Criminal Law Bill, 1976: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

An explanatory memorandum that was circulated with the Bill will, I hope, provide sufficient detail to be of assistance to Senators, though amendments that have been made to the Bill during its passage through Dáil Éireann are not referred to in the explanatory memorandum. The Bill, which has 16 sections, proposes to make a number of amendments in the criminal law. Some of those amendments relate directly or indirectly to the Offences Against the State Acts but even those that are not in terms related to those Acts are designed primarily to strengthen the law against those who actively participate in subversive activities and those who assist them, although some of them could, in practice as well as in theory, apply to certain crimes unconnected with subversive activity.

Section 1 is the definitions section. The terms "governor" and "prison officer" are defined in the section to include Army personnel in any military establishment to which prisoners are transferred to military custody under the Prisons Act, 1972, and the term "Defence Forces" is defined as the Permanent Defence Force within the meaning of the Defence Act, 1954.

Section 2 provides for increased maximum penalties for a number of offences under the Offences Against the State Act, 1939. Details are given in the table in paragraph 3 of the explanatory memorandum. The Government are satisfied that the maximum penalties in the 1939 Act are totally inadequate in present circumstances. This applies not only to offences that are the subject of frequent prosecutions such as membership of an unlawful organisation but also to offences such as the obstruction by any form of intimidation of the carrying on of the government of the State which are contrary to section 7 of the 1939 Act but some of which appear to be difficult in practice to prove so that prosecutions for them are infrequent. Infrequent though prosecutions for them may be, these are very serious offences and the maximum penalty for them should reflect that fact. In providing for this, it is also desirable, as a matter of principle, to retain an appropriate internal relationship between the various offences specified in the 1939 Act. Accordingly, if a maximum penalty of 20 years is provided, as the Bill proposes, for an offence against section 7 of the 1939 Act—an offence referred to in the side note to the section as "obstruction of government"—it would be inappropriate to have lower maximum penalty for an offence under section 6—an offence described in the side note as "usurpation of functions of government", even though there have been few if any prosecutions for offences against section 6. It would be inappropriate because an offence under section 6 could not in principle be regarded as of a lesser order of importance than an offence under section 7. In proposing substantially increased maximum penalties for these offences, the Government had regard to the fact that the activities of unlawful organisations pose a direct threat to the Government and the institutions of government in the State.

The maximum penalty for the offence of membership of an unlawful organisation is two years and the Bill proposes to raise this maximum to seven years. The point has been made more than once in recent times that such a proposal is irrelevant in view of the fact that the courts rarely impose the present maximum. However, I would point out that the courts, when deciding on a penalty, have to take account of the fact that a particular maximum is prescribed by law and it is a fair assumption that they look on that maximum as something that ought to be reserved for the exceptional circumstances—what one might describe as the worst cases as shown by the evidence before them. If, however, the Oireachtas decides to increase that maximum substantially, the courts are then discharging their functions in a new framework and they can, and I have no doubt will, take account not only of the wider discretion allowed by the new law but also of the clear intentions of the Oireachtas as to the inherent seriousness of the crime.

Section 3 proposes that any person who recruits other persons into an unlawful organisation or who incites or invites other persons to join an unlawful organisation will be guilty of an offence carrying a maximum penalty of ten years' imprisonment. This section is aimed at those who recruit people, usually impressionable young people, into unlawful organisations.

The section is concerned with a particular evil the essence of which is recruiting for unlawful organisations and it is clearly right to deal with it by a specific provision referring to the kinds of conduct aimed at and providing the appropriate penalty. The offence is not to be limited to recruitment for the organisation or to incitement to join the organisation but will extent to incitement to help the organisation by other activities which might not be easily identifiable as specific offences so that persons could be successfully prosecuted for incitement to commit them. The proposed offence will apply to inviting as well as inciting. By providing a higher penalty for bringing other people into an unlawful organisation than for being a member, the Bill will show clearly that the Legislature regards recruiting as even more serious than membership.

Section 4 relates to the closing of buildings used for the purposes of an unlawful organisation. It proposes to amend section 25 of the 1939 Act by increasing the initial period of operation of a closing order from three to 12 months and authorising an extension for a period or periods not exceeding 12 months but so that the total period of closure shall not exceed three years.

