Garda Reform: Statements.

I do not intend simply to reprise the findings of the various reports which arise for consideration. Reports from eminent persons that are critical of the Garda Síochána are not to be taken lightly. What I am about to say and, more importantly, what I have done clearly illustrates that they have not been. The programme of reform was a recognition that fundamental issues affecting the Garda Síochána had to be urgently addressed, even before the publication of the critical reports.

The Morris reports have been, as they must be, the subject matter of strong action on the part of the Government. The Garda Síochána Act 2005 is the most profound legislation relating to the Garda Síochána in the history of the State and facilitates change. The inspiration for many of its provisions arise from the fallout from the events in Donegal.

That Act recasts in statute form the formal relationship between the Executive, the Minister, the Oireachtas and the Garda Síochána as well as the force's relationship with local government. It imposes a clear statutory duty on every member of the force to account for his or her action or inaction while on duty when required to do so by a member of higher rank. Failure to do so is sufficient grounds for disciplinary action that may lead to dismissal.

The Garda Síochána has changed greatly in the past ten years and we are in the midst of a new era of reform that will impact on quality of the service it provides. The Government has acted firmly and radically to ensure that the culture and organisation of the Garda Síochána is fully fit for its purpose. Various measures signify reform on an unprecedented scale, including the establishment of the Garda Ombudsman Commission, which will commence operations in the new year; the establishment of the Garda inspectorate and the appointment of Chief Inspector Kathleen O'Toole and her two fellow inspectors; and the appointment of the four person civilian expert group chaired by Senator Maurice Hayes to advise the Commissioner on the development of management and leadership skills for senior officers, including the promotion of a culture of performance management and accountability, the development of human resource management and succession planning and the development of specialist skills and enhanced training for members and staff of the Garda Síochána.

Other measures include the establishment of a Garda reserve, the establishment of local policing committees and the creation of the post of deputy Garda commissioner to lead a dedicated change management team and the establishment of a professional standards unit in the Garda Síochána to address performance, effectiveness and efficiency across all levels of policing activity.

The enactment of the provisions of the Act provide for greater accountability of members of the service. New discipline regulations, new promotion regulations and a whistleblowers charter signify reform on an unprecedented scale that goes to the core of policing in this country. These measures will be implemented and confidence and trust will be restored in the Garda Síochána, as our citizens deserve.

This State has good reason to be grateful to the majority of diligent, courageous and upstanding members of the Garda Síochána who have served it well since independence. This sentiment will continue to prevail in the public mind as the Garda Síochána continues its unprecedented expansion through a major recruitment drive for trainee and reserve gardaí.

Since I and my predecessor have taken up office, we have continually increased the financial and human resources made available to the force. Unlike the Opposition, which oversaw a decrease in the size of the Garda Síochána when in power, we have increased the size of the force. I have honoured the Government commitment and overseen the recruitment of a further 2,000 Garda trainees. The force is now more than 20% bigger in size than it was in 1997. The number of fully trained gardaí exceeded 13,000 in November and will reach 14,000 in early 2008. The Garda budget is now more than €1.3 billion, 85% higher than in 1997. I have assured the Garda Commissioner that he will not be lacking resources when it comes to fighting crime. Regarding matters happening today, on which I do not wish to dwell, I have assured the Commissioner that I will provide any resources necessary to the fight against gangland and drug related crime in Ireland. I have the backing of the Taoiseach and the Government regarding that assurance.

I refer to those inquiries that have looked at allegations of wrongdoing by members of the Garda Síochána. We have the opportunity today to address the issues raised in six of these reports, namely, the reports of Mr. Justice Frederick Morris on the Ardara, Silver Bullet and Burnfoot modules of his tribunal's work, the report of Mr. Justice Robert Barr regarding his tribunal's inquiry into the fatal shooting of Mr. John Carthy, the report of Mr. George Birmingham regarding his commission of investigation into the Dean Lyons case, and the report of Mr. Dermot Nally, Mr. Joseph Brosnan and Mr. Eamon Barnes regarding the report submitted to the Minister for Foreign Affairs by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland raising concerns about the alleged activity of certain Garda officers during 1998 regarding the Omagh bombing.

With regard to the findings of Mr Justice Morris, the Government took the unusual step last May of issuing a statement on the contents of the reports even though publication was not permitted at that stage without the permission of the High Court owing to an impending criminal trial. That step was taken because of the serious implications of the report's conclusions for the force. The conduct of Detective Sergeant John White is impugned in all three reports, notwithstanding the fact that they deal with separate incidents. Detective Sergeant White is also the focus of the Nally report, to which I shall return later.

Of particular note is the Burnfoot report which concludes that Detective Sergeant White and Detective Garda Thomas Kilcoyne deliberately planted a weapon at a campsite of Irish Travellers on 22 May 1998. This was done, it is alleged, with a view to ensuring that a search in respect of which warrants were issued under section 29 of the Offences against the State Act 1939 would be successful and facilitate an arrest under section 30 of that Act. Furthermore, the tribunal concluded that Detective Sergeant Conaty, Garda Mulligan and Garda Leonard entered into a conspiracy, a primary motivation being to help Detective Sergeant White escape a criminal charge. Two of the foregoing members, Garda Mulligan and Garda Leonard, have since been dismissed and a further member, Sergeant Conaty, is retired. Detective Sergeant White is the subject of a disciplinary process under section 14 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which is ongoing.

A common theme in both the Ardara and Burnfoot reports was a shocking abuse of process by members of An Garda Síochána in order to make the provisions of the Offences against the State Acts available to them when making arrests. The tribunal recommends that urgent consideration be given to vesting the power to issue warrants, under section 29 of that Act, in judges of the District Court and Circuit Court rather than in officers of An Garda Síochána not below the level of superintendent, as at present.

The tribunal recognises there are very limited occasions upon which time would be so pressing as to make it impossible to follow such a procedure and that, in any event, a residual power for such eventuality could perhaps still be vested in a senior officer of An Garda Síochána, to be used in exceptional circumstances.

I fully share the tribunal's concerns about the abuse of warrants issued under section 29 and accept the recommendation of the tribunal to the effect that statutory provisions in this regard should be considered. In the light of the findings of the tribunal I did not proceed with proposals in the Criminal Justice Act, based on recommendations by an expert group on the criminal law, to extend the search warrant powers available to the Garda pending consideration of the issues raised by the tribunal.

I propose to address this issue by way of amending legislation. My intention is to propose provisions which will replace section 29 so as to define as closely as possible the exceptional circumstances in which warrants may be issued by members of An Garda Síochána. I intend to designate a rank higher than superintendent to perform this function, place very strict timescales on such warrants and introduce an effective element of oversight, including documentary recording of the transactions, independent of An Garda Síochána on the operation of such warrants.

Detective Sergeant White is also a central player in the Nally report, as I have mentioned. On 22 March 2002, the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Mrs. Nuala O'Loan — an officer from outside the jurisdiction to whom Detective Sergeant White chose to make certain allegations — presented a report to the Minister for Foreign Affairs on these allegations. My predecessor then established a group under the former Secretary to the Government, Mr. Dermot Nally, which included Mr. Joe Brosnan, former Secretary General of my Department and now a member of the International Monitoring Commission. It also included Mr. Eamon Barnes, former Director of Public Prosecutions, to examine matters arising from that report. The group reported in mid 2003.

During the course of a debate in Dáil Éireann on the report in February 2004, I promised to produce an edited version of the report once criminal proceedings against Detective Sergeant White were disposed of. This commitment was given not on the basis that any public interest would be served in disseminating allegations which had been found to be baseless but in deference to the wishes of the families of the victims of the Omagh atrocity, which marked one of the darkest days in the history of this island.

However, that commitment was subject to the understanding that even with the criminal proceedings being disposed of, I could not publish the report in full because of the security sensitivity of some of the information it contained. The reason for this is that the subject matter of the report, to use the words of the group which prepared it:

. . . deals with highly sensitive matters involving the security of the State and possible risk to the lives of individuals. It also describes Garda operational procedures and methods, public disclosure of which could adversely affect future operations.

I believe I have given effect to my commitment by placing copies of a heavily edited version of the report in the Oireachtas Library and making copies available to all Deputies and Senators in advance of this debate. Copies have also been made available to the Omagh families. I hope this edited version will be seen as a legitimate balance between the public interest in full accountability and the exigencies of the security requirements of the State.

The main allegations made by Detective Sergeant White against senior members of An Garda Síochána are a matter of public record, as are the principal findings of the Nally group. In essence, the Nally group concluded:

. . . that there is no foundation for the allegations made . . . and that those allegations were a direct consequence of and were motivated solely by concerns arising from the difficulties in which he [Detective Sergeant White] found himself with his superiors in the Garda Síochána and with the criminal law.

In so far as Omagh is concerned, the main suggestion in the public domain was to the effect that the Garda failed to pass on to the RUC information which could have prevented the Omagh bombing. As Senators will observe from the edited version of the Nally report, no such allegation was ever made to the group. The core allegations about events preceding the Omagh bombing were that a senior Garda officer would have been prepared, if a vehicle had in fact been stolen, to allow it to go through in order to protect an informant; and that no intelligence was passed to the RUC about information, alleged to have been received on the eve of Omagh that the Real IRA, who had been trying to steal a vehicle in the Dublin area, had obtained one elsewhere, with place, vehicle type and destination unspecified.

I emphasise that these allegations, although very serious, are quite different from allegations claiming that the Garda could actually have prevented the Omagh bombing. As I have already mentioned, the Nally group found that there is simply no basis whatsoever for these allegations and that they were motivated solely by base reasons, involving the dishonourable abuse of the grief of the Omagh victims' families. I wish to put on the record of this House the fact that all three members of the Nally group consider the edited version to be a fair account of both the allegations relating to the Omagh bombing and their findings on those allegations.

