Amendment No. 1 is out of order.
Garda Síochána Bill 2004 [Seanad]: Report Stage.
I move amendmentNo. 2:
In page 9, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:
"(2) The Garda Síochána Acts 1923 to 2003 (so far as unrepealed by this Act), the Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts 1941 to 2003 (so far as unrepealed by this Act) and this Act may be cited as the Garda Síochána Acts 1923 to 2004.".
I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate. I would have preferred if the amendments were discussed on Committee Stage rather than Report Stage so that we would have an opportunity to tease out properly the implications of the new amendments tabled by the Minister and other Members and to give the legislation due respect, given that a number sections would be regarded by anybody in his or her right mind as requiring careful scrutiny and analysis. We are dissatisfied that Report Stage will be dealt with over two days and the guillotine will fall before we get to the substantive amendments. The amendment seeks to provide for the correct collective citation so that the appropriate Acts covered by the legislation are listed and that is clear to anybody reading it.
The amendment was also tabled on Committee Stage and I indicated I could not accept it. The Attorney General's advice through the Parliamentary Counsel is that a collective citation would not be appropriate because there would be a conflict between interpretation sections in various statutes and this Bill supersedes the other statutes.
Amendment No. 3 is out of order.
On a point of order, the amendment seeks the establishment of an independent commission to monitor and review the workings of the Act, the institutions established thereunder and the operations of the Garda within two years of coming into operation. How can such a commitment——
The Deputy is aware of the procedure whereby if he is in doubt about anything, he should contact the Ceann Comhairle's office.
I am not in doubt about the need for an independent commission to assess the workings of the legislation.
That would involve a potential charge on the Exchequer.
We cannot enter into a discussion on it. The Deputy should consult the Ceann Comhairle's office.
There is no time for consultation because I only received a letter in this regard when I walked into the Chamber this morning. How could the establishment of a commission involve——
If the Deputy wants a reply to his question, he should contact the Ceann Comhairle's office.
The position of the Opposition from the point of view of tabling reasonable, constructive amendments is ludicrous. This amendment follows up an amendment tabled by my colleague, Deputy Costello, which will be bombed out of the House by the Government later. It is an effort to put in place the first common plank of our platform for the next Government whereby there would be agreement on an independent commission. It is a hugely restrictive process if Opposition Members cannot make constructive proposals because there might be a cost to the Exchequer.
Amendment No. 14 is related to amendment No. 4 and both may be discussed together. Recommital of the Bill is necessary in respect of these amendments. Is the recommital agreed to?
The Government rejected our proposal earlier to recommit the Bill.
That proposal was to recommit the entire Bill.
Is the Minister selectively recommitting amendments?
We have had no notice of that proposal.
Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,
What is being recommitted?
We are relocating the definition from one position to another and the Bills Office has indicated that, technically, I should recommit the Bill in respect of the amendment to move the definition in the text. I must obey the rules like other Deputies. The fact that we are moving the definition of the Committee of Public Accounts up the page requires a recommittal.
I am glad the Minister has deigned to advise the House about the reason for this mysterious process. Since I last spoke on the Bill I have received a second additional list of amendments. This is in addition to the seven or eight lists of amendments that have been given to me since this morning. It is objectionable, now that we have commenced the debate on Report Stage, to have even more amendments foisted on us which we will have no time to consider.
I move amendmentNo. 4:
In page 10, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:
"‘Committee of Public Accounts' means the committee of Dáil Éireann established under the Standing Orders of Dáil Éireann to examine and report to Dáil Éireann on the appropriation accounts and reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General;".
This is a technical drafting amendment by Parliamentary Counsel to place this definition in its correct alphabetical position. References to the Committee of Public Accounts are made in sections 35, 70 and 112. The Bills Office considered that I should recommit the Bill in respect of this amendment so we could have a Committee Stage discussion about its relocation on the page. I am happy to abide by that decision.
With regard to the other points made by the Deputies, I note that Deputy Ó Snodaigh is again intent on using up more valuable time in this debate by calling a quorum when it was unnecessary.
The Minister cannot afford to talk. He was not present this morning.
The public is watching this debate and if the Opposition is going to play games——
The least the Minister can do is apologise.
——and interrupt the proceedings with calls for a quorum, it will draw its own conclusions about what is happening.
The first thing the Minister should have done was apologise to the House for leaving this morning. He should have been here for the business of the House.
I understood that Members are discussing amendment No. 4. The issues raised by the Minister and Deputy Costello do not arise under that amendment.
Throw out the Minister. He usually walks out anyway.
He was the one who started the provocation by rounding on the House as if this side of the House was responsible.
I call Deputy Ó Snodaigh.
The Chair is aware that we would be well along with the business of the House by now if the Minister had not left the House and——
Deputy Costello, Deputy Ó Snodaigh has been called.
——left us unable to do so.
Deputy Costello is being disorderly. Deputy Ó Snodaigh has been called.
He has not apologised to the House for leaving.
Deputy, you will have to apologise to him yourself for disrupting the business. I call Deputy Ó Snodaigh.
The House deserves an apology from the Minister. It is the least he could do.
We understand he had to get his photograph taken in Dublin Castle. He could not avoid that opportunity.
It does not arise under the amendment.
As the House is in committee we can discuss the amendment and its changes. We are also allowed to respond to comments made by the Minister when he presented the amendment. I will not do so now. I do not oppose what the Minister suggests in this case but had he been here earlier to agree with our motion for recommittal of the Bill, we would not have to go through the process of recommittal each time the Minister wishes to introduce amendments that were not discussed on Committee Stage, of which there are several. It is not I who has wasted time. Our time would have been better spent this morning and we would be further along with the Bill if the Minister had bothered to stay and listen to the debate.
It is not a matter for the Minister to allocate the time that should be made available to this country's Parliament to discuss the 284 amendments before the House which, according to the Government, must be dealt with over the next 30 hours. Suggestions from the Minister that the Opposition is wasting time because its Members raise points——
They are still at it.
——which they consider legitimate is a further indication of the absolute arrogance of this Minister and the contempt he has for the Parliament.
Time wasting again.
His further comments reinforce my point. I have no problem with the relocation of the definition of the Committee of Public Accounts to a different part of section 3. However, it leads to a further matter which the Minister can deal with now or at a later stage. According to the Minister, a number of issues will be dealt with in the Bill. One of these is a whistleblowers' charter but I have not seen anything about it so far in the 284 amendments. I admit, however, that I have not been able to peruse each of them.
We are still working on them.
I have put down an amendment to section 75. I have consistently believed that there must be scrutiny in this House of the operation of the Bill. That involves the proposal I made to establish an Oireachtas security committee. Does the Minister have a comment on that?
It is amazing that the first amendment the Minister has presented to the House requires recommittal, considering the amount of time we spent trying to get our amendments recommitted so there could be a proper debate on them. The Minister now requests that this side of the House agree with him to recommit the Bill in respect of this amendment even though all the amendment does is move a definition from the bottom to the top of the page under section 3.
The Minister has admitted that he does not know why this is being done. It is a definition of the Committee of Public Accounts and we are moving it from one place to another. A specific recommittal request was made and granted to do that. Will the Minister make further recommittal requests? Will there be recommittals every time it suits the Minister to have what he considers to be an appropriate measure of debate on his amendments? Will we not be allowed to have a debate on any of our amendments?
The Minister should have been present this morning to explain what he is doing now. He did not have the good grace to offer an apology for his absence.
The Deputy is being repetitive and is moving away from the amendment before us.
Until 1.30 p.m. we could not get our business done because the Minister was not here to do it.
The fact that we are on Committee Stage does not give Members or the Minister greater latitude in going outside the terms of the amendment before the House.
The Minister was the first to take such latitude, as he always does. He goes off on a tangent and, unless one is listening carefully to him, he stays on that tangent, which is generally irrelevant to what is being discussed. Given that in this case we are merely moving a definition and the Minister requires recommittal of the Bill in respect of the amendment to do that, will he clarify whether he will do that with other amendments? It is no good telling Members he does not know what the technicality is and why it is necessary to do it in this way. He must find out and explain the reason for it.
The amendment involves moving the reference to the Committee of Public Accounts from lines 27 and 30 to lines 1 and 2. Regardless of the reporting responsibilities to the Committee of Public Accounts, will the Department and the Minister take due cognisance of the committee's findings as and when it reports on matters regarding the Department? Yesterday the committee released a report on over-expenditure incurred on behalf of the Department, and work undertaken on its behalf by the Office of Public Works.
The Minister's colleague, the Minister of State, argued against the right of the Committee of Public Accounts to make those findings. It is somewhat irrelevant, within the deluge of irrelevancies which will continue for the next few days, that the Minister should introduce an amendment of this nature. The Minister's behaviour has shown us how he treats the institutions of this House.
We are wasting the time of the House. There are many amendments and I request Deputies——
This amendment refers to the Committee of Public Accounts and how it is placed in this Bill. The way in which the Minister and his Department interact with the committee is very relevant.
That does not arise out of the amendment.
It concerns a committee and we are speaking on Committee Stage.
Yes, but on Committee Stage one must speak to the amendment.
I am using the opportunity to challenge the Minister on whether he is prepared to stand over statements made by other Government representatives about findings regarding his Department. It is important to know how that will impinge on future findings regarding his Department and how the Committee of Public Accounts will view this Bill, if it is enacted.
I will be brief on the general point because I am covering for my party colleague, Deputy Cuffe, who is attending the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment and Local Government. It is unacceptable for those of us in Opposition to receive a second set of amendments, which now number 284, at this late stage. Although we are temporarily on Committee Stage, in effect between today and tomorrow——
That does not arise and I request Deputies to stay within the Standing Orders. We are discussing a single amendment and have heard the same point repeated this morning and this afternoon about Deputies' concerns about the number of amendments. If we are to have any chance of getting through them, we must deal with amendments before us and not omnibus statements about the Bill in general.
I note the Ceann Comhairle's comments but the two or three minutes during which I have been speaking scarcely constitute an omnibus statement. I am merely adding my weight to statements other speakers have made in this context.
That does not make them legitimate.
This is the first opportunity we have had to speak on this Stage of the Bill and I wish to register my protest and that of my party at this continuing process. I have attempted to keep to the amendments, by referring directly to the Committee of Public Accounts and my perception of the Minister's interaction with that committee and its role in this Bill.
We have spent 20 minutes discussing a technical amendment. In response to Deputy Jim O'Keeffe's proposal for a security committee for the Houses, under Article 15 of the Constitution it is a matter for each House of the Oireachtas to establish committees for itself. I cannot by legislation force or provide for any House to establish a committee which it is not otherwise obliged to have.
