Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 8 May 2014

Vol. 840 No. 3

Nomination of Member of Government: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the nomination by the Taoiseach of Deputy Charles Flanagan for appointment by the Commission, constituted as provided in Section 2 of Article 14 of the Constitution, to be a member of the Government.

Acting on my advice, the President accepted yesterday the resignation of Deputy Alan Shatter as a member of the Government. Following this, and pursuant to section 4(1) of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 1946, I assigned the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Defence to the Department of the Taoiseach. I have now moved that the nomination of Deputy Charles Flanagan be approved. Following his appointment, I intend to assign to him the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. I further intend to assign responsibility for the Department of Justice and Equality to Deputy Frances Fitzgerald. It is also my intention to reorganise responsibility for the Department of Defence, pending which I am retaining responsibility for the Department on a temporary basis.

As a vastly experienced member of the House, Deputy Charles Flanagan is eminently qualified to continue the hugely important work of this Government in the area of the welfare and protection of children. Deputy Flanagan has represented the people of Laois-Offaly in the House for 22 years. During this time, he has served with distinction and has held several important responsibilities as Opposition spokesperson, including as Fine Gael spokesperson on children. I commend his name to the House and look forward to his contribution as a member of the Government.

As the State’s first Cabinet-level Minister with responsibility for children, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald inherited a system that was failing to adequately protect our young people. In just three years, she has transformed the constitutional, legislative and administrative systems to make the welfare and protection of children the top priority. She has overseen a constitutional referendum on children’s rights, the enactment of the Children First guidelines on a statutory basis, and the creation of the Child and Family Agency. I know she will bring the same energy, commitment and reforming zeal to her new role as Minister for Justice and Equality.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Deputy Alan Shatter for his work as Minister. During his three years as Minister for Justice and Equality, he implemented huge reform right across his areas of responsibility, from the creation of the personal insolvency system to the referendum on a court of appeal and the reform of the legal profession. His work in opposition on Private Members' legislation will also leave a great legacy on the Statute Book. One relatively minor reform that struck a chord with many people was the way in which new Irish citizens are confirmed. When Deputy Shatter took office, he inherited a degrading system in which people had to make their declarations before sittings of the District Court. He personally changed the system to create proper, dignified ceremonies in which our new citizens can be confirmed in a dignified and appropriate setting in the presence of their families. I have met many new citizens who have been deeply moved by these ceremonies and the dignity of the new process. I wish Deputy Shatter and his family well for the future.

While acutely aware of recent crises that have shaken An Garda Síochána, I acknowledge the successes that An Garda Síochána achieved at a time of financial constraint. The most recent CSO figures show reductions in 11 of the 14 crime categories for which figures are given and an overall reduction in crime of 6.6%. Burglaries continue to fall, down 7.2% on 2012, building on earlier reductions and providing definitive evidence that the Garda operations to confront gangs involved in this type of crime are succeeding. A new Garda roster and working time agreement was developed, agreed and implemented by the Garda Síochána and results in more gardaí being on duty during periods of greater policing demand. The Government has agreed the commencement of a Garda recruitment campaign as well as a substantial investment in Garda vehicles.

Restoring confidence and integrity to the Irish justice system now becomes the number one priority for the new Minister. As Head of Government, I want transparency and accountability in our public service. It goes to the heart of what we all seek to achieve here in the House in representing the Irish people on a daily basis. In pursing this aim, the Government is committed to the establishment of an independent Garda authority. It is hoped that the new Minister will seek written submissions from the public on the structure and remit of the proposed Garda authority by the end of May and, following receipt of these submissions, to organise hearings before the summer break. In addition, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality will commence hearings next Wednesday on its review of the legislation with regard to the oversight of An Garda Síochána under the 2005 Act. The Government looks forward to receiving its report.