The Barr Report comprises 741 pages and represents the fruits of approximately three and a half years of evidence gathering and analysis, dealing at times with decisions that had to be made in seconds. In dealing with its findings I must urge Senators to ensure that its conclusions are contextualised by reference to general circumstances of the so-called Abbeylara siege. The events at Abbeylara in April 2000 were grave and unique in the Irish police experience, very difficult to contend with and a far cry from the crisis situations for which the emergency response unit and the Garda Síochána were trained to contend. These are not my words but those of Mr. Justice Barr. Those words and that context were not well canvassed in public discourse on the matter and did a disservice to many of those who were involved. It is only fair to canvass them now in the context of this debate.

It is not our purpose to second-guess Mr. Justice Barr's findings or the weight he chose to give to particular evidence and the analysis which led to his conclusions, with some of which I have some difficulty. Whatever one's views on the report, no Member would wish to understate the difficulties faced by An Garda Síochána in dealing with situations such as these. While lessons must be learned and changes have been made, we must recognise that An Garda Síochána, in dealing with people using or threatening to use firearms, must not hesitate in taking whatever action is necessary to protect their own lives and those of innocent third parties.

In short, Mr. Justice Barr criticised Garda performance in the Abbeylara siege, particularly with regard to command structures and training in siege situations where a person armed with a gun may be affected by mental illness. The Garda Commissioner appointed a high level group to look into the issues raised by the Barr report, and it has extracted from the report the matters outlined in the tribunal's report which impact on the policing or operational areas. Each issue identified has been considered and followed up where necessary.

Since the tragic events of 20 April 2000, very significant developments have taken place within An Garda Síochána in the context of the management of critical events. Most significant of these was the issue of the On Scene Commander Manual of Guidance. It is also fair to say the handling of the similar type occurrence in recent times by the Garda Síochána has shown that it has learned lessons from Abbeylara and is putting some of those into practice. In addition, I have forwarded a copy of the report to the chief inspector of the Garda Inspectorate so that Garda procedures and practices for dealing with incidents of the type which unfolded at Abbeylara might be reviewed. I understand from the Garda Inspectorate that work on a report in this regard is well-advanced.

Chapter 13 of the report deals with "Gun licensing law and related matters" and suggests consideration of proposed improvements to our laws in this country. I am pleased to indicate that the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which was signed into law on 16 July 2006 provides for significant amendments to the Firearms Acts 1925 to 2000 to meet the concerns raised by Mr. Justice Barr.

The Birmingham report offers a thorough independent analysis of the facts surrounding the false confession made by Dean Lyons based on the evidence of all relevant witnesses. It is the first report to be completed under the mechanism provided for under the Commission of Investigation Act 2004, an alternative to statutory tribunals of inquiry. Senators will recall the mechanism was introduced by me on the grounds that the very public and sometimes adversarial nature of tribunals of inquiry does not lend itself easily to timely and cost-effective investigations. The commission of investigation mechanism contained several new features intended to achieve that goal without compromising or encroaching upon the proper conduct of an investigation.

Mr. Birmingham's inquiry was completed in six months and cost approximately €1 million. We must reflect the costs associated with the Barr tribunal on Abbeylara which took three and a half years were approximately €20 million. The body politic must have a variety of inquisitorial instruments available to it. These facts speak for themselves. Without any implied criticism, the contrast between the cost and length of the Birmingham and Barr inquiries deserves reflection in view of the fact that each inquiry dealt with subjects of comparable complexity.

George Birmingham concludes no deliberate attempt was made to undermine the rights of Dean Lyons. His view is that inappropriate leading questions asked by interviewing gardaí were central to what transpired. He points out one of the main Garda conduits to Dean Lyons of the ultimately damning information was the loudest voice in his defence at subsequent case conferences.

The complexity of Dean Lyons's vulnerable personality was shown by the fact that his guilty plea was no mere fleeting admission made in an oppressive interview room and immediately recanted. On the contrary, Dean Lyons's complex and vulnerable personality gave rise to a situation whereby he maintained his own guilt long after his admissions came about, not only to the Garda Síochána but to a wide variety of other persons including his legal advisers and family members.

Mr. Birmingham also points out Dean Lyons's most elaborate and extensive admissions were made after he took the methadone prescribed for him while he was in custody. Furthermore, his vulnerability was disguised by his relatively high verbal skill. In other words, Mr. Birmingham concludes Dean Lyons's difficulties would not have been immediately obvious to a stranger. The report criticises the failure of the team to notify the DPP about the doubts which existed within it, doubts which the report concludes were raised at case conferences despite the denials of some members of the management team.

The decision of the original investigation team three months after its original recommendation to recommend to the DPP that the existing charge of murder against Dean Lyons should proceed and that an additional charge should be laid in respect of the second fatality is described by Mr. Birmingham as "difficult to understand and even harder to justify". This comment was made in the light of the fact that at the time Assistant Commissioner James McHugh was in the process of conducting an analysis of the various admissions on behalf of the Commissioner. This analysis ultimately contributed to the DPP's decision to drop the charges.

To date, no-one has been brought to trial for these brutal murders. This is a heavy burden for the families and friends of Dean Lyons and the victims of the murders to bear. It is my firm view the three Morris reports and the Barr and Birmingham reports demand an analysis which transcends their individual circumstances if we are to get full value from them. I believe they tell us quite a lot about what is wrong and what needs to be done to improve the performance of the Garda Síochána in the way required.

One issue which clearly emerges is the weakness of management at senior level in the Garda Síochána. It neither gives full leadership nor actively manages in a way which utilises the resources available to the Garda Síochána to best advantage. These leadership failures are matters of the most profound seriousness. The fact they are manifest in different ways in each of the reports must tell us something.

In order to maximise levels of performance in a sustainable way it is self-evident that the brightest and best must operate at senior levels within the force. The first and most obvious issue is that of selection, more particularly the question of promotion practices within the Garda Síochána. New promotion regulations were agreed by Government. These new regulations will bring about significant modernisation of the system for promotion within the Garda Síochána. They formalise the requirement for promotion to be based on merit and for all competitions to be held in a manner which is fair, impartial and objective; in line with best practice; consistent throughout and open, accountable and transparent. These principles, combined with the introduction of additional external expertise in selecting candidates for promotion within the force, will result in a system which reflects current best practice.

It is clear from earlier reports by Mr. Justice Morris that the churning of appointments and short-stay appointments to divisional positions is a serious problem within the Garda Síochána. It is pointless to appoint somebody on a constant merry-go-round basis to be chief superintendent in County Donegal if, by the time he or she is sitting at the desk he or she is being prepared for career advancement. This applies at every level of the force. We must put in place a regionalised system with a degree of permanence and time commitment by individuals to the area to which they are promoted to supervise and manage.

I recently established a four person advisory group to advise the Garda Commissioner on issues of management and leadership development in the force. I asked Senator Maurice Hayes to chair it and he kindly agreed. At the same time, the newly established Garda Síochána Inspectorate, in keeping with its statutory role of providing independent advice on matters of policing, addressed the issue of the appropriate management structures at senior level in its first report.

Both groups set about their tasks with diligence and produced reports which deal with management and the structures needed to facilitate optimum performance in the Garda organisation. These reports are seminal and timely documents at this juncture in the redevelopment of the Garda Síochána, with an acceptance on the part of the Commissioner and senior officers of the need for change and the Garda Síochána Act reforms being implemented across the entire organisation. The Garda Síochána Act is the trellis on which genuine reform can be trained and made effective. The Act is not the be-all and end-all of reform.

I accept the recommendations contained in these reports. It is crucial the appropriate structures and systems are put in place at senior level to carry the changes through. I fully agree these changes should have been made years ago but for whatever reason they were not. They are happening now.

I wish to make one point about these reports, a point made by Senator Maurice Hayes in the media. The advisory group under Senator Hayes comprises people with considerable experience in managing large and complex organisations going through a period of change in an environment that was also changing. The Garda inspectorate brings an international and modern policing perspective to the table. It is instructive to see how both bodies independently of each other reached similar conclusions on many issues.

A number of changes are taking place within the force at present and more will occur. It is not possible for me to go into detail on each of them in the time available. For the record, I listed them at the outset of my speech today. However, legislative and organisational change is not enough. A willingness to embrace change from the top down is also required. So far, my experience is that the appetite for change within the force itself is strong at all levels. Once again, I want to express my appreciation to Commissioner Noel Conroy and his senior management team for their wholehearted support for and co-operation with this process of reform.

These are difficult times for the Garda Síochána. I have no doubt that in three or five years' time, whenever it may be, it will be recognised that in his tenure of office, Commissioner Conroy presided over the difficult obligation, which was sometimes a poisoned chalice, of bringing about major reform to an organisation which was justly proud of its previous traditions and conservative on agendas for change. I do not doubt the Commissioner, deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners fully recognise the need for far-reaching reform of the way the force is managed, such as the introduction of civilian staff and administrative staff to assist. In that context, we have a great deal to look forward to in the change which is only starting.

I welcome the Minister to the House. A total of 23 people were shot dead this year in this country. More than 60 violent murders occurred. Gun crime reached epidemic proportions. Drugs are more freely available than ever before. This is the legacy of the Government. I think of the personal attacks and abuse the former Minister with responsibility for justice, Nora Owen, received. I shudder to think what it would be like if she presided over the lawless situation we now have. The challenges for the Garda Síochána are great. Ireland has benefited greatly from the Garda Síochána, a body of dedicated men and women with a proud tradition of service since the foundation of the State. We are blessed in having an unarmed police force, something about which we should be proud. We owe the founders of the State a debt of gratitude as a result of this. Through the early years of the Free State and, more recently, during the Troubles, the Garda has acted to secure our State and protect our citizens.

However, in recent years, we have suffered and the Garda has certainly suffered from the deplorable actions of a number of individuals which have been widely publicised in the media. The revelations made by the Morris tribunal and the Nally report have severely damaged the Garda Síochána and deeply affected public confidence in the organisation. There now exists an alarming situation whereby some members of the public second-guess the motivation of decisions of gardaí, doubt the bona fides of individual members and question the honesty of the force as a whole.