The Minister's view of such a committee is relevant.
I was about to say that.
Does the Minister's view relate to mine?
I share the Deputy's view that a security committee would be a good idea. On Committee Stage of this Bill I said the Oireachtas Select Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights has a wide remit in regard to European matters. I have no objection to the establishment of a specialist security committee of one or both Houses to deal with security issues as distinct from civil law, equality and other issues.
Does the Minister agree this committee should be fully resourced and have similar powers to those of the Committee of Public Accounts?
Fully resourced, yes, but whether it should have powers similar to those of the Committee of Public Accounts is a different matter.
Does the Minister agree that the Chairman should be a member of the Opposition, to move it outside the loop?
That is a matter for the House.
As the Minister said, this is a technical amendment. Whether we spend 20 minutes or 20 hours debating it is irrelevant. The House is intended for debate. As the Minister said on Committee Stage, the objective is to get the Bill right. That applies to the whole Bill, whether in the context of one technical amendment or several such amendments.
We sought additional time to ensure we got everything in the Bill correct this time. We had a great opportunity to change the Garda Síochána into the best police force in the world. That will not happen given the way in which the Minister has presented us with amendments today.
Most of the changes the Opposition proposed to make this Bill and the Garda Síochána more successful in the long term have been ruled out because they involve a charge on the Exchequer. That is a ridiculous point because some of the measures proposed would save the Exchequer money but that is not taken into account.
It is all right to spend 20, 25 or 30 minutes on an amendment involving the Committee of Public Accounts if we want this Bill to be right.
I support the amendment but will the Minister say what the police force is called? Is it a hybrid English and Irish name, "the Garda Síochána" or is it "An Garda Síochána"?
The Deputy is referring to the next amendment, namely, amendment No. 5.
Is that not the amendment we are discussing?
No. We are discussing amendments Nos. 4 and 14.
We are still wasting time on amendment No. 4.
We are still on Committee Stage.
As we are still on Committee Stage and no doubt will be told when we leave it, we can discuss the substance as well as the placing of the amendment. The Minister has not explained why he needed to recommit to transpose this subsection. He has not explained, in response to Deputy Boyle's question, what will happen to the findings of the Committee of Public Accounts. The recent report found that the Minister's Department and the Office of Public Works had been found wanting in the manner in which they conducted their business. What is the outcome of that?
The Comptroller and Auditor General will examine the operation of the Garda Síochána and the Committee of Public Accounts will discuss that report. It may find that tens of millions of euro of taxpayers' money are wasted on projects. Will that be the end of the matter? What is the next stage for dealing with such a report? Does the Minister know how his Department is responding to the Comptroller and Auditor General's criticisms of the way taxpayers' money was spent?
The most recent example of this is Thornton Hall, an incredible white elephant, bought for almost €30 million when land that is more accessible and of more value to the Department is selling for approximately €6 million. That is double the amount of land at a fraction of the price but the Department does not find it suitable.
There is not much sense in inserting an interpretation and definition here and a role for the Committee of Public Accounts if reports on the manner in which Departments operate indicate that rules created to ensure best practice are jettisoned and no action is taken on them. Perhaps the Minister might give the House some idea of how his Department intends to ensure that the best use is made of taxpayers' money and that the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Committee of Public Accounts do not find themselves presenting negative reports regarding activities that involve considerable financial outlay for the Oireachtas. It is a one-day wonder and is soon forgotten about but costs another €100 million. What structures or procedures have been inserted in response to recent criticisms of that nature?
I do not know whether I will be disorderly if I reply to that. This is simply the removal of a definition from one part of a page to another, but we have now spent half an hour on it. Deputy Costello is referring to the acquisition of land at Thorntown for a replacement for Mountjoy Prison. The public is looking in on all this and knows full well what is going on in this House. It is a filibuster to waste time.
On a point of order, is the Minister not going to answer any questions on either Committee Stage or Report Stage? Is that what we are going to have for the next few days?
That is not a point of order.
I have no problem with the amendment, but I expect the Minister to answer the question.
Amendment No. 5 in the name of Deputy Ó Snodaigh arises from committee proceedings.
Are we back on Report Stage?
Yes, we are back on Report Stage.
We did not vote in committee.
So far we have recommitted the Bill only in respect of amendments Nos. 4 and 14, so we are back on Report Stage.
Before we move on, are there other instances in which we will recommit the Bill? We seem to be moving in and out of Committee Stage.
There may be.
The Minister or his advisers would know.
We will recommit the Bill in respect of any amendments that do not arise from committee proceedings, but we will come to them seriatim. Amendment No. 5 is on Report Stage, and I call on Deputy Ó Snodaigh to move it.
On a technical point, in the event of our not reaching amendments that do not arise from committee proceedings, what happens to them? Usually on Report Stage remaining amendments are taken together.
There will be a composite motion at the end of the debate. That is tomorrow's business. It must be decided tomorrow morning.
That should be fun. I move amendment No. 5:
In page 10, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:
"‘The Garda Síochána' shall be construed to mean references to ‘an Garda Síochána';".
This amendment is self-explanatory. I debated it in committee with the Minister who said he would consider it. The title of the organisation is "An Garda Síochána" and, therefore, rather than my tabling 600 or 700 amendments to cover every occasion where it appears throughout the legislation, I have tabled this one. On page 9 alone there are eight appearances of the incorrect designation of the organisation. In some places it is simply "Garda Síochána" and in others "the Garda Síochána", but the correct form is "An Garda Síochána", since that is the title of the organisation.
The Minister said he would consider this issue and get back to me. It is similar to other legislation in this House in which the Irish language is not used properly. If one translated it into Irish or any other language, one would see that it gives the wrong meaning and interpretation to what is involved. That has often happened regarding authorities or organisations set up by the Government. In the past they were always known by their Irish titles, including "An Bord Bia" or "Bord na gCon", but more recently the mechanisms of Government have seemed to move towards giving them an English and an Irish title at the same time rather than simply a translation of the Irish title in recognition of Irish being the first official language of the State. I will not labour this point; I wonder how the Minister will react.
The amendment proposed by Deputy Ó Snodaigh is absolutely correct. I always understood that the name of the Garda Síochána when we use the definite article was "An Garda Síochána", a fully Irish name rather than one partly in English. "The Garda Síochána" is shorthand and common usage but not the formal or legal terminology, which is "An Garda Síochána" or else "the police force". To avoid such a hybrid description of our police force, perhaps the Minister would accept this amendment. It seems that the same confusion is seen in the Bill's Title regarding the correct terminology to refer to the police force. Perhaps even the Title should be "An Garda Síochána Bill".
Deputy Ó Snodaigh raised this on Committee Stage, and at that time the Minister seemed to say that he was somewhat dissatisfied with the manner in which the term was used throughout the legislation and that he would consider it. However, I see no amendment from the Minister in this regard. Has a linguistic expert been found, or any attempt been made to find one, who could put this right once and for all? While it is obligatory to have both Irish and English as the two official languages, there is nothing in the Constitution that says that the two need be mixed up. They should be used separately. Perhaps the Minister might clarify why we persist with this hybrid version, "the Garda Síochána".
It would be useful to clarify the issue once and for all. I understand that "Garda Síochána", literally translated, means "guardian of the peace". However, the Bill is referred to as "the Garda Síochána Bill", which would mean "the guardian of the peace Bill". When we refer to it with the definite article, we have a hybrid outcome, in that we refer to the force as "the Garda Síochána", and the Bill as "the Garda Síochána Bill". We would be as well having the issue clarified once and for all. The force should know exactly what its proper title is.
This matter was discussed on Committee Stage when the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, was dealing with it rather than I. In English, right back to 1925, every time that we have referred to the force in legislation, it has been "the Garda Síochána". That is the long-standing tradition in every statute that this House has enacted. The title of the force in English is therefore "the Garda Síochána" and in Irish "An Garda Síochána". That is how we have always proceeded in this House. We have never departed from that as far as I am aware. One can get into difficulties with the definite article in either language.
However, let us be clear about this. If one were talking about the gardaí who came to one's house the night and did X or Y, no one would expect one to say "na gardaí who came to my house last night did X and Y". We use the English definite article when we are speaking English even though we use the Irish plural to refer to members of the force. That has been the long-standing tradition. Deputy Ó Snodaigh knows as well as I do that there would be linguistic infelicities, to put it mildly, if we used "An Garda Síochána" throughout the Bill. He only has to look to the Long Title of the Bill to see there are uses of an tuiseal ginideach agus an tuisil tabharthach. If one is to say that they disappear when one uses the title An Garda Síochána in the English language, it only makes a nonsense of the Irish.
Tá deacrachtaí ann, ach b'fhearr liom ár dtraidisiún a choimeád agus "the Garda Síochána" to be the English reference and "An Garda Síochána" to be the reference in the Irish language.
The title "the Garda Síochána" is not used all the time and tradition does not carry through on this. Even the Title of the Bill refers to "Garda Síochána" rather than a proper title of an organisation. The police force was defined as An Garda Síochána at its founding. There has been incorrect usage since 1925 but that does not mean we should continue the tradition. Not all traditions are good and when the opportunity arises to change something that is incorrect, one should do so. If the Minister had taken the time to look through the Bill and devise his own amendment on this issue, rather than busily try to outdo us by presenting amendments at the last minute, we might have had a proper debate on this.
The legal title of the police force is An Garda Síochána. Many of us use the terms "the Garda Síochána" or "the Garda" and people know what we mean. However, this is a legal document in which one would at least expect that the title of the organisation under discussion is correct. We do not refer to Bord na gCon as "Bord the gCon", for example, and the same applies to An Bord Bia and the many State organisations that were set up with an Irish title. In many cases, we never translated such titles. Most people now know Bord Soláthar Leictreachais as the ESB, its translation into the second language of the State, but the correct legal title is the Irish version. In this case, the correct legal title of the organisation to which this legislation pertains is An Garda Síochána, rather than the Garda Síochána or simply Garda Síochána.
The Minister is not convincing in simply arguing that we normally use the expression "the Garda Síochána". We acknowledge that this term, a hybrid version of the two languages, has become a standard part of conversation. That is not the point we wish to make. We are discussing a legal document. A Bill's Title should be correct rather than populist. Has the Minister sought the advice of a linguist or consulted the parliamentary draftsmen? Deputy Ó Snodaigh's example of An Bord Bia is useful because we are all aware that this body is never referred to as "the Bord Bia". The proper title is An Bord Bia just as the proper title of the police force is An Garda Síochána.
