Supplementary Estimates, 1980. - Vote 22: Office of the Minister for Justice.

Thursday, 13 November 1980

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 324 No. 3

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Minister for Justice (Mr. G. Collins): Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  I move:

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £256,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December 1980 for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Justice, and of certain other services administered by that Office and of the Public Record Office, and of the Keeper of State Papers and for the purchase of historical documents etc. and for payment of a grant-in-aid.

With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle I would propose to discuss the Supplementary Estimates for the Office of the Minister for Justice, the Garda [365] Síochána and Prisons together on this Vote.

The Supplementary Estimate for the Office of the Minister for Justice is required to meet additional expenditure on six subheads of the Vote — travel and incidental expenses, Post Office services, commissions and special enquiries, criminal legal aid, compensation for personal injuries criminally inflicted and grants paid to voluntary adoption societies.

The total estimated additional expenditure amounts to £768,000 but £512,000 approximately of this can be met from savings elsewhere on the Vote. The net additional sum now sought in this Supplementary Estimate is accordingly £256,000.

An additional sum of £158,000 is required in respect of subhead B.1—Travelling and Incidental Expenses: £105,000 of this amount arises on travelling expenses because of increases in travelling and subsistence costs and to some extent because insufficient provision was made for the travelling expenses of additional staff (such as Welfare Officers). A further £49,000 is in respect of miscellaneous expenditure and arises mainly from increased cleaning costs and the carry-over into this year of some expenditure connected with the Presidency of the EEC in the second half of last year. There is also an additional £4,000 required for the purchase of equipment for the forensic science laboratory.

An additional expenditure of £18,000 is likely to be incurred in respect of subhead C, Post Office Services, because of the carry-over of telephone bills into 1980 as a result of delays in the issuing of bills due to the postal dispute and also the increased telephone charges which came into operation on 1 July 1980.

An additional £3,000 is required in respect of subhead E, Commissions and Special Inquiries, in the light of current expenditure levels on this heading. The bulk of this expenditure is in respect of fees paid to members of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal for cases decided by them. It is not possible to predict what claims will be received or dealt with in any year but the number has [366] been steadily increasing.

The original provision under subhead F.1. Legal Aid (Criminal), was £530,000. The additional amount now estimated to be required is £280,000. Deputies will be aware that the criminal legal aid scheme has developed over the years since it was first introduced in 1965. Initially, there was some dissatisfaction with the way in which it was operating and in 1975 a committee were established by my predecessor under the chairmanship of District Justice Tormey with the task of reviewing the operation of the scheme and making recommendations as to the manner in which it might be improved.

The implementation of recommendations made by the Tormey Committee has resulted in the much smoother operation of the scheme. However, there has been a very sizeable increase in the cost of criminal legal aid which has risen from £54,000 in 1975 to £518,000 in 1979 and now to an estimated £810,000 in 1980.

A number of factors have contributed to the high rate of expenditure this year. These include increased recourse to legal aid, a 15 per cent increase in fees payable to solicitors in the District Court under the scheme, effective from 1 November last year, and the speedier processing of claims submitted by solicitors and counsel under the scheme. There have also been additional sittingss of the Central Criminal Court this year which have resulted in an increase in the granting of legal aid by the courts.

I was glad to note that in its first interim report the Tormey Committee, referring to the very rapid increase in the cost of the scheme, indicated that they propose to examine alternative, less expensive methods of providing legal aid. This, they state, has now become a necessity. Examples of alternatives given by the committee were public defenders based on the United States model and duty solicitors on the English and Scottish models. I hope to receive the committee's final report very soon which I expect will make recommendations on these and other aspects of the scheme.

The original estimate for subhead H, Compensation for Personal Injuries Criminally Inflicited, was £710,000. This [367] amount has now been expended and from an examination of the claims on hand it is obvious that a further sum of approximately £290,000 will be required before the end of the year.

Claims are processed by an independent tribunal and the Department have no control over the number of cases decided by the tribunal or the amounts of awards made. A further factor is that the size of awards is directly related to awards made in civil cases in the courts and that the size of these awards is constantly increasing.

The full provision in the Estimates of £79,000 for subhead I, Grants paid to Voluntary Adoption Societies, already has been paid out. Societies have indicated, however, that this amount was not sufficient to meet their pressing needs. Grants are paid to voluntary adoption societies who are registered with An Bord Uchtála and the main purpose of such grants is to enable the societies to employ more qualified social workers than they have in the past been in a position to do. In view of the very valuable service provided by adoption societies I am anxious to do all I can to assist them and accordingly I propose to pay an additional grant of £19,000 to the societies.

I now turn to the Supplementary Estimate on the Vote for the Garda Síochána. The additional funds are required to meet expenditure which was not foreseen when the original Estimate was prepared.

In summary, a net additional sum of £4,636,000 is needed for salaries, wages, allowances and overtime and an extra £3,461,000 to meet increased costs under the headings of travelling and incidental expenses, Post Office services, station services, transport and witnesses' expenses. These extra sums amount to a total of £8,097,000 but the net amount required is only £7,497,000 as there are anticipated savings of £500,000 on clothing and an expected increase of £100,000 in appropriations-in-aid from additional miscellaneous receipts and from contributions towards the Garda Síochána widows' and children's pension scheme.

[368] The gross cost of additional payments in respect of salaries, wages, allowances and overtime, including pay increases, which were not provided for in the original Estimate, is £5,866,000 — £3,156,000 for pay and allowances and £2,710,000 for overtime — but that amount is offset by anticipated savings of £1,230,000 on the original Estimate, due partly to overestimation and partly to unforeseen delay in filling vacancies, leaving the net additional sum required £4,636,000.

The additional funds, totalling £2.71 million, which are required to meet the cost of overtime worked by the Garda Síochána this year arise mainly from the increased level of police activity necessary to combat serious crime and from intensive investigations into major crimes.

Details of the funds required for services other than pay and overtime are as follows: an additional sum of £2,329,00 is needed on subhead B.1, travelling and incidental expenses, mainly to meet expenditure arising from increases in rates of subsistence allowances and motor mileage allowances which have been granted to the Garda Síochána in common with other public servants. Some of the increases granted were retrospective to 1 January 1978 and accordingly the extra expenditure involved includes substantial arrears. An additional sum of £270,000 is required to meet increased telephone and teleprinter charges and, in addition there was a carry-over of telephone and teleprinter accounts from 1979 arising from delays in the issue of accounts because of the industrial dispute in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs in that year. There were substantial increases this year in charges for fuel and light for Garda stations and excess expenditure of the order of £105,000 is anticipated.

The extra expenditure on subhead G, Transport is made up of £650,000 required to meet increases in the price of petrol since the original Estimate was framed and £83,000 for the purchase of additional vehicles for the Garda Fleet which are required to meet the needs of the Special Task Force and the Special Investigation Section of the Technical [369] Bureau, both of which have been substantially strengthened in recent months. It is anticipated that an additional £24,000 will be required for witnesses' expenses.

Over and above the major task of defending our people and our institutions against serious violent crime and subversive activity, the Garda Síochána have to contend with the increasing incidence of offences involving damage to property, breaches of the road traffic and road transport codes and miscellaneous other anti-social acts.

Prevention and detection of crime and the maintenance of the rule of law are, of course, an absolute necessity in any civilised society. It is the Garda Síochána who have been given the task of ensuring this. It is the taxpayer who has to pay for it. I am sure I do not have to spell out here the fact that the amount the taxpayer must pay could be greatly reduced if terrorist activities in this island were ended.

This Government will not flinch from their commitment to provide the resources required and I believe that this House, too, will support the Garda Síochána in carrying out the duties that they have been asked to perform on behalf of the public.

I am sure that Deputies would wish to join with me in expressing our horror and revulsion at the recent callous murders of three members of the force in the performance of their duty. Their supreme sacrifice on our behalf reflects the loyal and conscientious service that members of the force render to the community.

In relation to the Supplementary Estimate on the Prison Vote, an additional sum of £6,530,000 will be required in the year ending 31 December 1980 for expenses in connection with prisons, including centres of detention for juveniles.

The greater portion of the excess on the Prisons Vote occurs in subhead A of the Vote, Salaries, Wages and Allowances. An additional £4,427,000 is required for this subhead. The excess in subhead A is due almost entirely to pay increases for prison staff under the conciliation [370] and arbitration scheme, payable in 1980, which were not provided for in the original Estimate and in particular to the recent relativity award granted to prison staff subsequent to the settlement of the psychiatric nurses' pay claim.

Recruitment to the prison service during 1980 was very satisfactory and it is expected that the number of vacancies in the service by the end of the year will be minimal. Since 10 January 1980 a total of 357 recruit officers entered the service and by the end of the year this number will have risen to approximately 400.

An additional sum of £82,000 is needed for subhead B.1, Travelling and Incidental Expenses. This is mainly required to meet the cost of increases in rates of subsistence for prison officers that came into effect during the year; to meet the payment of arrears of subsistence in certain cases and to meet the cost of a higher than anticipated level of travel by recruit prison officers undergong job familiarisation training.

An additional £12,000 is required for subhead C - Post Office Services - due to the carry-over of telephone bills into 1980 as a result of delays in the issuing of bills following the postal dispute in 1979 and also because of increased telephone charges which came into operation on 1 July 1980.

I am seeking an increase in subhead D from £3.8 million to £5.6 million. Of this sum £900,000 is in respect of the prisons capital programme and includes £500,000 for the acquisition of a site at Hart's Corner, Dublin, which was formerly St. Vincent's Orphanage. This site will be used to provide a Prison Service Training Centre and staff housing in replacement of the staff houses fronting Mountjoy Prison on the North Circular Road, Dublin, which are now beyond economic upkeep. The remaining £400,000 arises due to an acceleration of progress on the prisons capital building programme.

The balance of £900,000 being sought under subhead D is to cover additional maintenance and equipment for the prison system. The amount is made up of £400,000 for the continuation of work on a separation unit and associated renovations in St. Patrick's Institution. The [371] provision of this unit is essential for the management of St. Patrick's. It was originally classified as “capital” work but is now regarded as more appropriate to the “maintenance” part of the subhead. £250,000 for the provision of two separation units, one for former drug abusers who need special conditions for medical reasons, and the other to accommodate as needed a small number of troublemakers, and £250,000 for a variety of urgent maintenance works the need for which was not foreseen at the beginning of the year and which for security and other reasons could not be postponed.

An extra £209,000 is needed for subhead E — Prison Services. One hundred and forty thousand pounds of this sum is accounted for by increases in fuel costs since the original estimate was prepared. The balance arises as a result of the increasing prison population and prison staff and increases in costs and is in respect of expenditure on clothing and medical supplies for prisoners and prison staff and expenditure on recreational and other equipment for prisoners.

An additional £5,000 is required for subhead H — Educational Services — because the original estimate did not fully take into account the expansion which has been taking place in educational activity in the prisons and places of detention.

These extra sums add up to a total of £6,535,000 but the net amount required is £6,530,000 as there is an anticipated saving of £5,000 on expenses in connection with the Manufacturing Department and Farm (subhead F).

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  In my remarks I hope to show that the figures in this Supplementary Estimate obscure the real issues and that rather than regularly coming here and endorsing increases in expenditure for this Department, it is high time we looked at what we are doing with the money and sought better value for it. I intend specifically to refer to three facts. First, we are singularly failing to deal with the problem of crime in our society; second, our system of attempting to deal [372] with crime helps nobody involved; and third, there are reforms which could be brought about in the context of the expenditure involved here, many of which do not cost very much and would do a great deal of good, rather than the present operation which is essentially the expenditure of increasing amounts of money without any clear cut results arising therefrom, beyond climbing crime statistics, a decrease in the morale of those forces whose job it is to tackle crime, and a growing depression in the community because of the feeling that there is an inevitability about all this. I do not accept that there is. I also do not accept that it is the responsibility of the Minister or the Department of Justice to be able to solve the problem of crime in our community unless there is a concentrated and comprehensive attempt to deal with the origins of crime in our society. That would mean a much wider and more comprehensive approach than we have so far organised and would involve many other Departments of government.

The Minister is looking for a sum nobody will oppose in principle. In many cases the money has already been allocated or spent but for what is this money being used? If we look at the Garda Commissioner's report presented in November 1979 and look over the figures there, we will readily see that whether we spend the money the Minister is looking for or not may be irrelevant to the central issue.