There is no question that revelations of Garda behaviour in Donegal were shocking in the extreme. Many of us could not even believe that there were gardaí who had the audacity to undermine the rule of law so subversively and deliberately to deprive innocent citizens of their rights to liberty, due process and the presumption of innocence, to name but a few. However, others were not surprised in the least because they had seen at first hand the actions of some individuals within the Garda which were, in no uncertain terms, corrupt, unscrupulous and ruthless. Even worse was the evidence of indiscipline and, in some instances, cover-ups and the indications of the development of a culture far removed from the essential core mission of the Garda, which is to serve the State and its citizens.

What happened in Donegal left much to be desired and needs to be tackled. It is incumbent on us all to confront this decline in confidence, address the root causes of it and implement changes and reforms that will truly turn around the Garda, not just in terms of public perception but in terms of the proper organisation of the force. The Garda must be seen as a proper organisation to implement policies that will generate confidence in the public.

The Garda must be equipped to deal with 21st century problems. I welcome the fact that the Minister stated here today that he has informed the Garda Commissioner that any resources he requires will be furnished to him to tackle gang crime. I always suggest that it is better late than never, certainly where gang crime, which is despicable at the moment, is concerned. People in communities fear for their lives because of the lawlessness on our streets.

Fine Gael wants the Garda to be the best police force in the world. We do not want it just to be good or adequate. We want an excellent force which is widely referred to as such throughout the globe. We would expect optimum results in the prevention and detection of crime from such a force. What would we do differently if we were in Government? Fine Gael believes we need to implement measures and change at two different levels. The first is at an organisational level which involves bringing institutional change to an outdated structure and bringing it into line with best international practice, thereby returning accountability and transparency to a force desperately in need of them. The second is at community level where there is a need for communities to be policed by real, dedicated Garda officers whose only concern is the welfare and safety of the community, which is paramount if we are to restore public confidence in our police force.

The Garda Síochána Act 2005, which we supported, goes some way towards this, but much more needs to be done. I am glad the Minister has acknowledged that. In respect of institutional changes we believe are necessary, the time is right to establish an independent Garda authority, incorporating the existing Garda inspectorate, whose function would be to drive the agenda for reform and ensure the measures are implemented rather than put on the long finger, which the Minister acknowledged has happened. The authority would have a clear remit and would inject professionalism and modernism into a force that has served the country well but which now needs to be updated. I think we are all of the same opinion in this regard. The idea is that there should be an overarching body taking responsibility for implementing best practice.

The Garda can borrow extensively from the corporate and private sector in this regard. All major companies in Ireland manage their development through systems such as this. They ensure they monitor the trends amongst their competitors, modernise and even keep ahead of the pace. These ideas should govern the thinking in Garda management in particular.

The Garda Commissioner needs to be looking constantly at policing organisations, comparing, contrasting, taking the good and benefiting from expertise in similar jurisdictions throughout the world. This is why I believe an authority would comprise civilians with extensive experience of change management and strategy in both public and private sector positions.

The independent Garda authority would drive an agenda for root and branch reform in a number of areas. It would radically revise Garda rostering which wastes huge levels of Garda resources every year. The new authority would demand international best practice in areas of management, including taking responsibility for recommending senior Garda appointments to the Government and opening Garda recruitment to external candidates.

I recognise that civilianisation has begun, but we have been saying for the past ten years that this should happen. I am glad the expertise of civilians is now being brought into the force. When he became Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani gave a commitment to deal with law and order issues in that city. One of the measures he introduced was COMSTAT, a system for comparing and contrasting performance in precincts in the city. This system or a variation of it could be very useful in addressing the discrepancies in Garda regional successes.

Fine Gael has always highlighted the huge differences in detection rates throughout the country. There should be little or no difference between Garda regions or divisions. A person robbed in Tramore should expect the thief to be caught as much as a person in Tralee or Tallaght. The authority would also review the use of the annual budget, report to the Minister on progress in given policy areas, ensure inter-agency co-operation, maintain close ties with the Northern Ireland Policing Board, review the retirement age for senior gardaí and make recommendations to the Government on the numerical strength of the force while remaining accountable to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and keeping him or her informed of all its meetings and decisions.

One of the most important changes a new Garda authority would make would be in respect of the organisational structure of the Garda. According to a recent report by the Garda inspectorate, the management of the Garda is too top-heavy, with a large number of senior personnel responsible for top-level implementation of policy and change management. The structure must be changed, streamlined and devolved in order that regional commissioners will have power to take action in their areas and be responsible for the taking of such action. I accept that the latter is not dissimilar to what the Minister stated earlier.

The Garda Commissioner must take a step back from the day-to-day running of the force so that he or she can concentrate on major issues such as the implementation of reform. The commissioner's operational responsibilities should be devolved to a deputy commissioner and his or her administrative responsibilities should be also devolved to another deputy commissioner. I support the approach that provides for the appointment of a deputy commissioner for administration. All departments that will fall under the remit of such an individual — including human resource management, ICT, finance and health and safety — should be, as far as possible, staffed by civilians, particularly if the relevant expertise is not available within the force. There also should be a single, civilianised position of director of communications. The responsibility of the latter would be to act as a spokesperson for the force and to ensure the communication of Garda messages to the press and members of the force is dealt with in a professional manner.

The suggestions I have made would ensure the comprehensive civilianisation of the force. A shocking number of fully trained gardaí are carrying out jobs that could and should be done by people with no policing expertise. A parallel civilianised stream of personnel must be put in place to provide cover in the areas to which I refer. It is an inexcusable waste of time for gardaí to be sitting in barracks, stamping passports and driving licence application forms and answering telephones. These jobs should be done by anyone with appropriate administrative skills.

The Government has been in power for almost a decade and the issue of Garda numbers has been to the fore for most of that period. Why has civilianisation not yet been implemented to any great extent. Real civilianisation has a twofold benefit and would allow An Garda Síochána to have the best of both worlds. There is a substantial store of knowledge and experience in the private sector that could be put to good use in running the Garda Síochána. If the force fails to embrace civilianisation, a wealth of intelligence will be lost to the State. Civilianisation would allow the Garda to introduce certain expertise, particularly in the area of administration, in respect of which gardaí might not have the requisite skills, in order that best international practice can be implemented.

There is a need to introduce changes in community policing and some of these are dealt with in the relevant legislation. We must do more, however, to put additional gardaí on the beat and to give communities back to the people, rather allowing them, as is the case at present, to be terrorised by criminals.

I wanted to comment on Garda training and discipline but I cannot do so within the time constraints. I will say, however, that before we have a truly accountable and disciplined police force, a significant cultural change will have to take place among individual gardaí. Officers must convince people that the force, as a whole, has their interests at heart at all times and that it is accountable and transparent in its operations. People should feel safe on the streets and in their homes.

I look forward to the contributions of other Members to the debate. The Garda has served the State well since its foundation. I accept that there have been difficulties and that problems remain. However, I am confident the Garda Síochána can rise to the many challenges ahead.

The Minister approached the Garda Commissioner and informed him that he can have any resources he requires to combat gangland crime. It is not before time that this was done.

I welcome the Minister and I compliment him on the various initiatives he has taken in this area. Since his appointment as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, it was obvious he intended to address any deficiencies within the force and to strengthen and increase the manpower and resources available to it. He has made significant progress in that regard. That progress and the changes required are ongoing.

The reports we are debating paint a sad picture in respect of specific issues but they may also highlight deficiencies that existed. Mr. Justice Morris probably summed up matters when he stated that he was staggered by the amount of indiscipline and insubordination he found within An Garda Síochána. Any democrat would be alarmed when an eminent judge makes findings of that nature.

It would be remiss of us to continue to focus on the deficiencies and not balance matters by paying tribute to the many fine gardaí who provide selfless service in what is a difficult and dangerous job. We are indebted to them for, in general, having served the State well in difficult times — in the past and currently in the fight against gangland crime — often at great danger to themselves. We depend upon them for our individual and collective security and in respect of the security of the State. We must acknowledge, as Senator Cummins observed, that by any yardstick the force has served us well.

We must recognise that the members of the Garda Síochána are unarmed, which has a number of implications. I am sure many, if not all, Members and the Minister welcome the fact that the force is unarmed. In light of threats to the State such as that currently posed by organised crime gangs, this issue should not be treated as a sacred cow. We should periodically review whether having an unarmed force is appropriate and whether the latter is effective in the context of acting as a deterrent to crime. I am not advocating that we should change the position. However, expert analysis is required to evaluate whether changing the policy might make a positive contribution to the fight against crime.

All of the reports that are the subject of this debate identified deficiencies. However, that relating to Donegal highlighted appalling carry-on by particular individuals who reached conclusions as to who should be accused in respect of certain crimes and then fabricating evidence to make a case stand up in court. Such behaviour is completely unacceptable and intolerable in any democratic society. The report to which I refer indicates that a lack of training was provided in respect of leadership roles. In some ways, this matter is being tackled at present but it should really have been dealt with many years ago. The management and promotional system within the Garda ensured that certain people were appointed to particular positions. On one occasion Kathleen O'Toole told that good cops did not mean good managers. They were ineffective and did not have the necessary management skills which even with training they may not have developed. Aptitude tests should be introduced as well as training.

The Minister quoted Mr. Justice Morris as saying:

The Tribunal feels that it is necessary to point out that no one should serve as superintendent without having the training, the expertise, the commitment to duty and the front line experience that will enable them to make real judgments on matters relating to criminal investigation.

This should not be limited to superintendent level but apply also to sergeants and inspectors. Training should be ongoing, not delivered on a one-off basis linked to promotion. There should be continuous reviews which include a focus on best international practice for tackling sophisticated, serious organised crime gangs with global operations.

Like Senator Cummins, I sat on the sub-committee on the Barron inquiry and was shocked to see the failure in the police system in response to the events of the 1970s. This seemed to be endemic. While one might understand that files were missing after a certain period, the loss of evidence in serious criminal cases, involving mass murder is shocking. Files were badly prepared, there was very little communication, headquarters and C3 were unaware of information being gathered close to the Border, and leads and people who should have been interviewed were not followed up. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that there were significant inefficiencies in the force. I suspect they have not all been corrected. Some of the initiatives in the Garda Síochána Bill will, I hope, make significant changes and improvements.