This should be reflected in the legislation rather than randomly using one title or another as suits. The Minister observed that people often refer to "the garda" rather than "an garda". That is an irrelevant example. How we are traditionally disposed to describe the Garda is neither here nor there. The important point is whether the Bill contains the proper designation and description. It seems, however, that we have a mixture of English and Irish in the title of the force. We must ensure that the Bill reflects a proper, agreed and single description, which is An Garda Síochána.
It is useful to debate this issue which goes to the root of what we are discussing. Having reflected on the matter, however, I have come to the view that we should probably retain what has been there over years. As far as I am concerned, if it was good enough for Kevin O'Higgins in 1925, it is good enough for me in 2005. I am prepared to accept the Title as it stands.
I strongly support amendment No. 5. My experience indicates that An Garda Síochána is the most commonly used title for the police force. I say that as somebody who grew up in Galway and has worked on the northside of Dublin for 22 years. This is the term commonly used by the public. Moreover, something that always gives me a sense of pride is that members of other police forces consistently refer to An Garda Síochána. I have heard that from members of police forces throughout the EU as well as the US and Canada.
I have just come from a meeting in Coolock, in my constituency, which was opened by the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív. I am interested to hear his view on this matter because he is the man whose opinion I heed on cultural and linguistic issues. I support the amendment because it shows respect for and a commitment to the entire concept of An Garda Síochána, the guardians of the peace. The meaning of the force's title is something we must revisit. We are not only debating the name of the force but must also revisit the entire principles of An Garda Síochána because of the crisis that has arisen within the force following the scandal in Donegal.
I refer Deputy Ó Snodaigh to his remarks on Committee Stage where he frequently referred to An Garda Síochána, as he now wants to call it, as "the Garda Síochána". I have the transcript before me so I do not understand his point.
If the Minister had listened to my last contribution, he would know I stated that I, similar to others in the House, use various forms to refer to the force. However, the legal title of the organisation is An Garda Síochána. The Bill includes instances where this title is shortened to "Garda", for example, in reference to "Garda Commissioner". I am not seeking to change that aspect but I request that the title of the organisation, An Garda Síochána, be correctly used. One would not interfere with a French, German or Japanese title by imposing "the" or any other English word. The first and official language of this State is An Gaeilge and the Minister knows that as an officer of the courts in the past.
I am trying to effect only a minor change and I did not foresee it would take this length of time. If the Minister had agreed with the purpose of this amendment, as the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, seemed to indicate on Committee Stage, it could have been dealt with quickly. The objective is to recognise that the legal title of the organisation is An Garda Síochána. This would have allowed us to get on with the business we intend to do.
Is oth liom cinneadh an Aire gan glacadh leis seo. Is mionathrú é, agus sa deireadh thiar thall, más léiriú é seo ar an meon atá ag an Aire i dtaca an Bhille ina iomlán agus na leasuithe atá againne, cad is fiú dúinn ar an taobh seo den Teach bheith ag iarraidh athruithe cuimsitheacha a chuirfeadh leis an Bhille a chur chun cinn? De réir cosúlachta, níl an tAire sásta éisteacht le haon leasú in aon chor. Sa chás seo, is oth liom arís nach bhfuil sé sásta éisteacht le hathrú beag simplí nach gcuirfeadh as d'aon duine, a bheag ná a mhór. Sa deireadh thiar thall, bheimis ag ceartú botúin atá ann ó 1925 de réir an Aire.
Ní ghlacaim leis sin mar sa stair, thuig siad an Ghaeilge agus a tábhacht agus chuir siad teideal gach uile eagrais a bhunaigh an Stát as Gaeilge seachas an polasaí nua atá ag an Rialtas teideal Béarla a thabhairt do gach eagras a bhunaíonn sé, cosúil leis an Private Residential Tenancies Board, agus smaoiníonn sé faoin teideal Gaeilge sa dara áit. Léiríonn sin an meas atá ag an Rialtas agus ag roinnt státseirbhíseach i leith na Gaeilge. Ba chóir an deis seo a thapú an reachtaíocht seo a cheartú.
Is the Deputy pressing the amendment?
I move amendmentNo. 6:
In page 10, line 3, to delete "means regulations made" and substitute the following:
(a) the 1989 Regulations, as amended under section 119, for as long as they continue to be in force under that section, or
(b) any regulations in force".
This is a technical amendment advised by Parliamentary Counsel to make it clear that where references to the disciplinary regulations arise in the Bill, such references are to be understood as referring to the current regulations as provided for under the 1989 regulations until such time as those regulations are revoked, when the regulations made under section 115 of the Bill will come into force. Deputies will understand that it is purely technical.
The purpose of the amendment is to continue to ensure that the authority of the present regulation continues until new regulations are made under the new Act. Is that the idea?
Sections 115 and 119 address these issues.
Section 119 continues the existing regulations.
Section 115 will be the legislative basis for new regulations.
I have no problem with the amendment.
If the Minister is introducing, as he says, a technical amendment, he does so to protect himself because the other regulations will not be in place. Will he give us an idea as to when regulations under section 115 will be drawn up? Will the existing regulations under section 119 be continued for some indefinite period? The danger of amending the section is that there is no guarantee when or whether we will have those new regulations. In a sense, the Minister is potentially putting the establishment of new regulations on the long finger. He should clarify how he intends to implement section 115.
Léiríonn sé seo an tslí scannalach atá ag an Aire ó thaobh leasuithe de agus an t-am gairid a thug sé dúinn déileáil leis na ceisteanna seo. Níl mé i gcoinne an leasaithe 's aige, tá mé i gcoinne na slí ar tugadh é seo dúinn níos luaithe ón liosta glas, agus ansin tháinig an leathanach bán le hathrú eile, substitute amendment. Léiríonn sin an deifir atá ar an Aire agus go bhfuil sé ag déanamh botúin.
Seo sampla beag den sórt botúin atá sé ag déanamh, fiú ag dréachtú leasuithe. Má tá sin i gceist i leasú teicniúil, cad é atá istigh sna leasuithe móra eile os ár gcomhair? Cruthaíonn seo an pointe a rinne mé ar maidin gur chóir dúinn dul ar ais go Céim an Choiste. Is oth liom nach raibh an tAire anseo le déileáil leis an díospóireacht sin. Ba chóir go mbeadh na leasuithe ar fad sa cháipéis amháin gur féidir linn déileáil léi seachas bheith ag dul ó phíosa páipéir go píosa páipéir eile.
Ba mhaith liom a rá——
Before the Minister begins, Deputy Catherine Murphy may wish to speak.
On disciplinary issues, the 1989 regulations require conciliation with representative associations. Given that the provisions are contained in later parts of the Bill, some of which involve new amendments, how can conciliation happen after the event? Do I misunderstand the matter?
A meeting was held yesterday morning, which some of the representative associations attended in the belief that it would consist of a briefing discussion. When they realised that it was a conciliation meeting, they withdrew rather than engaged because they approach the matter from the point of view of employment rights. I am confused as to how the 1989 regulations may be returned to, while also including in the Bill issues that clearly require conciliation. Such a process has not been followed with staff associations at this stage. Maybe I am confused but I do not see how the two matters are compatible.
Fuair mise níos mó ná 80 leasuithe ó Sinn Féin ar maidin. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
The fact that this amendment is on a separate white sheet arises from an unusual situation in which the Bills Office, using what it terms editorial discretion, originally tabled this amendment in a form which materially differed from the amendment prepared by Parliamentary Counsel. As Parliamentary Counsel, upon receiving it, was not happy with the editorial amendment worked by the Bills Office, it had to be returned to its original form. I did not do it. That is the explanation.
Deputy Murphy asked how the 1989 regulations can continue in force. This Bill does not disband the Garda Síochána. There have to be transitional provisions. Section 119 makes clear that unless and until new regulations are put in place, the old regulations will continue to exist. This is not inconsistent with any other matter. We do not simply throw out regulations made under earlier Acts and say that we will start from scratch. On the question of when it is anticipated that new regulations will be put in place, Deputy Murphy is aware that the Government asked Senator Maurice Hayes to chair an oversight committee on all the preparatory measures necessary to give full effect to the new legislation. In so far as that requires amendments to the disciplinary regulations and similar matters, I hope to be in a position to put forward a scheme of events so that, by the commencement of the Act, as much of the transformation work as possible will have been done.
This amendment is more complicated and far-reaching than we noticed. It seems amazing that an amendment was tabled in the green book and a follow-up amendment on a white sheet amends that amendment. It shows the manner in which these amendments are being tabled, the lack of proper decision-making and the lack of time to deal with the matter properly.
The original amendment No. 6 refers to section 115 but all reference to section 115 has been deleted in the subsequent version of amendment No. 6. Section 115 deals with disciplinary regulations and I will read the first part of that section: "The Minister may, after consulting with the Garda Commissioner and with the approval of the Government, make regulations concerning the maintenance of discipline in the Garda Síochána".
Amendment 57a is a serious amendment to which the Minister referred last night, which has appeared in the white form which I understand is incorporated somewhere in the much increased green booklet we now have with all of the amendments. I have not yet had a chance to search for it as we only received it as we walked into the Chamber. It is relevant to our discussions as it refers to the regulations. That amendment states the Garda Commissioner may appoint, subject to and in accordance with the regulations, such numbers of persons as he or she sees fit to the ranks of the Garda and can summarily dismiss members if he or she is of the opinion that the conditions laid out in the amendment are met with regard to their conduct.
We have gone on fast forward through the Bill if the Deputy is discussing amendment No. 57a.
I will finish this serious point.
We are still discussing amendment No. 6.
We are unlikely to reach this amendment.
Not if we discuss them all on amendment No. 6.
We may not get to this substantial amendment.
We cannot discuss it now. The Deputy's time has concluded.
This is relevant to amendment No. 6.
It may well be relevant but the Deputy only has two minutes to speak.
I will finish the point. The Minister is reintroducing reference to section 115 with the words "Any regulations in force under section 115”. Section 115 will allow him to draw up disciplinary regulations which can result in the opinion of the Commissioner leading to a member of the force being dismissed. That is a serious matter.
The Deputy has made his point.
This may be an amendment we must vote against.
It may well be when we reach it.
Deputy Costello made a substantive point that must be examined in much more detail. I wish to raise a drafting point. The Bill as presently drafted states, " "Disciplinary Regulations" means regulations made under section 115". The proposal in the amendment is to delete the three words "means regulations made" and to add
(a) the 1989 Regulations, as amended under section 119, for as long as they continue to be in force under that section, or
(b) any regulations in force
That leaves the words "under section 115" afloat. Are the words "under section 115" to remain? They have not been deleted under the proposal.