Section 5 proposes to replace section 29 of the 1939 Act and relates to the issue of search warrants. The new section empowers a member of the Garda Síochána not below the rank of superintendent to issue a search warrant to a member of the Garda Síochána not below the rank of sergeant in respect of any place in the circumstances outlined in the section. The member authorised may be accompained by any member of the Garda Síochána or the Defence Forces.

The new section provides for the issue of a warrant in respect of any evidence—section 29 only covered documentary evidence. Moreover, section 29 provided for the issue, by a member of the Garda Síochána not below the rank of chief superintendent, of the warrant to a member of the Garda Síochána not below the rank of inspector but the new section enables a warrant to be issued to a member not below the rank of sergeant. This latter change is proposed because the requirement that an inspector be in charge has caused substantial difficulties especially in circumstances where it was very important that several searches be carried out simultaneously.

There could be situations where unarmed gardaí executing such search warrants might need to seek assistance from the Defence Forces and, accordingly, provision is made to authorise members of the Defence Forces to accompany and assist gardaí to carry out searches under the section. A person who obstructs or attempts to obstruct a search or who refuses to give his name and address or gives a false or misleading name or address will be liable on conviction on indictment to five years' imprisonment.

Section 6 relates to escape from lawful custody. Subsection (1) proposes to make it an offence to aid a person to escape from lawful custody or to harbour such person after escape. A person on conviction on indictment of an offence under this subsection may be sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. Subsection (2) makes it unlawful to convey articles into or out of a prison contrary to any rules or regulations in force in relation to a prison and provides a penalty of up to five years' imprisonment. Subsection (3) empowers a prison officer in the interests of security to search any person while he is in prison or in the custody of the governor of a prison. The prison rules provide for such searching and the object of the section is to provide for it by statute.

The explanatory memorandum points out that the section—that is, section 6— does not deal with escape itself, but only aiding or harbouring. Escaping is a common law offence, as indeed are aiding and harbouring, at all events where aiding and harbouring are related to felonies, but escaping, of itself and unrelated to the use of force, is of no special relevance to subversive activities and any question of amending the law in regard to it will have to await another Bill.

As regards aiding and harbouring, the proposed penalty, strange though it may seem, is in theory a reduction since, by reason of general provisions or principles of the common law, such offences could carry life imprisonment at the moment though I must qualify that by saying that it is possible that some old statutory provisions might be interpreted as having modified the common law rule in some respects. Be that as it may, I need hardly say that it is not my intention in proposing this new section to seek to diminish the seriousness of these offences but quite .tethe contrary. I am in no doubt that if a case were to come before the courts they would regard the maximum penalty of life imprisonment for such an offence as an anachronism that could not be regarded as a useful guideline. By providing for a statutory offence with a realistic maximum penalty, the Oireachtas will be providing an up-to-date guideline reflecting in a realistic and credible way the seriousness of these offences.

Section 7 proposes to give power to the Garda in relation to persons in custody under section 30 of the 1939 Act or under the Emergency Powers Act, 1976, to do all or any of the things that are specified in subsection (1). The Garda already have some of these powers in relation to person taken into custody under the 1939 Act and the additional powers are being proproposed so as to enable palm prints to be taken and clothing and so on to be examined scientifically. Obstruction of the Garda when exercising powers under this section will be an offence carrying a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.

Section 8 relates to situations in which the Garda require vehicles to halt, as for example, at road checkpoints when they suspect that offences of the kind specified in the section have been, are being or are about to be committed. The Garda at present have no general power of search of vehicles without warrant. They already have power under section 109 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, to require a driver to stop a vehicle. The Bill proposes to give them powers of search whenever they are investigating any of the offences specified, which by the way, with a few exceptions, are all, under existing law, offences in respect of which the Garda have powers of arrest without warrant. If either before or after the search the Garda suspect that any occupant of the vehicle is concerned in any offence to which the section applies or that there is evidence of such an offence in the vehicle or on anybody in the vehicle, then, under this proposed section of the Bill, they can search all or any of those persons. The Garda are also being given power in this section of the Bill to place barriers in front of vehicles to force them to stop whenever the Garda are operating pursuant to the provisions of this section.

