Crime Levels

Questions (6, 7)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

6Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to increase Garda resources in order to effectively address the increasing levels of burglaries throughout the State. [29754/12]

View answer

Brian Stanley

Question:

19Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to ensure that elderly residents in rural areas are protected from burglaries in view of his plans to cut back provision of Garda numbers in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29759/12]

View answer

Oral answers (10 contributions) (Question to Minister for Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 and 19 together.

While the latest recorded crime statistics show a decrease in most types of crime during 2011, I am of course concerned at the increase in certain categories of crime, notably burglaries and other property crimes. In particular, I share the widespread outrage at recent incidents of aggravated burglary where elderly people were terrorised in their own homes. Although the overall incidence of crime is generally lower in rural areas than it is in urban areas, I am very conscious of the deep distress these disturbing assaults can cause and the fear to which they give rise in rural communities. I am sure the Deputies will agree that An Garda Síochána has been relentless in its efforts to bring those involved in this type of crime to justice.

The Garda Commissioner has introduced a range of measures aimed at tackling gangs involved in burglaries. These measures are encompassed by Operation Fiacla, which is particularly focused on identifying and targeting mobile gangs involved in burglaries throughout the country so as to disrupt their activities and bring them before the courts. Specific burglary-related initiatives are being implemented in each Garda region in support of Operation Fiacla. This is a co-ordinated, intelligence-led strategy designed to maximise organisational resources in order to proactively target prolific offenders.

In addition to the concerted law enforcement efforts which are being pursued by An Garda Síochána, crime prevention is a key component in tackling burglary and other property crime. In this regard, the Garda national crime prevention unit and crime prevention officers at divisional level provide advice, information and support to organisations, businesses and individuals which is aimed at reducing the incidence of burglary and property crime. In that context, the Garda continues to work closely with communities to enhance community safety through a wide range of local fora, including partnership programmes such as community alert and neighbourhood watch.

I am fully aware of the concerns that exist with regard to the incidence of certain property crimes, as well as the specific concerns felt in rural areas. I very much welcome the fact that the Garda Commissioner is deploying the substantial resources available to him in a targeted and strategic way in order to confront those who are engaging in this form of criminality.

My colleague, Deputy Colreavy, also wishes to contribute and I presume he will focus on rural Garda stations.

On Question No. 6, I wish to comment on the report on the cash-for-gold industry which has been published and which is due to be discussed by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. I welcome that report and I also welcome the opportunity to discuss it. However, I do not accept the Garda Commissioner's opinion to the effect that there is no evidence to suggest a link between burglaries and the cash-for-gold industry. All of the evidence furnished to me by people who come to my constituency office and at JPC meetings I have attended indicates that cash-for-gold outlets are being used to sell stolen goods. If an analysis were carried out in respect of the location of these outlets and the number of burglaries which take place in surrounding areas, I would bet anything that a pattern would emerge. I do not, therefore, accept the Garda Commissioner's assertion in respect of this matter. I am of the view that there is actually evidence to the contrary.

This is a matter on which we must focus. I read a media report in which a number of comments were attributed to the Minister. I hope I accurately reflect what he said when he asserted that members of the Garda had visited all 124 cash-for-gold outlets throughout the country and informed them of how to contact the force. It is as if the Garda Síochána is some sort of invisible organisation which these people do not know how to contact. It is very easy to contact the force.

We must consider this issue and I am glad the committee is going to discuss it. I would like regulations similar to those which obtain in respect of pawnbrokers to be introduced in respect of the cash-for-gold industry. It is important that this should be done while we are awaiting the opportunity to discuss the report to which I refer.

Members of the force did more than inform the proprietors of or those who work in cash-for-gold outlets how to contact the Garda. I suspect that was not a great mystery to most of them.

The media report in question stated that this is what the Minister said.

One aspect of what the officers in question did was to clearly draw to the attention of individuals operating in that industry the existing laws relating to the receipt of stolen property and, in particular, the provisions of the 2001 Act. It was very important that this was done.

