Wednesday, 20 March 1985
Dáil Eireann Debate
 That Dáil Éireann condemns the failure of the Minister for Justice to provide the resources necessary to deal effectively with the present level of violent crime and lawlessness throughout the country and demands that the Government take all necessary measures to restore law and order in the community.
The necessity to move this motion is a reflection on this House and on society generally. This might be regarded as an almost emergency debate dealing with the very serious deterioration in law and order. In recent months this deterioration has manifested itself in old people being terrorised in their homes and robbed of their meagre life's savings. In one instance two old people had the sad experience of having to flee from their home in the middle of the night and then finding that their house had been set on fire. Our people have not experienced incidents of this nature since the time of Cromwell. In our towns and cities the Garda, despite their best efforts, are being totally frustrated by organised bandits. In one night alone three patrol cars were rammed by young terrorists who are openly defying this House, the Garda and the courts.
We on this side of the House have no desire to make political capital out of these tragic events. Neither have we any desire to score political points from the human tragedy, the fear and insecurity being experienced by an increasing number of people and which are the product of this new wave of violence. However, the time has come, perhaps it is long overdue, for the Minister to take some emergency action, action that will succeed in restoring public confidence in this House and in the capacity of the Garda to protect our citizens and their property. It should be said that our Garda enjoy, as they have always enjoyed, the confidence and respect of our people but a changing social environment demands that a new approach be taken and that there be a greater degree of co-operation  between the Garda and the public. That is why greater emphasis must be placed on the old system of community policing where both the garda on the beat and the public can identify with each other and enjoy each other's respect and confidence.
As legislators we must, in co-operation with the Garda and if necessary the Army, make available the full resources of the State in ridding our country of an element who would not find their equal in the most uncivilised countries in the world. Having said that, it is important that we do not take this problem out of context or create unnecessary fears among our old people particularly. We must assure them that they will be protected and we can protect them and their property if we face up to our responsibilities in this regard. Regrettably, despite assurances given here by the Minister last week and despite the assignment of two special detective units to the west, almost by way of instant criminal response and of defiance of this House, there were other serious attacks on old people and their homes and also another major bank robbery.
The attacks on the elderly particularly have been taking place on an increasing scale in the past couple of years. They are increasing not only in intensity but in ferocity. It is even more disturbing that there seems to be emerging a pattern of premeditation and organisation in many of the attacks. One wonders why there has been such a concentration in this regard in the north west of the country. Perhaps because a high proportion of the population of these parts live in remote rural areas, they are easy targets, but this new era of crime must be dealt with without delay. While the attacks on old people have been in one area of the country mostly, they have been taking place on a smaller scale in every county, including my own county of Laois.
Last week the Minister told us that no Garda stations have been closed in recent years. That may be correct from a statistical point of view but every rural dweller knows that the presence of gardaí in rural stations has been reduced seriously in  the past couple of years and that this reduction is a direct result of Government action and Government cutbacks. Replacing a garda by way of the provision of an intercom system on the outside wall of a Garda station is hardly the answer to the need for more effective community policing. I am asking the Minister to consider seriously increasing the strength of the Garda in rural areas. The understandable concentration of Garda personnel in urban areas to the detriment of rural areas is creating a situation in which the criminals are retreating to the relatively safer environs of those rural areas and they are doing this with the aid of cars stolen in our cities and towns.
The concern and insecurity of rural dwellers on this whole matter of law and order was demonstrated at the weekend by the spontaneous response of thousands of people in their attendance at public meetings, particularly in the west. I congratulate Muintir na Tíre especially on their continuing display of community concern. The fact that there is a need for such meetings indicates how unhappy the public are with the present state of law and order. We should assist in harnessing this community action, not for the purpose of establishing any kind of independent vigilante groups but for the purpose of assisting the Garda in their very difficult task. This action should help to allay community fears and restore confidence in our security forces so that no individual would feel the need to provide for his own protection by restoring to firearms. Such a development would not only be undesirable but would be extremely dangerous, although I suppose one could fully understand why people would wish to resort to that kind of undesirable protection.
Earlier I referred to the increasing incidence of car thefts. We have now reached an all-time low in our cities and towns where one cannot leave a car in safety without having it stolen, burgled or crashed, often resulting in fatal accidents. There are very serious repercussions arising from the theft of cars by young, reckless drivers who are often under the influence of drugs or drink and this is a  nightmare for road users, many of whom have been killed or seriously injured in accidents without access to compensation of any kind.
We must take every action possible to come to grips with this serious problem. In this connection it should be put on record that many members of the Garda Síochána have placed their own lives at risk in apprehending car thieves. A major contributory factor to the increasing crime in the past few years is the fact that the Garda and the courts have been frustrated in their efforts because of the inadequacy of the detention system operating here.
There is little point in the Garda apprehending criminals and the courts applying sentences if the sentences cannot be implemented because of the lack of adequate prison space. In this regard I welcome the decision of the Minister to open Spike Island as a detention centre. However, I regret I must add that this is a panic measure forced on the Government because of the deterioration of law and order. I regret the decision was not taken two years ago.
Mr. Hyland: I will deal with that in due course. If adequate prison accommodation had been made available two years ago we would not be in the very serious situation in which we find ourselves today. It is even more regrettable that the Government abandoned plans to proceed with new prison projects, the economics of which are now open to considerable doubt particularly when the planning of the project has cost in excess of £14 million.
Mr. Hyland: The Minister will have to measure the blundering and miscalculation of the deferment of that decision as against the money he will have to spend in the short term in a panic situation in relation to the opening of Spike Island as a detention centre. Naturally we support this decision because of the seriousness of the problem.
The Government's failure to provide adequate prison accommodation has brought our police and legal system into unnecessary disrepute. It has led to the open defiance of the law because law breakers now know they will not have to serve their sentences. More and more prison space is needed but the opposite would have been the case had the law been enforced fully, particularly in the last two years.
In the short term we must provide prison accommodation. We must take out of circulation people who are openly defying the law. The availability of adequate accommodation, even if it is not used, by itself would be a deterrent to potential law breakers. The absence of places of detention must not be a deterrent to our courts in applying maximum prison sentences, as it has been up to now. We must ensure that the sentences imposed on criminals, particularly criminals of the kind to whom we have been referring in this debate, are carried out. Criminals must not be allowed to flout the law or snub the police force, the courts and even this House in the knowledge that they will not serve their sentences.
Last week in reply to a Fianna Fáil Private Notice Question the Minister said that the inadequate prison system was something he inherited from us and he made the same accusation here this evening. After three years in office it is time for this Government to stand on their own feet and to be accountable for their own actions. The Minister's reply in the Dáil has since been discredited by this own actions in opening Spike Island as a detention centre as a result of public  pressure and protest. The Government did not make any provision for this in their Estimates and obviously it did not require any planning. Surely the Minister's response and the circumstances in which it came about is a greater indictment of the Government's unwillingness to tackle the problem of law and order than anything I might say. By the Minister's own admission, the inadequate prison accommodation is a major contributory factor to the deterioration of law and order but why did he wait for almost three years to open this centre? By his failure to act he has discredited the Garda Síochána, he has made a mockery of our judicial system, he has made a laughing stock of this House and he has placed at risk the lives and property of many thousands of our people.
I hope this belated action by the Minister will be the first step on the road to the restoration of law and order. If it is, he will have the full backing and support of Members on this side of the House. However, in conjunction with this effort, I urge him to implement urgent and essential reform of the judicial system which is outdated, cumbersome, irrelevant and often inconsistent in judgments. I urge him also to update and improve the training procedure for the Garda Síochána and to make available to the force all the technological aids available to their counterparts in other countries, and which in many cases are also available to criminals. Police work is becoming exacting and scientific and it calls for a high level of training. It must be accepted that six months training is no longer adequate for recruits and that there is an urgent need for in-service training for established members of the force.
Mr. V. Brady: The extent of the increase in crime in recent years has become a serious and major source of  concern for all the community, not least for Members of this House. The scope of the problem can be seen from the fact that the number of crimes reported to the Garda Síochána increased from less than 40,000 in 1973 to approximately 103,000 in 1983 which is the last year for which figures are available. In the same period the detection rate has fallen from 49 per cent to 32 per cent. While there has been a serious increase in crime in rural areas, particularly during the past number of weeks in which a new development has taken place — attacks on elderly people living alone, in isolated areas — thousands of old people living alone in rural areas are living in fear. This development is escalating at a rate that has taken the community by shock. That major problem has been relevant to urban areas for some considerable time and especially in the Dublin area.