I believe that we as a society, and specifically this Government, for it is their responsibility at present, have failed, and are failing, to deal with the problem of crime. All statistics show increasing crime rates in serious areas, decreasing detection rates and, I suspect, many people no longer bother to report crimes because of their hopelessness in the face of what they see as part of an international trend but specifically in this society as something which we have not been able to tackle.

One is particularly offended by the increasing amount of violent crime. There are many reasons for this increase and many of these crimes are outside the scope of the Minister, but in the last year we have seen the very tragic and relatively [373] new spectacle on our social scene of gardaí being shot. I join with the Minister, as do all responsible people, in condemning outright any suggestion that there could be any justification, even in the most extreme circumstances, for the murder of any person, particularly for the murder of people whose job is to guard the peace.

The Garda Representative Body, the Association of Inspectors and Sergeants, individual members of the Garda and presumably, the recently formed association for detectives have been and will be, making requests which must get an attentive ear of the Government. They should be fully considered by them and, where practicable and considered appropriate by the Minister, implemented. I do not wish to be interpreted as suggesting that all those demands are necessarily correct or that they should be immediately implemented, but they are worthy of immediate and urgent consideration and there is no reason for prevarication on giving decisions in these areas.

According to the report mentioned, crime figures show that offences against the person have increased to 2,266, an increase of 9.8 per cent on the previous year. If one looks at offences generally and the pattern revealed by the figures, in the last ten years — the number of offences reported and detected — crime in our community increased by well over 100 per cent. There are ups and downs in this pattern depending on the gravity of the offence. The detection rate has not kept pace. When we make demands for changes in the law, particularly relating to the manner in which we deal with those in custody, it should be borne in mind that such changes will not have any impact on the figures in respect of crime for which people are not in custody.

Therefore, it might be important to consider our prime concern to be in the area of increasing the detection rate. One of the most effective answers to the criminal is the highest possible probability that he will be apprehended and that justice will be meted out to him. If there is a view that crime pays or if there is the [374] view that the likelihood of detection is declining — and the figures show that it is declining in respect of serious cases — confidence in the Garda will decline and, in addition, the morale of the Garda will decline. Consequently, we must endeavour to improve detection and to give the Garda the support that is necessary.

According to the Garda Commissioner's report, there were recorded in 1969 25,972 offences. By 1978 the corresponding figure had increased to 62,000. In 1969 the number of detections were 15,879 while the corresponding figure for 1978 was 25,286. In other words, the number of offences had increased while the percentage detection rate had decreased. The overall detection rate in 1978 was 40.7 per cent. This rate varied from about 89.5 per cent in respect of offences against the person to 35.9 per cent in the less serious forms of larceny. This implies clearly either that the latter type of crime is relatively lightly thought of or else that the resources are not being provided for the Garda to deal with that crime. A crime is a crime and if there is a situation in which about two-thirds of the number of larcenies committed are not pursued or prosecuted, we are opening the door to an easy acceptance of that crime.

The Estimate is almost a replica, both in its structure and in its rationale, of the figures which were sought last year and in previous years. If the increased expenditure could be seen to be needed because of radical reform at a basic level, because of new thinking in relation to prisons or to the penal system or to the question of how to deal with crime, it could be excused. But, sadly, apart from the fact that there is the same grey staleness about the figures, there is not any apparent new thinking in the area of how to deal with crime nor in relation to our penal system as a whole. Fundamentally, that is regrettable because it is clear that the way we have been operating in this area has failed and that, consequently, new methods and new thinking must be tried and that is the job of the Minister and of the Government.

It is not necessary to have a debate here to show that the public believe that [375] the battle to cope with crime is being lost. I am very mindful of this situation in my constituency where many allegations, some of which are widely exaggerated but most of which have a grain of truth, give the impression of a city which sometimes is almost in a state of siege. Brutal assaults are being made on people, particularly on the elderly and on other relatively helpless people. We must take the necessary steps to ensure that these violent attacks on the person are discontinued, but that does not mean that we should react on some kind of mindless, violent backlash way. It means that the problem must be tackled firmly, without hesitation and with a clear idea of what we are doing. All we are getting is the same thinking and the same solution to a problem that is changing all the time, changing in its gravity, in its extent and in its character. I am sure that I speak for 98 per cent of the people when I appeal to the Minister and to the Government to be serious about crime. Any effort the Minister may make to cope with the problem will have the full support of everybody here. If the Government do not take the initiative there will be a rising tide of public emotion which will result ultimately, though not for the first time in a parliamentary context, in legislation of an unsuitable nature being rushed through to deal with the problem and perhaps to deal with it unsatisfactorily.

The Minister knows the omens that are abroad in the community in relation to crime. I shall not refer in detail to the promises made under the Justice heading in the manifesto, but I appeal to the Minister to assure us that crime will diminish. The burden does not rest totally on the shoulders of the Minister because any attempt to tackle the problem will not be successful unless a genuine attempt is made to deal with the reasons for crime being committed. It is not my intention to become involved in any philosophical discourse in that regard this morning; but for as long as we tolerate some of the economic conditions that exist in parts of the country, conditions which run parallel to the vast majority of incidents of crime, we will have the kind [376] of serious escalation of crime that we are experiencing now.

It is both frightening and saddening to note the increasing number of assaults on old people, as well as the increasing number of violent attacks on women, and to note the brutality that the perpetrators of such crimes seem to exercise. I do not think that the answer essentially is a financial one, and that is why I often question the wisdom of the manner in which we debate Estimates here. Primarily an Estimate is not a fiscal statement but rather an indication of the political thinking of the Government of the day. If that is the case, the cupboard in question is relatively bare. The Minister is not endeavouring to deal with the real problems and to bring some new approach to them. Is there any shred of suggestion, for example, in the Minister's remarks today that there will be an improvement next year or the year after in the pattern of detection, of apprehension and of the incarceration of people involved in crime? Is there even the most meagre suggestion in the Minister's speech that our community will turn the corner on this problem of crime? Neither the Government nor the Minister should be daunted by the fact that urban crime, in particular, in other societies continues to escalate. It is a complex problem related to many social and demographic causes. Our society is relatively self-contained with a population of almost four million people. Its problems are not insuperable and they should not daunt a Minister of a Government. As long as I have had the privilege of being in this House and reading the debates on previous Estimates from various Ministers for Justice the pattern has been money requested for increased salaries and, in some cases, for fairly cosmetic touches here and there and, in other cases, for genuine but often piecemeal and peripheral reforms such as the increased tuition which people in Saint Patrick's get now and for which many people have been looking for years.

People now believe that crime pays, that we are failing to deal with it and it is getting worse not alone quantitatively but that the actual brutality, the ugliness and the sordid area of crime is overcoming [377] us. The House is about overcoming these problems or else it is irrelevant. I believe it will become increasingly clear that one of the largest and most obvious demands from our society is for a real onslaught on crimes in our community.

We have only to look at what we spend the money on to give an example of how irrelevant are the things we do. The Garda are struggling as valiantly as they can to deal with the problem but despite their best efforts they are not succeeding to the degree they and our society would wish. I have often felt that one of the parties rarely thought of is the injured party in a crime. The incarceration of a convicted criminal or the expenditure of the vast amount of State money which is involved in this whole process does nothing to help the injured party. The modus operandi, the rationale and the whole approach to how we deal with the issues seem to be motivated largely by what might be regarded as a form of revenge. We talked halfheartedly throughout the sixties anf seventies and still do about rehabilitation. While we did that we retained the same institution, did not give any extra training to the staff and expected a whole new concept to be released and to permeate a system which is archaic and no longer right for even this century.

The ideal of rehabilitation has fallen on very barren ground. If one of the purposes of the way we do things is to help our society to protect people from the dangers of criminals in our community and at the same time to help those criminals to readjust and become normal people everybody must agree that this is not being done. There is no suggestion anywhere that the detection and apprehension of criminals is protecting our society. We see the increasing onslaughts on relatively helpless people who are particularly vulnerable to this type of attack and who in some parts of our city nowadays have almost to be caged in to protect them.

The people who are the objects of such crime are never thought of beyond being witnesses in the case. There is no compensation for them; the punishment which is meted out for the crime is not designed [378] to repay them or to help them to reconstruct their lives, which are sometimes shattered: there is nothing for the criminal but the bleak, forlorn prospect of a spiralling series of returns to prison ending in the waste of a human being in the trappings of our prison system, which is becoming increasingly expensive and increasingly futile. If the three objectives of protecting the community, restoring some sense of justice to the offended party and helping the person who has offended against the norms of our society are to be met, then we need to act in a radically different way. There is no suggestion in the Minister's speech this morning which points to any assistance or progress in regard to those objectives.

The Garda have been asking repeatedly for new thinking, new structures, new mechanisms and new laws to deal with their problems. I support the main thrust of what they are asking. I believe they have put forward reasonable objectives in the documents which they have submitted. They have put forward for our consideration ideas which in many cases should be implemented, in other cases ideas which should be considered and in a few cases ideas which may not be acceptable. They should be thanked for what they have done because it is not their prime responsibility to do this. They felt the need for change when they took into consideration their vast experience in dealing with crime in our community. It would be wasting a very valuable reservoir of expertise and experience to ignore what they are asking.

Has the Minister had an opportunity to consider the proposals in a discussion paper from the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors which is aimed at combating crime in Ireland? This discussion paper gives a number of very reasonable proposals relating to the prevention of crime, policing structures, law reform and police power areas, as well as custodial care. What is the Minister's response to this? It seems to me that some of the proposals made by the Garda include objectives like expanding and developing the community relations sector of the force. They also request that in each Garda district a community relations [379] officer be appointed with responsibility for promoting and encouraging good relations between the Garda and the community. They want an increase in the membership of the juvenile liaison officer service and they want such officers to be given a broader mandate to deal with young people. They say that we should “provide greater and more extensive community facilities and services especially in deprived urban areas, which by their very absence generate a breeding ground for the initiation of anti-social behaviour”. We will hear more about that unless we do something about the matter.

The Garda Síochána say they want involvement in the planning stages of housing and industrial development, new communities, urban renewal projects and infrastructural developments of all kinds. They want the establishment in each district of crime prevention panels aimed at making the local community aware of the problems that exist and developing the rapport and liaison that needs to exist at community level if we are to make a real attempt at exorcising crime.

In my view many of these proposals are refreshing; they need to be supported and we should thank the Garda Síochána for making them. They are saying they are willing to accept greater responsibility for being involved with local communities and for coming to grips in a preventative way — which is the most successful — with the problem of crime. Early detection of likely areas where crime could occur and tackling the cause are issues on which the Garda Síochána have said they are willing to go beyond and above the call of duty as they now know it and become involved. That is a refreshing and unselfish request in these rairly self-centered days. Of course it is part of the real answer.

No longer can the forces of law be seen to be outside society, often taking actions that are interpreted as repressive. It cannot work like that. We should see the forces of law and right acting within the community showing, not out of fear or the threat of being put away, that there are right standards towards which all of [380] us should work together. That is why I laud the work of many gardaí who are involved in inner city crime detection and prevention. In this respect the juvenile liaison officers scheme is exemplary. These officers are not so much custodians of peace but are friends to people who are looking for leadership, who are looking for the right path but too often go the wrong way because they know no other or because that is the way their local community has always acted. The Garda Síochána have a fundamental role to play in this matter and I think their request should be granted. I know the Minister is sympathetic to the idea of expanding the juvenile liaison officers scheme but I like him to endorse the other requests also.

The gardaí go on to deal with the structure of their force. They seek the establishment of a police authority, which is the policy of this party. I ask the Minister to give them that administrative independence, not free from the political constraint or will of the Government of the day but day-to-day administrative independence which a police authority implies, free of any suggestion or hint of outside manipulation or interference. The questions of management techniques, career development, recruitment, training, promotion, equipment and specialist training and the growing perception among the gardaí that there is no desire to improve things for them are adding to the demoralisation of the force. No amount of money the Minister may wish to spend will bring a change in this area unless a real attempt is made to tackle these problems.

I appeal to the Minister to take action if for no other reason than that there is a very bad headline being set in the context of industrial relations generally. It appears that the more might and muscle any group has and the more rapidly it is prepared to use this, the more such a group is listened to. That is a bad example. The gardaí have stood by this State during the years. One of the ways we can recognise that is to deal urgently with the issues they bring to our attention. There is demoralisation in the force. Perhaps there is always a degree of demoralisation [381] at any time but I understand morale has rarely if ever been lower. I am not necessarily blaming the Minister for that. I am not interested in apportioning blame. All I am asking for is that the problem be tackled in a meaningful way.

