Garda Síochána Bill 2004: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

I welcome the Minister back to the House. On Tuesday I mentioned that the Minister might encounter problems with the GAA if gardaí joined the Police Service of Northern Ireland. However, the GAA held a special congress in 2001 which changed the rule in this regard.

The Minister stated local authorities would have a say through county development boards under chapter 4. That is not the right approach to take. The local authority itself should have a say. If the Garda Commissioner attended a public meeting with local authority members, a worthwhile and useful debate on policing issues could take place. I would welcome that. Most county development board members are not elected and those who are may not be from populated areas in which controversies arise. Using the local authority itself may be the better option and I hope that will be the case.

The Minister has promised 2,000 extra gardaí but we have not seen them yet. Under section 13, the Government can appoint such numbers of persons as it sees fit to the ranks of superintendent and chief superintendent of the Garda Síochána. I am disappointed the Minister is politicising the Garda by providing that positions, other than the Garda Commissioner, will be filled by ministerial appointees. Commissioners and superintendents sit on internal interview boards for promotions to sergeant and so on and such politicisation could filter through the ranks.

The section also provides that "The Garda Commission may appoint, subject to and in accordance with the regulations, such numbers of persons as he or she sees fit to the rank of Garda Sergeant and Inspector." Does that mean he or she will have sole responsibility for deciding the force's strength? According to section 13(2), that appears to be the case. I seek clarification on those few issues.

I welcome the Minister. As an amateur student of history, it is significant that the Minister is taking this legislation. I am indebted to Gregory Allen for a number of extracts in my contribution from his book,The Garda Síochána. The Minister’s grand uncle, Eoin MacNeill, was the first Minister for Education but he had a central role in the structure and establishment of the Garda. He was involved in agreeing the insignia on the cap badge of the Garda uniform and the name of the force as the civic guards. On the transfer of power it was suggested that the force be referred to as the people’s force, which was a banal and nondescript title. The other two giants of that era who were mainly responsible for providing and creating the force as it is today were Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins.

Some of the ideas contained in the Minister's Bill, specifically in relation to the involvement of elected representatives at local level, are not new concepts but go back as far as Grattan's Parliament. During the riots which followed the declaration of independence by Grattan's Parliament in 1782, when there was anad hoc policing arrangement in the city of Dublin, Grattan made the following comment on the ramshackle system of unpaid parish constables and night-watchmen charged with keeping the peace in Dublin:

If ever a city entertained an odium capable of being ascertained by numerical calculation the city of Dublin entertains such a hatred for this institution. No measure, no expense, no enormity of administration has ever excited discontent so strong or so general as this abominable establishment.

As the abominable establishment was rejected by the population it was replaced, in 1795, by an unarmed civic guard under the supervision of the Lord Mayor and the Corporation of Dublin. Control by the local authority, however, was short lived but the principle of unarmed police in the capital city survived as a benefit of Grattan's Parliament to be enjoyed by the citizens of the modern Irish State. It goes back that far.

The symbolic importance of Grattan's Parliament has not always been acknowledged. It was an all island parliament, despite its limited franchise. I am particularly pleased by these linkages with history and that we now have legislation which updates all the legislation going back to the foundation of the State. This is the most significant legislation relating to the Garda, its management, its structures, its political obligations and the Minister's political obligations. As it is being taken through by the Minister, Deputy McDowell, whose family has had such an important and significant role in the formation of the State, those aspects of this Bill, irrespective of its legislative dimension, should be recorded. I applaud the Minister and I know that he too has a sense of history and is aware of much of what I have said.

One aspect of the policing issue bothers me. All public representatives, in the course of our work, come in contact with the Garda Síochána at all levels. My experience of the Garda through childhood, adulthood and in the political process has been of courteous and diligent men and women of the utmost integrity who have a real vocation for the job they do. I do not know how they sustain such a level of excellence and professionalism in the face of the enormous changes which have taken place in society.

The Minister is aware that the media recently focused on a drug problem in Longford. Gardaí working in the midlands in recent weeks expressed to me a sense of great frustration. They have been able to identify drug pushers and criminal elements who are exploiting young people. They have arrested these people and brought them before the District Court. However, in a significant number of cases these people immediately apply for, what I believe is called, High Court bail. Having been sentenced in the lower courts they engage expensive lawyers, come to Dublin, immediately apply to the High Court and a judge based in the city automatically grants them bail. Surely there is something inherently wrong in this system. I will be grateful if the Minister will clarify his views on this practice and tell us if there is anything he can do, as the political master. I appreciate that this is a judicial matter, that there is a separation of powers and that the Minister's actions may be somewhat limited. In championing due process and taking actions which were not always seen as popular, the Minister has been courageous above and beyond the call of duty. I applaud him for that. Irrespective of political views, the legacy he will leave as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is one of which we will all be proud.

Surely it is wrong that gardaí are being thwarted and frustrated in their efforts. Gardaí are successful in detecting criminals on the ground, due process is being carried through by the judges on the ground and yet a legal loophole allows criminals to abuse the system and be back on the streets and feeding young people with drugs. This loophole is used by other criminals; it is not confined to drug dealers. There is a sense of frustration among Garda officers across the country and I hope the Minister can do something about it.

The Minister's initiative in adding an extra dimension to policing at local level by the establishment of committees which will involve locally elected politicians and the Garda is welcomed by me and my colleagues in public office. This is not a new concept but one which fell into disuse. We are an extremely centralised bureaucracy. This was noted recently when communism and the Stalinist ethos collapsed in the east. In Irish governance decisions are taken by the Executive, proposed to Parliament and passed by Parliament because the Executive Government has a parliamentary majority. We have a very centralised form of Government. The Minister is shedding light into that dark area. This issue should have been addressed decades ago.

This new system has been operated successfully by our neighbours in the United Kingdom. In the United States police officers are publicly elected officials, at all levels up to the Attorney General, the highest law officer in the state. In Ireland, we are in the icy grip of a centralised bureaucracy. The Minister has loosened these bonds and his action will result in better policing.

Greater commitment and loyalty to the work of policing will be generated if ordinary citizens know that a process of redress is being established and that complaints will be investigated. The existing complaints procedures are not incorrect but they are flawed. The Minister has made that point repeatedly and I will not labour it.

The public dimension the Minister has added to this legislation is vital. I hope local authorities will grasp this opportunity and involve themselves in policing, now that the guidelines have been placed on a statutory footing. This is not an opportunity for local politicians to have a go at the gardaí or to grandstand in the local media. I hope there will be a sense of partnership, as in the philosophy which guided the founding fathers of this State.

The Prendeville committee of 1922, anticipating the exemplary role the Garda Síochána was to play in the life of the nation, said the following:

Above all, the recruit had to be taught that he was the servant and not the master of the people. He must also be made fully to understand that he is now enforcing laws made by his own countrymen, who have the welfare of their country at heart and that the utmost loyalty, obedience and devotion to duty will be demanded.