In the last figures published on crime, about two-thirds of crime committed took place in the Dublin area, even though Dublin has only one-third of the population, and incidentally only one-third of the Garda force are stationed in Dublin.
A large proportion of crime is committed by persons under 21 years of age. The numbers of persons convicted in 1983 who were under 21 represented over 50 per cent of the total. The number under 17 years of age accounted for nearly 20 per cent of the total numbers convicted.
When we come to investigate the cause of increasing crime in Dublin and other urban areas we can easily recognise that the vast number of offences are committed by the same persons who appear to hop in and out of detention centres on a weekly or a daily basis. These youths are involved in what the authorities have for far too long called, petty crime, which include the specific crime of burglary, larceny, unauthorised taking of motor vehicles and thefts from unattended motor cars and other vehicles. I have been unable to obtain the exact figures for stolen cars for 1984, but in 1983 it is estimated that almost 25,000 cases of unauthorised taking of motor vehicles were reported to the Garda. That figure  can be added to the 104,000 indictable offences already referred to. In 1983 the taking of a motor car was not an indictable offence and was not included in the statistics of the more serious crimes committed.
Nearly 8 per cent of stolen cars in the Dublin area are used for the craze of joyriding and this craze — the more realistic term now used for those involved is “motor rat”— is not only on the increase but is becoming a cause of murder and destruction. Not only the ordinary people are endangered but also the Garda who are supposed to act as guardians of law and order for the benefit of the public. Crime in Dublin has developed into an orgy of violence and destruction and hundreds of youngsters have now quite publicly thrown down the gauntlet to the authorities. It is a horrifying and frightening situation that night after night dozens of stolen cars are being driven at high speeds through the suburbs and youngsters are on the look out for squad cars to take on. During the past few weeks we have witnessed what must be a most humiliating experience for any garda apart from the risk of serious injury and death: gardaí running away to escape from brutal youngsters. What type of society are we living in when instances such as this can happen while our laws, the courts and the Garda seem powerless and defenceless in the face of onslaughts by children who have gone berserk and who have no respect for authority, their homes, the schools, the Church or the courts?
How can the existing laws and the Garda support and protect our older communities in Dublin who are faced by young thugs breaking into their homes? The effects of burglary and vandalism on the health of old people are seen in the admission wards of hospitals. The hospitals are now studying this problem in greater detail. It appears that approximately 12 to 15 people with a history of traumatic experience that has undermined their health are admitted each month to all the city hospitals. These patients form just the tip of the iceberg because many more will be treated at  home or will remain untreated at home. The majority of patients admitted are female and living alone. Most appear to be socially isolated with little family support and many have been subjected to repeated burglaries, vandalism and assault. In some cases the thieves have become so daring that they actually stay in the house and cook a meal for themselves while their pals vandalise the furniture and property in the home.
It has been established that many of the patients also have a significant physical disability. Hospitalised elderly patients have had their homes burgled and vandalised while they were in hospital. Many elderly people refuse to leave their homes to attend hospital for necessary treatment because they fear their homes will be vandalised while they are away. If any group in society should be protected from such abuses and stresses, it is the elderly. These people are less able to cope psychologically and physically with such stresses. These burglaries are often described as minor crimes, but they are major crimes when they affect old people as they can precipitate a chain of events which can lead to serious ill health or death.
Society has reached a stage where people are afraid to identify those whom they have seen committing offences and are afraid to give evidence in court because of the risk of reprisals. It is well known that most young offenders are out of the detention centres a few days afterwards. They go back on the trail of even greater destruction, violence and vandalism. It is easy to understand the fears of people reluctant to give information to the Garda. It is painfully obvious in too many cases that the Garda have neither the facilities nor the powers to give adequate protection to those who render assistance to the authorities in bringing offenders to justice.
The public feel that crime has got out of control. Many solutions have been suggested, among them the need for more gardaí, better equipment, more effective powers for the Garda and, above all, the need for justice to be seen in the courts  in handing down sentences, which is an area which has been falling down badly. The Garda are in the front line and we look to them to be the guardians of law and order. The Minister for Justice is the person in charge and it cannot be overlooked that when things continue to go horribly wrong over a number of years the onus is on the Minister to do something about it.
Nearly two years ago the Minister introduced the Community Service Bill the purpose of which was to have young offenders work in the community under supervision. That legislation was hailed by the Minister as being progressive and far reaching and the Minister assured the House that it would be seen to curb the activities of young offenders. We were also assured that the provisions of the Bill would be in operation within approximately one year. Nothing has happened since then and that legislation now gathers dust on the shelves of the Department of Justice. I do not subscribe to the view that that Bill would have any greater effect in diminishing crime in the community. The Minister a short time ago during one of his many press conferences, at which he excels himself in public relations, told the country that crime was now on the decrease and that the Garda had the situation totally under control.
Mr. V. Brady: Nobody believed that at the time because crime was already growing at an alarming rate. Garda stations and Garda manpower in the city have not kept pace with the growing population. Suburban stations catering for approximately 40,000 to 50,000 people have in many areas only one car at their disposal. When crimes are reported to the local station — my constituency colleague will verify this — it may take up to an hour before a garda is available to go to the scene. The drastic cutbacks have deprived the Garda of equipment and facilities that are urgently required.
The total Garda manpower is in the  region of 12,500 of which approximately one-third are located in the Dublin metropolitan area. Obviously, all 12,500 gardaí cannot be on duty 24 hours each day. Therefore, when one makes due allowance for time off and the overtime cutbacks we have experienced we are left with 2,500 gardaí on duty at any one time throughout the country and only one-third of that figure on duty in the Dublin metropolitan area where crime is at such a hideous level. It is time that the Minister faced up to his responsibilities not only to the Garda but to the country. We are being led to believe that the opening of Spike Island as a detention centre will solve all the problems, but if the Minister was honest he would accept that the opening of Spike Island will deal with only part of the problem. The Minister has sat on the fence too long and has not done anything except involve himself in public relations exercises about nothing.
In my contribution I have dealt with local crime only, which is at a serious level, but we must remember that we also have a serious drug problem. According to recent reports it seems to be gaining further momentum despite assurances by the Minister to the contrary. Only last weekend there were reports that Dublin had become the centre for drug trafficking with distribution taking place from Dublin to other European cities. The assurance the Minister has given is similar to the other assurances he gave a month ago, that crime in general was on the decrease and that the Garda had the situation under control. The Minister's action in opening Spike Island is an admission of failure for which he must accept full responsibility. His performance — it could be described as his lack of performance — has been disastrous and his record since he took office speaks for itself. Never before in the history of the State has crime risen at such an alarming rate as it has since the Minister took office.
There are many other aspects I could deal with, but I have confined my remarks to the main problem in the Dublin area. Many parts of Dublin are now no-go areas. There are areas where gardaí dare  not go near. Those areas are not patrolled. Youngsters from those areas go to the local Garda stations and try to coax the gardaí to come out so that they can have a go at them. Dublin city is a place one must have serious regrets about. It is not the city we all knew some years ago, a place where one could walk the streets in the evening time. That is the terrible position we are faced with today. It is obvious that unless the Minister takes further drastic action — I might add that I welcome the opening of Spike Island and I hope it will help to deal with the problem — the situation will deteriorate. If the Minister decides to take further action he can be assured of our support. We do not wish to make any political capital out of this. We are all concerned about the problem and the Minister will get our support for any decisive action he may take.
