Leaders' Questions.

In recent weeks this country has seen an unprecedented rise in the incidence of unpremeditated violence on our streets. Does the Taoiseach not accept that the policy pursued by this Government and the previous Government of zero tolerance lies in a complete and utter shambles? Does he accept that the solemn promise made in the programme for Government of a society where all people can feel safe in their homes, businesses and communities is a total sham?

In 2002, the rise in serious crime was more than 22%. There were 1,886 more assaults than in 2001, 16 assaults and nine sexual offences every day in 2002 and 34,000 incidents of public drunkenness. On top of that, there was a solemn commitment by the Taoiseach and the Government to recruit 2,000 extra gardaí, but we got a statement from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that this will not happen. Does the Taoiseach accept that, as the head of Government, he is presiding over an absolutely disastrous State in terms of the implementation of law and order and of forming a society where people can feel safe in their communities, businesses and homes? Arising from those statistics, will he tell the House and the country what he proposes to do about this in the interests of having a normal society?

The Government has acknowledged that the increase in crime in the past few years is unacceptable and very disappointing. We have also pointed out that we will continue to put in additional resources in terms of manpower, pri son places, and changes to the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act and criminal justice legislation as well as other measures. Only yesterday the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform spelled out in particular six measures, some legislative, which he intends to introduce as soon as possible, relating to drink and licensed premises.

I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill and the other initiatives being brought forward are useful. These include a mandatory age card for a specific age cohort if they wish to buy and consume alcohol in a licensed premises. Plain clothes gardaí will have the right to be on licensed premises to stop under age drinking, there will be new and heavier penalties for drunkenness in licensed premises, gardaí will have the power to seek the closure of premises, there will be a prohibition on those under 18 years of age remaining in licensed premises, closed circuit television will be extended and there will be other initiatives to empower the gardaí to take the necessary measures.

We allocated huge resources in the budget to allow gardaí to deal with the situation. It is a fact that the figures have gone up in the past few years, mainly through drink related crime and public order elements, but there was a fall of almost a quarter for a number of years prior to that. The solution is to deal with the two areas where there are problems – drink and the intoxicating liquor legislation coupled with public order and the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill. That is what we will do to return to the previous position and address the figures that are higher than we would like.

The stark failure of this Government is its inability to enforce current regulations, never mind new ones. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform did not take the opportunity with the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill to mention any of the six proposals he now has. How is it proposed to act on those proposals when the gardaí say that any cutbacks in overtime will have dire consequences for visibility on the streets? The single biggest issue for all communities is the presence of gardaí on the streets. They must be visible because it is not only a source of comfort, it is a source of protection and a deterrent to those who would break the law.

How does the Taoiseach propose to deal with this? Will the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform get the extra resources from the Minister for Finance to ensure Garda visibility on the streets and the implementation of the proposals on drink and public order? Why has the Government failed to introduce any initiative, even in respect of parents, when 34,000 incidents of public drunkenness took place last year, when a young man taking money from an ATM had his throat slit and when people on the streets are kicked senseless in unprovoked acts of extreme violence? The Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform are presiding over this. The time for talking is over, we must now have action.


Hear, hear.

Zero tolerance is a joke now.

I am glad to see Deputy Kenny is interested in this issue. Unfortunately, his party was the only one not to bother giving a submission to the Commission on Intoxicating Liquor despite the reminders that it received.

It is the Taoiseach's job to govern.

The Taoiseach is not in charge.

There is only one leader of Fine Gael, Deputy Kenny, and this is Leaders' Questions. He is the only Deputy who is entitled to ask a supplementary on this question.

Let us hear the Taoiseach's proposals. How will he do it?

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is cracking jokes.

The current strength of the gardaí is at an all-time high.

It is not high enough.

Perhaps not—

Where are the 2,000 extra gardaí?

I remind Deputy Allen that he is not the leader of his party.

I want to ask about these promises.

There are currently 12,200 gardaí and at every turn in recent years we have given priority to providing additional powers to the gardaí. After every report on criminal justice, we have introduced legislation to the House to ensure we can deal with the situation.

The Taoiseach is not out on the streets.

As the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and I have said, there are difficulties in the areas related to intoxicating liquor legislation and, with the publication of the recent report, we set about examining what we must do to legislate for it. The Minister has issued a comprehensive report setting out what he intends to do in this area.

When is he going to do it?

We are bringing in short-term measures to deal with these problems and the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill is already before the House. The Government has stated that the scourge of alcohol-fuelled violence and criminality makes nobody proud. We are trying to deal with it and we must take the necessary legislative and enforcement measures. I am not responsible for the enforcement measures.

That is the issue.

I can supply the resources to the gardaí and provide the legislative powers. We will do our best to ensure record numbers of gardaí deal with this matter.

The citizens of the State will be appalled to hear the Taoiseach saying that he has no responsibility for enforcement. Is what happened at the weekend not every parent's nightmare – the horrific, life threatening assault of a young man for no apparent reason? There is nothing new about this. This is the present Minister reaping the whirlwind of six years of zero tolerance. Does the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform recall his predecessor saying that he would be judged by whether people considered the streets to be safer and feeling secure in their homes at the end of his term of office? This is the legacy – 300 serious offences per year and nine vicious assaults in the past nine months that have maimed young people.