The Garda Síochána has responded magnificently to that challenge during the past 80 years and I hope that those who will now be given the task of entering a partnership at local level will rise similarly to the challenge. I commend the legislation to the House.

I welcome the Minister and compliment him on introducing a Bill that is creative and goes into new areas. I hope it works. The Minister was present throughout the Second Stage debate to hear the very interesting points made in Members' contributions and I look forward to his reply. However, let me apologise at this stage because I will not be present for it, but I will look very closely at it.

I would like to hear the Minister's views on the following points. The decision to root the force in local communities is a brilliant idea. Many spoke of the importance of the Garda presence in the local community when they were growing up. I remember in the old days it was a requirement of the Garda Síochána, and it still is, that a crucial aspect of its work was to improve its local knowledge. The minute by minute engagement of the garda on the beat with the community was lessened with the introduction of patrol cars. Murders are very few and far between but, in the old days, the local garda would have known all the information required, although he may not have been able to get a conviction. The world has changed in that sense, but this Bill brings it back to the local community and the local authority.

However, it would be a worry if the wrong people became involved, for example, people who would try to make political capital from it or others who do not have a clear view of the world. I do not have an answer, but it should be absolutely stressed, and I accept the Bill provides for this, that the policing committee has an advisory role. The only proactive word in section 32 is in subsection (2)(d) — “co-ordinate the activities of local policing fora.” There is nothing wrong with that, but it should be made absolutely clear that the role is analogous to a school inspector, who is not entitled to give direct orders. That is the sense of what is in the Bill, but it is important that it is understood. The intelligence that the local fora will provide will help hugely. The involvement of local authorities, which is not new in Europe or in the US, is also very positive.

A garda is obliged to take an oath that he or she will not belong to "any political party or secret society whatsoever". Is that word used in the reflexive and intended to reflect on political parties? I wonder do we need the word "whatsoever", as it seems to give a poor impression of political parties. I am not a member of one, so I can speak from a disinterested point of view. What is a secret society? Will the Minister deal with this in his reply? Can one say for definite that the local garda will not be a member of the Knights of Columbanus?

Definitely not.

I am sorry to upset a Member on the far side and on my own side as well. I would be reassured to know that gardaí were not members. I know that there is a connection between police forces in Europe and the masons, which has bothered many people and has been stopped in some countries. Will the Minister confirm that it would be inappropriate for a garda, having taken this oath, to be a member of the Knights of Columbanus also? Should we simply insert a definition of a secret society? I am not sure what a secret society is; we may all have different views.


Let us think about it.

The Bill provides for the appointment by the Government of persons to the ranks of deputy commissioner and assistant commissioner and chief superintendent and superintendent. It is valid that the Government may do this and I do not have a difficulty with it. If one reads the Civil Service legislation, one will see that until recently, a civil servant at the lowest level effectively could not be sacked without a Government decision. There is nothing new in this provision, but I would like to see the clause that applies to appointments by the Garda Commissioner inserted so that appointments by Government would be "subject to and in accordance with the regulations". The legislation should require that the Government go through a process and then take a decision. The Minister is indicating that he will take that on board. I compliment the Government and the Minister on the appointment of the Garda Commissioner, who is a superb person for the job, as he is utterly committed and inspires trust and confidence without being in front of the cameras every second day.

Section 35 provides that the Garda Commissioner shall be the Accounting Officer. My recall of the Ministers and Secretaries Act 1924 is that the Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is the overall Accounting Officer and is also the Accounting Officer for the funding of other bodies, including the Garda Síochána. The Minister indicates that this represents a change. In other words, the Garda Commissioner will account for the funding directly to the Minister. That is very helpful and is a cleaner and more controlled process. I welcome the proposal of an audit committee. There is a vagueness — perhaps that is as it should be — about who should be a member of the audit committee. I am not sure whether it needs more discussion. It is crucial that there is an audit committee and Members would feel more secure if they were made more aware of the operations of the audit committees in different Departments.

There are inherent contradictions in section 17 which prohibits membership of a trade union by a member of the Garda Síochána and I have looked at this provision in all sorts of ways. I see Senator Mansergh smiling to himself, thinking, "He would, wouldn't he?" In many European countries, it is not unusual that the police are trade union members, for example, in Denmark and Holland. Section 17(3) states:

A member of the Garda Síochána shall not be or become a member of any trade union or association (other than an association established under this section or section 13 of the Garda Síochána Act 1924)

A garda cannot become a member of an association on the one hand, though he or she can if it is one which accords with the provisions here. The Bill provides that an association must be independent and not associated with any body or person outside the Garda Síochána. My father was a founder member of the initial Garda representative body, the predecessor of the GRA, and I have had a lifelong interest in this.

It is genetic.

I have no problem with the GRA and my comments are not meant critically. The GRA is a member of the ICPSA which is a nominating body for the Seanad's labour panel. While I see nothing wrong with the active role the GRA has always played in the ICPSA, I cannot see how it is amenable to the legislation.

It does not have as its object the control or influence of pay, pensions or conditions of service in the Garda Síochána.

That is the second element which refers to trade unions of which gardaí cannot be members. The subsection above means the GRA itself must be independent of and cannot be associated with a body or persons outside the Garda Síochána. At the moment, the GRA has full membership of the ICPSA which is not amenable to the provisions of the Bill. I would be happy to hear the Minister tell me that is not the case, but I do not expect he will. It is an issue to be examined.

I do not understand the difference between the various bodies. I was a member of a trade union which is called the Irish National Teachers Organisation rather than the Irish National Teachers' Union. Another well known teaching union is called the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland. I presume the term "trade union" in the Bill refers to a clear definition of "trade union" in other legislation.

I welcome this positive, progressive and creative Bill. It has the potential to restore confidence in the police force. The connections it seeks to make between the Garda and local communities and local authorities is very welcome. I hope the legislation works. We should all try to ensure it does. I was delighted to listen to a positive debate in which Opposition Members complimented the Minister. It is what the House is best at. I have raised a number of issues and I have no doubt the Minister will consider them. If changes need to be made, I look forward to seeing the Minister's amendments.

I welcome the Minister and this important and enlightened legislation in which he is entitled to take some pride. It is a tribute and a positive reflection on the officials of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform who are sometimes unfairly impugned in this House. The Department has changed a great deal since the 1960s and 1970s. I had the privilege of working with many of its officials during negotiations on the peace process. I hold the Department in high regard as, if I may be parochial, do the people of Tipperary who look forward to welcoming some of its staff and branches in due course.

That is parochial.