I am asking the House this evening to endorse the action that, as Minister for Justice, I have taken and am in the course of taking to deal with the crime problem. Listening to what has been said already on the opposite side I am struck by the lack of reality in the approach of the Opposition to this question and their insistence on treating it in purely political terms. They condemn the Minister for allegedly failing to provide the resources to deal with crime knowing full well that the record shows — and I will demonstrate that presently — that the Minister has provided resources in very adequate measure. They criticise the Minister for failing to deal with the causes of crime  knowing only too well that the treatment of the root causes of crime is a highly complex issue necessarily long-term in nature and that, in any event, many of the measures necessary to deal with it are not and could not come within the ambit of responsibility of the Minister for Justice. These obvious facts are, of course, conveniently forgotten because political advantage necessitates that the issues be reduced to their most simplistic. But if Opposition politicians can, like armchair generals, draw the battle lines to suit themselves and ignore reality because it inhibits their freedom of action, Government Ministers and those who must use the power of office with responsibility and in the interest of the common good are unable to indulge in such self-delusion. Reality must be faced and one of the hard realities of modern society is that the problem of serious criminality — not just in Ireland but in Britain, in the United States, in virtually every democratic country — is plaguing our way of life and threatening freedoms and basic rights.
In Ireland the current obvious and publicised manifestations of the problem are the twin menaces of the so-called joyrider in our major urban centres and the hideous and brutal attacks on elderly people in the more remote and isolated areas of the west. In other countries the problem seems to present itself in different forms — in Britain, for example, the most recent cause for public concern is the appalling behaviour of hooligans who turn football pitches into bloody battlefields; and in New York, if one is to judge from recent reports, there is serious concern about the spate of robberies and muggings on the subway which has produced a response of a particular kind that is certainly not to be advocated.
In pointing out — as I have — that Ireland is not alone in Western society in having a crime problem, I am not to be taken as implying that a fatalistic approach to it is a necessary or an inevitable response. Fatalism is, I think, understandable only in the sense of accepting that there may be inherent in  the kind of society that has evolved here a dynamic for causing criminality and that we may perhaps never totally eradicate it. But that does not mean that we ought to shrug our shoulders and say that there is little we can do about it. There is, of course, much that we can do — indeed must do — to control it even if in the short run we are unable to grapple successfully with its causes.
Mention of the causes of crime prompts me to reflect how often we hear demands — as indeed we will hear this evening — from politicians and others that measures that are being taken to deal with crime fail to address themselves to its underlying causes. Sociologists and criminologists everywhere have for long been preoccupied with seeking an answer to the causes of crime and, while it would be foolish to suggest that they have not contributed to increasing our understanding of the problem, they have not yet — so far as I am aware — been able to prove that one particular factor more than any other is responsible. They can of course show that poverty and social deprivation have a lot to do with it. That seems reasonably clear. Yet, as I have pointed out before in this House, that does not quite explain how it is that many people who are poor or live in what might objectively be termed deprived circumstances never commit crime at all. It does not explain how rapid increases in crime seem to have taken place in the country at times of growing affluence. And it offers no guide either — in causative terms — to the increasing incidence of so called white-collar crime committed by people who do not suffer any obvious social deprivation.
What then can we say about it? Looking at what has been happening in Ireland some facts seem reasonably clear. Up until about the mid-sixties this country enjoyed — if that is the right word — a very low crime rate, certainly a rate far lower than the major industrialised countries, and even lower than most other developed countries of comparable size. Then things began to change and change very rapidly. In the ten year period 1973 to 1983 the recorded number of indictable  offences rose from 38,022 to 102,387 — an increase of almost 167 per cent. We are, therefore, a society which has experienced a transition over a very short period of time from a position in which crime — at all events serious and violent crime — was a relative rarity to one in which it is an everyday occurrence affecting the lives of many people.
While there might be some comfort in the thought that all that has happened in the ten year period I have referred to is that we have caught up with the crime levels which prevail in some other developed countries, the fact that we have done so over such a short space of time has had a shock effect on us. In saying that I am not to be taken as suggesting that our crime level is somehow acceptable. Indeed, I do not beleive that any level of crime can ever be acceptable, but I make the point merely to show that our experience of crime is not exceptional and that there are still other societies with far worse problems. It helps, reflecting on crime, to keep matters in perspective.
A large proportion of crime is attributable to young persons. The 1983 crime statistics show that juveniles under 17 years account for about a third of the total number of persons arrested for serious criminal offences. This propensity of the young towards crime and the fact that such a high proportion of our population is under 25 years of age accounts to some degree for what has been happening. It is also a matter that calls for a comprehensive policy in relation to youth, a subject to which I will be returning.
The advent of drug abuse in the 1970's has been another major contributory factor. There is undoubtedly a link between drug abuse and crime. It is well known that many addicts turn mainly to crime in order to finance their expensive habit. I will say more about this problem in a moment in the context of the specific measures being taken to deal with crime. I mention it here only in relation to its contribution as a causitive factor.
Another unsavoury influence has been the overspill of violence from Northern Ireland. This has led not only to an  increase in offences such as armed robbery but it has also given rise to an increased use of firearms by criminals in general.
From what I have said it will, I think, be clear that I believe there may be much to the proposition that generally persons involved in crime come from under-privileged backgrounds and have been reared in conditions of social deprivation with limited opportunities for advancement, but we must be careful in trying to identify the causes of crime that we do not regard these causes as in any way excusing crime. I accept also that in present circumstances unemployment may be a factor. These are matters we must take into consideration in formulating a balanced policy for dealing with the ills of our society, including crime — and by balanced I mean a policy that combines economic and social measures directed at the underlying causes of our problems.
However, the social and economic conditions that give rise to crime cannot be eliminated overnight, as I think most reasonable people accept. Social change on the scale required will take many years to bring about and the general aim and thrust of overall Government policy is towards this end. However, law-abiding citizens who are the present-day victims of crime should not be faulted if they were heard to say that “That is all very well but we cannot be expected to wait until such change is brought about”. They have a legitimate right to demand security in their persons and property now and it is the duty and responsibility of the Government to do all they can to provide them with that security.
What then is the Government's strategy for dealing with crime now? How does it propose to bring greater security into the lives of ordinary people? As the House knows, it is primarily my responsibility as Minister for Justice to advise the Government on the appropriate measures to deal with crime and, as far as I am concerned, the central features of the policy that I am pursuing to contain crime and to control lawlessness in our society is, first, to strengthen and make more effective the Garda Síochána so that  there will be a greater likelihood that criminals will be caught; second, to ensure that the law and practice as administered in our courts is such that criminals can be effectively and expeditiously dealt with when they are caught and, third, to provide whatever prison accommodation is necessary to contain people who are sentenced to imprisonment so that they will serve their sentences in full.
I am satisfied and the Government are satisfied that the position has now been reached where the priority of Government policy must be the protection of law-abiding citizens. It must be regretted that this necessarily entails using the sanction of imprisonment to an increasing extent against the so-called joy-rider, the mugger and the attacker of the defenceless amongst us just as we now inevitably use it against the rapist, the drug pushed and the murderer. I am firmly convinced that the most effective deterrent that we as a society can arm ourselves with is neither the birch nor the shotgun of the vigilante but the creation of a position where the detection and apprehension of the criminal is a virtual certainty, and in which conviction and punishment — by long terms of imprisonment if necessary — follows as inexorably as night follows day.
The Garda Síochána are, of course in the forefront in bringing about the conditions for the creation of that deterrent. It is to the Garda force that we look to secure the detection and apprehension of the criminal. For that reason it is vital that we have the most efficient and effective force possible and it is to that end that I have directed the major emphasis of my programme since I became Minister for Justice.
Not only is it untrue to claim, as the Opposition motion does this evening, that I have failed to provide the resources necessary to deal effectively with crime, on the contrary, in the two years that I have been Minister for Justice more has been done to improve the training and the organisational efficiency of the force and more has been done to provide it with the most up-to-date equipment and  technology than perhaps at any other time since the force was founded.
Let me begin by dealing with numbers in the force. The current strength of the Garda Síochána is approximately 11,400, the highest ever figure. The national plan Building on Reality provides that the strength of the force will be maintained at this level — 11,400 — over the period 1985 to 1987. This means that, notwithstanding restrictions on public service numbers generally, recruitment to the Garda Síochána will be continued and vacancies filled.
Since the Government took office in December 1982, over 1,150 recruits have been appointed to the force. Allowing for wastage due to retirements and deaths etc., there has been a net increase of over 700 gardaí since the beginning of 1983. The additional gardaí have been assigned to the areas where the Garda authorities considered that the need for their services was greatest. It is the policy of the Commissioner to have as many gardaí as possible on foot patrol duty. There has already been a substantial increase in the number of uniformed gardaí who are performing foot patrols and, in addition, the operation of new rostering systems is giving an improved Garda presence on the beat at the times of greatest need.
