Public Order Offences: Statements.

I am grateful for this opportunity to address Senators on the disgraceful behaviour of a small thuggish element who brought shame on themselves in Dublin on 25 February.

A demonstration had been organised by the victims' group FAIR, families acting for innocent relatives. This organisation is composed of persons who have lost a number of family members at the hands of republican subversives. FAIR claims to represent some of the victims of so-called republican paramiltarism. The summary of the Garda report detailing its planning for the demonstration is appended to my contribution and has been distributed among Members.

While I may not agree with most of the positions adopted by FAIR, particularly as they relate to the efforts of the Irish and British Governments to bring about lasting peace and a return to democratic norms in Northern Ireland, I will uphold the right of the victims of violence to present their points of view in a peaceful and democratic manner. The stated object of the march was to highlight the plight of victims to the people of Dublin and to the Government here. The agreement with the Garda was that there would be no sectarian music of any kind and there would be no paramilitary flags displayed. Union and Ulster flags, however, were to be carried and victims' families could display pictures of loved ones who had been killed. The parade was supported by the Orange Order; however, members of that order were not to parade in their colours.

It is a fundamental right in a democracy that citizens can demonstrate publicly and peacefully. This was not allowed to happen last Saturday. As Senators will have witnessed on television screens and in newspaper photographs, the right to assemble peaceably — a right guaranteed by Article 40 of our Constitution, which also guarantees the right to freedom of expression — was denied to fellow Irish men and women, even if they might resist that description of themselves. It matters not a whit that many of us here would be in profound disagreement with the politics of the people in question. The very essence of democracy is that all voices can be heard.

I can only repeat in the strongest possible terms — and I know that Senators will join me in this — my outright condemnation of the subversive, sectarian and anti-democratic element which brought such mayhem to the streets of our capital. They will be pursued and brought to justice. The Garda Commissioner has told me that very careful investigation is ongoing as regards all the evidence available, particularly the CCTV footage, to identify the culprits and participants and to bring those who have not already been arrested, to justice.

I believe the House will also agree there were scenes of outrageous fascist behaviour as regards foreign immigrant workers, both on the streets and in shops, who were attacked very viciously on a random basis, simply because of the colour of their skin. We cannot and will not allow witless thugs to decide who has civil liberties in our society and who does not. Their behaviour was the antithesis of true republicanism, it subverts our Constitution and it cannot be tolerated. Aside from placing the public in danger and damaging property, a propaganda victory of sorts has been handed to those who for their own reasons seek to portray our society as intolerant and ungenerous. This, of course, grossly misrepresents the position of the vast majority of people in this jurisdiction who wished the parade to proceed without trouble.

Questions have been raised as to whether it was right to let the parade go ahead but the right to demonstrate peacefully has long been a tradition. Indeed, it would be unusual if some form of demonstration did not take place on any weekend in our capital. In the vast majority of cases, such demonstrations proceed without incident. Various manifestations of the so-called republican movement, which in fact traduces genuine republicanism, regularly demonstrate in Dublin.

When gardaí were made aware of the proposed march, they initiated a process of working closely with the people involved so as to allow it to take place safely and with the minimum of disruption. No Member of this House could argue that the Garda Síochána should have maintained, on the basis of the available information, that the march be cancelled. To do so would have set at nought the rights of the people involved for the sake of a quiet life. In dealing with this matter, the Garda Síochána had to take difficult decisions to reconcile competing requirements, including, deciding on the day that it would not be safe for the march to proceed as proposed and making alternative arrangements for the marchers to demonstrate outside the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The response of the Garda Síochána to the sudden maelstrom of violence which engulfed Dublin city centre has been a focus of debate. I am happy to rehearse the comments I made in the other House on Tuesday — as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform I am politically accountable for the Garda Síochána and I stand four square behind our gardaí, the preparations they made and the actions they took. I stand behind every member of the force who had to deal with the events as they unfolded and who performed with bravery and forbearance in the face of a vicious assault. There has been no suggestion that gardaí used untoward violence on any person or involved any innocent bystander in their operations. I would like to take this opportunity to again convey to the injured gardaí and their families my wishes for a speedy recovery and gratitude for their courage.

