Mary Lou McDonaldCeist:
1. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee C (European Union including Brexit) last met; and when it is scheduled to meet again. [15017/19]
Vol. 982 No. 6
1. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee C (European Union including Brexit) last met; and when it is scheduled to meet again. [15017/19]
2. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee C (European Union including Brexit) last met. [16384/19]
3. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the EU Council meeting held on 10 April 2019; the issues that were discussed; and if he had bilaterals before or after same. [16667/19]
4. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent meeting with EU leaders. [17623/19]
5. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his attendance at the European Council on 10 April 2019. [17715/19]
6. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent telephone conversations with EU heads of government as indicated in his statement in advance of the special European Council of 9 April 2019. [17716/19]
7. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the EU Council meeting of 10 April 2019. [17788/19]
8. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he had bilateral meetings at the EU Council meeting on 10 April 2019; and the issues that were discussed. [17816/19]
9. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he spoke with or met with President Macron at the April 2019 EU Council meeting. [17820/19]
10. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his attendance at the European Council meeting held in Brussels on 10 April 2019. [18735/19]
11. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee C (European Union including Brexit) last met; and when it is scheduled to meet again. [20535/19]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, together.
I attended a special meeting of the European Council in Article 50 format in Brussels on 10 April. At the request of the UK Government and in light of the fact that the UK had not ratified the withdrawal agreement, we agreed to a further extension of Article 50, to last only as long as necessary and no longer than 31 October 2019. If the withdrawal agreement is ratified by both parties before that date, the UK will leave on the first day of the following month. In agreeing this extension, the European Council reiterated that the withdrawal agreement, including the backstop, cannot be renegotiated and that any unilateral commitments made by the UK must be compatible with its letter and spirit. Prime Minister May has acknowledged this fully. We made it clear that the period of extension cannot be used to start negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the UK. However, we said also that if the UK's position evolves, we are prepared to reconsider the political declaration on the future relationship. As it is still a member state, the UK has committed to participating in the European Parliament elections later this month. If it fails to live up to this obligation, withdrawal will take place on 1 June. The UK has also committed to act in a responsible and constructive way during the extension period. This is important in order to safeguard the effective functioning of the EU. Given the ongoing uncertainty, a no-deal outcome is still a possibility and the Government therefore is continuing to prepare for all outcomes.
While I did not have any formal bilateral meetings on 10 April, I had extensive engagement with several of my EU counterparts, including at a meeting of the European People's Party leaders. In addition, I attended a meeting hosted by Prime Minister Michel of Belgium, which included President Macron of France and the Prime Ministers of Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands as neighbouring states of the United Kingdom. I also took the opportunity to speak with colleagues on the margins of the European Council meeting itself. I had formal bilateral meetings with President Macron, Chancellor Merkel and Michel Barnier on 2, 4 and 8 April, respectively. I also spoke by phone with the Prime Ministers of the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Malta in the days before the European Council. I thanked all my colleagues for their support and for the support they have shown to Ireland throughout the course of Brexit. I spoke with Prime Minister May by phone on Monday, 8 April before the summit. Most recently, I met the Prime Minister at the funeral of Lyra McKee on 24 April. We will meet tomorrow again in Paris. I had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Rutte in the Hague on 8 May, at which we discussed bilateral relations between Ireland and the Netherlands and the Union’s future agenda. I also attended an informal meeting of EU Heads of State and Government in Sibiu, Romania, on 9 May where I had further engagement with my EU counterparts. Prime Minister May was not present at that meeting.
Cabinet committee C, which covers EU and international issues, including Brexit, met last on 21 June 2018 and its next meeting has not yet been scheduled. Given the significance of Brexit for the country, it is discussed regularly at full Cabinet level rather than at Cabinet committee level. That included discussions on Brexit today.
There are a lot of questions taken together so I ask people to stick to the allocated time.
As the Taoiseach said, a no-deal outcome remains a real and most undesirable possibility in the Brexit scenario. This is causing huge difficulties across Irish society, North and South. Damage is already accruing to many industrial and economic sectors, not least agriculture and farming. Also, the population has been unnerved by the lack of clarity around whether a deal will in fact be landed across the water on the island of Britain. Particular sensitivities exist in the North around the rights of citizens in all Brexit scenarios but in particular in the case of a disorderly, no-deal Brexit. I ask the Taoiseach to comment on the De Souza case which cuts to the chase in respect of citizenship rights and the recognition of Irish nationality. The Taoiseach is familiar with the case. Can he confirm whether it has been the subject of discussions between the Irish State and Britain and what remedy he has secured for Irish citizens living in the North?