I cannot invent facts which, I am informed, do not currently exist. As the Deputy will have seen from the report to which he refers, the Garda Commissioner was consulted on three different occasions. He was consulted in respect of this issue by my predecessor shortly before the change of Government. We then followed up with him on it in the aftermath of the election and then again very recently in order that when the report was published it would contain the most up-to-date view from him. A direct connection of the nature to which the Deputy refers - namely, a substantial increase in the number of burglaries in areas where cash-for-gold outlets are located - has not been identified.

We must be extremely careful when discussing this matter. One of the reasons that there are so many of these outlets relates to the huge increase in the value of gold. Sadly, another reason for their existence relates to the financial difficulties by which many families are being affected. In that context, people are trading old family items in order to generate funding for themselves. Cash-for-gold outlets are as much a consequence of the economic difficulties of the State, the number of people who are unemployed and the problems with which families have unexpectedly been faced as they are of anything else. We must take care and ensure that, in this House or elsewhere, we do not criminalise people who are engaging in legitimate business activities. For many years, jewellery shops have bought and sold second-hand jewellery and the antiques trade is solely based on the sale of second-hand items. However, no one is attributing direct criminality to those who operate in these areas.

In the context of the Deputy's suggestion that some cash-for-gold outlets may be located in burglary blackspots, I reiterate what I said earlier in response to Deputy Mattie McGrath, namely, that part of this business is web-based in nature and involves individuals submitting items by post to cash-for-gold outlets and receiving sums of money in return by way of value. Part of the issue is consumer protection in dealing with these outlets.

The issue is more complex than people are saying. In the statistics we have, there is no indication of a huge statistical upsurge in burglary. Any burglary is something that should not happen and I am not condoning it in any way. There is not, however, a direct connectivity here. We need to be careful as to how we deal with the matter.

I am looking forward to the matter being given a further detailed examination in the joint committee. If appropriate legislation needs to be developed, I assure the Deputy it will be.

I am not sure what criteria are used in deciding whether to close Garda stations or leave them open. I imagine one criterion is the population of a district. This immediately mitigates against districts with lower populations. I imagine distance between stations is a criterion. The Minister said the current network was designed when the gardaí were on bicycles. This is true, but so were the burglars on bicycles in those days. A 100% record of crime prevention means zero crime. If I were a crime prevention officer I would not like to achieve 100% effectiveness, because that figure would be used to close my station.

In Sligo and Leitrim, a number of stations are being closed. Most of them serve people who live in fairly isolated Border areas. There is a big distance between the stations. There was no public discussion or consultation and no effort was made to reassure the population that, with the change in policing practice and reduced number of stations, their safety would still be a priority.

In order to reassure vulnerable people in isolated rural communities, can the Minister advise the House as to whether or not there will be changes in practice and what those changes will be?

No additional stations will be closed this year beyond the 39 announced at the end of 2011, eight of which had already been closed and were not functioning. A considerable number of others were open for two or three hours in the day. The busiest stations that were closed were not rural stations. They were the three Dublin stations in Dalkey, Harcourt Terrace and Whitehall. The perception of the Commissioner was, I understand, that we had a substantial number of stations in Dublin and that for operational effectiveness and to use resources wisely the closure of those stations was appropriate in the context of the large number of stations in Dublin. The closures have been a great deal greater - they were not all in isolated rural areas.

In isolated rural areas, the greatest assistance the Garda can give is not to be sitting inside the walls of a station but to be out and about, available to be called in police cars and engaging in whatever investigations are required. I would prefer to see gardaí engaged with the community rather than sitting behind a desk in a station.

It is for the Commissioner to determine, based on operational effectiveness, the stations to keep open and the appropriate stations to close.