Increasing Garda numbers is not of course, in itself, the only response to meeting the policing needs of the community. Steps have been, and are being, taken to improve Garda effectiveness and to ensure that the available resources are used to best advantage.
I have already made it clear that I intend to raise the standard for entry to the Garda Síochána. What I have in mind is that a basic education examination such as the leaving certificate would be accepted as the qualifying educational standard. In addition, aptitude test would be introduced and final selection would be by means of competitive interview. Proposals along these lines are currently being examined in my Department in consultation with the Garda authorities and the Civil Service Commission and my intention is that the new procedures will  apply to the next recruitment competition.
As regards the important area of Garda training, I am endeavouring to ensure that training at all levels in the force is improved and up-dated. To this end, the Commissioner, with my approval, recently established a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Thomas Walsh to undertake a thorough review of Garda training needs. The committee, who include people from the private sector and the academic field who are experienced in personnel training and development, have been asked to examine Garda training at all levels from recruit intake up to and including the courses provided for senior management in the Garda college and to make any recommendations considered necessary. While, of necessity, it will take the committee some time to complete their deliberations, they have been asked to give priority to a review of recruit training so that any revised training procedures that may arise from that review can be in operation for the next recruit intake.
As regards Garda promotions, I believe that it is vital to the success of any organisation that it should have a sound personnel policy and a key feature of any such policy is the development of a promotions system that ensures that the best available people are selected for positions of supervision and higher management. The introduction, since I became Minister, of a new promotion scheme for the Garda Síochána, which has the full backing of the Garda Commissioner and of all the Garda staff associations, will I think make a major contribution towards achieving this goal in the years ahead. I will be looking also, in consultation with the Garda authorities and the staff associations, at other ways in which management in the force can be improved. The aim must be to ensure that the force attract and retain a reasonable proportion of the most able and best educated people — men and women — in our society and also that the specialist needs of the force for highly trained professional people are met in full.
 As well as having well educated and well trained gardaí, they must be provided with the resources to do their job properly and, since I am being accused this evening of failure to provide the Garda with adequate resources, I think it is necessary to deal with this question. There are two main aspects to the question of resources that I want to deal with. First, there is the question of the tangible physical resources — equipment and the like — and, second, there is the matter of legal resources in terms of the powers the Garda need to bring criminals to justice.
When one considers how widely gardaí, of necessity, are deployed throughout the country, manning about 700 Garda stations, and the necessity to contact members when they are on operational duties away from their stations in cars and on foot, their need for a first-class national communications network is obvious. Such a system is now being provided. Approximately £7 million has already been spent on this project and about a further £2 million will be spent before the end of this year. The network is already operational in the Limerick Garda division and will be going “live” in other rural divisions within the next couple of weeks. This new system will provide a facility for instant communication between the divisional headquarters and each district in the division and between each district headquarters and the stations attached to it. This will mean that at practically all times gardaí out on patrol and other duties will be in contact with their stations and this will ensure a quicker response to requests from the public for Garda assistance. A particular facility of the system which is worthy of mention is the provision of radio telephone equipment, known generally, I understand, as the “Green Man”, at small rural stations. This equipment enables the public to get into immediate and direct contact with the gardaí at times when their local station is closed. It should be extremely useful in small rural communities where station opening times are restricted.
Work is also well under way on the  provision of a new communications network for the Dublin metropolitan areas. This will include a computer-aided system which will direct and control the most efficient use of all gardaí and patrol cars on operational duty. Similar systems have proved to be of very considerable benefit to police forces in cities abroad and I am confident that it will also be of immense value to the gardaí in Dublin. A contract for the Dublin radio system will be placed within the next few weeks.
Computerisation is another area of technology which can be of considerable assistance to the Garda Síochana. The garda have their own computer since 1981 and they are at present operating systems on it such as stolen vehicles, firearms, crime and criminal records. The service was considerably expanded late last year when about 60 visual display units and ancillary equipment were purchased. This equipment has enabled all the 18 divisional headquarters and some other major stations outside the Dublin metropolitan area and nine of the busiest stations within the Dublin area to have a direct link to the Garda computer. Improvements in Garda computer facilities are being made continuously.
As I mentioned, any discussion of Garda resources must include reference to the important question of the legal powers available to the force. One of the first things that I undertook when I became Minister was the completion of an urgent review of our criminal law and procedures. I was anxious to ensure that the force was not inhibited by outmoded laws from carrying out the task the community required of it. I was glad, therefore, to be able to bring forward the Criminal Justice Bill within a short period of assuming office and, as the House knows, many of its provisions came into force on 1 March.
I do not intend now to resurrect the issues debated in this House during the passage of the Criminal Justice Bill. The House knows, I am sure only too well, what happened and how some Members  of the House opposed the central provisions of the Bill. With the benefit of hindsight and in the light of what has occurred and is now occurring in relation to crime, I am sure few — if indeed any — Members of the House would now consider that the Bill was unnecessary. Many indeed might regret that the detention powers of the Bill and some of the other key provisions are not yet in force as undoubtedly they would be useful in dealing with some of the current problems. I hope to be in a position to rectify that situation very shortly by bringing before the Oireachtas the Bill to set up a Garda Síochána Complaints Board and the necessary regulations dealing with the treatment of persons detained in Garda stations. That will honour in full the commitment I gave the House. It will also pave the way for the necessary strengthening of the hands of the Garda. One of the immediate effects will be that those suspected of taking cars will be liable to be detained for questioning and they can be fingerprinted and subjected to other forensic tests. The Garda assure me that this will greatly help them to eradicate the problem of car thefts in our cities.
Before I leave the Criminal Justice Act let me very briefly remind the House of one or two other provisions in the Act which I believe will also be of enormous benefit in dealing with crime: the dreadful trade in illegally held firearms is being tackled by making it an offence to withhold information about them and by increasing penalties generally for firearms offences. I will say more about the general question of penalties shortly. The trade in stolen property is similarly addressed in the Act and this should make it easier to get at those who deal in stolen goods —“the fences”— who are, as we know, the lifeblood of criminal activity. Court procedures are being improved so that gardaí can give evidence in certain circumstances in writing instead of orally thus freeing greater numbers of gardaí to deal with crime instead of having them tied up in court. Majority verdicts, which have helped obtain more convictions in other countries, are being introduced.
 Before leaving the question of policing I want to say something about crime prevention. I believe that as well as dealing effectively with detection and apprehension of criminals the Garda Síochána must promote to the maximum extent practicable measures aimed at preventing crime. Crime prevention is cost effective. It can save lives and, of course, large sums of money. The Garda Síochána has within its ranks a full-time crime prevention advisory service. Apart from that special unit, however, all members of the force have a responsibility in the prevention of crime as part of their ordinary Garda duties and the Garda authorities are anxious that all members of the force should promote public interest in crime prevention.
I attach great importance to the improvement of Garda-community contacts and this is a matter that is being pursued by the formulation and implementation of a policy of community policing. In recent years there has been a growing recognition of the need to involve the community at large in crime prevention activities and specific policies are being developed to this end. One such policy is neighbourhood watch. Neighbourhood watch is essentially a network of public spirited people who observe what is going on in their own neighbourhoods and report any suspicious or unusual happenings to the Garda. In simple terms the civilian become the eyes and ears of the force with a view to counteracting the activities of the criminal and vandal. Early indications from the experiments that have been carried out suggest that neighbourhood watch has a useful role to play in crime prevention and it will be expanded and developed throughout the State as quickly as possible.
The need for better Garda-community co-operation is nowhere better illustrated than in the response to the recent spate of attacks on elderly people living in isolated areas. This is an area where the Garda alone cannot provide the answer and where they need the active support of the community not only in the passing on of information about suspicious events or  suspicious characters in a locality but in providing a very positive security screen for vulnerable old persons. I am glad to say that the community has responded well in this regard.
