable treatment from NAMA as well as the name of the NAMA employee who was taking the money. There was denial all around as usual. However, the man receiving the money has since been arrested on a different charge. Meanwhile, the guy who paid the bribe is doing well for himself; there is not a bother on him. Such is business in Ireland.

The investment fund, Hibernia REIT, is taking a court action to have An Garda Síochána removed from Harcourt Street station. These buildings were in NAMA and they are probably the most important buildings in the country for the Garda. The command and control centre for the whole of Ireland is based there. Moving and scattering this technical centre to the four winds will undermine the workings of the Garda. Will the Taoiseach explain why NAMA was allowed to sell this site to a vulture fund rather than keep it in State ownership? Hibernia REIT, which now owns the site, was set up by a guy who was a big player in NAMA where he was a portfolio manager for three years. When he joined the agency, he moved his 30% shareholding in his father's company to an offshore trust. Did he declare that to NAMA? The same company then benefitted from some lucrative work from the agency. He left NAMA in December 2012 and used his insider knowledge regarding the agency's assets to line up investment funds that would provide the finance for the new company, Hibernia REIT, which he manages. It would not require forensic examination to discover that Hibernia REIT did remarkably well in purchasing former NAMA assets, many of which this gentleman was involved with, but then that is how we do business in Ireland.

Does the Taoiseach not think that the public interest would be best served if we examined the complete workings of NAMA? At this stage the majority of people in Ireland believe NAMA is rotten to the core.

It is not the first time Deputy Wallace has raised a matter in respect of NAMA, which is a matter of public interest. As I said before on quite a number of occasions, the advice given to me by the authorities is that this loan portfolio was sold following an open process to the highest bidder.

On the questions of allegations against certain individuals in Northern Ireland, NAMA paid no moneys to any party on this loan sale against whom allegations of wrongdoing are now being made and, as I said before, if somebody has evidence, they should bring that to the authorities.

I am also aware that two individuals that the Deputy mentioned were held for questioning in respect of the UK National Crime Agency, NCA, investigation into the Northern Ireland assets owned by NAMA and I am advised that the NCA has confirmed to NAMA that no aspect of the agency's activities are under investigation. I welcomed this previously, as did the Minister for Finance. These allegations are serious and, clearly, they have to be, and are being, investigated in that jurisdiction. Taking into account the investigations that are under way, the Minister for Finance has a view that no specific line of inquiry here can stand up and be usefully pursued by a commission of investigation. Many allegations have been made. The appropriate investigations are already taking place in the appropriate jurisdictions and it would be unwise to launch a very costly commission of investigation on claims that are currently under investigation by the authorities.

The Deputy mentioned before the issue that he raised. These are specific allegations of wrongdoing. If there are ones that are not being investigated, obviously they should be brought to the attention of the Garda and the authorities. If this is an issue that is appropriate to a commission of investigation, we need more details on what the Deputy has there and in the absence of such specific allegations, it is right and proper that the appropriate authorities should have the time and space required to complete their investigations.

The Deputy has raised the issue of the Garda station in Harcourt Street. I am aware of the situation there in so far as their being asked to move out is concerned. I think there is an objection lodged to that. Obviously, investigations, as I said, are going on in the Northern Ireland jurisdiction as well.

The Comptroller and Auditor General is required, under section 226 of the NAMA Act, to produce a report every three years - that office is a completely independent body - assessing the extent to which NAMA has made progress towards achieving its overall objective. NAMA and the Comptroller and Auditor General appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts on 9 July last year. At that appearance the Comptroller and Auditor General indicated that his next section 226 report would look in detail at a sample of NAMA disposals and a sample of properties held by it for investment and, furthermore, that a specific review of Project Eagle, under section 9 of the Comptroller and Auditor General Act, would be undertaken. That is under way. I do not know when it will be published but I understand quite a good deal of work has been done on it.

Thank you, Taoiseach.

The Comptroller and Auditor General has indicated that he intends to issue a report, under section 11 of the Comptroller and Auditor General Act, following this review of Project Eagle, and that is consistent with his powers to investigate, scrutinise and report independently on any aspect of NAMA's work which may arise through its annual audits or special reports about any aspect of NAMA's work. I assume if Deputy Wallace is raising a new issue on the basis of a new allegation, I am sure he will transmit that to the Garda or the authorities as well.