They are deleted under amendment No. 6 on the white sheet.
Another sheet. This is impossible.
This is ridiculous.
I give up on any drafting point. That is the ninth sheet I have received.
That was circulated.
I seem to have been omitted. I merely happen to be the Fine Gael spokesperson.
The Ceann Comhairle may be able to answer my question. I sat through most of Committee Stage of the Garda Síochána Bill. This was not raised on Committee Stage so why have we not recommitted it as we recommitted the Minister's other technical amendment?
Whether I table 80 or 100 amendments and present them today, that is the deadline we enjoy. The Minister has an entire staff and Department as well as the Ceann Comhairle's office and the General Office to trawl through amendments we put, the majority of which are ruled out of order. It is difficult to anticipate and pre-empt what new sections the Minister will introduce into the Bill, as he has done in every Bill he put before the House. I might have been late in tabling these amendments but I reached the deadline in the Standing Orders.
That is not the point. The Minister had the opportunity over two years to get this right but he failed to do so. He should have taken the additional time we called for to get the amendments right, and to get consensus on this side of the House on some of them which are sensible and I congratulate him on them. However, we will not have time to discuss them properly and perhaps tidy them up and improve them.
I wish to make it absolutely clear to Deputy Ó Snodaigh that the office of the Ceann Comhairle and the Bills Office treat all amendments received in accordance with Standing Orders.
I never said it did not.
There was an implication that there was a difference in how the Government and Opposition were treated.
I stated the Government was helped by an entire staff.
In his reply to the question I asked, the Minister mentioned transitional arrangements with regard to the 1989 regulations. The reality is that the 1989 regulations require conciliation as there is a change in conditions of employment in the amendment to which Deputy Costello referred. This is interlinked for that reason. The staff associations withdrew from the meeting precisely because there was inadequate time to consider or properly consult on that change. It is irrelevant to have transitional arrangements if, at the same time, the decision has already been made prior to conciliation to change the terms and conditions of employment. I am not arguing that the change should not take place but there should be time for conciliation.
I am probably more confused than anybody in this House with the amount of material I have received on this Bill. The inadequate amount of time to deal with many of the changes that will happen as a consequence of this Bill being guillotined is not just felt in this House but also by the Garda associations.
I should indicate the commencement section provided in the Bill gives the Minister of the day a good deal of room to manoeuvre with regard to deadlines or changes arising and allows for further time to discuss many of the issues involved.
I move amendmentNo. 7:
In page 10, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following:
"‘document' means any book, record or other written or printed material in any form, including information stored, maintained or preserved by means of any mechanical or electronic device, whether or not stored, maintained or preserved in legible form;".
This is a standard form of amendment which simply states the meaning of "document" and gives an extended meaning to electronic as well as paper documents.
As with the previous amendment, I do not recall this matter being discussed on Committee Stage. Is there a reason we are not recommitting the Bill to deal with these amendments in line with the decision taken on the other technical amendments?
I am bound by the rules and orders of the House and the rulings of the Chair.
I am not blaming the Minister this time.
I am not selecting one section or another for recommittal. I am obediently following the order of the House.
The question was not necessarily directed at the Minister because the Ceann Comhairle is in charge. I do not understand why a decision was made earlier on technical amendments.
The note before the Chair is that it arises out of committee proceedings.
Amendment No. 10 in the name of Deputy Ó Snodaigh arises out of committee proceedings. Amendment No. 11 is an alternative to amendment No. 10. Amendments Nos. 15 to 17, inclusive, and amendments Nos. 58 to 68, inclusive, are related. Amendment No. 16 is an alternative to amendment No. 15. Amendment No. 60 is an alternative to amendment No. 59 and amendment No. 66 is an alternative to amendment No. 65. It is proposed, therefore, to take amendments Nos. 10, 11, 15 to 17, inclusive, and 58 to 68, inclusive, together.
I move amendmentNo. 10:
In page 10, lines 17 and 18, to delete all words from and including "and" in line 17 down to and including "member," in line 18.
This is the first reference to the volunteer, reserve or other designation that will be given eventually to this part of the organisation the Minister is providing for in the legislation. I am opposed to it, first, on the basis of our history if we consider the misuse of voluntary reserve forces on this island. We do not require a volunteer or reserve force to create confidence in the Garda in the community. We need proper resourcing of the Garda Síochána and of community policing, and proper use of the Garda Síochána. When that happens we can decide whether we require an increase in Garda numbers. If we increase Garda numbers at that stage we can then examine whether the additional members should be part-time or otherwise. At that stage I would be willing to examine the proposal but considering the job the Garda Síochána has to do for the State and for the community it serves, and the job each individual garda must do, having a volunteer, reserve or any type of yellow pack force is wrong. The gardaí have an onerous and specific task, which has implications in terms of the way they carry out their duties. The Garda Síochána training was increased from six months to two years because of the additional obligations and requirements of individual gardaí in terms of understanding the law, how to deal with the public, how to arrest people, how to deal with people they arrest, how to proceed in the courts or how to deal with members of the community in their day-to-day trials and tribulations.
In this section and the related sections on the reserve or volunteer police force the Minister is saying we can hand over the duties to people who are not as fully trained as permanent members. They will not get on the job training and, unlike teachers, they will not get in-service training to keep them on top of the job. That could not happen because they would not be full-time. I presume they would not be available to become full-time. If that were the case they would apply to become full-time members of the Garda Síochána.
The Human Rights Commission and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties expressed deep concerns about this proposal. The Minister said there was consultation on the Bill with the Human Rights Commission but in regard to the concept we are dealing with now and the section that follows later, the HRC said it was seriously concerned about any proposals for the exercise of police powers by non-gardaí and that individuals who have not undergone a period of police training and education should not be granted legal power to arrest and use reasonable force. The Human Rights Commission recommends that a person should not be legally entitled to exercise police powers if they are not subject to the Garda code of ethics and, more significantly, if they do not fall within the remit of an independent complaints body for the investigation of any complaints against that person.
The Human Rights Commission has indicated that it retains its grave reservations about the final form of the proposal and in particular the possibility that police powers will be vested in individuals who are not properly trained, are not fully accountable or are not clearly identifiable as police officers. It has recommended to the Minister that anyone performing such functions needs to receive adequate training, and human rights training in particular. It has indicated its intention to closely monitor any regulations relating to these provisions.
We should not go forward with this concept because we do not have the regulations in terms of the reserve police force before us. They do not form part of the Bill and until they do, this concept should be put to one side perhaps with a view to introducing it at a later stage as a stand alone Garda volunteer force or whatever. We can then properly debate it.
For its part, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties opposes outright the establishment of a volunteer reserve. It stated that such a measure creates a parallel police force without the requisite training or accountability. It stated also that this proposal cannot be allowed given that Garda powers, by their very nature, permit them to lawfully infringe the rights of citizens to a degree that a normal citizen would not be allowed to do. It called on the Minister in its submission to abandon this proposal.
I listened to the case made on Committee Stage for this measure but it was not sufficiently strong. This proposal does not present an effective solution to the problems we face in terms of policing on this island and in this State in particular.
This is an important measure the Minister is proposing. He proposes a volunteer Garda force or a reserve Garda force, whatever the nomenclature may be. Some 15 amendments are grouped for the purposes of discussion of this section. There are problems with the proposal in regard to the eligibility criteria for qualification for membership, what sort of training and education members would have and what powers they would be entitled to exercise. Section 14(3) bluntly states: "While on duty, a volunteer member has the same powers, immunities, privileges and duties as a person appointed under section 13 to the rank of garda.” People who do not have the same training and code of ethics, who are not answerable in the same way to the ombudsman and who are, effectively, a part-time reserve force, will have the same powers as the Garda Síochána, which are extremely extensive.
Gardaí may not have powers of life and death but they have powers of personal liberty, arrest and detention. Under the Criminal Justice Bill 2004, proposed by the Minister, gardaí— perhaps two gardaí from the same station — will be able to grant each other search warrants so they can invade homes and privacy. Their powers are enormous yet the Minister blindly puts forward this proposal without indicating clearly and in detail what the powers will be, how they will be exercised and how the Minister envisages the reserve force will operate.
The Minister suggests the reserve force will assist the Garda Síochána. Will it operate on its own or must its members always be accompanied by a ranking police officer when carrying out their duties? There is a huge opportunity — if "opportunity" is the right word — for vigilantism. The residents of a locality are likely to be recruited to the local force. They will be granted enormous powers yet there is no clear indication as to what professional authority they will be under in the exercise of their powers and in carrying out their duties.
I do not object in principle to a volunteer force or a reserve force but questions arise. Will it be a part-time force? Will it be a paid force? Will its members be empowered to take people to court? Will they be able to get off work to do that? The nature of the force is not spelled out, like much of the Minister's legislation. An idea comes from the top of his head and he expects us to buy into it without providing us with a clear indication of the implications for those who will be recruited as to how they will carry out their duties.
There is a contradiction between section 14(3), which states: "While on duty, a volunteer member has the same powers, immunities, privileges and duties as a person appointed under section 13 to the rank of garda”— in other words, as a normal member of the Garda Síochána — and the Minister’s amendment No. 68, which seeks to insert at subsection (5) of section 14: “The Garda Commissioner may determine the range of powers to be exercised and duties to be carried out by reserve members.” If reserve members are to have the same powers, how will the Garda Commissioner determine the range of powers to be exercised? Either they have the same powers as serving members of the Garda Síochána or they do not.
The powers of gardaí are enshrined in legislation yet the Minister states that the Garda Commissioner may determine the range of powers to be exercised. While I accept that the Garda Commissioner would have to determine the duties to be carried out, if reserve force members have the same powers as gardaí, how could the Garda Commissioner say: "Look, lads, you may have the same powers as the gardaí but you are only going to exercise the powers I allow you to have"? If that is the case, they do not have the same powers as gardaí.
Is the Garda Commissioner the appropriate person to determine the powers and privileges of the new reserve body? I would have thought it would be determined by statute, that this House would determine what powers will be exercised by a reserve Garda force or by the Garda Síochána. The House should make the determination for a reserve force.
There is too much fuzziness around the proposal. Initially, the Minister proposed in the legislation that the power to appoint reserve or volunteer gardaí would be exercised not earlier than 12 months after the commencement of the section. That is now to be deleted, with the result that there will be less time to tease out what will happen in this regard. I presume the Minister is also suggesting that Senator Maurice Hayes, because he has oversight responsibility for the implementation and roll-out of the Bill, will have some role in this matter. I am not sure that is the way we should conduct our business. While I have the greatest respect for the ability of Senator Maurice Hayes, whatever powers, duties or entitlements are granted to a reserve police force, that should be done in this House.