I fully support the Minister's plans for policing in Dublin. However, it has come to my attention informally that with the closure of Harcourt Terrace there has been some difficulty in reallocating the gardaí stationed there to other parts of the city. Donnybrook Garda station, for example, has had its hours restricted and has lost its community garda. It is my understanding that if we could free up those resources we would be able, at least, to get the community garda back for Donnybrook. Could the Minister look into this matter and discover whether or not this is the case?

With the loss of resources in the city and elsewhere we will have to do much more work with JPCs. I know the Minister has been paying close attention to what they are doing but to help them to play a more important role, particularly with the loss of community gardaí, we need to put more resources into them, if possible.

I merely wish to clarify a matter. I do not suggest shops knowingly engage in criminal activity, but it is important to have regulation to protect, not only victims of burglaries but also the proprietors of the shops themselves. We do not want shops to be used unknowingly to sell stolen goods. Regulation is equally important for the owners of shops who want to carry out legitimate trade.

I am waiting for the report of the joint committee. I think it anomalous that certain information is required to be retained by pawnbrokers but not by others who trade in what can best be described as second-hand goods. The problem is that second-hand goods are traded at markets throughout the country and in a range of other locations. We could attempt to address the issue bit by bit and create other anomalies.

A particular issue, which I hope the committee will address, is that the business is often conducted in a web-based forum. We could put in place a bit of legislation that would seem useful where people actually walk into a retail or cash-for-gold outlet but would be useless, either as a law enforcement or protective measure, because of the web-based nature of the business. A great deal more work remains to be done on this issue than was done on the Private Members' Bill dealt with previously.

I am sorry if my response to Deputy Murphy's query sounds like a mantra. It is for the Garda Commissioner to determine where to allocate members arising out of the closure of Harcourt Street Garda station. I am aware of the Garda stations in Dublin to which members are, or have been, allocated. I cannot micromanage the community garda in Donnybrook. If there is a gap in that area I am sure the Commissioner will have regard to that. I am happy to follow up that matter for the Deputy with a simple query to the Commissioner and to revert to the Deputy with any information I obtain.

Garda Reserve

Questions (9)

Denis Naughten

Question:

8Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the Garda review of the murder of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly, in July 1985; if he will accede to the request by the family for an independent inquiry into the priest’s death; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29546/12]

View answer

Oral answers (5 contributions) (Question to Minister for Justice)

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the incident referred to was the subject of investigation by An Garda Síochána, which resulted in the submission of an investigation file to the law officers, who directed that a person be charged with manslaughter and assault. At the ensuing trial directions to acquit were given by the judge.

Following the publication of an article concerning this case in October 2010, representations were made requesting an investigation of the matters raised in it. I understand that the Commissioner arranged for a detective superintendent to meet the author of the article and the persons making the representations to make an assessment whether there was any evidence which was not available to the original investigation team and if further investigation was required in this case. As a result, a number of lines of inquiry were identified for examination by An Garda Síochána.

I am conscious that the matter is one a great concern to the family of the deceased and in this regard I have responded, in so far as I can, to representations made by them and on their behalf. I am intimately aware of their concerns, having met with them.

I have received an update on progress on the matter from the Garda Commissioner but the examination remains ongoing and I expect to receive a further report upon its completion, at which point I will review the situation. I am well aware of the concerns which have been expressed about this case, but I hope the Deputy will agree that, in the first instance, we need to allow the present Garda examination to proceed to a conclusion. In that context, I understand that it is expected that the gardaí carrying out the examination will shortly be in a position to report to the Commissioner.

I thank the Minister for his reply. My understanding is that Detective Superintendent Mangan, who is the head of the cold case unit, has informed journalists and the family within the past two weeks that there is no live investigation nor a review ongoing into the case. That seems to contradict the information which the Minister has just supplied to the House. The key point in this regard is why the Garda Commissioner has refused to address claims that were published by this country's most eminent crime reporter, Mr. Paul Williams, that the Garda did a deal with Mr. John Traynor for the return of the Fr. Niall Molloy file which had been previously stolen. The Commissioner has refused to respond to the claims despite numerous requests from the family. Will the Minister direct the Garda Commissioner to answer just one question? Could he indicate whether Mr. Paul Williams was right or wrong about those claims? Is the answer "Yes" or "No"?

