Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Ceisteanna (18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25)

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

18. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach when he established, or will establish, the Cabinet committee on justice reform and the dates of meetings already held and of planned meetings. [11764/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

19. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach when he established, or will establish, the Cabinet committee on justice reform. [12874/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

20. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the number of meetings of the Cabinet committee on justice reform in 2016 to date. [12987/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

21. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach when the last meeting of the Cabinet committee on justice reform took place. [12988/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

22. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach his plans to establish a Cabinet committee on justice reform; and, if so, when it will meet. [14509/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

23. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Taoiseach when the Cabinet committee on justice reform is due to next meet. [15853/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

24. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Taoiseach when the Cabinet committee on justice reform is due to next meet. [15859/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Barry

Ceist:

25. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Taoiseach when the Cabinet committee on justice reform is due to next meet. [15865/16]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (13 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 to 25, inclusive, together.

The Government re-established the Cabinet committee on justice reform on 24 May. Meetings of the committee will be scheduled shortly. The Cabinet committee on justice reform established by the previous Government met on 12 January.

I ask the leaders to be brief.

I seek an update on the Taoiseach's commitment to meet activists, community leaders and others in the Dublin north inner city following the brutal killings of seven people in the area. I do not know if this matter was discussed by the Cabinet committee on justice reform.

I am also concerned to learn that the Minister for Justice and Equality has failed to act on a recommendation made to her by the Garda Commissioner on 19 May to refer allegations about Sergeant Maurice McCabe to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC. While the allegations may have been referred to GSOC in the intervening period, I would like to find out if the matter has been dealt with. Last Wednesday, the Minister confirmed in reply to a parliamentary question tabled by the Sinn Féin spokesperson on justice, Deputy Jonathan O'Brien, that she had not yet made the referral. She also indicated that the Garda Commissioner had provided her with more detailed information. What is this information?

I welcome the re-establishment of the Cabinet committee on justice reform. The lack of action and inertia within Government and the system in general in the past while have been somewhat disturbing. I met representatives of a north inner city group approximately one month ago in the context of the appalling gangland crime in the area. Much of the conversation and discussion focused on the impact on young people, the lack of a co-ordinated policy initiative in areas such as the north inner city and the withdrawal of many supports, including concerns that Tusla would reduce funding for the young people's facilities and services fund introduced by my party in government more than a decade ago.

They also referred to the Misuse of Drugs Act and noted that prescription drugs were the drugs of choice in the locality where young people were earning large amounts from distributing them. However, the Garda has told the group that its hands are tied in terms of being able to do anything about it. While I welcome the decision to earmark legislation to tackle this issue, why has it taken so long? Deputy Róisín Shortall has confirmed that the issue was raised three years ago when she was a Minister of State in the Department of Health and that it was crying out to be dealt with at the time. With the new configuration in the Dáil in the aftermath of the general election, one gets a sense of urgency on some of these issues, but one must ask why there has been such a delay in amending the Misuse of Drugs Act to deal with a critical issue that is causing death and destruction and the disruption of local communities.

Likewise, in respect of proposals for a mini-Criminal Assets Bureau, community activists and organisers on the ground identified this issue some time ago. However, it has taken the recent murders to witness legislative action on that front, which begs the question as to why there has been such a delay and a sense of inertia at the heart of justice policy.

While I do not wish to pre-empt the decision of the Minister on the matter, my colleague, Deputy Jim O'Callaghan, has a progressive and constructive parole Bill before the House. I would like the Government to examine the legislation constructively with a view to signalling its support for it. The purpose of the Bill is to depoliticise the process of parole, modernise the statutory basis for parole and give the process greater objectivity. This is the type of constructive legislation that should garner approval across the House.

Is the Taoiseach satisfied that the Policing Authority has the necessary breadth and depth of powers required to discharge its functions?

I confirm that this morning the Government decided not to oppose the parole Bill proposed by Deputy Jim O'Callaghan. The Bill has quite some merit and while there may be issues the Government and the Minister will discuss, the Government will not oppose it.

If the independent Policing Authority requires further powers or instruments, I am sure the Government will want to see to it that it can do its job completely independently. The authority has set its standard already in this regard. It has been very clear on where it sees the path ahead and has had engagement with the Garda Commissioner. I am sure that if the chairperson and members of the authority find that their powers are restricted in some way, the Minister, on behalf of the Government, will be happy to engage with it.

Deputy Micheál Martin asked about the delay in introducing legislation to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act. On 31 May the Minister for Justice and Equality briefed the Government on measures to tackle organised crime in the north inner city and elsewhere. At the meeting the Minister for Health offered to expedite the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill which had originally been scheduled to be introduced in the autumn of 2016. The Bill was being prepared on the basis of Government decisions resulting from the so-called Bederev challenge to section 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and Statutory Instrument No. 180/2010 and 2042 of 15 December 2015 on the establishment of supervised injecting facilities for chronic drug users. The Minister decided to truncate and bring forward a shortened version of the Bill, which will deal with a range of drugs, namely, Z-drugs and so-called "Clockwork Orange" substances. I also have a list of names that are difficult to pronounce, including hallucinogenic drugs, zopiclone, zaleplon, lizdexamfetamine and phenazapam, all of which are being dealt with.

Why has it taken so long?

The scale of-----

The Garda apparently alerted people to this issue a long time ago.

Until head shops were completely eliminated, substances that had been banned were made available again when slight changes were made to their ingredients or composition. Action is now being taken.

I met a number of Ministers yesterday to discuss a response to inner city crime. I know that Deputy Micheál Martin also met them, as did others. I want to meet public representatives of all parties separately. I am visiting the area this evening to meet community leaders and local people to hear what they have to say and understand their needs, concerns and demands as to how they think the general issue and general position on infrastructure, facilities, education, opportunities, training, apprenticeships, investment, dealing with drug trafficking, the sale and position of drugs outside the local crèche and whatever else can be dealt with. This is separate from the Garda Commissioner's commitment to have a specific task force with links with the community to deal with crime in Dublin. Gardaí, school principals and community leaders have great experience and a great deal to offer in trying to put this together. I hope that, following my meeting with community leaders this evening, we will be able to engage with public representatives from the area to try to put together a strategy that will be backed by investment which will make a difference to the communities and people of the north inner city.

As the time for these questions has elapsed, I ask the Taoiseach to refer to the questions asked by Deputy Gerry Adams.

In the first instance, people want to be comforted by the knowledge that they are safe on the streets. The visibility of the Garda through community policing is very important. Gabh mo leithscéal, what was Deputy Gerry Adams's question again?

Has the Minister for Justice and Equality referred the complaint passed to her to the Garda Commissioner? It relates to the allegation made by two Garda officers to the effect that Sergeant Maurice McCabe had confessed or admitted to them that he had behaved with malice. She was asked to refer that to the Garda Commissioner. She had not done so as of recently. Has she now done so?

I cannot confirm it to Deputy Adams in my answer here, but I will confirm it shortly one way or the other to him.