We can never lose sight of this Government’s top priority. I was again given a reminder of that mission when I visited Collinstown Community College in Clondalkin this morning. I had the opportunity to meet recent school leavers and those soon to take their first steps into the world of work. Since becoming young adults, they have never known an Ireland where jobs were plentiful, where people planned for the future with confidence and hope, and where their friends did not automatically look to foreign horizons for new opportunities. Three years ago, when Fine Gael and the Labour Party took office, the country was lacking hope, subject to an international bailout from the EU and the IMF and with an unemployment rate soaring to unprecedented highs. In the face of crisis, the Irish people gave Fine Gael and the Labour Party a strong mandate to fix our public finances and get the country working again. In the three years since, we have steadfastly implemented our plan for recovery based on jobs, stability and growth. Last December, the hard work, patience and resilience of the Irish people was recognised as the country successfully exited the EU-IMF bailout programme. It was an important milestone for our recovery and enhanced our international reputation. Along the way, the Government successfully renegotiated key parts of the EU-IMF agreement. We removed the millstone of the promissory notes from the necks of the Irish people and consigned the toxic Anglo Irish Bank to history. We renegotiated the interest rate and loan terms of our programme loans, saving the taxpayer billions, reversed the reduction in the minimum wage and prevented increases in income tax to help working families. In the three years before we took office, the record of Fianna Fáil was the destruction of 1,700 jobs per week.

It is the same record. The Taoiseach should change the record.

Today, the private sector is creating more than 1,200 new jobs every week. Each job created is another small step on Ireland’s road to recovery. I fully realise the challenge that lies ahead. There are still too many people out of work and too few opportunities for our young people to give vent to their creativity and to progress. That is why this Government of Fine Gael and the Labour Party fully intend to see out our mandate, to get our country working again, to bring our national finances under control and to rebuild our economy based on jobs, stability and growth. We have a plan and it is working. All members of the Government are committed to our unifying goal of a working Ireland. I formally commend the name of Deputy Charles Flanagan for approval by the House to be a member of the Government.

On behalf of the Labour Party, it is my pleasure to support the nomination of Deputy Charles Flanagan as a member of Government and the appointment of Deputy Fitzgerald as Minister for Justice and Equality. Before doing so, I briefly want to speak about Deputy Shatter’s record as a Member of this House for almost 30 years and as Minister for Justice and Equality and Minister for Defence for the past three years. As one of the few Members of this House to have been elected prior to 1981, I have had the first-hand opportunity to witness his commitment to public service and his tenacity and determination to change Ireland for the better. As others have noted, Deputy Shatter published more legislation during his time on the Opposition benches than any other Deputy. Among other areas, this legislative record included considerable work on the liberalisation of family law in Ireland, an area of work I was delighted to support and that I believe will be long remembered. As Minister, he has continued his work in this area, and the children and family relationships Bill is an important item of legislation currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny. It will now fall to the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, to ensure the enactment of that legislation, and I look forward to working closely with her in securing the best interests of all children in our society.

When this Government took office, we were faced by a number of crises in our society. Issues around bank debt and regaining our economic sovereignty have deservedly received enormous attention over the past three years but, at an individual level, unsustainable mortgage debt and rising unemployment were the two factors we have constantly had to grapple with. The personal insolvency legislation introduced by Deputy Shatter as Minister is our most significant policy response to the issue of unsustainable personal debt. In the first quarter of this year, more than 500 cases were being processed by the Insolvency Service of Ireland. That represents a lifeline and a chance for more than 500 families to find long-term debt solutions, but the reforms of the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, stretch way beyond this. The Legal Services Regulation Bill is a far-reaching item of legislation which will bring long-overdue reforms to the regulation of the legal professions. The establishment of a Court of Appeal in Ireland was also long overdue. Increased powers to support the Garda Síochána in combating white-collar crime, legislation to create the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, and mandatory vetting for adults working with children are other notable achievements.

It seems a cliché at this stage to refer to the long hours and commitment Deputy Shatter showed in his roles as Minister for Justice and Equality and Minister for Defence, but the fact that it has been said repeatedly does not make it any less true. He was a reforming Minister and his record of reform will stand for many years to come. I look forward to continuing to work with him as a Member of this House to ensure the legislation he initiated can be enacted during the lifetime of this Government.