As I said at the outset, not only is it an essential part of the policy I am pursuing that there should be better detection; it is also essential that the court system should function smoothly and play its part in dealing with crime. In this respect there is often criticism about delays in dealing with criminals in the courts and about inadequate sentences being imposed. As far as the District Court is concerned, the position is that where a person is arrested by the Garda and not released on station bail he is brought before a peace commissioner or a district justice as soon as is practicable — in effect not later than noon on the following day in places such as Dublin, Cork and Limerick.
Where such cases are dealt with summarily in the District Court they are normally disposed of within two to three weeks. Where a defendant pleads guilty his case is often disposed of on his first appearance. There can never be any question, however, of speeding up the working of the courts to such an extent as to deal with all accused persons on their first appearance as has recently been suggested. Nor do I think it is practicable to introduce special court sessions for “joy riders” to get over the problem caused by granting bail. Many offences, including unauthorised taking of cars, are inherently serious and in those cases there is a right to trial by jury. But even where cases are dealt with summarily in the District Court, it is frequently impossible to avoid adjournments to enable an accused to obtain legal aid or for social or medical reports or for other valid reasons, and, as I will mention in a moment, bail is mostly unavoidable in these cases. Where a case is not being disposed of in the District Court, that is, where a defendant is being sent forward for trial, a book of evidence has to be prepared by the State solicitor and this inevitably gives rise to delays. Of course, delays can also occur in cases where  adjournments are sought by the prosecution or the defence.
There are delays of up to two months in the Metropolitan District Court in forwarding appeal papers to the Circuit Court in cases where defendants are on bail. There are no delays in forwarding appeal papers to the Circuit Court in cases where defendants are remanded in custody. The delays in non-custody cases are due to staff shortages. I hope to be able to do something about these delays and I intend to have the matter examined.
In relation to the criminal trials in the Circuit Court, I am aware that there are delays in some circuits. In an effort to improve the situation the Government appointed an additional circuit judge last year and it is expected that his services will have a substantial effect on the position over the coming year in that the President of the Circuit Court will be in a position to assign additional assistance to the circuits most seriously affected.
With regard to criticisms frequently voiced about inconsistencies and inadequacies in sentences being imposed by the Judiciary, the position is that under our legal system the law provides generally for maximum penalties for criminal offences. This enables the judge or justice to exercise his discretion, within the maximum penalty, by reference to the conclusions he has reached after trying the case, hearing all the evidence, assessing the culpability and the circumstances of the accused. This means it is inevitable that there will be divergencies between sentences even for the same offence because the circumstances will differ from case to case.
I am sure that the Presidents of all the courts will continue to do what they can to promote the future development of a sentencing jurisprudence in this jurisdiction. There may also be scope in the superior courts for greater use of practice directions in relation to sentencing which could be a help. There is already provision in the law for meetings of Justices of the District Court to discuss, inter alia, the avoidance of undue divergencies in  the general level of fines and other penalties. There is no similar provision in the case of other courts, but I am aware that over the past few years regional conferences of judge have been convened to discuss the administration of justice. The holding of such regional conferences was recommended in the 12th Interim Report of the Committee on Court Practice and Procedure.
Deputies will, of course, be aware that the Constitution provides that all judges are independent in the exercise of their judicial functions and it would be improper of me to comment on an individual case in a way that would amount to interference with that independence. It is against that constitutional background that I am making these suggestions which may help to achieve greater uniformity in sentences.
One area which was very much in our minds in this House in debating the Criminal Justice Bill — and it is a matter about which concern has again recently been expressed — is the problem of offences committed by persons while on bail. There is, I believe, a widespread feeling that bail is too readily granted. Most people want to see bail harder to get and they want the courts to be able to refuse it where there is a likelihood that the person will commit further offences while on bail. People are understandably affronted at reports of car thieves being arrested and charged and then being released immediately only to be caught in the act the next day.
There is, however, a real difficulty about this stemming from a 1966 decision of the Supreme Court which was to the effect that to refuse bail on the grounds that further offences might be committed by the accused would amount to a form of preventive detention and would be unconstitutional. I am advised that that position cannot be changed except by amending the Constitution.
However, the law relating to other aspects of bail was reviewed in the course of preparation of the Criminal Justice Bill and different approaches to the problem were considered. The Government opted for three measures contained in sections  11 to 13 of the Act and these have been in operation since March. First, the law now requires any sentences for an offence committed-on bail to be consecutive on any other sentence passed or about to be passed on a person for a previous offence. Second, the aggregate term which can be imposed by a district justice when passing two or more consecutive sentences is now two years instead of 12 months. Third, failure to surrender to bail or, as it is more commonly known, absconding, has been made an offence for the first time and carries a sentence of up to 12 months imprisonment. Offenders who continue to engage in criminal activity while on bail can now expect much harsher punishment from the courts.
I should like to conclude by referring to the situation in the prisons. While it is true that previous administrations spent £13 million on the design of prisons on foot of decisions taken in 1978 and 1979, they never proceeded to build them.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): We provided the money for the most advanced project, that is, the Clondalkin prison. That will not be coming on stream until 1987. I have a particular difficulty, as other Ministers have, in clearing up the mess left by the previous administration. It will take us our full term of office to do that, but we will clear it up in the law and order area and in the crime area as we have done it in the other areas.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I have added 500 extra places to the prison system in the past two years and I hope that the introduction of Spike Island, which was welcomed by the spokesman for the Opposition, will get us over this present emergency, which arose since Christmas, of prison spaces related directly to car stealing. I am glad to have  the limited support I got from the Opposition tonight. I hope I will get more constructive support in the future.
“;recognises that much crime and vandalism has its origins in social and environmental factors, and notes that crime has grown as the level of unemployment has increased; deplores the failure of successive Fianna Fáil and Coalition Governments to tackle these problems; and calls on the Government to (a) recognise that in the long term a significant reduction in crime depends on the ending of poverty and social deprivation, and (b) ensure that in the short term all the necessary finance and resources are made available to the Gardaí to enable them to protect people from crime”.
While agreeing with the Minister's general thesis in regard to the relationship between crime and poverty or social deprivation, and the fact that we get crime in times of prosperity and in prosperous communities, I do not think anybody can seriously dispute the fact that the link between criminal vandalism and poverty or social deprivation exists. It is not a coincidence that the levels of crime and vandalism are worse in the areas of poorer housing and inadequate social facilities. It is not a coincidence that crime has risen as unemployment has soared. Governments who have allowed those conditions to develop must accept some responsibility for the situation which exists.
We are discussing this issue tonight in the context of two major factors which developed recently on top of the level of  crime already existing. The first is the enormous increase in the number of attacks on families in isolated rural areas. People are being attacked and robbed by a small number of gangs, perhaps four or five. They are doing this on an organised scale particularly in some western counties. The second is the enormous development of car thefts and the use of stolen cars in crime in Dublin. Cars have now become a major weapon of the criminal to break into premises by ramming them. They are the getaway weapon and the weapon for attacking the gardaí when they come on the scene. This has been an extraordinary development in the past couple of months. The criminal uses the car in this fashion. So-called joyriders are also using stolen cars to attack the gardaí. These factors must be dealt with separately from what we might call the normal increase in crime.
Over the past three or four years we discussed community policing. This was discussed by the Garda and particularly by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors who produced documentation on the need for community policing and how it could be developed. To my knowledge, this idea has never been accepted or promoted by the Department of Justice, the Garda Commissioner or the senior members of the Garda. The present Commissioner paid some lip service to it but the manner in which the whole discussion on community policing has been scaled down to almost a silence in the past year or so worries me very much. The Garda force and the community must work together. If they work separately against crime they will increasingly come into confrontation. Surely the Department of Justice and the Garda Commissioner must see the need for this co-operation, but I have seen no developments in that direction. Since the Minister came into office he has been doing everything possible to get increased powers for the Garda and to develop and expand the prison service and so on, but we do not see any efforts being made by him on this matter, although he has  commended the idea. The message of co-operation between the community and the Garda does not seem to have percolated down through the Garda force.
The local government reform idea could also have been used for discussing and introducing the idea of policing and police committees coming under local government structures, so that there would be a liaison with the garda in the development of community policing in their own area under their own local authority. They would be able to discuss the type of policing and resources and analyse the type of crime in their area, and in that way help the Garda.
