Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 21 Feb 2018

Vol. 965 No. 8

Public Service Superannuation (Amendment) Bill 2018: Committee and Remaining Stages

Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

How much time am I allowed?

The Deputy can keep talking.

We will try to get out of here before nightfall.

On a point of order, I was supposed to speak at the last item. I am very disappointed that Members of the Opposition did not have enough respect to allow us to talk on the last Stage.

Deputy Sherlock had ten minutes to speak.

That is not a point of order.

Yes, a point of order. I am just very disappointed that on the last Stage, I did not get an opportunity to speak.

If the Deputy had been in the House he would have been called.

I looked at the monitor and-----

Sorry, I want an apology. I did not show the Deputy a lack of respect.

Hold on a moment, Deputy Sherlock.

Let me finish. I am on my feet. Let me finish.

I did not show the Deputy any lack of respect.

I am very disappointed.

Deputy Fitzpatrick just accused us of disrespect.

Deputy Fitzpatrick knows the rules. If the Chairman stands-----

I am just very disappointed.

Hold on, I have made it very clear. Everybody can be disappointed. The Deputy should take his seat. Other Members came into the Chamber. Deputy Sherlock is entitled to speak for as long as he wishes. If Members want to speak, they have to be in the House. They were not here, and the order of the House was that we would go onto Second Stage. We have gone on to Committee Stage and we are looking at section 1. Deputy Wallace indicated that he wanted to speak and if any other Deputy wishes, they may also do so, but they must speak to section 1. It is not a Second Stage speech. There is nothing I can do if the Deputy is not in the House.

I just want to express my disappointment. I am not going to labour it.

The Deputy should listen. Hold on.

I was also watching the monitor and I got here a minute after the Deputy started-----

But Deputy Clare Daly has not complained.

Yes, but it was not my fault.

Deputy Daly has not complained. Deputy Sherlock has no brief for anyone else except himself. I call on Deputy Wallace, who wants to make an intervention on section 1.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I respect his ruling 100%. While we may also have been disappointed, we knew that Deputy Sherlock had every right to speak for as long as he chose to and we did not complain.

Deputy Clare Daly and I also support being allowed to appoint a Commissioner over 60 years. It would be terrible if people over 60 years would be disqualified. Considering the experience they may have garnered in their lives, it would not be rational. We have been involved in raising many issues on the workings of An Garda Síochána from as long ago as 2012. Conor Brady noted recently that the question is not merely one of a new Commissioner. Many issues are at stake. We remain very disappointed with the Government's approach to bringing in real change to how things are done and to bring our police force to a place where all Irish people can be proud. We find the Government's position has been poor and unfortunately, despite all the years of controversy, there are many ways in which not much has changed. Some things have changed, but not enough. It would be terrible if the work of people such as Maurice McCabe or John Wilson eventually came to naught, because the people want things to be done differently. Deputy Clare Daly and I met another Garda whistleblower late last year after receiving a large amount of detailed information through the namaleaks.com website. In what is becoming a familiar story with whistleblowers in this country, the garda in question spotted a problem in how policing was done at a station where he served. He brought the issue to his superiors' attention in the belief that they might address the problem and perhaps even thank him. In a small way, he managed some of that but what he did not expect was he would have to face a majority of superiors and colleagues who did not like what he was doing. His pursuit of the issue ended up with him being reprimanded by his superiors and alienated from his colleagues. Eventually, after six years of not being supported, he was forced to take stress-related sick leave in December 2016. Things got worse a little over a year later. Stressed, in despair and needing help, the garda found himself in a bad place and ended up unresponsive on the back seat of a bus. Two gardaí arrived to remove him but removing him was not enough so they gave him a good clipping. When they realised the fellow they were clipping was also a garda, the two gardaí scuttled off and left him behind. Not alone had he been chewed up and spat out by the Garda system but when he was at his lowest and really needed support - as might any of us at times - he got a punch on the way down.