There is a need for these Garda powers. Many serious crimes that have been perpetrated in recent years have necessitated the mounting of widespread road checkpoints by the Garda with the assistance of the Army in an effort to apprehend the culprits. On occasions too, checkpoints have been mounted where the Garda had reason to fear that some particularly serious offence would be attempted.

The public have co-operated exceptionally well on these occasions and indeed the readiness with which all but a very small minority have co-operated is, I think, evidence that the public recognise very fully that these road blocks, inconvenient though they be, are necessary for the protection of the public and that the vast majority of people would unhesitatingly agree that it is right that the Garda should have a clear right to insist on checking a car in such circumstances.

As I have said, the exercise of these powers is being restricted to situations where the Garda are investigating offences of the kind set out in the section. It is proposed in section 15 of the Bill to give the Defence Forces like powers when a specific request for their assistance is made by a member of the Garda Síochána not below the rank of superintendent.

While I have said that the Garda have no general right to search cars, the fact of the matter is that public acceptance of the need for such action, in present circumstances, particularly, is so near to being unanimous that the person who refuses to co-operate is virtually asking to be treated as a suspect and, of course, when the Garda have reasonable grounds for suspicion, they have a number of powers which they can call on.

Section 9 provides a power for members of the Garda, the prison staff or the Defence Forces to seize anything found by them in the course of searches which they believe to be evidence of an offence or suspected offence. Subsection (2) provides that a document relating to legal advice may not be seized or retained unless there is reasonable cause to suspect that it was not used or intended solely for the purpose of obtaining, using or communicating such advice. The section provides also that anything seized can be retained for a reasonable time, if proceedings are introduced, until the conclusion of the proceedings where it is required for use in evidence. Thereafter the Police Property Act, 1897, will apply. The 1897 Act makes provision for the disposal of property that has come into the possession of the Garda in connection with a criminal charge. An application to the District Court may be made either by the Garda or by a claimant of the property and the court may make an order for its disposal. The Bill proposes that this will also be the case in relation to anything that is seized under section 9.

Section 10 of the Bill prohibits unauthorised possession by a prisoner or by a visitor to a prisoner while the visitor is in the precincts of the prison of photographs, sketches or such like of a prison, Garda station or courthouse and it provides a maximum penalty for an offence of five years' imprisonment. Subsection (3) exempts from the prohibition the possession of such a document in a courthouse where it is intended for production, use or reference in that courthouse.

Section 11 provides for the offences of kidnapping, false imprisonment and "hi-jacking" of vehicles to be felonies and for a penalty of life imprisonment for a person guilty of kidnapping or guilty of false imprisonment.

In section 12 we are dealing with the serious problem posed by bomb hoaxes. These hoax calls are numerous. They not only cause serious inconvenience to the business and social life of the country but cause serious economic loss both directly and because they involve, in many cases, the deployment of Garda resources to investigate them. Senators will be aware that the streets of central Dublin have had to be cordoned off and cleared on many occasions in recent times. Anyone who makes such hoax calls will under the Bill's proposals be liable on conviction to go to prison for five years.

I turn now to section 13 of the Bill. The incidence of assaults by prisoners on prison officers, assaults by prisoners on other prisoners, rioting and wilful damage to prisons and prison property has been on the increase. The prisoners concerned who are usually serving lengthy sentences are aware that, when they are prosecuted, the courts have tended to impose sentences which are concurrent with the sentences they are already serving, with the result that the sentence really means nothing. This section of the Bill proposes that a sentence consecutive on the sentence being served be imposed in every case of this kind with the proviso that consecutive sentences passed by the District Court shall not in the aggregate exceed 12 months. As Senators will appreciate, the proviso is included for one reason only, namely, as a safeguard against the risk that the provision might otherwise involve giving a greater jurisdiction to the District Court than the Constitution would permit.

Section 14, which relates to definition of "document", is dealt with fully in the explanatory memorandum.

Section 15 proposes to confer on the Defence Forces certain limited powers of arrest and search in situations where they are on duty in uniform and only in response to a request by a Garda superintendent. The members of the Defence Forces are being given exactly similar powers to the powers the Garda have—no more and no less—in relation to the offences set out in section 8 of the Bill and only those offences and only, too, when those members are operating following a request by a Garda superintendent and during the period specified in that request. The giving of these powers to the Army will enable the Garda and the Army to deploy their resources to the maximum advantage and to initiate the most rapid and effective response possible to every situation calling for action by them when investigation of any of the listed offences may so require. Subsection (8) provides that the section shall have effect only as long as the Emergency Powers Act, 1976 is in force.

