I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy James Browne, back to the House.
Garda Síochána (Functions and Operational Areas) Bill 2021: Committee Stage
Amendment No. 1 is in the name of Senator Craughwell. Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 4 to 6, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 10, line 18, after "Inspector" to insert "or Inspectors".
I welcome the Minister of State to the House with this important Bill. The Garda superintendents are somewhat concerned that when authorised as a result of this Bill to delegate responsibilities to inspectors, the Bill deals with an "Inspector" and thereby limits a superintendent to delegating to just one of his subordinate inspectors whereas it may arise that he or she wants to delegate a particular issue to a number of inspectors. They have asked me to submit this amendment, which seeks to change the word "Inspector" to "Inspectors", in order to give them the freedom they will require to be able to use more than one inspector. I ask the Minister of State to take that on board and agree to it.
Another issue has been raised by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, AGSI. While no amendment on this point has been proposed by the AGSI - they cannot really have an amendment for it - they are seeking to place us on notice that if we are to ask inspectors to undertake additional duties, we will probably find ourselves in a situation where negotiations will have to take place with the AGSI in the fullness of time on how inspectors will be compensated for taking on new roles.
Inspectors are being moved from a direct supervisory role if they are delegated to undertake some of the work that once done by superintendents. I have every faith in AGSI to deal with the Department on that and to agree on a method. However, I want to flag its interest now. The argument put forward by the superintendents is very reasonable. It would be a minor amendment to the Bill that would give them the flexibility they will need.
I thank the Senator for tabling these amendments. I understand the concerns and the reason they have been brought forward. However, I can allay his fears. His concerns are unnecessary. I cannot accept the amendments. They appear to be drafting changes primarily substituting "an inspector" for "the inspector". On the first amendment, the inserted section 25CA. provides that a superintendent can delegate functions to an inspector. The Senator proposes inserting "or inspectors". Under the Interpretation Act the singular is to be read as imparting the plural so the amendment is unnecessary.
The Bill provides that every delegated function "shall be exercisable and performed by the Inspector in his or her own name". Amendment No. 2 would change this to "an Inspector". The definite article should be used here as the function is to be performed by the inspector to whom the function is delegated.
Amendments No. 4 to 6, inclusive, relate to transitional provisions in the Bill that address a situation where an application has been sent to a superintendent before the commencement of the Bill and needs to be dealt with by an inspector after the date. This has been discussed with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, OPC. I do not believe there is any issue with this section but it will be further examined before Report Stage.
I appreciate the Minister of State's comments. I will revert to the superintendents to see if they have further comments for Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 10, line 28, to delete “the Inspector” and substitute “an Inspector”.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 10, to delete lines 33 and 34.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 16, line 40, to delete “the Inspector” and substitute “an Inspector”.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 18, line 1, to delete “the inspector” and substitute “an Inspector”.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 18, line 5, to delete “the inspector” and substitute “an Inspector”.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 20, lines 34 and 35, to delete all words from and including “a” in line 34 down to and including line 35 and substitute the following:
“the superintendent who issued the relevant DNA authorisation or the superintendent who is replacing him/her at that time within the division shall be deemed to have been so informed.”.
The amendment relates to the delegation by a superintendent, where one may move and another comes in. I assume the Minister of State will take the same line in which case I will withdraw it for Report Stage.
Again, unfortunately I cannot accept the amendment. The DNA Act provides that if a sample is incorrectly labelled or insufficient and must be retaken a superintendent in the district must be informed. This is being changed in the Bill to a superintendent in the division.
The section is a transitional provision, which states that if a superintendent in a district was informed before the Bill comes into effect that it is deemed to have been a notification to a superintendent in the division. This is all that is required for the purpose of the legislation and it is not necessary to specify that this relates to the individual replacing him or her.
I thank the Minister of State for the clarity he brought to the issues raised here this afternoon. I hope it will bring comfort to those concerned.
On a broader point, when the Minister for Justice was in the House, I raised my concerns about the centralisation of services, and in this case, within An Garda Síochána. My experience of services being centralised is not positive. I have fears about my neck of the woods, counties Cavan and Monaghan, in particular. Monaghan now loses its divisional headquarters as it is lumped in with County Louth. As there are two major towns, Drogheda and Dundalk, in County Louth, many fear that resources will be concentrated where the population is at the expense of the smaller towns. I made that point to the Minister and she assured me that the decision will be reviewed.
I hope my concerns will not be realised, but if it transpires that is the case, the issue will be re-examined. I just wanted to flag that as my concern.
I echo the concerns of Senator Gallagher in respect of the Longford-Roscommon division, which has been expanded into counties Longford, Roscommon and Mayo. The concern we have on the ground relates to the districts where there are 24-hour stations, in both Longford town and Granard, where there is now one superintendent covering both areas. There is a fear that the service in one of those 24-hour stations might be reduced, with some of the services moving west, farther from my county. I too wanted to flag my concerns about that happening.
This is a great Bill, with great reorganising and modernising terminology, but I echo the concerns. While my colleagues who spoke earlier referred to more rural concerns, we end up with potential problems even within Dublin, where the likes of Ballyfermot has resources concentrated in Clondalkin. There were recent incidents in Cherry Orchard, Ballyfermot, that show the effects of such a concentration. In the context of all this, we need a reappraisal of Garda stations. I am part of a task force of local and public representatives that is arguing for such a reappraisal. We need to watch this space and be reassured. I am in touch with the Minister for Justice on the matter.
I will not labour the point. Concerns have been raised with respect to the vast area that will now come under superintendents and the like. There will have to be a lot of talks with the representative bodies as to how things will be managed. I understand the Garda Representative Association has some issues with the Bill and I will encourage its members to engage with the Minister of State.
Nevertheless, we are where we are and the Bill is progressing. I wish the Garda Síochána the best of luck as it carries out the actions the Bill will require of it.
When is it proposed to take Report Stage?
Is that agreed? Agreed.