Community Policing: Presentations.

I welcome everyone here today. This is the fourth day of a five-day series of meetings on community policing. The hearings arose on the basis of the ongoing review by this committee of the criminal justice system in Ireland. This work is being undertaken on the basis that Chapter 4 of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 provides for co-operation between the Garda and local authorities in the development of joint policing committees. Deputy Costello was appointed by the committee as rapporteur to examine all aspects of these issues and to report back to the committee on them. As a result, we have these hearings and, after placing advertisements in newspapers, we have received a substantial number of written submissions on community policing from the public and interested bodies. We have decided to invite representatives of the main players in community policing, the criminal justice system and community and business sectors to our hearing to discuss various aspects of community policing. We are delighted to have received such a positive response from all those invited. All submissions that have been received, both written and verbal, will be fully noted and taken into account. Today we are meeting representatives of Rialto Community Network, Cabra Community Policing Forum, north inner city drugs task force, Ballyfermot drugs task force, Blanchardstown drugs task force, Finglas-Cabra drugs task force, Tallaght drugs task force, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Professor Dermot Walsh from the University of Limerick, and the General Council of County Councils.

I thank Ms Brenda O'Neill and Mr. Tony MacCarthaigh of Rialto Community Network for being here. I also thank Ms Aisling Reidy, director of ICCL, and Ms Tanya Ward for facilitating us by being here so early. We have a packed programme and will try to get to their submissions as soon as we can.

I will first call Ms Brenda O'Neill and Mr. Tony MacCarthaigh of Rialto Community Network. All of the committee members have a copy of their submission which they have read. I, therefore, ask Ms O'Neill and Mr. MacCarthaigh to focus on the points they want to emphasise and that they believe are pertinent to the hearings, rather than going through everything that has been already read and noted by committee members.

I draw attention to the fact that members of the joint committee enjoy parliamentary privilege but the same privilege does not apply to witnesses appearing before it.

Mr. Tony MacCarthaigh

Ar dtús, míle buíochas as ucht an chuiridh seo.

Ms Brenda O'Neill and I are not speaking formally on behalf of the Rialto Community Policing Forum. I will tell the joint committee why in one minute. We are here on behalf of Rialto Community Network, a network organisation comprising most of the groups in Rialto. Our main point is that our experience of community policing has not been totally positive. We are very much in favour of community policing and aware of the need for it, especially in areas where anti-social behaviour, mainly related to drugs, has been a feature. It is very important that there be effective community policing in those areas.

Rialto Community Network is speaking on community policing because it was one of the first groups to pilot it. It was the first group to come up with the idea and is, therefore, a big stakeholder. It set up community policing in the Rialto area.

It is a community policing forum.

Mr. MacCarthaigh

We set up a community policing forum in 1996 at a time when there was a lot of unrest and anti-social behaviour in Rialto, much of it connected with drugs. At the time the community was under a lot of pressure and felt insecure and unsafe. As a result of certain activities, some living in the community ended up in prison. I will not go into this. Around that time community activists, especially persons connected with Rialto Community Network, initiated a meeting bringing together community activists, the Garda Síochána and people from Dublin City Council with the idea of starting a community policing forum. A forum was set up and running at a time when it was very difficult to persuade people from the community to sit down with the Garda. There were suspicions on both sides but we worked through them. After much dialogue, the forum got going. One of its most important features was an independent chair. The independent chair at the time was Ms Maureen Lynott who is now well known in health circles.

The forum was set up and had some success in addressing certain issues. However, there were always ongoing problems. The same problems came up month after month. Sometimes there was a level of frustration because issues being brought up were not being dealt with. The forum kept going for a number of years. About five years ago, following a period of unrest and frustration at meetings, local representatives approached the Garda Commissioner and the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Following discussions, a series of meetings were held in Garda headquarters in Harcourt Street which led to the setting up of pilot community policing fora in Rialto, Inchicore and the south inner city. This involved a major evaluation of the Rialto Community Policing Forum. This evaluation spoke positively about what was happening but stressed that the forum needed to be fully resourced with a full-time co-ordinator.

Our experience up to last year was that unless and until it was properly resourced, it would go nowhere. A decision was made a year ago to suspend the Rialto Community Policing Forum until it was properly resourced with a full-time co-ordinator who would run with the issues, hold things together between monthly meetings and follow up on issues. That is how matters stand.

In Rialto smaller groups meet the Garda Síochána regarding issues that concern them. However, that is not good enough in a community like Rialto which has many active groups. There is a need for a community policing forum which would look not just at symptoms but also at causes and be proactive, not just reactive. It must be resourced to do this.

When we were putting together the canal communities local drugs task force plan about three years ago, it was suggested that we get funding from the drugs task force. However, at the time the Garda felt the funding should come through the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform as pilot schemes had been set up. Unfortunately, that never happened and the funding did not come through. That is how matters stand. The only future I see for a properly resourced community policing forum is, unfortunately, through the drugs task force. We are going to investigate this.

Ms Brenda O’Neill

One of the positive aspects regarding the origins of the community policing forum was the very positive input by local elected representatives. I want to give credit where credit is due. Unfortunately, although they arranged for us to meet the Minister last May regarding at least initial funding, nothing came of it. We had the meeting and it seemed very positive but we got no response until October. The response was that the Minister had decided there was no money in his Department and that he was referring the matter to the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs which, in turn, stated it was not its affair. That is where the issue has been left.

There is no point in talking about community policing if we do not have police. Gardaí are frustrated that if something is going on at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Dublin Castle or anywhere else, they are pulled away from the local area. Therefore, there is a hit and miss effort at policing. We have an extremely good community garda in Rialto who is amazing in terms of the relationships he has built in the local community and the trust that even people in severe difficulty have in him. He seems to have the gift of being able to deal with very difficult issues without alienating the community. However, he is only one person and when he is off duty, there is nobody to replace him. There is nobody who works opposite him. That leaves an amazing gap. No matter what the community does and no matter how much we say about community policing, unless Garda resources are in place, it will not succeed.

We are still saying the community policing forum in Rialto is on hold. We are still saying that we need that funding, even for a person to be employed part-time to build that up that level of trust again because we in the Rialto Community Network are frustrated about the fact that we put so much work into it and the momentum has been lost on something that was becoming very creative.

Before I call Deputies Jim O'Keeffe and Peter Power I wish to ask a few questions. I ask the representatives to note the questions and reply to them at the end of the questions session.

What is the composition of the Rialto policing forum and what rank of gardaí attended it? When it was in operation, how much did it involve the local community? Is there any measure of its effectiveness in resolving whatever problems there are in policing matters, whether they be anti-social behaviour, the sale of drugs or some other problem? Under the proposed Garda Síochána Bill there will be a joint policing committee at local authority level. Has Ms O'Neill a view on where community policing forums should be based? The policing forum in Rialto is not based at the local authority area or at the area committee level but at the sub-area committee level. How many area committees are there in the Dublin area?

There are five.

Within each of those I presume that there would be local community policing fora. Where does Ms O'Neill see the connection there?

It would be helpful if we could get a better picture of the representatives' area of operation. Obviously they know Rialto well but I represent west Cork and I do not have a detailed knowledge of their area.

The Deputy is welcome to visit the area any time. We will show him around.

A visit might not give me all the answers. What population is covered in Ms O'Neill's area? That is relevant in the context of Chairman's point regarding what level the community policing fora should operate at in future? If there are five local authority areas in Dublin, should a policing forum operate at a level below the local authority area and at a level such as the area of operation of Ms O'Neill's network? How has the network been operating to date? How does it get members? Is it the usual position that if voluntary community workers are prepared to do a job, it is left for them to do it? How does the network manage in terms of funding? I note it has had difficulties in securing funding of consequence. I have noted its estimated annual costings and that Ms O'Neill has approached the Minister which does not seem to have yielded any results. How is the network managing to date? On how many activists within the community can the network rely to carry out the work of the Rialto community policing forum? Would it be two, 20 or 200? I pose these questions to get a picture of how the network has operated administratively and financially to date.

Deputy Peter Power represents Limerick East.

Ms O'Neill said that a community garda in the area had built up a high degree of trust within the community and that she was impressed with the garda's work. She referred to the difficulties encountered when he was off duty. Will she expand on what happens when a community garda is promoted and moved to another area? We are trying to develop our knowledge of the problems associated with lack of continuity in community policing in terms of maintaining levels of trust and confidence.

On the question of community policing and community gardaí, does Ms O'Neill agree that in certain disadvantaged areas there is a major gap between the local community and the local gardaí? Does she also agree that to develop the confidence and trust of the community the Garda will have to develop and be more creative in its policies on dealing with the community? From my experience there is a major gap in that respect in certain communities across the city. The gap is too wide and the necessary trust and respect have not been established. People working in disadvantaged communities advise that if one wants to build respect and trust, one must earn it, particularly in areas that are destroyed by the impact of heroin abuse, economic and educational disadvantage and other such issues.

Ms O'Neill said that the bottom line is that there is no point in talking about community gardaí unless there is an adequate number of gardaí. Despite many people being of the view that we have the highest number of gardaí since the foundation of the State, do we still need to recruit more?

It would be preferable if questions could be answered individually but time does not permit that. Who would like to reply first?

Mr. MacCarthaigh

It will be difficult to answer all those questions.

Mr. MacCarthaigh might answer the ones he considers the most important.

Mr. MacCarthaigh

I will start by replying the questions posed by Deputy Jim O'Keeffe, a fellow Cork man.

We cannot be parochial, otherwise the Tallaght influence would come to bear.

Mr. MacCarthaigh

Rialto is alongside St. James's Hospital and near the Coombe Hospital. The Luas runs through it. It was an area of many flat complexes, including Fatima Mansions which is in the process of being regenerated. There is Dolphin House, the regeneration of Fatima Mansions and St. Michael's Estate. Ballymun will be the largest flat complex in the State. There are the Rialto Buildings and Rialto Cottages which were originally built by Guinness for its workers, which is the heart of the old Rialto. A large population of asylum seekers have moved into the area. There are many flat complexes. Traditionally, Rialto has been associated with drug use and anti-social behaviour. It is alongside Dolphin's Barn and near Crumlin. It has a population of 5,000 to 7,000, many of whom are transient. Many people from the Crumlin area who are homeless or have other difficulties have come into the area. That is a picture of Rialto.

The Deputy talked about the relationship between the community policing forum and the area councils and how one relates to the other on the issues of policing and accountability. I always like to distinguish between representative democracy and participatory democracy. The big challenge is how we match them because there is a divergence and they do not come together easily. The power and the effectiveness of a community policing forum is to have people on the ground who know what is going on, have the ear of the people and who work with those in the area who are most marginalised. It is a most effective way of demonstrating participative democracy. There is a great challenge for community activists in how they link with councillors. There is a gap in that part of our democracy that must be filled creatively. I do not wish to go into the matter in more detail at this stage but it is important that we have community policing forums and something happening at area council level with proper feedback between both in order that the councillors who represent those areas would convey the views of the people, not just their own.

A question was asked about funding. In recent years there has been an over-emphasis on rationalisation which has put extra pressure on community groups. That is a matter we have to take into account in the context of community policing. While it has to be resourced, we do not have the necessary resources at present. The community policing forum did not continue because of the lack of resources.

A question was asked about who was represented at the Rialto policing forum. All the major groups in Rialto were involved, including residents' groups, groups from the flat complexes as well as the main issue groups. There was a good level of representation which was indicative of what was happening in the community. However, the forum could not be sustained because it was not properly resourced. The groups involved were barely able to keep going because of the over-bureaucratisation being forced on groups at community level.

There are no resources available. I also wear the hat of chairman of the canal communities local drugs task force. The only hope I can see for the future of a community policing forum in our area is through the funding becoming available through the drugs task force. I would see it as a Rialto policing forum but which would embrace Rialto, Inchicore, Kilmainham and Bluebell. In that way it would be more effective, as well as being cost-effective. That is the way forward.

The drugs task force will also focus on problems within the canals area where there may be anti-social behaviour connected with drug dealing that has resulted in community unrest and unease. In this context, it will target the control-supply side.

Ms O’Neill

I wish to clarify one or two matters raised by the Chairman. The composition of the forum was——

I asked that question to inform the committee in advance of the completion of our report.

Ms O’Neill

As Mr. MacCarthaigh mentioned, the forum included local community representatives from the flat complexes, front-line workers, volunteers from the residents' associations and other community interests and the Garda Síochána. Other members of the Garda also came but the local inspector was always present. The local elected representatives, councillors and Deputies, and the local authority were also represented. At one stage we used to have officers from the health board but their attendance fell off. We also used to have somebody from the schools but when the time of the meetings changed from during the day to night time, they did not turn up any more.

Deputy Power asked a question about the promotion of community gardaí. That is a real issue. It is like dealing with any other agency; very often one is dependent on the personnel and personalities involved and how much they understand the community. If a person moves on, one might get somebody who does not have the same attitude or does not understand where people are coming from in a disadvantaged community. That is a major issue and raises the question of training for gardaí. Gardaí in disadvantaged areas should receive special orientation training. If the day comes when our local community garda, Vincent, is moved from our area, this will be a major issue for the Garda Síochána in terms of finding somebody of the same calibre and with the same attitude. People from communities like ours should have an input into whatever formal training is provided.