As the first dedicated Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald has an equally impressive record over the past three years. I worked very closely with Deputy Fitzgerald during the establishment of her Department. Areas such as school completion programmes and the National Educational Welfare Board were transferred from the Department of Education and Skills to the new Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

I was personally committed to doing that, although the Department had some reservations in regard to losing some territory. This was completed without any diminution in the level of service provided to children on the margins of our society. Clearly, the enactment of a constitutional amendment enshrining the rights of children is one of Deputy Fitzgerald's greatest achievements, but I would like to particularly thank her for her co-operation in beginning to tackle the scourge of bullying in our schools and our communities. We co-hosted a forum on anti-bullying in 2012, and within a year, the action plan on bullying had been published. She was an enormously valuable colleague throughout that process in ensuring progress was made. Her reward for all that work is an entirely new set of challenges.

Having shared a constituency with the Deputy Fitzgerald for over a decade, I know better than many how capable she is. No doubt, she will make a very fine Minister for Justice and Equality. I look forward to working with her, as I did with the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, in enacting legislation in a couple of areas that affect schools, particularly legislation around the vetting of adults who work with children and legislation to put an end to any discrimination against gay and lesbian teachers in our schools.

Finally, it is my pleasure, on behalf of the Labour Party, to support the nomination of Deputy Charlie Flanagan for appointment by the President as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. As I have already mentioned, this is an area where Deputy Fitzgerald has made enormous progress over the last three years, but there is much work left to be done. Working together, I believe that we can make real and measurable improvements to the quality of early years education in Ireland. The development of an early years strategy this year will be essential to achieving that aim. Meanwhile, the continuing implementation of Children First is essential to ensure all of our citizens enjoy safe and happy childhoods.

Deputy Flanagan entered this House in 1987, succeeding his father Oliver as a representative for the Laois-Offaly constituency. Deputy Flanagan has served in the recent past as his party’s spokesperson on justice, equality and law reform, and more recently as spokesperson on children. Therefore, he is familiar with many of the policy issues which need to be dealt with when he takes over as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Having served with him for many years in this House, I believe he will discharge his duties with wisdom and maturity. I, and all of my colleagues in the Labour Party, support his nomination, and look forward to working with him in his capacity as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs over the next two years.

For any person, a nomination to serve as a Cabinet Minister is a great personal honour. Deputy Charlie Flanagan has every right to be pleased and proud of this nomination. I and my party congratulate him and also his family and supporters, without whom he would not have reached this moment. I know it is a day they will celebrate and remember with great satisfaction. Likewise, I wish the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, well in her new portfolio.

Due to the Government's large majority, the outcome of this debate is not in question. However, it is still important that we address the crisis which has led to this appointment being required. Appointing a new Minister does not by itself deal with what has happened and the unprecedented collapse in public confidence in vital parts of the administration of justice. We are getting a new Minister, but what we need is a new direction. If all we get is a new face carrying on with the same policies and the same approach, further damage will be done.

It is absurd that we are today discussing the replacement of a Minister for Justice without knowing any specific information about why he resigned. While Deputy Shatter's resignation letter is full of his usual defiance and failure to admit error, clearly Mr. Guerin has made extremely serious points about the mishandling of grave material. Ensuring that this cannot happen again and formally ending the era of dismissing inconvenient evidence and attacking opponents must be at the top of the new Minister's agenda. Yet, we have been denied the opportunity to see the Guerin report before Deputy Shatter's successor is appointed. We have also been denied even the most basic information about how the Taoiseach and former Minister, Deputy Shatter, effectively pushed a Garda Commissioner into resignation. This shows a lot, but does not demonstrate a respect for accountability.