The extra powers will be utilised only to meet a special exigency and then only in relation to a particular spot at a particular time.

The final section of the Bill is section 16. Subsection (1) gives the Short Title. Subsection (2) is a transitional provision the effect of which is that the increased penalties being provided in sections 2 and 11 of the Bill will not apply in relation to offences committed before the Bill becomes law and that section 13 (1) declaring the offences of kidnapping, false imprisonment and hijacking of vehicles to be felonies will not apply to such offences committed before the passing of the Bill.

I hope the Bill will be seen as providing an acceptable toughening of the law against subversive type crimes and as such I commend it to the House.

As in the other House we will support the principle of this measure subject to the exceptions about which I will speak. The principle of the measure can be summarised in the Minister's last sentence when he said that he hoped the Bill would be seen as providing an acceptable toughening of the law against subversive type crimes. We support this Bill unequivocably. The Minister can be assured that on the sections in the Bill concerned with the toughening of the law against the activities of any organisation in the State seeking to rule outside the law and through such criminal methods to achieve some crazy form of power, either of the Orange or Green category, we totally support him in any endeavour in that respect.

We do this on the basis of security provisions, personnel provisions, financial provisions and legal provisions that respect the Constitution of the day and do not upset constitutional safeguards in regard to personal liberty. This Bill, subject to certain exceptions, meets the requirements that we, as a responsible party, would envisage in a democratic country, as being appropriate to deal with the situation. As I said earlier this was the type of measure we should have been debating in a constructive manner. Subject to a major reservation in regard to the introduction of the Defence Forces under section 15, and because of the Minister's response to reasoned amendments put down by my party in Dáil Éireann, we are in a position to accept this Bill with a major reservation in regard to section 15, which we propose to oppose. We feel very strongly, that as a matter of principle, the Defence Forces, now defined by the Minister categorically to exclude the FCA, should not have, for certain very valid reasons, police powers as envisaged under section 15.

We agree totally with the Minister in regard to section 2 which deals with maximum penalties. I can see the point of view in regard to penalties that say that the courts at the moment are not imposing the maximum limits. I believe in the moral persuasion of the Legislature in writing in stiffer penalties into legislation. I believe that that moral pressure can be a very important factor in ensuring that there will be stiffer penalties imposed by our courts. Once the guideline is set down in the section I would expect the Judiciary to follow that guideline as being representative of the views of all of us who want to see any form of subversion or crimes of violence dealt with in the proper manner. I am sure the courts will follow that lead. We fully support the substantially increased penalty levels under section 2.

We are very glad that the Minister has seen fit to withdraw from the rather ludicrous position in which he and the Government found themselves initially, by having an incitement offence so broadly phrased and drafted, that, in effect, muzzled anybody who had any political opinion to express in relation to the North of Ireland or the people who reported such opinion in our media. This envisaged, in the broad manner in which it was drafted, and gave to the State a power in regard to the prosecution of people that was totally unwarranted in any democratic society.

The section as it stood stated: "whereby, expressly or by implication, by advertisement, propaganda or any other means, incites or invites another person..." and so on. That type of loose drafting would almost have enabled an excessively orientated State to put a person in jail for singing the National Anthem. In regard to the national newspapers, local newspapers and people concerned with the democratic status of the Fourth Estate—it is fundamental that we have people reporting our proceedings—it is fundamental that they can fully report our proceedings, fully report the proceedings of political meetings, political gatherings, assemblies or comment made by political personages. This is very basic to the survival of democratic life and to the survival of constructive and responsible democratic politics. These people are doing a service for the community. They are a very real interrelated help in ensuring that the public are informed about what the Executive of the day is doing.

It is true that partnership of activity between the Press and the media on the one side and the politicians and leaders of the community on the other side, each in their own way making a contribution towards the public debate within the community, must continue to go on in an attempt to achieve the progress we want. It is in that way we achieve improvement within the freedom of our society. The section as it stood was outrageous. The Minister saw the wisdom of our way.

