Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 9 Nov 1989

Vol. 392 No. 9

Adjournment Debate. - Finglas (Dublin) Area Policing.

Deputies Proinsias De Rossa and Seán Ryan gave me notice of their intention to raise on the Adjournment the adequacy of policing in the Finglas area.

I thank the Minister for Justice for coming into the House this evening to take this question. I want to make the point by way of preamble that I do not propose to refer to the fracas which took place in Finglas south the other evening other than to convey my good wishes to the garda who was injured on that occasion and to wish him a speedy recovery. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Garda Síochána for the work they do.

The main point I want to make is that there is an urgent need to review Garda manning and recruitment policies in the light of a growing crime problem in the Dublin area, highlighted by a number of recent violent incidents. Even before the recent spate of incidents, figures in the Garda crime report for 1988, published in July last, indicated an alarming upward trend in crime in the city. Dublin city has the highest crime rate in the country and the lowest detection rate, with 61.9 per cent of overall crime being recorded in the Dublin area while the detection rate for the capital was only 28.2 per cent.

One of the most basic rights a citizen has is the right to personal safety and security and to feel safe in his or her home and on the streets but in many parts of Dublin people no longer feel they have this security. Cutbacks and recent embargoes mean that in many areas the Garda Síochána are overstretched to keep stations manned and keep patrol cars, indeed motor-cycles, operating. I understand that that is the case in the Finglas area. That is true regardless of the fact that they also have to go out to pursue and investigate crimes which are committed. There must be a review of manning policy and provision made for the far greater use of civilian personnel in non-policing roles so that more gardaí can be put back on the beat.

The use of highly trained gardaí as clerks, mechanics, weights and measures inspectors and in other similar non-policing duties is a waste of resources we cannot afford. One of the most alarming disclosures in the Garda crime report is that the number of young offenders cautioned under the juvenile liaison scheme in 1988 decreased by more than 700 over 1987 despite the overall increase in crime figures. The success of this scheme which is designed to prevent first time offenders from becoming involved in a life of crime has been widely acknowledged but its full potential has never been realised as it has never been given the resources it needs. Given the fact that it costs more than £25,000 per year to keep a person in custody it makes neither economic or social sense to starve the juvenile liaison officer scheme of resources and personnel.

A number of incidents, one of which received extensive media coverage, occurred recently in the Finglas area. I want to stress that the vast majority of people living in Finglas are decent, law abiding citizens who deplore crime and vandalism in their own area or indeed anywhere else but it sometimes seems to the people living in Finglas that when an incident occurs in that area it receives far more attention in terms of media coverage than would similar incidents elsewhere.

Finglas is a very large area and has a population similar to that of Limerick city, in the region of 60,000, but it does not have anything like the same number of gardaí. For instance, the gardaí in Finglas have to cover an area which stretches as far as Ashbourne on the border with County Meath. They are hopelessly overstretched. I am arguing that they must be given the personnel and resources required to enable them tackle the problems which exist in the area and to prevent the present positon from deteriorating.

The Minister will be aware, as he has received correspondence on this matter, about one of the incidents I have referred to, the one involving Mrs. Lyons, her family and guests when they were consistently——

I would prefer if the Deputy did not refer to personalities and he should be careful to avoid matters appertaining to the sub judice rule.

As far as I and Mrs. Lyons are aware, this matter has not come before the courts and nobody has been apprehended for stealing five cars over a single weekend owned by people staying with her who were attending the marriage of a member of her family. That incident received considerable media coverage and the Minister will be aware that considerable concern was expressed not only by this family but by their neighbours and others about the fact that the Garda did not seem to have the necessary resources available to them to allow them pursue this inquiry. The Garda responded by coming to the scene of the crime very quickly but in terms of pursuing their inquiries and investigation, they did not seem to have the resources available to them. The Deputies for the area including myself met the Commissioner in the company of the family concerned and some neigbours and the Commissioner assured us that he was deploying the staff as well as he could but that between shift work, sick leave, holiday leave and court appearances the number of gardaí he could have on duty at any one time was something in the region of six for an area the size of Finglas. It is clearly impossible for the gardaí in the area to do their job without additional resources. I appeal to the Minister to allocate those resources. The Commissioner can only deploy the resources he has but the Minister as the political head of the Department has the power within Government to seek the resources needed and I am pressing him to do so. I would ask the Minister if he would be willing to meet a deputation of the Deputies for the area and representatives from the community to discuss what will be done in relation to ensuring that the area has adequate policing resources.