Since the first decades of this State, there has not been such controversy concerning the interaction of Ministers and the Garda Síochána. Before this can be dealt with, the Government must acknowledge it. Instead of doing this, what we have heard from the Taoiseach and the rest of the Government are assertions that Deputy Shatter did a great job and everything was fine even though he chose to resign. In recent years, the Department of Justice has been run with no accountability, an intolerance for questions, unnecessary conflict and a refusal to respect the views of others. Some important legislation has emerged, but it is absolutely untrue that the administration of justice has been radically reformed. In fact key elements of it have been undermined.

We need a Minister who will rebuild the shattered relationship between Government and the Garda Síochána, who will respect the fact that a garda working in the community makes an impact which can never be matched by touring huge distances in squad cars and who is willing to listen to gardaí and engage with their representative organisations. We need a Minister who is willing to rein back on changes to the legal system which will make it impossible for ordinary people to be represented by the best legal talent and need someone who understands that personal prejudice is not the same thing as evidence when imposing changes no one is asking for and which will deliver no credible benefits but, potentially, make an elite system more elitist. We need a Minister who believes that whistleblowers have a legitimate role to play, because things can go wrong even in the best of systems. The justice system needs a Minister who does not brush aside inconvenient information.

We agree that we do not need another Minister who combines the roles of Minister for Justice and Minister for Defence. Leaving aside the fact that the near universal practice internationally is to separate these roles, the experiment of joining then has been a complete failure. The Defence Forces believe that they have been significantly reduced in terms of political engagement and the drift in policy terms has been obvious. Morale is very low among the Defence Forces. The Taoiseach must take responsibility for that failed experiment, which was a wrong decision in principle. The Department of Defence was in many ways a model of public sector reform in the past decade and a half. Before the crisis, it had reduced numbers, increased activity and added significantly to Ireland's status as an international force for peace. There is no reason for the two Departments to be joined. It has been bad for defence and the crisis to be addressed in justice is big enough to take up a Minister's full time.

The resignation of Deputy Shatter is something which should have happened a long time ago. He has chosen to leave without admitting any error and in the name of protecting the electoral interests of the Government. He has however pointed out his gratitude to the Taoiseach and colleagues for their constant and steadfast support. This support continued up to lunchtime yesterday, when the Tánaiste said he had full confidence in Deputy Shatter. This steadfast support from Fine Gael and the Labour Party stands in sharp contrast to their approach in regard to former Minister, Deputy Róisín Shortall, who was implementing clear policies on primary care contained in the programme for Government, noble policies which sought to help people in marginalised and disadvantaged communities. She was let go without any defence whatsoever.

If Deputy Shatter's resignation is to have any meaning, the Government owes us an explanation for the sheer number of times it chose to defend the indefensible. The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and their parties were happy to allow behaviour which should never have been acceptable. When information was withheld about the Smithwick inquiry, Fine Gael and Labour had no problem with that. When confidential information was illegally used to make a false allegation of hypocrisy against a Deputy, Fine Gael and Labour said "carry on". When information damaging to another Deputy was leaked and no action was taken, Fine Gael and Labour did not say a word. When a friend and donor was appointed as confidential recipient, Fine Gael and Labour thought there was no problem. When whistleblowers with grave information were marginalised and their concerns dismissed, Fine Gael and Labour tried to ignore it. However, eventually and as late as possible they said that whatever the problem was, it was not political. When I was attacked in the House for having the temerity to challenge what had happened, Fine Gael and Labour cheered along and were happy to vote confidence in this behaviour.

Last night the corridors of Leinster House were full of Fine Gael and Labour Party Deputies talking about how Deputy Shatter's resignation had somehow brought this chapter to an end. They have decided that their record of supporting the behaviour that led to his resignation is irrelevant. It is not irrelevant; in fact, it is a key factor in this debate. It is not just a new Minister we need, but an understanding that the arrogant and unaccountable way in which this Government as a whole has behaved is what led to the resignation. That is at the heart of the issue. Arrogance and a lack of accountability are the hallmarks of the Government's behaviour towards the Opposition and the very serious issues that are raised in this House. That is fundamentally what led to the Minister's resignation and the need to appoint a new member of the Government. It has to change.


