1. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if provision has been made in budget 2019 for a second SAVI report; if not, the reason; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42664/18]
Vol. 973 No. 6
1. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if provision has been made in budget 2019 for a second SAVI report; if not, the reason; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42664/18]
The Minister will recall that back in 2002, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre sponsored a national study of sexual abuse and violence in Ireland. It was a survey of some 3,000 men and women. The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre was able to sponsor that report because of funding from central Government at the time. The work was carried out by the Department of Psychology in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Will the Minister give a commitment that there will be further funding for another survey and what is the current position in respect of a second SAVI report?
The answer is "yes". Both I and the Government are committed to preventing and addressing sexual violence in Ireland. It is extremely important to me but, more important, to victims of this violence that policy must be effective, driven by accurate, up to date, reliable data. Knowledge and information are essential to making effective policies to prevent and combat sexual violence.
The Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland, SAVI, report was formative research in this area and its results had a significant impact on policy at the time of its publication in 2002 and since.
The Government decided to examine what data is available for the development of policy in this particularly sensitive area and to assess if there were gaps in the data available for policy formulation. This work was undertaken by a scoping group which considered the availability of data and made recommendations on the format of a study to identify the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence in Ireland today and emerging trends. The group completed a draft report and submitted it to my office for consideration in April.
A further piece of technical legal work is now being completed so that proposals can be brought to Cabinet in the coming weeks.
As the Deputy will appreciate I am constrained from commenting further as proposals have yet to be brought to Government, but I can assure the Deputy that moneys for the undertaking of work have been made available next year. Once the report has been considered by Government, I intend to make an announcement to outline the way forward on this issue and details of the available budget will also be provided.
It is important to note that it is now 16 years since the SAVI report was published. It provided very useful information on the incidence of sexual violence in Ireland at the time. Its findings were very significant and serious. It found that more than four in ten women reported some form of sexual abuse or assault in their lifetime, and that over a quarter of men reported some form of sexual abuse or assault in their lifetime. The 2002 report had a significant impact in how Government and this House formulated policy in respect of sexual abuse and violence.
I welcome that the Minister has indicated that moneys will be made available for the purpose of compiling and concluding a second SAVI report. However, I should point out that the scoping group that was established under the chairmanship of Professor Dorothy Watson did in fact make a report to the Minister back in April 2018. I note the Minister says that a report will be made to Cabinet in coming weeks but I ask that the matter be expedited as the Minister is correct in saying that we cannot formulate policy unless we have the necessary information to guide us.
I do not disagree with any of the Deputy's remarks. I wish to assure him of both my efforts and my action in this regard. Since the scoping group submitted its report to me in April a significant amount of work has been undertaken by officials in my Department on issues around the survey methodology, ethical considerations, the feasibility around periodic data collection over time, and data protection issues. Several issues have been resolved and a small number of technical issues are still to be progressed, including legal issues that require consultation with the Office of the Attorney General. Once these are resolved, which I expect will happen very shortly, I will bring proposals to Cabinet. I will be happy to make a further statement to the House then.
I welcome the Minister's answer. It is important that the public is aware that there is a reason we want further research on sexual abuse and violence. Something is happening in the statistics. In the first six months of this year, there has been a 10% increase in reported sexual offences. In 2014, there were 1,268 instances of sexual assault, and in 2017 it had increased to 2,885. It may be that this is the result of increased confidence on the part of complainants who are now prepared to come forward and report sexual offences. Alternatively, it could be more worrying in that the rate of sexual assaults and other offences has increased. We do not know. This Minister or any future Ministers cannot be guided in what policies they introduce unless they know the reason for this statistical rise. That is why this issue is so important.
Again, I must agree. It is important for the formulation of any policy issues or legislation that evidence is available in the form of the type of data furnished in the 2002 SAVI report. I am keen to ensure that we proceed to formally set the process for a SAVI 2 under way. In that, I acknowledge the work of many stakeholders to date and look forward to continuing a positive engagement with the many advocacy groups involved. I mention the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, the Irish Observatory on Violence Against Women, One in Four and Women's Aid.
I assure the Deputy and the House that I will keep in close contact with all of these groups as I very much value their advice and guidance. I confirm that in the next few weeks I will be bringing proposals to the Cabinet, after which I will make a public statement. Matters can then proceed during the course of next year.
2. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he has taken to prevent the ending of the direct provision contract at a hotel (details supplied); the reason a company is withdrawing from this contract; the contingency plans which will be put in place to provide appropriate alternative accommodation for the 150 adults and children without leave to remain living in the hotel should the contract come to an end; and the contact he has had with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to put in place contingency plans for the 80 adults and children who have leave to remain and are at risk of homelessness should the contract end in December 2018. [42653/18]
Will the Minister outline what he and his departmental officials and staff in the Reception and Integration Agency are doing to prevent the imment displacement of 248 adults and children from the Towers Hotel direct provision centre in Clondalkin as a result of the withdrawal of the contract from 3 December?
My Department was informed by the contractor for the centre, by letter received on 3 October 2018, that it would not be seeking to renew the contract, which expires in December. My Department and the contractor have had a number of discussions in recent days, but, unfortunately, it has not been possible to agree an extension to the contract that would comply with public procurement regulations. The welfare of the residents was at the centre of the discussions. I assure the Deputy that the Reception and Integration Agency is acutely aware of the hardship caused for residents in potentially having to move centre before Christmas. Residents at the centre were all formally informed by personal letter delivered last Friday morning, 12 October, that it had not proved possible to secure an extension of the contract to 30 June 2019 and that, unfortunately, the centre would close when the contract came to an end on 3 December.
As part of a wider scheme to seek additional accommodation for those in the international protection process, on 16 September my Department advertised a public procurement competition for premises within 40 km of Newbridge. The contractor may submit the accommodation centre in question for inclusion in this competition if it chooses to do so. In the light of the most recent developments, I have arranged to extend the closing date for the competitive process to 31 October. I hope this will enable interested contractors to submit premises for inclusion in the tender process.
Notwithstanding this, we will continue to work with the residents of the Towers who are still in the international protection process in order to identify alternative accommodation within the accommodation portfolio of my Department. The Department has commenced the process of identifying additional capacity, both by way of the public procurement competition referenced and an advertisement placed in the national press seeking expressions of interest in providing accommodation on an emergency basis for persons in the international protection process.
My aim is to limit, to the greatest extent possible, the disruption caused for families and residents relying on Dublin-based services. We are examining whether this objective can be strengthened in contracts. The Reception and Integration Agency is working on contingency plans to facilitate schoolgoing children to continue in their schools for the current school year. Many Deputies from the constituency, including Deputy Fitzgerald and others, have contacted me about the matter. The children are living in the centre in question. However, the Reception and Integration Agency is constrained by the current demands on its accommodation and the absence of bed capacity within its system. Considerable work has been done to support residents with status to move out of accommodation centres and provide permanent accommodation. I have been in contact with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government about the implications of this and the wider issue of providing accommodation for persons who have been granted permission to remain in Ireland. These discussions are ongoing. My Department also provides funding for NGOs to deal with accommodation issues affecting those who have been granted permission to remain, including the approximately 60 such persons affected in this instance.
I thank the Minister of State and acknowledge the work he is doing in this regard and that he has made himself available to discuss the matter with those of us who are Deputies for the constituency. The men, women and children who live in the Clondalkin Towers direct provision centre are part of our community. The children go to local schools, use local doctors and support services, while many of them are in third level education. The view of the local community is that we want them to stay. We do not want them to be flung to the far corners of the country. At this late stage we are concerned about the possibility of substantial disruption being caused to the lives and well-being of the families in question. I refer to those still in the process, as well as those with leave to remain. I ask the Minister of State to confirm a number of things. I understand the RIA and Fazyard, the company with the contract, are still in contact. Is that the case and is an extension of the contract still possible? I also understand the RIA contacted the manager of the centre last night at 7 p.m. to ask the families to be available for a meeting at 3 p.m. today, which seems to be very short notice. Will the Minister of State confirm that RIA will give more adequate notice to the families to assist them in the difficult situation they are facing?
Funding was also granted to the Jesuit Refugee Service and the Peter McVerry Trust under Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund Ireland 2017 to 2019 to provide asylum seekers in transition with housing and support, the PATHS project. In addition, funding has been granted to South Dublin County Partnership for a two year housing and integration programme, a key part of which is assisting residents who have received permission to remain to access housing supports. Officials have also been liaising with South Dublin County Council on the particular issue arising in Clondalkin. Everything possible is being done. I also acknowledge the support of Deputies in the constituency and the constructive way in which they have gone about trying to provide support. On the contract, as I said, we have extended the procurement date to 31 October. I hope other contractors will come forward. It is open to the current contractor to do so, if it so wishes. The people who work in the RIA who work very closely with the asylum seekers are particularly upset about what is happening and going above and beyond the call of duty to assist and help. I will take on board the question the Deputy has brought to my attention about the giving of adequate notice. Every effort is being made to assist and support those affected.