I was informed that because of a technicality a question I had put down this morning was out of order so I do not have a major speech prepared in relation to this, but on the basis of the incidents that occurred yesterday and others that have occurred in different areas of Dublin in recent months, we should, as public representatives for the greater Dublin area, express our deepest concern in this House. I have no doubt that the Minister is similarly concerned.

The fact that gardaí had to take evasive action to protect themselves, where they had to have submachine guns and so on is totally unacceptable. One would have thought that that sort of thing only existed in movies. That this situation exists in the capital city is unacceptable. We are talking about protection for the gardaí who are doing a fantastic job with limited resources and about the deep concern of citizens of Dublin who are living in fear. If the Government do not come to terms with this I fear for the future. The resources will have to be made available so that we can have extra gardaí on the ground. We are looking to the Minister and to the Government to take the action required. Hopefully this discussion will go some way towards bringing to the Minister's attention our deep concern, and I look forward to what he has to say on this.

The precise arrangements for the policing of any particular area are a matter for the Garda Authorities. I am informed by the Garda Authorities that, in recent years, the manpower assigned to the Finglas sub-district has been maintained at roughly the same level and that crime in the area had been held in check. Having said that, let me say that I am conscious of the fact that gardaí have indicated, that in recent months there has been an increase in the level of recorded indictable crime in the area.

Deputy De Rossa and Deputy Ryan referred to certain well publicised incidents which took place in recent weeks. I must be extremely careful in what I say about these incidents because a number of people have been charged in connection with them and the matter will be dealt with where it should be dealt with, in the courts. I will confine myself to remarks of a general nature about attacks on gardaí.

Before going into that I would express my sympathy with the men who were injured in the course of their duty, not only in these well publicised incidents but in other incidents and I trust that those who are still off work as a result of injury will make a speedy recovery and will be back on duty shortly.

The Garda cannot countenance a situation where they are not allowed to go about their lawful duty without being set upon in the most violent manner. I want to assure the House that the Garda have the full backing of the Government and myself in taking whatever action has to be taken to stamp out any attempt by any group of violent people to intimidate the lawfully appointed police force of this country. I will leave my remarks at that.

On the more general issue of crime in the area, I want to reiterate what I said earlier in this House during Question Time. The indications are that the specific measures which have been taken by the Garda over the last year or so are proving to be effective in that provisional figures show that the overall level of recorded indictable crime in the Dublin Metropolitan area has decreased by 6 per cent during the first nine months of this year as compared with the corresponding period last year. However, this decrease has not been uniform over all areas. As I have already said, there has been an increase in the Finglas subdistrict.

Crime continues to be the cause of great concern and I am determined to ensure that all further feasible measures that are needed to tackle it successfully are taken and that the necessary resources are made available and deployed to enable that to be done. I have already outlined in some detail, in referring to a parliamentary question earlier today, a number of further measures being taken to tackle crime. I am confident that these measures will prove successful and that the necessary steps to combat crime are being taken as speedily as possible.

In addition to the measures I have already outlined I would once again mention that I will shortly announce a further package of measures in relation to the attack on crime. In response to the point made by Deputy De Rossa about meeting a delegation of Members of the House from the Finglas area to discuss the situation in Finglas, while it is an operational matter for the police, I will of course be delighted to meet such a delegation and will arrange for a senior member of the Garda to be present.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 10 November 1989.