My understanding is that the Deputy was interested in knowing where matters stand with regard to the tragic death that occurred in this case. When in Opposition I met with the journalist concerned who was referred to in the reply. On becoming Minister I asked that the matter would be further investigated by An Garda Síochána. It is not for me to undertake personally that investigation. That would be highly inappropriate. The information I have given to the Deputy is the information I have received by way of update on where matters stand. Given the length of time that has elapsed since this tragic event occurred, I do not know whether there is any practical possibility of making a prosecution. A variety of issues have been raised surrounding the background to this tragic case and the investigation conducted. Issues have been raised concerning the trial that occurred, on which I cannot make any comment in the context of the independence of the courts. I am aware of all of those issues but in respect to this particular matter I must rely on the information given by An Garda Síochána to my Department. I am afraid I cannot further enlighten the Deputy beyond the information I have given. I am sure the Deputy would not regard it as appropriate that I would enter into discussions in this House about issues relating to individual files.

Is the Minister not concerned about the allegations made by Mr. Paul Williams that a deal was done with Mr. John Traynor to drop a prosecution for the return of Fr. Molloy's file? As the Minister is aware, since Fr. Molloy's murder, there has been a litany of questions about the investigation, the subsequent court proceedings, witnesses and so on. A further question arises in terms of how the file was returned to the Garda. In this light and given the Minister's pledge in 2010 to have a full independent review of the killing, will he arrange that review and ensure the Garda Commissioner will answer "Yes" or "No" to Paul Williams's claims?

My concern is that, if there is information available to the Garda that was adequate to bring a prosecution against some individual, any such claim should be fully investigated. It is my understanding the Garda, arising from the issues raised, has engaged in discussions with both the journalist who raised this issue and for whom I have a great deal of respect and with others whom it deems relevant. My information is that, as matters stand, the position is as detailed by me in my response to the Deputy. I am not aware personally of any deal being made with anybody in these matters. I expect that, if there was substantial evidence available to the Garda that merited the taking of a prosecution against anyone following these tragic events, the matter would be fully investigated and a file furnished to the Director of Public Prosecutions with a view to determining whether there was a basis for bringing a prosecution.

Garda Investigations

Questions (10, 11, 12)

Joe McHugh

Question:

9Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide an update on his strategy for combatting white collar crime as outlined in the page 17 of the Programme for Government; if he will update Dáil Éireann on the investigation into Anglo-Irish Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29709/12]

View answer

Dara Calleary

Question:

11Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress that has been made in white collar crime investigations into the Anglo-Irish Bank; his views on the pace of progress being made; the number of gardaí involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29715/12]

View answer

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

17Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a report will issue on the ongoing investigation which is being carried out as a joint operation between the Garda’s fraud investigation squad and the office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23748/12]

View answer

Oral answers (11 contributions) (Question to Minister for Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9, 11 and 17 together.

As I indicated in my reply to Deputy Jonathan O'Brien, the Garda Commissioner has advised me that the Garda investigations in respect of Anglo Irish Bank are substantially complete. A number of Garda investigation files have been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions and her independent directions are awaited. A full investigation team remains employed at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation to conduct necessary follow-up inquiries. The Commissioner has assured me that this work is receiving absolute priority. I understand a number of files have also been submitted by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and that he regards the investigative phase of his office's work as almost complete.

The latest information I have from the Garda authorities indicates that 23 members of An Garda Síochána are or were engaged in the investigations into Anglo Irish Bank, including nine members of An Garda Síochána currently seconded to the ODCE and 14 personnel at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation. I am sure Deputies will appreciate that it is imperative at this point that nothing is said that might jeopardise any prosecution.

