I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I will be sharing my time with Deputy Seán Crowe. I acknowledge that the Government is not opposing this Bill and I hope that not all of the elements of it will be in the Government's long-awaited legislation dealing with illegal and dangerous scramblers and quads that are being ridden in our parks and open spaces. I say "long-awaited" because the Tánaiste stated in February 2020, when Deputy Ellis brought this Bill forward, that the Government would have legislation ready to go for autumn 2020. It is now autumn 2021 and we have yet to see that legislation but I hope that we see it fairly soon.
The purpose of this Bill is to extend the powers to gardaí to seize and detain quad bikes and scramblers used unlawfully in a public place, including in public parks and green spaces. It will give power to An Garda Síochána to detain and seize scramblers and quad bikes used unlawfully in a public place, it establishes an offence of driving a quad bike or scrambler in a public place and provides for penalties and fines and-or seizure or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months.
It is important to say that this is not all we need to do. Legislation on its own is useless. This will just be words on a document if we do not action those words. We must ensure that An Garda Síochána has the resources, the training and the equipment to tackle the problems in our communities. We also need to ensure that we provide education, training and other resources for youth services in order to deal with this in a kind of holistic way.
I brought this Bill forward and I persisted with it for many years. I was talking to a councillor in my own area today who said that I was promoting my Bill today and have been batting away on this for a good number of years, and I have. This has been for a very real reason and I know Deputy McAuliffe also has experience of this, as do nearly all of the Deputies who live in urban areas in how it affects them.
My experience is that I have a green space beside my road where our kids and our neighbours’ kids play. Unfortunately, I have had to stand in the middle of that green time after time to appeal to the young people that are going up and down it on the quads. Not only is it dangerous for them but it is also dangerous for everyone else in our community. I have had to repeatedly call the gardaí and I am on speed dial with them at this stage. When I ring both 999 and the community gardaí, I receive the same answer where they say they will send a car up to try to get them to move off but there is not a great deal that we can do. In this day and age, considering how dangerous this is, this is not an acceptable way forward in our society.
Unfortunately, I have also spoken to parents of children who have these quads and scramblers. I have asked them not to allow their children to go out on them. If they need to go somewhere, there is a track in Mulhuddart and they should be encouraged to go there, to join up and do it properly. We see all too often, particularly around Christmas time, so many young people being hurt and some have even been killed. One such person was killed on Christmas Day not too long ago because of the actions of parents who buy these machines. I appeal to any parents listening today who are thinking for even one second of getting a quad or scrambler for their child, please, do not do so. Please do not put such a dangerous machine in very young children’s hands. If you see a scrambler out in your community and your young child is on it, go out and challenge them. Even if it is not their bike challenge them and take your child off it and deal with it in that way because it is so dangerous.
The other day I put up a request on social media to find out what people’s experiences were of scramblers and quads and I would like to read out just a couple of them. One of the neighbours in a neighbouring estate said that: "They’re forever on the green across from millennium park and have nearly knocked down kids on the footpath I have reported this a number of times via messenger I’m sure you can you hear them from your house." We hear them pretty much every week. Jacqui said:
Drives you mad ... damaging the fields doing donuts. Makes them look like a dirt track.
Bernard said: "People can not listen 2 de television because of the [noise of the] bikes". Imagine sitting in one’s sitting room where this is going on hour after hour and one cannot even listen to one’s own television.
Paul in Mulhuddart told me about when he was collecting his child from school. He said:
I was recently outside the school, an adult was flying down the fenced off walkway between the field and the main road and almost knocked out on the lollipop lady, he was [very] aggressive and came up [so] close to her [in such] an intimidating way. It’s quite a regular occurrence at this school. Every day we have them out and one of these days they're going to kill some child. These scrambler bikes and quads that we have to endure day in day out [really disturb people]. Sometimes it can be from early morning to late afternoon. The majority of the people here ... [are] elderly people.
They cannot bear the noise outside their homes all day.
I found the following comment particularly upsetting: "[W]e have a local girl who's in a wheelchair who was traumatized by two guys on the motorbike racing towards to get out of the estate and their child was roaring crying screaming because they fear that they given to a local 3 year old and a wheelchair is our way to live.
Another girl from Dundalk contacted me. She is in a place called Castletown, which I do not know, and she has been persecuted by them all day but it is a similar story. We hear story after story of what people have to endure every single day. I thank all those people who contacted me and shared their stories.
It is through those stories we can change people's minds and attitudes and give people who may not have experienced it an idea of what it is like. I am sure others will outline their experiences as well.
I know some of the children and young people who drive these bikes. They deserve our care. As adults, as people who are in a position of responsibility and as legislators, we have a duty to ensure we look after their care. If they are not mature enough or old enough to understand how dangerous their behaviour is, we have to step in. As a parent, I step in, and I am sure other Deputies who are parents do the same from time to time with their children and tell them if their behaviour is not appropriate. That is what we need to do now. We need to ensure we do our best to keep those children, the ones who engage in this behaviour, safe. We are not being killjoys; we are doing this for their own health, welfare and safety.
I look forward to the next Stage. This campaign was initiated in 2017 by Deputies Ellis and Munster, and I hope much of what their Bill sought to achieve will be included in the road traffic (miscellaneous provisions) Bill. I hope there will be action. As I said, this is just one part of a process and that process should be holistic, including us as the legislators, the Garda in implementing the legislation, the youth services in how they deal with young people at risk, and local authorities in how they provide facilities and services for young people. That is critical, particularly in growing areas. As people in our communities, we need to stand up, speak out and ensure this will be dealt with once and for all in a much more comprehensive way.