I again acknowledge the role the Minister of State has played in securing funding for the accommodation worker in the Towers, as well as for the intercultural centre. I would, however, like to press him. My understanding is there is still contact between the RIA and the current contractor to try to resolve the issue, or at least to secure an extension to the current contract. Will the Minister of State comment on this? To clarify, is it possible for the contract to be extended if some other party tenders for the longer term direct provision contract and is successful? Turning to the RIA - I am not criticising any departmental staff member - the families living in Clondalkin Towers are very frightened and unsure about the future. Giving them late notice at night time of an afternoon meeting on the following day is not acceptable. I would like to see RIA staff in the centre on a number of days, both in the afternoon and evening, to work with the families to ensure they would have full information. I would also like the Minister of State to work with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, and the local authority to ensure the 68 adults and children who have status and could imminently be facing homelessness will receive additional support to get them into private rented accommodation.
I have been in contact with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, on this issue. He and his people are very aware of it and also assisting where they can. There is, however, a public procurement process under way covering the area within which the premises is located. It is a matter for any contractor, including the contractor involved, to make a submission in response to the procurement process. By the same token, it would be completely inappropriate for me to intervene in any way in that process, as the Deputy will understand. In this instance the contractor sought a longer term extension that would not have been in compliance with procurement law which we could not breach by agreeing to the request. The Reception and Integration Agency sought a short term extension to the contract to June 2019 to allow for a structured and orderly exit from the centre, taking schooling, etc. into account, but this was not acceptable to the contractor. However, we and the RIA remain open to any approach or suggestion from the contractor. The door has not by any means been closed. As I said, every effort is being made to support the residents, those who have status, as well as those without it. There is, however, a fair degree of pressure being exerted on the RIA to provide accommodation across all of its portfolio. It is a huge challenge, but I assure the House that every effort is being made to support the people concerned. I again thank Deputies for their support and constructive engagement on the matter.
3. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the additional resources his Department is providing for An Garda Síochána to prepare for a hard Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42665/18]
None of us knows how Brexit is going to end up. In recent weeks, unfortunately, it appears that the prospect of a hard Brexit has increased. We heard yesterday that Mr. Donald Tusk appeared to be of that view. If it is the case that there will be a hard Brexit, An Garda Síochána, particularly along the Border, will require further resources. It is unpredictable for the force. What is the Government doing to provide greater resources for An Garda Síochána in order to prepare for a hard Brexit?
As the Deputy will be aware, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Simon Coveney, is co-ordinating what is a whole-of-Government response to Brexit. In this capacity, he is working closely with all Ministers, including me, to address in a joined-up manner the many challenges Brexit will present. I emphasise that it is the Government’s firm intention that the same Border arrangements, as currently apply on the island of Ireland, will continue into the future. In its approach to the Brexit negotiations the Government has ensured protecting the gains of the peace process and the avoidance of a hard border is a high priority for Ireland, our partner member states in the European Union and the European Commission. An Garda Síochána operates within this policy framework. The Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of resources, including personnel. Garda management keeps the matter under active review in line with operational and security demands, including possible policing requirements post-Brexit.
A high-level management team in An Garda Síochána has been set up to prepare for any organisational challenges that may evolve in the context of Brexit and it is engaged on an ongoing basis with my Department. I and senior officials from my Department met the Garda Commissioner and his team to discuss Brexit contingency planning and I am assured that An Garda Síochána is preparing for Brexit with a wide-ranging focus to determine operational requirements, including personnel, infrastructure, training and technology, and will continue to progress its contingency preparations. An Garda Síochána is committed to ensuring the organisation is prepared for the associated policing implications and challenges that may arise therefrom. I assure the House that An Garda Síochána has the full support of the Government in dealing with the implications of Brexit and will provide whatever resources are required to keep our people and communities safe.
Regrettably, we must now seriously prepare for the prospect of a hard Brexit on the island after next March. Hopefully, that will not happen but we must prepare for it. It is extremely worrying that senior members of An Garda Síochána seem to be in the dark on the planning for this prospect. Last week, we had Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn and Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality. Assistant Commissioner Finn told the committee that clarity was needed on Brexit. He said "getting some solid information" on how Brexit will work out was "the key factor we would all like to get some clarity on". Assistant Commissioner Leahy told the committee that the Garda was "waiting with bated breath" to see what impact Brexit would have on policing. We need to ensure that the Garda has further resources to deal with this. People will remember the foot and mouth scare a number of years ago when gardaí were required on every Border crossing. Hopefully, it will not come to that but I am concerned that the Government is not sufficiently prepared for the prospect of a hard border and it requires further resources being allocated to the Garda to deal with it.
