As the Senator has pointed out, I am responding to her on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, who unfortunately is not available and has asked me to thank the Senator for raising these matters.
As the Senator may be aware, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is the Accounting Officer for the Garda Síochána Vote and, accordingly, he is responsible for operational expenditure incurred by the force. Section 30 of the 2005 Act also provides a statutory basis for the Garda Commissioner to charge for police services on a non-public duty basis for certain events. This is a function which is undertaken by the Commissioner independently of the Minister for Justice and Equality and his Department.
The Minister has consulted he Garda authorities which have indicated that Garda financial records are not maintained in a format which would provide a breakdown of the costs incurred in policing activities linked to the set of events to which the Senator has referred. I wonder why they are not, but that is the situation. I would have thought that appropriations-in-aid would come in separately as would be the norm for other things, but that is another day's work. In addition, the Minister has been advised that the extraction of this information would require a significant use of resources - the usual excuse.
With regard to the question of charging for the relevant policing services involved, this is, as I have mentioned, a matter for the Garda Commissioner. In that context, I understand arrangements have been made with the organisers of some of the events in question for the recoupment of costs in respect of the additional policing requirements that will arise. All of the relevant details are not available but I can confirm that the Minister is strongly in favour of this approach.
The Minister has asked me to say that he fully appreciates the concerns that have been raised by the Senator. In the overall context, the Minister would like to stress that, while people are fully entitled to enjoy the Arthur's day events, personal responsibility should play an important part in the way in which they behave.
From that perspective, the Minister urges everyone attending the events to drink alcohol sensibly. As we are aware, this has not always been the case in previous years and the result has been that very heavy demands have been placed on the emergency services, not to mention the personal consequences for the individuals directly involved. In particular, the Minister emphasises the need for care on the part of persons who may be driving, especially either today or tomorrow, and their responsibilities to other road users and to themselves. We are all aware of the consequences of drink-driving which has caused so many serious injuries and fatalities on our roads. Unfortunately, this has, on occasions, been the result of reckless driving by young people who have consumed large amounts of alcohol. In this context, the Minister encourages parents of young people to urge them, not only not to drink and drive, but also not to get into a car with a driver who has been drinking.
The Minister has asked me to express his appreciation for the work done by An Garda Síochána in the policing of major events. It is often a very difficult task and at all times it is the policy of the force that the safety of the public must be the primary consideration. This will be the priority for the Garda personnel who are charged with policing the events the Senator has mentioned.
As regards my personal view, I would be very similarly disposed to the attitude the Senator has expressed. I do not believe we need specific saints of alcohol to encourage us to come out and have a go. It is a marketing event and I just hope it is not abused. As a nation we need to learn how to drink. I have made reference elsewhere to youngsters. In places where alcohol is banned or is at a prohibitively high price, there is still alcohol abuse. We need to get that balance right. I do not have a recipe as to how best to do it, except education.