I hope that the publication of the Garda plans for the demonstration has put an end to any ill-informed speculation that gardaí had somehow failed to prepare for Saturday's demonstration. A comprehensive operational policing plan was put in place and, while lessons should and will be learned from the way events unfolded, I have full confidence in the Garda's preparations. Given the information available in advance of the march, it is not clear to me how the Garda could have behaved differently. If a ring of steel had been prepared, with a three-person deep escort for the march and the closure of streets, pubs and shops, that would have defeated the purpose of the march and, as Senator Maurice Hayes has noted, could have had the counter effect of creating more appetite for violence and confrontation.

The decision was made by the Garda authorities to take a relatively low key policing approach, in which every opportunity would be given to allow the event to pass off normally and peacefully. The demonstrators were to be allowed to process through the capital, just as the small number of anticipated counter demonstrators were to be allowed their right to protest. The policing plan for the day provided, however, for a significantly higher number of gardaí than would normally be deployed for a protest march on the scale envisaged.

The number of people, the hostility and naked aggression faced by gardaí was unexpected. The Garda, from open and other sources, were aware and prepared for opposition to the FAIR demonstration and, in particular, the intention of Republican Sinn Féin to mount a peaceful counter demonstration. There was no credible intelligence, however, that extreme violence would be used or that so many others would become involved. One of the questions that the Garda investigation into these confrontations will seek to answer concerns the level of pre-planning and co-ordination involved in Saturday's trouble. If it transpires that extreme political elements orchestrated the dreadful scenes of last weekend and planned the vicious attacks that saw petrol bombs launched at Garda officers, then once again they will have been guilty of shaming themselves and of setting back the cause of Irish unity. That Republican Sinn Féin declined to engage with gardaí preparing to police the demonstration or give any advance information as to its intentions in carrying out the counter protest was despicable and should be condemned by all shades of opinion in this House. We have only one police force and it is the duty of every citizen to co-operate with it. Nobody has the right to withhold information from the Garda Síochána or to act in secrecy in matters of this kind.

As is normal practice, a full debriefing will now take place with personnel from each of the sections involved in the operation, in which the evidence will be studied and statements collated. Video footage taken by gardaí and others will also be carefully examined. A review of the operation will be undertaken in the context of how future events might be handled and appropriate actions will be taken. The Commissioner will consider all aspects of the operation and will report to me on any requirements for the future. I am confident that any ensuing lessons will be learned. Saturday's events suggest risks which will have to be addressed in terms of other the events that will take place in the capital in the near future.

We should not be distracted from the central feature of this shameful episode. It was a vicious attempt to prevent democratic protest in our city streets by people who do not understand what republicanism means or what the green, white and orange tricolour — our national flag — stands for. This House must send the message that Irish people have taken an historic step by overwhelmingly endorsing the Good Friday Agreement, which is based on the principle of reconciliation rather than polarisation and division. We all desire an island of tolerance, mutual respect for differing traditions and, above all, peace. A small rabble, however vicious and cowardly, will not deter us.

May I share my time with two of my colleagues so that I will speak for four minutes and my colleagues for three each?

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the Minister to the House and thank the Leader for organising this debate so rapidly. The Minister stated that he has the responsibility to stand four square behind the Garda Síochána with regard to last Saturday's events. However, that is not only the responsibility of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform but also of the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Garda Síochána is not a creature or arm of the Government. It was established under statute dating back to 1924 and any amendment to this legislation must pass through these Houses. Thus, it is demonstrably a matter for all shades of political opinion in this and the other House to stand four square behind the Garda in terms of last Saturday's appalling events.

The Minister rightly condemned the actions of Republican Sinn Féin and, in recent days, I have noted an inability on the part of that tiny organisation to clearly state that people with information on the riots should come forward to the Garda. It must be condemned for that inability and, as long as it refuses to tell its supporters and other apparatchiks that it is unacceptable not to co-operate with the Garda, it must remain outside the political norm.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the gardaí who stood by the Republic despite intense provocation. Every shade of political opinion on this island has a right to march from Parnell Square to Leinster House. In this Republic, it is the traditional route used by a group of people who wish to ensure their voice is heard. It is as important for these people to be able to march outside the GPO as any other group. I am worried about the fact that a virulent neo-nationalism has taken hold in this country, largely due to the rise of Sinn Féin in recent years. Perhaps, we could revisit this issue at a later date.