On a separate issue, I register the dismay felt by many people right across Irish society at the decision of RTÉ to participate in the Eurovision song contest in Israel. It is a reprehensible decision and a wrong one given the record of Israel and the ongoing brutalisation of the Palestinian people.
I thank the Deputy.
It is not a decision which the majority of Irish people support. I resent deeply the spending of even 1 cent of the taxes I pay to facilitate participation in what should be a celebratory event but which is now deeply unacceptable for being held in Israel.
The Deputy is way over time.
If the Taoiseach has a view on that matter, he might share it with us.
Yesterday, the Tánaiste implied that a change of British Prime Minister would not end the Brexit deadlock. He said this is not about personalities, but about facts and the complexities of Brexit. Unfortunately, we have seen the complete disregard for facts by some of the key figures throughout the Brexit saga and indeed from the initial referendum. Events are now moving at a fast and unpredictable pace, not to find a solution to Brexit issues but in terms of the political realities of Westminster. We have no idea what Prime Minister will be in office when we approach the new Brexit deadline to which the Taoiseach referred. For instance, we know the newly formed Brexit party, led by Nigel Farage, who has described the withdrawal agreement negotiated and endorsed by this House, as a surrender document, is leading the European election polls in Britain.
I watched "Newsnight" on BBC last night. I saw a Tory backbencher call for a formal alliance between the Tory Party and the Brexit Party to form a Government in Britain and I saw a British Labour Party member describe the current British Parliament as being like the end of days where everybody is sitting around and nobody knows what is happening or how matters are progressing. In that context, I will ask the Taoiseach a difficult question. What is his assessment of how this additional period between now and October is being used? The fear is that it is simply an endless recycling of the same issues to no avail or purpose and that the chances are that by the end of October we will be in the same set of circumstances in which would found ourselves at the previous deadline.
With the stalemate in Britain and the likely radicalisation of the situation after the European elections, no one really has an idea where matters are going to go from here. That issue of the radicalisation of the political situation post the European elections is significant in that, on the one hand, it could potentially radicalise and harden people's attitudes, perhaps making no deal more possible, and, on the other hand, it is entirely possible that the withdrawal agreement could be ratified because that would require only a very few MPs to change their minds. If the agreement were to be accepted, we would immediately enter a period of negotiations. Can the Taoiseach explain how these negotiations are to be handled? What preparations are under way for our technical submissions, for example? It has been established that the European Union side is legally obliged to act in good faith in these negotiations, which requires making proposals about future relations, particularly the operation of trade and regulation on this island. If the withdrawal treaty is accepted, the next phase of negotiations would be different from the discussions that took place over the past two and a half years. How will those discussions be handled?
At last week's informal summit, there was a discussion about choosing the new heads of the European Council, the Commission and the European Central Bank. To date, the only comment the Taoiseach has made on this is to back the European People's Party, EPP, candidate for President of the Commission. Given the importance of these positions, can the Taoiseach outline what he stated on Ireland's behalf as opposed to on behalf of Fine Gael? What was Ireland's position at the summit? Fianna Fáil's position is that the priorities of the new presidents are more important than where they come from. Can the Taoiseach assure us that under no circumstances will Ireland support the replacement of Mario Draghi with someone who will try to reverse the latter's highly successful policies, which saved Europe from deflation and prevented the break up of the euro. This is a crucial appointment for Ireland and it is important that we have a clear policy framework for appointing and supporting Mario Draghi's successor.
I also want to ask about Ireland and RTÉ's participation in the Eurovision Song Contest, particularly in light of the horrific treatment by Israel of the Palestinians, the fact of an apartheid state in Israel and the systematic, regular and relentless flouting of international law and the human rights and civil rights of the Palestinians by Israel. I put it to the Taoiseach in simple terms - were people right to boycott apartheid South Africa? Most people around the world think we were. They are of the view that the boycott had a significant impact on bringing down apartheid in South Africa and Nelson Mandela testified to that. Can the Taoiseach provide any reason for the arguments which justified the boycott against apartheid South Africa not applying to Israel? To my mind, they do in spades? To a major extent, what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is even worse than what was done to black people in South Africa. Is the call for a boycott, sanctions and divestment and also the boycott of the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel not justified?