Another area which has been allowed to decay is the area of juvenile liaison officers. Some years ago these men were doing excellent work but have been starved of resources, under-manned and totally unable to carry out the jobs they are supposed to do. They are completely frustrated. They are being used for other jobs. These officers could be a vital link with juvenile delinquents or potential offenders. They would be able to assess these at an early age, in an effort to ensure that they would not graduate into more serious crime. These officers could be operating with the young, with what we call joyriding car thieves who are doing this for kicks. This could have an enormous influence in reducing criminal activity among young people, particularly in their area, when they would get to know these young people. Finance would need to be increased and the officers would need to be taken out of any direct involvement in arrests, searches and interrogation so that they could gain and maintain the confidence of the young people in their area.
We must accept that all these things may be slightly long term and of little comfort to elderly people living in fear and to those in the city who are terrified right through the night with cars chasing up and down their streets and lives being endangered by people driving stolen cars and by vandalism. Immediate steps must be taken to deal with this problem by giving the necessary resources to the Garda and by the use of more modern  technology in dealing with speeding vehicles. The Garda should be provided with heavier and more effective vehicles to counteract these activities. The present situation is very damaging to their morale.
Mr. Wallace: Listening to the Minister tonight, one would think that we should leave the House waving flags because all of a sudden he has found a formula to beat crime. Most of what he has said we have already heard and I am not too confident about some matters to which he referred tonight. To quote the Evening Herald of 14 March, “The thugs have never had it so good... The guards cannot catch them. Judges are erratic in sentencing them. The prisons can't keep them. And legislation isn't dealing with them”.
It is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice and the Government to protect the people of this State. We are told on many occasions that the Garda have failed in their battle against crime, which is an unfair statement. It should be said that the State — the Government and the Minister — have failed in their battle against crime. People are entitled to be frustrated, annoyed and disillusioned with what is happening at present.
Last year the Government allocated over £200 million in aid to the Garda in their fight against crime, but much of this money was not used in the best interests of that force. Many of the duties which the Garda force are carrying out at the moment should not be their responsibility. I have referred to this on a number of occasions, in this House and elsewhere. The Minister mentioned the importance of improving community  relations with the Garda. In my own city of Cork we see gardaí putting parking tickets on cars in the same streets where crimes are being committed, shops robbed and houses burgled. The Garda also are called upon to carry out duties for the Departments of Social Welfare and Agriculture. Last year I asked the Minister to look into this and to ensure that the Garda carried out duties for which they were highly and expensively trained. They should not be carrying out jobs for which they are not trained. There are thousands of unemployed people who would be well capable of doing some of these duties.
I am not satisfied that the Garda are being utilised in my own area of Cork to the full extent, as the Minister would like us to believe. We have four Garda stations in one area of roughly two miles in diameter. A new station was built and it was intended that a superintendent, an inspector and other ranks would be located in that station, but this has not happened. In a reply to a recent question from me, the Minister informed me that all ranks were located at that station and that the needs of the area would be kept under review. I am talking about the utilisation of the force to the best possible advantage of the community and I am critical here that some decision was taken, political or otherwise, not to locate a superintendent in that station. Could the Minister elaborate on that matter?
In Cork at present the duties of gardaí are overlapping. They are located in different stations because of the geography of the location. Take Blarney as an example. This is almost seven miles from the city of Cork but covers a developing area of Knocknaheeny within the city boundary. We have made representations regarding this and there have been no developments or no improvement. There was a murder incident in the Glanmire area with the superintendent in Cobh conducting the investigations into that case. The headquarters of that investigation were sited in the new Garda station in Mayfield. If the Minister is serious  about the situation, about the deployment of the Garda, he will ensure that this situation is immediately corrected. I have been critical of the Department of Justice, of certain people in headquarters, whether that be in the Commissioner's Office or elsewhere, that they will not move with the times to ensure that the force is used to the best of its ability and in the best way possible for the protection of the people.
The Minister mentioned that the present level of the force is 11,400. I am not satisfied that the Garda have all the resources they need available to them. I contend their manpower is not at full strength and it should be remembered that, when Fianna Fáil left office, it was their intention to recruit 600 extra gardaí. That has not happened. Irrespective of whatever figures the Minister gave here this evening I contend that their strength is 600 under the level intended.
The Garda are suffering as a result of the public sector recruitment embargo. Thirty seven civilians employed by the Garda left and their duties must now be carried out by a corresponding number of gardaí, which is most unacceptable in this day and age. How many of us know of terrorized people who have been mugged or robbed in their own homes? We pay lip service to what is happening outside this House. Too many of us are removed from the realities of what is happening on our streets at present. Unless we move quickly the situation will have deteriorated beyond belief.
The Minister read a 25 page speech here this evening, much of which we heard already. The reality is that people are now losing faith in the institutions of State, in the Garda in particular. Here I want to defend the Garda. I contend they are not receiving the assistance of their superior officers, and certainly not that of the Minister and the Government. I can back up that assertion in the examples I have just given. A very serious problem obtains. The Minister said in the course of his remarks that guns do not constitute an answer to the problem, nor do people  taking the law into their own hands or vigilantes. I support the Minister fully in that. But, that being said, it demonstrates the frustration felt by people at what is happening on our streets. It is an indictment of this House, of the Government on their failure to provide adequate protection for the people, a protection to which they are entitled.
It has been contended that an estimated 100 accused persons were allowed to go free from our courts because Garda overtime was disallowed, because gardaí on night duty — I see the Minister shaking his head but he did not refute or deny that allegation when it was made some time ago, when Deputy Woods made a statement——
Mr. Wallace: Is it not a fact that those gardaí could not attend because overtime was not available to them? Is the Minister denying that? Is the Minister denying that they could not attend the following morning because overtime was not available to them? Were those people not allowed out on bail?
Mr. Wallace: The Minister and the Government want to close their eyes to the reality of what is happening. The people are terrified at what is happening and they see the Minister as a total failure in dealing with that problem. If that offends the Minister I cannot do anything about it.
Mr. Wallace: The Minister mentioned neighbourhood watch. Would the Minister explain in greater detail what is happening the neighbourhood watch because I do not see any activity in Cork in that regard? The Joint Committee on Crime, Lawlessness and Vandalism, of which I am a member, submitted a report to this House which was approved. I share the concern of Deputy Mac Giolla when he asserted a lack of commitment on the part of people at the top with regard to the implementation of a community watch. The community at large are not being encouraged, the Garda in lower ranks are not being encouraged to become involved and I am not accepting the Minister's line here this evening as policy. It has been clearly shown that community watch is not being encouraged by the top brass in the Garda and in certain sections of the Department of Justice. Perhaps the Minister would elaborate on that issue. We spoke of assistance to the Garda. We had a situation recently in Cork in which a patrol car in a certain Garda station — which happened to be my own — was out of order for a number of weeks and it was contended because it had not 75,000 miles registered it could not be replaced. That  car was replaced very quickly because of the publicity the incident received.
I welcome the opening of Spike Island. That is sad but, unfortunately, it has become necessary because the vast majority of people are law abiding citizens. While unemployment and other factors are being said to be contributory, the majority of the unemployed abide by the law and are entitled to the protection of the law. We must deal with criminal offenders effectively. People must see that the institutions of State are used in the best way possible for the protection of our people.
I might refer briefly to the courts. The Minister said he could not interfere with the Judiciary. That is fair enough but I want to remind the Minister that the way in which the Judiciary implement the law affects us all and is not proving very satisfactory. The inconsistencies of the Judiciary in their sentencing is not good enough. Nor is it good enough for the Minister to say he cannot interfere. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that there is some consistency. I accept that no two cases will be exactly similar but one must question reports of some people in jail serving sentences for owing a few pounds to a moneylender or for other small offences, such as parking offences, who serve every day of that sentence, while serious criminal offenders wander free on our streets doing what they like because of the inconsistency of those sentences.
I am sorry if I offended the Minister but I was hoping I was helping him in his endeavours to deal with the problem obtaining. We must be realistic, there is a very serious problem. I am merely expressing the frustrations of people, as I have been elected to do. Unfortunately, the electorate now believe that we are out of touch with reality. The reason people have advocated vigilantes and the like is because they see us as a failure. Before it is too  late for everybody concerned I appeal that every possible effort be made, allowing the electorate to see that the institutions of State are used for their protection in every way possible to fight these vandals and criminals.