The gardaí talk also about law reform. They want an examination of the system of bail, a review in the area of right to silence, an updating of penalties for crime, the establishment of a commission to review the judges rules — I cannot say I disagree with that — and other similar requests relating to increased police powers. I would be a little more cautious about rushing in to support such requests but I believe they should get urgent consideration. Every endeavour should be made to show society and the Garda Síochána that we mean business when we talk about tackling crime.

I know there may be some degree of helplessness on the part of the Minister for some of the problems that he may be asked to handle. There is an increasing tendency towards violence, not just in the area of crime but even in the economic and social areas. Business is more ruthless than it ever has been, there is more competition in education, there is more violence on the media and there is a new sense of violence permeating our way of life. Whether it be the toys we buy for children at Christmas, the books we read or the films we see, it seems difficult to avoid the spectre of violence. If we make it appear that life is cheap and that violence is the norm, inevitably that will result in violent thinking and action. In that general context I noted recently in a magazine called Forum an article headed “Violence in the Media” with details of a sample taken of five stations in America which set out the following elements that appeared in 100 hours of viewing.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  Will the Deputy give the date of the publication?

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  I am sorry I have not got it to hand. I will give the information later. It was in 1979. I am giving this information to indicate what our children are watching because we import these programmes. In 100 hours of viewing the [382] public saw 12 murders, 16 major gun fights, 21 persons shot, 21 other violent incidents with guns, one stabbing with a butcher's knife, 37 hand-to-hand fights, four attempted suicides, 3 successful suicides, four people falling or pushed over cliffs, two attempts by cars to run over people and so on. I hope I am not making the matter appear too simplistic when I ask for reform and radical thinking. Some societies have managed to bring about progress and change and I want to refer to them because I think we should be constructive in a discussion of this nature. Too often our thinking is dominated by costs and by financial implications. For example, this morning the Minister made the following comment in his statement:

I was glad to note that in its first intermim report the Tormey Committee, referring to the very rapid increase in the cost of the scheme, indicated that they propose to examine alternative, less expensive methods of providing legal aid.

I see the same thinking running through similar types of reports and I am slightly troubled by this as one who believes that the civil legal aid scheme recently introduced was essentially shackled by the Department of Finance and had as its underlying concern the administrative cost rather than access by everyone to justice. It may be a case of saving pennies and losing pounds. It is a short-sighted goal and if we are to deal with crime in an infrastructural way it will mean substantial and significant investment now for dividends which may not be paid for a generation. On the political landscape that kind of time-scale can be somewhat off-putting. I believe people will respond if what is being done is explained to them and if they see and understand the reasons behind a true commitment, particularly regarding the origins of crime.

What kind of action could be taken? Apart from asking his colleagues in the Departments of the Environment, Health and Social Welfare to look at the catchment areas of crime, there are substantial steps which could be taken by the Minister for Justice which would result in a downturn in the present pattern. I have [383] already referred to the demoralisation of the Garda and the prison officers. There are increasing tensions among both these professional groupings and such tensions augur badly for a determined and single-minded approach to the problem of crime.

Imprisonment should be viewed as a last resort. The concept of locking up a person is the ultimate gesture of defeat because it shows that we are unable to deal with a human being and integrate him into some form of constructive endeavour in our society. We must look at the present structures and see whether we can improve them. This country is almost at the bottom of the league of European nations in relation to endeavours at progressive reform in these areas. I do not want to be open to the accusation that this means I am soft on crime; it does not. I am quite convinced that we must adopt a twin approach of ensuring, firstly, that there is no ambiguity in dealing with crime and, secondly, ensuring that the needs and demands of the community are met by real progress and reform. What is the use of locking up a person for 18 hours a day? It dehumanises him and those associated with him.

I have had the opportunity of visiting some of these places of detention, though not in the past 18 months despite my requests. The brooding, ugly atmosphere which prevails in these places would be, for me, a nightmare in which to work and does not provide a breeding ground for the rebirth of people. Those prisons have long outlived their usefulness and are not serving the purposes we hoped they would. Some new thinking is needed. There may be people who have gone so far that there can be little hope left for any return to normal behaviour. Of course, there are people for whom an intensive high security prison is essential but they are a minority.

We have slipped into an easy acceptance that for certain types of crime someone will end up behind bars, perhaps on the prevailing whim of a member of the Judiciary, although it may be a first offence. This is an almost fatal blow to hopes of a continuation of reasonable living for [384] that person. Imprisonment is not just the loss of liberty; it is the stripping away of the dignity of that person, his practical ostracisation from his local community and almost certain loss of employment. If the person is married there is a severe strain on the marriage. It effectively creates an impossible situation with regard to rebuilding the life of that person. This is not necessary.

The Minister knows of the very good experience of alternatives to prison in other societies, whether by community service orders or by way of imprisonment for limited periods as in Sweden and other countries. I am referring to people spending a number of weekends in places of detention which enables them to taste the just loss of liberty but does not mean that they lose their jobs or even leave their homes for long periods. The thousands of people who pass through our prisons over the years are a needless waste of human resources and many of these people would be willing to endeavour to restore to our society that which they are alleged to have taken from it if they were enabled to make constructive efforts in the community. It is not so long ago that we asked these people to do the most menial and useless jobs and this may still be happening in parts of our prison system. I refer to jobs such as chopping wood or sewing mailbags. Those two tasks seem to have been almost phased out, but we still have wood yards. Since this Minister assumed office not one such wood yard has been closed, despite his statement that he wishes them to close. As a means of changing the hearts of prisoners we still concentrate primarily on punishing their bodies and progress is not possible while this continues.

There are many ways in which we could reform our institutions. In the penal code of Sweden there are basically four different types of sanction. One is the deprivation of liberty and the second is treatment in freedom, that is, conditional sentencing and probation, putting conditions on the way people utilise their freedom for a certain period.

There is the obvious sanction of fines, about which there are degrees of dissatisfaction [385] because they are usually without reference to the gravity of the crime or the ability of people to pay or their willingness to pay. There is also the question of surrender for special treatment. This would particularly apply in the case of extremely violent crime or crime which had perhaps a psychiatric dimension. There are other sanctions, such as expelling people from the country; but basically we are talking about those four in any reasonable type of penal system.

The question of treatment in freedom, or alternatives to prison, is the area we should look at primarily. I believe that three-quarters of those at present in prison need not be in prison on the terms on which they are at present incarcerated. If they were not, if we had the wisdom and the courage to structure our custodial arrangements to ensure that those people were actually available to work in the community under strict supervision restoring what they had taken, they would learn the dignity of good work. Many of them never had the chance, and that is why in some cases, they are where they are.

I suggested before, and I would like to repeat the suggestion, that areas of work in which people involved in crime would be particularly useful are those in respect of what I would call the human services, where they could interact, relate and build a relationship with somebody who needed, above all, somebody else. I am thinking of people who are isolated, who are lonely, who suffer from depression or perhaps mental deficiency or any of those ailments which are treated primarily by the attentions of other people rather than by drugs or other treatment. I have seen an experiment in England along these lines. It was most moving to see how a juvenile delinquent, having built up a relationship with a young child who had a certain degree of mental deficiency, found that their two lives suddenly had new meaning, the juvenile delinquent because it was the first time ever someone said to him “You are important to me; I need you” and the child because until then nobody cared about him either.

Now the real path — and I say this with absolute conviction — to recovery for [386] people who have been involved in crime is that of discovering meaning in and of giving meaning to people's lives. That must be built around relationships. It must be built around emphasising that which they have to give. I know there are people who say it is important to punish too. I have never seen anyone truly changed by punishment. I say this with, in the back of my mind, a certain experience as a schoolteacher who never had to resort at least to physical punishment. Perhaps, like all of us, I was tempted to resort to other forms of encouragement or inducement now and again, but certainly I did not do so with any vindictiveness. The point I am getting at is that if we believe that locking up, applying them to certain mechanical tasks, bribing them with early release if they are good boys, if we believe that that mechanical, soulless system is the way forward, then we are mistaken. It has to be built around people who care. We have to show people that we mean it when we say we are for their good and their good is in the business of giving back voluntarily, selflessly, to our society what they have taken from it and thereby discovering that their lives have meaning.

There are many things we could do in this respect, because one of the greatest needs we have in our society is the need for people. That is one of the lessons to be learned from sprawling urbanisation. I firmly believe that there is a maximum size to which we should facilitate cities to grow. Beyond that we should discourage them from growing because once cities grow beyond a certain limit they become unmanageable and destructive of all that is good in our society and in the individual. Therefore, we need some basic rethinking here.

In the area of treatment of people in prison the approach I have tried to outline would benefit not just the individual who is involved in crime—and let us bear in mind the enormous saving of expense which that would result in despite the intensive and close supervision initially required — but the ultimate reduction in recidivism, the out-of-institution activity of that person which would not have to be as cost-intensive as it now is, should [387] make this proposition economically sound as well as everything else. Apart from that it would mean that society, and particularly the people who were hurt, would be compensated in some way.

I suggested some months ago that I saw nothing whatever wrong with people who have been convicted of drunken driving being obliged as part of their penalty to work for the victims of such crime. Nothing would be more sobering — and I do not make any bad pun in that respect — for such a person than to have to look daily in the face the victims of that crime or the widow or widower and children of the persons whose lives were taken by a drunken driver. Surely that person would resolve, in remorse, shame and anguish, that this would never again happen to him and that he would do all he could to make up for what he did wrong. At the moment drunken driving is an extremely serious problem and our response, removed as it is from the results of the crime, makes no difference to the individual involved; it is not brought home to him.

There are other suggestions I would like to make in this sense of constructive criticism which the Minister might hopefully bear in mind. The whole question therefore of seeing imprisonment as a last resort is the basis on which I would ask the Minister to consider reform in this area. The introduction of what have been called community service orders, an area which I understand the Minister is at present considering, is long overdue here. Some enlightened members of the Judiciary have already taken it upon themselves to begin a piecemeal process of this. We have one or two examples of people who were engaged in vandalism of a certain kind, graffiti scrawling and so on, being instructed to make good that loss and to work in the school or building or with the custodian of such institution for a period of time. That, in itself, is a good thing. It needs to be more organised than that, of course. It should not be so arbitrary. There should also be an attempt made by the appropriate personnel to explain to people why what has been done wrong is wrong. We should [388] not concentrate our attempts at rehabilitation on the infliction of indignity or humiliation, tempted as we might be on occasion in the face of violent and provocative crime. We know in our hearts that is not the way forward. I believe that community service orders would be a step forward, would help the community, help the individual criminal and, in fact, would cost less than the present system where the usual response is to lock up people up and, effectively, throw away the key for a period of time.

The actual reforms referred to by the Garda should receive urgent consideration by the Minister. At the prison end of things I believe this Minister has a wonderful opportunity to make real progress. Frankly our performance and structures at that level are so archaic it would be almost impossible to do anything but bring about progress. We should consider the restructuring of the management of prisons. I have said this before. There should be a management board appointed by the Minister, with the present job of governor reconstituted as a chief executive officer answerable to that board, and the board answerable to the Minister, for the implementation of the policy of the Government of the day in that situation. I am convinced that there is in the community a substantial amount of suspicion, distrust and anxiety about the way our prisons are run. Regardless of how that distrust arose it does exist; most of it is needed, some of it is not. Therefore we need to break the veil of secrecy which surrounds our prisons.

I want to remind the Minister that it is over 12 months now since I asked his Department to facilitate me with access to these institutions. I repeated that request early in 1980 and finally felt obliged to ask the Minister in the House two or three weeks ago, whereupon I was told by the Minister of State that I would shortly be receiving a response which presumably would be to my satisfaction. I still have not had that response. I am using it merely as a symbol. The Minister knows that I am not interested in sub-venting the system but just endeavouring [389] to understand what I see to be my job more clearly.

As Opposition spokesman, if I am treated thus, if I may say so, how may we expect average citizens to feel when they make inquiries about their sons or relatives, or when they wish to visit in unusual circumstances? I am aware that there are visiting arrangements for people. It is another example of something for which this Minister is not particularly responsible. Perhaps that is why it has always been done. But why should it be that I cannot get a “yes” or a “no” to a request for over 12 months? That is a symbol of the way our prisons are run, like islands in the community, when their very success depends on their integration. I remember a speaker at a conference saying that the whole concept of rehabilitation in the present prison system was paradoxical because we were asking people to be restored to normal living in conditions which are at present totally isolated and alienated from our community and in which they act as islands. Though in most cases our prisons are situated in urban communities they might as well be on Tory Island or the Blasket Islands in so far as liaison with the community exists, obviously with the exception of visiting arrangements for relatives, presumably at the convenience of staff for the most part.