I accept that there is a gap between the community and the Garda Síochána. In many cases it is a question of attitude. Some gardaí are fantastic while others have the attitude that they know best and that we do not know what we are talking about. In some instances they talk down to us. That is not true of all gardaí as we have had some very good relationships with community gardaí and inspectors. The inspectors concerned have told us of their own frustrations. I can understand this and see where they are coming from. A much more creative solution needs to be found to deal with the issue.

I wish to return to a point made earlier about area committees. One of our fears in regard to the committees envisaged in the Bill is that they will become one step removed from the community and that front-line people who are dealing with problems day-to-day in the flat complexes will not be involved. We are concerned about this issue. People involved at the grassroots need to be included, not just elected councillors. To be effective the committees must be inclusive. As for funding, we do not have any.

The other point I wish to make is that Rialto has become the home to a number of ethnic minorities from various countries. Some of the people concerned have severe difficulties in relating to the Garda Síochána as they have significant fears. One of the positive developments was that last summer in preparation for the local elections we facilitated many of them to register to vote. They engaged with the community garda and were amazed that he could relate to them as an equal. For the first time they met a garda who respected them and to whom they could relate. That was a very positive experience.

I thank the representatives of Rialto Community Network and hope the forum will be back up and running again in the not too distant future. The presentation was most helpful and informative and will be useful in our deliberations. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

I welcome the director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, ICCL, Ms Aisling Reidy, and Ms Tanya Ward, its senior research and policy officer. They are both aware that they do not enjoy the same privilege as members. I invite Ms Reidy to make her presentation.

Ms Aisling Reidy

We will divide the presentation in two. I will make some introductory comments following which my colleague, Ms Ward, will comment specifically on the provisions of the Bill.

I thank the joint committee for its invitation to make a presentation to it. While the ICCL has long campaigned on human rights, policing and criminal justice issues, we do not purport to be experts on community policing. The reason we are making a submission to the committee is we consider it important to emphasise to it the important role community policing plays in promoting an effective human rights based approach to policing for everybody. That is why we think it is important the structure of the Bill provides a legal framework for effective community policing to flourish. The experts in community policing who appeared this morning have told the committee they favour it. Our presentation will focus on the key elements of community policing and what that means in practice, the limitations that may be put on effective community policing by deficiencies and other aspects of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004.

Community policing goes beyond the standard emphasis on law enforcement and is a problem-solving approach to policing which is based on a genuine partnership between the police and the community. It works because it is a collaborative approach to successfully identifying and then solving community problems. Community policing is a model of policing that is being widely used in societies that face the task of restructuring or rebuilding a police force. It has come to our attention in the context of human rights, particularly where societies must avail of an opportunity to change policing methods which have led to conflict or implement blueprints of best practice in new policing structures.

It therefore comes as little surprise that when Patten was conducting a very extensive survey on best practice in policing, community policing was a key feature. It is worth reinforcing that the recommendations from Patten are not only applicable in Northern Ireland but represent recommendations of best international practice in policing. That report defined community policing as police working in partnership with the community, the community thereby participating in its own policing and the two working together, mobilising resources to solve problems affecting public safety over the longer term rather than the police alone reacting in the short term to incidents as they occur.

That problem orientated policing as set out in the Patten report recognises that many of the community incidences that police must address, whether burglary, vandalism or issues of intimidation by rowdy or loutish gangs, are symptoms of underlying conditions that need to be resolved and if one reacts to them on the surface, they will continue to persist. The key aspect of community policing is that it recognises that community safety and policing is a long-term solution and requires long-term thinking and resourcing and that short-sighted quick fixes will not work to change community-based problems.

What strikes me about the contribution of Ms Brenda O'Neill from the Rialto Community Network is that community policing involves a multifaceted approach with many different elements of community support, such as health, education and social welfare being involved through a community-based scheme. Community policing recognises that the participation of the community in policing decisions and solutions that are taken about their lives and communities is important. Participation is built on trust and the key to the success of community policing, which results both in the reduction of crime and fear within communities, depends on the existence and building of real trust between the police and the community and cannot be successfully built, as we have heard, between individual sections of the Garda Síochána and the community if the structures that allow this to happen are not there.

To allow community policing to happen, it is important that we look at where there is good practice in domestic and international models. One of the closest models is that of the district policing partnership, DPP, in Northern Ireland which involves independent community representatives. DPPs are responsible for consulting the community and setting policing objectives for their own locality. They have a role to play in accountability as they monitor police performance against local policing plans. I know the committee is aware of the success of these boards which have been described as intelligence-led policing. We very much endorse the view that community policing is about evidence-driven solutions to community problems. That is a key element that should not be lost. While they offer a useful model to learn from, they should give indicators as to what we should look for in our own models.

In our sister organisation in Northern Ireland, the committee for the administration of justice held one of the first conferences on the experience of DPPs. One of the problems highlighted was that some of the independent community members were inexperienced initially in setting policing objectives for their local areas because they did not have sufficient training or support. Providing the resources and support to a community to engage effectively in a structure is an area that must be looked at. A group from the north-east inner city will make a presentation on how their forum adopts a problem solving approach to issues, not just at local level but at meetings held every three months which more senior members of the Garda Síochána, local council members and key independent community representatives attend.

The reason we have flagged these two models during the oral presentation is that we believe, and this is borne out domestically and internationally, that if community policing is to be a genuine partnership and trust is to be established, one needs to have community representation on community policing partnerships and not just local representation and the police. We recommend that when one is considering the make-up of the partnership, one looks at having local representatives on the board with the Garda Síochána and that one must have equal representation of community representatives to build trust into the relationship which underlies one of the key strands to effective community policing.

I will hand over to my colleague who will deal specifically with the Garda Síochána Bill 2004.

Ms Tanya Ward

I will discuss some of the major deficiencies in the Garda Síochána Bill 2004. Chapter 4 of the Bill will not provide for the models of community policing that my colleague, Ms Aisling Reidy, has just described. The current provisions in the Bill are too narrow in their function to realise this potential. Section 32 allows for the establishment of committees to act as a forum where matters relating to policing can be discussed and recommendations formulated at a local authority area level. However, unlike district policing partnerships in the North of Ireland, these committees will not get to set policing objectives for their area and they will not have a role in monitoring policing. Emphasis is placed on local elected representatives and there is no specific provision made in the Bill for the inclusion of independent community members. We would recommend that the Bill be amended to include specific provision for independent community representatives.

There are other issues that are important. In his submission to the committee, Mr. Denis Bradley explained that community policing is not achievable unless there is some form of civic oversight. In the past, we have suffered from over-centralised, hierarchical and male dominated structures. In Northern Ireland, an independent policing authority was established to manage the Northern Ireland police service and the Northern Ireland policing board includes representatives from political parties as well as independent community members. That is essential for supporting community policing measures. The Garda Síochána Bill 2004 has no civic oversight role and there is no provision made for a national Garda board. While we are supposed to be supporting the involvement of the community in policing, at the same time we are removing major decisions on operation and management to one ministerial position.

The ICCL recommends that the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 be amended specifically to include independent representation from the community and that these members would be recruited through an open and transparent system. That is they type of system that was put in place in Northern Ireland. We also say that they should be provided with training and support to allow them to carry out their functions. It makes sense that these committees should have a role in setting policing objectives for their areas as well as monitoring police performance.

Provisions in other Bills, in particular the anti-social behaviour orders and on-the-spot fines in the Criminal Justice Bill before the Dáil, undermine the concept of community policing and existing legislation and programmes based on restorative justice principles, such as the Garda diversion programme which has been one of the most successful programmes that the Garda Síochána have run to date. We know that anti-social behaviour has a detrimental effect on people's lives, particularly on older people. ICCL was pleased to note that many other experts in this field informed the committee that the best way to deal with anti-social behaviour is to adopt crime prevention models and use community policing measures. Mr. Padraic White, chairperson of the National Crime Forum, pointed out that the State has done little to prevent crime in Ireland and that we need to move crime prevention to the centre of all measures when dealing with these issues.

Measures such as anti-social behaviour orders undermine community policing because they are not focused on problem solving. They are heavy-handed punitive measures obtained without any form of due process. They do not contribute to building trust within communities. They lead to mistrust. They destroy the foundation on which community policing is built — building trust between the police and the community. We believe, particularly in areas in which there is apathy and fear of the police, that anti-social behaviour orders leads to more fear and apathy. We also think older people victimised by anti-social behaviour have a key role to play in community policing committees. Many elderly people already work in the communities on a voluntary basis and have experience in neighbourhood watch schemes.

Another issue on which I would like to speak to the committee is that of policing with black and ethnic minorities. The committee has already heard of the important work undertaken by the Garda racial and inter-cultural unit. The ICCL supports the work undertaken by the unit to date in effectively promoting community policing and in ensuring ethnic liaison officers deployed throughout the Garda have undertaken anti-racism training. However, the Garda Síochána has powers which undermine its ability to effectively police and work with black and ethnic minorities.

Section 12(1) of the Immigration Act allows members of the Garda to stop any person they reasonably believe to be a non-national and demand their identity documents. It is an offence under that Act for a non-EU national not to have identity documents on his or her person. This results in mistrust of gardaí. Ms Brenda O'Neill of the Rialto Network also raised this issue. Many non-EU nationals have had negative experiences of police in their country. This damages their ability to develop relations in the community and affects their ability to report crime as they may be afraid the Garda will simply examine their documentation rather than focus on the crime committed. This provision is a major barrier to community policing.

Thank you for those solid suggestions and recommendations. They are very helpful to the committee.

I welcome Ms Aisling Reidy and Ms Tanya Ward to the committee. They are regular visitors to our meetings on civil liberty issues. Their contributions are most valuable.

I have one question for Ms Reidy and a couple of others for Ms Ward. What specific civil liberty issues have ICCL identified in the schemes of community policing either in terms of the joint policing committees or the community policing fora? Ms Ward stated that the Bill does not include policing objectives. Would she agree that section 32 makes provision for allowing policing objectives and policing plans to be established and that the joint policing committees' function is to serve as a forum for consultation, discussion and recommendations on a matter affecting the policing of the local authority's administrative area. In other words, is it broad enough to include the plan as contained in the Patten proposals?

There is a civic oversight in relation to district policing partnerships. Is the approach taken not better in that there is a partnership in which the police, community and local authority are considered equal and there is a holistic working together rather than the police having a monitoring role as is the case in the Northern structure? In the context of the appointment of independent community representatives, does Ms Ward agree with the method by which those appointmentsare made in Northern Ireland, namely, thatPricewaterhouseCooper is established to vet the independent community people and make a decision as to a bona fide community group? From where should funding come? What is the best source of funding in terms of the community policing forum being seen as a body not controlled by any particular sector or by the joint policing committees?

It is obvious a debate would be a better format for this issue but we do not have the time to engage in such debate.

I agree that a debate format on this issue might be the best way forward. However, I have two brief questions for Ms Reidy and Ms Ward. I welcome back the representatives from ICCL and thank them for the good work they are doing.

Perhaps Ms Reidy will give the committee her views on CCTV as an effective tool in terms of community policing in dealing with anti-social behaviour and public order offences. I represent Limerick, the northside of which has experienced serious difficulties with anti-social behaviour for many years. The introduction of CCTV has been viewed as an effective method of dealing with this issue and many communities that may not necessarily experience anti-social behaviour are seeking the extension of the CCTV system in as far as is practicable. However, others have raised the concern that a systematic expansion of the CCTV system may lead to an erosion of civil liberties or an invasion of privacy. What is the ICCL's view on that matter?

My second question relates to Ms Ward's position on anti-social behaviour orders. Her critique of them, if I heard her correctly, is that they are not focused on problem solving and may lead to mistrust. Perhaps I can draw an analogy in terms of other types of crime such as murder, rape, burglary and assault. We would all like to prevent such crimes but, ultimately, they are committed and anti-social behaviour and public order offences occur. One needs the armoury of criminal defences to deal with murder, rape and so on. Is some form of armoury not needed to deal with anti-social behaviour and other serious offences in areas where one cannot use the heavy hand of the law?

I, too, welcome Ms Reidy and Ms Ward and other representatives whom we will meet later. My first question is directed to Ms Reidy and relates to the independent community representatives on the joint policing committees. Where do we begin and end in terms of the appointment of people if we are to include members of voluntary organisations? What criteria would be laid down in terms of who would be the appropriate people to fill that slot were that proposal followed up? I welcome the introduction of anti-social behaviour orders. I am aware Ms Ward has expressed concern in that regard. We have very few restorative justice programmes in Ireland but those in existence operate on the basis that there is mediation and case conferencing with the other alternative being the established law and the judicial system. The person who engages in the restorative justice programme has full knowledge that this is the alternative to prison. Legislation is required because at present young people taunt elderly people in housing estates, the Garda feels helpless in this situation and elderly people certainly feel helpless. Legislation must be enacted to make accountable the person who is not prepared to engage in the restorative justice project. I welcome the anti-social behaviour orders being proposed by the Minister and I welcome the delegation's comments.