I am both disappointed and concerned that despite intensive negotiations involving the EU and UK negotiating teams in recent days, it has not been possible to make the decisive progress that is urgently needed. I assure the House again that we are not contemplating a so-called hard border. Our resolve is to ensure that the invisible Border between North and South remains. As far as preparation for changes in the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union is concerned, our resolve and preparation were clearly demonstrated in last week's budget which saw the Garda budget increase by €110 million from €1.65 billion to €1.76 billion. This will provide the Garda Commissioner with the necessary resources in terms of recruitment, civilianisation and the capital allocations. In respect of preparation for Brexit, many workshops and presentations have taken place North and South and close co-operation between the Garda and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI, is under way to ensure that the adverse effects are mitigated.
My understanding is that the PSNI has recruited further officers specifically to deal with Brexit. I am concerned that we have not reached the same levels of preparation. Policing along the Border requires further resources, as the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will know. Some 43% of stations within a ten mile radius of the Border have closed in recent years. There are, for example, 169 Border crossings in the Cavan and Monaghan division alone. We need to ensure that resources are available to deal with these prospects. Ballyshannon district, which is on the Border, has received no recruits since the moratorium and its traffic unit is down to only one patrol car. Buncrana district, which polices a number of busy Border crossings, has received only two trainees in total and that was only in recent weeks. We need to ensure that we are prepared. I heard the Taoiseach talking yesterday about further recruitment in other spheres to prepare for a hard Brexit but I did not hear him say anything about recruitment in An Garda Síochána and the further resources which we believe are required.
For the benefit of the House, I again refer to the increased budgetary allocation to enable the Garda recruitment drive to continue for next year, with up to 800 new recruits. Allowing for the retirement of approximately 300 gardaí, that will see a net intake of ambitious, energetic and highly qualified gardaí to the order of approximately 500. Deputy O'Callaghan was somewhat selective in the examples he gave to the House, which is no surprise. To acknowledge the new recruits in the Cavan and Monaghan division, from the most recent figures, as of 12 September 2018, there were four new recruits in Cavan and Monaghan, five in Donegal, four in Sligo and Leitrim and eight in Louth. These issues will continue to remain under review and active consideration by the Garda Commissioner who is primarily responsible for the effective and efficient use of the available resources, including proposals for the opening and closing of Garda stations along the Border in response to the various challenges that arise from time to time.
4. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the actions he plans to take to ensure accountability and transparency in An Garda Síochána on foot of the Charleton report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42707/18]
My question asks the Minister what actions he plans to take to ensure accountability and transparency in An Garda Síochána on foot of the Charleton report and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The findings and conclusions of the disclosures tribunal third interim report are stark. The central conclusion that it reached is that a man who rightly saw loyalty to the people whom he served as superior to any loyalty to the organisation of which he was part, a man who at all times had the interests of the public uppermost in his mind, had to endure a campaign of calumny by those who should have protected and supported him. Sergeant Maurice McCabe deserves the gratitude of all of us for bringing serious shortcomings to public attention. He also deserves an apology for what he and his family had to endure for over a decade.
Since the report was published, I have spoken with Sergeant McCabe and apologised on behalf of the State to him and his family for the manner in which he was treated over a number of years. I will arrange to meet the sergeant in the near future to reiterate this apology to him in person. I understand the Garda Commissioner has also been in touch with him and I welcome that.
The report of the tribunal is, in many respects, a damning report that goes to the heart of how An Garda Síochána handles allegations of wrongdoing within the organisation. It is a lengthy report which requires and deserves careful study. Indeed, Mr. Justice Charleton says in his report that it is important to read it in its entirety to appreciate the sense of its overall findings. I urge Members of the House to take that common sense advice on board and to read the report in its entirety, rather than be selective.
My officials and I are currently examining the report to see what actions are required in the light of its contents and conclusions. I expect others will do likewise. We all have a responsibility to respond appropriately to the findings of the tribunal and in that context we will have a debate on the report commencing this afternoon.