There should be a random audit of Garda activities, conducted annually across the country in which files are sought to see if cases are being properly documented, if leads are being followed and evidence and everything to do with the files is being retained. Only with that discipline in the system will we eventually have the type of Garda operation to which we aspire. The inspectorate can play that role but it needs to be specific.

Criticism of the Garda is also criticism of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform which has been in charge of, and connected to, the Garda throughout these episodes. It is not good enough for the Department to wash its hands of these events, as happened in the 1970s when information was not gathered or recorded, which is incredible. The Department must examine its own systems. The inspectorate should use a clear check list of what applies in best police practice in all serious criminal cases and cover this in reports to the Department. While the Commissioner has a certain autonomy it will not be acceptable for the Department to deny responsibility if something serious goes wrong. It must be laid at the door of the Department as well.

One of these reports was of the first commission of investigation, into the Dean Lyons case. It was conducted over six months at a cost of approximately €1 million. When that is compared with the shenanigans — I use the word advisedly — in Dublin Castle it shows that the system for public inquiries needed to be overhauled. It is unjust to those people whose names have been before those tribunals for between seven and nine years which do not appear to be coming to a conclusion. Justice delayed is justice denied. I compliment the Minister on recognising this and taking action on it.

Apparently these tribunals have cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of euro on exorbitant fees. The only good thing to come out of this process is the competition report on the legal profession which I hope the Minister will embrace. He has already taken steps on aspects of the report but I hope he will opt for independent regulation to ensure that the many good recommendations are put into effect.

We should conduct an audit and review of the tribunals. Any serious issue should be set aside but there is no reason not to transfer some issues to a commission of investigation which could do the work more speedily and at far less cost. I hope the Minister and the Government will initiate that process.

The Garda inspectorate is the most significant change because it will bring in people with expertise to apply checks and balances to ensure that the force functions to the level we set for it. Senator Maurice Hayes has contributed to the four person civilian group. There will be development of management and leadership skills.

Undercover work by the gardaí is not as prevalent as it should be. In other jurisdictions the rate of detection of drug-related and organised crime is related to skill at undertaking undercover work. It is highly dangerous for the individuals involved but seems to be an effective mechanism. It does not seem to be a major part of the Garda Síochána's fight against criminal gangs.

The Garda Reserve is a good idea as is increasing the force and making available necessary resources. I have confidence in the local policing committees but it was wrong to allow the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government soften it.

How sensible is it to have a pilot scheme for bodies that will meet only twice a year? These issues are urgent and we should roll out the committees because they are effective for accountability and at spreading the message locally. They can be a good conduit between gardaí and the community and vice versa. The whistleblowers charter is good, the inspector has already emphasised the need for visibility when the gardaí are on the beat. Rather than gardaí on traffic duty hiding behind a tree, trying to make themselves invisible, it is better for them to be seen because then motorists are aware that there are checks for traffic control. On a recent visit to Japan I noticed huts on each corner where the police are highly visible. The bad news in these reports will result in good being done as deficiencies in the system will be tackled with energy, drive and commitment and the Garda Síochána will be a force of which we and its members can be proud.

I also welcome the Minister. He has been most generous with his time and he has shown great respect for the Seanad by the way in which he has introduced Bills and made himself available to listen to debates such as this one. As a Member of this House, I welcome that.

I wish to refer to a number of matters raised in the Minister's speech before coming to other matters. The first is his acknowledgment that two detectives deliberately planted a weapon at a Traveller campsite, allegedly with a view to ensuring a search under section 29 would be successful. That is a really worrying situation.

Mr. Vincent Browne has done a service to the nation by his dramatisations and inquisitions night after night into these various tribunals, including the one which I believe is properly known as the McBrearty tribunal. It would only be just for the State to pay for the legal costs of the McBrearty family because, as was made clear on one of these programmes, it is not a level playing field. Even accused, impugned gardaí who are in a delicate position have massive support from their organisations and, thereby, from the State. I accept there are some legal technicalities involved but, in fairness, it would be a very good thing.

Senator Jim Walsh referred to whistleblowers. Thank God he did not get into his stride because I have to attend a meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and if he had, I would never get to make my passionate plea for the metro. Let me say a word about the whistleblowers in these two Houses of the Oireachtas, namely, Senator Jim Higgins and Deputy Howlin. They were the ones who brought this matter to public attention, and they did so in the belief that they were covered by parliamentary privilege. It appears that was not completely so and they got into a great deal of difficulty.

This House also experienced difficulty in supporting them in terms of their legal costs. That is dreadful. I urge the Minister to examine this matter further to see whether there are any imperfections in the matter of parliamentary privilege so that honest and decent Members who do the community a service by whistleblowing are protected. One of the things we value most is our parliamentary immunity. It is one of the great safeguards of democracy. I cannot hear what the Minister is mumbling but I am sure I will find out.

I just wonder how many more sets of costs I will have to pay before Senator Norris is finished.

I commended the Minister's party and ministerial colleague, the former Tánaiste, Deputy Harney, because she was accused by the newspapers of saving money. I said I thought it was a very good thing and she should not be penalised for it. Perhaps some of the money the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, is saving can be used for this purpose. The Minister could hardly suggest Deputy Howlin and Senator Jim Higgins did not give the State sterling service. It is wrong that they were put under such pressure as a result. The Minister may take a different view.

I know the Minister agrees with me about one matter, although that was not always the case, namely, warrants issued under section 29. I am sure he will remember when the Bill was going through the House, I was one of those who questioned the role of the police in being allowed to issue warrants. I suggested this should be a judicial function rather than a function of the police. I am pleased the Minister stated, as a result of some of these reports, that he is seriously concerned about this operation and is trying to replace section 29 to define as closely as possible the exceptional circumstances in which warrants may be issued by members of the Garda Síochána. The issuing of warrants by the Garda should be very restricted. It is worrying that the police should take any judicial function, which it appears to me they are doing by issuing warrants. I hope the Minister gives the matter close attention.

I have a high regard for the Garda Síochána. I have had virtually nothing but good relations with it. It is a sterling force of which we can, by and large, be proud. There were a few difficulties in the old days when I was active in the gay community, so to speak. We knew there were one or two police stations that were really frightful because they had a bee in their bonnet about the issue and they knew they had a soft target. That is really the only thing about which I can complain.

I urge the Minister to emphasise the role of community policing. In my area of north inner city Dublin, we had a couple of extraordinarily good, engaging young police officers. They were terrific. They got to know the community and made friends there. Information was passed to them because people liked and respected them. That is what we need.

I do not think there is anything peculiar in the air in County Donegal. Having praised Mr. Vincent Browne I now utter an appeal to him, which I doubt he will hear from here, to lay off now because I am suffering from McBrearty fatigue.

I would say the Minister is too.

What I said previously stands, but one can have enough. It would be incorrect to assume these matters are confined to the County Donegal area. It is necessary to keep an eye on the situation. The Minister will be familiar with the old Latin tag, quis custodiet ipsos custodes, who will guard the guards themselves? We need to keep an eye on this to ensure these practices do not spread. It is a pity that one or two of the detectives involved there appear to be decent people who were led astray. That is a cause of great concern.

I am pleased the Minister approved of the Birmingham report, given its comparative rapidity, the surgical skill displayed and the lack of enormous fees associated with it. As he is in the House, I also commend Senator Maurice Hayes. He was centrally involved in the Patten report. The experience he gained there will undoubtedly be of use in terms of what is recommended in the various reports recently made available to the Minister. There is no doubt the Patten report was a significant one.

I am tired of the constant bickering over Garda numbers. I urge the political parties to lay off trying to confuse people about numbers. I have listened to the debate and it appears to me the Minister is approximately correct. It depends on the snapshot date at which the numbers are taken. One can argue the toss but that leads both sides into folly.

There was not a word about numbers today.

I know that. I do not accuse Senator Cummins at all. He might well have been called Himmler if he had referred to numbers.

I think it was Goebbels.

I know it was, but the Minister has already used the Goebbels analogy so I thought he might like another little smear and Himmler is more suited to Senator Cummins as he has glasses.

It is most unfortunate that people would play politics with these numbers because they are approximately correct. It would be fair enough if there was a real problem. That is partly due to the Garda reserve, etc. I welcome that fact. I compliment the Minister, to whom I am not always complimentary, on facing down a mini-revolt in the Garda by sticking to his position. He said he was Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, that he was introducing this measure which was done democratically and passed by the Oireachtas and all the rest of it, and that was it and eventually it was accepted. The Minister won. That was a good day for democracy. The experience of other police forces, including on the neighbouring island, has shown that while it is not a replacement for the police, a reserve force can help.

I approve of civilianising the police force. It is idiotic to have qualified policemen and women answering telephones, typing letters and manning computers. I accept there are times when this is necessary but no garda should be exclusively pinioned into this position. I welcome the recommendation that a civilian should be appointed at deputy Garda Commissioner level dealing with administration and human resource management. That is very good and I would like to see as much replacement as possible of gardaí engaged in office work. I commend those responsible for the report and I commend the Minister because it appears he is going to take the recommendations on board.

I have here an article which actually approves of this as it states that it allows secretaries, receptionists, analysts, senior crime officers, financial personnel and anything else that is appropriate to be made up of civilians. It goes on to state that this is one of the most difficult areas to bring about in the Police Service of Northern Ireland. I would not be surprised if it was my colleague over there who forged this because he or somebody has come up with the very happy phrase, "Many police officers do not mind being in the comfort and warmth of the barracks rather than out on the streets." One can understand that and empathise with the human situation, but when faced with the difficulties with which we are faced, I do not think we can take as a major consideration the comfort, the warmth and security of the barracks as opposed to how hot and cold the weather is out on the streets.

Both the Minister and his colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, have been involved in the establishment of joint policing committees. On Monday last I attended my first meeting of the central sub-committee of the joint policing committee in Store Street Garda station, having volunteered to do so. It was extremely useful. It was entertaining in some ways to see a representative of Sinn Féin chairing it and sitting next to a chief inspector. I rather enjoyed that and it shows we have travelled a certain distance. The matters that come under review are very ordinary and humble matters such as litter, vandalism, anti-social behaviour, public drunkenness and so on.

