Other Questions.

EU Presidency.

Jan O'Sullivan


6 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed by the chairman of the National Safety Council that the diversion of gardaí to policing EU Presidency events may have contributed to the increased death rate on the roads in recent months; the total Garda man hours devoted to Presidency related matters since 1 January 2004 in view of the confirmation by Deputy Commissioner Murphy that Garda resources had been diverted away from traffic duties to deal with Presidency events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12673/04]

On the general question of Garda resources, I am committed to providing the Garda Síochána with the means to provide an effective policing service. This year's Garda budget, at more than €1.054 billion, represents an increase of 9.5% on last year's budget, a significant increase at any time but especially significant when careful control has had to be exercised over increases in public spending. The increase is ahead of the overall general trend of increases in public spending which is of the order of 6%. This year's budget provides in particular for an increase of approximately €7 million in overtime which translates directly into more gardaí on duty to enforce the law, including road traffic law.

On the question of the EU Presidency, it is of course the case that meetings here of EU Ministers necessarily impose security and policing demands on the Garda Síochána. While this is an unavoidable part of our duties as holders of the EU Presidency, I was conscious from the outset of the impact these demands could have on day-to-day policing. Special provision of approximately €8.5 million was made in the Garda budget this year to deal with the security and policing demands of the EU Presidency, of which €7.5 million was set aside for Garda overtime. The purpose of the special allocation was to make available additional resources rather than to divert existing resources to deal with those demands.

I accept that any given occasion or out of the ordinary event or series of events, such as the EU Presidency, which moves Garda resources to the duty of security and escort and so on is a drain on resources from other areas. As a consequence, areas which need those resources must necessarily suffer. I did my best, through the budgetary provisions mentioned, to minimise those effects. However, I do not believe security for the EU Presidency could have been handled without putting a strain on Garda resources. The situation necessitated a significant allocation of resources and those resources had to come from areas to which they would have otherwise been applied.

Deputy Commissioner Murphy when attending an Oireachtas committee two weeks ago established a link between the stress and strain on Garda resources and the EU Presidency. The chairman of the National Safety Council established a further link between the increase in road deaths in the first three months of this year from an average of 20 per month to 30 per month, a 50% increase and the shortage of Garda manpower and resources in terms of effectively implementing the penalty points system.

Having witnessed an initial reduction in road deaths, there has been an alarming increase in that regard in the first three months of this year. The lack of Garda resources available to deal with the matter was also mentioned. There is a serious shortage of staffing and resources in the public arena even though the Minister had 18 months to put in place the extra gardaí promised. We had all expected the recruitment of a considerable number of extra gardaí for the EU Presidency. However, that has not been delivered upon which in many ways gives rise to the shortage now being experienced and the inability to properly deal with issues not just related to the EU Presidency or VIP escorts but the general level of crime which is increasing.

I have already conceded that the EU Presidency did, in terms of the resources associated with it, eat into resources which would otherwise have been available. It is not fair to say there is a direct correlation between the security issues surrounding the EU Presidency and the increase in road deaths. It probably has more to do with the perception of general enforcement. The coming on stream of the penalty points system in the summer will drive home that element of the Government's road safety strategy.

I am often mystified, in terms of road traffic accidents about which one hears on the radio, that so many of them are, tragically, cases involving a lone driver crashing into a tree, lamppost or wall at night or in the early hours of the morning on lonely roads where, in all probability, gardaí would not be deployed. That is a puzzling pattern. We must carefully investigate the circumstances of many of these accidents.

The Garda Síochána, in conjunction with the Army, did a fine job in policing the EU Presidency. I am proud of them and credit must be given to them in that regard.

However, the point being raised here is somewhat different. As we did not have extra gardaí, we had to divert members of the force from tasks they would otherwise have been doing. I was horrified at the starkness of the comments of the chairman of the National Safety Council when he bluntly stated that road deaths had increased as a result of our not having increased the number of gardaí available. That must strike very hard at those who lost members of their family through accidents.

What is the current position of the traffic corps in terms of numbers? What can be done in this area, even with extra gardaí? There will always be events such as the EU Presidency which make demands on manpower. What is proposed in terms of a substantial traffic corps to deal with the significant increase in the number of road traffic deaths and accidents?

