At the outset I wish to condemn in the strongest possible terms the outrage perpetrated in Castleblayney at the weekend. I am convinced that this horrible deed served no purpose whatever either North or South of the Border and I express my sincere sympathy with the relatives of the dead man and with those who were injured in the blast.
My reason for raising the matter of this bombing incident stems from my concern with the issue of security not only in Border areas but throughout the country generally. It has been established locally that the town of Castleblayney which has a population of more than 2,000 people, was without a Garda street patrol from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday last and that only one garda was on patrol in the town up to 1 p.m. on that day. The bomb exploded at about 8.30 p.m. but it is thought that the blue Cortina car in which it was placed had been outside the Three Star Inn for some three hours or so before the explosion. To say the least, these facts are disturbing. In the first instance it is imperative that a Border town, such as Castleblayney, be patrolled and policed 24 hours a day, every day.
I understand that Castleblayney Urban Council have demanded a 24-hour Army-Garda street patrol in the area. The Minister for Justice was asked by the council on 27th August last for a strengthening of Garda security in the area but I am told that despite further requests and reminders they did not hear from the Minister on the matter.
Now, as a result of the car bomb one man is dead, 17 people are injured and damage to the extent of £500,000 has been caused. The Minister for Justice is the person charged with responsibility in the area of security so the blame for there not being a Garda street patrol in Castleblayney during the hours I have mentioned must rest solely with him. The Minister, the Taoiseach and their colleagues in Government have been telling us constantly of the millions of pounds being spent on security, both Army and Garda but if what I have been told is true, one must ask where is the security that is costing so much and how could it happen that a car with false number plates, representing the County Monaghan area, was parked in a main street of a vulnerable Border town for more than three hours without any attention being paid to it. These are very serious questions which are of the greatest importance to all of us but particularly to those who live in towns in close proximity to the Border.
I am told that the people of Castleblayney are gripped with fear, the fear of indiscriminate bombing such as that which occurred on Sunday. Another Border town—Clones—is a ghost town to all intents and purposes for the reason that in the past it has experienced bombing. I am sure the Minister will agree with me when I say that people along the Border are very concerned because the existing security checks in the area are not on a 24-hour basis but consist of occasional spot checks. Because of this it is possible for cars, such as that used in the Castleblayney blast, to get through the security net without any great difficulty but at the cost of lives and property in the Republic.
It is highly desirable that every car crossing the Border be checked thoroughly and that the driver and any other occupants be identified to the satisfaction of the security forces. Unfortunately, because of the way in which the security check system operates, those who wish to cause destruction or to take lives can watch the movements of our security forces along the Border and take advantage of their absence to act with impunity.
Because of the mismanagement and the inefficient handling of the country's economy the Minister for Justice was forced recently to announce that there would be serious curtailment of overtime for the Garda. It is logical to assume that those members of the force who were on overtime were fulfilling a necessary and vital function: otherwise, they would not have been on overtime. However, because of the economic strangleholds which were applied in this instance to the security forces, not only in Border areas but throughout the country, we are now without adequate security.
Admittedly, the Garda authorities have said that despite cutbacks in overtime they have sufficient manpower to meet all situations. Did they say this so as not to be in conflict with their Minister or with the Government? However, if they mean they are happy with the situation as it existed, for example, in Castleblayney on Sunday last, one must question their notion of adequate security and must ask what they mean when they say they have sufficient manpower to meet all situations. If this situation is considered as adequate policing I can only say to the Minister and the Government that they have brought about a dangerous and farcical situation by reneging on their responsibilities to the people in sensitive Border areas.
If it is true that the Minister failed to reply to the request and the subsequent reminders of Castleblayney Urban Council in relation to security, one can only conclude that there is a complacency in relation to the whole issue of security. I have spoken with those Deputies and Senators here who represent Border areas and I am assured that the situation is as I have outlined. In his reply I expect the Minister to remind me that the Garda Síochána are stronger now numerically than they have been since the foundation of the State. While this may be true, I have had personal contact with members of the Garda from many counties and they have told me of their spells of duty in Border towns in recent times, of the fact that they have nothing to do in their off periods and would be happier doing a job of work they believe should be done. This could have been managed but for the order given by the Minister curtailing the necessary finances to make it possible.
In recent times we have heard boasts by the Minister for Justice, some of his colleagues and the Taoiseach, that they are a law and order Government. I would prefer, as would many others, to see action rather than hear words. We have had an unbelievable frequency of bank and post office robberies in recent times. Unfortunately, we have had two and three in one day. Three or four years ago a bank robbery was given banner headlines on the front pages of our national newspapers but because of their frequency now they are hardly mentioned on the inside pages. I was disturbed recently to be told that on a night in January in Limerick city there was only one patrol car on duty. Only one man was on duty, except for those involved in prison duty.