Adjournment Debate . - Finglas (Dublin) Bus Vandalism .

Wednesday, 23 March 1983

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 341 No. 4

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Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  : I wish to thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for allowing me to raise this matter on the Adjournment. With your permission, I would like to allow Deputy Tunney a few minutes to express his views also.

For the third time in the past year, the Finglas area is without a bus service after seven o'clock in the evening due to the activities of mindless vandals. Finglas is a very large, working class area and many people depend totally on public transport for getting to and from work and social venues. The withdrawal of services is, therefore, causing considerable hardship to many people, especially shift workers, the disabled and the elderly.

I spoke yesterday to a constituent who is visually impaired, and that person's activity is seriously restricted because of the lack of public transport. He is forced to use taxis at night for essential trips into town. He, understandably, is very annoyed and is demanding immediate, severe action against the vandals in the area.

The incident which led to the withdrawal of services on this occasion started with the burning of a car on Sunday night last. A bus arrived on the scene, had to mount the path to try to get past the burning car, got stuck and was then systematically wrecked by a gang of youths with stones and concrete blocks, terrorising [761] the crew and injuring one of them in the process. The crew decided to withdraw services after 7 p.m. from areas outside Finglas village as they considered their job did not warrant a risk to their lives and limbs, nor to those of their passengers.

I have every sympathy with these bus workers. They are poorly paid, work under appalling conditions and have to take all kinds of abuse from the public for the poor standards of service over which they have no control. It is obviously outrageous that they should be subject to such physical attacks as occurred on Sunday night last. I cannot blame them for believing that the protection which they were promised when they last restored full services had failed them.

I am aware that the Garda in the area have done everything humanly possible within the resources at their disposal to provide adequate control in the area, and there has been an improvement in the position there over recent months. Having said that, it is obvious that the police resources are not adequate at present to cover an area as large as Finglas, which has a population in the neighbourhood of 50,000 and which stretches 10 miles out to the border of Ashbourne. I emphasise also that only a tiny minority in the Finglas area, as in other areas of the city, engage in this type of attack. The vast majority of the people of Finglas, young and old, would be a credit to any city or town. They are concerned primarily about rearing their children and providing a proper environment for themselves and their families. They deplore what has happened, not only because of the withdrawal of bus services but because of the damage it does to their own area and their efforts to raise their families in peace and dignity.

A major contributing factor to the problem in the area is the misuse of alcohol and in particular the ease with which young people can get their hands on cider, which appears to be freely available in off-licences on the borders of the area. These off-licences are selling it either directly or indirectly to under-age youths. It is clear that the licensing laws must be changed to prevent this kind of [762] abuse, and I ask the Minister to indicate in his reply what plans he has to deal with that aspect of the problem.

Society in general and this House in particular must share some of the blame for the juvenile crime and vandalism. Many of those involved in this sort of activity come from homes which have severe social problems, and it would be pointless, as some people have done, to demand that the parents in this situation should be held responsible under the law. Obviously, parents have responsibility, but to hold them responsible under the law when such a course would not prevent the kids from going out on the streets again the next night or the night after, and to take them out of the home and lock them up simply would aggravate the problem even further.

Again, it is the responsibility of this House. The Government have today put through a Social Welfare Bill which will aggravate the problem faced by these disadvantaged families. The education cuts which this Government have introduced which reduce the number of remedial teachers and guidance councillors will hit particularly hard at the working class areas such as Finglas. It is also hitting at these disadvantaged families and will bring more and more vandals on to our streets in the long run. The present Government and previous Governments have continually paid lip service to disadvantaged children, and while we have a very fine report of the task force on child care it seems to be gathering dust on some Department shelf.

To conclude, I would make the point that the problem is not simply a matter of rounding up kids and trying to ensure that they are not on the streets and locking them up. It is much deeper than that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : I will call the Minister at 8.55 p.m.

Mr. De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  : The Minister will realise that an immediate step must be taken to control in some way the availability of cider to these youths, and to provide additional resources also to enable the Garda to provide adequate protection for [763] bus routes. If he has any influence with the Minister for Transport I ask him to ensure that the bus workers who have been trying to get an insurance scheme established for injuries during work will see such a scheme introduced as quickly as possible.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : Deputy Tunney will have less than two minutes.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  : I did not hear the word “less”. I will confine myself to two minutes. I am thankful for the opportunity given to me to associate myself with what Deputy De Rossa has said in respect of this appalling situation where a small band of thugs, who were not necessarily from the area, are depriving the good, tax-paying people of Finglas of a service which is theirs. I said at a public meeting recently that as far as I am concerned the buses belong not to CIE or to the Government but to the people who directly and indirectly are paying for this service. There is an obligation on CIE and on legislation to provide this service. If CIE feel inhibited they are obliged to call in any other State services so that it will be provided and the people who have no other means of transport to take them to their work, often shift work as Deputy De Rossa said, have the service to which they are entitled. It is not an excuse to say because of this or something else that the people themselves do not control this. They pay in taxation for the protection which must be afforded. The time is not available to me to do any more than say how happy I am that the matter has been raised here. I anticipate that my colleagues, Deputy Flaherty and Deputy Michael Barrett are equally concerned about this and would plead with the Minister to restore the service to the people of Finglas.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  , Limerick East): I thank you, Sir, for giving me the opportunity——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : If the House is agreeable Deputy Flaherty has requested time but unless with the agreement [764] of the House I will not allow her in.

Mr. Tunney: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  : There is such unanimity about this that I would like, if you, Sir, would agree and the Minister would allow, Deputy Flaherty to say what I would have said for her.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  : For a minute.

Miss Flaherty: Information on Mary Flaherty  Zoom on Mary Flaherty  : We are all in agreement about the seriousness of this problem, which has two or three sides, most of which have been aired already. Some of them are within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Justice and we hope he will reply to those. The problem relates to a small group of people who are affecting the quality of life of a very large group of people, and the control and management of these is directly the responsibility of the Minister for Justice. Apart from that there is the problem of an insurance scheme for the workers in CIE. We urge the Minister to do what he can in Cabinet and in his own area to see that these problems are resolved.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan  Zoom on Michael Noonan  , Limerick East): First of all I would like to reply to the points raised by Deputy De Rossa in the private notice question which gave rise to this debate on the Adjournment. I have received a preliminary report from the Garda authorities on this matter. I have been informed that on Sunday night last, 20 March, a bus was stoned in the Plunkett Green-Barry Avenue area. On Monday, 21 March a Garda inspector attended a meeting at Broadstone CIE depot with union officials and the CIE district manager. Assurances were given that Garda assistance would be provided for the bus crews. Notwithstanding these assurances, however, the buses did not run. The Garda inspector has made a number of suggestions to the CIE management about variations in bus routes and I understand that these are being considered.

I appreciate the concern of the Deputies who have raised the matter here tonight. Deputy De Rossa made three points. First he commented on the task [765] force report. The Deputy probably knows that the Minister for Health is preparing proposals for legislation based on the task force report on child care services. The second point he made was on the availability of cider to young people. This would concern me deeply. It is not confined to Finglas, and I will be looking at that problem in a wider context. Otherwise all I can say is that this kind of incident is to be deplored by all of us. I assure the Deputies and the [766] House that the Garda will co-operate in full to provide the service necessary to defend life and limb and to protect the bus crews as they have already offered, and to protect other people also naturally, including passengers in the buses who would be very concerned about this. I am glad to have had the opportunity to say these few words.

The Dáil adjourned at 9 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 24 March 1983.

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