Currently, 520 gardaí are attached to traffic units. That is a significant number.

Is it enough?

No, in my view it is not enough. As I understand it, the traffic unit works on two shifts. Therefore, at any given time one has to halve that number of 520 to 260 and then has to divide that by the number of counties involved.

We have 32 counties.

We do not have 32 counties yet. When one divides that number of personnel by each county borough and county one achieves a figure of roughly ten persons at any given stage available for traffic duties. If one sub-divides that into traffic control and surveillance duties and so on one will see that, in effect, only a small number of people are engaged in any particular aspect of the traffic corps' activities. We need to assign more gardaí to traffic duties.

I accept the Deputy's point, stark as it may be, that it is a matter of life and death. It is not simply a matter of policy choice. There are consequences, not merely regarding the traffic corps but in general policing, in terms of whether one does or does not have enough gardaí. Whether one has enough gardaí is a matter of serious consequence and not one on which economists can chew the fat in Doheny and Nesbitt's. It is a matter of life and death and of preventing terrible tragedy for many people.

Does the disappointment and shame of the matter not lie in the fact that having altered Irish behaviour on the roads by the introduction of penalty points, we have reverted to type because there has not been proper policing? Is this not because the extra gardaí who were promised have not been recruited and because of the failure to establish a transport and traffic corps?

Will the Minister use his influence to ensure that the traffic division does not change shift in the middle of the evening rush hour? It has been shown that a substantial number of gardaí on traffic duty change shift at the peak of the evening rush hour. Will the Minister do anything to ensure that the change of shift is done earlier or later so that full capacity is available during peak traffic times?

That is an issue on which I will convey the Deputy's views to the commissioner and to the Minister for Transport. The Minister, Deputy Brennan, and I have been grappling with this issue for some time. It is not an easy one. In the United Kingdom an auxiliary force of traffic police has been created to keep traffic moving and to carry out lower level traffic control functions. Even if that is a desirable model — without having studied it carefully I am not sure how it will work since it only started recently in the United Kingdom — I would run into the public service recruitment ban were I to go down that road.

One of the problems is that half the unit is trying to get traffic moving while the other half is trying to slow it down.

Crime Levels.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh


7 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on whether there is international evidence that arming police has the effect of reducing gun crime. [12738/04]

Kathleen Lynch


24 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will expand on his recently reported comments that the increase in gun crime may put at risk the unarmed status of the Garda; the number of gardaí who currently carry firearms or are authorised to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12668/04]

Joe Costello


144 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will expand on his recently reported comments that the increase in gun crime may put at risk the unarmed status of the Garda; the number of gardaí who currently carry firearms or are authorised to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12763/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 7, 24 and 144 together.

The short answer to Deputy Ó Snodaigh's question is that there is no such evidence. The Garda Síochána is one of the few remaining police forces in which uniformed members do not carry firearms. This is a tradition to be proud of. The first Garda Commissioner, Michael Staines, said: "The Garda Síochána will achieve success not by force of arms but by its moral authority as servants of the people." It is not my wish to have gardaí in uniform armed. I believe that if uniformed gardaí were armed it would entail a significant change in the culture of policing in this State and would have significant implications for the relationship between the force and members of the public. That would be regrettable. The approaches adopted by different countries to arming their police forces are deeply rooted in the cultures of those countries. It is, therefore, not useful to attempt to compare the effects their differing approaches to arming their police forces have on the rates of gun crime in those countries.

I recently published the provisional crime statistics for the first quarter of 2004. While they show a welcome reduction of 22% in incidents of possession of firearms, they also show an increase of 54% in incidents of discharge of firearms compared with the same period a year ago. Although this represents an increase in the number of incidents from 54 to a comparatively low 83, it is a matter of some concern, particularly in the context of a reduction of 6% in crime overall. It is obvious that if that trend continued for any significant period, maintaining an unarmed uniformed Garda Síochána would become more difficult.

This is not to say I will surrender to that trend. The answer is to introduce tougher sentences for armed criminals caught in possession of firearms and more effective measures to control their availability. I intend to bring forward proposals to Government to seek approval for the introduction of firearms control provisions of a more severe kind in the Criminal Justice Bill 2004, which I expect to publish during the current session. I also propose, in the context of such provisions, to examine the options in relation to penalties for firearms related offences and to consider, as part of the new tough regime, an amnesty for those who wish to surrender the firearms in their possession. This was done in the United Kingdom with considerable success.