Nobody on this side of the House interrupted any speaker on the Government side. This is a very serious debate.

More arrogance.

I ask Deputies on all sides to show respect for the speaker.

We are talking about the resignation of a very senior Minister from a very senior portfolio and the necessity of appointing a replacement. The fundamental behaviour of Government has to change. Above all, there must be respect for other people's opinions, irrespective of who they are, whether whistleblowers or Deputies for whom the Taoiseach has no time. In the case of Independent Members and members of Opposition parties, the Taoiseach has to show the respect which has been sadly lacking in his demeanour and his Government's demeanour for too long. There must be a genuine openness to criticism no matter from what quarter it comes. To date, there has not been that openness to genuine criticism either in the House or outside it. If this does not happen, then nothing at all will have changed.

It is probably because of the huge majority it enjoys that there has been an unprecedented level of arrogance on the part of this Government, as seen clearly in the Taoiseach's mishandling of this entire issue. A Government that believes it is always right, does not listen and does not respect the Dáil or the Opposition will inevitably mishandle matters in the way they have been mishandled in this instance. Let us retrace briefly what has happened here. The series of scandals involving the outgoing Ministers began when the two Garda whistleblowers, John Wilson and Sergeant Maurice McCabe, raised concerns regarding practices within the upper echelons of An Garda Síochána. These two citizens should be commended by this Dáil.

What about Jerry McCabe?

Sergeant Maurice McCabe should have had all his rights as a serving garda restored immediately. Instead, the two whistleblowers were smeared, bullied and dismissed. Indeed, the former Garda Commissioner described their actions as "disgusting". The outgoing Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter, and the Commissioner tried to prevent Sergeant McCabe from giving evidence to the Committee of Public Accounts.

Then there was the GSOC scandal, involving allegations of bugging at the offices of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. The Taoiseach's response to that scandal was to seek to put GSOC in the dock by misrepresenting the Garda Síochána Act in such a way as to imply that GSOC was the law breaker. He persisted with that effort for several days, even though I corrected him in this House, before eventually and reluctantly putting the record straight. In the meantime, however, he undermined the independence and integrity of that agency. The Taoiseach told the Dáil there was nothing to see and we should all move on. Instead of establishing a commission of investigation as proposed by Sinn Féin, the Government appointed a retired judge, Mr. Justice John Cooke, to carry out a review, the terms of reference of which were set by the Government. Proposals by Sinn Féin's justice spokesperson, Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, were ridiculed on the other side of the House. These were measured, rational propositions to depoliticise these controversies and put a transparent, independent and accountable process in place, all of which was within the authority of the Government and the former Minister. The Government also dismissed our proposals for a Garda authority, an ombudsman with real authority and other protocols based on the Patten experience in the North.

What is now crystal clear is that the former Minister resigned purely and solely, as he put it himself, so as not to cause further embarrassment for Fine Gael and the Labour Party in the lead-in to the European and local government elections. Those are not my words but the Minister's own. Deputy Shatter did not resign in the interest of the public good or the proper administration of justice and the Garda. He resigned in the interest of Fine Gael and the Labour Party, and that is not good enough. Sinn Féin has twice in the past year voted no confidence in the former Minister in this House. Although I am mindful, as I said last night, of the trauma it causes for Deputy Shatter and his family, his resignation is long overdue and should have been sought by the Taoiseach a long time ago.

This resignation is only the start of what needs to be done. There is a crisis of public confidence in the administration of justice. There also is a crisis in confidence in the Taoiseach's governance in theses matters. He cannot blame Fianna Fáil for this, even though the issues that have arisen go back to that party's tenure. He cannot blame the troika. This happened on the Taoiseach's watch and he followed the Fianna Fáil rule book page by page. There is widespread public support right across this State for the Garda Síochána and the essential service it provides to citizens and communities. It has unique, deep-rooted connections in local communities, connections which the Government and the former Minister have been busily dismantling through the policy of closing local Garda stations. However, there is no getting away from the fact that there is a culture at the top of the Garda of bad administration, poor oversight mechanisms and a lack of accountability and transparency. This dysfunctional culture, which I trace back to partition and the conservative state that was established following the counter-revolution of that time, is evident in all of the institutions of this State.