The Senator has one minute remaining.

I hope it will be as flexible as Senator Walsh's minute. The problem of drunkenness needs to be looked at. The Minister needs to look at the licensing laws because they are far too vague. I complained about licensing laws and I got into severe trouble, but the Minister knows every huckster's shop in this town is stuffed to the roof with vodka.

I wish to raise one other matter — I have a flexible minute remaining — and that is the issue of drugs. Everyone is looking for a solution to the drugs problem. There is one, but it is a difficult one to take. The Minister will definitely not agree with me on this, given what he has said so far. I believe it has got to be tackled at an international level. It will not be helped by the fact that large countries such as the United States have been clearly involved in massive narcotics trafficking in order to fund the undermining of democratically elected regimes, such as in Nicaragua where the Contras were massively funded by narcotics trafficking in which the Americans were openly involved. Let us look at the situation in Uzbekistan where the US and Britain turn a blind eye to the enormous narcotics traffic under the aegis of President Karimov. If international agreement could be obtained it would help to legalise, licence and control it. This would ensure that crime levels would drop massively, addicts would be less prone to die because they would get a quality controlled substance, life would be better all around and the godfathers would be wiped out because what is driving this is the financial incentive.

We found a tonne of cannabis in Westmeath or somewhere, but so what? It simply has not stemmed the tide of drugs; it does not work. All it does is drive up the cost of drugs and the guns come in because of this. One has to look at the whole issue of drugs internationally. With the best will in the world one will never win the alleged war on drugs. It is as specious as the war on terror. One has to understand the enemy rather than denounce it and be prepared to take unpopular steps. There are senior police officers all over Europe who will say exactly the same. Ireland cannot do it on its own. These discussions should start now if we are really serious. We know the practice on the streets already.

The Senator's time has concluded.

I recognise the minute was definitely flexible. We are doing it already in a minor way by the provision of methadone maintenance programmes. We should look honestly at them. I did not come up with this solution on my own. I heard this being advocated 15 years ago from the Fianna Fáil benches in the Seanad by its then spokesman on health, Dr. John O'Connell.

Enough said.

I welcome the Minister to the House and congratulate him on the efforts he has made and is making in improving the police services. If I were not convinced of that, my colleagues and I would not have been fallbacks. I am grateful for his assurance that recommendations made have been seriously considered and will be acted on. I do not want to be accused of insider trading, so I will keep to fairly general points.

I welcome the Morris and Nally reports which are hugely important. In particular, Judge Morris has given a penetrating analysis in very difficult circumstances. What the Nally report showed is the difficulty of the interface between what one may call intelligence and ordinary policing. This will always remain difficult to manage whether one has a policing board or not.

While there were things I would rather have seen in the police Act, the Act is what we have and we should work with it and start to build the necessary relationships. The Minister said the Ombudsman Commission would begin operation in the new year. It would be helpful to know when in the new year it will commence. I had thought it might be in operation in late autumn and certainly by the end of the year. If for whatever reason there has been slippage it is important to get that element into place.

It is refreshing to see the inspectorate in place. It is hugely important in benchmarking Garda practice against international best practice. These are police officers talking to police officers. When they talk the same language they have a far better chance of making an impact than any of us sitting on the outside.

I was not totally enchanted with the Barr report, for a couple of reasons. I thought the purpose of a tribunal was to establish the facts and draw conclusions from them. I get more worried when they begin to speculate on what would have happened if the facts had been different. I think that takes a tribunal into rather difficult territory.

I also think it was unfair to individual gardaí to name them. The gardaí do not go out to shoot people. The people who had to do that in these circumstances will carry that with them for the rest of their lives. It was unfair to pillory them. However, I am encouraged to know that some of the recommendations have been adopted. I wonder which ones. I hope the Garda is not waiting for every tribunal to put the last dot and comma in place. A key element of the Barr report was to ensure that in every region there were properly trained people capable of dealing with the circumstances and taking control of the situation.

The reports on the inspectorate, in which I had an involvement, made two key recommendations. The first related to regionalisation and devolution, which if achieved would result in a series of groupings leading to real accountability allowing for building up the capacity in the unit by having the people to deal with it. The other is civilianisation. I am glad the Minister has accepted that we need somebody at deputy commissioner level. The sooner that is done the better. It is important to get that person in and to marshal people under him or her. It would bring to the organisation skills and an attitude of mind that it badly needs. The support across the House for civilianisation is evident and the process needs to be accelerated. I have seen documents that suggest civilianisation could be achieved over a period of 21 years, which is nonsense. It needs to be done in two or three years. It is one of the ways to get experienced valuable policemen on the streets where people want to see them in order to be reassured.

There is a problem, which the Minister may need to take up with the Minister for Finance. It seems rather more difficult than most people believe it should be to replace a garda with a civilian because of the Civil Service numbers game. Substitutes need to be found in other places. In some civilianised jobs there may be a problem of filling round holes with square pegs because there happens to be somebody in the wider Civil Service who might, following a shampoo, become an analyst or something like that, which is a poor approach to the issue. There seems to be rigidity in this regard. It may be possible to outsource much of what is done by gardaí to other people, which is what is done in many places.

Further to what Senator Jim Walsh said, we might need to redefine the relationship between the Department and the Garda, given the new responsibility of the Garda Commissioner as Accounting Officer. Senator Cummins made a plea that the Commissioner should be left clear to take on the major strategic tasks. He cannot have everything come up the line to him. It may be because of pressure coming from this House and the other House that a Minister is expected to know everything that goes on in every Garda station. We need to steel ourselves to accept it may not be possible and to find other ways of doing it.

We need to recognise the problem in such organisations is that the position of Garda Commissioner is a lonely one. He needs some help and support — I am not sure what it is. He carries very heavy responsibility for the country. Successive Commissioners have done so with distinction and honour. What I have to say reflects what the Minister has said. In any dealings that my colleagues and I have had with the Garda, we have had a very open dialogue and found a ready acceptance of the changes that need to be made. Following the publication of these reports, there is a public mood and a mood within the Garda for change. It is important to take advantage of that wind.

Reference was made to training and recruitment. We need to recognise that those being recruited to the Garda are very different from those recruited a number of years ago. It is no longer a case of people coming in straight from school. Many people are joining with university degrees and they need to be motivated and supported. When everybody is recruited at the same age they move up the ranks at the same time and leave the force at the same time. It is critical to deal with that problem also.

Without a market for drugs, we would have no sellers. I recently read a report in a newspaper by one of these chick-lit young lady journalists who claimed that she did not know anybody who did not take cocaine, which is a terrible claim. Until some of these trendy middle-class people and some people who are in the media appear in court, it will be very hard to preach to people in the inner city about the dangers of drugs.

I welcome the Minister to the House to debate the implications for governance, accountability, discipline and training in the Garda Síochána arising from the findings and conclusions of a number of reports, including the Barr report. I again sympathise with the Carthy family and the people of Abbeylara following the shooting of John and all they have been through over the past six and a half years since that dreadful day in Abbeylara, which is in the northern part of my native County Longford. I was travelling to a conference in Tralee when I heard what was unfolding in Abbeylara and it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

The Barr report runs to 744 pages, 16 chapters and several sections, covering: the terms of reference; interpretation; John's background; the events leading up to 19 and 20 April 2000; the final minutes; John Carthy's exit from the family home and the subsequent fatal shooting; eyewitness accounts that have been taken into consideration; the management of the incident in Abbeylara; the aftermath; the post-mortem examination; and the involvement of the media. It also highlights the role of the emergency response unit in great detail, gives us a greater insight into the structures in the Garda Síochána and last, but by no means least, makes recommendations and gives conclusions and a summary of command failures at Abbeylara on the day and the days leading up to the incident.

Scene commanders and others made serious errors contributing to the disaster in Abbeylara, including the failure to have John Carthy's doctor interviewed in depth by a competent experienced and fully briefed officer as a matter of urgency early in the first evening and the failure to bring to the scene promptly his psychiatrist to advise the negotiators and commanders. The report highlights the gap of several hours. It was also wrong not to have his mother, sisters and other close friends interviewed early as a matter of urgency by competent experienced officers who were properly briefed on the known facts regarding his health, family background and history to ascertain why he told his mother he intended to defend the old homestead against what was happening to it.

As we all know, the family was due to move into a new local authority house, provided by Longford County Council and the old house was to be demolished. It was also the tenth anniversary almost to the day of the death of his father, to whom he was very close.

Many other failures are outlined in the report. In his report, Mr. Justice Barr stated that he was in no doubt that the Garda management of the siege at Abbeylara was defective in many respects and fell far short of what was required to contend with the situation successfully and to minimise the risk to life. Many of us share Mr. Justice Barr's concern that Mr. Carthy's requests for cigarettes and to speak to a solicitor — simple requests from an ill man — were not met. There is general disappointment that less lethal options were not deployed by the Garda at the siege.

I have respect for gardaí, who face significant dangers and challenges on a daily basis. They must confront dangerous criminals who would make light of injuring or killing them, for instance, and must attend dreadful death scenes. Gardaí are confronted with more violence than most of us ever face. We should all be grateful and proud that more than 90% of gardaí carry out their duties in a professional manner.

At Abbeylara in April 2000, however, John Carthy was shot dead by gardaí in an incompetent siege operation. It is dreadful to consider the lack of intelligence with which he was treated and the hassle this nervous and vulnerable young man encountered from some gardaí in the months leading up to the siege. Information regarding the number of times he was taken to the Garda station for questioning emerged only in evidence to the inquiry. The Barr tribunal, which produced a report of 744 pages and cost the taxpayer more than €18 million, failed to answer important questions such as whether gardaí had an alternative course of action open to them other than shooting John Carthy dead.

I welcome the publication last week of draft regulations for a Garda whistleblowers charter. As one step on the road to Garda reform, it is welcome. However, many other recommendations in the Morris report which are necessary to restore full public confidence in the Garda have not been implemented. Fine Gael has long supported the idea that whistleblowers should enjoy the full protection of the law. This draft charter will help to foster a more transparent culture within the Garda. I hope the Minister will sign it into law early next year.