I compliment him on meeting the situation and in adopting the phrase we suggested in our Dáil amendment which meets the real evil and danger that a sensible Minister for Justice would be trying to overcome. It is the question of recruitment. As it was originally phrased the Bill seemed to be directed at the media. It seemed to be directed at censorship in regard to comment on public utterance. The section as now suitably cut down in accordance with our amendment in the Dáil brings in the very vital word "recruit". "Recruit" was not in the original section. The section now seeks to deal with a person who recruits another person for an unlawful organisation or who incites or invites another person to join an unlawful organisation. It is getting at the person who is using his mature position in life to influence, invite or recruit people to join an unlawful organisation. The section as cut down meets that type of person. It rightly excludes the ridiculous situation that would have arisen under the original section 3 where incitement was at large to include every form of political comment, or song or ballad or discussion.

Nonsense. It still includes these things.

I compliment the Minister on meeting our views on section 3 and meeting the views of all the sensible people throughout the country who expressed themselves accordingly. In particular he met the views of the media who have a very responsible part to play in the development of our democratic society.

We agree with section 4 which deals with closure of buildings, something which is very necessary in regard to unlawful organisations. Section 5 deals with search warrants. We agree fully with toughening up the police measures in regard to search warrants.

We agree with section 3 which deals with harbouring people who have escaped lawful custody. We agree fully with section 7 dealing with Garda powers. We agree with section 8 dealing with traffic checkpoints. It is a toughening up of the existing provisions and powers which the Garda have. We agree fully with section 9 providing for seizures by prison staff or Defence Forces. We agree fully with section 10. We agree with section 11.

We are in complete agreement with section 12. I deplore totally the bomb hoaxer parasite in our society. In fact, if I allowed myself to use other than parliamentary language, I know what I would do with that particular type of individual. I totally support the penalties and increased controls envisaged under section 12 in connection with that type of offence which is regarded by everybody as despicable.

Sections 13 and 14 cover matters with which we agree. We do not agree with section 15, although I appreciate the fact that the Minister has, in the Dáil, met to some degree the serious objections to that section. By accepting an amendment on Report Stage in the Dáil, the Minister has brought the section conferring these powers on the Army within the ambit of the 12 months' limitation which applies to the Emergency Powers Act.

That is done.

In what way?

The powers only fall when the Act falls.

I understand. Am I correct in saying that what the Minister has done is to transpose the section dealing with the Defence Forces powers within the discipline of the Emergency Powers Act, that the similar limitations which will apply to that apply to this also?

When the Emergency Powers Act falls by resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas, those powers fall as well.

That is what I meant. The same regime applies.

A Government order under the Act might be in abeyance but, even during that period, the powers do not fall. The Opposition in the Dáil may have intended that but the amendment did not achieve that.

I go along with the Minister's interpretation of what he is seeking to do. There is a matter of principle involved here. I understand the difficulties which face the Minister and the Government. There are two aspects involved. I am talking now about the Defence Forces involvement in police matters. Firstly, it is wrong in principle—and I hope the Minister will agree with me—that Defence Forces personnel to the rank of private should have the same powers as Garda personnel who are trained and equipped, are an unarmed force, and are geared by way of education and training for a job which is totally separate from the independent job for which an Army is established. Furthermore, there is the important point of principle that the Army and the Garda in any democratic community should be organised separately. It is a fundamental principle that we should have an independent Army separate from the police force.

The Minister may say that the exigencies demand that Army personnel should have the same powers as Garda personnel. I appreciate that at the moment they are on duty in aid of the civil power under the direction of Garda personnel. I feel strongly that that situation should be maintained. The Government's problem at present is due to the financial mess in which they find themselves. For the sake of saving money—and this is a very dangerous breach of a principle which has been established since the foundation of the State—and because of the exigencies of the financial situation, in effect they are making policemen out of Army personnel and transferring them to do policemen's work because they will not pay policemen overtime and will not recruit enough police personnel. I am inclined to be of a pragmatic frame of mind and that is my view of what is happening.

If the Government made the political decision to have the Garda personnel functioning for 24 hours of the day, on overtime rates, and recruited additional Garda personnel, there would not be any need for this gross breach of a principle which has been established since the foundation of the State.