A vacuum has been created for many young people. As members of the political process, the constitutional parties of this Republic have left this vacuum in existence to be exploited by those who trade in a new revisionist form of history which seeks to justify every act carried out over the past 35 years. Weasel words have been uttered by those who should know better and provocative comments have been made. Ill-tempered remarks were made in the House yesterday about the bigotry of the Orange Order. This is not the time for such comments. We must show leadership where this vacuum has been created.

In respect of the upcoming St. Patrick's Day festival, will the Minister consider banning the sale of alcohol from off-licences in the vicinity of the parade in Dublin? Much of what took place last Saturday was drink-fuelled. On the Order of Business this morning, I raised the possibility of banning the sale of alcohol from off-licences in the run-up to the parade as a way of ensuring that the parade remains a family occasion, the city remains a space for families and the parade remains a celebration of our national feast day, as opposed to turning into the kind of drink-fuelled binge we witnessed last Saturday and on previous occasions.

I wish the gardaí well, particularly those injured as a result of this outrage. We have a responsibility to stand behind the gardaí and ensure this outrage never occurs again.

I also condemn the thugs who brought shame on our capital city and the flag. People state that the troublemakers brought shame on themselves but these people have no shame and do not care whether they bring shame on themselves. Unfortunately, the thuggish elements in our society had a platform from which to attack democracy. We must ensure that these people will not get the same platform on 17 March 2006.

I am very concerned that there will be a repeat of last Saturday's trouble. These people will be fuelled by drink and perhaps to a lesser extent, by drugs. What provisions have been put in place by the Minister to ensure there will be no further outbreak of trouble on St. Patrick's Day in our capital or some of the major towns around the country? I am worried that copycat violence may occur and that these thugs and neo-nationalist criminals will simply look for any excuse to cause trouble. I hope gardaí will receive the proper resources with which to deal with the threat of such trouble. The Minister will receive the complete support of everyone in this House to ensure this year's St. Patrick's Day is incident-free. I am worried about a possible outbreak of copycat violence so soon after this unfortunate incident. I stand firmly behind the Garda and everyone who monitored last Saturday's march.

We must ask ourselves questions because we can learn from this incident. We should possibly ask ourselves questions about co-ordination among those policing the march and the intelligence available to them. Perhaps gardaí should examine their own conduct. Is it possible to police a march with inadequate intelligence? We must do more to infiltrate these groups of vicious thugs and ensure there is no repeat of the trouble caused by them.

I thank the Minister for coming to the House at such short notice to allow Members to voice our concerns about what took place on Saturday and pay our compliments to the gardaí on the way in which they managed last weekend's riots. The riots brought shame on us all. The people who caused such mayhem represented our country. The trouble was seen by visitors to Dublin and people across the world on television. The trouble brought shame on all of us at a time when we thought bridges had been built and progress had been made with regard to our friends in the North.

I give my full support to the Minister and the Garda in their efforts to ensure gardaí are given the resources to tackle this type of violence so it does not recur. Despite their preparations, gardaí could not anticipate that such an event would take place. We must wipe out the element in Irish society which seizes any opportunity to create trouble. We must eliminate this element in every town and village in the country and make it clear that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated.

This violent behaviour begins with anti-social behaviour. We witnessed something on our streets which we never want to see repeated. We support the Minister and gardaí in their efforts to do whatever is necessary to combat this type of behaviour so we never again see petrol bombs and other missiles being thrown at gardaí and witness the force being treated with such contempt.

I share my colleagues' concerns about the St. Patrick's Day parade or any other parade which could be held in the future. Once violence on the scale of that which occurred on Saturday occurs, it is likely to recur. The young people involved in the violence appear to get a buzz out of it. The people behind the violence or those who know people involved in orchestrating the violence, should come forward. We have heard certain people on the radio claiming they know who was involved in the violence. These people should have the courage to name those involved but they obviously do not have the courage of their convictions even though they claim to be in positions of authority in certain organisations. We can see that they will hide behind their organisations, which should not be tolerated. Therefore, the Minister, and particularly gardaí, have our full support.

I wish to share my time with Senator Jim Walsh.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I thank the Minister for his remarks, which show how the vast majority of people, particularly those in Dublin, feel after the events of last Saturday. I also wholeheartedly condemn the scenes we witnessed in O'Connell Street and throughout the city last weekend. The naked violence and hatred displayed by a very small and unrepresentative group brought shame on Dublin people.

During the week, some commentators laid the blame for the trouble on a small group of disaffected young people from the north inner city, which is wrong.