A few specific points arise from reading the Bill. Obviously, section 7 is very important in that it provides an overall definition of the functions of the Garda Síochána. I query the wording of section 4 which provides that in performing its functions the Garda Síochána shall have regard to the importance of upholding human rights. Why does the section not provide simply that the Garda Síochána shall have a duty to uphold human rights? The provision as drafted strikes me as a little mealy-mouthed and cautious. To be historical, the concept of human rights goes back to the late 18th century and the Declaration of the Rights of Man at the beginning of the French Revolution. At that time, rights were seen very much in the context of the executive power of the state, the conditions under which it could detain people, try them and, possibly, put them to death. While the last of these is not relevant here, I wonder, nevertheless, why the provisions of section 4 are not more straightforward.

Senator O'Toole referred to section 17 and raised the issue of trade unions and the Garda Representative Association. It is important to place the Garda and the Defence Forces in a separate category in this instance. Members of these organisations do not have the right to strike in the way others do, though that has been subverted to a degree through what is termed "blue flu". The law in this area has not prevented spokesmen for Garda and Defence Forces representative associations from being, on occasion, as forthright in their public comments as any trade unionist. It does not detract from the rights of the organisations given their specific circumstances.

Section 15 makes provisions in respect of secret societies. The term "secret societies" always conjures up for me 19th century Italian nationalism and theCarabiniere. Is there a legislative definition of “secret society”? Has the further complication of transfers with the Police Service of Northern Ireland been considered? In my understanding of the PSNI, membership of societies must be registered. The force includes masons and I do not know whether the Orange Order counts as a secret society. Probably, it does not. If members of the PSNI are transferred to the Garda, it is possible that some of them will belong to a secret society, albeit with registered membership. Does this create any difficulty in terms of the legislation? Perhaps the matter should be examined.

The roles of the Minister and the Garda Commissioner are very well defined in the Bill. It is important in a democracy to ensure the Government has the right to point out priorities. This should be done in consultation with the police force to avoid practical difficulties. It is a welcome step forward to provide in the Bill that the Commissioner is the Accounting Officer of the Garda Síochána. There was a period in the Defence Forces and the Garda when every minor decision which involved the spending of money had to be double-checked by a junior or middle ranking official of the relevant Department. I am glad that is no longer the case.

Section 39 of the Bill relates to statistics. Without suggesting the Minister has a different view, it is important that statistics are trusted and released on an automatic basis. It has been the case here and in other jurisdictions that crime statistics have been used to make political points. Crime statistics must be as trustworthy as the economic data we receive from the Central Statistics Office. That is not to suggest that is not case currently.

An important element of the legislation is the provision resulting from the Good Friday Agreement and the Patten report whereby members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland can serve in the Garda andvice versa. It is a positive and welcome development.

Section 55 has given rise to some comment such as what information members can release. This seems to be an aspect informed by experience of the incidents that gave rise to the Nally report. I declare an interest in that I was one of the people impugned by certain allegations. It is right that that situation be straightened out because there is no doubt that allegations which have no foundation have caused great distress and concern to relatives in a situation where the people involved have had to answer certain claims of their own. I do not want to go into any more detail but it is right that that situation be corrected.

The section dealing with the ombudsman is an important part of the legislation. The Minister was right, after some hesitation, to adopt the name, otherwise there would be much fruitless debate about terminology and not about the substance. It is good to have a three person ombudsman commission. It is not modelled exactly on the position in Northern Ireland but the background and the position in Northern Ireland is very different. Essentially, we have a society where there is, broadly speaking — I do not want to over-generalise — a consensus behind the Garda Síochána although this does not detract from the fact that there may be difficulties with the Garda Síochána in certain communities.

I warmly welcome the provision for committees between the Garda and local authorities. That ought to include town councils as well as county councils. To take my home county as an example, the situation in Tipperary town may be quite different from that in Carrick-on-Suir or Clonmel. There should be an opportunity for a town council to have a formal system of liaison from time to time with the Garda Síochána. That provision is enormously beneficial and, perhaps, takes a leaf from the Patten report although it is not as formal as policing partnerships. We have our own needs and culture.

My colleague, Senator Mooney, referred to history. Some people date modern policing in Ireland not to Grattan's Parliament but to 1813 in the troubled barony of Middlethird in County Tipperary.

I will not be as ordered as Senator Mansergh who went through the Bill sequentially. I agree with his latter point about town councils and I am sure we will hear more on that issue.

I welcome the Minister. I agree with the Bill's two main objectives, namely, reforming the law relating to the administration and management of the Garda Síochána and providing for the establishment of an independent body, to be known as the Garda Síochána ombudsman commission. I am glad the Minister opted for a commission rather than an inspectorate which he was toying with earlier. As Senator Mansergh said, that has removed all the red herrings from the Bill.

I compliment the Minister on the painstaking work he and his officials have put into the Bill and for coming before the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights last September. I was substituting for another member of the committee on the day when the Minister outlined his thoughts and plans as they existed at that time. From what I recollect of that meeting, a considerable amount of further work has been put into improving the Bill. I appreciate that further refinements, if necessary, can be made on Committee Stage.

I compliment the Minister on introducing this Bill in the Seanad. I recognise it is a major legislative measure, given that the last major enactment in this area was in 1924. The Minister's predecessors gladly allowed this cup to pass their lips. Obviously it is long overdue.

We live in the age of OTA — openness, transparency and accountability — which is now the new god. It is of paramount importance that the public has trust in the Garda Síochána and also that the process by which complaints against members are investigated is trusted. In common with most Members, I have had agreeable relationships with the local Garda and I have the height of praise for the vast majority of the force. Not only are they law abiding citizens but, by and large, they do their jobs well.

This Bill, once enacted, will be the new bible for the force. I appreciate everyone's desire, starting with the Minister who has taken this important initiative in bringing forward this comprehensive measure, to get everything right. The Minister deserves our thanks for his attempt to bring clarity to the roles and functions of both the Minister and the Garda Síochána. That operational responsibility, including financial control, should be assigned to the management of the force, is welcome. It is important that there be democratic accountability. That the Commissioner will appear before the Committee of Public Accounts is welcome. I am not sure if that is a requirement or if he will appear as Accounting Officer of the force. I appreciate the Minister and his officials spent much time in examining the police complaints models in other jurisdictions. Like other jurisdictions, the Minister reminds us that the Garda Síochána functions also as our intelligence service, a matter about which we are not used to thinking.

The Minister stated that the Human Rights Commission submission deserves particular mention. I am glad he has weighted carefully the additional points it raised in broadly welcoming the Bill. The Minister is accountable to the Houses of the Oireachtas and on that basis is entitled to set policing priorities. I welcome the fact that comprehensive reporting requirements will be put in place, including the plans of the Commissioner, and the assessment he or she will make. That every directive issued by the Minister will have to be approved by the Government and laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas is welcome.