Turning to the question of white collar crime generally, I remain resolute in my determination that such crimes be fully investigated in order that the perpetrators may be brought to justice. This commitment is underscored in the programme for Government and, on taking office, the Government gave priority to satisfying itself that the necessary resources, both personnel and legal, were available to the investigations connected with Anglo Irish Bank. I was given assurances that this was the case, but I made it clear at all times that I would address any concern brought to my attention.

My commitment to tackling white collar crime was further underscored by the swift action I took within eight weeks of taking up office to move urgently to draft and seek Government approval for the introduction of additional legislation. This new legislation, the Criminal Justice Bill 2011, was enacted on 2 August 2011. I am also bringing forward a new Bill to clarify and strengthen the law on corruption and to replace a number of overlapping corruption Acts stretching back to Victorian times. The heads of that Bill were published today.

On taking office, I raised a number of cases of white collar crime with the Garda Commissioner and I am being briefed on an ongoing basis on the progress of the investigations. I am assured by the Commissioner that the resources allocated to the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation are sufficient to meet the demands placed on it and I will respond, as necessary, to further legislative needs raised by An Garda Síochána or any of the other bodies involved in the investigation and prosecution of white collar crime.

I have time for two questions from Deputies Joe McHugh and Dara Calleary.

I thank the Minister for his reply and acknowledge his speedy activity at the beginning of the Dáil session in introducing the Criminal Justice Bill 2011. The programme for Government commits to tackling white collar crime. I acknowledge that the Garda is playing a proactive and constructive role in investigating these matters at the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, IBRC. It is important to outline the feelings of the people towards this case, as described on the doorstep during the 2011 general election. They are not looking for blood on the carpet or heads on a platter, rather they are looking for justice, fairness and a level playing field. With this in mind-----

A question, please.

If we are to follow through fully on the philosophy of fairness and equal treatment, is the Minister satisfied with the powers conferred on the Garda to investigate the matters in question? I am conscious of the fact that he does not want to make a public comment, as the matter is still at an investigative stage.

The Minister stated that, in the context of this investigation, it was more important to have the same number of people consistently engaging in the investigation. Were there retirements before the end of February that might delay the investigation?

I welcome the publication this morning of the heads of the criminal justice (corruption) Bill. They are comprehensive and I hope the Minister will not be tempted or forced into watering them down. He will have my full support.

The Minister has a personal problem regarding the subject matter of my question. In the previous Dáil, particularly in the run-up to the general election, he set himself up as an Eliot Ness figure. He would take office on his big chariot and sort out issues. I will remind him of a question he asked at the time, as his response to Deputy Jonathan O'Brien was similar to one provided for him by the former Minister, Dermot Ahern. The Minister asked: "Does the Minister not understand that when someone who has not paid a fine of €250 ends up in Mountjoy Prison, someone who drives a truck into the gates of Leinster House ends up before the courts within 24 hours and bankers responsible for bringing the State to its knees and costing taxpayers €50 billion have not been brought before the courts it genuinely gives rise to a sense of public outrage, utter confusion and undermines confidence in our legal system?" This question is as true 15 months into his tenure as Minister as it was when he made it from this chair.

The Minister shares my frustration. Like the former Minister, he is also independent. Will he guarantee that there is an awareness within the law offices of the State of the importance of bringing this issue to a conclusion or putting it on a path that will bring it to a conclusion as soon as possible?

To respond to Deputy Joe McHugh, on my very first day in the Department of Justice and Equality I raised with my officials issues relating to these investigations and asked whether there was anything additional I could do as Minister and whether additional legislation or other additional resources were required. What was needed was the Criminal Justice Act 2011. I do not know why my predecessor did not enact that legislation. It was of huge importance because at the time there were individuals obstructing the Garda investigation, not making available crucial information that was necessary and not giving access to information held electronically. This would have advanced the investigation if the previous Government had enacted that legislation.

It has been in place for one year and we have gone no further.