The Army are most reluctant to do this job, and the Garda are reluctant to see the Army doing this job. Both security forces were separately established, and they recognise their separate functions. They are concerned that these separate functions should be exercised in a separate and responsible way and that there should be a proper legal determination of the area of responsibility for the Garda and the Irish Army. The Minister cannot deny that there is very serious opposition within both forces to this proposed measure at every level. The Garda recognise the dangers involved for people who are not trained, as they are trained, to do the search and arrest work envisaged here for Army personnel. There is opposition from the Army who do not want to be engaged in that type of work and who recognise their separate function and operation.

There is no necessity in our community to imitate what is being done in the six north-eastern counties. We know the situation there has been exacerbated by the British Army operating in a police capacity. Responsible people in Britain are realising this now. I do not want to go into this at length but there is a total separation of responsibility in regard to the work of the two organisations. The British authorities are very conscious of the fact that the introduction of the British Army into a police area of activity in the North of Ireland has done no good to their Army, and it has done no good to many of our people. It has lead to a general debasement of standards in the North and in the British Army. That is a fact of life. We all know about the absence of a respected police authority, and so on. We do not want to transfer that type of situation down here.

I feel it is purely because of the financial exigencies of the situation that this is being done, but that is the wrong reason to do it. It is wrong to breach an honourable tradition, an honourable principle, just because at the present time the Government cannot afford to pay the Garda overtime, cannot afford to recruit extra Garda personnel, cannot properly deal with the criminal situation and for this reason has, in effect, to get Army personnel to do police work on the cheap. That is what I think is involved. It is such a serious step that I can think of no other reason for it. We will be opposing that for the reason I have mentioned.

Other than that aspect, on which we will divide tomorrow and express our democratic position, we support the Bill, as it now stands. We would have violently opposed section 3. It has now been amended to limit the operation to recruitment and exclude the press and media censorship that was originally there. We approve of the penalty section, of the search sections and the other firming up of police powers.

We will be opposed to the introduction of the Army into police work. I should like to say in conclusion that this is the sort of legislation that we could have been debating in a very sensible way without the introduction of any suspension of the Constitution or emergency powers legislation.

My comments on this Bill will be brief. I regard certain aspects of this Bill as being necessary in the present situation. It is extraordinary that during all the debate which took place on all the other Bills nobody ever made reference to the cause of the subversive activities which have been going on during the past eight years.

The real cause of all this trouble is the continued presence of the British troops in Northern Ireland. If we can ever hope to achieve any measure of success or hope to achieve any measure of peace restoration in this country, then the British Government must play their role and decide on a date and a time when they will leave Northern Ireland and allow Irishmen to settle their affairs between themselves. Until that day comes we can expect to have organisations springing up—subversive organisations, gangster organisations— who will perpetrate acts of violence which were unheard of in Ireland before.

Therefore I feel that, while Irish Governments want to do their best to ensure peace in our land and to ensure that this country continues on the road towards progress and prosperity, their efforts are being impeded by the activities of all illegal organisations. We in the South tend to lay undue stress on the activities of the IRA but we cannot exclude the other illegal organisations that seem to have greater licence to indulge in illegal activities in this country, namely, the UVF, the UDA and that other dreadful, barbarous organisation called the SAS. If the Army are to be used to assist the police force I feel that is one organisation that should be run out of this country whenever they set foot on any part of the Twenty-six counties, because in my opinion they are the successors of the Black and Tans. They have no right whatsoever to cross the Border to arrest and apprehend people and I would like to hear the Minister say that those people will be dealt with in the same way as the IRA, the UVF and UDA or any other of the illegal subversive organisations which we have in this country.

I was pleased that there were some amendments with regard to the section which dealt with inciting or inviting others to join illegal organisations. I wonder will this legislation be strong enough to catch the real culprit in any organisation, the boss in the background, who is never heard of but who gives the orders to the unfortunates to go out and do their dirty work. I feel that these are the people who must be arrested and apprehended if we are to achieve any measure of peace in this country.

I am doubtful if this Bill will serve the purpose which is expected. The real culprits are the intelligent, well-educated people who are making a good thing out of all this illegal activity, out of all the bank robberies that have taken place in recent times. We know that all this money goes to the big boss, a practice somewhat similar to that of the gangster organisations in the North. It is extraordinary that despite the best efforts of the Garda very few of those people have been apprehended and brought to court. Until such time as those people can be starved of finance we can expect further bank raids and so forth.