Ms Reidy

There could be problems with policing no matter what the structure. Problems with civil liberties arise where, for example, a committee is allowed to enforce particular penalties or sanctions without due process or hearing. If it were the case that the forum seemed to be made up of certain members of the community who seemed to have the ear of the police and the police took action without giving others the opportunity to have their say or be engaged in the discussions, that could cause civil liberties issues where people seem to be victimised. It is important to get the process right and it should have a focus on problem solving rather than on the imposition of penalties. When a stronger approach regarding penalties is required, then aspects of due process can be introduced. There have been bad examples where people have been subject to eviction orders perhaps because of anti-social issues and the wider family has also been affected. I do not wish to see community policing being a channel for this. However if there is a focus on partnership and on problem solving, it could be ensured that such victimisation does not arise.

With regard to the use of CCTV, there is no doubt that a CCTV camera has a role to play in policing and crime prevention. The issues are the significance of that role and the safeguards. The problem with CCTV is that it is often presented as a quick-fix solution which will prevent crime. However, the monitoring must be carried out and it must be made known that CCTV can be used in any future prosecution. The schemes will require resourcing to work. CCTV cannot be regarded as a substitute for the visibility of gardaí on the streets. There must be controls on the monitoring and access to the CCTV footage. I am not familiar with the situation in Limerick but there is widespread concern about the area around Croke Park which suffers from anti-social behaviour around big events. The local community there feels it is being doubly victimised because CCTV cameras are everywhere but they have not helped reduce crime rates.

There is a role for CCTV in crime prevention but it should be installed in suitable places such as dark areas and near ATM machines. It must be ensured that crime is not being displaced from CCTV areas to areas where there are no cameras. It should also be complemented by a visible police presence and should be effectively monitored. The system has its uses but there is a tendency to jump at it as an easy solution. The results of a value-for-money audit in the UK have shown that CCTV is very expensive and it has not been as valuable as initially thought in the reduction of crime.

On the question about ensuring independent community representatives, people can apply to become members of the board. They must satisfy the criteria laid down and there are a set number of places to be filled. It is important to ensure a set number of places on a board are filled by those from the business community, by community activists and from the Neighbourhood Watch scheme. An independent board will assess whether applicants understand the work of the board. It will be a transparent process and will allow for a turnover of representation over time. The key is to provide a transparent process and thus avoid resentment about the people chosen who may be regarded as favoured by the local authority or the Garda over people who may be perceived as difficult but who represent the needs and concerns of the community.

Ms Ward

On the specifics of the Garda Síochána Bill and the issue of setting police objectives for communities, we recognise that major changes were made to the Bill in the Seanad but they could have been more specific. We believe there should be an oversight role. Even though the Garda is supposed to work with the community in partnership, it obviously is very powerful and is a major player. The Garda Síochána investigates and prosecutes crime and therefore it is not an equal partnership. The community sets objectives but the police do not carry them out. It is important to have some form of mechanism in place. In Northern Ireland, members of the PSNI were very concerned about this oversight role and worried about its impact on their policing. Denis Bradley from the Northern Ireland Policing Board informed the committee that many have overcome those fears and found the direction from the community to be very helpful. If an oversight role is not provided for, there will be no way to ensure policing objectives are carried out.

On the question of the best sources of funding I will ask Ms Reidy to help me out.

Ms Reidy

No, I cannot help out because funding is not my specialty.

Ms Ward

The best method may be to ask the communities because they are the best source of information. It would make sense if funding came from both the local authorities and from the Department so that it is not possible to undermine the system through underfunding.

On the question of anti-social behaviour, offences such as murder and rape cannot be dealt with in a restorative justice fashion. The community does not have a role other than reporting information to the Garda about such crimes. Other offences which are considered under anti-social behaviour are covered by legislation dealing with public order and criminal justice.

If behaviour is criminalised or a young person is given a criminal record at a very early age, it sets the offenders off on a track. The importance of the restorative justice model such as the Garda diversion programme is that it prevents someone from developing a criminal record. Once young people accumulate a criminal record, it continues to be their life and they end up in prison.

Do ASBOs create a criminal record?

Ms Ward

If a young person or anyone on whom the ASBO is imposed does not comply with the regulations or stipulations, it could be——

However, simply making it does not result in the person having a criminal record.

Ms Ward

No but if they do not comply with it, it will be on their record. We have seen various examples in the United Kingdom where this has happened. In one a male alcoholic had been drinking on the street in a particular locality. The police had said he was not allowed to go into that area again or carry alcohol on his person. As the man is an alcoholic, of course, he will carry alcohol on his person; he needs treatment and help. He ended up in jail because he broke the regulations in his anti-social behaviour order. That is not the way to deal with such social problems. The community is the best place to resolve them. That is why we are opposed.

I thank the representatives whose contributions have been very helpful. As usual, they presented in a very professional manner and we are very grateful to them.

I now welcome Mr. Paul Maloney from Dublin City Council and representatives from the Cabra Community Policing Forum, Mr. John Fox and Mr. Niall Counihan, its co-ordinator. While members of the joint committee have parliamentary privilege, the same privilege does not apply to witnesses appearing before the committee. A copy of the group's submission has been circulated to each member of the committee. I ask delegates to focus on the highlights and the points requiring emphasis for the purpose of our deliberations rather than reading the submission in full.

We are delighted to be here and thank members of the joint committee for inviting us to speak on the document. I will focus on the areas we believe to be important. In that regard, the whole document is important. We see it as a working living document that is a "must read" for the committee. Regardless of the decisions and recommendations it eventually makes, we hope it will pay considerable attention to the document for a fundamental reason. The document is not an idea of one individual, nor has it been drafted by one individual. It is entirely of the making of a typical working class community in Dublin. It is a transcript of what was said and requested during at least nine public meetings which were very well attended by the residents of both Cabra East and Cabra West. In effect, it is their document. It is their view of how they see policing on a daily basis, what they see to be right and wrong and what they believe to be the best way forward. On that basis it is most important that the committee take cognisance of the whole document.

I am sure members of the joint committee will hear many statistics during the course of these hearings. This is the best statistic the committee is ever likely to hear because it is absolutely real. It is delivered to it by the people of Cabra. I will not focus on many of the issues involved. When members of the committee read the document, they will see for themselves what local people feel is wrong with policing.

I wish to focus on recommendation No. 4 in the document regarding representation. The previous two contributors referred to issues of representation. Fundamentally, people living in the area see that the community in general has a role to play in policing forums. Fundamentally, whatever comes from the Garda Bill, particularly section 4, to have trust between communities and the police it is vital that local residents have a say and an input into the local forums. The community was very much of the view that this recommendation should be implemented. It is vital that any local policing forum should have local representatives who could be local residents, independent community people or members of local clubs and organisations. If a partnership is to be built, it can only be done by members within the community and the Garda Síochána. We also see a role for Dublin City Council which will and should play a major role.

Recommendation No. 2 should be our terms of reference and also our objectives and aims. In all the meetings a number of points constantly came up, one of which was that the Garda Síochána should see the community as the client rather than anything else. The Garda is the provider, resulting obviously in the needs of the client becoming the goals of the provider. This resonates with some of the issues raised with the joint committee by our colleagues in Rialto who spoke about an attitude problem. I do not want to discuss such a problem because, fundamentally, our objective to have the community as the client and the Garda as the provider is worthy and speaks volumes for what we are trying to achieve. It also speaks volumes for some of the problems experienced on the ground.

Another issue that came up repeatedly in our meetings was accountability. If the Garda Síochána is to be the provider and responsible to the clients, it is the view of our community that a mechanism should be put in place with the forums allowing the Garda to be accountable to the client. The community believes this to be very important.

I point members to the details of the meetings outlined in Appendices 1 to 3, inclusive. These show the very real problems people face in typical working class communities across Dublin. For example, at practically every meeting the view was expressed that there were insufficient foot patrols, and insufficient feedback and response times from the Garda Síochána. While these may be explained by different factors, for us it is clear that the resources needed to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in our community are not available. In Cabra the Garda cannot adequately police estates. This is clear and was mentioned at practically every meeting.

When making its conclusions, I ask the joint committee to read very carefully all the recommendations we have made. The community has made five recommendations. The first is the establishment of a community policing forum, which we have done. We will have our first meeting within the next month. We will issue invitations to all the local organisations to send members to the forum and hope to have the local business community and the statutory agencies involved. We have terms of reference and objectives which I will not go through as members will be able to read them.

These are very real recommendations born from what people see as the problems and what they believe can be the solutions. The recommendations contain an acknowledgement of the problems and that the community wants to have aims and objectives and move forward in partnership with the main players in the forum. Obviously, the main players will form a tripartite partnership made up of the local community, the Garda Síochána and Dublin City Council. The Cabra Community Policing Forum has also recommended that the forum should meet on a quarterly basis and that the meetings should be reviewed thereafter. As the forum stated in its fifth recommendation, there is a need for an accountable consultation process. The co-ordinator will meet the community, in line with the process that was followed before the document was produced, to ascertain whether the forum is working and whether the community's aims and objectives, as outlined in the document, are being achieved. The two-way process will involve the forum and the community.

There is not much more I can say in this regard. The document submitted by the forum to the committee is a working and living document that speaks for itself. On behalf of my colleagues, I ask the committee to consider the document as a real document from a real community when it is reaching its conclusions. The committee will not see better or more important statistics than those contained in the document.

I thank Mr. Fox. I am tremendously impressed by the forum's report, which I read earlier. I mentioned to some members of the committee that the content and presentation of the document are impressive in every way. It is obvious that many people are involved in the Cabra Community Policing Forum. I would like to raise two matters. I advise the delegation to take note of the questions asked by members because we do not have much time.

The forum spoke about the accountability of clients to the Garda. Its opinions in that regard seem to be contrary to the contents of the Bill and the statements made by the Garda Commissioner and the Minister, who have said that the control and direction of the Garda are matters strictly for the Commissioner. All police under the Commissioner are accountable to him rather than to any other body. How can we reconcile the differing positions?

It seems that significant resources have been invested in the forum's meetings and report and its recruitment of a co-ordinator. What is the source of the forum's funding? Does it receive mainstream and permanent funding? What type of funding is it? What does the forum consider to be the best means by which it could receive funding? I refer not only to the Cabra Community Policing Forum, but also to forums of a similar size, nature and objective which may be established in the future.

I welcome Mr. Paul Maloney, Mr. John Fox and Mr. Niall Counihan. I join the Chairm an in complimenting the Cabra Community Policing Forum on the production of a fine document. There was a substantial process of consultation and meetings before the document was drawn up in detail. It is clear that this template should be the subject of serious consideration.

I agree with the Chairman that there is a degree of conflict between the forum's recommendations and the Minister's proposals. The Minister has provided that policing forums should be established by local authorities only with the consent of the Garda Commissioner. I ask the delegation to address this matter.

I would like to speak about the structures of the organisations under discussion. Does the forum consider that the limited liability company structure should be retained when policing forums are established on a statutory basis? Does it believe that the co-ordinator should be employed on the basis of an independent public interview process? Does it feel that local authorities or the Garda should be represented?

Page three of the Cabra Community Policing Forum's report relates to the structures of the management committee in the Cabra area, which is a local electoral area rather than an area committee one. What are the forum's thoughts on the relationship between the local electoral area structure, which it advocates, and the local authority area committee structure? I note that the structure of the board of directors advocated by the forum provides for the membership of any of the five Dublin city councillors who wish to be represented, but I see no reference to any of the local Dáil Deputies. We can bypass that. The forum has recommended that any interested member of local business or the local community can be involved. Is that not a recipe for mayhem as it might allow hundreds of people to be members of the management committee?

I would like to speak about the forum's fourth recommendation, which is for an independent chairperson. How does the forum suggest that an agreed independent chairperson be selected?

Policing forums in Northern Ireland receive 25% of their funding from local authorities and 75% of their funding from the Government. It is obvious that the forums will be statutory bodies in this jurisdiction. Does the Cabra forum envisage that the forums will receive all their funding from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform or does it think the local authorities will have a role? Perhaps Mr. Maloney will outline whether he thinks local authorities will be able to make a contribution to the funding of the forums.

How does the Cabra Community Policing Forum consider that the community policing forums will link with the joint policing committees? What will be the role of the committees? Does the forum think its proposals will be applicable to the committees? Does it believe that separate plans will be drawn up within the local authority joint policing structure that is proposed? Will the forum amend its plan to adapt it to its own area? Will it draw up a plan in its own right to meet the policing needs of the local area?