As I did at the joint committee in September when the Minister appeared before it, I welcome the initiative which provides for co-operation with local authorities and the necessary arrangements for obtaining the views of the public. Joint policing committees with the Garda Síochána and local authority representation will prove invaluable. I trust this will strengthen policing at local level. I welcome the statutory basis provided for in the Bill for the appointment of volunteer members of the Garda Síochána. Many committed members of the public would appreciate, if circumstances warrant, the opportunity to play their part in such a force. I welcome the provision to provide a statutory basis for such a force.

The Minister has properly laid great stress on ensuring openness, transparency and public confidence in the investigation of complaints.

Members would agree with him on that and with his provision for an ombudsman commission to replace the existing Garda Complaints Board.

There have been too many instances of complaints against individual members of the force, which is why it does not command public confidence, although I have already paid tribute to the force. I am glad the ombudsman commission will retain ultimate control over every investigation and that its statutory powers will be the same as those applicable in Northern Ireland. In their daily policing duties, most members of the force perform in a highly admirable and commendable way. It is always a pity when a few bad apples tarnish the image of the force. There is, by and large, huge goodwill towards the Garda Síochána and the Bill will help to strengthen the public support and trust which is so necessary in our democracy.

Consultation takes place on an informal basis between the Minister and the Garda Commissioner, although I am not sure how this will continue. All sorts of arrangements are built into the Bill and I look forward to hearing more on this. There is a feeling, accurate or not, that issues in this regard have led to some of the past abuses — I am thinking of the Dowra incident, and Allihies in my area was mentioned in connection with another incident.

Senator Terry raised several questions on individual sections and I look forward to the Minister's response. I note that the Minister recently agreed in the Dáil with the Fine Gael survey which suggested that many people do not bother to report crime. I hope that will improve as a result of this measure.

The involvement of local authorities is to be welcomed, and is one of the issues to which the Minister received a positive response when he appeared last September before the Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights. The change will lead to greater public support. Some Members have suggested further refinement be made on Committee Stage and, if it is needed, I am sure the Minister will give it due consideration.

In many areas, meetings are already held, perhaps annually, between members of the Garda, local authorities and others to review local traffic arrangements and so on. As a result of the provisions in the Bill, gardaí will be better able to liaise with local residents' associations and public representatives. This is what the Minister had in mind and I hope it will be the result. In this way, anti-social behaviour can be dealt with in particular areas and on particular housing estates, because local councillors are very well informed. It is important, as Senator Mansergh noted, that town councils are involved. County councils would often not have the necessary insight into particular estates and areas on the fringes of towns. As a result of this measure, the issue will be better tackled and gardaí will have a better flow of information, which is the name of the game for them.

Another important issue which will be dealt with by the involvement of local authorities, councillors and, through them, local associations, is the reporting of crime. It is frightful, if it is true, that one in five crimes is not reported. With greater community involvement, which will be brought about by the provisions the Minister has built into the Bill, I foresee an improvement in this area and the overcoming of many of our difficulties.

I referred to the accountability of the Garda Commissioner, as the Accounting Officer for the force, to the Committee of Public Accounts. This will improve the image of the Garda Síochána with citizens among the wider community, particularly groups within certain housing estates. I am glad Garda appointments are covered by regulation. I welcome the Minister's decision to opt for the ombudsman model rather than another model which would have involved great waste of time, as Senator Mansergh pointed out. I also welcome that the Bill allows the ombudsman to investigate matters on his or her initiative, or when the Minister refers matters to the ombudsman.

There is concern with a number of sections which, in the minds of some, effectively turn the Minister into a chief of police. I do not believe this is the Minister's intention and I am sure he will address the point in the Houses and outside. An image remains of a former Minister acting as a kind of chief of police, which perhaps led to some incidents we would prefer had not happened. I am sure the Minister would not intend anything like that to happen on his watch.

The Garda annual report for 2002 was published at the end of December 2003, which suggests it took nearly one year to compile. This was rather inefficient and I look forward to improvement. In the age of accountability, the Minister should not regard such a delay as acceptable. Section 38 requires the Garda to publish the annual report four months after the year's end, which is a vast improvement.

Section 39 would seem to allow the Minister to avail of provisional statistics as soon as they become available. Since taking office, the Minister has made such statistics available, which is to be welcomed. While some think that certain matters were buried and that a cynical public relations exercise was involved, I do not intend to go down that road.

There is major concern that Garda crime statistics do not provide us with the full picture. By their nature, crime statistics give no indication of unreported crime. Some weeks ago, Fine Gael highlighted that as many as one in five crimes is not reported. A black hole clearly exists in the Government's crime statistics. Only when the Minister publishes his crime and victimisation survey will we discover the true extent of the breakdown of law and order.

Nonetheless, the Bill represents a great step forward in revising and, in some instances, reforming the structures of our police force. It is more than 80 years since the force was first set on a statutory footing and, therefore, the Bill is long overdue and I compliment the Minister on tackling the issue. As outlined, I have some concerns with the Bill which I hope the Minister will address. I look forward to further debate.

I welcome the Minister to the House. While Senator Kett said the Minister is appearing here often, he meant it as a compliment not a complaint.

I welcome the Bill, in which two main objectives are addressed. The first objective concerns the management of the Garda Síochána and the second concerns the issue of complaints and the restoration of public confidence, which has not been lost as much as is suggested. The Garda Síochána is a large organisation and, like any other, whether the Army, Judiciary, a church of any denomination, political party or trades union, it is bound to contain a few bad apples at all times. When members of an organisation are attacked, the organisation tends to close ranks and it is at that stage that public confidence is lost. An "us and them" attitude develops, a natural phenomenon in any organisation, and this is where difficulties arise because the organisation tends to defend the indefensible.

The Garda Síochána has been in existence for 80 years. We should remember the many members of the force who gave their lives in terrible situations. Although the force is unarmed, its members must often tackle thugs dealing in drugs, trying to free Ireland and so on, and must tackle armed people who shoot at them for no reason. They are faced with appalling situations and we must compliment the Garda Síochána on the bravery of so many of its members over the years. In general, it is a very good force.

There is now an armed response unit, a sad but necessary development due to changing times. It is all the more important at this time that public confidence in the Garda is restored. It is easy to criticise gardaí when one is pulled up for speeding or a similar offence. However, when one's house is broken into and gardaí appear in minutes, one forgets that they are the same gardaí who may have held one up previously. It is often forgotten that the duty of the Garda Síochána is to uphold the law. They are, after all, guardians of the peace. We make the laws while they simply uphold them, and they often come in for unfair criticism in this regard.

The Minister mentioned the Garda intelligence services, which are often forgotten, but the Bill deals with that aspect of policing adequately.

It is absolutely essential to maintain the ministerial directive to the Commissioner because overall control must always be vested in the democratically elected Government and the Minister who is part of that Government. It is the same regarding control of the Army. We should remember that this country, apart from a bout of "blue flu", has never had a mutiny in either the Army or the police. This is a democracy and that should not happen, but there are many democracies where such things happen. It has not happened here because of the calibre of the forces and the way successive Governments have handled them. It has been a delicate balance at times, but it has worked.