If we are to deal with the rise of the far right, we first need to understand that what is happening is not a peculiarly British phenomenon. It is happening all across Europe and we need to pull the rug from under these people. The way to do so is to deal with issues such as deprivation, alienation from the political system, homelessness and so on. All of these things are on the increase right across the Continent. At the informal meeting where the strategic goals for the European Union were being set out, was there any acknowledgement that there is a real problem with poverty, deprivation and homelessness, not just in this country but right across Europe, and that unless we address those issues as a matter of urgency, the growth of the far right will continue?
As the Taoiseach knows, there have been a number of developments since the European Council meeting last month. We have had the signing of the memorandum of understanding on the common travel area by the Irish and British Governments. As he also knows, this affirms the commitment of both Governments to maintaining the rights, reciprocal arrangements and social benefits associated with the common travel area. However, it is not a legal document and it could be changed in the future. Has the Government given any consideration to making the common travel area an internationally-binding treaty? I throw that out there because of the uncertainty in British politics and in all aspects of Brexit.
Last month, we debated the national statement on the future of Europe. This informed the debate at the European Council meeting in Sibiu on 9 May and I understand that a strategic agenda will then be agreed at the June meeting of the European Council. Nine member states put forward proposals regarding action on climate change in advance of the meeting but Ireland did not feel that it was in a position to sign the letter containing them. Why was that and what is the Taoiseach's commitment to climate change in the context of the meeting in Sibiu?
To take up a point raised by my party leader, Deputy Micheál Martin, on the election of the new President of the European Commission, at that European Council meeting in Sibiu there seemed to be a tension regarding how the latter will be appointed in the context of whether the European Parliament will have a role or whether the European Council will be central to the process. Can the Taoiseach outline his views on the matter? As Deputy Micheál Martin stated, we want to get the best person for the job. The Taoiseach is committed to the EPP nominee, Manfred Weber, but can the he comment on how the process is likely to unfold? There was uncertainty following that European Council meeting and how we will get a new President of the European Commission. What are the Taoiseach's views on that?
I attended the meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly yesterday and this morning. Many of the people attending from the United Kingdom, whether Conservative or Labour Party members, are deeply concerned. In the context of European policy, while the Barnier withdrawal agreement is available, I doubt if the United Kingdom will sign up to it as is. I presume that the diplomats are doing what they normally do, namely, working to express the ideas in a form of language which will win the approval of the different parties in the UK. However, these European elections are important because of the growth of extreme populist forces, most on the right but some on the left. I wonder if the European Council had an opportunity to discuss what in many ways is possibly the worst threat to democracy in Europe for a long period. I know the Council did not discuss Brexit, but the EU should reflect on what is going to happen in the context of maintaining - whatever the outcome - a strong friendship with Britain and its people. I say this because, inevitably, there is going to be a significant change in the relationship between Britain and the EU. Whatever the precise outcome, Ireland's interests must be protected. However, we also need access to the British market. Farmers know that. The support for Ireland among the other EU member states has been impressive and strong.
Does the Taoiseach have any sense of how it is moving? The Prime Minister of Hungary, Mr. Orbán, was delighted with his party's suspension from Fine Gael's group because it suits him down to the ground. Is the Taoiseach satisfied he could become a party to supporting the candidate of Fine Gael's group for election to various European offices? The Taoiseach should state his position on that.
As we have run well over time, we will take five minutes from the next item to allow the Taoiseach time to respond. We have already taken three minutes. Is that agreed? Agreed.
On the De Souza case, which I was asked about earlier, I always refer back to the Good Friday Agreement in respect of issues of this nature. The Good Friday Agreement is explicit that people in Northern Ireland are entitled to be British, or Irish, or both, and are accepted as such. I think the British Government has got it wrong in this case and the matter has been raised in our bilateral conversations. I have raised it with the Prime Minister, and the Tánaiste has raised it too. While we respect that the British have their own courts system, the Good Friday Agreement is clear in both letter and spirit and I think the UK Government has got it wrong in that case.