The legislation facilitated the Garda in progressing its work. The legislation that was through this House by July last year resulted in the first application being made to the District Court on 6 September last year. It proved very effective in accessing information. I am advised the powers given by it enabled the Garda to secure co-operation from a number of individuals who at that point were being unco-operative. If there was anything additional by way of legislation that the Garda or the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement required to be done, I can give the Deputy an absolute assurance it would be done.

I have to say to Deputy Calleary that I am amused of the image of myself as Eliot Ness. I have no illusions of being Eliot Ness.

The Minister is more Inspector Clouseau.

Nor am I as deluded as a certain Member, currently absent from the Chamber, who seems to think he is the reincarnation of Mahatma Ghandi or a Nelson Mandela-like figure. I do not suffer any of those particular illusions.

While I cannot in any way engage with the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, because it is an independent office, I am absolutely sure the director appreciates the importance of these particular matters, the extensive nature of the investigations that have been conducted, the large resources utilised in the conduct of them and the importance, if criminality has been revealed, of assessing without undue delay whether there is adequate evidence available to support the taking of a prosecution. Like all Members, I am anxious that we get clarity on that as early as possible. In fairness to the DPP, it is important that any decisions made are considered and based on the totality of the information and evidence available.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.

Garda Operations

Questions (10, 11, 12)

Joe McHugh

Question:

9Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide an update on his strategy for combatting white collar crime as outlined in the page 17 of the Programme for Government; if he will update Dáil Éireann on the investigation into Anglo-Irish Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29709/12]

View answer

Dara Calleary

Question:

11Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress that has been made in white collar crime investigations into the Anglo-Irish Bank; his views on the pace of progress being made; the number of gardaí involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29715/12]

View answer

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

17Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a report will issue on the ongoing investigation which is being carried out as a joint operation between the Garda’s fraud investigation squad and the office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23748/12]

View answer

Oral answers (11 contributions) (Question to Minister for Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9, 11 and 17 together.

As I indicated in my reply to Deputy Jonathan O'Brien, the Garda Commissioner has advised me that the Garda investigations in respect of Anglo Irish Bank are substantially complete. A number of Garda investigation files have been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions and her independent directions are awaited. A full investigation team remains employed at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation to conduct necessary follow-up inquiries. The Commissioner has assured me that this work is receiving absolute priority. I understand a number of files have also been submitted by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and that he regards the investigative phase of his office's work as almost complete.

The latest information I have from the Garda authorities indicates that 23 members of An Garda Síochána are or were engaged in the investigations into Anglo Irish Bank, including nine members of An Garda Síochána currently seconded to the ODCE and 14 personnel at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation. I am sure Deputies will appreciate that it is imperative at this point that nothing is said that might jeopardise any prosecution.

Turning to the question of white collar crime generally, I remain resolute in my determination that such crimes be fully investigated in order that the perpetrators may be brought to justice. This commitment is underscored in the programme for Government and, on taking office, the Government gave priority to satisfying itself that the necessary resources, both personnel and legal, were available to the investigations connected with Anglo Irish Bank. I was given assurances that this was the case, but I made it clear at all times that I would address any concern brought to my attention.

My commitment to tackling white collar crime was further underscored by the swift action I took within eight weeks of taking up office to move urgently to draft and seek Government approval for the introduction of additional legislation. This new legislation, the Criminal Justice Bill 2011, was enacted on 2 August 2011. I am also bringing forward a new Bill to clarify and strengthen the law on corruption and to replace a number of overlapping corruption Acts stretching back to Victorian times. The heads of that Bill were published today.

On taking office, I raised a number of cases of white collar crime with the Garda Commissioner and I am being briefed on an ongoing basis on the progress of the investigations. I am assured by the Commissioner that the resources allocated to the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation are sufficient to meet the demands placed on it and I will respond, as necessary, to further legislative needs raised by An Garda Síochána or any of the other bodies involved in the investigation and prosecution of white collar crime.

I have time for two questions from Deputies Joe McHugh and Dara Calleary.