The whistleblower’s crime and how it had come to this was as simple as discovering blatant non-enforcement of liquor licensing laws. He found there were favoured publicans who were allowed to run pubs with immunity and without proper licensing in the Killarney area. When the whistleblower attempted to enforce the law and change things so all publicans would be treated equally, he was discouraged by his colleagues, alienated and ridiculed. On one occasion, rather than encourage this garda to enforce the law, an inspector, a next-door neighbour of one favoured publican, issued a breach of regulation report against the garda because he put the incorrect address on an envelope. In May 2016, the whistleblower encountered an after-hours street brawl during which the premises known as McSorleys in Killarney continued to serve patrons. After dealing with the brawl, the garda confronted the publican. About a week later he was reprimanded by an inspector for harassing this serial offending publican. The Garda whistleblower was encouraged to come to an arrangement with the publican or the inspector said he would send a complaint up the line and the whistleblower would not come out well of an investigation. This same inspector threatened to use CCTV footage, supplied by the publican, to destroy this garda unless he apologised and came to an arrangement with the law-breaking publican. In total, this garda prepared 16 files under liquor licensing laws for prosecution. One of them was successful and resulted in a €150 fine but in many cases the summonses were not issued, not lodged or withdrawn. When they did reach the court the summonses were often struck out. In one case the judge bizarrely cleared the courtroom before striking out the case. On 6 December 2016 the whistleblower went sick. On 20 December 2016, Killarney gardaí were quoted in the Irish Examiner as saying, without a hint of irony, “they have a tough approach to late night drinking and drunkenness in the town - and to compliance with the liquor licensing laws".

I remind Deputy Wallace that the debate is on Committee Stage of the Bill on when one can be appointed under the age of 60 years. The Deputy should focus on that. I also remind the House that we must have concluded all of this within 30 minutes and I want to give everyone an opportunity to come in.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I am just finishing.

This tough approach is so laughable that just six months ago, Burger King is on record complaining to An Bord Pleanála that it was unfair it was not allowed to extend their opening hours in Killarney when McSorley’s nightclub trades until 4 a.m. I do not believe for a second that Killarney is the only place that has a problem with the licensing laws but County Kerry does seem to be a basket case when it comes to prosecuting cases in the District Courts. In 2016 in Listowel there were 43 prosecutions in the District Court of which two resulted in convictions; in Tralee there were 14 prosecutions and one conviction; in Killorglin, 18 prosecutions and one conviction; in Caherciveen, 27 prosecutions and one conviction; and in Dingle, Kenmare and Killarney there were seven, 19 and 26 prosecutions, respectively, and zero convictions in each case. The conviction rate for the whole of County Kerry in 2016 was 3%.

Across the country there are even more bizarre anomalies that require further scrutiny. From 2012 to 2016 the total number of prosecutions in Wicklow and Arklow towns was two, neither of which resulted in a conviction. Either publicans are so compliant in these areas that the gardaí there can spend their time looking after the Christmas trees or the gardaí have just ignored that licensing laws need to be enforced. Dundalk, with a 30% conviction rate from 2010 to 2016, illustrates the lack of consistency.

Deputy Wallace is taking a wide interpretation. It is nearly a Second Stage speech on another Bill.

I will take the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's point on board. I thank him for his tolerance. I appreciate it.

Deputy Flanagan is the Minister for Justice and Equality now. He needs to be more proactive if we are to get a better functioning Garda Síochána. The Minister for Justice and Equality can hold An Garda Síochána to account. Things are not being done particularly well at present. In the Minister's own constituency, a superintendent under investigation has just been promoted before the investigation is even finished. How can the Minister stand over that?

No, Deputy Wallace.

Is the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, a hands-off Minister? Is he prepared to just let it all go on as normal because I was under the impression that the new Taoiseach has an appetite for doing things differently and I have no reason to believe otherwise?

It is not relevant. I know Deputy Clare Daly's contribution will be relevant to section 1.