I believe, too, that the Garda could be instructed to do a better job in policing in so far as subversives are concerned, but I am afraid that at the present time the order which was made some months ago by the Minister for Justice instructing all Garda to have at least 200 summonses each year will have a detrimental effect on his efforts.

I made no such order.

That statement was issued in the papers and I watched carefully to see if the Minister would contradict it and he never did.

I did not see it. I am hearing it now for the first time. I hereby contradict it.

I am glad that the Minister has availed of the opportunity to contradict it, because the statement was made and it was never contradicted either by him or by any other member of the Government. Indeed the Garda themselves were greatly disturbed by the fact that no effort whatsoever was made to contradict that statement because it would seem to indicate that the real role of the Garda is to book people, to issue summonses and have fines collected and to regard themselves as a sort of a back door method of collecting revenue for the Government. I am glad that the Minister has availed of the opportunity tonight to contradict that statement, which appeared in the national press some time ago.

That is one reason why I say that the duties of the Garda could be directed more in pursuance of subversives than in trying to catch, apprehend or book the ordinary law-abiding citizen who drives in his car around the country. It was extraordinary that on the day the British Ambassador was murdered here I was stopped twice in this city and my tax disc was checked twice. The only conclusion I could come to on that occasion was that the Garda wanted a summons. He did not care how he got it or who it was. The murder of the Ambassador was not his chief concern but to see was my car taxed on that occasion. I was only one of the thousands of citizens travelling through Dublin on that day.

I feel that with the existing Garda force you could do a better job if proper directions were issued with regard to the chasing of the subversives and with regard to tracking down the criminals because I, like all other law-abiding citizens, have no time for any of those organisations—whether they are the IRA, the UVF, the UDA or the SAS or any other.

I believe in the right of the people to elect their own Government and I believe in the right of that Government to make laws which they think fit to preserve the peace and to ensure political stability in this country. Like Senator Lenihan I believe there is a great deal of disquiet and discontent among the members of the Defence Forces at the present time because of the new role which they will be asked to fulfil under section 15 of this Bill. The Army personnel have always regarded their role as being purely that of a defensive nature but now new duties are being added to the existing ones. While they are regarded as a defence force they are now being looked upon as a second police force.

I come from a county where we have two barracks, one in Athlone and one in Mullingar. I have met many members of the force who expressed disquiet and dissatisfaction with the section of this Bill which requires them to carry out duties hitherto unknown in so far as Army personnel were concerned. Therefore, there is unrest because members of the armed forces feel that they are being asked to do something which they have never been trained for. I do not know if any special training will be given to members of the Army to assist the police in carrying out searches of persons suspected of being involved in subversive activities.

On the other hand, the Garda feel that their status is being lowered somewhat, that this is the thin end of the wedge and that eventually more and more duties of a policing nature will be transferred to members of the armed forces. These points are the real bone of contention. I would hope that common sense would prevail and that the fears rampant both among members of the Garda and of the armed forces would be allayed and that a tightening-up of the duties of the Garda would be embarked upon to ensure that the Garda would be better equipped to chase subversives and to carry out their role as members of the police force, because there is a big difference between members of a police force and members of the armed forces.

Section 6 deals with the harbouring of people. Again, this can be a dicey situation. You can have members of an illegal organisation taking possession of an isolated farmhouse, as has happened, without the knowledge of the owner. In County Westmeath in recent times members of an illegal organisation took possession of a farmhouse. The herd on the land knew this but was afraid to inform the Garda and he now finds himself before the courts through no fault of his own. Because he feared for the safety of his wife and children he did not inform the Garda and seek police protection as he should have done.

The court will take his cowardice into account.

That is a situation which must be guarded against because you can have innocent victims brought before a court, you can have people living in fear, you can have husbands living in fear for the safety of their wives and children—

If we are all afraid we can give up.

I would hope that some flexibility would be written into the Bill to ensure that innocent victims would not be imprisoned or heavily fined in a situation like this. Members of subversive organisations have intimidated people. People are living in fear. They are very few, but I would hope that some safeguards would be built into the Bill to allow those people to have greater access to courts.

Before the Minister commences I would point out that the House has agreed to sit not later than 10.30 p.m.