There is a need to distinguish between community policing and the mainstream police force. The community side of policing has been neglected to a certain extent because resources have been targeted at mainstream policing. If we are to adopt a new approach, does the Cabra Community Policing Forum believe that community police should be entirely separate and uninvolved in mainstream policing, such as issuing summonses and becoming involved in confrontational situations? Does the forum agree that community police should work with the community on a long-term basis to establish a relationship that might not show benefits within six months or 12 months, but will show benefits over a longer period of time after confidence has been established? If we do not make a clear distinction from the outset, we will not achieve that long-term objective.

I invite any one of the three members of the delegation to respond to the questions.

The Chairman asked about accountability, an issue that was also referred to by Deputy Costello. The Cabra Community Policing Forum agrees with the Minister that there is a need for executive accountability. It is obvious that the management of the Garda Síochána is an executive matter. If the Garda is to provide services to its clients, there is a need for some level of accountability. Somebody needs to be held accountable if the services are not provided. The Cabra forum has not suggested a method of accountability. It has simply said that a mechanism needs to be found to ensure accountability. It agrees that there is a need for executive accountability, but there is also a need for accountability to those who use Garda services. If the service is not being delivered, how can it be improved and how can the needs of the users be identified if there is no accountability? We believe there needs to be a mechanism in place.

On the question of resources, they currently come through the Finglas-Cabra local drugs task force. For the future the policing forum should be funded through Dublin City Council, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and through the local drugs task force. The local drugs task force funding is probably mainstreamed and it is a mechanism by which funding could be mainstreamed. The bodies involved should be Dublin City Council, the Garda, the local drugs task force and the Department.

With reference to the question from the Vice-Chairman, we agree with the comments made. We believe that community policing should be a separate issue to mainstream policing. We also believe it should have long-term objectives. Unfortunately, Cabra does not have what is considered to be community policing. We would very much like to see some community policing because we believe the process we undertook with the community showed that local people and ordinary citizens in general want to support the work of the police. If for whatever reason there is mistrust at present, we firmly believe that a community policing element would build up the trust needed. Our community is typical of any Dublin working-class community. The comments made by the Vice-Chairman would resonate very much with the residents of our area. They would very much look forward to a community policing objective.

Mr. Maloney will answer some of the questions asked by Deputy Costello and I will deal with the others. He referred to the recipe for mayhem. The Deputy probably misunderstood that element of the document. A management committee is in place. On the question of community people serving on the forum, this will be when the policing forum is in public session and when it is reporting back to the community in general. We envisage independent community representatives on the forum. We can identify the candidates because they are members of local organisations. We would invite them to a public meeting and will use a democratic process if necessary. We have ample numbers of volunteers, people who are very involved in the community and who are willing to come forward to join the forum. I take the Deputy's point. If interpreted in that manner it would be a recipe for mayhem but we have a system in place within the community and with which the Deputy will be familiar.

If the forum is to be a success, all aspects of community life should be represented. For example, if one considers some of the anti-social behaviour in Cabra as it impacts on the business community, then business people should be involved in the forum. Deputies and councillors should also have an input into the forum. The largest constituent affected by the work of the police is the community and in our opinion they should be represented. The representation may take many forms, either by way of voluntary activists on the ground or people with an interest in this area who put themselves forward and who will work on the committee. The Deputy's comment on the document in that regard arises probably because he mistakes the management committee with the public nature element of the forum. We suggest an independent chairperson for the forum in the initial stages to bring the partnership together. We also suggest a person independent of the area who would also have a background in facilitating, in order to develop the type of relationship needed to make the partnership of the forum a success. Over time we suggest the chairperson should come from within the forum and anyone from within the forum could aspire to be the chairperson. I will ask Mr. Paul Maloney to answer the other questions.

Mr. Paul Maloney

I am the area manager of the Dublin City Council in which the Cabra community policing forum and the north-east inner city forum are both located. It has been a pleasure to work with two very successful fora. The document produced by the Cabra group has set out the time line, the chronological order in which the whole consultative has taken place. We in the city council recommend to the committee both the structures as put forward by the Cabra forum and its management structures in particular. As the report of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the report by Dublin City Council makes clear, it is very important that all stakeholders are mobilised in order to support community policing. The Cabra structure more than does that.

I draw the attention of the committee to recommendation No. 4. That structure must include not only the local community but independent representatives of that community and the local representatives as well as businesses who are greatly affected by local crime.

I will answer the question, raised by Deputy Costello, on how the joint policing committees fit in. The committee was given a comprehensive report yesterday by the Lord Mayor and the city council which dealt with some of those issues. We see the area committee structure as forming a very important part while working with the forum co-ordinators, the joint policing committees or other means which can be worked out locally between the area committee and the fora.

The second question was about funding. The local authority would be very anxious to support the forum. Policing fora have a manifest effect on our estates and how they are managed and, more important, on the prevention of anti-social behaviour and dealing with it. We are actively investing in those estates. Over €115 million has been invested in the inner city estates since 1990 and this includes community facilities. This investment will be continued. Community policing is complementary to this investment.

We support the call made by the community for the community police to stay in a location for a considerable period of time rather than the current very high turnaround. We support both these fora and their work. From the point of view of Dublin City Council, it is very important that recommendation No. 4 is included in the committee's report. We take the view that any forum which does not have that kind of structure will not be successful in the long term.

I wish to ask the group one more question. Recommendation No. 4 is an excellent recommendation. At what level does the group envisage senior Garda management and local authority management in the fora?

Our preference would be that Garda representation would be at area superintendent level. From a community policing point of view, it is important that there would be a representative at inspector level. In terms of Dublin City Council, we would envisage somebody at Mr. Maloney's level, area manager level. In terms of the management of the estates it is important that a decision-maker is available to the policing forum in order to be able to act upon its recommendations or decisions. That is equally pertinent for the Garda. Therefore, both the Garda and Dublin City Council require senior management representatives.

Mr. Maloney

I support Mr. Fox's comments. We have appointed senior housing managers who are responsible for all elements of their estates, are forum members in their respective areas and have the decision making powers and funding authority to support the fora.

Mr. Fox mentioned funding from the drugs task force area. However, our current discussions also encompass fora which lie outside drugs task force areas. I ask Mr. Maloney to share with us his wider perspective as a local authority representative on how funding for fora may be achieved countrywide.

Mr. Maloney

Due to their positive impacts on the larger local authority estates in all major urban areas, we envisage that local authorities would contribute to fora alongside co-operation from officials of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to ensure support. The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs also provides funds on a national basis for CCTV and other projects which make a contribution to the work of the fora.

It depends on the priorities in the different areas. I thank the delegation for their presentation and I compliment them on their report which is very helpful to this committee.

On behalf of members I welcome the north-east inner city community policing forum. Before the delegation begins its presentation I ask Ms Marie Metcalfe to make introductions.

Ms Marie Metcalfe

I am the co-ordinator of the north-east inner city community policing forum, CPF. I am accompanied by Ms Sheila Leech, administrator of the CPF, Mr. Fergus McCabe, a member of the board of management of the CPF, Mr. Peter O'Connor, a development worker with the CPF, Ms Una Shaw, a member of the community and Mr. Donal Barron of Dublin City Council and member of the board of management of the CPF.

Before we commence, I remind the meeting that while members of the joint committee have absolute privilege, those appearing before the committee do not.

Ms Metcalfe

I wish to give a brief history of our organisation. Our community was affected by the drugs and drug dealing which occurred in the north east inner city. Young people died, including eight children who died in the summer of 1998. The community was anxious and knew that action must be taken. Drugs were sold openly within the area and people were intimidated by drug dealers. Members of the community felt that there was a lack of response from gardaí and Dublin City Council. A campaign was launched by the inner city organisation network, ICON, to explore solutions to the problems of drugs and their effect on the community. Local meetings were held, expanding from 50 participants at the first meeting to hundreds and then thousands. Gardaí were not invited to these meetings because of a lack of trust from the community.

Responses to the problem included marches to protest at drug dealing and to regain ownership of the community. This demonstration of people power was effective at forcing some of the bigger drug dealers out of the area. Unfortunately some people became involved in vigilante activity, which ICON and the majority in the community believed would undermine acceptable actions.

The north-east inner city community policing forum was proposed by ICON in 1997 to the local drugs task force as a result of this vigilante activity. The forum's board of management was appointed by the supply and control sub-group of the task force. Dublin City Council, the Garda and the local drugs task force each appointed a representative to the board, ICON appointed a community representative to the board and a chairperson was decided upon. Community representatives are now elected to the board through the forum.

The forum was established in 1999 and employed a full-time co-ordinator and a part-time administrator. It was officially launched in 2002 in Store Street Garda station by the Taoiseach, the then Garda Commissioner, Mr. Pat Byrne, and Mr. John Fitzgerald, Dublin city manager.

Speaking at the launch, the Taoiseach said that initiatives such as the forum could bring significant benefit by assisting the efforts of the Garda and that improved relations and communications between local people, the local authority and Garda personnel at local level, as demonstrated by the forum's launch, could help develop strategies to achieve common goals.

The Dublin city manager and the Garda Commissioner also offered their support to the CPF. Commissioner Byrne felt the CPF would provide a structure where local communities working in partnership with the Garda Siochána could develop solutions to local problems.

The board of management consists of Deputy Gregory as chairperson, Mr. Barron of Dublin City Council, Assistant Superintendent Séan Ward, Mr. McCabe of the local drugs task force and community representative Mr. Gerry Fay. The aims and objectives of the project are to co-ordinate a common community and Garda strategy against drug pushing and anti-social behaviour; to improve communication and help resolve difficulties between the community and the Garda; to liaise between Dublin City Council and residents' groups and encourage the development of new residents' groups; to promote community development, particularly with regard to the drugs problems and help the quality of life for local residents; to ensure that the law is effectively enforced against those involved in the supply of drugs, particularly heroin; and to reduce local fears of drugs and address concerns about anti-social behaviour.

The CPF operates through regular meetings of 28 local committees in flat complexes and streets in the north-east inner city which represent a population of approximately 12,000 out of a total area population of approximately 32,000. Minutes are recorded at all local meetings and copies are circulated to all agencies and community representatives as a basis for action. Issues that arise but are not resolved at local meetings are brought before the forum. Representatives have the opportunity to raise issues at meetings for which agencies are held accountable.

Every local committee is represented at the forum, meetings of which are held every three months in Store Street Garda station with an average participation of 70 to 80 community members. Senior gardaí and members of Dublin City Council attend every meeting of the forum to formally report to the community. Political representatives from the area are also invited with two Deputies, four councillors and one Senator attending the most recent meeting. While the Taoiseach was unavailable, he was also represented.

Confidentiality is a major aspect of the project. People people need to feel secure that information passed to the authorities will not have repercussions. A great deal of liaison work with the Garda and Dublin City Council takes place behind the scenes. Issues have been resolved with the effect that gardaí have been deployed in ways which suit both the community and the force. For example, where a resident unhappy with the treatment of her or her children by gardaí wants to have her voice heard, I can arrange a meeting with senior officers to listen to her complaints.

Funding is essential to keep the project running. On foot of demands on the community policing forum by residents from Ballybough and the North Wall area, particularly Sheriff Street, we felt there was a need for extra resources and have now employed three full-time staff. Dublin City Council provided us with a beautiful office which is centrally located on a main street in the north-east inner city. The facility functions as a drop-in location for individuals.

In terms of managing expectations, it has been found that while not all issues can be resolved, they can be listened to. The north-east inner city community policing forum is unique and has been fully operational for the last six years. We have received requests from other areas wishing to establish policing fora, including Cabra, Blanchardstown, Tallaght, Rialto, Fatima Mansions and Wexford, to provide information on the way in which our structures and system have worked. We have attended seminars at the request of the PSNI and the local authority to outline the operational structures of our community policing forum. We have also been asked by senior members of the Garda to make representations to European police, Store Street Garda station and public policy seminars. Representatives of the forum and the community have visited the Garda training college in Templemore on a number of occasions.

The community policing forum has been evaluated internally and externally by leading academics, Mark Morgan and Johnny Connolly. According to the community survey, 70% feel the Garda service has improved, 60% feel the local authority service has improved, 72% are more willing to provide information on drug dealing, 59% are more willing to provide information on non-drug criminal activity, 70% are more willing to provide information to the local authority on estate management and 45% are less worried about drug crime. The majority of community members wish to see the community policing forum continue. The forum has of late begun to deal with all community issues. I thank the committee for its attention.

I thank Ms Metcalfe. The most telling part of the community survey is that results are being achieved. I am impressed by the numbers of people participating in the quarterly meetings at Store Street Garda station.

Ms Una Shaw

I live in Rutland Street in the heart of the north-east inner city. Some years ago there were quite a few problems in the area and there were a number of significant drug busts. We had no one to whom to turn. It was impossible to be seen talking to a garda, much less to be known to have reported any wrongdoing such was the fear in the community. At the time, the community policing forum came to our assistance. Ms Marie Metcalfe became our voice and passed on our concerns to the relevant people when we felt we could not do so. The community policing forum was set up and, with it behind us, it was only a matter of time before our confidence was such as to allow us to become members. The forum has been a great success. I am glad that with the Garda and Dublin City Council addressing many of our concerns, the north-east inner city has become a better place in which to live.