My question related to a report in The Irish Times in which the Minister was quoted as saying that if the present trends continued indefinitely the question of maintaining an unarmed police force would arise. The Minister has a habit of taking policy decisions and introducing legislation in the absence of evidence of their effectiveness and sometimes contrary to the available evidence. We need only look at the prison escort service.

Does the Minister have plans at any stage of development or consideration to move from the current situation and to establish the Garda as a force which is armed in the course of its regular duty? On numerous occasions the Minister has raised concerns similar to mine regarding the level of gun crime in my constituency of Dublin South-Central, which I believe has the highest number of armed crimes involving a fatality in this and previous years. The Government has failed to tackle this aspect of crime in working class areas. Before the Minister goes down this route he must ensure that he examines all available evidence.

As I stated on a number of occasions, and again today, I have no intention of arming the Garda Síochána. I said that if we do not tackle gun crime effectively the question of maintaining our police force unarmed would, inevitably, arise. I posed that rhetorical question to persuade people to focus on the serious upsurge in the use of firearms, to which Deputy Ó Snodaigh referred.

The pattern of drugs and firearms being used by the same people and of the importation of drugs being accompanied by what are called lucky bags of firearms to service the enforcement needs of drugs warlords is a disturbing one. The possession of firearms is a very serious matter. It is not something which can be excused. In our society and circumstances, the possession of a sawn-off shotgun or a hand gun is inexcusable and must be punished severely. Those who are in possession of such firearms must realise that the entire community, especially the Judiciary, regard the possession of firearms as a very grave crime indeed, regardless of whether they are used on a particular occasion, and that heavy sentencing of a condign kind will be imposed on those who are found in possession of firearms. This matter seriously threatens the integrity of our State and requires a robust response from the Legislature, the Government, the Garda and, above all, the Judiciary. There is no room for faint hearts in this matter. If we believe in an unarmed Garda Síochána we must tackle gun crime very seriously.

Does the Minister agree that a 54% increase in the discharge of firearms this year is unacceptable, that a gun for hire culture is developing, gangland killings appear to be the order of the day in a considerable number of urban areas and the response of the security forces is not adequate to deal with the problem which has increased sharply in the past couple of years? Rather than articulating toughness, the Minister must make a co-ordinated plan to deal with the underlying issues related to drugs. Otherwise, the spectre of arming the Garda will continue to be raised. It is irresponsible to raise that spectre.

However, it is responsible to recognise that the Garda has been unarmed since the foundation of the State. The fine words of the first Garda Commissioner, Mr. Staines, were spoken during the Civil War. Since then, we have experienced 30 years of very serious trouble in Northern Ireland, which overflowed into this State, yet we still did not arm the Garda. The Minister must deal with this latest serious criminal issue, namely, gangland activity of which weapons are a major component.

I agree with the Deputy. I am not raising the spectre of arming the Garda as a serious proposition but because it is such an unthinkable result that the community must consider it a duty to take the steps necessary to counter the gun culture. Resolute action from the three arms of the State — legislative, executive and judicial — is necessary to counter this culture.

Murder, to which the Deputy referred, is an issue we must keep in perspective. For example, in the first three months of this year, there were fewer murders than in the first three months of the previous two years.

I referred to gangland murders. We must make the correct categorisations.

However, it would be naive to assume that the threat is diminishing from drug warlords and gangs and their weapons; it is not. Possession of a pistol should not be punishable by a three or four year sentence but should be treated as seriously as crimes such as rape and serious manslaughter. It must be dealt with seriously by the Judiciary with appropriate sentences acting as a deterrent.

It is difficult to break open criminal gangs because of the climate of fear and the threat of murder which underlies them. However, those found in possession of firearms should know they will go to jail for a very long time. It cannot be a matter of short sentences or of accepting the excuse, heard so often in court, that the accused is a small cog in a big machine and is not a Mr. Big. By heavily sentencing those at the lower end of criminal organisations, there will be some prospect of breaking gangs open and providing an inducement to get at the leading criminals. It is time for a sentencing policy which does not allow those who claim to be at the lower end of a gang, or to have acted unwisely, to be treated leniently for possession of firearms.