Following today's sitting, we should be able to say we understand what a volunteer force will be, what a reserve force will be, and that we know how it will operate. We should be able to go back to our communities to tell residents' associations that the Minister has put through particular amendments to a Bill and what it means for them — perhaps it would mean that the members of a local community are entitled to volunteer to become reserve gardaí, with the powers of a member of the Garda Síochána. Many people would be wary of that, in particular as there is contradiction in how the Garda Commissioner will operate the force.
There is significant concern, not least the concerns voiced in the amendments regarding human rights and civil liberties, about a partially trained group of recruits, who will act in reserve, having the same authority and powers to operate, arrest and detain as ordinary gardaí. At the same time, there is concern as to what the implications may be for the rights of the citizenry in certain cases.
Is the Minister suggesting that those recruited will operate not as a militia that travels from area to area but, of necessity, because they are volunteers or reserves, will operate within a very limited geographical area? Will they get expenses, will they travel or will they be bussed to their destination? If not, will they be locals who will operate as a police force to back up the Garda Síochána, with the same powers? When can they operate these powers? In what circumstances will they operate?
All this is unclear. These issues were raised on Committee Stage, yet instead of improving the situation with his amendments, the Minister's only amendments are to change the name of the force and muddy the waters still further by handing over authority for the exercise and extent of the powers to the Garda Commissioner. There is much explaining to be done and it is getting late in the day to do so.
I will try not to repeat what other Deputies have said as we may have many of the same concerns. We are generally in agreement with the concept of a volunteer or reserve police force. There is concern about the amount of power such a force would have. Deputy Jim O'Keeffe recommended a reserve or back-up police force as more appropriate than a volunteer police force. The former is there to assist the Garda Síochána rather than take over the role of the Garda Síochána.
There is no clear indication if the force will be totally voluntary, if there will be some payment or if there will be expenses. When this was discussed on Committee Stage it was indicated that there would be people, retired from the Garda Síochána or other professional organisations, willing to get involved in a project in their area of speciality.
In the run-up to the Bill Deputy Costello prepared a document on community policing. The importance of community policing was clearly shown for the first time, as was the fact that it was under-resourced until now. One recommendation was that community policing should be an established force within the Garda Síochána. It should have a separate budget and a separate assistant commissioner dealing with community policing. I worry that the concept of a volunteer or reserve police force will be used to dilute the necessity for full-time, fully resourced community policing. I can see how a reserve force could be of assistance to community policing but, considering the track record of this Government in providing resources, it is more likely the Government will use the reserve force as a cheap way to replace the community policing programme.
Many questions must be answered. There seems to be an obvious contradiction where the legislation refers to the reserve force having the same power as gardaí, but refers elsewhere to this power being determined by the Commissioner. There is no doubt that the powers of the reserve force should be debated and decided by this House. The House should be responsible to the people for the powers it grants a reserve force. There is much to be said for dealing with this separately so there is a clear indication of where the concept is going.
After the Minister left the House, shortly before we adjourned for lunch, I raised concerns at the fast-tracking of some amendments. I went out for a vote, looked in my pigeon hole and there was another list of amendments. It is exasperating to deal with a plethora of amendments coming from the Government at this late stage. It makes it nigh on impossible to get an idea of what is being dealt with at each stage.
I assume we are dealing with my amendment at this stage.
It is included in the amendments being discussed.
I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for that clarification. At the moment the closest we have to a reserve force are the crimewatch committees that operate throughout the country. In some places they operate very successfully and work well with community gardaí. I was at a meeting last night and picked up a newsletter from a crimewatch unit of the Garda Síochána. It states quite bluntly that it is stuck for cash to deliver what is requested. It says that recommendations were made in 1998 on the improvements in that service but the resources have not been given to deliver on this. The newsletter had a large amount of commercial sponsorship in it. I do not think that is how such a service should be operated. Good policing needs proper resourcing and I am concerned by the proposal for a voluntary reserve force. I would not condemn the idea outright but I need to see compelling evidence from the Minister that it can work and that it has worked elsewhere.
Meetings of concerned local residents or crimewatch groups include some of the brightest and the best in the community. One also finds some of the little Himmlers who state what they want to do when they find those responsible for crime in the community. I am nervous about how the Minister will recruit these volunteers.
To that end I propose an amendment that will ensure the members will receive human rights training. I acknowledge the current training programme for the Garda Síochána in Templemore has a human rights component. I am not convinced it goes to the heart of the training of the Garda Síochána. I suspect it is a bolt-on strategy. I want to ensure that training in human rights is at the heart of what both the Garda Síochána and the reserve force would receive. The Minister has included a reference to human rights in the oath sworn by gardaí but I think this should be at the heart of the training the volunteers receive. I therefore propose amendment No. 64.
I hold a slightly different view to a number of my colleagues. I take their points on the reserve and volunteer police force. There are some positive examples of good practice. I recall a trip to London with the Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights. In one community I had a positive experience of a reserve officer working with children at risk and young girls involved in child prostitution, and dealing with anti-social behaviour. She was a reserve officer and was very much involved in crime prevention, but there was a clear distinction between her and the full-time community police officers and other officers. She made a major contribution to the estate in which she operated. She was a woman in her mid-twenties.
When the programme began there were many cynics within the force, who were concerned that the programme would produce "yellow pack" positions. She broke down the barriers with the community police officers advising her. There was a clear distinction between her powers and those of the rest of the force.
There are examples of good practice and we should not be afraid to consider them. On that trip I also met community police officers who spent 80% of their time in the community. This is something we need to examine. If we have community gardaí, we must ensure they are not in offices or attending meetings or book launches. They should spend 80% to 90% of their time in the community. That part of London had major problems with anti-social behaviour. I was impressed by the way in which the local authority and the community police officers worked together as a team in dealing with anti-social behaviour, including violence and graffiti. When local people approached community police officers, within five or six weeks a programme was put into effect to remove car wrecks and graffiti, or deal positively with the known leaders of anti-social behaviour in the area.
I realise some people have concerns about the idea of reserve police forces. Historically I also have some personal baggage concerning them. The public must have confidence in fully trained officers, particularly in disadvantaged areas. Last night I received a call from a part of my constituency where the community is being dominated by 20 to 25 local teenagers who are out of control. Drugs are involved also. The community is not happy with the response of local gardaí. It is not acceptable for such communities, particularly those in disadvantaged areas, to be left to their own devices. Fully trained officers are required to place a strong emphasis on community policing. Gardaí cannot go into communities demanding respect, they must earn that respect. There are examples of good practice where gardaí have proved they can bring a community with them when they deliver a service, rather than flying in and out every now and again.
While those points relate to the positive side of the debate, the negative side arises from my historical baggage, including my experience of the police force in the North. At the hearings of the sub-committee into the Barron report, examples were cited where members of loyalist paramilitary groups, or people sympathetic to them, infiltrated the reserve police force in Northern Ireland. Some of the suspects in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings had connections with the North's reserve police force. These are matters of concern to me.
I fully accept we have to reform the Garda Síochána and in that respect I accept many of the proposals in the Bill. We must also ensure, however, that it is not just a legislative issue — it is about people going to work for eight hours a day. That core issue applies equally to refuse collectors, gardaí and civil servants. In this House we often forget examples of the unsung heroes in society to which nobody refers. The Minister should use this opportunity to push the Minister for Finance to provide for the appointment of the extra 2,000 gardaí that were promised.
I strongly support the concerns expressed about the Bill by groups such as the Human Rights Commission and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties with regard to human rights. A number of Deputies have referred to those concerns.
Amendment No. 68 provides that the Garda Commissioner may determine the range of powers involved, but I would be cautious about this. The details should be laid out more clearly and there are examples in other jurisdictions that could be followed in this regard.
People should be open-minded about the issues involved. There are examples of good practice by other police forces in different communities. We must also be cautious about a reserve police force, however, and ensure the calibre and integrity of those joining it. Other Deputies have referred to people in their own communities who would not be suitable members of a reserve police force. It would be a disaster if they joined. On the other hand, there are qualified people who want to make a contribution to society. They do not need to have the same powers as the Garda Síochána, so that is not an issue. A reserve or volunteer police force should support the Garda Síochána and the community by preventing crime.
Crime prevention is a major issue. Sensible gardaí know that if they wander down to the local chip shop at 1.30 a.m. and stand around for a few hours on a Saturday night or early on Sunday morning, they can prevent a lot of anti-social behaviour, including fighting outside chippers and pubs. When gardaí undertake such patrols they can cut crime and anti-social behaviour by 50% or 60%. I have seen it happen in my constituency, particularly in the Coolock area. When young and ambitious gardaí are determined to do their jobs well, they can focus on the issues and win the respect of a local community. That is the way forward.
It is not just a question of legislation, although we should be responsible in supporting radical reform. We should not delay such reform and this is where I disagree with some of my colleagues on the Opposition benches. If people want to reform the Garda Síochána then let us table positive amendments to that effect. We must realise, however, that we cannot wait around here for the next ten years to do so.
I have tried to be positive in making constructive comments in this debate. While I share some of the concerns that have been raised about the proposal for a reserve police force, I encourage people to be open-minded about it.
I fully support the change of name from "volunteer" to "reservist", which is a wise acceptance of the points that were raised on Committee Stage. I am still somewhat unclear, however, about the powers and immunities of a reserve member. I am also unclear as to whether, under the new dispensation, the prescription by the Garda Commissioner must have the approval of the Minister. My starting point was that I did not believe reserve members should have the same powers, immunities, privileges and duties as fully trained gardaí. I did not want a reserve member to have, for instance, full powers of arrest.
I note the Minister is now providing that the Garda Commissioner may determine the range of powers to be exercised and duties to be carried out by reserve members. That seems reasonable but I have not had sufficient opportunity to tease this matter out. Is there any question of the Minister having any input into the range of powers to be exercised and duties to be carried out by reserve members? Is it to be done with the Minister's consent? We should clarify that issue.
When a reserve member is carrying out those powers — as prescribed by the Commissioner, if this new amendment goes through — will he or she have the same immunities as an ordinary member of the Garda Síochána? Can the Minister tease out those points? In a way, we are almost on Committee Stage here because there has been a change which I find mostly desirable and of which I approve. However, I would like to clarify those issues before giving the matter my blessing.