Allied to this question of a new management board structure in our prisons there could be created a board which might have responsibility for reviewing regularly the treatment of those incarcerated in the institutions, to see if there is reason to suggest that perhaps a parole system for a particular person might be of more benefit at that time, or to ascertain whether some other mode of treatment or imprisonment might be then appropriate. In other words, there could be some monitoring of the degree of success one hopes the prison would have. At present that facility is exercised only by the governor. To my way of thinking that is not necessarily the best way despite, presumably, the best endeavours of most of the governors. Therefore I would advocate some kind of board whose primary [390] concern would be the monitoring of degrees of success for individuals and making recommendations to the Minister for alternatives, either relative freedoms or alternative modes of detention at a given point in time.

In my view the visiting committees we have are not given the teeth they should have. In some cases it is the fault of the visiting committees themselves who have never fully appreciated the powers they have under the Visiting Committee Act, 1924. Their job is very difficult because essentially they are cut off from any of the parties involved and sometimes feel that they have no friends in the whole system. Of course that is encouraged by the fact that, when they go out of office at the end of the year, it takes some time to reappoint them.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  That practice has changed.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  It takes somewhat less time now than it used but, for the months of January and February, the facts are that there is probably an illegal situation operating in relation to visiting committees. It used to be worse.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  That practice has changed completely.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  It must have changed in the last 12 months.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  In the last two and a half years.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  What happens now? Are they appointed for three years?

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  As of now the existing members of visiting committees are being written to this week inviting them for next year, so that they can have their January meeting.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  I am pleased to hear that the request which some of us have been making for a long time and the recommendations of the 1976 Visiting Committee of St. Patrick's Institution, of which I happen to have the honour of being [391] chairman, are being implemented by this Minister.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  I am sorry to have interrupted the Deputy.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  The Minister is welcome. I can do with that kind of interruption. I believe also — and I mentioned this earlier in the week — that it might be no harm if visits by judges to all of our prisons could be provided for now and again. Perhaps they are provided for. If so, I would appeal to the members of the Judiciary to take up this option.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  The judges have their right. It is a statutory right of members of the Judiciary.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  Then I am appealing to them to exercise it. They may not be aware of it.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  They are.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  Well, it has not been exercised.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  It has been.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  Very rarely. How many times?

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  For something the Deputy did not know existed can he not take my word for it?

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  I know of one or two judges who have done it over the years, certainly I do.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Minister will reply when the Deputy has finished.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  For the most part the reality is that those who daily sentence people to terms of imprisonment know nothing on the ground of the conditions to which they sentence those people. I defy contradiction on that; that is the way it has been. The facility, if it exists, is not exercised. I wish merely to draw attention to the fact that it is important to open [392] up — in so far as it is appropriate to the well-being of those involved in these institutions — public intercourse so that all involved can benefit and the suggestion of suspicion and anxiety surrounding the operations of some of these institutions fall away. In many cases there is no need for it. Obviously in that case judges have an opportunity which I do not.

I have been saying that the case of a convicted person, when he or she is imprisoned, should be kept under constant review. I know it is in some cases. I know, when one writes to the Minister, when one communicates with him in regard to a particular case, or indeed when the governor does so, there is a degree of flexibility about the arrangements which can apply from that date onwards. But I should like that to be, as it were, formalised and the board I mentioned relating to the treatment of offenders might be the way to do it. In other words, the case of each offender or of each person serving a term in prison could be looked at now and again with a view to endeavouring to ensure that the offender could be placed on parole, if that is the best thing to do at that time, for the remainder of the sentence.

The extension of the juvenile liaison officer scheme should apply also. That might not be the best mechanism, but there could be some parallel mechanism for those people involved in crime at the juvenile end. The most useful response of the authorities is not necessarily the children's court or St. Patrick's but to find some way of giving close supervision to these young people, if necessary away from the home environment and getting them involved in constructive social work in which they would find some pleasure, satisfaction and meaning in their lives. The community service orders could also do something in cases like that. Apart from the prisons themselves of which we have a certain idea as to how they operate, we could have a hierarchy, as it were, of such institutions with varying degrees of security and varying degrees of out of custody attendance. In other words, we should have supervised hostels, day centres and employment schemes for [393] offenders. These are areas that have been talked about over the last ten or 15 years but, as yet, have not come into their own. We are all dissatisfied with the number of people on day release to attend jobs — some of this of course is because of the difficulty of getting jobs and the unemployment figures given some days ago do not offer any solace.

The basic principle to be adopted is to get people out of prisons and keep them out, but not, obviously, putting the community at risk. There will be risks and mistakes in any such open system but the community should be willing to pay that price. There should also be orders of conditional discharge or binding over orders as they are called in some countries. We should have hostels or places which are not designated as prisons, where an offender or a recent ex-inmate would be obliged to live for a period of time because the most difficult thing of all for an inmate of an institution is to make that transition from a period of incarceration where every hour of his day is regulated to the totally open freedom of normal society. Despite the efforts of the welfare officers, whose numbers should be increased, it is often a very traumatic experience. I have heard of people who suddenly found themselves blinking in the bright sunlight facing the free world with nothing in their pocket. That does not happen as often as it used to but that thinking is still there and the practice is fundamentally the same. Welfare officers do their best to keep in contact with the person but, unless there is a properly structured transitional arrangement, it is asking too much for someone to jump in at the deep end and start swimming without at least having learned to crawl.

In many cases we do not attend to the reasons why people are in prisons. The Minister knows that drug addiction, alcoholism, psychiatric disorder and other problem areas are the real causes. We do not have detoxification centres in our prisons or any proper treatment for drug offenders. The medical orderlies operating our prisons were, until recently, relatively untrained. Doctors visited only [394] occasionally. Could we do more to examine intensively the reasons for people being in prison and deal with them in situ? If alcoholism is a problem, as it is for a number of inmates, how can we deal with it while that person is in custody? A detoxification centre may be appropriate in some of the larger institutions. The Judiciary should be facilitated in imposing a much wider and more flexible variety of sentences than at present where they are reduced to either imposing a fine and/or imprisonment.

As I said, the community service orders is one option. We should also examine the possibility of keeping people in our care and custody at weekends, at holiday periods or in the evenings or at times where the injury to their dignity, to their home life and to their employment prospects will be minimal, but ensuring that they pay back to society what they have taken and that they are afforded an opportunity of coming to grips with the wrong they have done. I do not believe that the prison system should be as inflexible as it is at present. For an ordinary, self-respecting human being, prison is not just a last resort, in some cases it is a fate almost worse than death because of the implications on home life and on job prospects. Prison should not be like that, it should be an enlightened tool of social engineering which we can usefully use to show people in varying degrees and varying ways that they have done wrong, that this is the way to correct that wrong and in so doing there is a prospect of that person being changed fundamentally in relation to the wrong which he has done, whilst inflicting the least damage and the least injury and extracting from them only what is necessary.

There is no need at all for much of the humiliation, degradation and deprivation which are inflicted on people. I will give a specific example. I remember a case, which I raised in the House, of a young man, who having been instructed to plead guilty in a fist fight, found himself doing twelve months in jail instead of having the Probation Act applied. A further penalty was that he lost his job in the Army. That man has now changed and [395] not for the better. That chapter of his life is passed but neither he nor society from which he came, his immediate friends or relations or any of us are any the better for it. That was a case which could clearly, have been dealt with in another way. The effect on his job of that sentence was not even mentioned or considered. That man who was, in the words of the Army's character reference, an exemplary soldier, has been radically transformed. He is a little bitter; perhaps time will heal the wound but that is not the way he should have been treated. That is why I am talking about flexibility.

We are not taking motoring offences and drunken driving offences seriously enough. Drunken driving is a kind of Russian roulette where you point the gun at everybody else. I am in favour of mandatory sentencing if you could impose the kind of sentence to which I have referred, where a person would be shown at least a small loss of liberty, allied to being obliged to work in face to face contact with victims of such accidents. I can think of nothing more startling or dramatic or more likely to change people than being obliged to look in the face of someone they have crippled or the widow whose husband they have taken. It need not be as ruthless as that in all cases but some basic attempt to tackle that problem in a much more realistic way is needed, rather than by a fine or imprisonment which is without reference to the nature of the crime. We should endeavour, wherever possible when we imprison somebody — and it should be a last resort — to orientate that period of imprisonment in some way to meet the specific crime committed. That does not happen; we lock them up and, in many cases, they are mixed up in assorted groups of people whose crimes are different, whose backgrounds are different.

One has often heard the true expression “Prisons are often the university of crime”. If people have been sentenced for a specific crime the sentences should be designed to rehabilitate them and show them the error of their ways rather than having a large grouping of people in some sort of waiting-room or incarceration, [396] without any reference to their crimes. Undoubtedly, the Minister for Justice will have no success at all unless he can bring pressure to bear on his colleagues, particularly in the Department of the Environment and the job creating areas. One of the most mesmerising things about this whole discussion is the absolute inevitability which surrounds crime statistics. There is a direct relationship between deprivation and social and economic conditions — that has almost become a cliché, meaning bad housing, bad jobs and lack of proper family amenities — and crime figures. Many attempts have been made by individuals of all parties. I see Deputy Gerard Brady here this morning and I am aware of his efforts and those of others in Dublin Corporation and in this House as well, to try to bring about specific improvements in areas where such improvements are necessary.

Invariably, we come back to central Government and individual Government Departments which operate — with respect to them — with blinkers on, envisioning nothing else but their responsibilities. The Department of the Environment in the housing area has to build houses — no more, no less. It does not matter where the houses are, or what the local needs are, there is no regional dimension to any of the planning, whether it be in the housing or the jobs area. Sometimes one could be forgiven for believing that they operate, not in harmony with each other but in opposition because there is so little consultation. No matter what efforts are made at one end of this sad and tragic chain of events, unless we get back almost to the cradle we are battling against the odds.

In the case of custodial sentences which are inevitable and are necessary in many cases, we should obviously make the maximum facility available for people to be on day release. I have not last year's figures; but the figures for previous years were quite miniscule. I do not say that in any sense of ridicule but to point out that much greater progress and improvement could be made. It should not necessarily follow that, merely because unemployment is so depressingly great at present, [397] parole need only be related to unemployment. If we do that, we are placing people in prison at an unnecessary disadvantage. One of the little quirks of justice evident in recent years has been the fact that if one had a job it was relatively more difficult to be given a prison sentence because people, including judges, are naturally more reluctant to send people to prison because they will inevitably lose that job. Employment, therefore, is a factor which has an implication here. If people want to do something constructive in our community and are not able to get a job, are they therefore, by decree, as it were, of economic forces outside their control, to be constrained to live in these institutions? I do not think they should be or need be. Parole should be utilised, not just for work, but where work is not available, for other types of education or — dare I say it — recreational purposes or any purposes, provided that the twin aims of protecting the community — because there would have to be close supervision — and reforming the criminal are met. On average, a person would be helped by being out of prison rather than in and even where a job is not available, parole should be encouraged, and, if possible, facilitated.

Obviously, the community welfare officers attached to the Department of Justice deserve credit for the work they have been doing. Their role and their numbers should be expanded. Their work begins at present during the sentence but sheer weight of numbers does not facilitate or allow adequate intensive supervision and adequate care of inmates to take place. I should like more investment in more resources and part of this Estimate to be spent in that direction.

Much more information should be available to inmates and the public about our prisons. It was my personal experience that many inmates did not even know of the existence of the visiting committee. There are real problems here. It is not just a question of putting up a notice since, as statistics show, there is a high rate of illiteracy in our prisons, which, of course, is the reason why these people are in there. That is the area which we should be tackling. Information about [398] the relevant agencies, like the Labour Exchange, hostels in the city, the address and phone number of the chief welfare officer, of Manpower, the local health centre, various agencies who would help that person, should be available and facilitated, not as a gesture of goodwill by an individual welfare officer on an arbitrary basis which may or may not happen, but as part of the transition period to restoring that person to normal living and normal society.