I do not know if I will be around for the debate on the report but I asked the Minister what actions he plans to take in respect of accountability and transparency in An Garda Síochána on foot of this report. I am sure the Minister has given the matter some thought, as I and many political activists have. As Mr. Justice Charleton pointed out, the improvement "that is most needed in our police force is adherence to honesty and adherence to the duty to do a full and hard day of work in the service of the people of Ireland." He also noted that a "country with an undisciplined police force is at risk from that police force." It is hard to believe in parts of the report, including the theory of a bizarre error and mistakes between the Garda and Tusla, as if this was a set of coincidences rather than the co-operation of rogues within the public service. As was said, that is "an appalling vista", a term used by Lord Denning in the case of the Birmingham Six when he convicted them.
To do otherwise would have meant that the police, the state and all the arms of the state were guilty, as we subsequently found out, with those men wrongly serving 15 years in jail. I do not think we can accept that there are bizarre coincidences and errors to explain events in this matter and it needs further investigation.
I do not disagree with anything Deputy Smith said and I look forward to an opportunity for a more comprehensive debate on the report over the coming days. Deputy Smith will be aware the Government appointed a new Garda Commissioner who took up his position at the start of September. I very much welcome the initial response of Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to the tribunal report. It gives a positive indication of how seriously he takes the findings contained therein.
I acknowledge the work of the recent report of the independent Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland following its comprehensive analysis of policing in Ireland. Its report makes clear that transparency, governance and accountability in An Garda Síochána are fundamental. The implementation of that report will be the cornerstone of the necessary transformation in An Garda Síochána and the points made by Mr. Justice Charleton will very much inform the Government's approach to that implementation. I will be bringing a full implementation plan on the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland report to Cabinet before the end of the year. I wish to assure Deputy Smith that will take careful account of the conclusions of Mr. Justice Charleton.
In fairness, most of the focus so far has been on Taylor and Callinan. Far more needs to be done for public accountability as regards the actions of gardaí at all ranks and all levels. My confidence in the new Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was fairly shaky in the beginning given his record in dealing with the historical legacy in Northern Ireland but also given that his first public outing was his response to what happened on North Frederick Street, which was fairly bad. He said that the unfortunate thing about the gardaí wearing the hoods was that they did not also have their helmets on. The Minister's own response was even more pathetic when he said, in a knee-jerk reaction at the time, that we need to start banning people from taking photographs of gardaí. That probably illustrates more than anything else the lack of accountability to the public in terms of how the Garda will deal in the future with the most vulnerable in our society and with those who protest against the system itself. The Garda action in this case in protecting property rights against citizens does not inspire confidence. There is a far greater job to be done on how the Garda is made accountable to the public.
Deputy Smith makes a point in regard to oversight and general accountability. It is fair to say the proposals in the report on the oversight architecture are perhaps the most far-reaching contained in the entire report. The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland approached that issue by separating governance, oversight and accountability. Its proposed solution is the setting up of three new bodies, namely, the board of An Garda Síochána, a policing and communities safety oversight commission, and a new complaints body. It is important we continue to streamline oversight within An Garda Síochána. We will have an opportunity to have further debate in this regard, but a very strong recommendation is that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission would be replaced by a new complaints body that would handle all complaints against An Garda Síochána that raise serious doubt about the standard of policing, the integrity of An Garda Síochána itself, the matter of potential breaches of law, the violation of human rights and corruption. It is important that we work on the implementation of many of the far-reaching recommendations in that report and acknowledge the very stark and direct references by Mr. Justice Charleton in this comprehensive report.
5. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the findings of the third interim disclosures tribunal report and its impact on plans for reform of An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42691/18]
It strikes me that the Minister does not acknowledge the stark points being made by Mr. Justice Charleton because if he did he would have noted the fact he referred to his role in, and the outcome of, the Morris tribunal. He said it was obvious that while structures had been superimposed on the police force, there was still trouble, the same kind of trouble identified in Morris, and, therefore, more structures are not the answer to the problem. Yet the Minister seems to be placing much on the new structures outlined by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.
I do not accept that at all. Let me make it clear that there can absolutely no ambiguity about the findings of the report. Mr. Justice Charleton does not mince his words. It is very clear about where serious failings took place, how they were allowed to happen and who allowed them to happen. These findings make very stark reading and we all owe a debt of gratitude to Sergeant Maurice McCabe for highlighting these failings.