I urge caution with the joint policy committees. It is not that it is not a good idea, because it is great when the police work with local authorities, but I would not like to see an equal power base developing where the local authority or another body would have the same powers as the police force. I have great experience of the police in my local authority area, Stillorgan, through both community policing and gardaí working as juvenile liaison officers. The effect of having one garda walk around an area is phenomenal. People feel safe and there is a sense of well-being in the community. The Garda can do a great service in that way.

Caution should be exercised with regard to volunteers. The Minister mentioned special constables in the UK and there are some special constables in Ireland also, patrolling Dublin Castle and St. Stephen's Green. I am not sure about these volunteer members as there is a proliferation of security forces in the country, with guards wearing helmets and padded gear, and some carrying batons. They are becoming more and more indistinguishable from the police, but policing is a job for policemen. Most gardaí know how to do the job efficiently. They know whether to give a person the odd thump or to guide him along gently. A person might not say that, but they should.

If we do not have enough police, rather than having volunteers, we should hire more gardaí and train them properly. People can learn to respect a force but if there is more than one force they will ask if volunteers have the same authority as policemen and so on. We should not have a diluted Garda Síochána alongside the real force. That is very important.

Yesterday there were three gardaí on the N11 dual carriageway at Stillorgan, trying to catch someone doing 45 mph in a 40 mph zone, even though the Minister for Transport said people should be able to drive at 60 mph on that road anyway. Surely there is a better way to use Garda manpower.

The ombudsman idea is a very good one. The old adagenemo judex in causa sua applies to the gardaí as much as anyone else. However, the Minister also mentioned designated officers who will have the same powers and immunities as the gardaí. Are those the ombudsmen? How many such officers will operate? How will they be recruited and trained? Are they like private detectives? The Minister should explain whether they will operate for the extent of a particular investigation or if they will be permanent officers. Will they be in a police station for the duration of a particular case? How will the Minister know they are capable of the job they are employed to do?

Also, the Minister has brought in a six-month limit on cases but evidence often arises years after a crime is committed. Will there be any redress or will the limit stay at six months? I am sure the Minister has thought this out and will address the point. Judicial oversight is also a good idea. It is essential to have someone looking over everything.

I have a particular interest in the Bill because, like Senator O'Toole, my father was a policeman. My grandfather was a policeman, as is my cousin. Another cousin is married to a policeman, I mix with policemen and one of my best friends is a policeman. I know a lot about the police and I can relay the frustration some of them feel when a crime does not stick. They apprehend someone, investigate and prosecute. Someone goes to jail, but he or she gets out again. There is a revolving door operating and gardaí feel there is no end to it. Senator Mooney raised another issue on which I have some knowledge, the matter of people from the country coming to Dublin for redress they would not get in their own jurisdictions.

Young gardaí can become very frustrated; they get horrible abuse at times, with people in flats throwing bricks at them and their cars being rammed. The public often does not realise the dangers those people put themselves in night after night. I dealt with a court case recently in which a female garda tried to help a man get his car keys. He thought she was trying to steal the car and he beat the living daylights out of her. That was not even mentioned in the newspapers but her jaw was swollen for months. We owe these people a tremendous debt of gratitude.

The Minister made a very important point about secret societies. The IRA is a secret society and I cannot believe any policeman would join it. The masons are also a secret society, no matter what they say. There is a large number of masons in Ireland — there are approximately 50,000 in the North and 20,000 in the South. If anyone reads a book calledThe Brotherhood they will see the effect the masons have on the police and Judiciary in England, where nearly all police officers and most judges are masons. I do not know if that is wrong or right. I do not know if they do any wrong but there must be some element of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”.

This is a very good Bill. It is a new charter for the Garda and the Minister has done a very good job. He has reached a balance. In fencing there was a lesson that a sword is like a bird. If one holds it too tight, one chokes it but if one holds it too loosely, it flies away. It can be easy to choke an organisation like the Garda so much that its members cannot break the law a little. That may be a strange thing to say but they must have a little leeway. If they catch a young man breaking into a house they must be able to grab him by the scruff of the neck and bring him to his parents. His human rights might be violated, but he will not break into a house again. At the same time, one cannot allow that kind of behaviour to develop as breaches of the disciplinary code can slip in.

The Minister has managed to balance this well and his intentions are very good. The Bill is a good one and will be welcomed by the Garda, which is the most important thing. I congratulate the Minister on the Bill.

I welcome the Minister and thank him for staying to hear the contributions of all colleagues. We appreciate him staying rather than making his speech and running out again.

When I studied political sociology, the basis of the rational legal system of government was the notion that the State exists because the people want it to exist. The very first principle the State must deliver on is security. I am conscious of that, as is the Minister. It is vitally important that people feel safe in their homes and communities and that they feel a connection with a civilian police force to ensure that when crimes occur, those responsible are brought to justice. Public support for the Garda is absolutely essential but in recent years that has been eroded somewhat by events such as the Morris tribunal and other negative commentary on the Garda. As legislators we must respond to that erosion.

I respect members of the Garda. They put their lives on the line day in, day out, for our liberty and to ensure the laws of the State are enforced. We should not forget the gardaí who have been murdered as a result of paramilitary activity since the foundation of the State. We should never forget those people who gave their lives for this country. We must also recognise the huge commitment of the family members of gardaí.

It is also important to recognise that this is largely an unarmed force. I am not suggesting we change the policy in that regard but we need to be aware that we are sending young men and women on very dangerous tasks to apprehend criminals and frequently they come under fire. The incident which occurred recently outside Mr. Chawke's pub is a case in point. Two unarmed members of the force ran to apprehend suspects at the crime scene despite shots being fired over their heads. We must address this issue and ensure adequate protection is given to members of the force in those circumstances because they are putting their lives on the line.

One of the great advantages of the Garda Síochána, unlike other EU examples, is that it is based in the community and is regarded as an essential part of it, whereas in places such as Italy, France and Germany, the forces are seen as an extension or arm of the state. It is important the Garda Síochána keeps the public support it has so jealously guarded and protected since the foundation of the State, while at the same time adapting to the new situation.

One does not need to be Archimedes to realise there is a problem with a certain erosion of public support in recent years, given the events about which others have spoken. There is a real problem when it comes to bad attitudes between young people and the Garda, which works both ways, and it must be addressed in the context of Garda reform. We must update the performance of the force and make it more accountable. In that regard, I welcome the Bill's proposals for the ombudsman.

The people we select to go on the board of the ombudsman will be able to distinguish between genuine complaints and frivolous ones made in the heat of the moment. However, it is important the board has powers of discovery and the full co-operation of the force in respect of complaints which are to be investigated and may lead to charges coming before the courts.