The buildings, of course, are ancient and, in many cases, the hygiene facilities are inadequate. The sooner these buildings are replaced the better in general, but that is an enormous capital investment and the programme of replacement will have to be phased. The concept of solitary confinement is no longer appropriate and should be abolished. There have been allegations, particularly in relation to the prison in the Curragh, but, generally as well concerning the abuse of drugs and medicines. These allegations should be examined to see if they have any basis, the idea being that a sedated prisoner is less troublesome. I am sure that there is no great basis for this common allegation, but the matter should be looked into.

If the marriage of an inmate is at risk in any way because of the strain which a prison sentence places on it, this should be considered. I recently had a letter in this context, where a mother had not told the children where their father was. Obviously children asking for their father and being told that he is away, or on holidays, should be avoided by more flexibility about the degree of family visiting and visits to families, if the good to be done by such flexibility will outweigh the disadvantages. At present, the Minister is interested in hearing such cases and does take action in many of them, but this action should be formalised so that one need not depend on the goodwill of the individual Minister who might be there.

The detention of juvenile offenders is largely a waste of time and does little more than prepare them for high school, as it were. I would, wherever possible, spend the money which the Minister is [399] seeking this morning in out-of-institution activities, even if one had to have a one-to-one ratio of welfare people. The money would be far better and far more usefully spent.

The question of the detention of females and the recent discussion about the female prison also need attention. I remain unconvinced that a new female prison is needed but it is possible that I am too late in making that case. I say that in view of the nature of the crimes for which most of the women are detained. I note that there are some who are not detained for prostitution and shoplifting and those we have managed to deal with in another way already.

There is room for a constructive debate in this regard. There is also room for proposals, radical and not so radical, which could be implmented, many of which are not cost intensive. Many of them, in fact, would save money. With respect, what is needed is the will to tackle this problem and to explain to the community that if we invest in this kind of thinking now we will save expense and a loss of human resource from the point of view of the criminal and the victim in years to come. The Minister should seriously tackle the crime problem on the streets, seriously consider the suggestions put forward by the Garda and restore morale to the Garda and prison officers.

The Minister should pay attention to the victim of crime who has rarely been thought of up to now. He should devise ways and means whereby the constructive efforts we would apply the inmate to could restore the loss suffered by the person who has been victimised. The Minister should give consideration to the documentation from Finland, Sweden and European countries. We should be in a position to benefit from the experiences of other countries. The record shows that the way we are doing things now is not succeeding and will not succeed. Some courageous new steps are necessary and the Minister should consider such possibilities.

Mr. J. Ryan: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  I welcome the Minister's speech on this Supplementary Estimate. [400] In the course of his speech the Minister stated that the protection and prevention of crime and the maintenance of the rule of law was, of course, an absolute necessity in any civilised society. He said that it was the Garda Síochána who have been given the task of ensuring this and it was the taxpayer who had to pay for it. As a rural Deputy I believe our society is facing a terrible challenge from the forces of evil abroad. The Minister can rest assured that our people support his commitment and the efforts of the Garda Síochána to combat crime. Furthermore, our people realise that the bill for such efforts must be met. The Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces are the vanguard in this battle for survival. The Minister has the support of the House in the challenge he faces. I should like to reaffirm my party's support for the work of the Garda Síochána. The demands and pressures on the Garda in recent years, due to the alarming increase in violence and vandalism in our society has put them in serious difficulties and resulted in many deaths. I should like to protest, on behalf of our people at the wanton murder of members of the Garda as they carried out their duties in recent years. Those fatalities clearly indicate the serious risks the Garda face in carrying out their daily duties. Those unfortunate men who died sacrificed their lives for our protection. They left behind widows and children, but I am sure their sacrifice is appreciated by the State. It must be responded to by our people by giving full support to the Garda in their efforts to defeat crime, violence and vandalism.

The gardaí on the beat, in the stations and in the patrol cars are doing a good job. They are concerned for the safety of our people. It is frightening to hear the term “overcrowded prisons” and the Minister must be conscious of the need to make every effort to reverse that awful situation. I suspect that there is an unease creeping into the Garda. The country cannot afford any escalation of this situation. We cannot afford any further drop in morale in the Garda. I appeal to the Minister to do all in his power to quench the flame of discontent by meeting representatives of the Garda and ensuring [401] that improvements in the infrastructure of the force take place. We must ensure that the Garda are happy in their task and are anxious to continue working in the interests of our people. We have all heard the emphasis being laid on the statement that we are heading for a police state. I reject that statement. It is a terrible reflection on our society that because of the escalation of violence the Minister and the Department find it necessary to increase the strength of the force by a further 2,000. We are in a state of crisis as far as violence is concerned. We owe it to our old people, our institutions and all sections of society to make it possible for all people to move about in peace. I am sure that that is the only reason why it is necessary to increase the numbers in the force.

There are many causes for this escalation in violence, one of which is the increase in the number of unemployed. As a youth I had often heard that idleness breeds discontent and violence. That is what is happening at present. There is a definite connection between a man not having anything to do and crime. Another matter that must be tackled relates to film censoring. In my youth I often noticed that the film censor made substantial cuts in films. Any sex shown was omitted. We have now reached the stage on television and in the cinema where the standards of censorship are so low that 85 per cent of the films are based wholly and entirely on crime, violence, blood, knives and guns. These are an incitement to violence.

Much has been said about discos and about the curse of drink among the youth in our society. Parents are giving their children sufficient funds to buy drink. With the price of drink at the moment, it would be hard for a young man to go anywhere unless he had £20 in his pocket. Discos are contributing in a big way to the increase in violence, because drink begets violence. Steps are being taken by the Minister to introduce legislation to reduce this terrible influence on our youth.

I want to go back to the role of the censor. In an effort to reduce this terrible [402] and continuing display of violence on television and cinema, the film censor should take a harder look at the effects of the films passing through his hands and being shown on our screens. I am not a prude, but every other week one sees advertisements inviting one to come to a cinema nearby, or in Dublin, Limerick or Cork and the frightening figures shown on the screen are an indication of the mentality of the film producers in Ireland, England, France, America and Germany. This is part of the whole setup in the world today. The world is being challenged by violence. The television screen is one of the most lethal weapons being used in the efforts to involve our youth in this unfortunate campaign.

I want to talk now about the Garda and their activities. I want to compliment them on their efforts since the introduction of the breathalyser to reduce the level of drunken driving on our roads. They have reduced the toll of deaths, destruction and injuries. I have no sympathy for the man or woman who is caught by the Garda driving under the influence of drink. To me, a car driven by a drunken driver is the same as a paramilitary with a submachine gun in his hand.

I should also like to compliment the Garda on their activities in dealing with another unfortunate development, drug abuse. I was delighted to hear this morning of a substantial haul by the Garda. While it was in the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's county, that will have no effect on my discussion of the matter.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  As this matter is before the courts we should move away from it.

Mr. J. Ryan: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  With all due respect, we should be trying to keep our boys and girls away from the courts.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Deputy has mentioned a specific case which is before the courts. We should move away from that matter under the rules of the House. It is perfectly in order to deal with drug abuse, the importation of drugs, and so on.

[403]Mr. J. Ryan: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  I compliment the Drug Squad. In view of the escalation of this curse among our youth. I hope the Minister will increase the staff and provide further squads throughout the country. This scourge is not confined to the cities. The towns are now beginning to feel the pangs of this awful disease.

Some time ago I raised the question of building small Garda barracks throughout rural Ireland. A wrong decision was taken many years ago when it was decided to close the country barracks. I am not looking for substantial investment or large buildings in the smaller areas. I am looking for a Garda presence in the local parishes which would be a deterrent to vandalism and crime. I appeal to the Minister to consider building small units in rural Ireland. In my own constituency a barracks was closed some years ago in Littleton on the main Dublin-Cork road. The Minister is in the process of reopening that barracks, and it was never needed more because vandalism is on the increase in that area and the people are living in terror. I hope we will soon have news of developments there.

I compliment the Minister on his training centre in Templemore in my constituency. In view of the fact that the Garda force must be increased, I hope this centre will receive proper attention and financial support to ensure that it will be one of the most modern centres for the training of our young garda to combat crime.

The involvement of many of our young garda in youth centres, hostels and organisations often goes without recognition. In my area many of them have done tremendous work to get young boys off the streets and into centres where there are leisure activities such as basketball, tennis and other games. I hope the Minister is successful in his Department which faces the biggest challenge to our society. On behalf of my party I wish him every success. We give our wholehearted support to him and we respect fully the work of the Garda in our community.

Mr. G. Brady: Information on Gerard Brady  Zoom on Gerard Brady  Like previous speakers I welcome the Minister's contribution. He has outlined in a very detailed manner [404] the moneys necessary to finance the running of his Department under various headings for the current year. Perhaps my contribution will show a bias in favour of our capital city, Dublin. I make no apology for that, in that Dublin represents one-third of the population. Unfortunately Dublin is a fount of organised crime. For far too long there has been an appalling rise in the rate of crime, wanton vandalism and so on to a very large extent in Dublin. This increase in crime demands that the ordinary citizen should be fully aware of the ways in which he can assist the Garda in a positive manner. The time has come when citizens will have to play a defined role in crime prevention and detection.

A very successful Health Education Bureau has been established by the Department of Health. This has contributed greatly in a constructive and positive way towards inculcating attitudes to preventing ill health. A positive and practical way to encourage the prevention of crime would be to establish an anti-crime education bureau. This bureau could be professionally staffed by experts in crime prevention, by educationalists, sociologists, officials of the Department of Justice and by the Garda.

The finger of excuse has constantly been pointed at the Garda for crime prevention. Because of our historical background Irish people have been less than lukewarm in providing practical support for the Garda. This is because in our early years we did not have the privilege of owning the land; we did not have an investment in maintaining law and order. One does not have to look too far back into history to find cases where if people improved their property their rent was escalated to an enormous extent. Our historical background shows an inherent unwillingness on the part of citizens to help the forces of law and order. This fact must be recognised and it is basically an educational matter.

Providing money all the time to a Garda force that is stretched to its limits will not cure the problem. It will keep the problem at bay but it will not provide a means by which we can combat petty and major crime in this city. Countries which [405] have a less dramatic history than ours, such as Switzerland, the Scandinavian countries and the Benelux countries, have a strong law-abiding tradition. It is not due to the religious ethic of the country, it is just a law-abiding attitude that has prevailed. That is sadly lacking here. On the Continent it is not unusual for a citizen to exercise his right of a citizen's arrest, a right that is also enshrined in our Constitution. On the Continent reckless drivers, handbag snatchers, vandals or any other perpetrators of petty crime are arrested by outraged citizens and taken to the local police station and there would be no shortage of reliable witnesses to back the charge due to the law-abiding nature of people in these countries. I do not suggest a widespread usage of the right of a citizen's arrest but people should at least be made aware of the right. I asked a Garda superintendent recently if the power of a citizen's arrest had ever been used here and he said that to the best of his knowledge it had not, that Irish people tend to back away, if anything, from helping the Garda. Herein lies the problem. This is why an anti-crime bureau would be of enormous help to the Garda and to the Department of Justice in reducing the severe cost of maintaining that Department.

The previous speaker spoke at length about the ill effects of violence on television. I agree with that. Television has played a part. In America they have actually linked television and cinemas with a rising crime rate in certain cities. But television can be used to great advantage from the educational point of view. The anti-smoking campaign initiated by the Health Education Bureau had a tremendous effect in combating smoking. I would be glad if the Minister in his wisdom would set aside some money to investigate the possibility of setting up a similar type bureau to combat crime. I am not calling for a second-hand Garda force or anything like that. This is a direct attempt to educate people as to what part they should play. This could be worked through schools and universities to great effect. It could be worked at every level of society. The anti-crime bureau could identify a problem and bring it into our [406] homes every day so that we will recognise it and will recognise that we as citizens must play a defined role. The Department of Justice could set about devising a programme of crime prevention and putting it into the minds of people that they have a social obligation to play their part.

There is an unfortunate separation between citizens and the law forces. In Dublin it is apparent that the Garda are just that bit removed from the public. In the country it is not as apparent. This is not because of the Garda being apart but because of public attitudes. The Garda are doing their best but the public are not exercising the power they have to help them. In England recently they had an experiment with young people being organised into groups called rangers to try to cut out vandalism to telephones, to small saplings and petty crimes of that nature. This was done through local authorities. They have been very successful in preventing petty crime of this nature. In Dublin about half the telephones are vandalised and out of order.