It is wrong.

The men I saw on O'Connell Street were adults and their accents were not those of Seán McDermott Street. The men with the earpieces and mobile phones were grown men. I look forward to the investigation and its results. It would be interesting to go through the names and addresses of those involved in the trouble.

I know some of the gardaí who were injured on Saturday. I am aware of the amount of consultation and planning that went into policing the march. The Garda could not have planned for the trouble because it was hidden and secret, but organised. The results of any investigation must be examined very carefully.

If anything good emerged from last Saturday's events, it might be that it opened people's eyes to what some of these groups are capable of. On one hand, millions of euros of taxpayers' money is poured into improving O'Connell Street and our capital city and attracting people to it, but on the other hand, the people behind the trouble do not care about the harm they cause and the effect they have on our economy, people and capital city. As the Minister noted, marches and protests are held in Dublin on most weekends, all of which pass off peacefully. It is unacceptable for certain people to hide behind so-called republicanism and use it as an excuse to cause mayhem and anarchy. We must take a stand in this regard. The events of last Saturday might open people's eyes and give us an idea of what we are up against.

I commend the gardaí and Dublin City Council on the way they handled the situation. I visited the area early on Sunday morning and Dublin City Council staff were still clearing up. The council had the area almost back to the way it was before the violence took place. The gardaí protected the people to the best of their ability. When one considers the naked violence that took place, it is a tribute to their training and professionalism that no one was killed.

I look forward to the results of the investigation. While we must take these issues seriously, we should not be afraid or worried about holding other events in the future. In a democracy, everyone is entitled to walk the streets without fear.

I would like to join with all those who condemned the unfortunate events that arose in O'Connell Street on Saturday. It brought shame to those involved and did nothing for the image of this part of the island where there was potential to do good, which I regret.

In regard to the march itself, I know from my contacts with people in Northern Ireland that people on both sides of the divide have suffered much hurt which will take a generation or generations to forget. I recall more than 20 years ago a very fine Unionist politician coming to New Ross for a twinning ceremony. Something he said remained with me. He asked that the pupils from the schools in the two towns should spend time with each other and stay in each other's homes so they would not make the mistakes we made. It said a lot about the whole history of the island. A short while afterwards, I discovered how hurt he was when a brother-in-law of his who was in the RUC was shot dead by the IRA.

There have been inquiries here into various instances where loyalists, and I have no doubt British security forces, were involved. We do not know how far up the political chain it went but people at reasonably high levels were implicated in these events. We are aware of the hurt felt 30 years later by the relatives of the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the people in Northern Ireland who were killed as a consequence of that collusion. It is right and proper that people from both sides of the divide are fully facilitated in expressing their anguish in order to bring some sort of closure to what has happened to them.

I join Senator Brady and other Senators in congratulating the gardaí on the restraint they showed under the leadership of Assistant Commissioner Al McHugh, who is a fine police officer. They were correct in the approach they took. While there was some unjust criticism of what happened a few years ago on May Day, on this occasion their restraint beggared belief, for which they should be commended. I fully understand how the extent of the violence was not anticipated. Previously the gardaí had the use of water cannon and so on. This type of equipment should be sourced by the gardaí so that they can take effective action in such circumstances.

There are lessons to be learned from what happened on Saturday, one of which is whether to allow counter-protests in close proximity to sensitive marches. There are also lessons to be learned by the republican movement. We have had 30 years of violence and I have always felt that killing fellow Irishmen was never a route to achieving the objective of a united Ireland, which most people on this part of the island would share. If anything, it was counter-productive. We should have learned from this that there should be tolerance in society and we must take a much more pluralist approach to accepting divergence of opinion so that we can ultimately achieve an Ireland of which we can all be proud.

Unfortunately, the events on Saturday has handed a propaganda victory to the extremists on the other side of the political divide. It is regrettable that we may have missed an opportunity to influence people who may have travelled to the South for the first time to feel it is a country which is totally at variance with their viewpoint of one that was born and built out of prejudice and so on. This is an opportunity lost.

Republicanism and the unity of Ireland is a noble aspiration, but it must not be contaminated by thuggery or any kind of loutish behaviour. We must give it credibility and gain support for it. The Good Friday Agreement has brought a lot to this country. However, it is important to recognise that because it is a compromised agreement, it is not a perfect document. Therefore, we must allow those who see the peace as just a step to an ultimate objective to make their protest and voice their opinion, but it must be done in a peaceful and dignified way and within the law.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to contribute to the debate and I appreciate the Minister's presence here. I disagree with many of the comments that have been made. I was disillusioned that within one hour of the events that took place last week we were either blaming the Garda or calling for the resignation of the Minister. That demeans politics.