In some parts of the country, those who regard themselves as paramilitaries hire their weapons to criminals. This pattern has been observed in regard to a close correlation between the Real IRA and Continuity IRA and ordinary criminality, in the context of the lending of firearms to ordinary criminals to carry out murders. This is another issue which must be dealt with very seriously by the Judiciary.

The Minister is responsible.

It is a new version of guns for hire. Does the Minister accept that ministerial musings about the arming of the Garda Síochána are not to be encouraged and divert attention from the real problems and solutions? There is no need to encourage a focus on the increased use of firearms as the figures speak for themselves. In talking of solutions, does the Minister accept that any robust response proposed in the Legislature will not pose any problems as far as the Opposition is concerned? Will the Minister go further and consider issues such as the need for an organised crime unit? If Garda numbers were high enough, would such a unit be considered? Has such an approach worked in other countries and should we try it here? Should we consider the videotaping of witness statements so those who suffer amnesia when they come to court can be reminded of their statements? We must take a broader approach if we really wish to tackle serious crime.

On the last point, the criminal justice Bill, which I intend to publish in the next couple of weeks as soon as the parliamentary counsel has made the finishing touches which I eagerly await, will deal with the issue of the recanting of evidence in circumstances which give rise to public scandal and disquiet. However, the point I wish to get across is that we must improve our act in regard to serious crime, and I am glad of Deputy O'Keeffe's indication of support for a tougher legislative line.

When somebody is sentenced for possession or use of firearms, it is not simply a matter of that individual being dealt with as an isolated person but as part of a social phenomenon in the context of the increased use of firearms. The consequences of this are serious. From my point of view, the use of deterrent as opposed to purely rehabilitative sentences is justifiable in this area. Tough sentencing along such lines does have an effect. The members of the Judiciary are not isolated and do not live on another planet. I am glad there is recent evidence that serious drug dealing is attracting serious sentences.

What measures will the Minister take to ensure the Judiciary implements mandatory sentences? If deterrent sentences are to be introduced, they must be applied to those convicted.

Will the Minister consider instructing the Garda authorities to ensure that Garda informers who are also drug dealers are arrested and charged, and that there would be no toleration by the Garda authorities of those importing significant numbers of the lucky bags referred to by the Minister, containing weapons and drugs, which kill people throughout working class areas? Three out of four violent deaths in my area since the start of the year have been drug related.

I agree it is important that whatever sentences are prescribed by statute are regarded by the Judiciary as the norm rather than the exception. I remind Deputy Ó Snodaigh that I have not remarked, because this is a constructive debate on the need to remove firearms from Irish society, that there are people close enough to the party of which he is a member who should take his rhetoric to heart and give up their firearms also.

Prison Regulations.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh


8 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Prison Service allows prisoners to apply for, receive and vote using postal ballots; and if not, the reason therefore. [12741/04]

The prison rules neither expressly prohibit nor expressly provide for a prisoner to apply for a postal vote, receive a postal vote or to vote using a postal vote. The Deputy will appreciate that electoral legislation is a matter primarily for my colleague the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government. However, I understand there is no specific provision in the Electoral Acts that allows a person in custody apply for a postal vote.

At present, members of the Garda Síochána, diplomats and members of the Permanent Defence Force serving overseas are allowed to vote by post. Persons who are disabled and living at home may apply for a postal vote. In addition, the Electoral Act 1997 provides that where the circumstances of the elector's occupation, service or employment are such as to render it likely that he or she will be unable to go in person on polling day to vote at the polling station, the elector can apply for a postal vote. Employment and service are deemed to include participation on a full-time basis on an educational course of study in an educational institution in the State.

The question of making arrangements for voting by persons in custody is to be reviewed in light of a recent case in the European Court of Human Rights and my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, will have an input into that review.

On elections to this body, the Constitution requires that constituencies should be based on representation by reference to the population of that constituency. The population of a constituency are the people ordinarily resident in that constituency. In the case of people serving a long term of imprisonment, the question is whether they are ordinarily resident at the place of the prison or where they would be if they had not been sentenced to jail. I do not believe it would be desirable in any circumstance for prisoners, whether remand prisoners or convicted prisoners, to vote as a block in a constituency simply by virtue of the fact that I as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform decided to locate a prison in that place.