I want to assure Deputies that the proposed changes arise directly from the proceedings on Committee Stage, in which Deputy Jim O'Keeffe strongly supported the idea of a reserve Garda force.
He persuaded me that the term "volunteer" could be misconstrued and that I should call them "reservists" instead. That was the appropriate thing to do, so the bulk of my amendments currently under discussion is aimed at implementing that particular change that arose from the discussion on Committee Stage. In my defence, I would say — nobody else will — that it is not indicative of arrogance. I listened to Deputy Jim O'Keeffe and made a commitment to him that I would consider the points he had raised. I was favourably disposed towards implementing them.
My second point relates to the Garda reserve envisaged by this section. As Deputy Finian McGrath said, this section does not create a Garda reserve, it just provides the opportunity to do so. We must examine this in an open-minded way because this proposal is not set in stone.
Section 14(1) provides that the power to appoint persons as reserve members is subject to regulations. Therefore, to answer Deputy Jim O'Keeffe's point, there will be power for the Minister to make regulations and to have an input into the way in which the Commissioner moves on foot of section 14, once it has commenced. The combined effect of sections 65 and 68 is to meet a point discussed on Committee Stage. Section 65 cuts back the general equality of status of reserve members, as they will now be called.
Does the Minister mean amendment No. 65 or section 65?
I mean amendment No. 65. It cuts back on equality of status because it provides that "subject to subsection (5), a reserve member has, while on duty.” those powers.
Is there a danger of conflict between the two situations?
I do not think so. The reference is that the Garda Commissioner can determine the range of powers to be exercised and the duties to be carried out by reserve members. The entitlement of those members to be considered equal to other members of An Garda Síochána is expressly stated to be subject to that. This provision also came about as a result of discussion on Committee Stage, largely between myself and Deputy Jim O'Keeffe.
For the sake of consistency, if I am moving amendment No. 65, I seek liberty to change the term "volunteer member", which appears in the text before the House, to "reserve member" in accordance with other amendments in the group under discussion.
Another botched amendment.
Sorry, that has already been covered.
I would like to be constructive and tease this out. As it will now read, the Act will provide that subject to subsection (5), while on duty a reserve member has the same powers, immunities, privileges and duties as a person appointed under section 13 to the rank of garda. Subsection (5) determines the range of powers to be exercised and duties to be carried out, but does not refer to the immunities or otherwise.
I will not delimit the immunities. It is the powers and duties that are to be the subject of Garda Commissioner stipulation in subsection (5). I want reserve members to have all the immunities that a member of An Garda Síochána has. I do not want them to be sued personally in circumstances where, for example, a person standing in the same line at a demonstration cannot be sued personally. That would be unfair. It would put them in an inferior position if their immunity was different from that of ordinary members of the force.
Is the idea that their powers will be delimited by the Garda Commissioner?
Yes, but their protections should not be delimited.
Does that suggest that their duties could include being at a demonstration?
We are not on Committee Stage.
Of course, in some circumstances that might be the case.
This is a particular concern as demonstrations require highly trained personnel.
One never knows, there could be an emergency where it would be necessary to have them to protect property or whatever. I listened carefully to the points made on Committee Stage and I have adhered faithfully to what I said I would do then.
That is not true. The Minister has not done so.
Certainly not as I envisaged it.
I did what I told Deputy Jim O'Keeffe I would do.
There are other Deputies with views on the matter.
On Committee Stage, Deputy Jim O'Keeffe indicated strong support for the concept of a reserve force.
I reiterate that.
Other Members did also.
Please cease the interruptions.
He indicated that he was strongly in favour of the idea and he asked me to make a particular amendment, which I am doing. Others who do not agree with the whole idea of reserve gardaí are not satisfied. However, I am doing what I said I would do——
The Minister was obviously not listening to the debate.
——in favour of those people who support the idea. Obviously, I will not be faithful to all the ideas of the people opposed to the idea. That would be nonsense.
I welcome what Deputy Finian McGrath had to say on two counts. We must get on with the business and cannot keep postponing it — I do not say that to take an unfair advantage. Now is the time to get on with it because we will have other problems in the autumn. We must get on with policing. We should remember that the next modules of the Morris tribunal will not be easy to deal with either. Some of the report will be difficult to deal with from the point of view of the self-esteem and reputation of the force. I must get on with the legislation. I cannot just sit around waiting for successive artillery shells to bounce around me and promise to legislate at the end of it all. As Minister, I do not have the luxury of being able to wait until the dust has settled to get on with the process of reform.
Many people would have reservations about a reserve force. Deputy Cuffe said he would like to see evidence that it works. Reserve forces work and operate in most common law countries. They are useful and effective. I urge the Deputies expressing scepticism and using phrases like "yellow pack policing" to bear in mind what Deputy Finian McGrath discovered when he went to London and spoke to some of the people who have become reservists in Great Britiain. He has no axe to grind in this regard, but he said very fairly that there are good reasons a reserve force is a good idea.
I do not want to repeat myself at great length because I made these arguments on Committee Stage. One of the biggest dangers for An Garda Síochána is that its roots will be cut off from the community and gardaí will find themselves policing areas 20 or 30 miles away to which they must commute. This will not happen just in Dublin but right across the country.
This is therefore an appropriate time to revise the Garda code so that gardaí can serve in an area close to where they live.
Please refrain from disorderly interruptions.
Deputy Cuffe's interruption makes the point that should be made about the quality of some of the contributions, that when confronted with the fact that gardaí must commute to work, and that, like many other people in society, they live in a different world, the contributors proposed that I should require them to live in specific places. We are not in the Victorian world. I cannot tell gardaí they must live beside where they work. They are human beings and have social lives to which they are entitled. It is remarkable to see the Green Party come into this House and coming up with — if I may use the phrase —"an arrogant notion"——
What I am saying ——
—— that members of An Garda Síochána should be capable of being directed as to where they live, unlike other members of the community.
The Minister is misconstruing what I said.
Order, please. The Deputy will have the right to his two minutes.
Deputy Cuffe should remember that he chose to be elected in a constituency in which he did not live. Therefore, he is not in a position to tell gardaí they must live in the area they patrol. That is a flippant remark, but I am making a deeper point. In a much more mobile society, with all the difficulties faced by younger people in getting to work etc. — the Green Party has strong views on commuting and how wasteful it is — we must deal with the reality of the real world. These difficulties cannot be wished away by a change in Garda regulations.
There is a significant danger that in many communities An Garda Síochána will not have roots in those communities. One of the ways of establishing links between gardaí and the community in which they operate is through reserve members. They are the eyes, ears and local allies of the Garda. These people from the community represent a community link and interest in the force.
I strongly believe in the idea of recruiting reserve members of the Garda. Those who are sceptical about the notion will change their minds when they reflect on it in the fullness of time. When the reserve force has been put in place, such people will consider that it strengthens, rather than weakens, the Garda to have reserve members in the community. The establishment of the reserve force will not lead to a dilution of the presence of the Garda in the community. It will concentrate the links between the force and the community.
I agree with Deputy Cuffe that there should be an emphasis on human rights when members of the Garda are being trained. One of the lessons to be learned from the Morris tribunal is that there is a need for a renewed emphasis on not infringing people's human rights. It is obvious that such a moral imperative did not exist in the minds of some people in County Donegal who were the subject of the first two modules of the Morris tribunal. I do not doubt that the House will have an opportunity to strengthen the human rights dimension of the training of gardaí. We need to re-emphasise the need for gardaí to serve the community rather than to fail to do so. I am confident that the point made by Deputy Cuffe will be dealt with. I do not think a statutory change needs to be made to the provisions which will establish the reserve force. Deputy Cuffe's point is one of general application.
Can I respond to the personal remark made by the Minister?
I will call the Deputy in turn.
I would have expected better from the Minister.
I wish to defend Deputy Cuffe. The Minister tried to misrepresent the point the Deputy was making. I do not doubt that the Deputy will have another chance to make his point and to correct the Minister.
Most Opposition Deputies did not object to the proposal to establish a volunteer police force. We agreed with it in principle, but we sought clarity and further details about its operation. We did not receive answers to most of the questions we asked about the volunteer force. The Minister's amendment No. 68 contradicts the text of the Bill. The Minister has tried to deal with this in section 14(3), which states that "a volunteer member has the same powers ... as a person appointed under section 13 to the rank of garda”. In other words, volunteer members will have the same powers as ordinary members of the Garda Síochána. Both categories of member are inseparable in terms of the powers they can exercise. They are the very same.
Although section 14(3) does not refer to the Garda Commissioner, as I have outlined, amendment No. 68 proposes the inclusion in the Bill of a new section 14(5), which will state that "the Garda Commissioner may determine the range of powers to be exercised" by volunteer members of the force. What does that mean? Does it mean that the Garda Commissioner may make a blanket determination of the range of powers to be exercised by the reserve members? Does it mean that the Garda Commissioner will be able to determine from time to time the range of powers to be exercised? What does it mean? How can the proposed new section 14(5) be reconciled with the blunt statement in the existing section 14(3) that "a volunteer member has the same powers" as a member of the Garda?
As I understand it, the proposed section 14(5) will mean that the Garda Commissioner will be able to declare at any time that the reserve members have certain powers. It will not matter that section 14(3) states that they have the same powers as the other gardaí with whom they work side by side. If he wishes, the Garda Commissioner will be able to declare at another time that the reserve members have a different set of powers. Does the amendment mean, as I understand it, that at some future stage, this Garda Síochána — I do not refer to the next Garda Síochána — will be given a general blanket set of powers? If that is what the Minister means, he should state it explicitly in the legislation. He should state precisely what he means.
It is either the case that the members of the proposed Garda reserve force will have the same powers as ordinary gardaí, or it is not. We should not give the Garda Commissioner the power to determine, as he or she sees fit, the powers he or she will allow a reserve member to exercise. The Minister has not clarified the matter. The House should determine the powers of the proposed Garda reserve force.
The point made by Deputy Finian McGrath has some validity. I was present during the trip to England to which he referred. I spoke to members of the constabulary in England who were extremely critical of the voluntary police system. They argued that the voluntary members of the police force do very little compared with what the members of the constabulary do but are paid almost the same amount of money. I was told that the voluntary members are indistinguishable to the public when they put on their uniforms because they give the impression that they are real police officers. Many of the members of a UK police force to whom I spoke were quite critical of the manner in which the reserve force operates. That is the other side of the coin which should not be forgotten.
It must have been a different trip.
We met different members of the constabulary.
It depends on the members of the constabulary to whom one speaks.
I was chasing the National Front.