One cannot get away from the fact that close on 2 per cent of all human beings are anti-social of their nature. Unless they are supervised this problem will continue. People should act as a vigilante force instead of living as if in a cocoon and looking to the Garda to provide all the answers. The Garda force are stretched to the limit and are engaged in the investigation of major crime. It is appalling to have them divert a lot of their energies into solving minor crimes which could easily be prevented if citizens played a more active role in society.

As regards the widespread abuse of drugs in Dublin, there is a statistic which says that by the time a boy or girl is 21 years of age 8 per cent of them will have been offered an opportunity to experiment with a drug of some kind. Here again we come back to the question of education. I have not seen any advertisements recently on television aimed at parents telling them to become involved in this question. There is a lot of finger pointing at young people saying they are constantly out drinking and experimenting with drugs. I am a parent and feel I [407] should know where my children are at all times. Apart from this being natural, it should be spelled out on television. We are drifting away from our basic requirements to society. We are looking to the establishment all the time for handouts. We ask what are the Garda and the Department doing about crime instead of recognising that we can solve many of the problems ourselves.

Through the anti-crime educational bureau perhaps gardaí could go on a regular basis into residential areas and discuss with residents associations, peace commissioners or others playing an active part in these areas what is going on. A closer watch could be kept on the community in this way and there would also be an opportunity to discuss various problems with parents and young people in the area. The Minister should give some thought to this. It would have a positive effect and would not be pouring money away like water into a leaking bucket. Citizens should be asked to play an active part in the future.

I should like to refer to the part Dublin Corporation are playing. There is an environmental department in the corporation which I would like to see providing greater facilities. There is a direct correlation between vandalism and crime and the provision of facilities such as open parks, green areas, sporting facilities and so on. I heard recently that in Moscow much petty crime has been prevented by an integrated programme of providing ice rinks within the city where young people can work off their energy. The corporation could play a great part in preventing crime in Dublin. For far too long local authorities sat on the fence and pushed the problem back to the Department of Justice. Nobody can point a finger at a particular agency and say they should combat crime but we should have an educational programme and establish an agency to liaise with citizens and make them aware of their powers under the Constitution to arrest if necessary the perpetrators of crime and generally play a more active part than they have been doing.

[408]Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Tom J. Fitzpatrick  (Dublin South-Central): This is an important Estimate. The cornerstone of our society is to ensure that citizens are protected in their homes and as they go about their daily business. It is a sad reflection on society that we witness such an increase in crime. We must ask ourselves what kind of society we are creating and how we can contribute towards eliminating crime.

I agree to a large extent with Deputy Brady on this matter. An educational programme is of vital importance as regards crime, drugs, drink and so on. We must try not to apportion blame. As we all know, the police are blamed for everything, but surely society has a part to play. Our educational system can play a vital role and so can local authorities. These are all matters which we must look into but I am aware that we cannot delve too closely into them under this Supplementary Estimate.

We must look at the role that parents can play, and Deputy Brady has mentioned this. How often in Dublin in these times do we see young children out late at night, at eleven or twelve o'clock, under no parental control? Parents have a role to play to find out where their children are and what they are doing at that time. They should inquire in no uncertain manner who their children's friends are and with whom they are associating. The majority of seasoned criminals began by being in some way involved in juvenile crime. I had the experience of being on the visiting committee of Mountjoy Prison some years ago and I can say that the majority of seasoned criminals there fell into juvenile delinquency and juvenile crime and graduated into serious crime after that. Parents much teach their children to avoid the pitfalls which surround them. I have the highest of admiration for some children who come from very bad environments and make excellent citizens. They deserve the highest of credit for standing the test of the bad environment around them. However, some parents have failed their children, and I have seen this in my constituency. The parents should be made aware of their responsibility [409] towards their young children to ensure that they avoid serious crime in later life.

Many crimes today are the result of the complete frustration of young children. We see them in flats and similar places without proper playing facilities. Naturally, if a young boy or girl has nothing to do, more than likely his or her thoughts and energies will turn to some sort of crime.

The schools must play a part in bringing home to pupils the dangers that they will encounter when they leave primary or secondary school. I would like to think that the police could have liaison with the teachers in these schools and lecture the pupils on the dangers they will have to face. I would like them to talk on the dangers of drugs and alcohol. I would like to see pictures shown in the schools portraying the human misery created by the excessive use of alcohol and drugs. Undoubtedly, we are generating in society today a belief that drink and drugs are glamourous. We will have to tackle the Department of Justice on this and also the Minister for Education. We must lay the right foundation at a tender age — at about middle primary school stage — to ensure that they do not fall into the clutches of drug pushers or the glamourised attractions of drink.

We all have a part to play and the police and the Department of Justice alone cannot solve this problem. By the time we ask the police to intervene the damage is done already. The young boy or girl has gone on the wrong track and once such children have fallen it is very difficult to bring them back to the right road. Many young children do not understand the dangers and therefore they fall down this slippery slope. Proper parental care and the provision of proper facilities for young children would go a long way towards solving the problem. I am speaking particularly of a central city constituency where these facilities for young people are lacking and, naturally, these young people find themselves before the courts on various charges.

A sad aspect of our life is violent crime against the person committed generally not by these young people but by more seasoned criminals. There is nothing more disgraceful in crime than to have [410] old age pensioners beaten up in their homes for a miserable few pounds. No punishment is too severe for anyone who would embark on this type of crime. Here again the community can play their part to ensure that old people are looked after and visited. The community must stand up against vandals and thugs and say that they will not tolerate this behaviour from a group who represent only a small percentage in any community but who are inclined to dominate the whole area in which they live. In this we must have community co-operation and help for the police. In Dublin certain people are afraid to report certain types of petty crime because of intimidation by local vandals. We must stand up against this type of intimidation to see that it does not succeed in its aim, because if it does the police are not able to tackle the cases. The community can play their role by combining together, and I am not advocating a vigilante type of operation, as I do not agree with that. The community must show by their concern for the old people that they will not tolerate any of these young thugs interfering with our senior citizens. If the minority group of thugs that I have referred to find that the community are against them either they will leave the district or they will not repeat their crime.

All over the city property is being damaged. Previous speakers have talked about telephone kiosks. You have only to walk around this city and you will see windows damaged and doors broken. You may ask why we came to create this type of society and what we must do to eradicate this type of behaviour. Where have we gone wrong that this has developed? I think that this development has taken place over the last 15 or 20 years and we can see the deterioration. Is it because of the affluent society in which we live? Is it because some young people have too much money or too little? Unemployment also has a part to play.

Speaking on these Estimates becomes difficult because so many other Departments have a role to play, but always the causes of crime and its prevention fall to the Department of Justice. I suggest that we should promote more television educational [411] programmes on the danger of drugs and alcohol. We should bring home to both parents and children the importance of avoiding these things which so often lead to adult crime as well as juvenile delinquency. Money spent in that way would be well spent. Such programmes have been effective in regard to cigarette smoking. In this connection I am not referring to advertisements but to programmes which outline the consequences of indulging in alcohol and drugs.

I have had an opportunity to visit treatment centres for drugs and alcohol users and it might be an excellent idea if young people could be taken to them and shown what can happen when drugs and alcohol are abused. There is no doubt that there has been an increase in the availability of drugs among certain sections of the community. Therefore I ask the Minister to increase the numbers in the Drugs Squad in order to try to eradicate this evil. I particularly draw attention to drug pushers for whom I do not think any penalty is too severe. Drug pushers are the lowest form of criminal and I ask the Minister to pursue them relentlessly because they are wrecking the lives of many young people who do not realise the danger until they have taken a “trip” or two, when they have gone too far.

I should like to return to the performance of the Garda Síochána. In my constituency and throughout Dublin they operate in very difficult conditions but they have proved highly capable. Indeed. I suggest they are the finest force any country could hope for. They carry out their duties with diligence. Outside the call of duty they attend meetings of residents' and tenants' organisations whom they advise and inform on the work they are doing. They listen to the complaints of the various organisations whose members suffer harassment daily.

I have always held that we need more gardaí in our streets because I cannot think of any form of deterrent to compare with the policeman on the beat, apart from the protection the on-the-spot policeman can provide against criminals. [412] I believe that an increased number of gardaí in the streets could contribute substantially to a reduction in our urban crime figures. We have all heard complaints that gardaí are spread too thin on the ground. However, we must appreciate that it takes a large number properly to provide a 24-hour patrol.

The answer, of course, is more recruitment, but in this respect we cannot take short-cuts. Our recruits must be of the highest standard—we must not recruit for the sake of recruiting. Our build-up of the force must be selective and cautious so that we will have the proper type of recruits coming in. They must be seen to be there to protect and to help the public. They must show sensitivity in the performance of their duty.

This is where the importance of the liaison service can be seen. That section must be expanded so that we will have more officers, male and female, mixing in the community, trained specially, as I am sure they are being trained in Templemore, for this social work. Among other things they will have to visit clubs for boys and girls, residents' and tenants' associations. Young people must come to appreciate that the Garda are there to help them to avoid crime. Prevention is better than cure and all our efforts should be concentrated on the prevention of crime.

On the other hand there are many hardened criminals in our society and these must be made to realise more and more that crime does not pay. We must ensure that people in these difficult days will not be allowed to get away with crimes of robbery with violence, killings, battering of old people. Unfortunately some people have got away with this but with new techniques, the increase in the detection force and the other facilities now available to the police, we can hunt down these criminals. Eventually we will be able to show these people the folly of their ways and they will realise they cannot get away with these crimes. As I said, liaison officers should try to prevent our young people reaching that stage. This is an area where the Department and the police can play a very important part.

We must consider the facilities provided [413] for prisoners when they leave prison. We need more services for these people. It is sad to think that when they have served their sentences they come out into a hostile world. It is difficult for these people to get reasonable employment. We must educate our employers so that they will realise these people are reformed. Some of them become excellent citizens and are entitled to another chance. When I speak of employers I do not mean only those in the private sector because we all know how difficult it is for anybody who has a mark on his character to get employment in the public sector. These matters must be looked at, especially by the Department of Justice, to see what can be done to help prisoners who leave prison having served their sentences.

As I said, this problem goes back to our education system — education in the schools and supervision and education in the home. A substantial part of juvenile delinquency can be attributed to lack of parental control. Parents of today do not exert the same amount of control over their children as did parents many years ago; they cautioned their children about the error of their ways. More of that attitude is necessary today.

Miss Barry: Information on Myra Barry  Zoom on Myra Barry  We are failing miserably in our efforts to combat crime. We are in the very fortunate position of being a small country which has not had as much experience of crime as many others. One would expect that we would learn from the mistakes of others but this, I am afraid, is not so. Combating crime is costing too much. Nobody would mind the cost involved if we were getting results. As we all know, crime is on the increase. I do not want to lay the total blame on the Department of Justice. I want to praise the Garda for their responsible work and I want to lay the blame for this situation on society in general.

We live in a materialistic, affluent society where caring seems to be going out the door. If we are to combat crime we must encourage this spirit of caring for the individual because the pressures society is placing on the individual, especially on our young people, are many. [414] They are up against the pressure of advertising, examinations, keeping up with the Joneses, and having a lot of money and they have to have some form of escape. If they do not use sports as a means of escape there is a danger they will turn to drink or drugs. The choice is ours. Which way do we want our young people to turn? If we want them to turn to healthy activities, we must provide more recreational facilities.

We must provide a proper educational system because an A in Irish or a B in English will not necessarily prevent crime. Our examination system and our school system are too narrowly based. In our educational system we must prepare our young people for life. Our present educational system fails to do this. A person leaves school at 15, 16 or 17 and is not able to cope with the pressures facing him. I suggest that we start educating our young people for life from the age of four and make them aware of the dangers involved in drugs, drink, sex and so on. At the same time we should encourage them to live healthy and active lives.

The saddest part of this problem is when children are involved. I honestly believe every child is basically good. This leads us to ask how some children end up as criminals. Crime is a disease and let us not forget it. It is like alcoholism, very hard to cure. I visited Loughan House this summer and asked the children there, beautiful children, what made them rob. Surely it was not for the money. They said they did it because they got a kick out of it, and so it became a way of life. It is a vicious circle. As I said, we should start educating our children from a very early age and stop them turning into criminals.

As the challenge of the 'eighties faces us education for leisure will be very important because our young people will have many pressures put on them. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister to bear in mind that individuals will have to have some form of recreation to relieve these pressures and we must ensure that our young people will not find this relief from pressure in drink or drugs. Our sincere thanks is due to the Garda for the way in [415] which they carry out their duties but without the help and support of society as a whole they cannot solve all the problems.