Before I bring in Deputy Wallace, I wish to say that he has raised, as the Taoiseach acknowledged, a matter of major public importance, but having regard to the Standing Orders of the House, I ask him please, notwithstanding the fact he has named individuals today and in the past, not to name individuals so as to be in compliance with Standing Orders, and not to refer to an individual in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

That is probably the worst answer the Taoiseach has ever given me in the House in relation to NAMA. He did not answer any of the questions I asked him. I never mentioned the words "Project Eagle". I am tired talking about that in here. On that, the Taoiseach has made the point that there is no investigation into the workings of NAMA, even around that or anything else. It is blatantly obvious that the one jurisdiction where some investigation of a serious nature should be going on is the one that does not have one, and that is us. We do not want to know, or the Taoiseach does not want to know. I can understand why he does not want to know. As a matter of interest, how come no one can ever answer the question as to why NAMA never reported the fact this individual was in line for a €5 million backhander? Why, under section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act, did it not report it? Why did the Minister for Finance not report it?

Thank you, Deputy.

Will the Taoiseach answer my question? Why did NAMA sell Harcourt Street station to a vulture fund rather than keep it in State ownership? Has it anything to do with the fact that people, who were insiders, were going to benefit from it?

Thank you, Deputy.

It is just ridiculous. It is outrageous to say that no allegations have been made against NAMA in Dublin. There are bucketfuls of them. Somebody is eventually going to have to deal with it. Why will the Taoiseach not deal with it before he is gone? Otherwise it will be on his legacy that he did not want----

Thank you, Deputy. Your time is up.

-----accountability or transparency around this State body.

I do not accept Deputy Wallace's assertion at all that there are people in government who do not want to know. He made a allegation. He asked me why Harcourt Street station was sold to a vulture fund. I will find out the answer for him. He made other allegations that are of a serious nature. I am quite sure he will bring them to the authorities.

The Garda knows about them.

I am sure that the Deputy also accepts that the Comptroller and Auditor General's office is completely independent and it is looking at Project Eagle-----

(Interruptions).

-----and if there is any issue in respect of an allegation being made about an individual or an entity, the Comptroller and Auditor General is perfectly entitled to-----

Yes, he is. He is perfectly entitled to investigate that completely independently. There are a lot of rumours going around and a lot of speculation and allegations. If the Deputy has evidence, I would be the first to say to him that this will be treated seriously, as it has been in a number of other areas where commissions have been involved.

In the past ten years just over 250,000 crimes have been committed by people while out on bail. The total is 250,149 to be exact. The people in question include murderers, rapists, robbers and burglars who have wreaked havoc and brought terror to our society. Between 2006 and 2015 people out on bail were responsible for 89 murders, 237 serious sexual offences, including rape, 50,000 thefts, the same number of public order offences and 18,000 burglaries. It gets worse. Figures from the CSO show that last year alone, almost 26,000 crimes were committed by people out on bail, a disturbing increase of 11% on the figure for the previous year. It is equivalent to 500 crimes per week being carried out by people who have already been charged with a criminal offence, in respect of which they are awaiting their day in court. They were apprehended by the Garda, charged and then released while a file was being sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions. A file could be with the Director of Public Prosecutions for months. In the meantime, the people in question are reoffending. It is very frustrating for gardaí and exceptionally upsetting for the victims of crime who see the criminal walking down the street and feel intimidated and fearful as a result. It is time the bail laws were radically reformed. It is time the people in question were immediately put behind bars. Is this being deliberately permitted because we do not have the space in prisons to put these vicious criminals away? I am not talking about people who carry out petty crimes but about murderers, rapists and vicious attackers. They should be held on remand while their files are being considered by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

I have received from the latest CSO figures for the first quarter of 2016. They paint an equally depressing picture, with a total of 6,049 crimes being committed where the suspected offender was out on bail for other offences. Meanwhile, these are the people who are enjoying free legal aid at taxpayers' expense, even in the most cut and dried cases. The people want to know when this ridiculous state of affairs will be brought to an end. They want to know when we can expect to have realistic laws which will threaten severe penalties for those who reoffend while out on bail. I am aware of the Bail Bill which is included in the legislative programme and in respect of which the justice committee finalised its pre-legislative scrutiny report on 11 November 2015. Will the Taoiseach give a commitment to the people who are the victims of serious and vicious crimes that he will take these vicious criminals off the streets, hold them on remand and not allow them back onto the streets to terrorise and reoffend?