The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, BIIGC, met last week. Our delegation was led by the Tánaiste, while the British delegation was led by Mr. David Lidington. At the meeting, the bilateral agreement between Britain and Ireland to continue the common travel area was signed, which will protect and strengthen it by giving it a stronger political and legal underpinning. It was an important achievement and a significant outcome for Irish and British people alike, as it gives us a guarantee that no matter what else may happen as a consequence of Brexit, we will still be able to live, travel, work and access healthcare, education, housing and the welfare system in each other's country as though we are citizens of both. That is being protected and retained and I am pleased we were able to bring that to a conclusion last week, notwithstanding the great uncertainty of other matters.
The BIIGC can also be an institution through which we maintain the strong friendship to which Deputy Burton referred. Irrespective of what happens as a consequence of Brexit, we will naturally want to continue to have a close economic and political relationship with the United Kingdom, our nearest neighbour and one of our largest trading partners, which is particularly important for the agrifood sector, some small exporters and others. We will try to do that with two methods. Through the European Union, we will negotiate a new free trade agreement and a close relationship with the UK, while we will also enhance our bilateral relations, for which extra work will have to be done because the UK will not be in the EU any more. We can use the institutional framework of the BIIGC as part of that but we will also take other steps, such as reopening our consulate in Wales and examining the opening of a consulate in the midlands or the north of England, perhaps in Manchester or Birmingham, to deepen our diplomatic and agency presence in Britain. We will have to undertake many more ministerial visits to the UK because until now, we have had the opportunity to meet our UK counterparts three or four times a year, at Council of Europe meetings in Brussels, but that will no longer be the case. We will have to make a special effort, therefore, to maintain the bilateral relationship, for which organisations such as the BIIGC can play a useful part.
Deputy Howlin asked about my assessment but it is difficult to know. Nobody can predict the future with any certainty in respect of Brexit and we must continue to prepare for the various potential outcomes. Currently, we must await developments in Westminster. European elections will be held next week here, in Britain and in Northern Ireland, the last of which could be especially interesting as the third seat is very much up for grabs. We will have to assess the outcome of those elections in the following week. Talks are ongoing between the Conservative Party and the British Labour Party. We do not know whether they will be able to come to a conclusion, although I hope they can in such a way that allows the UK to leave the EU in an orderly fashion, if it must leave at all. I am told by the Prime Minister that if those talks fail, Westminster will move to a further set of indicative parliamentary votes, which may help to guide the outcome. The European elections and their outcome could harden attitudes in the UK but we should bear in mind that many parties are in favour of a second referendum or are pro-Remain but their vote is divided. That is less the case with those forces that support a no-deal Brexit or hard Brexit, which must be taken into account.
The next phase of negotiations will arise only if the withdrawal agreement is ratified. We anticipate that those talks will be led by the European Commission, which would be logical, and they may involve the establishment of a task force, or something similar to what currently exists under the leadership of Mr. Michel Barnier, although that has not yet been worked out in detail.
12. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the status of the research survey his Department was to commission in 2018 as part of the strategic communications unit; if it was proceeded with; and if so, the outcomes. [15463/19]
Given competing demands, it has been decided not to undertake the research survey at this time. If the position should change, I will, as previously committed to, brief Opposition parties in advance of the running of the survey.
It is interesting that the survey promised after the winding-up of the strategic communications unit was not proceeded with. It was intended to happen and we were to be briefed on it. As the European and local elections approach, we are faced with launch after launch by the Government, the Taoiseach and his Ministers. The Government spent more than €4.3 million on advertising last year, of which €1.3 million was spent by the Department of the Taoiseach. That is interesting given that the Department does not have much direct involvement in strategic oversight and is not a line Department per se.
The strategic communications unit was established under the Department and, after public furore, was disbanded after its communication campaign for Project Ireland 2040. I will not get into the exact issues that arose. Two weeks ago, there was another launch of Project Ireland 2040, namely, the launch of its so-called first annual report, which was attended by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe. It was another chance for Government to set out everything it is going to do. Does the Taoiseach understand that what people want is not repeated launches or glossy documentation, which we all received last week in respect of the national broadband plan?