A whistleblowers charter could have been in place a long time ago if the Government had not voted down Private Members' Bills on this subject because of its stance that only whistleblowers in some sectors merit legal protection. Much work remains to be done to improve Garda discipline. Some gardaí have yet to understand that they are not above the law. Another mechanism that must come into line before we can be confident about Garda discipline is the Garda Ombudsman Commission. Three commissioners were appointed last February amid a great fanfare but, almost a year later, they have not yet begun their work.

In view of the Barr report's emphasis on the need for a review of Garda command structures and training, and its emphasis on the lack of working links between the Garda and State psychologists, an urgent review of preventive measures must take place. The evidence before the Barr tribunal points away from any suggestion of suicidal intention on the part of John Carthy and raises issues that require immediate resolution. We cannot afford to wait for another tragedy to occur. We must learn from the mistakes that occurred at Abbeylara and put the measures suggested by Mr. Justice Barr in place immediately.

These measures include the equipping of the emergency response unit with taser stun guns. Some funding has been put in place for this equipment but it is insufficient. In addition, there must be further investigation of other non-lethal options to a shoot-to-kill reaction. We must prioritise the establishment of a retraining model such as that in Victoria, Australia, which have a high success rate to facilitate and organised restructuring of the Garda response to siege situations. I acknowledge that some work has been done in this regard but it is vital that there is improved training for Garda recruits and refresher courses for all officers, which should include basic instruction on mental illness. Consideration must also be given to how many psychologists should be employed by the State to provide expert assistance in siege and other situations.

It is increasingly the case that the main beneficiaries of the work of the tribunals are barristers. In ever repeating cycles, tribunals are rarely completed within the allotted timescale. The benefits in terms of accountability are lost in the bitter aftertaste left by the final legal bill, which in this case amounts to some €18 million.

I hope this report will bring some comfort to John's family, who have acted with such admirable restraint and responsibility in the years since his death. I hope they receive the degree of closure which they have long sought and that the Minister will deal with the recommendations of Mr. Justice Barr immediately rather than procrastinating on the issues.

I welcome the Minister and his officials. It is greatly to his and his Department's credit, and that of his predecessor, that when serious problems self-evidently arose in the Garda Síochána, they did not attempt to sweep them under the carpet. They did not try to establish some type of whitewash tribunal that might evade the prospect of appalling vistas and so on. Instead, they tackled the problem head-on and are applying the lessons learned. I preface my contribution by observing that I have no sympathy whatsoever with a defeatist approach to the spread of drugs. That crime will probably last as long as humanity does not mean we must accept it as a fact.

I will focus the rest of my remarks on the Nally report, which I welcome for its clear conclusions. I have an interest to declare in this in that I was impugned in some of the allegations made by Detective Sergeant White. These allegations were brought to the attention of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, who issued a report on the matter. That report was given to the authorities in this jurisdiction, who instigated an inquiry. While I am a great admirer of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, I regret that credence was given to allegations in a way that has proved to this day deeply upsetting to the families of the Omagh bombing victims. More attention should have been paid to the motivation of those who sought recourse from the ombudsman's office.

After the successful ratification of the Good Friday Agreement in both parts of the island, problems persisted in regard to loyalism and Orange marches and the continued existence of three paramilitary dissident organisations on the republican side. Discussions were held with the INLA which moved towards a ceasefire. It had already decided to declare a ceasefire before the Omagh bombing. I had a meeting, which is on the record, with the political front of the Real IRA, the 32-County Sovereignty Committee, in early July, urging it to declare a ceasefire. It gave me a document of historical-cum-legal-cum-ideological arguments which was passed to the Attorney General's office. A reply was sent effectively at the end of July, a fortnight before the Omagh bomb went off, demolishing the case for continued struggle and for acceptance of the validity of the people's decision.

The Omagh bomb went off on 15 August 1998. I was in Donegal, having spoken at the Magill Summer School the previous night. I heard the news of the bomb at 5.20 p.m. on the radio while in Killybegs. I went home another way; the natural route would have been by Omagh. I remember explaining to the Taoiseach late that night that the State faced as large a threat as it had during the Emergency. Firm action was needed to prevent any repetition of the Omagh bomb and to give confidence, both North and South, in the State's determination to act. That was very important in the reactions of other people, including loyalists.

The then Government recalled the Dáil to pass draconian legislation which was to bring such paramilitary activities to an end quickly. Allegations were made by Detective Sergeant White, presumably on the basis that the best form of defence is attack and with the motive of discouraging the State from pursuing other matters against him by impugning the leadership of the Garda Síochána and a member of the Taoiseach's office. To suggest in some way or other that Fr. Reid, who had met some of those associated with the Real IRA in Dundalk, was on behalf of the Irish Government offering in exchange for a ceasefire that the Omagh bombers would not be pursued is false.

I spoke with complete frankness to the Nally inquiry. There is multiple documentary proof to show that at all times the then Government was determined to pursue the Omagh bombers and anyone involved in illegal acts that had occurred before that time. The only question, in the light of the legislation passed, was whether the State would proceed with a general round-up of everyone associated with the Real IRA, necessary as a preventative measure, to ensure nothing like Omagh occurred again. Alternatively, would the State focus only on those who had committed crimes? It was the expectation of and the demand from the Government that the Real IRA would disband at the end of 1998. Three months after a ceasefire had been called, I met some representatives of the Real IRA, which is on the record. Unfortunately, no such assurance could be given. I believe that was a great mistake and an act of folly on the part of those concerned. It is one reason several dozen people are sitting in Portlaoise Prison.

It is unfortunately the case that at least two dissident republican organisations are not on ceasefire. I do not wish to exaggerate but I believe they are a source of danger and disability in the process, especially taken in conjunction with those who may be disaffected within the mainstream organisation. I urge the Government and the authorities to continue to do all in their powers to close down those paramilitary organisations and their military activates. This remains an important priority.

I commend the work that went into the various tribunal and inspectorate reports and the report by Senator Maurice Hayes and the advisory group on Garda management. The work was carried out with such attention to detail and each report contains several recommendations against which no one can argue. The tribunals were examples of those that have worked. The interim reports allowed recommendations to be implemented as the investigations proceeded. We know from experience that tribunals take a long time but these tribunals were prompt in coming to their conclusions.

The first report of the Morris tribunal contained many important recommendations which allowed them to be implemented quickly. The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has been criticised, however, on the publication of the later reports. Village magazine asked why the publication of the later reports of the Morris tribunal were delayed until August 2006. The delay, it argued, gave the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, time to protect his flank against further criticisms of not having acted on previous recommendations. It continued that he published disciplinary regulations which go some way in implementing the recommendations made two years ago. I would be interested to hear his views on this criticism.

The Republic of Ireland is behind in reforms of its police force. It is not unique in facing a crisis in its police force. Many countries, such as the United States, Belgium, Australia, the UK and Northern Ireland, have had to confront the type of issues we face. The point is how one responds to such crises.

The Labour Party usually offers the Patten commission as a good example of reform. The Patten commission examined best practice. Senator Maurice Hayes has brought great expertise to the Republic of Ireland in terms of how we can reform our police service. He is working with the Minister in that regard. He was appointed to the advisory group and it has made important recommendations. He was also involved in the Patten commission.

A year or so ago I attended a lecture by Paul Smith, if I remember his name correctly. He is a QC and was involved in the Patten commission. He said the commission examined best practice elsewhere and decided that the best practice — this is my interpretation of what he said — is where there is an emphasis on public accountability, community policing and problem solving. The way the Patten commission recommended achieving those objectives, and how it set about reforming the police force, was through setting up a policing board and local committees, with an emphasis on accountability, working with the community and so forth.

The Minister has said previously that Northern Ireland is different and unique. However, it is not unique. The reforms that were made in Northern Ireland reflected what the Patten commission decided was best practice throughout the world. In fact, the commission tried to improve on that and went as far as it could in that regard. That is the problem for the Minister. He has brought about reforms but he has not gone the extra mile whereby one could say he has radically shaken up the police force and reformed it. I welcome the reforms the Minister has made but they do not go far enough. That is the Labour Party position.

The way the Garda Síochána is managed and organised is still subservient to the old structures, although they are being reformed. Some aspects of the type of reform introduced in Northern Ireland have been introduced here and that is welcome. However, one example of how the Minister has not opted for ultimate reform and ultimate public accountability is with regard to the appointment of a Garda authority.

With regard to academic analysis of the different approaches to policing, Dr. Barry Vaughan, an academic at the IPA, has examined two theoretical approaches. One, which still dominates in Ireland, is the managerial notion of policing and seeing citizens as customers. The second, which places more importance on police-community relations, aims to maximise the input and participation of the local community in the delivery of security and safety. This model involves far more accountability and public involvement. Paul Smith said in the lecture to which I referred that the police are the public and the public are the police. They are not separate entities. The police are there on the public's behalf to provide law and order, security and so forth.

It is not only Northern Ireland that has established a police authority. Other countries have established versions of it. Northern Ireland, in fact, was late in implementing it because it had been introduced in Great Britain in the 1960s. The system is reflected at local level. I welcome the Minister's intention to introduce joint policing committees; the sooner he does so, the better. He should then increase the powers of those committees and make them more capable of doing the will of the public, local public representatives and so forth. That is the next step to be taken following establishment of the committees.

The other issue mentioned by members of the Patten commission, as well as in the lecture I attended some time ago in the Royal Academy, is the need to get the police out of cars and onto the streets. That has been done in other countries. It is a case of going back to basics. When I attend meetings about crime in my local community many people, who are now in their 50s, recall that when they were young, they knew the local policeman. He lived down the road or nearby and people knew him. The police were visible in the area and people felt safer. When one makes that argument to policemen they often respond that they cannot do as much if they are walking on the beat and that a car gives them greater mobility and speed. However, it is something that must be considered.

In America, many of the states have examined this and acknowledged that it has to be done. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has also considered it. This brings us back to the issue of community policing, a concept I have recommended. The London Metropolitan Police Service promotes the idea of safer neighbourhoods, where police agree to work with the local community on policing priorities. An example of this is patrols being arranged according to what the community thinks is required and the areas the community believes should be patrolled. This has been very successful in London.

