Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Armed Robberies.

3.

asked the Minister for Justice the total number of armed robberies and the amount taken for the year 1978, with comparative figures for the two previous years.

The following are the numbers of armed robberies recorded and the amount of all the property, including cash, reported taken in respect of the years 1978, 1977 and 1976.

Numbers recorded

Amounts reported taken

1978

287

£2,196,508.32

1977

298

£919,521.96

1976

185

£627,339.78

Will the Minister accept that in view of the two-fold increase in the 1978 figure over the 1977 figure and the three-fold increase over the 1976 figure it can hardly be claimed that crime is unprofitable?

I and the Government are as much concerned as the Deputy's party about the increase in armed robberies which has taken place in recent years. Since I became Minister for Justice I have considerably strengthened the hands of the Garda Síochána in dealing with those involved in armed robberies. If the Garda had been strengthened as I have strengthened them since I became Minister, perhaps we would not have the high level of armed robberies we have at present.

The Minister has not replied to my question. Does the Minister accept that a clear commitment, with all the crowing they had about robberies resulting in over £½ million being stolen in 1976, was given to take steps to ensure, if I may quote their manifesto——

Only three questions have been answered in 15 minutes.

——that crime would become unprofitable in this country? Is it not a fact that the necessary steps have not been taken so that crime has become unprofitable in this country?

I would refer the Deputy to a very full answer which I gave in this area before Christmas in reply to a specific question by him and other members of his party on measures taken by me and the Government in helping the Garda Síochána to combat the increase in armed robberies.

Has the Minister any other steps in mind by way of law reform or by way of encouraging banks and other financial institutions to provide better protection for their property, so as to reduce the appalling amount of money being taken in armed robberies at the moment?

Special measures were introduced by the Garda Síochána during 1978 which were designed to combat this form of criminality. The Deputy knows that protection is being afforded to very large sums of money in transit and to locations where the high cash holdings are held. The Deputy should also know, when he underlines the fact that the amount of money taken during 1978 is double that which was taken in 1977, that practically 50 per cent of the money taken in 1978 was taken in a very small number of big robberies. Since the first of these big robberies occurred the Government decided that the Army should help the Garda in protecting large sums of money in transit, and this is being done. Other measures have been introduced, and the Deputy should not dismiss them too lightly. They are effective and will be seen to be more effective as time goes on. They are only beginning. Whatever changes must take place with regard to legislation are being contemplated, and Government decisions in this area will be made known shortly.

Would it be correct to say that what the Minister is saying is not quite correct? The Minister may have inadvertently confused himself with the figures. Is it not correct that in the last quarter of 1978 almost £¾ million were taken in armed robberies and that it is not true that there were a confined number of big robberies early in the year and that the figure has fallen since? In the last quarter the figure amounted to nearly £¾ million.

Deputy Murphy.

The conclusion seems to be——

The Minister mentioned the time since he took office. Will the Minister agree that since he took office almost £2 million have been taken in robberies and that according to a recent appraisal by the Independent group of newspapers 98.14 per cent of the money stolen has not been recovered? Is it not an alarming state of affairs, that of the many robberies that have taken place——

That is a statement, Deputy. A question, please.

——in the past 18 or 19 months the robbers got away with more than 98 per cent? We have not got back even 2 pence in the £ despite the Minister's claims of increased Garda activity.

Question No. 4.

The floodgates for armed robberies were opened while Deputy Murphy and his colleagues were in Government, and I am now trying to close them.

Not very successfully.

(Interruptions.)

I called Question No. 4.

May I ask the Minister——

We have had only four questions in 20 minutes.

What excuse will the Minister have this year? The Minister said last year that he was not in charge of security during the first half of 1977. What is the excuse this year?

Perhaps the Deputy will table his question for next week.

I am asking a supplementary question. What is wrong? Does it embarrass the Minister?

Not in the least.

The Minister is a failure in his office. That is why it embarrasses him.