Sinn Féin wants to see real and far-reaching reform of An Garda Síochána, similar to the changes that we helped to bring about to policing in the North. In saying this, I am not drawing comparisons between the old RUC and An Garda Síochána. Citizens deserve, as a right, a 21st-century, accountable policing service. No police service, no senior police officer and no Garda Commissioner should be solely accountable to any one politician, no matter who he or she is. The Commissioner should be fully accountable to an independent Garda authority.

The new Minister has a huge responsibility and she must learn the lessons of this disastrous period. Fine Gael and the Labour Party came into office on the promise of a new way of doing business based on transparency, accountability and openness. That is why so many people are so disappointed by what has happened. Clearly, this Government was all about the election campaign and has shown itself to be strong on rhetoric and fine words but short on real substance.

In regard to the controversies surrounding the bugging of the offices of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and the whistleblowers' revelations, the Government did everything it could to undermine the integrity of the whistleblowers and nothing at all to protect the independence of GSOC. The former Minister, Deputy Shatter, has done some good things in his time in office. However, his disastrous handling of these issues underlines in the starkest terms possible the need in a modern democracy for robust and fully independent police oversight. The investigation into the bugging of GSOC's offices falls far short of what is required. It is not an independent inquiry but merely a review. It has no statutory powers, cannot call witnesses and has no powers to compel individuals to give evidence. The terms of reference were set by the former Minister, who claimed there was no evidence at all that GSOC was the target of a surveillance operation. I have a certain sympathy with Deputy Shatter in this matter, but not with the Government. I can understand the instinct to protect one's Minister - that goes with the territory - but to come in here and reinforce, re-emphasise and reiterate the positions he took up is unacceptable.

The question now is whether there is a real appetite for reform in this Government. I have seen no evidence of it.

The Taoiseach stated yesterday that he did not ask the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, to resign. If, therefore, Deputy Shatter had not resigned for party political reasons, he would still be here and those opposite would all be extolling his virtues as a Minister.

We now come to the nub of the matter. Deputy Shatter has criticised the Guerin report. Yesterday, I invited the Taoiseach - who has read the report - to state that he accepts it. Deputy Shatter is on record as stating that he has not read it in its entirety. The Taoiseach has not yet indicated whether he accepts the Guerin report. We will deal with this tomorrow.

Where is the Tánaiste? Why is he not in the Chamber?

He is out electioneering.

He was out defending the former Minister. I reiterate the point that Deputy Shatter was not acting alone. The Taoiseach took charge of matters in March when the Attorney General informed him during a telephone conversation that she did not trust the integrity of her phone and that she needed to speak to him in person in respect of a particular matter. She then alerted the Taoiseach to the issue of the taping of telephone calls in and out of Garda stations and he took charge. It is, therefore, the Taoiseach who should be resigning. Until the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar - as he was entitled to do - praised the actions of the whistleblowers, Labour had remained mute on this matter. It only became active in respect of it in the aftermath of the Minister's remarks.

We wish to new Ministers well but we will not be supporting the nomination for the position of Minister for Justice and Equality because we do not believe that the Government has learned lessons from the events which led up to the resignation of the former Minister. The problems to which I refer will not be resolved by rearranging the deck chairs. At the core of all of that which we are discussing are several injustices. This is not about me, about the Taoiseach or about the former Minister. Rather, it is about those who had grievances which were not dealt with and the investigation into the murder of Madame du Plantier. In that context, I raised with the Taoiseach yesterday the fact that the State is still spending taxpayers' money to defend a civil action which has led to the resignation of a Minister. What we required is a genuine reforming Government and the quicker we get one the better.