There must be greater emphasis on community policing. It also allows for greater public accountability and working with the public. However, it is given token treatment in Ireland. It is not just about providing a certain number of community policemen, although that is important. In Clondalkin, the Minister increased the number of community gardaí and then slashed the number last year. The number has gone down from 16 in 2005 to nine in 2006. That is according to the Minister's reply to parliamentary questions from my party colleagues in the Dáil.

There must be a change of approach to policing if the concept of community policing is taken on board. The police must take account of the priorities of the community in how they do their work and in making plans for patrolling and so forth. There must be a problem solving approach where one attacks the causes of crime and works at crime prevention instead of reacting to crime. It has been successful in other countries. It probably has not been implemented anywhere as extensively as it should be. In many ways it is something with which police forces in other countries are still coming to grips but it makes sense. Rather than react to events, the police try to deal with the cause of crime. One looks at what is causing certain problems in a particular area and one works with the community to solve them.

In some American states, for example, there are sub-offices in housing estates managed by police officers and people from the community. People in the local neighbourhood can talk to the police or to people working with them about the problems they are experiencing. That is the type of approach that should be introduced here.

I recall meeting the head of the Garda Inspectorate, Kathleen O'Toole, a number of years ago when she held the equivalent position in Boston. I do not remember the exact title she held. She had done great work there and I believe she is the right person for the job here. I read her report and what was striking was her comment that there was a perception that the pendulum was in danger of moving too far in the direction of specialisation, to the detriment of core policing operations. She did not say those specialised operations were not important, but spoke about the need for greater and more effective uniformed police visibility. That is important in terms of overall reform, not just because the public wants it but because it works. It goes back to zero tolerance, about which Deputy O'Donoghue spoke when he was Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform but which was never implemented. Many people misunderstood zero tolerance. In its original formulation it meant going after the small issues, nipping problems in the bud, getting at the causes of crime and problem solving so that matters do not degenerate in a community. That is the kind of approach we need in Ireland.

I welcome the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, and his senior officials, who are familiar to this House. I thank the Minister for the recognition he gives this House in bringing legislation and being prepared to stay here for the duration of a debate as far as possible given his pressing schedule. The Ministry of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is the most demanding Ministry, and I know that from personal contact with former Ministers in my constituency.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this serious issue. We must never lose sight of the sacrifices made by members of the Garda Síochána who have been injured or killed in the line of duty. In the Garda Representatives Association headquarters and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors there is a roll of honour for those who fell in the course of their work. I am partly nominated by the GRA, AGSI and the Association of Garda Superintendents, however that has not changed the respect I had for the Garda Síochána before I came to this House. I come from a law-abiding family whose respect for the Garda is unquestionable. In the course of its work defending the State and our integrity against an onslaught of a 30-year war across the Border, 32 gardaí have been killed. I recall the late Garda Dick Fallon, who died on 3 April 1970. I ask the Minister to make a short statement in the new year to clear the air on that case. There have been some strange and colourful statements on that episode and although the Minister has briefed members of the family, it would be good to discuss it in the public domain. In the new year I may put down a question on the Adjournment which may satisfy that.

Other gardaí killed in the course of their work include Inspector Sam Donegan, 8 June 1972, Garda Michael J. Reynolds, 11 September 1975, Garda Jerry McCabe, of whose case we are all aware, 7 June 1996, Garda Patrick G. Reynolds, 20 February 1982, Garda Francis Hand from my area of Kiltoom in south Roscommon, 10 August 1984 and Garda John Morley and Garda Henry Byrne, 7 July 1980. I was in County Roscommon when Garda Morley and Garda Byrne were shot after a bank robbery in Ballaghaderreen, and they were killed at Shannonscross defending our State. I know the families of both those young men and they were at enormous loss. Recruit Garda Gary Sheehan was killed on 16 December 1983 at Ballinamore. I will not go through the full list of 32, however this is an opportunity to outline to the young people in the Visitors Gallery the sacrifice of our Garda Síochána.

There is no point running away from the Morris tribunal situation. The ordinary rank and file and the sergeants, inspectors and superintendents would apologise for what has happened. It is an embarrassment and does not reflect on the high standard and integrity of the Garda Síochána. Young people have great respect for the Garda and I encourage them to do so because it is an unarmed force. The murders that have occurred in the past few days are cause for concern and if I were on the beat in those areas of Dublin city without being armed I would be concerned. Nevertheless, that is our tradition. A special section of the Garda is armed. I wish the Minister and the Garda Commissioner well in bringing to justice the people responsible for those dreadful murders.

The Abbeylara issue should be separated from the Morris tribunal issue. I am uncomfortable debating both issues at once because they are separate. The tragic death at Abbeylara has been dealt with in great detail. The Government ordered the report and was prepared to have a full investigation. The Garda was open to full scrutiny and that has been dealt with effectively. As a percentage of the force the number of gardaí who have erred is small. The Government will have increased the force to 14,000, an enormous number of people, by the end of this term of Government. We can compare this with the proportion of people who have erred in the church and the Oireachtas. We are all made of clay. We are human and errors occur. We must balance this error against the day-to-day sacrifices of the gardaí. They have confronted bank robbers, saved people from the River Liffey and risked their lives for the sake of the public. That is the message I would like to present.

I compliment the Minister. The only area on which we disagree is the Garda Reserve. The jury is out in that regard. The Minister is having a passing out parade on Friday, which is the fastest in the history of the State that gardaí, albeit reserve gardaí, have been put on the streets. We will agree to differ. The Government made up its mind to implement it and we will see how it works out. They are courageous young people to make themselves available to go on the beat without arms in these troubled times.

The Garda Ombudsman Commission, which is due to commence operations in the new year, is a major breakthrough. People have been talking about this for years, but since Deputy McDowell became Minister these initiatives are being implemented. Other initiatives include the establishment of the Garda Inspectorate under its chief inspector Kathleen O'Toole and her two fellow inspectors, the appointment of the four-person civilian expert group and the establishment of the local police committee, which was significant. People have not recognised the Minster's work in these areas. When it went through Committee Stage the Minister gave limited privilege to those committees, which is unheard of in this Legislature. No other councils have limited privilege.

I probably will not be here for the Minister's summing up as I have to be back for the Bill at 5 p.m. I hope the Minister will roll out all these committees throughout the country from January 2007. Councillors are willing and able to advise and assist the Garda locally and this is a great breakthrough. Those meetings would be held privately and attended by a chief superintendent or an inspector. The councillors, representing the people, would be able to point out areas of difficulty and the worries on the influx of drugs.

Drugs are the biggest single issue. All the murders in Dublin are linked to drugs and territorial wars. The drugs are coming in from South America, Africa and the Far East. Whatever funds the Minister can put into stopping the scourge of drugs will be well invested. No penalty is severe enough for those who destroy the lives of individuals through drugs. To get a person on the slippery slope is murder. I am a former chairman of the national drugs advisory committee. I am concerned about these small airports, which will have to be carefully watched. It is also possible to drop cannabis from a small aeroplane without landing, for example onto a bog at night with guiding lights. Certain elements are now involved in that trade. Policing committees will help because people have local knowledge and can offer advice.

I wish the Minister a happy Christmas and every success next year. I hope his party will be in Government with Fianna Fáil after the next election. I congratulate the Minister on his appointment as leader of the Progressive Democrats and Tánaiste.

I welcome the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. He is here so often his wife must wonder if he has a girlfriend in the Seanad.

It is a great surprise when one turns on electricity or a tap and no electricity or water is provided. We have grown used to electricity and water always being available. We have also become accustomed to picking up the phone and a garda arriving. The confidence that they will arrive and do the job is something so valuable that it is worthwhile having this debate and hearing the Minister's response. The steps he is taking must ensure this confidence continues and that we will get reliable help when it is needed.

The key word in today's debate on governance, accountability, discipline and training in the Garda Síochána is "implications". We must consider the implications of what has happened and what action we must take to put things right. As legislators we had to take into account the findings of recent reports into disturbing aspects of policing in parts of this State. Having listened to the debate, there are more reports of which I had not been aware. All accept that change is necessary, including members of the Garda Síochána. We now have a Garda Inspectorate, an advisory group on Garda management, a Garda Ombudsman Commission, a new Garda disciplinary code and the Garda Síochána Act 2005. It is our fervent wish that these measures will enhance development and management of the Garda Síochána to make it a more efficient and effective police service.

Although we seek and expect radical change, in some ways what we want is not change but a reversion to the way things used to be. My hope is that the changes will bring about the situation that obtained in this country for many years, where people trusted the Garda Síochána to protect them and the members of the Garda Síochána relied heavily on the unquestioned community support they received as a matter of course. Members of the criminal fraternity respected and feared the impact of the Garda and the people working together against them.

Unfortunately, such a situation has not obtained in this country in recent times. Although the world has moved on in many ways and the challenges of today are more complicated than they used to be, it is possible to restore the situation to the one most of us happily remember through this raft of reforms.

My business career in Dublin began in Finglas in 1965. For many years hardly a day passed when I did not visit Finglas and in the past few years hardly a week passed without visiting Finglas. There is now a sense of nervousness in Finglas and Kilkenny. That is the present situation but we seek to return to the confidence of the past. This will only happen if we are clear about what we seek to achieve. We should not concentrate on the mistakes of the past, other than to determine that they will never happen again. Rather than focusing on the nuts and bolts of the new reforms, we should put all our effort into the task of rebuilding the trust between the people and the Garda Síochána. We can make a contribution in this respect.

No matter how well motivated or organised, the Garda Síochána cannot do its job properly if it is always looking over its shoulder at a hostile public. The force needs us to trust it to do its job in the current situation. Some members of the force feel they are under attack and on the defensive. The terrible events of the past years have given many people good reason not to trust the Garda Síochána. I do not seek to minimise the impact of that but I urge everyone to look beyond those events to the future that we want. We cannot reach that future without a conscious rebuilding of trust on both sides.

