Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Questions (13, 14, 15, 16)

Brendan Howlin


13. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee G, justice and equality, last met. [15465/19]

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Mary Lou McDonald


14. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee G, justice and equality, last met; and when it is scheduled to meet again. [17457/19]

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Joan Burton


15. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee G, justice and equality, last met; and when it is scheduled to meet again. [20537/19]

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Richard Boyd Barrett


16. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee G, justice and equality, last met. [20545/19]

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Oral answers (11 contributions) (Question to Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 to 16, inclusive, together.

Cabinet Committee G last met on 12 December 2018 and the next meeting will take place on Monday, 10 June 2019. Cabinet committee G provides political oversight of developments in justice and equality issues, including implementation of the Government's programme of reform for the justice sector. In relation to justice reform, the third report of the effectiveness and renewal group was published in February. The report highlights the substantial progress and commitment displayed by the Department of Justice and Equality throughout this programme of transformation.

The Minister for Justice and Equality recently received the group's fourth report, which he intends to bring to the Government shortly and publish thereafter. In relation to policing reform, A Policing Service for the Future, the Government's four year plan to implement the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing, was published in December. Implementation of the plan is progressing, with the building blocks phase well under way. Cabinet committee G is part of the oversight architecture of the plan and will receive regular progress reports on its implementation. The plan envisages two meetings per year of Cabinet committee G focusing on community safety.

Last Friday, an 18 year old boy, Azzam Raguragui, was tragically stabbed in Dundrum and died a short time later. I know the thoughts and sympathies of all of us in the House go out to Azzam's family. No one in our society should have to suffer the loss of a child but the sad fact is it could have been anybody's child, with knife crime becoming more and more common. The case highlights the serious escalating problem with knife crime. We can look across the Irish Sea to see what is happening in Britain in this regard. The number of knives seized by gardaí here has risen by two thirds since 2016. A total of 264 knives were seized by the Garda in the first six weeks of this year alone. The family of the late Azzam have stated, very heroically, that they are resting their faith in the Irish justice system to hold the perpetrators to account. Does the Taoiseach see the issue of knife crime as a particular menacing situation that needs to be addressed? What specific plans does he have to tackle it?

This morning, the Minister for Justice and Equality brought a memo to Cabinet in respect of a study to be carried out on the introduction of domestic homicide reviews in addition to other supports for victims of familicide. I extend again my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Clodagh Hawe, including her mother Mary and her sister Jacqueline, and those of her three sons, Liam, Niall and Ryan, who were killed by her husband and their father in August 2016. It should be said that Clodagh Hawe is not alone. Tragically and sadly, many women and children have fallen victim to this crime.

There is an onus on all of us to ensure the necessary statutory provisions are in place to understand how and why this type of crime occurs and to do our absolute utmost to ensure families get the answers they deserve. Previously, I have called for the introduction of multi-agency domestic homicide reviews and for them to be underpinned in legislation. This needs to happen urgently. Domestic homicide reviews have been in place in Britain since 2011 and they are to be introduced in the North following a public consultation process so it is about time we got our act together. Women's Aid has long advocated for their introduction and for the family and friends of victims to be included in the review process. I support this. Does the Taoiseach personally support the introduction of independent multi-agency domestic homicide reviews? When will the Minister's proposed study be completed? What is the timeframe for the introduction of legislation in this area? Is it proposed to undertake a review of the Coroners Act and laws surrounding exhumations as well as the Succession Act? The Taoiseach will recall serious issues were raised in the case of the family of Clodagh Hawe in this regard.

We are going to be way over time.

These suggestions need to be fully considered.

In all the recent reviews of policing, community policing has been identified as being at the heart of a really good community based policing service where people develop confidence in the police, the police can get to know people and crime can be headed off before it is committed. In the constituency shared by the Taoiseach and I, the Minister for Justice and Equality has confessed we have one sergeant and approximately 12 gardaí. Given they work over a 24 hour day in two to three shifts, the Taoiseach can work out the mathematics of how many community police are required by an area of more than 100,000 people, which is bigger than Waterford and Limerick. I have drawn to the Taoiseach's attention to situations near a primary school of gunmen shooting at each other. Thankfully, nobody was injured. We have also had gun attacks at a secondary school on the opposite side of the area. We have police searches in neighbourhoods of the constituency where they pick up Makarov pistols, bullets, ammunition and shotguns.

How long will it take the Taoiseach to start acting as the Taoiseach of all the people of Ireland, rather than just the rich people who will get the broadband contracts? The people of Ireland want to be safe when they take a train or the DART and when their children go out to play or meet friends in a park. Does the Taoiseach understand that people genuinely feel afraid? Drug gangs and cocaine are at their height, such as we have not seen for 30 years, and parents are besieged with drug debt but the Taoiseach has no answer.