I pay particular tribute to the community policing forum which has been of great help to the community since its establishment. The forum is now indispensable in the range of services it provides. I offer my sincere thanks to all involved.

Mr. Fergus McCabe

I am a member of the board of the community policing forum. Delegates appreciate the opportunity to address the committee and are aware of how complex are the issues involved. The forum, which is the only one of its type in Ireland, is radical in that it represents the first time such an approach was adopted. It has benefited from resources and proactive involvement by the Garda and Dublin City Council. That involvement has been essential. As members will know, many initiatives are established which look good on paper but which cannot work in the absence of proactive commitment. Without the proactive involvement of the Garda and the city council, the fine words and documents would mean nothing.

As its history shows, the forum has had a learning curve. When we started off, there was great animosity between the local community and the police. Among the achievements of the forum is the much improved level of co-operation and meaningful partnership between the Garda and the community. The police were not allowed to attend some of the earlier meetings in town, although the majority of people were not in favour of that scenario. Nowadays, the forum and the public meetings of the forum organisers have resulted in a greater degree of openness and transparency. This is partly due to the creation of a very clear structure according to which the forum operates. The forum meets every three months and is supported by local committee meetings in approximately 28 blocks of flats. The structure was not created by chance but through the hard work of Marie Metcalfe, gardaí and city council officials.

The community policing forum cannot work without resources. We have been lucky to have a co-ordinator who is independent of the key players of the city council and the Garda while being a full-time staff member. As the forum has expanded, additional staff have been provided. It is important to establish a clear structure, provide staff and resources and create terms of reference to which agencies can sign up and implement proactively. Forum meetings are not just attended by policing interests. The chief superintendent for the area attends with Mr. Paul Moloney, a senior council official, and, depending on the issues reported by local committees to the forum, drug squad officers or community gardaí.

Accountability is addressed in that all local meetings can be recorded as we have been provided with the staff to do so. If a person of any age reports a major or minor problem with drug dealers, it is recorded. If it cannot be resolved within a block of flats, a problem is forwarded to the forum where it is recorded again. We can see at a glance the number of issues we have relating, for example, to the harassment of older people or drug dealing and determine whether or not we are making an impact. I am sure committee members have attended meetings at which people have raised genuine problems in respect of which they can obtain no redress. If the police cannot resolve a problem raised through the forum, they must at least indicate what they tried to do. The exchange of information alone has sometimes satisfied the community. Members of the community are not fools and understand that we have good criminal justice law which demands a high level of proof.

At a lower level, the forum deals with anti-social behaviour. Membership of the forum must have a broader base than the Garda and include representation from the local authority, which is essential to the prevention of crime. Recently, when young foreign nationals on their way to and from O'Connell's school and old people were being harassed at a particular location, the city council was able to do two things. It installed cameras and when that did not work, it was able to close an entrance which stopped the activity in question to improve people's quality of life.

The key elements of success have been the structures created, management groups, resources and proactive involvement. Of most importance, as Ms Metcalfe stated, is that the process has been positively evaluated twice, once by Mark Morgan and once by Johnny Connolly. Those are some of the key issues.

I will pre-empt some of the questions which may be asked on funding.

We will first hear the questions.

I welcome the members of the north-east inner city community policing forum whom I know well. The great aspect of the presentation is that it relates to a community policing forum which has been operating successfully for some time and from that point of view it is the most advanced presentation the joint committee has received to date on this aspect of its work.

Will Ms Metcalfe describe what happens at a meeting in Store Street Garda station? Will she also comment on whether a police station is the appropriate venue for such meetings? Unfortunately, there is no representative of the Garda present to address the issue from the perspective of the force but perhaps a member of the delegation will inform the joint committee of what exactly the Garda does. Mr. McCabe referred to its role. Will Mr. Barron tell the joint committee what the local authority does arising from these meetings? Will Ms Metcalfe, as co-ordinator, then outline what she does between meetings to give us a picture of the level of activity taking place?

The issue of training was raised on several occasions and members of the forum visited Templemore training college. Do they have any advice on what is needed in this context given that community policing represents a sea change for the Garda and everybody else? Each of the participants in community fora, whether the Garda, local authorities or communities, needs support and training.

Will Mr. McCabe comment on funding? Inspector Jim Cannon has transferred to Manorhamilton or elsewhere. What is the view of the group on the length of time Garda representatives remain in position?

I do not know the extent to which members of the forum have examined the Garda Síochána Bill before the House. Do certain aspects of the legislation need to be adjusted?

Deputy Costello has covered many of the issues. A number of submissions outlined the position regarding best practice here, there and everywhere. Clearly, however, best practice is available on our doorsteps and we should examine it. Deputy Costello's questions on resources and structures, for example, on how we start community policing fora, are most important. Is it sufficient to hold meetings at three monthly intervals, with further meetings at local level in the intervening period? Do the local meetings feed back into the forum meetings?

The Garda Síochána Bill provides for the establishment of community policing committees and community policing fora. As regards representation, should communities be directly involved in policing committees rather than community fora? Should they be involved at the outset? How important is it to have a garda of high rank, for example, a chief superintendent, involved in the committees?

Ms Metcalfe

I will briefly outline how we work at local level and our work at the forum. It was difficult at the beginning and involved a great deal of leg work, discussion and effort to encourage the community to get involved. In some senses, it helped that I have lived all my life in the heart of the area in which I work. I have been a community activist for a number of years, working with Mr. McCabe and others and, therefore, my face was well known. The attitude was that if I was getting involved, something must be going on. I am not bad at a one-to-one level, encouraging people and so on, and I am making progress.

Many of the issues people wanted to talk about at local meetings were low key and related to maintenance, such as getting a bathroom or shower fixed. They wanted to know to whom they were talking before they would say anything and progress was, therefore, slow at the beginning. We had to get the community to understand what the Garda was and we had to understand the personality of the gardaí involved and how they worked. They also had to understand how the community worked. I understand how it works because I live in it and I am constantly working as a community activist.

As there could be a great deal of in-fighting in community groups, one must be aware of the situation and who are the right people. One must ensure that people are comfortable that if they pass on information, it will stay in the room. This cannot be guaranteed at all meetings because not everybody will be comfortable with everybody else in the room. My way of trying to overcome this difficulty is to ask people who wish to give information but feel uncomfortable doing so at a meeting or reporting it to the Garda to give it to me and I will take the matter from there. That is how we started off and it has been a slow process of building trust.

My community is now bypassing me and going straight to the Garda, which is nearly putting me out of a job. Although the scheme has worked well at local level, this has taken considerable time.

I deal with three Garda stations, Store Street, Fitzgibbon Street and the Bridewell. An inspector from each station receives the minutes of every meeting I attend at local level, generally within three days. This means that not only are the community gardaí informed but their superior officers also know what took place and what was said at local level. This information is compiled at all local meetings held over the three-month period. The Garda and Dublin City Council receive copies of all the minutes and, therefore, know what has been said during the three months.

I attend the forum and write up my report highlighting, in bullet points, all the issues causing major headaches for the community. Given that one cannot go through the minutes word for word at the forum, I read out the major issues of concern to the community in bullet point format. The Garda and Dublin City Council also receive my report a couple of days before the forum meets, which means everybody is ready for the meeting, although it does not always work so smoothly and somebody might tick us off about an issue. We are good at what we do, however, and can pull things together and address such issues as best we can.

Having read out my report at the forum, the Garda responds on the issues for which it is responsible and Dublin City Council responds on the issues for which it is responsible. This is followed by an open forum for feedback between the community and the agencies at which people can raise issues they want to have addressed. Does that answer members' questions?

That was very informative.

Mr. McCabe

The Cabra, Blanchardstown and north inner city policing fora initially received funding as part of the national drugs strategy because they form part of the drugs initiatives. If the programme is rolled out nationally, it should obviously involve the key players, namely, the local authorities, the Garda and the Departments of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I recommend that the joint committee support the delivery of resources to the programme because it will not work without them. At the operational end, the key players are the Garda and local authorities — while the two Departments operate above them.

If the Minister does not change the Garda Síochána Bill, as recommended by a range of groups, including the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the National Crime Council and our organisation, we will lose a major opportunity. It is essential that community and voluntary sector involvement be written into the joint policing committees.

We are lucky in Ireland that people are prepared to get involved in these types of initiatives in a voluntary capacity. Ireland is the envy of Europe in terms of how people from the voluntary and community sector have become involved in the drugs issue. The legislation offers us an opportunity and failure to change the relevant part of the Bill would be a tragedy.

It is wrong that the Garda Síochána has a veto. In terms of the partnership approach, one of the good things about the north inner city has been the level of trust which has developed. Informing and consulting the community does not take away from the operational autonomy of Dublin City Council and the Garda, both of which still have statutory and legal responsibility for whatever they do. There is absolutely no need for that type of veto approach that is inimical to the partnership system. The community and voluntary sector should be represented on the joint policing committees at town, city and regional level as well as neighbourhood level.

The Garda cannot be here due to organisational difficulties but the Commissioner was here and they have already made their presentation. However, they fully support this. Ms Metcalfe has gone down to Templemore and we hope to increase the level of interaction between our group and the Garda training centre. I am sure the committee has heard from other groups that there is a significant problem in areas like the north inner city, especially in regard to young people. We are contributing to Garda training in Templemore and we hope that will become more formalised. We are also exploring the possibility of meeting with District Justices because of anti-social behaviour and the community's view of it.

We use Store Street as a venue because it is a very good facility and the Garda have offered it. Over the years people have not gone into Store Street except with regard to something negative. This is something positive. It has changed a facility that may have been seen as secretive and exclusive into one that is more inclusive and open. People now go there not just for community policing forum meetings but for meetings about youth services etc. That is the way statutory agencies should go. I am sure Dublin City Council would not object to us holding meetings in some of its premises at some stage.

We very much welcome everybody's involvement, especially public representatives, TDs, councillors etc.

Mr. Donal Barron

Deputy Costello referred to the meetings held in Store Street. The north-east inner city is broken up into three areas; Ballybough, Sheriff Street-North Wall area and north-east inner city. Each area has a number of staff from project, estate office and community development staff who work within the community and with Ms Metcalfe. These people identify needs that come up in forums such as the one in Store Street. As Deputy Costello is aware, we are in the middle of a physical and social regeneration of the north-east inner city. CCTV installation is important in this area. We work closely with the crime prevention unit in Store Street. We identify poor quality social units in the north-east area and replace them with own-door units which has reduced much of the anti-social behaviour.

As a number of Deputies have said, promotion in the Garda Síochána and Dublin City Council has probably been counter-productive. I worked with Jim Callan, formerly of the divisional drug unit in Store Street. He is now in Manorhamilton. I had built up a significant degree of trust with him. He will be a big loss to the community policing forum and the people of the north-east inner city and Dublin City Council. Provision should be made in the Bill to address this problem. Any initiative depends on the drive of people that work on it, whether that be in regard to community policing or a drugs task force.

I thank Mr. Barron and everybody who came along today. It has been a most useful meeting. As we hear from more people and receive more submissions we realise how important it is that an excellent community policing relationship develops between communities and the Garda in the interests of everybody.

We will take a 20 minute break and resume at 12.15 p.m. sharp. This will also allow Deputy Costello, who is the Labour Party spokesperson on justice, equality and law reform, to make a contribution in the Dáil. I will get him a take-away coffee.

Sitting suspended at 11.55 a.m. and resumed at 12.25 p.m.

I welcome the members of the various drugs task forces: Mr. David Connolly, chairman, Ballyfermot local drugs task force; Mr. Philip Keegan, chairman, Blanchardstown local drugs task force; Mr. Joe Doyle, co-ordinator, Blanchardstown local drugs task force; Mr. Joey Furlong, chairman, Finglas-Cabra local drugs task force; Mr. Mel MacGiobuin, co-ordinator, north inner city local drugs task force; Ms Bernie Howard, a community member; and Ms Paula Johnston. I thank them for attending. While members of the joint committee have parliamentary privilege, the same privilege does not extend to witnesses appearing before the committee. They cannot libel anybody and get away with it.

I hope we have received written submissions from delegates. If they have not supplied them, I would very much appreciate receiving them. In the five minutes allowed to the speakers I want them to emphasise the points they believe would be of relevance to the joint committee. Questions will be asked thereafter, as was the case earlier in the day. I call Mr. David Connolly, chairman of the Ballyfermot local drugs task force, to say a few words.

There are 15 local drugs task forces. There is a network of chairpersons and co-ordinators and it is in my capacity as chairman that I appear before the joint committee. We have a two page submission in response to the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 and have attached to it, for the committee's information, a selection of views of different local drugs task forces. These views concern their experiences of policing and local fora. If members of the committee read the submission, they will get a good flavour of what is happening.

I will first provide background information and then outline specific proposals and recommendations. The local drugs task forces were established in Government designated areas of disadvantage in response to the crisis in opiate abuse concentrated particularly in those areas. As I stated, there are task forces in 15 areas. These areas have very large communities, as one will read from the list. They cover a substantial part of Dublin city, in particular, a large part of Cork, and Bray. The task forces are comprised of local residents, the community, voluntary and statutory sectors and elected representatives. The statutory agencies include the Department of Education and Science, the probation and welfare service, local authorities, FÁS, the health authority and the Garda Síochána. In some areas other agencies may be involved.