The two previous speakers blamed the parents to a large extend for the actions of their children but I would not agree with that because children between the ages of ten and sixteen are influenced largely by their peers. Very often they try to outdo each other in terms of what they steal or of the amount of drink or drugs they consume. That is a common situation in groups of children and I do not think that the parents can be blamed for this. There may be some parents who do not watch over their children sufficiently but on the matter of crime each of us must accept some of the blame for the level of crime in our society.

The hand-out that is represented by this Supplementary Estimate is not the answer to the problem because in some six months or so the Minister will be back seeking more money because of a further increase in crime and so the pattern continues. The whole problem must be faced and the related factors such as education, housing, leisure activities, money and so on must be considered. That is why I am appealing to the Minister to have a detailed look at society in his efforts to prevent crime. Prevention is better than cure and so far as crime is concerned prevention must be the answer. Cure in this context amounts to locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Minister for Justice (Mr. G. Collins): Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  I thank those Deputies who have contributed to this debate and I appreciate the efforts they made in putting their contributions together. Naturally, I cannot say, much as I would like to say it that I agree with everything that has been said, but I thank the Deputies sincerely and shall endeavour to deal with as many of the comments as possible in the time available to me. Though there have been only five contributors, apart from myself, I would need a couple of days, perhaps, to deal with every point that has been raised.

There is one view being shared by many Members of the House in respect [416] of one type of crime but let me say first that crime is divided, perhaps in the interest of convenience, into two categories—ordinary and subversive. Ordinary crime can be broken down into the categories of juvenile crime and adult crime. On the question of juvenile crime, I accept that there is a genuine plea from all sides of the House for something worthwhile to be done in this area. That, too, would be my major concern. I accept that we must do something in this area but there is no point in society believing that the Garda have a golden key with which they can solve the problem. This is a very wide area which must be tackled from a much wider base than that of the ministry of Justice.

I should like to announce here that recently the Taoiseach convened a meeting of a number of Ministers during the summer recess. Present were the Minister for Health, the Minister for the Environment, the Minister of State at the Department of Education, the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and myself as Minister for Justice together with representatives of Dublin Corporation and of the Eastern Health Board as well as the Garda Commissioner and a number of his senior men. On that occasion we had full and frank discussion on what one might call juvenile crime. We discussed possible ways of solving this very serious problem which unfortunately is not handled as one would wish it to be handled until such time as the culprits are actually in trouble or are brought before the courts. On the instructions of the Taoiseach I am the chairman of that committee and we have had a number of meetings since. The group are informal and we expect to have further meetings. We realise that there must be an input by a number of Departments into this area. Both directly and indirectly the Department of the Environment have a strong input in terms of proper and decent housing. Likewise, the Department of Health and Education have a large part to play because of the services they provide and, of course, Dublin Corporation and the Eastern Health Board have large inputs also so far as this problem is concerned.

[417] However, all of this is but a start and during the next couple of months this House and the people generally should hear much more about the committee. There are some difficulties in putting the wheels in motion but certain progress has been made. For the first time we are identifying clearly the definite responsibilities of the different groups concerned. Up to now there has been an overlap in this area. Anybody who knows how the system works will realise that if there is an overlap the end results do not come as quickly as might otherwise be the case. Now we are pinning down people in the agencies and Departments concerned in the hope of making progress. We will do our best to make our efforts successful. There would not be any joy for me in coming in here and saying that we need two or three or even 23 more Loughan Houses though let me say that the Loughan House we have and the experiment we know it to be is a tremendous success. I shall have more to say about that later in my reply.

However, our efforts in the context of the committee that I am speaking of can only be successful if others who have an important role to play are prepared to play that role. Of course the parents have a role in this regard and I wish all parents would recognise their responsibilities and realise that their role, perhaps, is the most important of all. Perhaps it is a reflection on society that home life is not what it was when we were children. Perhaps the youngsters of today are not as lucky as we were. I hope I am wrong in this but now perhaps we are more orientated to a lounge bar society. Perhaps, as somebody in one of today's newspapers said, we now have the latch key homes and perhaps we are paying the price for this kind of progress. Perhaps the working fathers and mothers are to be looked at because if the children have not got a home life, if they have not got the love, affection and guidance which only their parents can give them, we are on a slippery road we should get off very quickly.

This is only a part of the problem. I am not blaming the parents for everything. It is very difficult in this day and age for parents to try to give their children the [418] same start in life that we got from our parents when we were children. I fully accept what Deputy Michael Keating said with regard to the violence being portrayed on our television screens. Long before Deputy Keating came to the House — I say this without trying to score any points — I had to stand up in the House and talk about violence being portrayed on television. I believe it is having an effect. There is no doubt that if we glamourise violence in any way there is a small percentage in our society, particularly young people at an impressionable age, who will be influenced, unfortunately for them and for society. Maybe we have not got the standards now that we had ten, 15 or 20 years ago.

The licensing laws must be tightened. The House knows that the Minister of State will in a short time come before the House with changes in the licensing laws which I believe will help society and help the community. The changes proposed are being formulated now. I believe they will meet with stiff opposition, perhaps from vested interests. It will be interesting in the House, because it is a nonpolitical matter, to hear the contributions made. I wish the Minister of State every success and I will help him along the way. If we have young people out well after midnight without their parents knowing where they are and what they are doing it leads to difficulties.

I am very concerned about the slot machine craze in our society. I believe it is criminal. We are presently having made a full in-depth study of the Gaming and Lotteries Act with a view to trying to tighten the law. We want to protect society from those who want to exploit it. We have responsibilities in relation to this. I do not care who the vested interests are. We will achieve what we have set out to achieve in this particular area. I recently visited, without advance notice, a gambling centre in this city and I was shocked. I have gambled enough in my time, I have attended race meetings and dog meetings. I thought I knew everything, but I was educated. I would like to see our young people protected from those fly-by-night merchants who are apparently prepared to cash in on the weakness [419] of young people.

I am very concerned about the increase in the drug scene not alone in Dublin but throughout the country. Deputy John Ryan was right when he said that this increase also exists in Cork and in Limerick. There was stuff found growing outside Tralee and in my county as well. It is everywhere. I believe what Deputy Gerard Brady and others have said that this Parliament owes it to society to use every means we possibly can to inform parents, teachers and those in positions of responsibility, who apparently are not aware, of what is going on or of what children are doing. We must inform them and the children as well of the very grave dangers of drugs. There was talk today about drug finds in Wexford and Liverpool. We have had drug finds in a number of places in recent times but these are only the drugs that have been found. We do not know the amount of drugs that have got through unknown to the police. We do not know in full the damage that drugs have done and are doing to our society.

I recently visited Holland with the Garda Commissioner and some of his senior people to attend a meeting with the Dutch police. That evening I walked through the city of Amsterdam and I was shocked when on four occasions we were offered drugs openly. If we do not do anything else in this Oireachtas or in our time in public life we must do everything humanly possible to protect our young people from a situation like that. I know this goes on in other countries as well as Holland. I had a meeting arranged today with the Garda Commissioner and number one on my agenda was to discuss the drug problem and discuss with him his views and whatever he will be able to tell me about the matter because I, on behalf of the Government, the House and the people, want to assure him that whatever he wants in the way of manpower, facilities or equipment to combat the drug scene he will be given immediately. If we want to protect our young people from those who are in the drug trafficking business, who are in it because it is an extremely lucrative business for them, if [420] we do not want them to establish a base in this country, we had better move quickly because otherwise we will be too late.

With regard to suggestions made about crime prevention, crime detection, bringing people to court and putting them away in prison, I realise very well that for many reasons crime prevention is the best and cheapest answer in terms of money spent, manpower wasted, resources and everything like that. I hope we can work out a programme under the committee of Ministers, representatives of health boards, corporations and others so that we will be able to go to RTE and say, as Deputy Tom Fitzpatrick of Dublin said: “You have done an excellent job in encouraging young people to stay away from hard liquor. Now, please help us to do an excellent job in encouraging young people to know the danger of drugs. Help us to educate them and their parents not alone in relation to the drug scene but in relation to any scene. We want to help young people from falling foul of the law.” I believe we can do a lot in that regard.

I agree with Deputy Keating in relation to what he read from a paper which showed that in 100 hours of television viewing there were so many murders, rapes and suicides. I am sure a number of those criminals were not brought to justice. Young people are given the idea now that they can get away with committing crime because people get away with it on television.

I was in Loughan House recently and had long discussions with the director and his staff, with the teachers and with the children. I have a good story I will tell the Deputy outside the House, a description of myself by one of the children. I spoke to the children about their homes, their families and their schooling. It was easy for me to verify facts about their schooling because they were in class. Many of them could not spell their names. After some time one young boy told me he would regard stealing motor cars and bashing them in the same way that I regarded kicking a football in a field when I was young. He could not see [421] any difference. What is needed in this area is education.

I appreciate the approach adopted by Deputies today. All of us know the gardaí cannot provide the answer. What is needed is a community effort to deal with the problem which exists not only in Dublin but in our cities and villages. I hope that part of the educational programme on which we will have to embark will be directed towards the parents. I am not telling parents their duties and functions but everyone of us knows that children are being left at home at night time, particularly at weekends, while many parents are drinking in the nearest lounge bar. I enjoy a drink but I try not to forget my responsibilities. I find it difficult to understand how parents can leave young children on their own or do not know where they are at night-time. Many children attend late-night discos. Last year 42,000 occasional disco licences were granted. We must have a serious look at this. My personal view is that we should have a uniform closing time for all places that sell intoxicating liquor—restaurants, clubs, discos and bars. I am sure many people in the liquor trade would welcome that. The committee set up by the Taoiseach of which I am chairman will try to identify the problems and the specific responsibilities. It is not an easy job. When we have a solution I will put it to the Government and I will do my utmost—I am reasonably good at Government level—to ensure that the recommendations we put forward are implemented.

Of course ordinary crime statistics are bad but there is no room for despair, for thinking the criminal is winning. The criminal cannot and must never be allowed to win. In the past ten years the incidence of crime has increased by 100 per cent, as Deputy Keating pointed out. I accept that this is so. I am not comparing our situation with that in other countries because it is not easy to make a comparison due to the differences in the systems. I have spoken of this matter with ministerial colleagues from France, Germany, Sweden and Norway — all these countries are only one or two hours' flying time away. They have a situation that is [422] worse than ours on the whole but I accept that is no excuse for us. However, by starting with the youngsters we are making a definite step in the right direction.

With regard to bank robberies and armed robberies, the police have been very successful in recent times. It may interest the House and the public to know that since 2 May 1980 there has been only one armed bank robbery in Dublin and that was unsuccessful. I thank the police and those who helped them for that. At the same time, I touch wood that we maintain that situation. I have not spoken about it up to now and I only hope a robbery is not taking place right now. It would be unfair to the police if people thought they were not having a certain degree of success. They are. The success of the police in this area can be seen in the number of court cases — I must be careful on this matter and not say too much. Portlaoise Prison, which is used for one specific type of prisoner, is practically full — I think there are only two vacant units in the prison at the moment and that is going to cause serious problems for me. Some people maintain that prisons should not be built or modernised, that the money should be spent for other purposes, but I have to answer to the public. People who have taken part in armed robberies, subversives and members of the various organisations who portray themselves in any way they wish, are in Portlaoise prison and, as I stated, that prison is full and I have an extremely serious problem there.

There has been a small decrease in the number of armed robberies up to 31 October 1980 in comparison with the same period last year and the year before. I am not boasting about the situation but am pointing out that the police are being successful. We have halted the huge percentage increase that existed up to recently. However, nobody should believe that the people who mastermind armed robberies are idle. They are planning and conniving, they are hoping to lift as much money as they can from our institutions because they need that money to finance their subversive activities. I recognise the dangers of their existence and I know many of them are still [423] there. It is a constant struggle and battle between these people and the police. It would be unfair to those who are engaged daily in this area of operations if we said that confidence in the police is diminishing. When people are making a claim for pay it is often said that morale is at a low ebb. I will talk about morale later. Much success has been achieved and I wish publicly to thank those involved in trying to combat those who are engaged full time in organised crime. I also thank all Members of this House for their sympathy and condolences to the families of the gardaí who were murdered recently. The police are being successful and the judiciary are playing their part by putting away for long periods those who are convicted before them.

I accept what Deputy Keating said about the ruthlessness and viciousness of those engaged in violent and subversive activities. We will put a stop to their activities because they cannot be allowed to operate in this way and threaten this institution.

