I have noticed that people have talked about their constituencies in this debate and I will certainly mention mine in my contribution. I went for a walk today around the old streets from which I came. I do not come from Tallaght but was born in this parish and lived in St. Stephen's Street and South Great George's Street. I said in a speech some time ago that I was born in a bygone era in Dublin and, having listened to some of the contributions, I believe it is fair to reflect on this. As I grew up in Crumlin, I remember that the biggest event of any day was when the local garda cycled from the Garda station down the streets and through Derry Park, which Deputy Ó Snodaigh will know very well, and took our ball. I am not a bit afraid to say from the Government benches that this is the kind of policing to which we need to return. It is very important to have visibility and to have the male and female members of the Garda on our streets. This is the way forward in dealing with our communities.
There has been much controversy recently about anti-social behaviour orders and the question of a Garda reserve. It is very important that we speak up for what the Minister is trying to achieve in some of these issues. He has heard all sorts of comments from every side of the House, including from the Fianna Fáil benches, yesterday and today. As a Government Deputy, I will not claim that everything is right in my community, but at the same time we should try to work with the Minister and bring to his attention the issues of concern to us and try to get action. I do that not only as a Deputy, but also as a member of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, where we all see what the Minister is trying to do. I have heard Opposition colleagues marvel at the workload in that regard and that on a regular basis the Minister engages with us, which is important.
I am not afraid to say that we face challenges as far as crime is concerned. The area of Dublin which I represent and in which I live is different from the place where I grew up. It is becoming a dangerous place with much crime. Not a day goes by without crime making the headlines. We need to press the Government to ensure the Garda is properly resourced to deal with crime. We need to tackle the bosses and their gangs and take them out of business.
I always want to be positive about the work of the Garda, particularly in my constituency. I disagree with the advice of senior Garda management in the Phoenix Park and senior officials in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the need for Garda facilities in my town of Tallaght. My constituency is very relevant to the debate. While Dublin South-West includes the town of Tallaght, which is the third largest population centre in the country, it also includes rural areas like Brittas and Bohernabreena, and other population centres like Firhouse, Greenhills and Templeogue. My constituency has 74,000 people, but there is only one Garda station. While we are served by other stations in the region, in Clondalkin, Terenure, Crumlin and Rathfarnham, we have only one Garda station.
Tallaght Garda station was built in 1989 before the town developed to its present size. Members and certainly the Ceann Comhairle will remember the Tallaght of 1989, with no Square, hospital, civic centre or civic theatre. It had none of the facilities, which thankfully have been introduced in the past 15 years. I have often mentioned — I am sure the Irish Examiner will pick me up for mentioning it again — that 20 cranes are working on the town centre land, thousands of apartments are being developed and new housing estates are being developed, particularly to the west of the town, in Marlfield, Kiltipper, Westbrook and Carrickmore. We still have only one Garda station, with fewer gardaí than in Limerick which has a smaller population than Tallaght.
We need the Minister to understand that Tallaght has those needs. We need the development of the new Garda station, which is being progressed, as the Minister advised me some weeks ago. I understand that a planning application is being progressed by the OPW. The Garda authorities and the Department believe that Tallaght does not need another Garda station, which I absolutely refute. I will not sit idly by because Tallaght needs a second Garda station. I have made a case for the rest of the constituency. A Garda station situated west of the Square would be of great benefit to those communities and to the whole area.
Considerable progress has been made regarding the work of the Garda in Tallaght and the other areas. I am always happy to support the work of community gardaí in every community, particularly my own. They work on a weekly basis with the local authority and provide a clinic setting where people can go to discuss problems they are having in the estates. These clinics operate on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in Tallaght, Jobstown, Killinarden and Fettercairn.
Other colleagues have talked about the need for the JLO scheme to be beefed up, to give resources to the drugs unit and to help Garda visibility by promoting the use of mountain bicycles, the horse unit etc. I am glad my communities have been able to take advantage of those programmes. I strongly support the Garda youth diversion projects. Killinarden, Jobstown and Fettercairn in the Tallaght area have very successful projects. On a number of occasions recently in Dáil debates, at the Oireachtas joint committee and through other means, I have drawn the Minister's attention to the need to fund the St. Aengus stay in school project in Tymon North in Tallaght. When I brought in a group from St. Aengus's parish to meet the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, he was able to confirm that the project will be funded. While the Garda understands it has been confirmed, the document has not been signed and I hope it can be confirmed in the next few days.
From previous contributions I have made on crime and Garda resources for my constituency, Members will know that I believe strongly in community involvement, which is why I feel the proposal for a Garda reserve is reasonable. Members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights accompanied the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform last April on a visit to the London Metropolitan Police in New Scotland Yard. We saw what it is doing regarding community policing and reservists. During that weekend, Deputy Finian McGrath and I had the opportunity to go on a detail with policemen, which was an amazing experience. We saw how the police respond to situations. As it happened on the day of a match between Chelsea and Fulham, many people were out and about with considerable potential for high spirits. While it might sound sad to some Members, I found it a great experience, which gave me a good understanding as to what can be done with community policing.