The Garda Síochána has participated since the beginning in the drugs task forces through local officers who, in general, have made a significant contribution to their success. However, the experience has been that they have been constrained regarding the level of information they have been able to provide and by the lack of a coherent and specific policing plan for each of the task force areas.

The task forces have been highly successful, as has been acknowledged by the Government, and have involved the establishment of over 600 local projects in response to the acute drugs problem in the affected communities. Among the initiatives established that are relevant to the Bill are the local policing fora in a small number of areas. The national drugs strategy has provided an important Government policy framework with a range of actions in support of the local drugs task forces and, more widely, in response to the serious crisis of drug abuse. I will refer to a particular part of the strategy.

The effectiveness of the local policing service is seen as a crucial issue in the successful fight against opiate supply and demand. Despite the efforts of the local Garda representatives, it is generally considered that the overall Garda response has not been adequate in the face of organised drug dealers, increased drug supply and the serious deterioration in the quality of life in the local drugs task force areas as a result of the scale of drug abuse. Despite the success of the local drugs task forces, the problem is still growing, changing and evolving. We are still in a crisis in many respects.

The network of local drugs task forces welcomes the introduction of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 in so far as it seeks to address the drug abuse crisis and improve the effectiveness and accountability of the police service in our communities. However, we wish to highlight a number of issues of concern and propose a number of recommendations for consideration by the joint committee and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

We are focusing on five proposals in sections 30 to 34 of the Bill. These sections relate to co-operation between the Garda Síochána and local authorities and the arrangements for obtaining the views of the public, including a proposal to establish joint policing committees within the framework of city or county development boards or otherwise, and the appointment of members to these committees. The Bill also sets out the proposed functions of the committees, including the establishment of local policing fora.

The local drugs task forces wish to propose that as they are established in Government designated areas of disadvantage, the structure for the joint policing committees should reflect this by ensuring a committee is set up in each of these areas. The committees would report to the local authority area committees comprised of elected councillors. In addition, each local authority should be asked to establish a strategic policy committee with responsibility for this issue. The city and county development boards are not the appropriate structure for this purpose.

The proposed functions and powers set out in the Bill are not adequate to meet the requirements or needs expressed by the local drugs task forces. It is vital that the joint policing committees are given the authority to oversee and monitor the delivery of the local policing plan for their areas and have access to the information necessary to ensure adequate deployment and targeting of resources to these disadvantaged areas.

The local authority strategic policy and area committees should have the power to oversee and monitor the formation of policing policy, the provision of area action plans and the implementation of the service in the wider area. This is an element that is not spelled out in the Bill but which lends itself to this approach.

Local policing fora should be established in specific neighbourhoods within the local drugs task force areas based on the relevant Garda division, in accordance with the model established in a number of local drugs task force areas. These fora should have adequate resources to undertake the work necessary and should enjoy a formal commitment from the Garda Commissioner that they will receive all the support and co-operation necessary to ensure their success. These fora will provide the means for local residents to interact with the Garda Síochána and propose improvements in the service locally.

We are gravely concerned about the proposal made by the Minister to the committee about the possible introduction of anti-social behaviour orders. The approach taken to date in the local drugs task force areas has been to encourage increased investment in facilities and services for young people. This has proved successful and the Government has committed significant resources to meet the needs of this approach. It is a more effective policy that should be maintained. Experience shows that a punitive approach that criminalises young people has a long-term detrimental impact on the communities in which they live. We caution the Minister against introducing new measures that could make the situation worse. I refer to sections 7 to 13 of the national drugs strategy.

Mr. Philip Keegan

I will speak about the work we have done in Blanchardstown, as outlined in the report we gave to the joint committee. A seminar was held in Blanchardstown that established a supply and control subgroup of the task force to develop a clear, effective and just system between relevant agencies and the community to assist in the reduction of the supply of and the demand for drugs in order that all residents could develop themselves and their communities free from the intimidation and adverse effects of the drug culture.

I firmly believe there must be real partnership. Sections 30 to 34 of the Bill detail arrangements for the Garda Síochána and local authorities to obtain the views of the public but they are not strong enough to meet the community's needs. The Bill makes provision for local residents to interact with the Garda and local authorities but we believe there must be meaningful partnership. If that partnership does not exist, this will not work because the suspicions will remain between the Garda and local authorities and local communities.

Mr. Joey Furlong

An equal say for the community is vital in any committee which comes into being. The track record of partnerships and drugs task forces proves that when the agencies sit down together on an equal footing, progress is made, as we saw in the previous two presentations. It is important that everyone involved has a clear role in the overall scheme, including community representatives. Independent co-ordination is also essential; no single agency should dominate the process. There must also be continuity with community policing.

Mr. Mel MacGiobuin

I support much of what has been said and emphasise the model developed in the north east inner city in terms of the community policing forum. It has built trust between the relevant agencies and the community that had previously been lacking. We should stress, however, when establishing the community policing forum and the wider boards, that independence and clear community representation are necessary in those structures and that, where necessary, the monitoring of both the Garda Síochána and the local authorities in carrying out their duties must be maintained at a level where independence is visible and operations are transparent. In that way allegations of difficulties or excesses can be properly dealt with to the benefit of both the community and the agencies carrying out their work.

Mr. Joe Doyle

If we look at the social partnership model in Europe, Austria and the Republic of Ireland are the only states that have taken the idea beyond wage agreements to look at social inclusion. Local drugs task forces, since they were set up in 1997, are based on the social partnership model. As a result, the proposal from Blanchardstown has come from the ground up, involving the community and voluntary sector.

It is important to note, however, that the community and voluntary sector was not included in social partnership until the Partnership 2000 agreement. At that time the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs issued a directive seeking greater cohesion between local and community development groups and State agencies. The submission from Blanchardstown is a testament to that approach. The local drugs task force is the lead agency but the RAPID programme and other structures contributed.

Ms Paula Johnston

It is my experience that the community must be involved and consulted. When the statutory bodies ran everything, they were unsuccessful, as we can see from the drugs crisis which arose in 1995. When the inter-agency drugs project was established, leading to the setting up of the task forces and the involvement of the community, we experienced some success. We are the people on the ground who live with this. We know what is going on. If the Government does not take advice from us, I do not know where it will get it. I plead that communities are represented.

There is a flaw in the Bill because the national drugs strategy refers specifically to establishing a co-ordinating framework for drugs policy in each Garda district which has a bearing on this new legislation. It also decided to extend the community policing forum to all local drugs task force areas if the evaluation of the pilot proved positive, which it did. This committee should refer at least some of the Government policies that should be incorporated in this Bill to the Minister rather than addressing them as new issues.

I regret that I did not hear the entire presentation but I heard most of it. I compliment the local drugs task forces on their initiatives in community policing in Dublin. That is why the national drugs strategy is beginning to highlight the importance of that initiative. We will take that on board as requested.

Mr. Connolly recommended that local authority strategic policy committees and area committees have the power to oversee and monitor the formation of policing policy, the provision of area action plans and implementation of the service in the area. Is he recommending that each joint policing committee, with the area committee, draw up a plan of policing for the area in its remit? If so, how does that square with the Garda Commissioner who may have different plans or with the senior gardaí in the area?

The Bill does not provide for community representation on the joint policing committees. I presume Mr. Connolly believes the Bill is wrong in that respect and should be amended accordingly.

How does the local drugs task force monitor the work done if it has established a partnership? Is the monitoring not inherent in the structure, with meetings, reports and follow-up on that? Is it necessary to have a separate oversight structure in place to monitor whether gardaí do what they should do? Can this not be done directly within the framework in place?

The Bill assumes it is not necessary to fund the local drugs task forces if the Department establishes the community policing fora on a statutory basis. Does Mr. Connolly think the local drugs task forces should fund the new structure or that the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform should have an Estimate to cover community policing? Should the local authority contribute to it? If so, will the major contributor dictate the running of the operation?

What is the role of the local drugs task force in the structures associated with the possibility of police fora and local joint policing committees? Bray and Cork are the only places where local drugs task forces exist outside local authority areas. In Dublin South-Central there are the Ballyfermot, canals community and Dublin 12 local drug task forces and this morning we heard from the Rialto Community Network which Tony MacCarthaigh suggested should include Inchicore and Bluebell, which is effectively the canals community.

It was suggested that the community policing fora areas equate to the drugs task force areas. Would that leave a vacuum in other areas around the city? How will areas throughout the country be involved?

I thank the Chairman for the opportunity to speak as I am not a member of the committee but have a particular interest in this subject. I thank the members of the task forces for their contributions, and the previous speakers too. On the question of how the work of the drugs task forces feeds into the forum, I have the impression that for security reasons there are issues the Garda will not discuss. It cannot name people or discuss ongoing operations.

Is there a need for a middle layer of consultation to which the community and the Garda operational officers could contribute? This could be incorporated into the structures proposed. The communities are sometimes frustrated when information is passed on and used in operations and they are not told. In the context of drugs policing, there might be scope for a level in the forum at which information could be provided and feedback given in a confidential and secure manner.

What will be the role of the local drugs task forces in respect of the committees advocated in the Bill? Will the committees take on the work of the local drugs task forces, will the two groups work in a complementary fashion or will the task forces be involved in the community forum?

Before we continue, I must leave to attend another meeting. I ask Deputy Peter Power to take the Chair.

Deputy P. Power took the Chair.

I thank the Chairman. I invite Mr. Connolly to reply to Deputy Costello.

I will answer some of the questions and divide the rest between other speakers. The planning process refers to a commitment already given that each Garda district and sub-district will produce drug policing plans. One part of that is an expectation that all the statutory agencies will contribute to the drugs task forces by way of plans from their own agencies in those locations.

Monitoring the plans depends on the wider issue of their becoming part of a local strategy, and of its accountability. This is wider than the policing plan but we need to remain focussed on the responsibility of the Garda to produce plans for the drugs task forces, which it has not done.

The task forces do not handle funding but approach a range of Departments and agencies as channels of funding. There is nothing to stop the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, for example, allocating funding for this purpose which is under the auspices of the local drugs task force plan but delivered through the probation and welfare service, for example. We already have a mechanism to do that. It would be a matter of making a case for additional resources, not of assuming that one can do this on top of the existing resources coming from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. There is no difficulty doing that once that case is made.

Regarding structures and their coherence, our proposal is quite innovative. In many ways the drugs task forces and their experience have been unique in the intensity of a local structure dealing with policing issues. While the task forces deal with a wider level of issues, there is probably no similar experience taking place in this State with this level of intensity. The expectations which have grown locally have been based on that experience. As Ms Howard said, people will not become involved with something with a pretence of accountability or a pretence of delivering. Proposing that these structures would review or advise is not a sufficiently strong response to what is happening on the ground.

The Bill is aimed at co-operation between the Garda and local authorities. We are trying to make a connection between the existence of local development structures — drugs task forces, partnerships and other community development structures — which exist in Government-designated areas. Excluding the drugs task force agencies, there are 30 of those areas across every disadvantaged part of the State. Accordingly, there is an alternative structure to local authorities. We propose a more effective connection between the electoral system, in this case in the Dublin drugs task force context, and the elected representatives of the area committees which exist throughout Dublin and Cork, their agencies being the local authorities, and we propose a policing committee for each of the drugs task force areas. This would bring a coherence to structures already there. It would include the local authority and the Garda as well as a wider remit for a new type of structure. It does not depend merely on local authority structures.

Senator Cummins inquired about the role of drugs task forces. They have a clear and specific role, involving policing among other aspects. We will hear other people's responses but that element of it needs to be more strategic in how it fits in to the task force role. Our time and effort will not go continuously and totally into policing but we need to make sure that something separate and distinct from it is not set up.

It is not intended that drugs task force areas will be community policing fora areas in total because it is already emerging that specific neighbourhoods based on Garda divisions, for example, are forming community policing fora. That is how we envisage it. We do not see an entire area, such as the whole of the inner city or the whole of Tallaght, being one forum.

Mr. Keegan

Deputy Costello said there was no provision in the Bill for community involvement.

There is in the joint policing structure, whereby a Commissioner can decide that a community policing forum is necessary.

Mr. Keegan

My experience on the ground is that the gardaí constantly ask the community for information. They recognise the need for community involvement but it is disappointing that when community information is provided, there is no feedback. The community does not know what has happened with the information. There should be a way of getting feedback and the community policing fora would provide an ideal way.

We are not asking for operational information. We do not need specifics, but for a community to be involved, it needs to know that what it has brought forward has been acted on, even though there might not be a final result from it. In some cases the Garda gets to a stage where it cannot advance a matter further. The community nevertheless needs to have a major involvement.