Do these policemen and policewomen believe they have the support and backing of the Oireachtas, the Government and Garda management? Are members of the Garda Síochána avoiding confrontational situations in the belief that if one does not get involved one will not get into trouble? That has happened in the past in other areas. Gardaí may turn a blind eye rather than run the risk of getting into trouble. If circumstances such as this were to prevail the winners would be the law breakers and the losers would be law-abiding citizens.

As legislators we must balance governance and accountability with performance and effectiveness, with each complementing the other. The Minister has taken this into account and his objective is likely to be achieved. He needs our support in order to reach that objective.

I thank Members for their contributions. Senator Tuffy asked why the Morris report was delayed. Under the Act that permitted the three modules I was under obligation to seek the instruction of the High Court to ensure the report did not interfere with Sergeant White's trial. When I received the report I applied for this direction and was told to await the completion of the trial. The trial finished after the Dáil had risen so I could not bring the reports before the House until the autumn session. This was a matter of law and out of my hands.

When this session began I sought to bring the reports before the Houses but a number of key Members of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann were involved in the committee investigating Mr. Brian Curtin. They asked me to delay the debate to allow them to be present and participate in the debate.

Civilianisation is of major importance. I accept the point made by Senator Maurice Hayes regarding outsourcing. Support for administrative tasks can be made available to the Garda Síochána. It is not a matter of producing yellow pack people and filling desks. People and skills must be matched to civilian support staff. We must seek people suitable to administrative positions. In other areas the entire activity can be outsourced. There is no reason why a garda should stamp passport application forms or deal with shotgun licences when a core administrative staff could deal with it.

There is great scope for civilianising the force. To use Senator Hayes's phrase, the wind of change is at my back. The time has come to set out an ambitious programme for accelerated civilianisation. A 21-week cycle would be preferable to a 21-year cycle although that might be too ambitious. It was suggested that people like the cushy numbers but most members of the force, particularly younger members, wish to have policing tasks. They want to tell their families they are policing the country, not sitting in an office administering backroom operations of the policing function.

The role of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform was mentioned, a very important point. I do not believe the Department has had the happiest of roles in its relationship with An Garda Síochána. There was a time when Peter Berry was the archetypal Secretary General of the Department of Justice and he had a completely hands-on approach. Nothing happened in the depot without his knowledge, every file of importance was reported to him and there were situation reports flooding in to him from around the country every day. He gave direction as to what was to happen and the Commissioner was in a very subordinate role, with the Department in the driving seat.

The pendulum swung completely the opposite way. When I was appointed Attorney General and the Donegal business came into sharp focus, I as the law officer of the State conducted the civil proceedings on the State's behalf and received complaints in that capacity from people who turned out to be victims of action by the Garda Síochána. Both my predecessor as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, and I were told we did not as a right have access to reports because the view was taken at that stage, curiously, that the Garda were in privity with the Director of Public Prosecutions, and it is was effectively a matter of grace and favour to us as to what we would be told about the progress of investigations.

The foot was put down on the part of myself and the Minister in order to restore the balance and indicate that the Minister was accountable to Dáil Éireann, with the Attorney General being the law officer of the State charged with defending these civil proceedings. We were entitled to know each and every bit as much as the Director of Public Prosecutions. It was not a matter of seeking the permission of that office to see an investigative file. The balance had to be restored to that point, and it is an accountability mechanism.

There is also a question of engagement. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has its own internal revolution to undertake to ensure it has appropriate monitoring mechanisms so ministerial accountability can be real rather than something at a distance or semi-detached.

Another point I wish to make deserves a bit of time and I ask the House to bear with me on it. There have been demands that the daily control of the Garda Síochána should be transferred to a so-called police or Garda authority. This proposal has been canvassed on and off for many years and in the context of the preparation and development of the Garda Síochána Bill I indicated to the House that I gave very close thought and examination to the idea.

The comparison normally made is that such a board exists in Northern Ireland, and as Senator Tuffy stated, it represents best practice. I have made my view on this issue clear in the Oireachtas on a number of occasions, including the debate on the Garda Síochána Bill and most recently in my statement to the Dáil on Garda accountability on 29 November. I take this opportunity to put my views on the issue on record.

I will first consider why Northern Ireland has chosen to go the route of a policing board rather than have direct political accountability for the police as we have in this jurisdiction. Through most of its history, Northern Ireland had a police service — the RUC — which was perceived by many as being under the directorship of the Northern Ireland Minister for Home Affairs and former Unionist administrations. After direct rule was introduced, the police were answerable to the Secretary of State, a politician not directly elected by the people of Northern Ireland. Although there was political accountability in one sense, it was not to a politician from Northern Ireland.

Following the report of the Patten commission, the policing board existing in Northern Ireland is intended to make policing function accountable. The Patten commission recommended a majority of members of the board be from the Northern Ireland Assembly. This is a point not mentioned in any analysis I hear south of the Border. Ten of the 19 members are members of the Assembly chosen on d'Hondt principles from across the parties and without ministerial involvement. The system currently deliberately seeks to avoid the police being accountable to a Member of the Assembly from one political party, reflecting the concerns which spring from the historical experience of partisan policing in a divided society.

When people speak of a policing authority in this jurisdiction, do they want a case where, on a d'Hondt principle, Dáil Éireann will be represented on a policing authority, or do they want the great and the good to be selected by some other process, with an apolitical policing board put in place? People use the phrase "independent policing board" but from whom is it independent? The policing board is not independent of the political parties in Northern Ireland, it is directly representative of these parties. We should bear that point in mind.

The case in the United Kingdom is often quoted in support of the concept of a police authority, but that system should again be viewed in the context of the policing service it oversees. The UK has a regional police structure, with 43 police forces in England and Wales, as well as eight in Scotland. There are plans to reduce that number. It would not be possible for the British Home Secretary or the Parliament in Westminster to oversee all those forces.

There is no regional political structure to which they could be held accountable. There are political appointees such as local authority members who serve on the various policing boards in the United Kingdom, covering the regional constabularies. For example, the Metropolitan Police Service in London is not responsible to the city's mayor, Ken Livingstone, but the Home Secretary.

I wish to put on record that a police authority is not found in the vast majority of Western democracies. Where police are organised at a national level they are normally accountable to a Minister of central Government. This applies in the USA with the FBI, in Canada with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and most European countries. Reference was made to a former mayor of New York, Mr. Giuliani, and that city's police department reports to the mayor, who is the head of the executive of the city. The reason this is so is that policing is one of the most fundamental activities of organised society. People in other jurisdictions must share my view that police should be directly accountable to the democratically elected representatives of the communities they serve.

We have one national police force in this country, which is part of the Executive arm of the State and which is answerable, through the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to the Houses of the Oireachtas. I should make the point that the issues of management and accountability are evident here. I hope I have common ground with Senator Cummins in that I have no problem with the notion of changing the way in which the Garda Síochána is managed so there is a board in the force, on which lay people sit, which is the board of management of the Garda Síochána. We are moving in that direction.

I would have a major problem if we set up a body equivalent to the Health Service Executive, which would lie between the Minister and the Garda Síochána, with the Garda serving two masters. One group could then announce policies, priorities and what is being done, with the Minister finding out what was happening in the force by accident or on a semi-detached basis.

The HSE would be a very bad example.

I counsel Members of this House to go down the first route of considering management of the force, with which I have no problem, being done by a board meeting weekly and getting on with its task of collective responsibility. I have a real problem with a body modelled on the HSE running the Garda Síochána.

The Garda Síochána operates as the security service of the State and it could not be the case that a Government, in any democracy, could say its security function is carried out by a group of people over whom it had no day to day control, accountability or chain of command. It would be total folly and completely wrong to vest control of the security service in a body independent of the executive arm of State. No society I know of has ever attempted to do that and I have never heard anyone suggest such a step would make sense. I have noticed how often that issue is side-stepped.

I will say as often as necessary that I favour a management board system for the Garda Síochána. It should not be a pyramid which ends up with the lonely person described by Senator Maurice Hayes, the Commissioner. He is in a lonely position where two pyramids intersect, one of which he is atop and the other at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Managing a serious organisation of 14,000 or 15,000 people plus civilian staff requires a different system of governance. I have no problem with that.

I have a problem with creating a Health Service Executive-type situation. In the other House and frequently in this House, pandemonium ensues every time my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, must state, "This is a decision for the HSE." If I were to divest my role and that of these Houses on policing to a body nominally independent of us, such as the HSE, equal pandemonium would ensue. People use the phrase, "an independent police authority". Of whom is it independent? Is it of these Houses? I do not accept that.

The Garda Síochána manages our border control system. As Minister for the interior in European terms, I must be in direct contact with and have direct control of those who manage entry to and exit from Ireland. The Garda National Immigration Bureau must be directly amenable to me. I could not have a situation where a group of other people made policy decisions or significant decisions with policy implications when I am responsible for that area on behalf of the people.

Just as governance issues arise in the dealings of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform with the Garda Síochána, they also arise in the relationship between the Garda Síochána and the Houses of the Oireachtas. The time has come for the establishment of a joint committee of the Oireachtas on policing and security. I spoke to the Taoiseach about this. We do not need to wait for a general election. We can establish it now and have a committee to which the Commissioner is regularly accountable under the new Act. It will go a long way to producing genuine democratic oversight.

The Oireachtas is the policing authority for Ireland. It would be a sad day if I were able to state in the Dáil or in this House that I could not answer a question or explain a situation because a group of eight or ten people independent of my office made a decision and I could do nothing about it.

A constant barrage of people argue for the proposition that the Executive should divest itself of responsibilities. This is not the constitutional framework the people voted for in 1937. The powers of Government exist and the executive powers of the State are supposed to be executed by people answerable to the Oireachtas, particularly Dáil Éireann. That is the way it is. I ask this House, especially Senator Cummins, to seek common ground with me on the question of a board of management but not a HSE-type solution.

Hear, hear. It is very logical.

That is the only point I want to make. If we go down the HSE road, we are finished. If we go down the other road, we are motoring. We must have political consensus on this and we do not need to batter each other to death over various labels. We must achieve the substance on which we are agreed.

Sitting suspended at 4.35 p.m. and resumed at 5 p.m.