I also welcome the sections dealing with the new local committees which are to be established. It is very important that the police are accountable locally and are seen and heard locally. I defend the role of local authorities in this regard. We have developed a good system of local government where the police, working in tandem with local authorities and local politicians in a public forum, can address the issues about which people talk to us on a regular basis. While it is important there is an opportunity for these meetings to be held in private, if it is the wish of the committee, the vast majority of meetings should be held in public and reported by the press so that people can see a follow-through on issues.

Simple issues are brought to my attention on a regular basis such as the attitude of the police when incidents are recorded and the telephone manner of gardaí. It is important that when a person telephones a Garda station, he or she receives a good hearing and is not fobbed off or left on hold for ten minutes waiting for a response. We need to see those kinds of efficiency improvements in the force and they will flow from some of the measures proposed in the Bill.

Although it is outside the scope of the Bill, I am glad of the opportunity to address the issue of recruitment while the Minister is here. The problem in this regard in Northern Ireland was that not enough members of the Roman Catholic Nationalist community joined the RUC, which led to a complete undermining of the force because it was not seen to be of all the community. The same argument applies to some parts of this city, Cork and Limerick, where there are well-known areas of disadvantage in which there is a complete disconnection between the police and those communities. These communities are not massive in number by comparison to the total population but they are well-known such as, for example, the CODAN areas.

The Minister has an opportunity to have the Garda go into those communities and institute an active policy of recruitment within them. Part of my constituency is an area of 10,000 local authority, low cost and tenancy housing lumped together, from which I suspect not one person has become a member of the force in recent years. This is astonishing. If one suggested that not one person from a comparable-sized town such as Navan joined the force, one would be laughed out of court. However, there are parts of this city from which no recruits are coming because of the bad attitude to which I referred. There is a bad attitude in the community which is equal and comparable to the bad attitude within the police. However, because of the tension between the community and the police, they are not getting the recruits.

Many young men and women who might like to join the force from these communities might feel they would be hounded out and would not receive public support. I recently met a woman whose son is a member of the force and who is being hounded out of her house as a result. He does not live in the local community but she is being victimised simply because she is the mother of a member of the force.

We must have a radical policy of recruitment. Although I do not like using words such as "targets" or "quotas", we need to go into those communities and recruit young men and women to the force who will live in those communities. The best protection one ever has is to know that a member of the force lives up the road or across the street. Where I live, in a housing estate of 1,700 houses, I know of at least 30 members of the force who live locally. That adds to the sense of protection and comfort people feel locally, despite the fact that these people may be off duty.

It is unhealthy that in large urban areas, not just council estates, there is no physical presence of the force on the streets because no one lives there or comes from the community. We need to radically increase the number of recruits coming from these areas. I understand a parliamentary question was tabled to the Minister asking whether he could ascertain the number of recruits coming from these well-described CODAN areas of Dublin city and county. In his reply, the Minister stated he did not have the capacity to do that. I ask the Minister to raise this issue with the Garda Commissioner because we need a radical policy of recruitment in these areas. It is the biggest single step which could be taken to improve confidence in the force and help it understand the kinds of sub-cultures which exist in some of these communities.

Sections 52 to 55, inclusive, deal with the controversial issue of offences in regard to the disclosure of information. I fully accept that if a member of the force touts information to journalists for his or her own personal gain, it is wrong and action should be taken to deal with it. Are we putting this provision in place for the Army? I suspect not. We are not putting this provision in place for existing civil servants, who are obligated under the Official Secrets Act in the same manner as members of the force, nor are we putting it in place in respect of the Minister's own press office. God help us and protect us from a Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who gives information to crime journalists. Are we sure it has never happened? Are there no embedded journalists to whom the Minister speaks? What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

If this provision is being put in place for members of the force, let us be consistent — let it have the same jurisdiction in respect of the Minister's office, his press office, his Department, members of the Army and everyone else. Let us have the same principles apply. A great deal of bluff and bluster has been spoken on this matter, although I do not refer to the Minister. Allegedly, many of the Minister's predecessors gave information to certain journalists who then wrote stories with those Ministers' slants. It was not uncommon for Ministers of Justice to give information so that the Government is tipped off. If we are asking members of the force to be obliged to perform their new functions under sections 52 to 55 inclusive, let us have the same consistency for every other person who is responsible for security in the State, from the Minister down.

We hopefully will spend a great deal of time on Committee Stage of this Bill. There are many welcome provisions in it and I know the Minister will take seriously the points raised in the debate.

I join previous speakers in welcoming the Minister, Deputy McDowell, to the House and thanking him for introducing the Bill here. He has spent a lot of time approaching the Bill in an open and consultative manner, and the fruits of those endeavours are seen in the cross-party support for the initiative he has taken.

Two main objectives of the Bill are to reform the legislative structure through which the Garda is managed and to put in place a mechanism to deal with complaints against gardaí. Both of those objectives have been achieved in the Bill. When we get into the tedium of going through the Committee Stage, we may have minor amendments to make or might get a clearer understanding of the Bill, but no one can disagree that the overall thrust has been achieved.

I will not let this occasion pass without paying tribute to the Garda and the long service it has given to the State. It saddens me that we still have elements within the State who continually undermine the Garda, fail to recognise it and have taken paramilitary action against a primarily unarmed force. The Garda underpins the democracy we all cherish. A democracy must be based on law and order, and there is an onus on all citizens to respect that if they truly cherish the freedom and democracy in which we live. However, I am somewhat concerned that, at times, some people seem to feel it is acceptable for them to have their own, private way of imposing law and order and support their own private armies or security forces. It would be remiss of us not to condemn that out of hand when we are discussing proposed legislation to support the one legitimate security force in the country, the Garda. When I hear about Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas referring to the shooting of a garda as a tragic event, it disappoints me and saddens me that we still have people in our society who are willing to subscribe to such views or give them any hearing. The reality is that the fundamentals of democracy must be enshrined in support of the institutions of the State and any other way of going about that is an affront to democracy.

For any police force, public confidence is necessary. There have been occasions when the actions of a few have undermined public confidence in the Garda somewhat. At times, that effect is somewhat exaggerated. There is no profession in which a few people are not off side, but a whole profession should not be condemned because of the actions of a few.

We seem to be abandoning personal responsibility in this country. We seem to think that numerous matters are the responsibility of the Government, the Garda and various other institutions of State, but what about personal responsibility? If people in Ireland were more aware of personal responsibility and took it on board, we would have no need or requirement for such Garda activity on our streets. Unfortunately, those who are quickest to condemn the Garda are probably those who lack personal responsibility.

I will refer briefly to a couple of sections of the Bill. One is section 14, which provides for a volunteer force. I am passionate about that and I have spoken about it over the past several years. Other Members have got into the mechanics of the section, whereas my understanding is that the Minister is putting that provision on the Statute Book to be enacted at a later date and the mechanics of how that will happen are to be worked out in consultation between the Garda Commissioner and the Government. There is nothing unusual about a volunteer force, and for Members to try to muddy the waters by saying that the introduction of a volunteer force is a cop-out to avoid increasing the strength of the main force is wrong. The roles are complementary and can be to the betterment of policing in Ireland, as has been proven in many other countries throughout Europe and, indeed, further afield.