A proposal was made this morning to recommit the Bill. If we were teasing out this issue properly on Committee Stage, as we should be doing, we would ask the Minister to examine the manner in which this section has been drafted. There is potential for conflict between the clear expression of full powers and immunities for reserve members in section 14(3) and the provisions of amendment No. 68, which states that "the Garda Commissioner may determine the range of powers to be exercised and duties to be carried out by reserve members". It is probably too late to solve this problem as we do not have time to address this matter. There is a channel of potential trouble if this issue becomes relevant at any stage in future.
I understand what the Minister is doing. He has come some way to meeting the points I have raised. I suggested in earlier amendments that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform of the day should have some control over the powers and duties of reserve members. It seems that such control is being handed over entirely to the Garda Commissioner. I am not sure whether that is the wisest approach.
The Minister will have the power to give directives to the Garda Commissioner.
I suppose there is a general power in that regard. Perhaps the point I have made is covered in that provision. I will not press this issue further.
I think the Minister misconstrued my earlier intervention.
If I did, I apologise.
I thank the Minister.
That is fair enough.
I asked the Minister to review the Garda code. I simply suggested that the section of the Garda code that specifies that a Garda cannot serve within ten miles of a relation, other than a spouse, is outdated and a reflection of a Victorian concept.
I ask the Minister to allow gardaí to decide to live wherever they wish. If the Garda code is fully enforced — I do not doubt that it is being fully enforced — many gardaí must find it very difficult to live close to the communities which they serve. That is the simple point I was making. I hope the Minister takes it in that context.
I do not think a convincing case has been made for the volunteer or reserve force. The proposal has not been explained to the House in the detail that is required. I do not think it is right that the Bill before the House will allow the Minister and the Garda Commissioner to decide when the members of the volunteer force are deployed, where they are deployed and how they are deployed. When one considers the history of reserve forces on this island, it is clear that much more detail is needed before this Bill can be passed and such a force can be established in this jurisdiction.
I appreciate that reserve forces might continue to work well in Britain, but we need to bear in mind the experience of Irish communities over the years. I refer not only to the Six Counties, where the A, B and C Specials — particularly the B Specials — ran amok for many years, but also to this State, where the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries also ran amok. They were reserve police forces.
Someone else asked about the calibre of those who may join such a police force. Who would currently clamber over others to join a police force? Would they be people looking to mimic those who abused their powers in Donegal and elsewhere? I hope we are inserting mechanisms to prevent such people ever joining the Garda Síochána or, if they manage to join, to ensure they are summarily dismissed.
If we are to have a reserve police force, it should be fully qualified, fully trained and full-time. The fact that the Garda Síochána is currently not doing its job fully reflects on those within the force, the management structure and the misuse of resources. Why are there more gardaí on duty during the day than at night when the majority of anti-social behaviour incidents or other crimes occur? Garda management rather than a reserve police force needs to deal with that. If a case is to be made for a volunteer or reserve police force, let us first correct what is wrong with the Garda Síochána and then see if a reserve force is required.
Police officers have been critical of the proposed reserve police force, but I gained a very positive impression on the trip to English police stations. The sorts of problems raised were those that could be resolved with quality management of the services. I saw directly how some of the problems at a particular station had been overcome. In one police station I visited, 150 of its 350 officers were full time community officers. They had worked hard building up relationships in the community and they worked closely with the reserve officers. The community approved of the reserve force. It won the respect and backing of the community and saved many lives. I worked in the inner city for 20 years and always wanted such a police force. particularly for people in very disadvantaged parts of the city. I have seen quality gardaí deliver for people there. They did not turn their backs on them.
I agree that gardaí should have the option of living in their own communities and beside their own Garda stations. That should be voluntary but the impact is very positive. It does not necessarily intrude into the private lives of gardaí. I know many gardaí and have relations who serve in small towns throughout the State. They build up local community trust because they work, eat, sleep and drink with those communities. There is a strong relationship there which is what community policing should be about.
I urge all Deputies to keep an open mind. Some of us on the Opposition benches are open to the idea of a reserve and voluntary police force.
The Bill says that the volunteer police member has the same powers in communities as an ordinary garda. Deputy Jim O'Keeffe's amendment says that the Garda Síochána support resource members shall only have such limited powers and privileges as prescribed by the Minister. However, the Minister proposes to hand over the entitlement, not just out of the House but out of his own hands, to the Commissioner to determine the powers of such gardaí. There is something seriously wrong with that. Powers include those of arrest, detention and questioning. Will they have the powers to exercise and execute search warrants? What happens in those circumstances? Will the Garda Commissioner be able to determine whether a reserve police force member can arrest a citizen? Will the Minister or this House determine that? This is too serious a matter to leave as it stands in the Minister's amendment.
Deputy Jim O'Keeffe's amendment No. 66, with which I agree, makes provision for limited powers for the reserve force, but those powers would be prescribed by the Minister and he or she would have the authority to determine them. That makes a great deal of sense because we can then question the Minister. However, the matter may now be left entirely to the authority of the Garda Commissioner, with the issue unclear if he or she can, when calling in the reserve police force, allow it powers of arrest on one occasion and deny them on another.
A number of people, including myself, asked about the question of payment. In Britain, the reserve police force is very much a paid force. Does the Minister envisage a voluntary unpaid force or a part-paid force? How does he envisage a voluntary member carrying out duties if he or she must appear in court, for example? How would a volunteer get time off from work? Has the Minister a particular set of duties in mind to which the reserve force members would be directed?
Part of the problem with this debate is that none of us knows what the Minister has in mind, how the force will operate or what its duties or even its powers will be. I cannot attend a residents' meeting and say that the Minister has an idea of which I am in favour, in principle. I cannot ask the residents what they might think and cannot explain the matter to them because the Minister has not explained it to us.
Section 22 deals with the question of directives and allows the Minister of the day to give directives which must be complied with as long as he or she lays them before this House. If there was any question of the Garda Commissioner seeking to exercise powers under the relevant section in an unacceptable manner, that is easily remediable under section 22.
Deputy Costello continues to ask how exactly the reserve force will work. What we have before us is an enabling provision. Leaving aside the reservists or volunteer members, one will not see in this legislation exactly how the force will work in every respect. Much of this is enabling legislation which must be filled in with management practices, regulatory matters, directives, policing plans and so on. Merely by looking at the terms of this statute, one will not know in precise detail how every aspect of the Garda Síochána is run. For instance, there is no mention in the legislation of the drugs squad, but that does not mean it will not exist. It is not mentioned——
Nor is the crime squad or the murder squad.
Exactly. All those are erected against a trellis of enabling legislation. It is not normal to provide in a constitution of a Garda force all of its constituent elements, its exact management structures, the means of the force's deployment or its organisation on a micro-management level. The same applies to the reserve force. I echo Deputy Finian McGrath's comment that this is an enabling section. Sufficient provision has been made to enable a reserve force to be formed. When that happens, the question of remuneration can be dealt with, as Deputy Costello suggested. The term "overtime" is not mentioned in the Bill in the context of the earnings of gardaí. None of this detail must be the subject of statutory provision.
The Minister has done away with overtime. It does not exist any longer.
The words "shift" and "shift work" are not mentioned in the legislation but that does not mean they will be redundant.
The Minister should tell the truth, he does not know what it means.
The Deputies should remember this statute will enable action to be taken and it is not a micromanagement picture of where the Garda will be in two, three, five, ten or 15 years.
The Minister does not know what the section is supposed to do. He should give us an idea.
While it was never intended that deployment of the reserve force would be laid out in detail, the Minister did not give us a picture of what this body will be enabled to do through these provisions. We do not need to know whether reserve force members are paid or the number of hours they serve — that detail will be provided in future — but their training and the work in which they will be engaged should be outlined. Will they be engaged in crime prevention and, if so, should they be Garda members or could they, for instance, be deployed as crime prevention officials attached to the probation and welfare service? Could they be paid by the State to work with community groups or other bodies? Is the reserve force needed in such circumstances or is a better mechanism available?
The Minister stated that reserve force members should be entitled to the same immunity as Garda members, despite us not knowing what they will do. However, they will not be full members of the Garda, they will not receive the same training, they will not work full time and they will not be paid on the same basis. Most of them will not want that anyway. The force will be different from the FCA, which is not likely to be active unless there is an emergency. FCA members are only remunerated when they attend training camps. These details should be provided so that we have a picture of what the force will do.
Deputy Cuffe referred to community groups which have played a role in policing fora in his constituency. However, in the south inner city, including Rialto in my constituency, residents have come together at such fora and they do a good job. They play a role in helping the Garda Síochána to police their communities but they received no backing from the Department when they sought support to ensure their work would be co-ordinated so that they could work more intensively in the community, reflect fully what the Garda Síochána is doing and reflect to the Garda Síochána and city council officials the work that needs to be done. Those fora have been put on hold by their members because no support was forthcoming. The Minister should look to these people to join a reserve or volunteer force as they give freely of their time, yet trust has been damaged in this case because the Government would not support them.
If a reserve rather than a volunteer force is established, we do not know whether gardaí who take early retirement will be permitted to join. Perhaps the force could become a holding centre for gardaí such as the five members who were transferred from Donegal to Dublin recently. They could still abuse the public through their participation in the reserve force. Setting up such a force is akin to providing a yellow pack organisation because its members will not have full powers of arrest and so on. The powers enjoyed by gardaí are derived from the training they have undertaken for two years and that is how they become members of the Garda Síochána.
Deputy Costello asked whether members of the force require permanent mentoring, thus tying up gardaí in a baby-sitting role because the State has not trained enough people to do the work of the Garda Síochána. Will they be deployed to provide security at football matches, concerts and late night discos or will organisers of such events encourage the Garda Síochána to take heed of the attendance of thousands of people at such events so that sufficient gardaí will be on duty?
I support Deputy Cuffe's comments on the amendment to regulations to provide that gardaí be permitted to live and serve in their native communities — traditionally, especially in Dublin, gardaí have not been permitted to be stationed in their native areas, they have been deployed elsewhere. The Garda Síochána was established after the auxiliaries or black and tans. The Minister has failed to make the case for the amendments and they should be rejected.
I enthusiastically support the establishment of a reserve force. The Garda is overstretched and that will still be the case when the additional 2,000 recruits come on stream. There is continuing demand for a more visible presence and one of the ways of achieving that is by providing support for the Garda Síochána and, in particular, by having reserve members available who will assist in supplying that visible presence.