If the Minister wishes—

I am obliged to the House. I have not a lot to say because most of the points that have to be made on the Bill—following Senator Lenihan —will be Committee Stage points. I will make a few general remarks.

It struck me that in the debate on the last Bill there was an inordinate amount of protestation by the Opposition of how unpopular that Bill was to the general public. These protests were made so often that there was a definite ring of whistling past the graveyard. It was a debating point but they really were not sure. I think they felt that they were on thin ice in taking the line they did and that there was misjudgment of public opinion. That rather tip-toeing operation and the constant references to public opinion to justify their injudicious opposition to the Bill are in contrast to the almost tangible sense of relief that one finds in the Opposition benches as they reach the safe bank of this——

The Minister is indulging himself.

I am indulging myself. It is 10.25, why not?

He is entitled to.

There is this tangible sense of relief that the Opposition can reach out again for that new, but rather ill-fitting and skimpy, law and order suit. It can be donned again on the safety of the bank with this Criminal Law Bill. I got that sense of tangible relief very clearly in this House and also in the other House.

Senator Lenihan said that it is totally wrong in principle to give the Army the powers that it is proposed to give them in this Bill. I disagree; it is not totally wrong in principle. It may be a change that we would rather avoid. We will debate this in more detail on the section. I was disappointed in the hoary argument which he produced as if it was something he just suddenly discovered. This argument has been trotted out right through this debate, that the Government cannot pay the Garda, that the Government will not pay overtime, that the Government should recruit more gardaí. The Garda force is at its highest strength in the history of the State. A further 500 are being recruited.

What about overtime?

The amount being paid by way of overtime far exceeds the highest amount ever paid in the days of the Opposition. It amounts to a very substantial sum indeed. The point is that even if we were to treble the size of the Garda should that be an argument for leaving a uniformed and disciplined force that is in the service of the State standing—in that immortal phrase— idly by? It would be the height of nonsense and it would be a gross error on the part of the Government to do so. Our soldiers are highly trained, loyal to the State and highly disciplined. In the very limited way proposed in the section they are subordinate to the police because the primacy of the police is clearly set out in that section. I think it is only right and proper that the Army should be utilised in the manner proposed.

Senator Lenihan said that since the foundation of the State this principle of not giving police powers to the military has been in operation. I will correct him. It was necessary in the early days of the State to give police powers to the military. Unfortunately the exigencies of that time demanded that they had to be given on a much wider scale than is proposed now.

I was talking of the civilised State.

Senator Lenihan also indicated—and Senator Keegan echoed him in this—that he got information from the Garda and the Army that these powers are not wanted. I have not come across this. I can imagine that there would be individual members of the Garda who would not fully appreciate the entire nuance of what is involved, who might not have read the fine print of the Bill and who would not fancy this change. In every walk of life there are people who are suspicious and slow to accept change. I am sure there might be some members of the Army who would have the same point of view. What I want to say is that I have not the slightest doubt that if this Parliament passes this law every member of the Garda and every member of the Army will loyally accept the law. I feel there is some feeling in the Opposition that they would be secretly pleased if this might not be so. When they next come to debate this section they should remove that suspicion and clear themselves of any charge—

It is removed now.

——that might be made of mischief-making.

Be responsible.

Because this question of exciting disaffection is a very sensitive and delicate area. Any parliamentarian has a duty to be extremely sensitive in connection with it. I do not foresee it or anticipate it as a danger. I am quite happy as to the complete loyalty of our Garda and Army and, when this law is passed, of their complete acceptance of the law.

I did not suggest——

Senator Lenihan has the habit, when speeches are being made that he does not like, that get under his skin or that he is sensitive about, of attempting to throw the speaker off his track by this constant and rather pointless interrupting. I noticed the same earlier today when Senator Alexis FitzGerald was making some very pertinent points. I will not delay the House any longer except to say that I welcome the——

Typical of mongrel foxes.

We are really hurting tonight. We can talk about 1972 and the history of the times immediately preceding 1972, but I have nothing more to say except that I welcome the Opposition's acceptance in principle, as they say, of this Bill, and I so welcomed their acceptance in the other House, and I look forward to having a comprehensive debate on the sections tomorrow.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Friday, 17th September, 1976.
The Seanad adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 17th September, 1976.