Ireland is one of a small number of European states which denies incarcerated citizens their right to vote. This is done by virtue of the fact that they cannot apply for postal votes. While this is not the Minister's responsibility, he said the Government is studying the ruling. Does he agree that the current status quo is in violation of the European court ruling? Given the impending election, will he commit to having mechanisms in place to allow imprisoned citizens to vote on 11 June this year? I do not understand what purpose will be served by denying prisoners their right to vote. The question of the constituency where one votes can be sorted out in due course. More than likely it will be sorted out on the basis of where one resided prior to going to prison. The majority of these people will be voting in their constituencies because the prisons are located in constituencies where these people live such as the north inner city or Dublin South-Central, working class areas which have a higher proportion of incarcerated people. Will the Minister explain what legitimate purpose will be served by denying these people their vote?

I do not accept the general proposition that being sent to prison should have no consequence other than deprivation of liberty. Being sent to prison for six months would disqualify a person from membership of this House and deem his or her seat to be vacant. Going to prison has consequences. Being convicted of the offence of theft or dishonesty, for instance, involves many consequences, including ineligibility for appointment to many boards and ineligibility to take part in the affairs of a credit union. This is an issue we must collectively think about. It would be advisable to sit around a table and discuss the issue on an all-party basis. I do not believe this is a party issue; it is an issue of fundamental principle. In that context, the balance should be struck, not on some kind of theoretical paper basis, but on what the practical consequences are likely to be. There are arguments on both sides.

The European Court of Human Rights' ruling may be subject to an appeal. That ruling is one I would like to study at great length as, I presume, would most Members of this House to see where we stand on the issue. I do not think it is necessarily the case that being sent to prison for a serious crime such as directing terrorism or whatever should leave one in a position whereby one can participate in elections. Canvassing would be a problem in these circumstances. There are all manner of complications which would need to be taken into account in a balanced discussion.

It is an interesting point which should be discussed at the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights. We would be in a position of less adversarial circumstances to develop our thinking and consider at greater length some of the implications.

The issue must be discussed. There will be a court decision against us if we do not do something about the issue. We should accept the principle and work out the modalities.

I agree the matter should be discussed and that the European Court convention case raises issues. However, I am not the Minister with responsibility for solving it.

Custody of Children.

Dan Boyle


9 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he intends taking to ensure that the judicial system makes the presumption to provide joint residency for children of divorced or separated couples; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12727/04]

I assume that by referring to "joint residency" the Deputy is referring to joint custody of a child.

Section 11A of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964 provides that, for the avoidance of doubt, it is declared that the court, in making an order under section 11 of the 1964 Act, may, if it thinks it appropriate, grant custody of a child to the child's father and mother jointly.

Section 11D, as inserted by the 1997 Act, provides that, in considering whether to make an order under section 11 and other sections, the court shall have regard to whether the child's best interests would be served by maintaining personal relations and direct contact with both his or her father and mother on a regular basis. Section 3 of the Guardianship of Infants Act provides that, where in any proceedings before any court the custody of a child is in question, the court shall have regard to the welfare of the child as the first and paramount consideration.

These legal provisions set out in simple form the underlying principles which should have effect in any decision in respect of a child, first, that joint custody is an option, second, that access to parents must have regard to the welfare of the child and, third, that it is the welfare of the child rather than the interests of the parents which should be the predominant consideration in the exercise of the Irish courts jurisdiction in respect of custody issues.

The presumption has been that the parent who has provided the greater support for the child is normally given custody of the child. However, in recent years, there has been a view that the minor parent is perhaps not given as much control over the situation as they might. At Christmas and Easter each year, there is the sad spectacle of parents, fathers in particular, protesting about the lack of access to their children. Would joint custody be acceptable so that the child could spend the major part of the week in one parent's house and the remainder in the other parent's house? I take the Minister's point that the welfare of the child is of the utmost and primary importance. Would he agree that a move towards allowing the minor caring parent to have greater access to the child and more provision for joint custody would be a step in that direction?