Shortly after the deaths of Garda Morley and Garda Byrne, the Taoiseach convened a meeting of the Garda authorities, the Attorney General, myself and people from the Department of Justice and we had a full-scale discussion of the problems and difficultues facing the gardaí. The Garda Commissioner was given a free hand by the Taoiseach on behalf of the Government to put together a plan of action to deal with criminals, subversives and others. He had consultations at commissioner level with his two deputies and six assistant commissioners, with the chief superintendents commanding every division throughout the country and with their superintendents. The gardaí through their association made a submission to the Garda Commissioner, as did the association representing sergeants and inspectors. These submissions were magnificent and very helpful. The plans of the Commissioner have been accepted in toto by the Government and are being implemented. Much success has been achieved to date and I hope that the fruits will shortly be seen.

[424] The Garda Commissioner has had meetings in recent times with the associations and with the superintendents and chief superintendents to discuss the progress which has been made. I have difficulty in understanding how there might be any genuine unease or unrest among gardaí about structures, methods and new ideas if they are familiar with the progress which has been made. If through their associations they have not been made familiar with the progress which has been made by the Garda Commissioner and his people, then I suggest that they should go to the Garda Commissioner or come to me instead of relying on ill-informed or uninformed comment in the media. I have arranged to meet one of the associations next Thursday and I believe they wish to discuss their pay. I will gladly discuss this subject with them and it is fair to say that I have already achieved pay increases for them, including the national wage agreement, of up to 50 per cent. There is recognised machinery in existence where all such claims can be discussed and I would rather discuss any claims they may have across the board than through the media where issues can be clouded. Last week I saw a headline in The Cork Examiner stating that the gardaí would put the boot into Collins. If the boot were put into poor Collins every time a newspaper said so, I would not have any back left. Unfortunately, the physical condition of my back is not very good but it is not due to the gardaí. The Garda Commissioner's door has always been open for discussions on any matter of contention within his area of responsibility and the same applies to matters which come within my area of responsibility.

The modern criminal is an extremely well-educated young man or woman. Men have not a monopoly on crime: I wish they had and I would not have to build a women's prison. The criminal is sophisticated and he knows about new methods and techniques. If the gardaí are to be successful they must be up to date with all these techniques. That is why the Commissioner was directed to submit his plan on how to combat the criminal because the professionals know more [425] about crime than anyone in this House. They have been asked for the answers and a blueprint has been submitted; the Government have accepted it and are prepared to finance it. I wish them every success in the implementation of this plan.

The morale of the Force is extremely important and perhaps it would be much higher if negotiations did not take place through the media. If the Garda want an increase in their pay, they can come and talk about it. If the issue is a pay issue, I will discuss it with them. But please, let us not cloud it by other things. If there are methods of operation within the force where something is wrong — and this can happen in an organisation the size of the Garda Síochána — and they want methods improved, then this will not be done through newspapers or through television programmes. Having a television programme on the adequacy or the inadequacy of something is not going to help the situation. But a genuine constructive discussion with their superiors will certainly help and I would encourage that at all times. We must be very careful of any militant group of three or four or five people who might want to use the media to create a storm or of any one or two individuals who might be members of an association or executive who would want to use the leaders of political parties, because that would be dangerous. We must recognise that one has to know the complete and full story at all times.

If the Garda want more manpower, they can discuss it with me. In my time as Minister for Justice an additional 1,780 additional men have come into the force. An examination for entry to the force has just been finished and I believe about 350 passed it. I am disappointed that only that number passed because 850 or 900 people sat the examination. But we had a huge failure rate, and that is disturbing. Lest there be any talk about standards, let me say that about 600 of those who failed to get into the Garda Síochána as a result of the present examination had their leaving certificate. It is not that I do not want to see high standards. Of course, I want high standards. I want better training. On the other hand, I want [426] more men on the beat, I want the criminal taken on and I want the police involved in going to schools and educating young people. We want all that.

In recent times I have had to ask the Garda if members of the force would be prepared to work on their day off. Many Deputies, particularly Dublin Deputies and Deputies from the bigger towns and cities, will appreciate that gardaí are working on their days off because of the demands on them. On the other hand, they also know that if we did not have problems with subversives a couple of thousand extra police working in this area would be available to do other police work. Unfortunately, a very large percentage of the Garda are tied up because of this subversive criminal activity.

I hope that we will be able to build up the force more than we are doing at present. I recognise that manpower is needed. I recognise it is costly, but we want to provide it. I looked for 500 successful applicants — 450 males and 50 females — in the present examination. I am not going to get that. We will have discussions with the Garda Commissioner. The lower age limit for entry to the Garda Síochána is 19 years, a year after the age for doing the leaving certificate. That is not a good thing because many young men and women with leaving certificates will not wait around for 12 months. Perhaps we could reduce the age from 19 to 18. It can be considered. There are a number of other things which could be considered. Perhaps the height regulation could be looked at; there is room for discussion there. We all know of people who did not get into the Garda because of not having vision of 6:6 in one eye and 6:9 in the other. Is it necessary to have 100 per cent vision? Certainly for those in specific areas good vision would be extremely necessary. But perhaps we could look at this area.

I also accept that a case has been made for better training and longer training periods. But I am told by the Commissioner that he is satisfied that as of now the young men being trained as gardaí today are as good if not better than any of their counterparts who were ever trained for admission to the Army. I was [427] amazed to learn that at least 600 of those who failed the recent Garda examination had their leaving certificates. This shows that the standards are there. I put a number of suggestions to the Garda in the past with regard to a type of cadet scheme, a type of cadet corps within the force. That was not acceptable to them. I will try again. I also put forward a suggestion that there could be an advanced training course for the brightest young men in the force but the Garda could not see their way to accepting that either. However, I will try again and again, because I believe it is the right thing to do.

I am pleased to say that one of these days I will be officially opening the officer training college of the Garda Síochána. It is a major breakthrough that this officer training college will be there for the first time. The officer corps, comprising the leaders of the force, will at all times be capable of being brought up to date and made familiar with new developments, techniques, personnel management and everything else. This is a residential college and the value of a residential college is well known to Members of this House and the public. This college will be opened in Templemore. It is ready in a temporary fashion right now. But we are going ahead and we are also working with the Board of Works to build the permanent college on the site in Templemore. This is necessary so that the quality will be there in middle management and from this the future leaders will be got. That is very necessary.

I know that suggestions were put forward in recent times by the different associations. The Deputy should know that the suggestions I have mentioned were put forward to the Commissioner and the Deputy should also know that a number of these suggestions are being implemented. The Deputy should know that and should have been told that. I understand the Deputy had a meeting recently with people who would be in a position to inform him of the full picture of what happened. The danger is that perhaps people in this House would be selectively informed. That is all I will say [428] about that. We must get the overall picture if we are to do something worthwhile for the police, as every Member of this House should want to do.

I should say as well that there is another type of morale that we should look at and be concerned about and that is the morale of the ordinary taxpayer. It is of vital importance that people's faith and trust in the Garda should be maintained at all times. This can be done by sitting around tables and talking about their problems rather than by playing handball with them through the news media from a distance. That is important because if we cry wolf often enough for whatever reason — and it is usually one to do with pay when one takes everything else away — then the people will not know what to believe. The support and the belief of the people in the Garda Síochána are things we have to to maintain at all times. We must encourage and improve them because without that support that thin blue line of men in the blue uniform could not be a success.

There are requests and suggestions in from the Garda on legislative changes and they will be considered. They will not be rushed into, they will be given the consideration they deserve. Whereas we recognise the need for change in some areas — I hope to be in a position reasonably soon to speak at length on this subject — no public pressure can be effective on any Government with regard to the introduction of new legislation. It is something that no Government wants to rush into. If we learned any lessons in recent years from legislation that was passed and changes that were rushed into by Government——

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  That was the sacking of Commissioner Garvey.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  Order for the Minister, please.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  We have had a good discussion and I interrupted Deputy Keating only once in a friendly, helpful way.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  That was not helpful.

[429]Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  The Deputy's party had a motion on the Order Paper to discuss that. I did not ask him to withdraw it. If he still wants to put it down I will discuss it at the appropriate time.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  It was discussed in the court and he won his case. He was cleared.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  No interruptions, please.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  It can be done in an orderly fashion. I invite the Deputy to do that if he wants to. I am referring to legislation which was rushed through in 1976. Deputy Keating was not here at that time. Deputy L'Estrange was here but he did not contribute to the debate.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  I supported it.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  If changes are to come about they will be brought in here and in an orderly fashion and they will not be rushed into. I will have more to say about this — I have used this phrase here once or twice in answer to parliamentary questions when I was under pressure —“in weeks rather than months.” I want to do it quickly and I guarantee that when it is done it will be effective and I hope it will be legislation that all Members of the House will look at and, in conscience, support.

I want to mention a small but important matter. It is serious, even though it came in a throw-away remark by Deputy Keating. It was that the Government were not taking drunken driving seriously. If I am mis-reading what the Deputy said, I am open to correction.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  No, that is a fair comment.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  I do not know what Deputy Keating bases this assumption on — perhaps I should describe it as an allegation — but I take drunken driving seriously and I would welcome, through a Private Member's motion, evidence of anything that can show that I, as Minister [430] with responsibility in this area, am not taking drunken driving seriously. I want to take it seriously and I am taking it seriously. If I find any area where anybody who has responsibility is not taking drunken driving seriously, I will see to it that corrective action is taken. I want to see the legislation working and 99.9 per cent of our people want to see it working. Nobody condones drunken driving which causes people to be killed on our roads. I can truly say, as a TD and as a Minister, I have had hundreds of approaches made to me to help people who were caught for drunken driving and I have been honest enough to tell them that I would do nothing. If there is any way in which the Garda are letting the side down, or if there is anybody putting undue pressure on them, please tell me, because I do not know.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  The Minister is against TDs bringing pressure on the Garda to withdraw summonses?

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  Anybody, whether he is a TD, a Minister, an ex-Minister or a Senator, who tries to put pressure on the Garda not to do their duty should be named there and then by the Garda who are being intimidated. That is the way I want it to be; if it is not like that we are in a very bad and difficult situation. I am inviting here, through a Private Member's motion, a discussion on it and I will gladly oblige at any time. We must give the Garda the support they need.

I have only two minutes left before Question Time. I will not have time to comment on the speeches of Deputies about prisons, prison conditions and the philosophy of prisons. I will have time after Question Time which I will use to mention them. I am deeply worried at the increase in ruthlessness and violence which is permeating our society. I mentioned a number of areas at the start. I am worried and concerned about the drugs and drinking scenes and I am gravely worried about one-armed bandits. I welcome all the help I can get from anybody in the House when we are processing legislation to try to get these areas of operation which cause extreme trouble [431] for our society back on the rails and exercise some control over them. I am personally worried also about the amount of violence being portrayed on television. I mean that. I am not saying there should be censorship; I do not want that, it only brings trouble and misfortune. However, I feel that we should ask the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs to convey to the RTE Authority that this concern is shared right across the board. We believe we represent the views of many people, parents and others, that there is far too much violence on our screens. We should all take heart that a determined effort is being made for the first time to help young people to keep away from crime. That is where we must start. I do not want to have five or ten detention centres, like St. Patrick's or Loughan House, but I want to say to Deputy Keating that his suggestion that there is no need for Loughan House and that young offenders can be treated outside on a one-to-one basis, is a very general, sweeping statement. I wish we could afford the luxury of that, but we cannot. I will go into that in much greater detail after Question Time because a one-to-one with any youngster would have to be right around the clock. You can have a welfare officer from nine to five with a hardened youngster who is hell bent on crime; he will be well-behaved from nine until five but at 5.01 he will be back to his old tricks. I say that with respect to Deputy Keating; his approach is too simplistic.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  With respect, I did not ask for a situation where there would not be periods of incarceration for young people. I said there should be more flexibility.

Mr. G. Collins: Information on Gerard Collins  Zoom on Gerard Collins  If I misread what the Deputy said, then I am sorry. I know of no society much richer than ours that could afford the type of scene Deputy Keating prescribed earlier this morning. I have spoken with Ministers for Justice, or Ministers for the Interior in perhaps 15 different countries during my short term as Minister for Justice, countries much wealthier than ours. Let me say to Deputy [432] Keating that of all the countries whose Ministers I have spoken to we have the lowest percentage rate of prison population. I think we are at about the same level as Sweden but we can discuss this further later on.

Debate adjourned.


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