I would make one plea — the Minister and Senator Walsh are as guilty as anyone in this regard — about something that angers me. If I am at home having a peaceful weekend and I hear thugs being described as republicans I feel a surge of anger. I understood from school that republicanism was where Protestant, Catholic and dissenter shared the same space and engaged and interacted with each other. The idea of describing these thugs as republicans is unacceptable. It would be better to call them fascists, neo-Nazis or something else. If they described themselves as Australians, would we accept it? They are merely taking on a proud title for which people in this country have fought over generations. These people are anything but republicans.

I chaired the liaison group for Co-Operation Ireland in this House, of which Senator Maurice Hayes is a member. We recently experienced something similar in a non-violent way. One of the few places in Northern Ireland where one cannot distinguish between Catholics and Protestants is at a race meeting. The Down Royal race meeting had bomb scares on the last three occasions. I recently suggested to the manager of the Down Royal racecourse that a group of politicians from the South should attend the event on the next occasion. We resent and reject not allowing people to engage in events. I will be writing to Members regarding the Ulster Derby in Down Royal which will be held on the last Saturday in June.

I am aware why Senator Brian Hayes asked that pubs and off-licences be closed on St. Patrick's Day. While I know he is well motivated, I do not want the Minister to do so. I would like him to ask people to control their drinking. I do not want the Minister to close the pubs. Let us disgrace ourselves once more if we must. We will eventually get it right and learn to control ourselves.

I do not want an inquiry into the events of last Saturday. Instead, I want to know why a large proportion of our population apparently believes this march should not have taken place. Why have we produced several generations who do not understand the importance of protest and the right to demonstrate, and that ourraison d’être for some 800 years has been to secure these rights? This question is more important than the rocks on O’Connell Street. The day we prevent free speech is the day it is all over.

Why have people like me, an educationalist, failed to inculcate the quality of tolerance in others? Although I do not normally quote clerics or well known Catholics,——

Senator O'Toole would certainly do so.

——Cardinal John Henry Newman said the first quality of an educated person is tolerance.

Cardinal Newman was a different type of fellow.

Where is this tolerance? We have failed as politicians to inculcate an acceptance of diversity and difference in our community. There is no longer any space for difference. I would like to have an understanding of this deficiency because we could then solve the other problems. We can remove all the stones from O'Connell Street but that will not deter those who wish to riot. To mention another tenet of Catholicism; once one has decided to do it, one has already committed the sin.

There is one important lesson we can learn from this. Although I hate discussing private conversations, I refer to a private discussion I had with the Minister two years ago on the importance of 1916. I repeat what I said then, namely, it should not be merely a military commemoration. Those who fought in the GPO were poets, trade unionists, socialists, grocers, merchant princes and so on. O'Rahilly, Ceannt, MacDonagh, Pearse — these were representatives of all sides of Irish life and should all be remembered.

On this day 84 years ago in the other House, a Fianna Fáil Deputy calumniated and detracted from the reputation of a decent RIC man who looked after Roger Casement in his hour of need in Tralee RIC barracks. This man, who had assisted in the foundation of the new Free State police force and was based in Boyle, County Roscommon, was destroyed on the record of this House. He did not survive the attack and had to leave the State, never to return. He was one of those decent Irish Catholic nationalists who were members of the RIC. My own county of Kerry gave more people to the RICpro rata than any other county. We must remember that these people suffered for us. They were charged with imposing the law but were pulled in two directions at once. Many were in favour of home rule but still worked for the State as it was. They saw the change taking place in Westminster and wanted it implemented according to the law of the land.

There are many aspects of 1916 and of the events of last week that we must consider. I agree that 1916 should be commemorated and that the military should be involved. I would be very unhappy, however, if only the military were involved. That is not the intention of most people. We must reflect the Ireland that has developed since then in all its aspects. I defy anybody — although I see a historian, Senator Mansergh, in our midst — to define the various groups who were active in the rising, including Cumann na mBan, the Irish Volunteers and so on. Who can do so?