I thank the Deputy for his comments and question. A moratorium on Garda recruitment was introduced in 2009. It has now been lifted and 1,200 gardaí have been recruited. The programme for Government commits to bringing Garda numbers to 15,000, which is important. The Government wants gardaí to be mobile and visible and have the facilities they need to do their job. More than €34 million has been invested in new vehicles, including motorbikes and patrol cars, a massive increase on the €4.8 million provided previously. I have spoken to senior Garda personnel, including the Commissioner, and the Minister for Justice and Equality on a number of occasions and they made the point that they were well aware of specific gangs carrying out specific burglaries and travelling to various parts of the country to do so. That is why Operation Thor was put into effect. It meant extra high-visibility patrols, the increased use of checkpoints, the use of high-powered vehicles for regional activities, programmes to reduce the level of offending by prolific offenders, a high-profile national prevention awareness scheme and enhanced support for victims. The Deputy will be aware from the many localities with which he deals that an additional almost €400,000 has been provided this year for the community alert and Crimestoppers programmes. They have developed as an important crime prevention mechanism, with more than 700 local groups and involving in excess of 130,000 subscribers. An estimated 200,000 text messages are sent each month to povide community information on possible criminal activity in different areas.

Every Garda station, rural and urban, now offers a text alert service, and the Garda Síochána published guidelines to assist the establishment of local groups.

I want Deputy Grealish to understand that the Government believes that serious and serial offenders should be imprisoned. They should be imprisoned. That is why the Tánaiste has asked the Attorney General to work on this legislation during the summer break to deal with a bail Bill. That will allow for refusal of bail in respect of repeat offenders, strengthen Garda powers to deal with breaches of bail and allow for the use of electronic tagging for those on bail where requested by gardaí or the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP. The changes that have been made in terms of investment in Garda facilities and the changes that are coming in terms of the legislation, where repeat offenders can be refused bail, Garda powers are enhanced and, if necessary, electronic tagging will be introduced, are also an important deterrent in dealing with a system that has been out of hand in locations throughout the country. I am glad that Operation Thor is bringing that to heel, as it were.

I am not questioning the Garda. What is happening with the bail laws is frustrating for the force. I do not doubt the Government's good intentions regarding reform of these laws. However, Government legislative programmes stretching back to when the Taoiseach took office in 2011 contained a commitment on introducing a bail Bill. Such a Bill has never been laid before the House and we are in 2016 without any having been enacted. I hope the current commitments prove more successful.

There is a serious situation with criminals who have zero regard for the law. Something must be done quickly. According to a recent study, almost half of prisoners released from jail in Ireland go on to re-offend within three years, and the majority within one year. In the case of burglary, the rate is even greater at 70%. The guts of 100 crimes are being committed daily by people who are out on bail, obviously having calculated that the penalties for a second offence will be no greater than for the original. They are laughing in the face of our criminal justice system.

Does the Taoiseach not agree that our bail laws have failed people? In the past ten years, people on bail have been responsible for 89 murders, 237 serious sexual offences, 50,000 thefts and more than 18,000 burglaries. Does the Taoiseach agree that the current bail laws have failed the victims of crime?

Yes, I agree that the current bail laws need to be changed, and that is why the Tánaiste has asked the Attorney General to work on the bail laws over the summer period. That will involve those three things: the refusal of bail, the enhanced powers for the Garda where breaches take place, and electronic tagging, if necessary. I would make the point as well that we should commend the members of the Garda, with the increased facilities they have, on the arrests they make, the burglaries they prevent and the gangs they take out of business. I note in the local newspapers that a gang reputed to have carried out in excess of 100 burglaries, or people associated with it, have been arrested, probably to be brought before the courts.

I think that Operation Thor has been an undoubted success and will continue to be so, and that came about because of specific requests and information that gardaí had about particular gangs that were carrying out multiple burglaries. If one looks at the statistics in many locations in the country, because of the community alert scheme and the increased capacity of gardaí to be around and be mobile and visible, many of the different sectors of crime have fallen off, so to speak. There are still too many, and one is one too many. Bail laws that are changed will add to the opportunity for gardaí and the courts to do their duty in respect of burglaries. The Deputy is right to raise the point.

That concludes Leaders' Questions which today has run significantly over time. Standing Orders provide for additional time for Leaders' Questions, but there is not much point in us fixing times and allocating additional time if time above and beyond that is also going to be taken by people. I would ask for Deputies' co-operation.