I call Deputy Wallace, who is sharing time with Deputies Clare Daly and Higgins.

Deputies Clare Daly, 'Ming' and I may have been calling for his resignation for the past six months but I for one take no pleasure in Deputy Shatter's fall from grace. I am sure his wife and children realise that there is more to life than holding high office. I respect Deputy Shatter's ability, intelligence, appetite for work, his stand on pro-choice and same-sex marriage but we have a very different philosophy on life. I would not, for example, have been looking to go for a drink with him.

I wish Frances well in her new job. I have a lot of respect for her.

I am sorry for interrupting but I would prefer if Members were referred to as "Deputy" or "Minister".

Deputy Fitzgerald has a very difficult job ahead of her, particularly if she tries to do what needs to be done. There are incredible problems within the police force. If she manages to turn the force around and make it one of which we can be proud, it will be a wonderful achievement. Accountability is not something the Garda Síochána does. Transparency is missing and we do not really know how they operate much of the time. We hardly know the rules they work to and we do not know if these have been human rights proofed. We have been shocked by what we have found out in the past 18 months as a result of information brought forward by the whistleblowers, serving members of the Garda and members of the public. There have been issues around drugs where we have serving members actually facilitating the sale of drugs on an ongoing basis. It is very frightening. There is evidence that racial profiling takes place. The dogs in the street know that. When we challenged the former Minister about this matter, we were told the then Garda Commissioner said it did not happen so that was okay for him.

I hope the new Minister will look a little deeper. I do not think the Minister's job will be rubber-stamping all that comes her way. She needs to challenge everything she hears and take an entire new look at how everything is done - covert surveillance and the use of informants off the books. The challenges she faces are just so big. Professor Dermot Walsh and whistleblowers such as Sergeant Maurice McCabe and John Wilson need to be listened to. The new Garda Commissioner must come from outside the State. An entire new hierarchy is needed in the police force because the hierarchy that is there is contaminated; there are too many problems there. I wish the new Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald, well. We will challenge her day and night but with respect at all times.

I remind Deputies that making charges which are not substantiated in the Chamber is a very dangerous practice. I do not like to interrupt Members but it is not acceptable to use this House to accuse members of the Garda Síochána of facilitating the sale of drugs. I suggest that if Deputy Wallace has evidence of this practice he should submit it to the appropriate authorities. He should not use the Chamber to make allegations.

We appreciate the Ceann Comhairle's advice. We are very aware of our responsibilities in that regard and anything we say can be fully backed up.

This country stands at a crossroads in the context of the future operation of An Garda Síochána. We have been informed that the resignation of the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, was triggered by the Guerin report. We have not seen that report but the Taoiseach has indicated that it is incredibly lengthy. We are aware, however, that the report contains allegations of grave Garda malpractice and failure to investigate serious crimes. The latter led to appalling tragedies for families throughout the State. Those families have still not obtained justice. The report also deals with the horrendous treatment of the man, Sergeant Maurice McCabe, who tried to blow the whistle and shine a spotlight on these issues.

It is ironic that as the Taoiseach announced the departure of the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, yesterday, Sergeant McCabe's complaint against senior officers in respect of bullying and intimidation was being heard. Sergeant McCabe continues to be denied access to the PULSE system, which is preventing him from doing his job. There is an irony in that because when Sergeant McCabe originally made the allegations which lie at the heart of the Guerin report more than five years ago, he was dismissed, ridiculed, vilified and transferred out of the station where he worked. The people inside An Garda Síochána who originally investigated those allegations are still there and they occupy positions in the upper echelons of the organisation. This is a serious problem and the idea that An Garda Síochána can be reformed with any of those who currently hold the rank of assistant commissioner or above remaining in place defies logic. Our experience is that allegations similar to those made by Sergeant McCabe have been made elsewhere throughout the country. There are particular areas in which there are major problems with regard to the operations of the Garda. I refer to Limerick, west Cork, Tullamore and so on in this regard.