We, obviously, support the Bill. There is considerable urgency in the appointment of a new Commissioner.

There is a certain irony in the situation when Mr. Martin Callinan resigned or jumped or was pushed - who knows - and Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan was eventually appointed to the job. We were told that she was the best person for the job, that it was a full open competition - open to everybody internationally - and there was no name on the position, but the job description that was put forward required a level of knowledge of the functioning of An Garda Síochána which nobody but Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan had at that time. We warned then that the Government was on a hiding to nothing by repeating the mistakes of the past and by failing to take on board that there were systemic problems at the top of An Garda Síochána that required a fresh approach. It is not about named individuals rather it is about institutionalised complacency, a way of working that needs to be broken up, and the only way of breaking that up is by getting in fresh blood from outside. Fresh blood can be somebody who is over the age of 55. I believe that a life's experience is good knowledge for a Garda Commissioner to have.

Since the resignation of Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan, we have had somebody else from the old hierarchy stepping into the breach. Mr. Dónall Ó Cualáin stepped in and immediately goes and sits with the lads down the back at a retirement course. In essence, we have had an organisation that has been rudderless since then because there is nobody at the top. Everybody knows the person who is at the top has no interest in staying there, is sitting in at pre-retirement courses and has had neither the energy nor the enthusiasm to revitalise this organisation in the way in which it should be.

It is not just about one person rather it is about the approach of senior management. We attended the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality last week when representatives of Garda management were there to deal with the homicide figures. It was a lesson in how in some ways nothing has changed. It would be quite clear to anybody who watched the proceedings of that good committee meeting - the committee equipped itself well and worked co-operatively and constructively in trying to get answers from Garda management - that they were gaining an insight into a strange relationship between the civilian staff inside An Garda Síochána and senior management and yet a good relationship potentially between the civilian staff and rank and file gardaí. The head of data analysis, Dr. Gurchand Singh, made the point, because, unfortunately, the committee hearings were on the day of the funeral of Detective Superintendent Colm Fox, that front-line officers such as the late Detective Superintendent Fox had co-operated well and shared data, but the implication was that the same level of co-operation with gardaí on the front line did not exist among senior management. There is an enormous problem with senior management inside An Garda Síochána that the Government has been blind to and it is doomed to repeat the same mistakes. While the future policing road show is doing the rounds to tell us what the Garda Inspectorate report told us in 2014 - it epitomises the Government in that there are many announcements, much strategy and much spin when, in fact, we all know what needs to be done anyway - we have this position at the top, which sets the tone, but which has not been filled yet. There is an urgency in that regard and that is why we support the Bill.

We want this position filled quickly, but on the right basis. Deputy Wallace is correct. We were told that there is a new system of promotions, and this, in essence, is a promotion, with the new system of the Policing Authority supposedly vetting senior appointments inside An Garda Síochána. Very recently, however, senior promotions have been made, with some people who are the subject of disciplinary investigations being appointed, and we were told that could not happen. We have a senior officer being promoted even though he is the subject of an investigation as a result of a complaint of bullying and harassment by a whistleblower. It is unbelievable. What makes it more sad is that this is in the Minister's own constituency.

We know that two young people have died in the Minister's constituency. A young man and a young woman died as a result of the drugs trade in the midlands where it has been established that gardaí are involved in that trade with drug pushers in that area, and not a single person has been charged. Not only has the complaint of the garda who came forward with evidence of that not been investigated, but the senior officer against whom he submitted the subsequent bullying and harassment complaint was promoted a number of weeks ago. One could not make it up.

We have a narrative from the Government telling us that it has learned the lessons and it is on the right road to a new transformed police force, but the reality on the ground is different. It is not only in Kerry, shocking and all as the information is that Deputy Wallace put on the record is, but the involvement in the drugs trade in the Minister's own back yard. That, more than anything else, shows that there is really no appetite for reform in this area.

We will support the legislation today but much of it is for show. We need much more delivered than we have had so far.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.