No contract has been signed, however.
Some Ministers had distributed the documentation to the media before some Deputies received it. It was voluminous and printed in full colour, although no contract has been signed and there is no likelihood of any contract for months. People have gone beyond the point of constant announcements of strategic issues. They want action. Does the Taoiseach agree the debacle over the strategic communications unit should have been the wake-up call to stop the spin and have proper announcements of delivery? The people should be spoken to on the basis that they will receive not simply spin but rather an explanation of what is being delivered to them.
In late 2017, the Taoiseach stated his marketing unit was tendering for research of public attitudes to State communication. He assured the House that all parties would be consulted before it went ahead and apologised for his office seeking to poll only general election voters, thereby excluding younger people and those without Irish or UK citizenship. There was no consultation, however. In early 2018, the Taoiseach informed the House that the tender had been awarded to a company and that he would ensure that other parties were consulted on the survey contents. Again, there was no consultation. When he eventually agreed to close the marketing unit, he told the House that because the contract had been awarded, the survey would proceed in any event and there would be consultations on revised survey content. Once again, there was no consultation. The reason the question keeps arising is there is no clarity on what happened to the contract, whether the money was retained by the Department of the Taoiseach or whether it has been entirely abandoned.
Who paid for the glossy broadband brochures issued last week? How much did they cost? I was amazed those brochures were put together in the absence of any contract being signed. Today, the Taoiseach said it would be September or October before a contract on broadband would be signed yet glossy brochures have been sent to every Deputy and probably to every public representative by the Government telling us how much will be done this year and next year, notwithstanding the fact nothing was done for seven years with regard to this contract. How do brochures get financed and published by the Government in advance of contracts being signed? It reduces the Government's leverage when negotiating contracts. The €5 million spend on this is extraordinary. We are being treated to launch after launch and, unfortunately, very little delivery on a lot of issues.
I simply want to know what has changed between 2018 and now. This was to be a priority. It was a must do item. What has changed the Government's perspective?
Very simply, the contract for the research survey was awarded to Behaviour & Attitudes but we decided not to continue and not to do it because, quite frankly, there are many other priorities in the Department and it had become politicised. Initially, this was seen as a genuine effort to track public perceptions on public services, the information received from the Government and the performance of the Government and the public sector. It was a genuine project but it got caught up in the party political back and forth we have had in the Chamber. Everyone thought there was no point in going ahead in that context. Perhaps a future Government, perhaps even involving people here, might see the value of it and decide to go with it. It would have been misrepresented and for those reasons it was judged best not to do it. It was not done and will not be done.
Deputy Howlin asked about the €1.3 million. I imagine it was all from the first half of 2018 when the strategic communications unit was operating. At that time, communication campaigns were being centrally managed. They are not any more. The communications on Project Ireland 2040 are now done through the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in the way they were done in the past. The national development plan was done through the old Department of Finance.
What was launched was not promises for the future, it was a one year report on what had already been achieved in the years since Project Ireland 2040 was launched. It included road projects, such as the fact the N4 and the western distributor road projects in Sligo that are now being built.
What about broadband brochures?
The long promised new runway for Dublin Airport is under construction. The report listed all the new schools that have been built and completed.
How did the broadband brochures happen?
The Deputy would have to ask the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. It does not fall under my remit any more.
How did they happen?
I do not know. The Deputy would have to ask the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
Before a contract has been signed how does such documentation get produced?
I do not think it is about a contract.
We need to move on to Question No. 13.
13. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee G, justice and equality, last met. [15465/19]
14. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee G, justice and equality, last met; and when it is scheduled to meet again. [17457/19]
15. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee G, justice and equality, last met; and when it is scheduled to meet again. [20537/19]
16. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee G, justice and equality, last met. [20545/19]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 to 16, inclusive, together.
Cabinet Committee G last met on 12 December 2018 and the next meeting will take place on Monday, 10 June 2019. Cabinet committee G provides political oversight of developments in justice and equality issues, including implementation of the Government's programme of reform for the justice sector. In relation to justice reform, the third report of the effectiveness and renewal group was published in February. The report highlights the substantial progress and commitment displayed by the Department of Justice and Equality throughout this programme of transformation.