I mentioned my own town a few times and I would like to mention some other activities I strongly support in Tallaght. The Tallaght Garda has a so-called "one-person programme" working with what I will call the international community in our town. The programme has been very successful. The community garda, Jim Fleming, has been working with the local schools and in recent times pupils from all the schools took advantage of the facilities in the National Basketball Arena. That represents an extension of the Garda diversion project and it has been very successful
We need to understand the concerns of victims. I have been a long-time supporter of victim support programmes. We need to do as much as possible to facilitate victims and ensure their needs are considered. Victim organisations, particularly Victim Support, often make the point that the needs of victims are not addressed in legislation. I was a victim of crime on a few occasions and it had a significant effect on me. Every day I meet families who are the subject of even more serious crime than that to which I have been subjected and it affects them greatly. I ask the Department officials to convey this message to the Minister. I have made representations to the Minister in respect of the victim support facilities in Tallaght Courthouse. As some Members may know, that courthouse has not operated for some months following a fire. It is being renovated and it is understood that Judge McDonnell will be back very shortly, to which the local community looks forward. People have concerns about the victim support facilities being moved to another part of the courthouse. I hope the Minister will respond in a positive way to the reasonable representations I have made to him by ensuring that victim support is facilitated and there are no difficulties in that regard.
I also want to talk about the operations of peace commissioners, which is an issue that a number of people have raised with me. I am sure Members will recall that until two years ago, peace commissioners were allowed to sign search warrants under theft legislation which was subsequently amended to disallow them from doing so. If gardaí want to obtain search warrants on foot of cases of theft or larceny, they are required to present themselves before a District Court judge. However, it can be difficult to obtain access to District Court judges out of hours, especially at weekends. Peace commissioners are allowed to sign search warrants for drugs searches under drugs legislation, often resulting in large quantities of drugs worth millions of euro being taken off the streets, as we have seen in recent times. Peace commissioners are available to gardaí on a 24-hour basis. They often attend the court cases which arise from the issuing of drugs search warrants. It is difficult to understand, therefore, why peace commissioners cannot issue search warrants under theft legislation, for example in the case of the theft of equipment or property worth €100.
This regulation causes a great deal of frustration for gardaí who seek such warrants out of hours. I hope the Minister will examine this problem and amend the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 to facilitate the issuing of warrants under theft legislation. This issue has been brought to my attention by a number of peace commissioners in the Tallaght region. I am a peace commissioner. It is not something I always wanted to do but I am always happy to oblige the Garda. I ask the Minister to consider this matter and tell the House whether changes can be made.
A number of colleagues referred to the difficulties which arise from the use of fireworks. Deputies are contacted every year by people concerned about the problems caused in their communities by fireworks and bonfires. I receive complaints every year from communities in which fireworks are being discharged in a haphazard, illegal and dangerous manner. Local authorities say every year they will take action — South Dublin County Council is no different in that regard — but we always end up talking about what went wrong and saying we will have to take action next year.
I have listened carefully to a number of contributions to this debate in which Deputies have referred to the difficulties and challenges posed by the use of fireworks. I ask the Minister to understand the significant concerns in many communities in that regard and to examine the matter. We say every year that something definite must be done in our communities, but we always seem to end up saying we will take action next year. We find that we are doing the same things when the following year comes around. Given that this issue has been raised by successive speakers throughout this debate, it is clear that action is required.
Perhaps the Minister will consider telling the Garda authorities that more liaison should take place with local authorities to ensure that these matters are dealt with. We should ensure that bonfires are organised properly, as they are in the Aylesbury district of Tallaght every year. Such organisation ensures that illegal fireworks are not discharged and open spaces are not damaged. I am trying to spread this gospel throughout my constituency. Perhaps the Minister will promote this idea elsewhere because we should understand the need for it.
Many speakers have referred to the threat and danger posed to our communities by drugs. I have applauded on many occasions the good work of the Garda in dealing with drug gangs. I do not disagree with the Member who said yesterday that much of the blatant and serious crime taking place at present, such as the shootings on the M50, is being perpetrated by gangs who are making easy money. My constituency has suffered from drug problems as much as anywhere over recent years. We need to keep on top of the problem. I agree with Deputies who have argued that this is not just a law and order issue, although that aspect of it is clearly important. I appeal to the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, whose efforts to date I applaud, to acknowledge that the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs continues to face challenges in this regard. It is important that we continue to support communities like those in Dublin South-West, which are no different to those in other parts of the country in this respect, through the gardaí and by other means.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this motion. I acknowledge the presence in the House of my good friend, the Minister of State, Deputy Killeen, whose work in this regard I am always happy to applaud. Some people questioned whether this important debate should have taken place, but it is good that we have been able to discuss the various issues. I have listened to all the contributions and it was good to hear the trends. I hope the Minister will take particular note of what we all say in a general and global sense. I remind him to consider the specific issues I have raised, including the need for a new Garda station in the Tallaght area. I hope he will support me in that regard.