I do not take cheap shots at the present Minister. I may not agree with him but I have high regard for his ability. He runs the risk, however, of ridicule if he does not stop making announcements and do something to enforce the law. How come there was no garda within easy distance on Grafton Street on the night? Can the Minister give the Taoiseach a note to tell him how many gardaí patrol the city centre area at weekends? Why is there no visible Garda presence? Why are there no community policemen on the beat? Why is that no longer regarded as a deterrent?

Garda reform is as desperately needed as are the 2,000 gardaí the Government did not deliver. That people cannot go to bed at night during the weekend for fear that their teenagers will be the subject of a vicious and unprovoked assault is a matter for which the Taoiseach must be responsible. It is not good enough to say to Deputy Kenny that the Taoiseach has no responsibility for enforcement. The Taoiseach is the leader of the Government and the situation is getting worse every year. The figures for 2000 were a disaster, those for 2001, which the Government delayed until after the general election, were worse and preliminary figures for 2002 are worse again. That is the trend. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources should realise this is not a laughing matter.

He is always smiling.

He does not have much to smile about.

I have already acknowledged several times in the House, as has the Minister, that between 1997 and 2000 there was a drop of 27% and in the past two years, 2001 and 2002, there has been a large increase.

This is comical Ali stuff.

If I outline Garda facts, they say it is rubbish. Could Opposition Members just listen? I only have a minute, can they not shut up for a minute?


The Taoiseach is losing it now.

He should watch the back benches.

Deputies cannot frustrate any Member of the House from making his or her contribution. Deputy Rabbitte was entitled to ask a question, he submitted his question to the Taoiseach and the Taoiseach is entitled to the same courtesy as any other Member in replying. The Chair will insist upon that.

Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle.

We are entitled to be disorderly if we like, we have no intention of shutting up.

As I have stated, we have acknowledged that the figures for 2002 are high, as were the figures for 2001. I have been asked what we are doing about this. We have devoted and will continue to devote major resources to ensure that where crimes are committed, criminal law is adequate to deal with them. We have put more than 1,000 extra gardaí on the streets, the highest number ever. Garda numbers are up and the budget has increased by 60%. We have put legislation in place in all the key areas where there are difficulties and we will continue to do that. We have prioritised recruitment and training.

Deputy Rabbitte rightly points out that crime levels are at their highest in the city centre. The Minister has provided for specialist units, both under cover and plain clothes, to deal with drugs, drink and public order issues. It is perhaps not solving the problems but the Minister is endeavouring to deal with them.

With regard to enforcement, the Minister has spelt out what he is doing in the area of legislation and in terms of resources. He has addressed with the Garda what needs to be done on enforcement. It is not a question that the Government has ignored or washed its hands in respect of any of these initiatives. In a busy legislative period in the area of liquor licensing and public order, we hope to strengthen those aspects of the law the Garda and the courts have indicated to be deficient. We will continue to provide the necessary resources in the Estimates.

We should not ignore the fact that the Garda budget has increased by 60%, from €600 million only a few years ago to almost €1 billion today. These are not small figures. To have more than 12,000 gardaí in a small country is proportionately far higher in terms of size of population than in other areas.

What is wrong, then?

Change the Minister.

On the question of reform, I agree with Deputy Rabbitte's views on Garda supervision. The Minister has made that a priority. He has taken initiatives on the question of manning levels and reforming the system. We have introduced legislative controls, but more needs to be done. The Minister has outlined his proposals in this regard.

The Taoiseach appears not to accept that he has been in office for six years. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has been in office with him for approximately half of that period. Is the Taoiseach aware that by comparison with 2000, crime figures for 2002 indicate that serious assaults have increased by 187%, sexual offences by 113%, drug offences by 62%, homicides by 58% and headline offences by 44%? There have already been six gangland killings this year.

However, I do no want to divert from the question of safety on the streets. After six years in office, will the Taoiseach indicate when the law will be enforced? We do not need further legislation for that. When will there be a visible Garda presence on the streets?

The Minister keeps promising new legislation. When will it be introduced to the House? The Minister inherited a milk and water Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill from his predecessor. It is a harmless measure and Second Stage was debated at the outset of his period in office.

Deputy Higgins said I was declaring war on the young people of Ireland.

Deputy Rabbitte, without interruption.

I did not say that. It is a milk and water measure. If the Minister is to base his legislative career on tackling public order offences on the strength of this measure, which he inherited from his predecessor, he may as well return to the drawing board now.

The Minister is not basing his legislative proposals in this area solely on the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill. He has consulted the Garda Síochána and last night he spelt out the legislative measure he intends to take.

He has referred to them 20 times in the past year.

The Minster has also allocated increased resources to other measures, such as closed circuit television. We can argue over the statistics all day. Crime levels are higher, but crime per head of the population is probably unchanged. Nevertheless, it is still too high and we must take the necessary measure to deal with it. In this regard I agree with Deputy Rabbitte on the need for greater enforcement. A tougher public order Bill is required, as are tougher laws dealing with intoxicating liquor and liquor licensing.