The Minister for Justice and Equality recently received the group's fourth report, which he intends to bring to the Government shortly and publish thereafter. In relation to policing reform, A Policing Service for the Future, the Government's four year plan to implement the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing, was published in December. Implementation of the plan is progressing, with the building blocks phase well under way. Cabinet committee G is part of the oversight architecture of the plan and will receive regular progress reports on its implementation. The plan envisages two meetings per year of Cabinet committee G focusing on community safety.
Last Friday, an 18 year old boy, Azzam Raguragui, was tragically stabbed in Dundrum and died a short time later. I know the thoughts and sympathies of all of us in the House go out to Azzam's family. No one in our society should have to suffer the loss of a child but the sad fact is it could have been anybody's child, with knife crime becoming more and more common. The case highlights the serious escalating problem with knife crime. We can look across the Irish Sea to see what is happening in Britain in this regard. The number of knives seized by gardaí here has risen by two thirds since 2016. A total of 264 knives were seized by the Garda in the first six weeks of this year alone. The family of the late Azzam have stated, very heroically, that they are resting their faith in the Irish justice system to hold the perpetrators to account. Does the Taoiseach see the issue of knife crime as a particular menacing situation that needs to be addressed? What specific plans does he have to tackle it?
This morning, the Minister for Justice and Equality brought a memo to Cabinet in respect of a study to be carried out on the introduction of domestic homicide reviews in addition to other supports for victims of familicide. I extend again my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Clodagh Hawe, including her mother Mary and her sister Jacqueline, and those of her three sons, Liam, Niall and Ryan, who were killed by her husband and their father in August 2016. It should be said that Clodagh Hawe is not alone. Tragically and sadly, many women and children have fallen victim to this crime.
There is an onus on all of us to ensure the necessary statutory provisions are in place to understand how and why this type of crime occurs and to do our absolute utmost to ensure families get the answers they deserve. Previously, I have called for the introduction of multi-agency domestic homicide reviews and for them to be underpinned in legislation. This needs to happen urgently. Domestic homicide reviews have been in place in Britain since 2011 and they are to be introduced in the North following a public consultation process so it is about time we got our act together. Women's Aid has long advocated for their introduction and for the family and friends of victims to be included in the review process. I support this. Does the Taoiseach personally support the introduction of independent multi-agency domestic homicide reviews? When will the Minister's proposed study be completed? What is the timeframe for the introduction of legislation in this area? Is it proposed to undertake a review of the Coroners Act and laws surrounding exhumations as well as the Succession Act? The Taoiseach will recall serious issues were raised in the case of the family of Clodagh Hawe in this regard.
We are going to be way over time.
These suggestions need to be fully considered.
In all the recent reviews of policing, community policing has been identified as being at the heart of a really good community based policing service where people develop confidence in the police, the police can get to know people and crime can be headed off before it is committed. In the constituency shared by the Taoiseach and I, the Minister for Justice and Equality has confessed we have one sergeant and approximately 12 gardaí. Given they work over a 24 hour day in two to three shifts, the Taoiseach can work out the mathematics of how many community police required by an area of more than 100,000 people, which is bigger than Waterford and Limerick. I have drawn to the Taoiseach's attention situations near a primary school of gunmen shooting at each other. Thankfully, nobody was injured. We have also had gun attacks at a secondary school on the opposite side of the area. We have police searches in neighbourhoods of the constituency where they pick up Makarov pistols, bullets, ammunition and shotguns.
How long will it take the Taoiseach to start acting as the Taoiseach of all the people of Ireland, rather than just the rich people who will get the broadband contracts? The people of Ireland want to be safe when they take a train or the DART and when their children go out to play or meet friends in a park. Does the Taoiseach understand that people genuinely feel afraid? Drug gangs and cocaine are at their height, such as we have not seen for 30 years, and parents are besieged with drug debt but the Taoiseach has no answer.
Everybody is appalled by the killing of Azzam Raguragui in Dundrum. My son hangs out in that area and would have seen Azzam, and the kids he hung around with there, regularly. The knife crime to which Deputies have referred is shocking. Beyond condemning what is atrocious, however, we have to think about how we are going to address the problem. It is getting worse and worse and I do not think we are looking at the problem in the right way. I do not have all the answers but I think we have to recognise that we do not know how to deal with teenagers. We do not know how to relate to teenagers or how to engage with them. We do not consult with them and we are not providing them with other and more productive things to do.