We can learn from what happens in other countries. The neighbouring island has a long tradition of special constables. As I mentioned on Committee Stage, Charles Dickens was a special constable. The tradition stretches back that far. They are unpaid. I accept that the special constables in Northern Ireland did not cover themselves in glory. Nevertheless, we can learn from aspects of policing in the UK. It also has community support police, who are paid.
I envisage Ireland having a reserve force of approximately 5,000 members. There is a resource available in the form of the FCA, civil defence and others who have training, discipline and so forth. That is a ready resource which could be utilised to train people. The duties involved would be support for the Garda Síochána and handling crowd control at matches, U2 gigs and the like. The members would be a visible presence in the streets and estates where they are needed. They would be with and under the control of a full-time member of the force. I also envisage them doing station duties. They could be paid expenses and a limited amount of remuneration. I accept Deputy Costello's point that if they had to appear as witnesses on behalf of the State they would have to be remunerated by way of expenses for that purpose.
I am enthusiastic about this proposal. It will relieve some of the pressures on the Garda Síochána and will enable the Garda to have a more effective role in our community. I look forward to seeing it in operation as quickly as possible. I appreciate that the Minister has gone some distance in his latest amendments to meet some of my reservations about his proposal. I am still a little worried about the possibilities for conflict between subsection (3), which basically gives the same powers, duties, immunities and so forth to reserve members, and subsection (5) under which these may be limited by the Garda Commissioner. If it were possible, I would recommend that the provision be redrafted. Apart from that, I am prepared to support the outline of the reserve force as prescribed.
I will now put the question.
Will the Minister reply?
I am following the correct procedure. The Minister replied before Deputy Ó Snodaigh.
Many points were made by the Minister.
I appreciate that but there is procedure for dealing with each of the amendments.
Does the Minister not wish to exercise his right of reply?
I am following the procedure.
We will deny the Minister his reply.
I am not denying the Minister his reply.
I have given my reply.
He got his reply in early.
He replied before Deputy Ó Snodaigh. That is the procedure.
Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?
Deputies Ó Snodaigh, Crowe, Morgan and Joe Higgins rose.
As fewer than ten Members have risen, I declare the question carried. In accordance with Standing Order 68 the names of the Deputies dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.
I move amendmentNo. 11:
In page 10, line 18, to delete "volunteer" and substitute "reserve".
Amendments Nos. 12 and 73 are related and will be taken together by agreement.
I move amendmentNo. 12:
In page 10, to delete lines 22 and 23 and substitute the following:
"‘Garda Ombudsman' means Ombudsman an Gharda Síochána established under section 57;”. This is our first opportunity to discuss anything regarding the Garda ombudsman — ombudsman an Gharda Síochána. The other amendment is No. 73, which is to delete line 29 on page 16 and substitute “Ombudsman an Gharda Síochána”. This is in line with the points that I was making regarding titles of organisations being in the first language of the State, as Gaeilge, and translated thereafter if required — there is no need in this case — into English. That is the sum total of what I intend. There is a difference here. I am surprised that for once what I intended was not ruled out of order as a potential cost to the State. I do not intend a commission but a single ombudsman in line with our obligations under the Good Friday Agreement to have legislation equivalent to that affecting human rights in the Six Counties.
The other point in this regard is that there is consensus among the Opposition and across the political divide. There seems to be support from the Minister, who has agreed to oversee the implementation of the Bill, for a single ombudsman as the preferred option, rather than a trio who might formulate contrary views when dealing with complaints. The Human Rights Commission, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and others, including Senator Maurice Hayes and, as I remember from Committee Stage, all the Opposition parties agreed it was the best course of action. It was the course we suggested when we made our presentation and submission to the Minister in response to his request for views on the future of the Garda Síochána and how it might be changed for the better.
We made a quite detailed party submission in that instance, as Gaeilge agus as Béarla. Leag muid amach go díreach cén fáth gur cheart d'ombudsman —"fear an phobail" nó "bean an phobail" as Gaeilge — a bheith neamhspleách ar an Gharda. Duine amháin a bheadh i gceist a cheapfaí ar mheán oscailte. Chomh maith leis sin, bheadh na hacmhainní cearta ag an duine agus a lán eile dá réir. Más gá, is féidir liom an rud iomlán a mhíniú don Aire.
The recommendations regarding the Garda ombudsman in that submission were a page and a half long, as the Minister may remember. Regarding the submissions that he received at that stage from other bodies and individuals, in most cases where an ombudsman was mentioned, it was in the singular, along the lines of what those in the Six Counties have enjoyed for several years under Nuala O'Loan, who has done great work.
I have the Human Rights Commission's recommendations. It explained in great detail why it required a transparent appointments system. I made quite a detailed presentation. The ICCL did something similar regarding the establishment and functions of the Garda Síochána ombudsman. I had another one to hand a few minutes ago, but I am struggling with all this documentation. I believe that Professor Dermot Walsh also produced a critique of the proposed Garda complaints procedure.
It is very difficult to produce a consensus on such issues, but the Minister has stuck stubbornly to his version. There was some movement on his part, since he originally had two totally different functions tied up in one structure. At least now he has separated the ombudsman from the Garda inspectorate. However, he is still free at this stage to admit his mistake and accept that a single individual is required —"fear an phobail" or "ombudsman an Gharda Síochána". Not only is that needed; we also need similar funding and staffing to Nuala O'Loan's office.
When I raised this matter on Committee Stage, the Minister said that we did not have the same history as the Six Counties and that it would therefore not be required. However, when one considers what emerged in the second report of the Morris tribunal and what may come out of the other eight modules, all of which deal with only one county, one understands the need for a single individual with a single focus and the money, resources and staff required to investigate all complaints. The Garda Síochána Complaints Board has not had the number of complaints that it should have had because no one had any confidence that it was willing to address problems, or achieve any sort of constructive result when it did.
Whatever system we have after this Bill is passed must be fully resourced. Someone with a single focus is the way forward. I was intrigued that Fine Gael made the creative and constructive suggestion that there be a single ombudsman for policing on the entire island. I congratulate them on an all-Ireland aspect which we should examine. However, perhaps we should have considered it earlier on Committee or even Second Stage.
We will have to join up the two police forces then.
In the long run, that is our intention.
They might try supporting them first.
We would support them if they were accountable to democratically elected representatives on the island, which they are not.
Get on board.
If the PSNI were accountable to this House, we might get on board a good deal more quickly.
But they would not recognise this House either.
I have recognised this House for a good deal longer than the Deputy, since I pass it almost every day of my life. It exists as a building.
Does he recognise the building? That is interesting.
If the Deputy wishes me to recognise the Houses of the Oireachtas, I will also recognise them. They and no one else have legislated for my life since I was born.
This House was also born from the barrel of a gun, something that one should remember.
The purpose of the amendment is to restart the debate on the question of an "Ombudsman an Gharda Síochána" and to again ask the Minister to consider and take on board, even at this late stage, the points made on Committee Stage. I could reread some of what was said during that long debate but I am aware that other Members wish to speak on this issue. We are all anxious to discover whether the Minister is at all inclined towards having a single person in the role or whether he is doggedly sticking to the ridiculous situation of a multi-person commission.
This amendment is one for which we all argued on Committee Stage. It proposes that there should be a one-person Garda ombudsman in line with the excellent model that operates in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, however, the Minister decided we were all out of line and that his proposal was the correct model. Since then, the Minister has moved forward to some degree. The provision in the Bill as it currently stands for an ombudsman commission represents a move from his original idea of a Garda inspectorate.
His new amendments represent a more considerable move forward and are remarkably progressive compared with where the Minister originally stood on this issue. These amendments propose that the three-person commission will include a nominated chairperson whose role will be akin to that of a general secretary. He or she will perform an administrative role in allocating the work of the office and determining how it will be done.
All these aspects are part and parcel of the Minister's new amendments. It is clear that the chairman is an entirely different type of animal to what was envisaged in the existing provision for a three-person ombudsman commission with no distinction between any of the members. We must welcome that the Minister has made some progress in the direction to which we have been pointing for a long time.
In the context of these changes, will the Minister clarify whether the definition or interpretation is accurate? The Bill defines the ombudsman commission as the Garda Síochána ombudsman commission established under section 57. That section refers to the establishment of the ombudsman commission and section 58 refers to the appointment of the persons who make up the commission. In many ways, the new role of chairman is more important than that of the commission given the extensive rights and duties which the Minister's new amendments propose. Is it sufficient to retain that particular reference and interpretation of the ombudsman commission without also including a definition or interpretation of the chairman? It is important to include that definition and I ask the Minister to respond on this point.
It will fall on deaf ears to ask the Minister to emulate the simple model that was devised by Senator Maurice Hayes in 1995. He developed the idea of a police ombudsman for Northern Ireland as a means of oversight of and investigation into complaints about the RUC. This idea was taken on board enthusiastically by both the Independent Commission on Policing, chaired by Chris Patten, in 1999 and, subsequently, by the new Policy Service of Northern Ireland.
I met the Chief Constable of the PSNI, Hugh Orde, when he visited this State and heard him speak robustly and enthusiastically in defence of the model in operation in Northern Ireland. He explained that while there were many initial concerns and suspicions among members of the Northern Ireland police force, they would now accept no other system of overview.
PSNI members believe a strong and independent individual at the head of the independent investigative machinery is the only way forward. There have been disagreements from time to time but there is also a general acceptance that it is essential to have a person who is independent, able to stand up in a singular capacity to defend the office and the work that is being done, will explain that work to the public, will make the decisions as to how complaints are to be investigated and also will proactively determine when investigations should take place where no complaint has been made. This latter aspect is an important one.
The Labour Party has tabled an amendment which would allow us to leave open the possibility of a one-person commission or a multi-person commission. This means the legislation would not have to be amended if the present model which the Minister favours does not work out to the best advantage. If this amendment is taken on board, a future Minister could determine that an ombudsman commission could consist of one person rather then three. The Minister seems to be moving in that direction because he has created a chairman who is not just primus inter pares but is effectively the ombudsman because of the powers he or she will enjoy.
The Minister should go one step further by providing for the scope that will allow the office to develop from a commission to a one-person ombudsman. He does not have to do it within the legislation but he can include the option. This means that, depending on how matters work out and whether the body the Minister proposes to establish operates as effectively as he envisages, he or his successors can tweak and vary it and can revert to the original model devised by Senator Maurice Hayes and which is operated in Northern Ireland.
Is the Minister prepared to accept the modest amendment proposed by the Labour Party? This amendment comes later in the sequence and it will fall if we do not reach it unless its concept is taken on board by the Minister in an amendment of his own. Such an amendment should expand the concept of the ombudsman commission to allow it to be either a single person or a triumvirate as envisaged.