Mr. G. Brady: I welcome this opportunity of speaking on what is perhaps the most serious problem at present facing Irish society. People are jaded listening to statistics on crime in Dublin and elsewhere being trotted out. I even wonder if the excellent series “Crimewatch” in The Irish Times is followed, as it should be, to give an in-depth analysis on a day to day basis, minute by minute, of exactly what is happening in our capital city.
The April edition of the Garda Review, as I am sure the Minister is aware, stated that in America there were 1.7 policemen per 1,000 population, whereas in Ireland the figure is 3.14 per 1,000. That figure shows that Ireland is twice as well policed as America, so what is wrong with our present system? We must coolly look at the situation and ask if crime is stabilising or getting worse. All pointers indicate that the situation is steadily deteriorating, a fact which must be admitted and faced up to. We must ask why this is and what measures we must urgently take to solve the problem. I am convinced that one of the prime reasons for the increase in crime is that the deterrent is not treated seriously by the perpetrators of crime.
The softly, softly approach is not a system which can work in the long term, given the fact that, regrettably, 2 per cent of our population, or indeed any population, is genetically programmed to be anti-social. However, a logical approach is needed and we must look at it in the long and short terms. In the long term I have three suggestions I should like to make. One is the establishment of a civic youth corps, a civic service corps, to effectively utilise the energies of thousands of young people who are currently unemployed. Such a corps should be introduced for a number of reasons, primarily to develop a sense of community  and civic responsibility in young people, to provide the manpower for useful local projects, to allow young people time to mature and to help them to get suitable jobs and to learn how to fend for themselves. Such a corps could usefully supplement and complement the social services, with young people visiting the aged, the disabled and the disadvantaged and running meals on wheels or other similar tasks. Such a corps would be seen as an alternative to military service where people are conscripted into a compulsory term of service to their country. Members of the corps would live at home reporting each morning at civic service centres and they would be under the control of a civic service authority. They would be paid a weekly wage which would substitute for dole money. This corps is needed to give dignity and direction to thousands of young people who are vainly searching for work. However, it must be done in an organised and programmed way, allied to career guidance and counselling, social services, voluntary bodies and AnCO.
I should also like to see the establishment of citizens' support bureaux. Rising crime, violence and wanton vandalism call for the establishment by the Department of Justice of such bureaux to encourage, educate and co-ordinate the efforts of ordinary citizens in aiding the Garda in the prevention and detection of crime. Such a programme is needed to undertake an organised campaign to persuade the public to be positive, helpful and forthcoming in the support of civil authorities. I am sure the Minister is aware that for historical reasons many people are less than lukewarm in providing practical support for the Garda. On “Garda Patrol” week in, week out appeals are made for witnesses to come forward, very often in the case of daylight robberies committed in sight of dozens of witnesses. Such appeals should not have to be made, people should come forward out of a sense of obligation to help and protect fellow citizens who are the victims of crime. Citizens' support bureaux would initiate programmes of education in schools, colleges and public organisations to make people aware of  the practical ways in which they can help to detect crimes. Indeed, in some countries with perhaps a less traumatic history than ours, especially Switzerland and Scandinavia who have a strong law abiding tradition, it is not unusual for citizens to exercise their right of arrest. Reckless drivers, juvenile handbag snatchers, vandals and other perpetrators of crime are often placed under arrest by outraged citizens and marched off to police stations. Could one imagine that happening in Ireland?
A change of public attitude, a sense of greater responsibility in relation to crime and its prevention, is needed. This cannot be brought about without a major and continuous educational effort by the Department of Justice and such citizens' support bureaux, well staffed and supported by public funds, would be capable of effectively complementing such an undertaking.
The third point I wish to put is one which I mentioned two years ago and on which I am very keen: the extension of the community watch scheme. I am sure you remember that I raised this question on the Adjournment some time ago in conjunction with attacks on the elderly. I am very disappointed that the scheme has not been extended. Obviously, there is a reason for the Minister not extending that scheme rapidly in our capital city. We all know that statistics prove that this system is a great deterrent. The Detroit experiment showed that it reduced crime by 30 per cent. Why is there such reluctance to extend the scheme here? Perhaps the Minister fears infiltration by subversives. If so, I appreciate his concern, but it is a system that has proved its worth. In London they now have something like 300 groups who are working to great effect. Perhaps we have one or two on an experimental basis, but we are chasing crime instead of being ahead of it. I warmly welcome the decision to sent young offenders to Spike Island, but that is not enough.
Curative measures are needed and democracy is abused here at present. The rights of the public are abused by a tiny minority. The public are entitled to be  protected by the arm of the law, but yet crimes are committed every day. I will give one example and I am sure other speakers will give many more. An elderly lady, a constituent who lives in Adelaide Road, was stabbed 100 times for a paltry sum of £30 or £40. That speaks for itself, and I have a litany of many others.
An extension of prison accommodation is of paramount importance. The Minister should examine the possibility of engaging the Army in some practical way to supervise prisoners in detention centres, particularly to ensure that when they are released they are better citizens instead of being allowed to go to seed, as it were, in prisons that are overcrowded and which perhaps only compound the problems of these people. Perhaps the Minister would consider using the Curragh detention centre in this way.
There is a very big problem in so far as drug related crime is concerned. In these cases the responsibility should rest directly with the pusher because he is the one who puts the problem into the households of those who become addicts. Similarly, parents should have to carry responsibility for the crimes of their children up to a certain age. A very strong case can be made too for identification of hardened criminals in the sense that photographs of them would be placed in Garda stations. This would help in making local people aware of the identity of the perpetrators of crime. It may be said that this was something that obtained in other times but it could prove effective. Shopkeepers, for instance, would be very pleased if on an ongoing basis the Garda provided them with the names and addresses and photographs of criminals in their area.
I support this motion very strongly. The Minister is now about half way through his term of office and he has the opportunity of adopting a radical approach to stemming the deterioration in the whole area of law and order. It can be said of my constituency of Dublin South-East that all human life is there. At any time I can think of about half a dozen cases in my constituency that are similar to any case I read of in the papers.
Mr. G. Brady: I should be grateful if you would allow me put on the record that I am not the one who turned his back on the Chair. The Minister has the opportunity to take the radical action that is necessary. Without such radical action the problem will become worse.
I should like to conclude with a thought that was running through my mind earlier. It relates to the case of a justice, now deceased, who after she had been mugged on Waterloo Road said that because this had happened to her she would take a slightly different attitude from then on and would have to become a little tougher with those people. That was an indication that the courts were not tough enough with the criminals. Much tougher action will have to be taken to counter the problem.
Mr. L.T. Cosgrave: I support the amendment in the name of the Minister and the measures being taken by him. Many speakers have outlined the general position regarding the serious crime situation. We must toughen our attitudes towards these criminals and from this House we must condemn unequivocally what has been happening in the area of law and order.
It is important to recognise the measures that were taken last year by way of the Criminal Justice Act but, despite that legislation having being introduced more than a year and a half ago, we are still waiting for the setting up of the complaints procedure, in the absence of which a number of the sections of that Act are inoperable. We might ask what the attitude is now of those people who criticised so strongly that measure during its passage through the Oireachtas. The Minister brought the legislation before the House on foot of a commitment of the Government. I trust that when the complaints procedure is before us there will not be the same sort of charade as that which continued week after week when that very necessary piece of legislation was being put through. I trust the  Opposition and also all Members on this side will ensure that the complaints procedure legislation is given a speedy passage through the House. The Minister is anxious that the complaints procedure be brought into effect as soon as possible. Having regard to the efficiency with which he introduced some recent legislation I doubt if his Department are causing the delay. However, I am glad to hear him indicate that the legislation will be before us very soon. I trust that it can be dealt with as expeditiously as was that other piece of legislation. We must not be ambivalent in our attitude to recent events. We must not appear to be condoning them in any way.