Mr. Doyle

A question was asked about the vacuum or gaps between the local drugs task force areas. Regional drugs task forces have been established, so they provide an opportunity to address these gaps. Regarding community involvement, people within the local development sector are fond of saying that it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes the whole village to keep that child safe. That is the perspective to be taken with regard to community involvement.

Regarding the establishment of the committees, drugs task forces are local responses to the drug issue and as Mr. Connolly said, the issues of justice and supply comprise only one of the pillars of the national drugs strategy. We have seen the need arise from the ground in so far as the committee policing fora have already been established.

Mr. Furlong

Regarding monitoring, the question was raised whether the upper levels were needed. The presentation from the inner city group noted that some issues can be brought only so far, so access to upper levels is necessary.

Mr. MacGiobuin

Information coming back is part of the monitoring role. In the community policing forum in the north-east inner city and within the structures of the north inner city drugs task force, we have seen that it is possible for the agencies, particularly the Garda Síochána, to report back not on every item but on the general picture regarding successful levels of operation, and to give the community a broad idea of how the Garda sees the levels of crime, particularly regarding drugs and associated anti-social behaviour. We get periodic information back in that context. The picture given is not complete but it keeps people informed and is part of the monitoring role.

People from the community and from the voluntary sector also accept that the agencies are not infallible, cannot do everything and that the Garda Síochána is one part of the criminal justice system. There are other parts of it which cannot come back with specific information regarding the Courts Service or in terms of the Prison Service in terms of the level of success in following something through. Such information has to be requested from other agencies. People accept and appreciate that when incomplete information comes back, then at least it is coming back. They also understand confidentiality around operational issues. Those structures that exist, such as the local drugs task forces or the partnership companies, could be used as mechanisms whereby information, reports and monitoring could feed back in the context of community policing fora, as in the case of the North Inner City Drugs Task Force to date, there being a conduit for information from the proposed joint policing committees in terms of providing information through the local development structures.

I reiterate Mr. Doyle's point. In the local drugs task forces, where supply reduction is a component, and the national drugs strategy there are other considerations. Addressing all those strategies in a combined and integrated manner is how the local drugs task forces are moving forward to deal with the problems connected with drug use and associated crime, something reflected in the national drugs strategy. Policing is part of that, but it must also be in contact with other elements such as education, health and social services. One can be most effective by dealing with it in an integrated and holistic manner.

Perhaps Ms Howard or Ms Johnston might like to contribute.

Ms Bernie Howard

I would like to see a higher body overseeing what is happening, for the simple reason that those on the committees should be accountable to someone. It is not only people in the relevant communities or the children living there that break the law, and the situation that we are experiencing is very serious. It is not simply a matter of children breaking the law, since people in statutory agencies are doing so without being accountable to anyone. That is why community people must be closely involved and the bodies made accountable to someone. People in communities must be helped to handle all that.

Before any further questions, I will shortly propose that we suspend for approximately five minutes pending the arrival of our next witnesses. Does Deputy Costello have a follow-up question?

The funding issue is obviously of great importance. The local drugs task force has complained of not having been fully and adequately funded over the years. We would like to see it put on a regular basis in future after the national drugs strategy mid-term review. How do the witnesses stand? How do they see their own position?

Do we need special training for those on the joint committees or the community policing fora regarding the Garda, and should there be separate community policing gardaí? Should there be separate training for them with the local authority, officials and the community? What is the witnesses' view, and how do they see them working out? There is a great deal of agency involvement, but how many agencies or Departments expected to get involved across education, health, social welfare and so on have revised their structures, and are they able to deliver? We are talking about having senior gardaí on the job, such as superintendent and chief superintendent, but will we get senior personnel from other structures? How can we rectify that?

We do not have area committees operating throughout the country. For example, Galway has no area committees. We were informed yesterday about some other counties where the local authority structure does not exist. The area committee operates exceedingly well in Dublin. I am not sure about some of the other areas we have heard about. There are other areas where the drugs task force does not operate. We must produce a report that reflects both the urban and rural situations. I would appreciate the benefit of witnesses' views on that.

The brief answer is that members should solve the rural issues, and we will talk about what we know. Having said that, even regarding the point Deputy Costello has raised, there may not be area committees, but there are in many or all disadvantaged areas local partnership structures with elected representatives on their boards and local authorities. The connection between them is the key issue.

I will make three points. We are aware we are the drugs task force, but the relevance of the learning that has taken place in this setting in recent years is clearly of much wider application. It would be a pity to proceed with a Bill that does not reflect the level of interest, commitment, involvement and expectation raised. We urge the committee to report back to the Minister that he must rethink the functions of such policing committees. Without doing so, the Government could set up structures very remote from needs and not acceptable.

The second point is that it is a local policing service equivalent to other types of service, such as health and education. All those public services must be accountable to elected representatives and consumers through local structures. The Bill does not go far enough in ensuring that happens. That is why the question from Deputy Costello about the area committees is vital. If we do not find that coming out of the Bill, we will end up with irrelevant structures on top of what is already in existence.

Third, regarding funding, the issue with which we are dealing is that the Minister has introduced a Garda Síochána Bill. Our assumption is that, if there is any serious intent behind it, the Government will approve the necessary funds, and the drugs task forces will not have to worry. Given that key elements are already Government policy through the national drugs strategy, we assume it will deliver on what promises it has made. That is as far as we need to go regarding this funding issue. The important point is that our experience and learning has an application but that it must be worked on, improved and beefed up.

Mr. Doyle

Regarding the funding, the establishment of the community policing forum in Blanchardstown and the task force has such a priority that it is willing to go through national drugs strategy funding to achieve that aim. Whether it is approved is another matter. The task force perceives that it should be funded directly by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Without that, and while the process regarding the Garda Síochána Bill is ongoing, the task force will pursue funding through the national drugs strategy in line with action on that level.

I thank everyone very much for taking so much time out of their day to come in, and I assure them that their expert views on this area will be taken on board during our deliberations. I commend all the excellent work of the drugs task forces throughout the city. We very much appreciate it. I welcome Professor Dermot Walsh of the University of Limerick whose reputation as an expert in this field precedes him. His contribution is much appreciated and will inform members' deliberations on this matter. I remind Professor Walsh that while Oireachtas members enjoy parliamentary privilege, witnesses appearing before the committee do not.

Professor Dermot Walsh

I welcome this opportunity to contribute to the debate on community policing, which is a vital subject for us all and not just a matter for the Garda Síochána and the Government. Community policing is not merely one aspect of the overall policing function which need be considered only in terms of allocating a number of gardaí to carry out foot patrols in certain areas. Community policing should be seen as an inherent concept in respect of our policing arrangements. An important aspect of this is the principle of communities policing themselves.

To illustrate this, I ask the committee to consider two policing models. At one end of the spectrum is the external control model which refers to a policing arrangement whereby the police force is detached and almost alien from the community and sees its role as concerned with the imposition of control from above. Such a model depends on internal resources in the form of extensive police powers and technological and material resources. This type of police force is not obliged to rely on the consent and co-operation of the community to achieve its objectives but rather depends on the fear it inspires in those whom it is charged to police. Examples of this model have existed in the past, primarily in the old Soviet bloc countries, and can still be found under many totalitarian dictatorships.

At the other end of the spectrum is the integrated consensus model whereby the police force is rooted in the community, identifies with its citizens and relies on the community to discharge its vital functions of law enforcement and the maintenance of public and social order. Such forces are obliged to resort only to limited police powers and resources in those circumstances or situations whereby the co-operation of the community is insufficient to achieve the force's policing objectives. One can expect under this arrangement that the police and community will identify with each other and that the force will be sensitive and responsive to the community's concerns, priorities, policies and practices. This policing model is usually associated with liberal democratic states in which power and government are heavily decentralised.

Traditionally, we have approximated more towards the integrated consensus model despite the existence of a centralised policing arrangement. The Irish model is based on an informal network of close-knit social and community networks. That gardaí have retained links with the communities from which they were recruited helps ensure a consensus between police and community without the need for formal arrangements.

This system may, however, be breaking down under the pressures of increasing urbanisation, wealth creation and multiculturalism. In some areas we have already reached the point where the traditional Garda-community consensus has effectively broken down. We are now moving into an era in which formal mechanisms must be developed to promote dialogue and understanding between police and community. This must be done at local level and also at the level of central government.

At community level, liaison committees should be established to encourage communication with local gardaí, with membership drawn from locally elected officials and representatives of relevant community groups with hands-on experience of local policing problems and concerns. These committees might meet on a monthly basis to discuss local concerns and to bring them to a meeting of local gardaí with a view to finding solutions. This would allow gardaí to offer their perspective in terms of their concerns about delivering an efficient policing service in the community. This arrangement allows both sides to work together through an ongoing dialogue in promoting, developing and sustaining acceptable community policing services and practices.

It is necessary to replicate this process at national level through the establishment of a national forum on policing. This body should be composed of diverse interests, including Garda and community representatives, and its function would be to meet at national level to discuss common aspects of policing concern in different areas and to engage with the Garda and Government in identifying how those concerns might be addressed.

I will expand on these ideas if members have any questions.

I encourage members to engage in a question and answer session. I should have mentioned at the outset that Professor Walsh is the director of the centre for criminal justice at the University of Limerick.

In view of the increased urbanisation to which Professor Walsh referred, is there a body of nationally or internationally recognised academic research in the area of community policing and anti-social behaviour? Given the professor's background, it was interesting that he did not mention the Patten proposals in terms of community policing. Does Professor Walsh believe these proposals have a role in respect of any models we might propose for community policing in the Republic?

Professor Walsh

There is an established and developing body of literature on all aspects of community policing, including those to which I referred as well as other aspects such as the management of anti-social activities and so on. This subject has been under debate for some 40 or 50 years in the United States and many attempts and experiments have been undertaken in devising arrangements, such as those to which I referred, in an attempt to bring police and community, particularly in urban areas, closer together. Representatives of police-community councils and liaison committees have come together on an international scale to discuss these issues. There is a massive, albeit diverse, literature and knowledge base available.

One must remember when dealing with this subject that policing arrangements and circumstances can differ quite dramatically between and even within different states. One cannot always assume that one can take a measure from elsewhere and simply apply it here. Having said that, it may be appropriate to refer to Deputy Peter Power's second question regarding the Patten proposals. The Patten proposals were devised with the particular policing circumstances in Northern Ireland in mind. However, it is generally recognised internationally that the Patten proposals constitute a statement of best practice in this area within modern liberal democracies. Effectively, they provide a blueprint as to how police and community can engage in dialogue to their mutual benefit. There is much for us to learn from the Patten proposals.

I welcome Professor Walsh. How do the proposed structures in the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 marry with the suggestions that he makes regarding community policing? The structures that he is advocating appear to be different. Will he elaborate?

Professor Walsh

As the Senator may know, the current proposals do not envisage a national centralised body at all, so in that respect my proposals differ fundamentally from them. At the local level, I can also see some differences. It is not terribly clear how the proposed arrangements in the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 would work out. My interpretation of the proposals indicates that they differ in several respects from my proposed suggestions. I understand that the Government's proposals will rely heavily on locally elected officials at least at county level. While I see a role for locally elected officials, I envisage the joint police liaison committees as being composed primarily of people who represent particular bodies or interest groups such as youth organisations, the elderly, the business community and civil liberties organisations or, in other words, of people who can bring hands-on experience of policing matters or practices in the community to the table in conjunction with locally elected officials.

The second difference I see may be a misinterpretation on my part. However, as I read it, the proposed committees are almost designed to be a support network to policing. They will exist to communicate concerns about crime, anti-social behaviour, an inadequate police presence and other issues to the Garda authorities. This is a very important task and I see it as an important aspect of the work of the joint police liaison committees which I suggested. However, I do not see it as the only role and I envisage such committees having an important accountability role. In other words, when controversial incidents or police practices arise in a community, these committees can act as a mechanism by which they can be raised immediately with the local gardaí and perhaps defused before they become matters of national importance or result in legal proceedings or in a major controversy about policing. I see these bodies playing an important role in inducing the local gardaí to explain their practices and performance, account for matters of local concern and work with the committees to try to devise solutions to problems that have arisen locally.

I welcome Professor Dermot Walsh as an expert in this area and I have read some of his writings. His proposal for a permanent national forum on policing had not been made to the joint committee previously and sounds interesting. However, his proposal regarding local policing community liaison committees seems to run counter to most of the submissions to the joint committee, including that of the Minister. Professor Walsh suggests that we should move away from the idea of a partnership between the community, the local authority and the police to one which excludes the police. The police would not form part of the committees but would be accountable to the committees. Does this concur with the professor's conception of the current position with an external control model as distinct from an integrated consensus model? There is no consensus in this approach and, effectively, the professor is proposing an accountability model. What geographical remit does he propose for these committees? Would they be based on local authority areas or Garda divisions? Would a local authority have a role other than being a member of such a committee?

How does the professor envisage the operation of special community policing? Does he envisage a culture change for the entire Garda or that community policing would constitute a specific area within the force whereby gardaí would undergo training in community policing in Templemore and thereafter would have a career and promotional structure in community policing? How does he envisage the involvement of the community? The joint committee has heard many different opinions as to how the community should be represented. The Minister himself does not see any role for the community as far as the joint policing committees are concerned. Does the professor view them as an inherent part of his proposed structures?