This is a difficult issue. A dispute between parents in regard to the custody of their children is sad and tragic. While theirs is not an enviable task, the Judiciary must strike a fair balance between the rights and interests of both parents and the rights and interests of the children. While I sympathise with the notion that there are circumstances and scenarios in which it would be possible to ask a child to live for a number of days a week or month with one parent and the remainder with the other parent, I concede that children's interests must be taken into account in all this. They must not have to travel between two homes against their wishes. Their lives, dignity and privacy must be taken into account. It is not an exact science.

I take the point to which Deputy Cuffe alluded tangentially in that fathers, in particular, have felt that the traditional pattern of judgments in courts has minimised their role and tended to exclude them by default. However, the Judiciary is beginning to change and I hope the provisions of the Civil Liability and Courts Bill 2004 [Seanad], which proposes to end in camera rulings, will bring greater consistency and enlightenment to decisions in custody cases. Where there is a pattern of a judge operating on the default basis that the mother always gets custody, which is the perception of many fathers who are dissatisfied with the system, it will at least be exposed to the light of day and there will be some public debate on such patterns of decisions made in our courts.

There are two parents in such situations and often there is no fault involved other than that they have separated or divorced. Consequently, there is often a perception that one parent gets entire care while the other is left on the sidelines. This has given rise to much grief and concern in recent times, especially given the changing nature of society.

The Minister alluded to the Civil Liability and Courts Bill 2004 [Seanad]. Is he satisfied that the new in camera rule and the other changes proposed in the Bill will open up this area considerably?

I am satisfied it will open it up. My only problem is whether I have inadvertently opened it up too far and whether I will have to introduce some controlling mechanisms to achieve an adequate balance to ensure that people are not intimidated by the presence of strangers during family law cases which are difficult occasions.

I agree with Deputy Costello that these are sad cases and that sometimes there is no fault on either side other than that an irretrievable breakdown has taken place. In that context, it is important — and the Judiciary takes this into account — that no tendency to use children as bargaining counters in what are discussions about finance and the like is exhibited or has any effect. On even the most public occasions one can sometimes observe a little insight into the mind of a child. When Deputy Costello was speaking, I was reminded of the occasion of the funeral of Princess Diana when her brother made a very moving speech. One of the points he raised was the rail journeys between the parents' homes and the sad and poignant situation of the two children travelling between two homes on a regular basis. I do not wish to preach to the Judiciary on this matter but I hope its members are fully enlightened as to the sense of marginalisation many fathers feel and take it fully into account, while at all times regarding the children's interests as paramount.

Prison Security.

Michael D. Higgins


10 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an investigation has been held into the recent discovery of a number of rounds of ammunition in Limerick Prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12663/04]

I can confirm that two bullets were located on a landing of Limerick Prison on 29 March, 2004. As this issue is the subject of an ongoing Garda investigation, it would be inappropriate for me to offer any further comment or speculate on the matter pending the outcome of this investigation.

There is no indication as to what the source of these bullets or their intended purpose was. I accept there has been tension in Limerick Prison arising out of incidents involving staff and their property both inside the prison and outside it. Local gardaí are reviewing the overall position in regard to these incidents and I intend to make sure prison officers are protected by the full force of the law against violations of their rights or intimidation in their work place or outside it.

Is it not true that as well as two bullets being found in March outside an inmate's cell, two nail bombs were found in February and that staff regularly report incidents of home-made improvised weapons being discovered in Limerick Prison? Perhaps it has to do with the number of feuding families incarcerated there. Is there real concern about the security and welfare of prison staff given this new serious situation which is not experienced in any other prison?

In October 2003, small gauge netting was established on A yard and D yard to prevent contraband items, including improvised weapons, from being thrown into the prison. In November 2003, netting was fitted over the new C yard as part of a building contract before the yard was put into operation. In December 2003, a new control room and closed circuit television system in visiting areas was put into operation. In March 2004, new high-level netting was fitted over the A and D yards to prevent objects being thrown over the prison walls from outside, and extra closed circuit television cameras are being fitted to give better security to the outside of the prison. A walk-through metal detector is being fitted in the visitor reception area which is due to open shortly. That is what is happening at the moment. I am intent on all necessary security being strengthened at the prison and the Garda carefully investigating why these incidents are happening.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.