We have to get our act together in this regard. In my area, where there was quite a lot of antisocial behaviour, there was a brilliant outreach project for young people and the guy who worked on it, a friend of mine, had a relationship with the young people there but the project was cut. He said the situation would deteriorate and it did so, really badly. We are even cutting the young people's community projects that work. We need to expand our horizons massively in the area of engaging with young people and providing them with productive outlets if we are to move them in a different direction.
I wish to raise a Dublin issue, which Deputy Burton touched on. A serious situation is emerging for passengers travelling on the DART, with which I am sure the Taoiseach is familiar from his own constituents, articles in The Irish Times and the local elections, with queries being brought to us as public representatives. People are genuinely afraid to travel on the DART at certain times of the day and at weekends. We have glorious weather but certain people are travelling to the beaches and causing mayhem on the DART, in some cases taking over carriages and intimidating passengers, particularly women. The situation will get worse over the summer so what is the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport doing, in association An Garda Síochána and Iarnród Éireann, about this? Is there going to be a dedicated police force on the DART? Is Iarnród Éireann going to introduce creative measures to deal with the situation? I read that a text alert system was going to be introduced. Something has to be done. I will not mention the DART stations on the north side of the city but there is a big issue and if people, especially women, feel threatened as they go about their daily business, there is a real problem. I am sure the Taoiseach is aware of the problem so I plead with him to engage with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to bang heads together with Iarnród Éireann and An Garda Síochána to deal with the situation once and for all.
I read and heard about the very sad killing of Azzam, the young man in Dundrum. I join with everyone else in extending my sympathies to his family and friends. It is a shocking thing for a young man of that age to be stabbed in a public park and I call on anyone who has information about this terrible crime to pass it on to gardaí and the authorities. I heard his father say that he has trust in our justice system, in our police and in our courts, to ensure the perpetrators are found and prosecuted. It is our job to make sure that trust is not misplaced by putting all efforts into finding those who committed the crime and to make sure that they are prosecuted so that justice can be done.
I am very aware of the debate that is ongoing in the United Kingdom, and England in particular, around the rise of knife crime. I am not quite sure if knife crimes are as frequent here as they are in the UK but they certainly are occurring and they should be of concern to all of us.
Deputy McDonald asked some very detailed and good questions about the memo the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, brought to Cabinet today. I do not have it in front of me but it is quite detailed and a number of actions were agreed. The Minister will make an announcement on the matter today and will set out exactly what actions the Government is taking to respond to the issue of familicides. It follows on from the murder of Clodagh Hawe and her children, as well as the Chada family and other cases. The Minister has engaged with the Coll family and responded to some of the proposals they put forward, which we are keen to progress. Familicide is not as rare as we may think and every month this year so far, a woman has been killed by a relative. I hope the decisions made by Government today will help us to deal with it better and support families better than has been the case in the past. We also need to see how we can better support communities because the wider community is also very affected, as was the case in Ballyjamesduff. We want to see how we can learn from these cases and do better into the future.
Deputy Burton asked about the crime being experienced in the Blanchardstown area. The Minister, Deputy Flanagan, visited the station recently and met with gardaí and staff to thank them for the work they are doing to tackle crime in the area. The deployment of Garda resources is, of course, a matter for the Garda Commissioner and should be so, rather than one for politicians, but the job of Government is to run the economy well and make sure we produce the resources that allow us to recruit more gardaí, more civilians to free up garda time and more investment in equipment such as IT and vehicles. That is happening, it has been happening for several years and it will continue into the future.
I am disappointed that Deputy Burton characterises the broadband project as one in which rich people get the contract. This is not about who gets the contract but about the 1.1 million people who do not currently have access to high-speed broadband, who come from all backgrounds and live in all parts of the country, including some parts of Dublin.
In that case the Government should nationalise it and have the State own it. If it is the people's broadband, it should be owned by the people.
We want to achieve, on the people's behalf, a broadband service which has the same speeds as we get in the cities and for the same price. That is why the subsidy is being provided and, given the fact that the Labour Party started this process, I hope its Members will come in behind it when they have a chance to consider it.