I thank the Minister for his reply and acknowledge his speedy activity at the beginning of the Dáil session in introducing the Criminal Justice Bill 2011. The programme for Government commits to tackling white collar crime. I acknowledge that the Garda is playing a proactive and constructive role in investigating these matters at the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, IBRC. It is important to outline the feelings of the people towards this case, as described on the doorstep during the 2011 general election. They are not looking for blood on the carpet or heads on a platter, rather they are looking for justice, fairness and a level playing field. With this in mind-----

A question, please.

If we are to follow through fully on the philosophy of fairness and equal treatment, is the Minister satisfied with the powers conferred on the Garda to investigate the matters in question? I am conscious of the fact that he does not want to make a public comment, as the matter is still at an investigative stage.

The Minister stated that, in the context of this investigation, it was more important to have the same number of people consistently engaging in the investigation. Were there retirements before the end of February that might delay the investigation?

I welcome the publication this morning of the heads of the criminal justice (corruption) Bill. They are comprehensive and I hope the Minister will not be tempted or forced into watering them down. He will have my full support.

The Minister has a personal problem regarding the subject matter of my question. In the previous Dáil, particularly in the run-up to the general election, he set himself up as an Eliot Ness figure. He would take office on his big chariot and sort out issues. I will remind him of a question he asked at the time, as his response to Deputy Jonathan O'Brien was similar to one provided for him by the former Minister, Dermot Ahern. The Minister asked: "Does the Minister not understand that when someone who has not paid a fine of €250 ends up in Mountjoy Prison, someone who drives a truck into the gates of Leinster House ends up before the courts within 24 hours and bankers responsible for bringing the State to its knees and costing taxpayers €50 billion have not been brought before the courts it genuinely gives rise to a sense of public outrage, utter confusion and undermines confidence in our legal system?" This question is as true 15 months into his tenure as Minister as it was when he made it from this chair.

The Minister shares my frustration. Like the former Minister, he is also independent. Will he guarantee that there is an awareness within the law offices of the State of the importance of bringing this issue to a conclusion or putting it on a path that will bring it to a conclusion as soon as possible?

To respond to Deputy Joe McHugh, on my very first day in the Department of Justice and Equality I raised with my officials issues relating to these investigations and asked whether there was anything additional I could do as Minister and whether additional legislation or other additional resources were required. What was needed was the Criminal Justice Act 2011. I do not know why my predecessor did not enact that legislation. It was of huge importance because at the time there were individuals obstructing the Garda investigation, not making available crucial information that was necessary and not giving access to information held electronically. This would have advanced the investigation if the previous Government had enacted that legislation.

It has been in place for one year and we have gone no further.

The legislation facilitated the Garda in progressing its work. The legislation that was through this House by July last year resulted in the first application being made to the District Court on 6 September last year. It proved very effective in accessing information. I am advised the powers given by it enabled the Garda to secure co-operation from a number of individuals who at that point were being unco-operative. If there was anything additional by way of legislation that the Garda or the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement required to be done, I can give the Deputy an absolute assurance it would be done.

I have to say to Deputy Calleary that I am amused of the image of myself as Eliot Ness. I have no illusions of being Eliot Ness.

The Minister is more Inspector Clouseau.

Nor am I as deluded as a certain Member, currently absent from the Chamber, who seems to think he is the reincarnation of Mahatma Ghandi or a Nelson Mandela-like figure. I do not suffer any of those particular illusions.

While I cannot in any way engage with the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, because it is an independent office, I am absolutely sure the director appreciates the importance of these particular matters, the extensive nature of the investigations that have been conducted, the large resources utilised in the conduct of them and the importance, if criminality has been revealed, of assessing without undue delay whether there is adequate evidence available to support the taking of a prosecution. Like all Members, I am anxious that we get clarity on that as early as possible. In fairness to the DPP, it is important that any decisions made are considered and based on the totality of the information and evidence available.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.