We need more gardaí on the streets.

We are paying for more than 12,000 gardaí.

We do not see them.

The Government has provided for substantial numbers of extra gardaí. Increased resources for overtime have been provided every year. We have also worked hard with the Garda Síochána to provide for reform and to ensure there is greater Garda visibility. If people see more gardaí on the streets they have a greater sense of confidence.

Will the Taoiseach indicate the number of gardaí in the city centre?

The Government can seek to ensure that the Garda training college in Templemore produces the highest possible output of new gardaí. We have been doing this for a number of years.

At their weekend conference, the Progressive Democrats rightly stressed the need to tackle high insurance costs. However, I worry that the Government appears unwilling to accept any link between costs of insurance for flooding and climate change. On Question Time earlier today, I pointed out to the Taoiseach that he must understand that radical action in this area is needed. However, it is difficult to accept that the Government is serious when on "Morning Ireland" the Minister for the Environment and Local Government confuses the ozone layer with the greenhouse effect while the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Parlon, tries to claim that the flooding last year was exceptional and that with the current spell of dry weather everything is fine again.

I ask the Government to heed the expert view of the International Panel on Climate Change or, closer to home, Dr. John Sweeney of the NUI in Maynooth, who stress that the extremes of weather in terms of flooding and drought are to be expected with climate change and that this is happening around the world. Notwithstanding the call by the IPCC that there is a need for a 60% cut in CO2 emissions world-wide, I ask the Government to look seriously at how it is failing to comply even with its agreed allowance of 13% growth in CO2 emissions for the period 2008-12 over 1990 levels.

I know the Taoiseach will respond by saying we have a national climate change strategy. Is there a replacement in the climate change strategy for the fact that Moneypoint is not now to be converted to gas? Is there any way of dealing with the fact that there was an expectation that 3.5 million tonnes, or 30% of the overall 15 million tonnes in the strategy, was to be accounted for by the conversion of the Moneypoint generating plant to the use of gas? Now that this will not happen, what will the Government do to save that 3.5 million tonnes which will not now be saved given that Moneypoint will remain fuelled by coal?

I dealt with this matter earlier today on Question Time. In response to a question by Deputy Sargent, I said the Government would review the national climate change strategy to ensure that we have adequate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to meet our obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. To the best of my knowledge, no provision has been made to deal with the Moneypoint initiative. However, we must continue to fulfil our obligations and the Government is committed to this approach.

We are failing in this area.

The Minister for the Environment and Local Government and the Minster for Communications, the Marine and Natural Resources have outlined a series of measures to be taken in terms of implementing European Union energy directives, dealing with both gas and other fuels, and they will continue to do so.

We are failing in just about every area.

Deputy Sargent cannot delegate his supplementary questions to Deputy Ryan.

We have proposed a number of measures which are included in the national climate change strategy and we have indicated they will be reviewed to ensure we meet our targets. Deputy Sargent does not accept we have reviewed, and are in the process of implementing, the strategy, but that is the Government's position.

The Taoiseach should not mislead the House. He says we will continue to comply with our obligations. However, by 2000, Ireland was already 24% over the 1990 levels. That figure is increasing rapidly, even though 13% was the limit set for 2008. Will the Taoiseach indicate if there is to be a clear indication of what will replace the input of the Moneypoint generator in the national strategy? To say that the strategy will be reviewed does not answer my question. There will be no replacement of Moneypoint, according to the Taoiseach. Will the Taoiseach change the transport policy whereby the cost ratio of roads to public transport is 5:1? Will he consider the cut in tax incentives for wind energy which we discussed earlier and the reliance on incineration which will pump further CO2 into the atmosphere?

Will the Taoiseach face up to the fact that Ireland will be fined an estimated €1.2 billion per year if the current rate of emissions continues? That money should be spent on crime, health, education and in many other areas. The Government is set to squander it simply because it cannot face the reality of the challenge it signed up to at Kyoto. Will the Taoiseach say what he intends to examine in the review which is forthcoming? What will replace Moneypoint in the short-term, given that it will be fuelled by coal according to the ESB?

The Deputy will be aware from answers given earlier that Moneypoint will switch to gas. On taxation—

Not according to the ESB.

It will not switch to gas.

I explained the wind energy position earlier. An examination of wind energy is under way. The Minister for Finance and the Minister for the Environment and Local Government have been considering proposals to provide investors with new means of engaging in wind energy production profitably. Without some subsidisation, it will not work.

That is the end of that.

It is a bit like café society.

I told Deputy Sargent previously that it is the Government's intention to publish a position paper on what we can do in all areas of energy. While it is difficult to fulfil the Kyoto protocol, we are obliged to do so.

We are not doing so.

The Taoiseach is failing.

The figures have been worked out for the next few years. We are moving to a position and it is an obligation we have to fulfil. The Government has set out the way in which we will achieve that. Deputies may not agree that we can achieve our goals, but we have to work towards them like any other country.