I move amendment No. 1:
In page 13, line 5, to delete "POWERS" and substitute "FUNCTIONS".
This is an amendment to the longest Long Title of a Bill I have seen in my time in the House, which is an indication of the amalgam of legislation that this Bill has become. It has grown like Topsy. Unfortunately, a great deal of that growth occurred on Committee Stage and much of the meat of the Bill has not had a proper Second Stage debate. With that in mind, I tabled this amendment to change the Long Title in so far as it related to the powers of the Garda Síochána to instead seek to mention the Garda's functions. The word "FUNCTIONS" is a broader term and covers both powers, as envisaged in the Bill as published, and duties.
I tabled the amendment to provide me with a brief opportunity to make the point that we need a fundamental review of the structure of the Garda Síochána and how it operates. Recently, I published a policy document on behalf of my party, in which I stated that we could examine a number of the fundamental changes that have occurred in policing in Northern Ireland, particularly the re-emphasis on democratising the police service and reconnecting it with communities. Some of these issues are being dealt with in respect of police liaison committees, local policing committees and so on, but there has been a fundamental alteration of the structure of the Garda Síochána to deal with policing from the bottom up.
The expert groups and specific task forces need to be in the face of the dangerous drug criminals who are unfortunately all too rampant across the country. In parallel, there is a need for a bottom-up approach to policing to reconnect all communities, be they alienated or others in rural or urban Ireland, to the police force. A properly functioning community policing system is important in that respect and it is a pity that we are not taking that step. Due to the 413 amendments with which we must deal and the two days in which to do so, I will not labour this point beyond putting down a marker, that is, many criminal law changes are envisaged in this very large enactment, which grew like Topsy in the course of Committee Stage.
I commend the Minister on his engagement with the Bill. To some extent, he listened to the views of the Opposition parties and was not dogmatic in respect of many of the proposals that, by and large, brought about consensus across these benches. There is another day's work ahead of us concerning the structural changes in the Garda Síochána envisaged by the word my amendment would insert, which would act as a hook.