Tá áthas orm deis a fháil labhairt ar an mBille um Cheartas Coiriúil (Foirne Comhpháirteacha um Imscrúdú) 2003, the Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Bill 2003. In dealing with this legislation it is important not to give the impression that it is being used as a substitute for local Garda effectiveness. Currently, many pressures are being brought to bear, and many calls are being made, on Garda time so we need to examine closely how the Garda Síochána can operate more effectively. This legislation goes above and beyond local considerations, however. The legislation should not be seen as an answer to the growing tragedy of international terrorism or, indeed, as a substitute for tackling increasing instability. In addition, to consider the Bill as a method of tackling growing international inequality would be to delude ourselves and we would learn a hard lesson from so doing.
Deputy Kelly mentioned the tragedy of 11 September 2001, which is imprinted on all our minds and as a result of which thousands of people lost their lives. It is important to bear in mind, however, that that act of international terrorism can be compared with a basic weapon of mass destruction, which is world hunger. Although starvation cannot be considered as a calculated act, if we were to compare the attack on the Twin Towers with the number of people dying from hunger, we would be talking about the equivalent of 300 jumbo jets crashing every day.
The Bill attempts to face up to growing international tension from a criminal justice viewpoint. However, the economic system that is regularly praised by the Government as being so good is the same system that is widening the gap between rich and poor, both here and internationally, on a north-south basis. Mercedes Benz cars may be exported from the EU to poorer countries but the trade in reverse is in pineapples and cut flowers, which earn far less than motor cars. Because of such trade imbalances, people in poor countries continue to be impoverished by their reliance on cash crops. Therein lies much of the cause of the growth in the illegal drugs trade, which must be faced up to. It cannot be dealt with by joint investigation police teams using sniffer dogs to find drugs unless the root economic cause of why people grow drugs instead of food is dealt with. I hope the Bill will allow a wider consideration of those issues because if it does not it will be perceived as having failed to cope with the growing tensions arising from injustice worldwide.
A certain amount needs to be done quickly in this country, which goes beyond the wider issues of international injustice to which I have referred. For example, in my own housing estate in Balbriggan, my next door neighbour woke up one morning to find that two vehicles, a company car and a family car, had been stolen. The Garda Síochána reported that there was little they could do about it. The cars were probably stolen to order and by the time my neighbour woke up, they were probably in another country. It is a tragedy but that is the way life is. Will the Bill enable the Garda Síochána to tackle car thefts effectively?
As an island country with four main ferry ports, it is strange that to date we have not been able to require proof of ownership when people drive vehicles on to international ferries. A substantial number of stolen vehicles are being driven, without fuss, on to ferries and away to other jurisdictions, but I hope the Bill will bring an end to such matters. The problem could be tackled even before the Bill is enacted. If he was sufficiently interested, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform could tackle it quickly by raising it with his EU colleagues whom he is meeting today. It would be interesting to ask EU Justice Ministers from Germany, the Netherlands or France if they would require proof of vehicle ownership if they were responsible for an island nation. I am sure they are envious of Ireland's island status, given that we could block stolen goods, such as cars, from leaving the jurisdiction if we put the resources into doing so. The Minister of State, Deputy Parlon, can speak from his own experience about this because he lives within the commuter belt, while his colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, lives much closer to hand.
With the development of our motorway infrastructure, it works both ways because thieves are benefiting from the lack of international co-operation, including controls on stolen cars leaving this jurisdiction. Last night, the Minister referred in an almost derisive fashion to stolen bicycles which are also part of the problem. Cars are packed up and sent out of the country and it appears that the Government is not interested in protecting property from being smuggled out of the country.
Perhaps when the Minister has spoken to his European Union colleagues with justice portfolios he will inform us whether there is a ground rule for increasing Garda resources in line with population growth. It was a shock to me to hear that my area had only received one extra garda although the population had grown from 11,000 to 33,000. That is one extra garda for a population increase of more than 20,000. The Minister knows all about it because he was in the area the other day. The same will happen in Donabate as a result of yesterday's rezoning decision which will multiply the population by three.
Gardaí are in a position where they cannot cope, yet we are debating a Bill which will create joint investigation teams. The manpower situation is stretched to a level where there is concern if a garda is sick and it is a crisis if one dies, as happened in Balbriggan recently. Will the Government take this into consideration? It is easy to pass legislation which will set up joint investigation teams but from where will the members of those teams come? Deputy Cuffe asked the same question earlier. The fear is that these teams will further deplete the existing resources of the Garda Síochána.
Deputy Andrews praised his Progressive Democrats Government colleague last night following the news bulletin on crime figures. It is unfortunate that Deputy Andrews was not in the Chamber when Deputy Costello regaled us with the inside track on the 2002 figures which did not get much attention because they brought us the bad news. We only heard the good news from RTE on this occasion because the Minister ensured for PR purposes that these figures were the ones broadcast. People should examine the 2002 figures to get a balanced picture of the full story rather than a selective Government viewpoint.
I welcome the announcement by the Minister that he will support the creation of the position of ombudsman for the Garda Síochána. It does the majority of decent gardaí no favours to play down the misdemeanours of the minority or to say it is a bad reflection on the force to discuss the matter because it reduces the respect people have for gardaí. The Garda Síochána is in a position to earn respect and I wish it well in the maintenance and enhancement of that respect. Respect will not be given because gardaí refuse to discuss misdemeanours. That creates suspicion and distrust. We must do all we can to confront that.
If people do not report crime, the impression is given that crime does not exist. We must bear that in mind both nationally and internationally. People must not be tempted to leave crime unreported because of the fear that nothing will be done about it. At the least, the crime will be added to the statistics. The trend has grown for people to say there is no point in reporting a crime because nothing happens about it. We hear that again and again. While I am sure it is not true, this is the impression people have. It is important that we confront the issue.
This Bill makes specific reference to trafficking in human beings. As a result of news reports and RTE and Danish television dramas such as "Proof", this issue is being discussed throughout the country. The matter is not helped by the failure of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to provide adequate language translation facilities for many of the refugees and people who come to the country without English. The situation of people not in a position to communicate except through a mediator who may have malevolent motivation, such as a person trafficking or exploiting people for sexual profiteering, is made worse by our difficulty in providing language translators for such vulnerable people. Dealing with this issue could help in the prevention of trafficking. If people coming to Ireland knew there was somebody here who could understand them, they would be less likely to put their trust in some of the shady characters who exploit them.
Trafficking is not confined to human beings because we also face the problem of drug trafficking. Ireland also has the indigenous problem of the smuggling and laundering of diesel. Gardaí have often raised this issue with me and they are at their wits' end trying to deal with the problem with their current resources. The smuggling of cigarettes is also a problem and, despite Government policy on the matter, the trade continues on our streets. There is obviously the paradox of an open economy and borders and the temptation that gives, not just for legitimate business but also for illicit business. This Bill recognises the need to do something about that but, unfortunately, it will fall far short of making a substantial difference unless it deals with the reasons for resorting to crime.
In places such as Afghanistan, Colombia and other areas where drugs are produced without thought or compassion for those who will be caught in an addiction, people may be driven to drug dealing by hunger or trained into a life of crime because it seems they will not get caught and it looks like a possible career path. Whatever the reason, the underlying causes are exacerbated by the economic system in this country and throughout the neo-liberal economic empire. We must face up to that because it widens the gap between rich and poor. Certainly, the issue will not be confronted by a joint investigation team acting alone.