Everybody is appalled by the killing of Azzam Raguragui in Dundrum. My son hangs out in that area and would have seen Azzam, and the kids he hung around with there, regularly. The knife crime to which Deputies have referred is shocking. Beyond condemning what is atrocious, however, we have to think about how we are going to address the problem. It is getting worse and worse and I do not think we are looking at the problem in the right way. I do not have all the answers but I think we have to recognise that we do not know how to deal with teenagers. We do not know how to relate to teenagers or how to engage with them. We do not consult with them and we are not providing them with other and more productive things to do.

We have to get our act together in this regard. In my area, where there was quite a lot of antisocial behaviour, there was a brilliant outreach project for young people and the guy who worked on it, a friend of mine, had a relationship with the young people there but the project was cut. He said the situation would deteriorate and it did so, really badly. We are even cutting the young people's community projects that work. We need to expand our horizons massively in the area of engaging with young people and providing them with productive outlets if we are to move them in a different direction.

I wish to raise a Dublin issue, which Deputy Burton touched on. A serious situation is emerging for passengers travelling on the DART, with which I am sure the Taoiseach is familiar from his own constituents, articles in The Irish Times and the local elections, with queries being brought to us as public representatives. People are genuinely afraid to travel on the DART at certain times of the day and at weekends. We have glorious weather but certain people are travelling to the beaches and causing mayhem on the DART, in some cases taking over carriages and intimidating passengers, particularly women. The situation will get worse over the summer so what is the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport doing, in association An Garda Síochána and Iarnród Éireann, about this? Is there going to be a dedicated police force on the DART? Is Iarnród Éireann going to introduce creative measures to deal with the situation? I read that a text alert system was going to be introduced. Something has to be done. I will not mention the DART stations on the north side of the city but there is a big issue and if people, especially women, feel threatened as they go about their daily business, there is a real problem. I am sure the Taoiseach is aware of the problem so I plead with him to engage with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to bang heads together with Iarnród Éireann and An Garda Síochána to deal with the situation once and for all.

I read and heard about the very sad killing of Azzam, the young man in Dundrum. I join with everyone else in extending my sympathies to his family and friends. It is a shocking thing for a young man of that age to be stabbed in a public park and I call on anyone who has information about this terrible crime to pass it on to gardaí and the authorities. I heard his father say that he has trust in our justice system, in our police and in our courts, to ensure the perpetrators are found and prosecuted. It is our job to make sure that trust is not misplaced by putting all efforts into finding those who committed the crime and to make sure that they are prosecuted so that justice can be done.

I am very aware of the debate that is ongoing in the United Kingdom, and England in particular, around the rise of knife crime. I am not quite sure if knife crimes are as frequent here as they are in the UK but they certainly are occurring and they should be of concern to all of us.

Deputy McDonald asked some very detailed and good questions about the memo the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, brought to Cabinet today. I do not have it in front of me but it is quite detailed and a number of actions were agreed. The Minister will make an announcement on the matter today and will set out exactly what actions the Government is taking to respond to the issue of familicides. It follows on from the murder of Clodagh Hawe and her children, as well as the Chada family and other cases. The Minister has engaged with the Coll family and responded to some of the proposals they put forward, which we are keen to progress. Familicide is not as rare as we may think and every month this year so far, a woman has been killed by a relative. I hope the decisions made by Government today will help us to deal with it better and support families better than has been the case in the past. We also need to see how we can better support communities because the wider community is also very affected, as was the case in Ballyjamesduff. We want to see how we can learn from these cases and do better into the future.

Deputy Burton asked about the crime being experienced in the Blanchardstown area. The Minister, Deputy Flanagan, visited the station recently and met with gardaí and staff to thank them for the work they are doing to tackle crime in the area. The deployment of Garda resources is, of course, a matter for the Garda Commissioner and should be so, rather than one for politicians, but the job of Government is to run the economy well and make sure we produce the resources that allow us to recruit more gardaí, more civilians to free up garda time and more investment in equipment such as IT and vehicles. That is happening, it has been happening for several years and it will continue into the future.

I am disappointed that Deputy Burton characterises the broadband project as one in which rich people get the contract. This is not about who gets the contract but about the 1.1 million people who do not currently have access to high-speed broadband, who come from all backgrounds and live in all parts of the country, including some parts of Dublin.

In that case the Government should nationalise it and have the State own it. If it is the people's broadband, it should be owned by the people.

We want to achieve, on the people's behalf, a broadband service which has the same speeds as we get in the cities and for the same price. That is why the subsidy is being provided and, given the fact that the Labour Party started this process, I hope its Members will come in behind it when they have a chance to consider it.