I will make a few points on how I envisage the volunteer force will work. How many parents sit at home at night worrying about their children being down town, about their social activities and about them coming home? In my youth, parents volunteered to supervise the local disco and tennis club. I know parents who sit at home worrying about their kids coming home and about how safe they are on the streets and coming out of nightclubs, and many of those parents would be willing to contribute in some way to the policing of our streets. This participation could take many forms. A volunteer policeman or policewoman could achieve full powers after a period of time, but it would be possible to have volunteers with different levels of powers — volunteers who have no powers and work in purely administrative capacities; volunteers with limited powers who can work only under the direct supervision of a full member of the Garda; and, finally, volunteers who have full powers.

A volunteer police force would also provide a greater link with the community and should be embraced positively; we should not look for the negative aspects of the proposal. With the change of our society to multiculturalism, there is a need for linguistic skills and for people to interact with people from different cultures. That is an area in which volunteer police with limited powers could be useful and beneficial to the main force.

I will also address sections 30 to 34 on the Garda's interaction with local authorities. That interaction is fundamental, because it underpins community policing. When I was a member of a local authority, we set up a relationship such as the one proposed in the Bill between the Garda and the local authority. I have spoken about that. When gardaí were brought into the local authority to account for the numbers on the beat and various events in the city, they consistently told us there were problems with by-laws, for example. The obvious way to make positive progress is to make statutory provision for a formal relationship between the Garda and the local authorities. However, I would like that relationship to be confined to urban district councils, town commissions, city councils and county councils. I am not sure about including county development boards; I would prefer to keep it at the level of the other local authority organisations that I mentioned. Those organisations could in turn broaden the relationship to take in chambers of commerce, the vintners' associations and, I suggest, even student unions, which could all bring representatives to a joint policing committee and help to improve community policing, trust in the gardaí on the beat and the identification of problems in local areas.

The establishment of the ombudsman commission is necessary, and I welcome it. Other Members have spoken about it, and I will go into the mechanics of the commission on Committee Stage.

I will take up one point that has been made about communications with the media. That is necessary and must be enshrined in legislation. We cannot allow criminal investigations to be undermined because some member of a force who has a limited amount of knowledge chooses for personal gain to get a scoop at the cost of the positive conclusion of an investigation. Senator Brian Hayes called for the provision to be introduced across the board for members of the Defence Forces and other public servants. As a former member of the Defence Forces, I assure Members it is enshrined in the Defence Act that it is an offence to communicate with the media. There is nothing unusual about this requirement because it is how it should be.

I compliment the Minister on his initiative and on the way he brought forward the legislation in such an open manner. He set out his stall when he was appointed Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and no one can deny he has not brought about changes. People who will be critical of the legislation should remember the Minister has achieved in 18 months what has been 80 years in the making. He deserves our congratulations in that regard.

I must make a confession here. I have always had a soft spot for the present Minister, even though I disagree with him on everything.

This is worthy legislation. As a long standing Member of the House, I appreciate the fact that the Minister has chosen to be here himself for all of the debate so far. I hope he has heard a few things that added to his knowledge although it is not easy to persuade him he needs to have his knowledge added to.

I have a very ambivalent view of the Garda Síochána based on personal experience. In 1969, I was at a housing demonstration in Dublin. We got a bit disorderly and what was described as the minimum amount of force necessary was used to clear the streets. I limped around for a week afterwards with a delicate part of the lower half of my anatomy somewhat bruised from a garda baton. Whatever about the rights or wrongs of the incident, what educated me was the fact that the then Minister for Justice appeared in the Dáil two days later and categorically denied that batons had been drawn. As I limped around with the evidence on my own person of the baton that had been drawn, I became very sceptical about categorical denials. Looking back at those days and the way the world has developed since, the level of force used was probably far less excessive than what I saw on an infamous video of the Reclaim the Streets demonstration. There was considerable discipline involved at the time.

On the other hand, in my experience with the Simon Community, most members of the Garda Síochána showed an understanding and sympathy for and flexibility towards homeless people that would have been a model for people in what would be more appropriately described as the caring professions. They had an ability to be patient with people who were actually trying to take the head off them on occasions, and to be good humoured about it. It appears to me that they recognised the people they were dealing with. People were forever being charged with being drunk and disorderly, but most of them were being charged because it was the only way they could be detained for their own safety in a Garda station. They were usually fined for default. Most of them never quite ended up in jail, even though they never paid the fines. On a human level — this was 25 years ago — dealing with people on an individual basis, the gardaí with whom I came into contact were extraordinarily patient and flexible. I want to put that on the record because I may appear to have been poking fun at them earlier.

However, incidents occur that need to go on the record. I do not want to say anything that would identify an individual but I had an unnerving experience at a meeting in Cork a considerable number of years ago. A senior member of the Garda Síochána in the city was present at the meeting relating to local issues. Towards the end of the meeting, the safety of teenagers walking home in the area was raised, which moved on to the issue of child abuse. The senior official, with the authority of the Garda, said, "We as members of the Garda Síochána know two things. One, that the vast majority of child abuse offences are carried out by homosexuals and, two, a huge part of the child abuse thing is an attempt by certain forces to undermine the sanctity of the Irish family".

One cannot legislate to prevent people having opinions, nor would I wish to. The more public dialogue there is, in which people have to explain and justify the views they hold, the less likely one is to have opinions like that permeating at senior levels in any organisation. I am sure the Garda Síochána was not alone in having senior members who liked to believe the less pleasant parts of our history were being made up by people with an agenda.

The lesson I would learn from these three anecdotes is the importance of openness and the necessity for a clear structure of accountability. I welcome the process of investigation which will now be set up under the ombudsman commission, even though I have reservations about some aspects of it. I hope members of the Garda will not see this as a threat. Many of us who work in the public service must live with forms of investigation and inquiry which are much the same as what is proposed here. I appreciate that gardaí are in a unique role, but members of the Garda must accept that with their unique role come unique powers, including, for example, the power to arrest.

It is disturbing to see the annual report of the sums of money paid out as a result of legal actions taken against the Garda. Many gardaí believe that many complaints are malicious. Nevertheless, it is a fact that significant sums of money are being paid out. Greater transparency and accountability, including mediation processes, would help. I once had an interesting experience of going into a Garda station on behalf of the Simon Community in Cork to make a complaint that a member of the Garda had assaulted someone. One would not want to repeat the experience very often. The Garda station was full of gardaí, all sitting around the fire. I had to say at the counter that I wanted to make a complaint that a member of the force assaulted someone. One could feel the icicles descend and the attention of everyone in the station deflecting away from the afternoon's football match to what was being said at the counter.