I do not believe that the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, resigned on foot of just the Guerin report. His resignation was the result of a long litany of serious issues being mishandled. Deputy Shatter made consistent efforts to downplay and minimise people's grave concerns and engaged in repeated attempts to denigrate those who tried to raise particular issues. In that context, I refer not just to Members of this House but also to the whistleblowers, GSOC and others. Two commissions of investigation are about to be established. There is potential for a third to come into play as a result of the findings of the Cooke report. The latter is probably the most serious report of all, particularly as it relates to the bugging of GSOC. We must ask whether establishing multiple commissions to investigate various matters represents the way forward. I bear no personal animosity towards the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, and I have no preconceived notions with regard to how his successor, Deputy Fitzgerald, is going to operate. This matter does not relate to individuals, rather it is about whether the Fine Gael Party has an appetite to deal with reform.

Up until now it has not and members backed the former Minister in every failed effort made by him to down-play and minimise. We need a root and branch review of An Garda Síochána for the first time in the history of the State to develop a modern police service, not a police force, that will operate in a transparent and accountable way to deal with those who are still suffering from the crimes of the past and point to a better way for the future.

The resignation of the Minister for Justice and Equality is an outright condemnation of the top leadership of the Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition Government. The Taoiseach; his deputy, the Tánaiste, Deputy Eamonn Gilmore, and the most senior Ministers stuck to the former Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, like limpets when it was already obvious that he was careering around the place like an out of control Formula 1 driver on speed, isolated in his racing bubble and crashing recklessly through barrier after barrier, leaving many people crumpled on the road behind him. Garda whistleblowers, victims of Garda malpractice and even the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission were trodden on with a contempt that was the epitome of everything that was opposite to justice. However, without exception, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Government and the sheep in the backbench corrals endorsed, underwrote and validated everything the former Minister for Justice and Equality did. Only a few weeks ago the entire cohort of Fine Gael and Labour Party Deputies endorsed, underwrote and validated the actions of the former Minister when they trooped into the Chamber to vote for him without even an audible bleat of dissent. This is not just a jaded Government, it is a Government of hypocrites who have betrayed all hope placed in them by many people in 2011.

The dishonesty and mendacity go on, especially at the top level of the Government, in another crucial issue that is seizing the people, that of the water tax. The night before last one of the most senior surviving Ministers, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan, went on an RTE television news programme and told the people a blatant falsehood to mislead and deceive them when he said water for under 18 year olds would be free. Simply using a Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government officially supported organisation-----

I am sorry, but we cannot display documents.

-----I demonstrated in the Dáil last night that the 38,000 litre per year allowance for under 18 year olds fell 16,000 litres short of what might constitute a so-called free allowance for under 18 year olds. I will pursue with the Taoiseach next week the truth of this matter. It will not go on for months in the same way that the Taoiseach allowed the former Minister for Justice and Equality to continue.

Two weeks from tomorrow, in the local and European elections and the by-elections, in particular the Dublin West by-election, the people will have an undreamed of opportunity to go to the polls in droves, deal a shattering rebuff to the Fine Gael-Labour Party Government and match the justice meted out three years ago to Fianna Fáil and the Green Party for their crimes, not only for the perversion of justice today but also for the crushing austerity policy and the betrayal of promises. They should go to the polls in their droves to make a powerful statement, not by supporting newly converted anti-austerityites, those who have seen the light when they have been knocked off their horses, but by supporting organisations and candidates that have demonstrated, not with cheap words but their actions, some for decades, that they stand by the people, including working people, the poor, the unemployed and pensioners, and act in their interests to achieve a better society and against injustices such as further austerity, the introduction of water taxes, cuts and the devaluation of work and working conditions as opposed to job creation and decent wages.

Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 80; Níl, 35.

  • Breen, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.


  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Niall Collins and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.
Question declared carried.
Sitting suspended at 11.55 a.m. and resumed at 12 noon.