Professor Walsh

The Deputy has raised an issue concerning the basic nature of the committees and the distinction between my suggestions and those of others. I see accountability as being at the very heart of these liaison committees. However, it is not their only function or role and, in any case, I see accountability leading to consensus. I envisage these committees meeting local police commanders and other police representatives to discuss community problems, police problems and common problems. They will engage in a dialogue with a view to reaching mutually acceptable conclusions or agreement on the way forward. There also will be circumstances in which the police cannot agree with what has been suggested to them. In such circumstances, the police will be obliged to explain why their hands are tied, whether it is because of the law or the lack of resources or other reasons. It is a dialogue leading to consensus and, essentially, it does not differ from the police authority system operating in England and Wales or, to some extent, from the policing board in Northern Ireland.

I am not altogether sure how the proposed structures in the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 will work. I cannot see how these committees can be police-community bodies when the police are actually part of the bodies. It seems to me as though they will simply exist as support bodies for the police and that is insufficient. They must go beyond that.

The Deputy referred to the role of the local authorities. There are different ways in which these liaison committees can be established. As a general rule, they should be established at county council level. However, they should not be tied to county areas, particularly in Dublin and Cork or even Limerick. In such cases, there may be a need for more than one committee. In other areas, one committee could service several counties. Locally elected officials should be on these committees and local authorities might have a leading role in establishing them. A list of designated bodies could be invited to nominatepersons to sit on these committees. The local authority could have a role in selecting representatives as nominated by these bodies.

I welcome Professor Walsh and I thank him for his detailed submission. Can he offer us any codes or guidelines on the training of the committees, local representatives and voluntary groups that are involved? What is the link between the University of Limerick school of law and the Garda training college at Templemore?

Professor Walsh

There has to be an induction process for new members, as there will be limits to what these committees can do. There are also limits on the extent to which the Garda can comply with the wishes of these committees. However, such committees already exist in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. There would not, therefore, be a difficulty in drawing on past experience to develop guidelines and training processes for members of these committees.

There is no formal link between the school of law in the University of Limerick and Templemore. I have given talks in Templemore on a number of occasions and people from Templemore have done likewise in the centre for criminal justice in the school of law. However, there is no formal connection between the two.

The committee would like to thank Professor Walsh for attending this meeting. As he has an international reputation, his contribution today will be accorded much significance when we make our deliberations. I now welcome members of the General Council of County Councils. We met yesterday with members of the Local Authority Members Association and the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland, as well as the County and City Managers' Association. We also met the Lord Mayor's commission and the Confederation of European Councillors. As we are operating under time constraints, I will invite two members to make a submission and we will then have a question and answer session. We would also be happy to receive a written submission if there are any additional points. Members of the Oireachtas enjoy parliamentary privilege, non-members do not enjoy that privilege.

We represent the 34 county councils and five city councils in the State. We share the distinction, along with the President and the Dáil, of being the only democratic entity in the State elected by its citizens. The remit of the organisation thus covers the delivery of services in every form of community from city centres to rural settlements. County and city councils are the lead authorities in their localities for a wide range of local services. This role has been expanded in recent years to include the concepts of community development, cohesion and advancement. County councillors also have a representative role in respect of residents who live within municipal towns and who vote for county representatives. Much of the service delivery in municipal towns is delivered by county council administration. With all due respects to the other authorities, we represent the lead authority.

We welcome the Garda Síochána Bill, which provides for a structural relationship between local authorities and the Garda. I had more to say on this but, due to time constraints, I will hand over to my colleagues.

Councillor Michael O’Brien

The committee received a written submission before this meeting, from which we do not wish to deviate. However, we are willing to answer any questions that might arise from the committee's consideration of the document. We are familiar with this concept as we have had the opportunity to discuss it previously.

We are aware of the fact that there are templates in other countries for interaction between local governments and the police. We are somewhat concerned about one aspect of the configuration, namely, the suggestion that Oireachtas Members be part of any local government and policing body. Two members here today are former members of the General Council of County Councils. They are well aware that we spent many years trying to get Oireachtas Members out of local government. Thankfully, we got them out but now they are trying to get back in again. In our opinion, this is contrary to the concept running through local government-local policing issues. It is reintroducing Members of the Oireachtas to this and we will be reduced to holding sessions on Mondays or Fridays to suit them. We cannot afford to have this happen again. With the implementation of this type of committee Members are even more restricted in the time they can give to local government issues. We find it, therefore, unworkable to suggest the reintroduction of Oireachtas Members into local government business.

The second matter concerns the obligations we have as elected members to report to the public and how these might be in conflict with the issue of confidentiality, which is an essential part of policing. We must be satisfied as members that very clear guidelines are drawn up and that the positions of local government representatives are not compromised. As was said earlier, we only have qualified privilege in local government whereas Members of the Oireachtas have comprehensive privilege. We must be careful for ourselves and the people we represent, to ensure proper procedures underpin our positions and open channels for making public statements. In the same vein, we have concerns regarding themodus operandi section of the proceedings that the public is satisfactorily made aware of what we are doing on its behalf. This is a question of how the guidelines are drawn up.

Another of our concerns is that we must have a comprehensive training regime in place that would enable us to satisfy the interests of the people we represent. We often try to mix local government with our full-time jobs and it is quite difficult for people to receive the necessary training to equip them to deal with the issues likely to arise. For this reason, we suggest that a programme of detailed interaction be put in place between local government members and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to deal with the issues that arise.

As we are restricted in the number of speakers, other members will raise the matter of resources. The committee's members know we are concerned that the local government system would be further burdened by obligations that are not funded properly by central government. There are many areas in which we have previously been saddled with responsibilities without receiving the necessary resources to fulfil them and we are concerned to ensure this does not happen again. We are willing to answer any questions about our comments.

We are conscious that we will be able to return to any elements of the contribution as part of the question and answer session. I have a number of questions but Deputy Costello, therapporteur to the committee, will ask his first.

I welcome the General Council of County Councils. I was a member of it before the umbilical cord between the Dáil and local authorities was cut. Perhaps I should not say anything about whether or not there should be Members of the Oireachtas in this body. There is a specific provision dealing with Members of the Oireachtas and I presume the council wishes to have it deleted in respect of the establishment of the joint policing committees. I will not argue about this now.

We received a proposal on town councils being part and parcel of the joint policing committees. As the General Council of County Councils is the lead authority, as has been said, what is its view on this proposal? On the matter of reporting issues, the privilege would be the same for all of us. We only have parliamentary privileges within the Parliament and they would be qualified as a result. What are the visitors' views on community involvement in the joint policing committees? Unlike the Garda and the local authorities, the community is not specifically included in the legislation.

Mr. O'Brien's points about a training programme are well taken. We are interested in this area as well as the issue of resources because they are the bane of any programme or project put in place. Unless adequate education, training and resources are provided, it is difficult to do anything about these projects.

I, too, welcome the chairman, the vice-chair, Director Liam Kenny and the members of the General Council of County Councils. I thank them for their submission and their interest in this issue, which is paramount for local authority members. The general council campaigned vigorously and was successful on the matter of Oireachtas Members but I have always been public in saying I was unsure as to whether it was a good idea. Nevertheless, I would welcome the Members' involvement in this process. The members of this committee are very aware of what is being requested by a myriad of people who have come before us and it is important that a clear connection be made between the Minister and his Department in the implementation of this process. This is the first group that has declared it does not wish to see Members involved but I will be as clever as Deputy Costello and say no more.

In which way does the general council believe local authorities will be involved in strategic policy committees? There was a proposal for the establishment of a new SPC to deal with this matter. To follow on Deputy Costello's comments, the AMAI was clear on the composition of the JPC, namely, the Oireachtas Members, the elected local authority members and gardaí, with the fora composed of various voluntary groups. What are the visitors' views on this? I welcomed the recognition of the AMAI as the municipal group. Crimes are committed wherever there are large urban centres and it is important that town councils are included in this process. We welcome the success of their campaign in this.

Mr. Albert Higgins

I will answer some of the questions. We represent all of the county councils but also the five largest boroughs in the country. We represent everybody. Ms Constance Hanniffy may elaborate on this but we have a concern about our membership in that these committees might be diluted. We have been working with SPCs and county development boards but, at the end of the day, these fall back on the elected members who attend 100% of them. There seems to be a fall-off of the voluntary sector's involvement in serving on these committees. Their composition must be mainly elected members. We are the ones at the coalface. People approach the elected members if there is a problem in the middle of the night. Upon examining this, there is a danger that JPCs will be diluted as elected members will form a very small part of them. We represent every county and the five major boroughs. We represent everybody in this country.

Councillor Constance Hanniffy

I value the questions that have been asked, particularly that posed by my colleague, Deputy Costello, in which he addressed the role of town councils. Like the previous speaker, I am concerned about this being diluted. If there are too many members, sub-comittees or fora, the whole board will become diluted. It will become hard to police the community policing authority. That could raise difficulties with confidentiality, as well as calling into question the role of this body. The more it is diluted with representative organisations, the more it will deal with specific issues rather than broader policies.

Many who have worked under the SPC system have encountered the problems I am anticipating. We called these the teething problems, where people were still talking about parochial issues. Discussing such trivial matters in public is acceptable, even though it should not be done, but to discuss the matters that would be raised on this committee as envisaged under the proposed legislation would be dangerous. This committee should be tight-knit and should be comprised of public representatives. We are elected community representatives and the buck stops with us.

In the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 it is envisaged that this system be bedded down in local government. It must be under the jurisdiction of local government and if there are sub-committees and fora, there must be a proper and focussed channel for the transfer of information from one committee to another. Community policing involves creating better communities and increasing respect. If this is to be carried through, confidentiality and a tight network are most important. I hope members' questions have been addressed in our responses.

The points are well made.

I welcome my former colleagues on the General Council of County Councils. When the Bill was introduced, the Minister advocated a development board system for these joint policing committees. That was changed in the Seanad to highlight the primacy of elected members. It may be changed again as the Bill passes through the Dáil. What is the opinion of the councillors on community involvement in the joint policing committees in addition to elected members? The committee received in excess of 50 submissions, a significant number of which emphasised the need for community involvement. Would focus be lost if other people were involved?

I have a final question for Councillor Carey. Training for councillors was mentioned in the presentation. The point was made by Councillor O'Brien. What is the exact nature of the training needed and who might provide that training so that duties could be carried out effectively?

Councillor Hanniffy

Perhaps I could respond to Senator Cummins. The county development board is an all-embracing mechanism. It is perhaps the least harsh face of local government. Elected representatives and gardaí should be the sole members of this committee. There is a mechanism for consultation which could operate through the county development boards and to feed into the committee. Whether we set up another SPC is a matter for another day. If we set up a committee, it will need resources. There should be a fixed number of people on the committee. The maximum number of public representatives should be members because they are community representatives.

There could then be a specific consultative role for community organisations. A broader role would not be acceptable because it would give rise to issues of confidentiality. This interaction could best be facilitated with the framework of the county development boards, which have their own social inclusion and other units and on which community fora, health boards and the Department of Social and Family Affairs, which has a key role to play, are represented.

Councillor O’Brien

We have not yet discussed the issue of training in depth. We hope to develop that. There is a long track record of co-operation between the general council and, for example, the Institute of Public Administration, IPA. We run joint courses for SPC chairpersons in local government. We also run a training programme in conjunction with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. We would suggest that this could be extended with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

I ask Councillor Carey to make a concluding remark.

I was going to reply to the point about SPCs, but Councillor Hanniffy answered it. Who is going to pay the cost of an SPC? Local authorities should not be asked to do so.

We regret the time constraints but we accept them. We ask the Chairman to acknowledge this submission in the contents of any report that may emerge from these deliberations. We would like to return to the committee, if possible. We discussed this in the morning with all members of the executive. With the changes in schedule, we lost a great deal of time. We are taking this issue seriously. We are the elected representatives and we represent everybody. It would not be fair to tell the Chairman who should be represented on this committee. With respect, we represent many areas such as Galway, Waterford, Dublin, Fingal, Leitrim and elsewhere.

Poor old Limerick is being divided up.

I assure Councillor Carey on my own behalf and on behalf of committee members that we will treat his contribution today very seriously because of the number of people his organisation collectively represents; it will form an important part of our deliberations. Councillor Carey can be assured also that his contribution will be acknowledged in writing and furthermore that he will receive a copy of the committee's report in due course.

I thank Councillors William Carey, Constance Hanniffy, Albert Higgins and Michael O'Brien and Mr. Liam Kenny, Directory of the General Council of County Councils, for appearing before us today and raising a number of interesting and insightful points upon which the committee will deliberate further.

This brings us to the end of the penultimate day of hearings on this matter. Tomorrow the committee will meet representatives from the Nenagh Reparation Project, the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland, the Small Firms Association and the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association.

The joint committee adjourned at 2 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Thursday, 24 March 2005.