The changes that are required are attitudinal. Why do we in this country no longer understand that words are important? There is a difference between nationalism and republicanism and we must ensure people understand that difference. There are still people in Leinster House, not necessarily in this Chamber, who firmly believe that the words "cherish all the children of the nation equally" are contained somewhere in the Constitution. I met one such man, who was elected by the people, last month. He holds this belief despite the fact that his own party, along with every other party, has spent 80 years ensuring they never were included.

This is the time to show we have grown up, are tolerant, understand the importance of difference, and can reach out and provide space for those with different views. A pluralist society is not one where there is space for everybody. It is a place where the engagement between different groups is positive.

I applaud what Senator O'Toole has said. For those of us who want a united Ireland, it is important that those who believe this march should not have been allowed realise there will be far more marches of this nature when we have a united Ireland. They will be coming down here a great deal more and now is as good a time as any other to get used to them. If they only come once a year now, when they are coming once a month it will seem far more normal.

I welcome the Minister and thank him for participating in this debate so speedily. His speech and, more important, the brief from the Garda Commissioner clearly put to bed the claims that there was a lack of planning or thought in regard to this parade. We all rightfully agree that the right to demonstrate peacefully is a fundamental principle of the democracy in which we live. The essence of that democracy is the right of victims of violence to parade.

Why was this parade so different from the many other parades that pass through O'Connell Street? It is clear preparation went into it and that there was liaison with the groups involved. Based on this, the Garda made an operational decision on how to proceed. I contend the "soft hat" approach was correct. We do not need rings of steel around parades passing through O'Connell Street. As Senator Maurice Hayes correctly observed, such an approach could have led to the opposite of what we wished to achieve. I join previous speakers in condemning Republican Sinn Féin's refusal to co-operate with the efforts to prepare for the parade.

To those who say the parade should not have gone ahead, I ask what the political consequences of that decision might have been. What message would have gone out by a refusal on the part of the State to allow these people to march? We pay a price for our freedom and democracy in that we must stand by the institutions of the State when decisions are made to allow people protest or parade on the streets of our capital.

The questions I have in regard to the violence that took place are "Who?" and "Why?" The "who" are the people we have already identified and who will be identified. I hope the Garda will bring them to account for their actions. The amount of CCTV footage and other material available should ensure perpetrators come before the courts. A more important issue is the "why". Why were these people stirred up into such violent behaviour? It is in the examination of the "why" that I hope we will get some clear answers.

I have no doubt that the amount of co-ordination that was behind this violence is where the real problem lies. We will find answers by looking to the string-pullers and the smirky-faced puppeteers who orchestrated these people and wound them up. I heard on RTE radio during the week about an e-mail from a teacher in Dublin who claimed young people were recruited outside schools on the Monday before the parade. Those less than 18 years of age were particularly targeted and were guaranteed a fight if they were to come to O'Connell Street on Saturday. These recruiters are the puppeteers who sat in the comfort of their own living rooms on Saturday night and observed the job had been well done and that they had achieved their objectives. This is the most important issue that we as politicians and society in general must address. There was evidence of this also in the riot that took place at a soccer match in Lansdowne Road some years ago. Again, the violence was orchestrated by those behind the scenes who were pulling the strings.

I compliment the gardaí on their courage, patience and tolerance. What started with verbal abuse quickly moved on to physical abuse, of which we have seen the pictures. The gardaí place themselves in these situations daily but on Saturday, they showed all of what is good and professional about their chosen career and the job they do for the people on a regular basis. Looting, car burning, petrol bombing and violence occurred on the streets of Dublin as a result of what was triggered. We need to get those who set up that trigger. Shame was brought on the name of the republic. As a result of television coverage in the US, I received a call on Sunday asking what had happened in Dublin.

The Minister said there will be a Garda debriefing. Operationally, I am sure gardaí will learn from it and that future events will be arranged and organised accordingly. However, we must also debriefing ourselves. People have called for a public inquiry but I do not believe we need one. We need a public debate and this House must lead that debate. Given the profile of those involved in the rioting, we have a responsibility to educate and to counteract what is now being fomented in our society. We do not want that, as it is not the vision of Ireland held by the majority of people. We have a responsibility as politicians and I hope the Government will consider how we can encourage that public debate to educate our young people that this is not the way to go.