We need to move on from a position whereby a complaint is seen as a threat. It is one of the more regrettable facts in recent times that members of the Garda appear to feel, out of what I would regard as a misguided sense of loyalty, unable to co-operate fully with the Garda Complaints Board about the Reclaim the Streets event, when it was apparent no one was available to identify anyone else. I can understand this, as would any member of a profession. However, we are entitled to ask the gardaí for a commitment to proper operation of both administrative and statutory procedures. In this case it appears that did not happen.

Some of us in this House are forever criticising the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Ever since I noticed in the IPA Year Book that the Secretary General of that Department until quite recently would not allow his photograph to be published, I began to believe there was a peculiar attitude to national security in the Department which was not replicated in the Defence Forces or the Garda Síochána. Is the Minister sure there is a need for this particular protection for Garda stations where he believes there are documents relating to matters of national security? What does he think would happen if people carrying out an investigation on behalf of the commission came across these documents? There is a very strict warning in the Freedom of Information Act, which I have no doubt was inserted at the behest of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, that judges who look at documents must be very careful that nobody else sees them. There seems to be an implied presumption in this that those in a certain area of the Department know better than anyone else. We all recognise the importance of national security, but national security is better secured by convincing people that what is being secured and kept secret in the name of national security is just that and not a convenient cover-up for assembling information that perhaps might have been acquired through circumstances that some people might suspect to be legally dodgy. I do not know. We will not know as long as we have this particular obsession. I would like the Minister, perhaps on Committee Stage, to elaborate within the bounds of national security as to precisely what sort of information might be jeopardised, or what might be jeopardised if these provisions or restrictions were to be removed.

There is huge interest in this Bill and we are delighted that the Minister has attended this House first, allowing us such an extensive debate — so much so that the debate will not end at 1 p.m. today. That might not dismay the Minister but perhaps his officials, who like to move things along. We understand that. They are shaking their heads, so they want further debate here too. That is good to hear. I must say to the Department's Secretary General, a fine, good-looking Kerryman, that he might well have his photograph anywhere because people would simply sit and admire, rather than plot damage to him.

It is not 29 February any longer.

No. It is too late. At any rate I imagine the man is well hooked.

The Leader must be looking for a Garda station, or something.

The Bill is very interesting. The most interesting aspect is the clarity it brings to different functions of the Garda Síochána. That occurred to me when the Minister spoke recently, and on re-reading what he said and on listening to other people. It is the Bill's greatest asset that in a segmented, although not a fractured way, everyone within the Garda will know what are his or her duties and roles. That will bring enormous clarity to the duties of each component within what is a huge force for good in our community.

I recall when the Minister began speaking of this Bill and I greatly admire the consultative process in which he engaged in forming it, drawing up the heads and then holding consultations. This is a practice I adopted in legislative areas and I found it enormously beneficial. It meant that when a Bill was finally formulated and brought to Second Stage in whatever House, there was a measure of support for it because of the consultative process. That is hugely important.

I particularly welcome the fact that the Human Rights Commission has given the Bill a broadly positive response, which is good, and that there will now be a clear onus on the Garda to have regard to human rights in its daily dealings, strategic plans and objectives. That is an enormous force for good. I do not think that this would have been high up on the Garda agenda. That is not to fault the Garda or anyone else, but the concept of human rights is proper and at the heart of all one's dealings with other people, particularly with a powerful body. The Bill in this area confers an equality of dealings which the Seanad would greatly support.

When the Minister initially announced his plans for this Bill, there was a general feeling of "them and us", a feeling of us possibly being "agin" them. Thankfully, because of public debate and consultation, that feeling has greatly dissipated, I have talked informally to some gardaí in my own area about the Bill and what it means. These talks did not take place in a structured way in terms of having a meeting, but there was general approval for the clarity and delineation in the Bill. That is good because it is certainly not a matter of "them versus us".

We have a huge bulwark of enormous good in this country, namely the Garda Síochána. We all recognise that. The Minister paid a very generous tribute to the Garda in the closing stages of his speech on Second Stage. The Garda is there for us, to serve the community in a collective sense and to serve each community member in an individual sense. That is why the human rights element is so important. Some of the proposals adopted in the 1924 Act and in subsequent Garda Acts were embedded in the previous century and we inherited them when we got our independence. There was nothing wrong with that. They were good terms for those times, but times move on and it is coming close to a century since 1924. There is no question that all of us, the Garda and the community, would become like fossils, stuck in the one legislative ambit with one way of looking at things and not seeing the reason for modernising, which the Garda clearly does. All of this is interesting in a new century and in terms of how we view ourselves and our rolesvis-à-vis the Garda.

The Minister rightly paid tribute in the House to Senator Maurice Hayes for the role he played in the policing body in Northern Ireland. I take the opportunity to commend Ms Kathy O'Toole, who is a member of the PSNI board whom I know very well. Her people are from Athlone. She is now the head police commissioner for the whole of Boston, commanding 3,000 members of the force. She is an Irishwoman in her late 40s, a remarkable person with considerable administrative and people skills. I wish her well in the new role in which she was confirmed last week. She was on the PSNI board and since the Minister paid tribute to Senator Hayes, this gave me an opportunity to bring her into the equation.

I have spoken of the clarity, delineation and the consultation involved in the Bill. Regarding the role of the ombudsman commission, I smiled when the Minister said that one member must be a man and another a woman. I did not know what the third person would be. The commission is a very fine concept. It is important that the Minster will have the right to give policing directives on occasion because we often hear it said that the Minister has nothing to do with anything and cannot respond on such a matter because it is the business of a particular State body.

I am to blame for everything.

Yes, I know. Or one has the other side of the equation, with people asking why the No. 11 bus did not run at 7.10 a.m. instead of at 7.20 a.m. That is the sort of question I used to be asked as Minister. One cannot know at what time every bus goes. There are two sides to every argument. It is right to allow the Minister to issue directives.

I point out to the Acting Chairman that I will be marking progress, not concluding the discussion on the Bill.

The Garda Complaints Board was perhaps right for its time. It was hailed as revolutionary when set up, but it never lived up to its revolutionary hopes — revolutionary in a proper sense. Somehow, it got bogged down. One was seen to be in the wrong if one made a complaint. Generally, that was how the body was observed to operate. The new structure will enable complaints to be properly made, in a clear and properly delineated manner, and there will be people to deal with them. The Minister has introduced an oversight measure which is necessary. I have been thinking about it since the Minister spoke about it. It is a good idea, but it remains to be seen how it will work out. The statutory footing for bringing in local unpaid volunteers conjures up in my mind the English films one sometimes sees about old-fashioned deaf constables. I am sure that is not what is meant. If the volunteers are needed, the legislation will be there.

Debate adjourned.