As I have said, we have the report of Mr. Justice Charleton, we have the appointment of the new Garda Commissioner and we have the report on the Future of Policing in Ireland, which sets out clearly the recommendations for the structure and operation of what will be a modern 21st century police service. The report of Mr. Justice Charleton will strongly inform the Government's approach to building a police service. I will bring an implementation plan to Cabinet before the end of the year.
It is incumbent on all of us to examine this report in depth and to consider fully its findings and recommendations. I will do this as Minister for Justice and Equality. The Garda Commissioner, Tusla, the HSE and my colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, will also examine this report to ensure that the necessary systems, procedures and practices are in place so as to prevent such issues that regrettably took place arising in the future.
As I said, the report requires careful consideration. I will comment on one aspect of the report at this time. Mr. Justice Charleton has reminded us of the obligations of the Garda, in particular: the obligation to be honest; to serve the people of Ireland; and to treat their obligation to the public as superior to any false sense that individual policemen and policewomen should stick up for each other. If those values had been lived, these events would not have taken place and, moreover, the organisation would have been capable of valuing and responding to self criticism. These fundamental values should be foremost in all our minds as public servants, and will very much inform the forthcoming and ongoing programme of change and modernisation within An Garda Síochána.
The point Charleton seemed to stress above all others in his recommendations is that structures alone are not enough. The question I put to the Minister was on how his report is going to impact the changes in our policing service. The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland has put forward a number of ideas which are quite controversial. Key among the controversial ones is the emphasis on structures, in particular, moving away from the system that we were in the process of developing of external oversight initiated through the vehicle of the Policing Authority, albeit a vehicle which was not given sufficient legislative powers to really play that accountability role accurately, and replacing that with an internal governance body, which actually brings more power back internally inside An Garda Síochána. Surely, based on the bits of the Charleton report the Minister has read, he must see that model is in conflict with what Mr. Justice Charleton said, that oversight, scrutiny and accountability is at the heart of what we need to get at.
I agree oversight and scrutiny are very important so this culture change within An Garda Síochána needs to happen. I intend proceeding with the appointment of an independent chair to oversee the implementation of the 50 recommendations in the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.
In order to be implemented, they will require a number of pieces of legislation and there will be ample opportunity for the House to debate in detail the respective legislative proposals, from the stages of preIegislative scrutiny to final enactment. I do not accept the point made by Deputy Daly about internal governance and an internal board. This proposal is for a board which is similar to those which exist right across the public sector and can be supportive of the Garda Commissioner in managing the programme of change.
This Oireachtas must take on board what the Charleton report said about the political response to tribunal reports in general. We all know there can be heated debate and furore about the setting up of tribunals, but little or no considered debate when the reports are published. In this instance we have seen allegations about what happened in private at the O'Higgins commission being treated by Deputy Daly and others as fact, even though we had set up a tribunal to establish the facts. We have a number of reports and recommendations from the Charleton tribunal and I acknowledge that work, which sits neatly beside the 50 recommendations contained in the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing. We will now proceed with the implementation progressively and we will have an opportunity to debate it, as is normal practice.
We certainly will. The Minister will have noted that Mr. Justice Charleton said the audio and the transcript of O'Higgins should have been produced, something I and Deputy Wallace have been calling for for a long time but which the Minister and his predecessor ignored.
An Garda Síochána is not a semi-State body and the idea that it would have a board of management, such as with a semi-State body, is ludicrous. The Commission on the Future of Policing recommended a move away from external scrutiny. This was beginning to work very well with the Policing Authority but the authority did not have sufficient legislative power. A number of the 50 recommendations are, basically, common sense but the Minister said he wanted a new complaints body, while the commission recommends a renamed GSOC with the powers that body has long advocated for as necessary to do its job properly. This is precisely the point made by Charleton. The legislation has been headed up and we could do that now because it would immediately improve the way complaints are handled. Indeed, we could have done it two years ago.
Structures alone do not change things. We have the vehicle to improve the structures that are there currently. As Charleton said, however, the bigger body of work is what he calls the mentality problem.
I am very keen to ensure we can proceed with legislative change on the matter of the current Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and I will do that in due course. I was pleased that, in last week's budget, a further sum of money was allocated for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to allow it to expand and develop in accordance with its business plan. I expect progress in that regard shortly. In the proposals in the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing, oversight will be streamlined within the new bodies. The new body, the policing and community safety oversight commission, PCSOC, will have three functions: oversight of An Garda Síochána through inspections etc, research and promoting development of local policing accountability structures. These are all things that will form the subject matter of the debate when we see the recommendations as taken on board by Government. I expect we will be back to this very shortly.