No one wants a return to the scenes we witnessed a number of years ago when there were regular parades in Dublin which required a huge Garda presence and military support. That is not the society in which we want to live. I hope our courts send out a clear message to the people and the international community when those involved in last Saturday's riots come before them, that we will not tolerate this behaviour. I wish a speedy recovery to gardaí injured last Saturday and congratulate the Garda on a job well done in difficult circumstances.

I welcome the Minister. This is an important debate, particularly since we have had a few days to consider the events of last Saturday. A core issue, which was raised by other speakers, is the right of FAIR to march down O'Connell Street. Nobody in this House would deny it that right but some believe it should not have that right. That is a core issue for us and for our democracy and for the type of society to which we are committed. Everybody has spoken about a tolerant and diverse society but there is a solid view among some, which does not express itself often and which keeps fairly silent, that this organisation should not have come here last Saturday. That view is represented in sectarianism, racism and in an intolerance of diversity in Irish society. It is a view Members of this House would not share.

I echo what Senator O'Toole said. At what level have we, as politicians, educators, parents and communities, failed to bed down and inculcate the values of democracy, tolerance and diversity in this society? What was revealed last Saturday was frightening. We can say it was a small group of thugs and so on but it was organised and led. We know that element exists in every town in Ireland.

There are issues which have not been resolved. We do not have normality yet and we are some distance from a situation where FAIR or any group from the North can peacefully march down O'Connell Street. We do not know if that day will ever come but what can we do to work towards it? While it is important to condemn what happened last Saturday and learn lessons from it, we also need to be responsible for what we have not done. There is a level of complacency. We believed that because the Good Friday Agreement was passed by such a large majority, we had somehow reached a point of tolerance and diversity and that we had moved forward. We wanted to think we had moved forward but what happened last Saturday is evidence that, at some level, we have not, for which we need to take responsibility.

One of the most sickening scenes I saw on television was these thugs with the tricolour wrapped around them, which I saw around the time of the local elections in my town. This type of republicanism has turned into sectarianism, thuggery and violence, although I know the Minister has worked hard to reclaim republicanism for democracy, which is important for us to do. I am not sure a military parade on Easter Sunday will achieve that and I ask the Minister and the Government to listen to what Senator O'Toole said. We must look at the signals we are sending.

I refer to the Garda management of the event. I have read the briefing supplied and I am grateful for it. It looked as if the gardaí were not prepared for what happened last Saturday. A good friend of mine and her brother were in O'Connell Street last Saturday and they said they were afraid for the safety of the gardaí before the riot squad arrived. As Senator Minihan said, they adopted a soft cap approach. That is fine but the question must be asked as to whether they and our democracy were exposed. Lessons must be learned from this experience.

I join in the condemnation of the actions of the rioters and I support the response of the Minister and the Garda. Many people have asked whether the riots could have been foreseen but it is easy to be wise in retrospect. Although there is obviously something latent there, this has never happened before and I was surprised by it. One must ask why it is happening now and who these people are. They are not representative of most Irish people and of republicanism in Ireland. These are issues at which we need to look as it will mar our enjoyment of events such as the 1916 celebrations. We will need to look at crowd control measures of the type we examined in London with the Minister where they have had to deal with this type of thing in the context of football matches and so on. There is a need to move ahead with the civilianisation of the Garda.

I refer to the debate on republicanism. The Labour Party is a republican party founded by James Connolly. Two of his children were Members of the Seanad — his son Roddy was also a Labour Party Deputy and his daughter Nora Connolly was nominated to the Seanad by Fianna Fáil, although she was an Independent Senator. James Connolly was also an internationalist and his republicanism was tolerant and inclusive. When people write about Connolly, they all say he looked for common ground with people, even with those who differed with him. He would have been the exact opposite of those who rioted on Saturday.

I wish to take up a point my colleague, Deputy McManus, made about the 1916 celebrations. We need to make it an inclusive celebration. When we celebrate 1916, it should be a celebration of the ideas of the people involved, particularly those of a man like James Connolly who was such a humane person and whose ideas were based on equality and so on. We need to celebrate everyone who was involved in 1916. I come from a republican background and the reason I studied history in college was that I was interested in the 1916 Rising. However, I agree all those involved in 1916, including the people in the British army, should be remembered in our celebrations. That is the type of approach James Connolly would have taken. That is what it should be about. We will take republicanism back from people who are narrow and sectarian in their approach by promoting a republicanism that is about ideas, tolerance and so on.