I welcome the decision to incarcerate criminals on Spike Island. It is clear that, despite an increase of about 500 prison places, these extra places having been made available by this Minister last year, there is still not sufficient accommodation in our prisons. That is why Spike Island should be made available as soon as possible for this purpose. In addition we must make prison less palatable for the inmates. There is no point in having something of a holiday camp atmosphere and making certain facilities available to prisoners. Those who are sent to prison more than once should be treated in a way that will leave them not ever wishing to go there again. While adhering to the fundamental rights of prisoners, there is no point in prison being a place that they have no objection to returning to. There has been too much pussyfooting, too much of the softly, softly attitude for too long.
Most people I have been speaking to in recent months want a commitment from the Government and from the House generally in the matter of law and order. It is only by a combination of the efforts of all of us that the problem can be dealt with.
I welcome the Minister's statement in relation to extending training for gardaí. Recently I visited Templemore where I witnessed the great efforts being made there. After so many years there is an obvious need for improvements and in  that context the whole question of training should be considered.
I trust that the public will co-operate with the Garda to the greatest extent possible by way of supplying them with information. The gardaí will have the necessary facilities and equipment and the Government will provide what resources are required, but it is not at times as simple as the Opposition seem to think. What is needed is a general commitment by everyone to deal with this problem. There must be a general hardening of attitudes and we must condemn crime where it occurs. No group or individual can opt out of this. I support the Minister in his amendment.
Mr. Keating: Members on all sides should applaud the genuine efforts of the Minister in trying to deal with the problems he has been facing. The motion before the House is very flippant and glib and does not do justice to the serious problem. I should like to make a few constructive suggestions in the short time available to me.
I urge a continuing review of the work of the Garda. A key in the battle here is the effective use and deployment of Garda resources and I should like the review of the work they are doing to continue. It is highly nonsensical to engage very expensive and highly trained garda personnel in many of the functions they are carrying out at the moment. By this I include such obvious areas as licensing and carrying out certain traffic duties when local authorities and other bodies are well equipped to deal with that kind of work. Let us try to refine the work of the Garda and take from them those extraneous and peripheral areas that are not their central occupation and give it to people who can do that work just as well. I include in this much of the time spent in courts when a few simple changes in the rules of evidence might allow, for example, affidavits to be used in certain minor cases instead of having the courts cluttered with gardaí who have to sit around all day waiting for cases to be heard. In many instances their cases are adjourned. A simplistic demand for  more gardaí is not the answer: what we need is the better use of Garda resources.
My second suggestion concerns the redeployment of many gardaí. They should be where the crime is being committed, but this is not the case at the moment. A statistical evaluation of the deployment of gardaí will indicate that in many cases they are in areas that have a low crime frequency rate. There are all kinds of reasons for that, some of them local political reasons and some not the most noble of reasons. However, the fact remains that there are not sufficient numbers of gardaí in areas where crime is occurring and I suggest this matter be given some consideration.
Thirdly, there should be a formal structure encouraged by this House — we cannot force it — among the Judiciary so that there will be an obvious rationale in relation to sentences. The difficulties that have been experienced on occasion in that respect could be dealt with in this way, by encouraging the responsible members of the Judiciary — and they are the overwhelming majority — to ensure that the difficulties that have arisen do not continue. They are a source of scandal and do all of us an injustice.
Fourthly, the community should be involved. Crime prevention and detection involves all the community: it is not a job that is done by the Minister or the Garda outside the community. I suggest that, systematically and delicately, we should extend our efforts in that connection to involve the young, community groups and indeed every citizen in a nonviolent, carefully studied and systematic approach to protecting their own property and that of others. We must ensure that people in communities care for each other in a systematic way because there has been a major breakdown in that regard.
Fifthly, I should like to suggest that there be an urgent examination of the detection rates. The truth about crime is that the best deterrent still remains the conviction in the mind of the criminal that people will be caught if they commit crime and that they will serve sentences. That is not the position at the moment.  In my view the detection rates are of almost crisis proportions and I know that the Minister will be concerned, as are the Garda, to see that the situation improves.
Sixthly, I suggest that the attitude of misguided compassion which is the usual response to first offenders be reviewed. The first offence is the time to show young people, not in a draconian way but in an effective way, that a life of crime is not what some of them think it to be. At the moment many of them are allowed and almost encouraged at times to carry on with their criminal activities. The responsibility of parents should be underlined and perhaps enshrined in law. It is about time we said that people have a responsibility to some extent for the actions of young children. I would not be averse to the idea of our considering legislation on these lines.
Finally, we have got to get to the root of the problem of crime. As long as we appear to neglect the huge social and economic challenge of inner city areas, where there is an ingrained pattern of poverty and deprivation, we are failing in our duty and these areas will continue to spawn huge crime levels. That also involves changes in the educational curriculum, but that is a huge debate and is not appropriate to a five minute discussion.
We should review also our sentencing policy. Up to now there has been little emphasis on the debt due to the victim. Therefore, I suggest that in respect of sentences there should be an emphasis on the victim.
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Mrs. Fennell): I wish to support the amendment proposed by the Minister. The record of this Government and of the Minister for Justice in their determination to tackle crime has been outstanding. It is very easy to indulge in political point-scoring, to blame the Minister and the Garda for the crime problem and to say that enough is not being done but the truth is that no Government or Minister for Justice has done more in such a short time to reform  and strengthen the criminal justice system. I understand that provisional Garda figures for 1984 indicate that the level of serious crime reported has decreased in that year. As the measures and reforms introduced by the Minister begin to take effect in the months and year ahead, I have no doubt this improvement will continue.
It is not serious crime that impinges mostly on society but rather cases of petty vandalism such as handbag snatching and the general lawless attitude displayed by many of our young people. The evidence of vandalism is all too apparent when one walks through our cities or towns. Vandalism not only seriously blights our environment but it has an adverse effect on tourism. It also gives rise to substantial repair bills for local authorities who can ill afford such costs. It should be stressed that it is only a small minority who are engaged in mindless acts of violence against property. The majority of our young people are decent, upright citizens who have no time for such destructive acts.
While many acts of vandalism may be trivial in themselves they can often be a cause of danger or serious inconvenience as, for example, where damage is caused to lifts, bus shelters and telephone booths. It is an unfortunate fact that vandalism and other crimes of a petty nature are indulged in mainly by the young. It is also a fact that children and teenagers who indulge in this kind of anti-social behaviour often graduate to more serious crimes as they grow older. Therefore, it is vitally important that parents fulfil their obligations to their children and, by discretion and example, train them to be honest and caring citizens. For the same reason it is important that as a community we provide the necessary support for families and the conditions in which parents can fulfil their duties. The House will be aware that many of the young people who come into contact with the law come from deprived areas. With the limited resources available, the Government are doing all they can to redress the social imbalance that gives rise to these  conditions. As was stated in Building on Reality a key strategy for income maintenance will be to provide adequately for the welfare of children in needy families; but perhaps as a society not doing enough.
There are many pressures and many evils in modern society that did not afflict previous generations. One such evil is the abuse of drugs and alcohol by some of our young people. Drug abuse is a cancer that entered our society in the early seventies and grew at an alarming rate. There is no doubt this has contributed to a large extent to the present high rate of crime. We have tackled this, and we as a Government have attempted to take positive action in this area. We will gradually see the results of this action.
Mr. Kenny: This problem would severely tax the statement made by Father Peyton that “There is no such thing as a bad boy”. That statement could be challenged today. The crime problem must be dealt with in the short term, in the long term and in terms of eliminating the causes. There are different levels of crime — the sophisticated racketeer, organised crime, urban vandalism and the rural attacks. Bob Dylan once said that he met a lot of men that could rob one with a fountain pen. In terms of some of the events that take place one wonders about the various levels of crime.
In relation to the rural attacks, these mindless thugs have destroyed the hospitality and friendship which existed for generations in the west of Ireland where for years in areas ravaged by emigration the people depended upon each other. We now see padlocked doors and fear in people's eyes. I commend the Minister for his actions to date in dealing with this. The friendship and hospitality may have gone but not the human concern, as has been in evidence in massive collections to help people in Third World countries.
The Minister should continue to draw up the register of vulnerable people in remote areas. Many of these people have an independence and pride and they do not want assistance. Some of them support the IRA because they were born  into that heritage. These people should be known and understood by the Garda, by the voluntary organisations and by the people who draw up the register which should be reviewed on a frequent basis. There was a suggestion that telephones should be installed, but some of these people do not know how to use them. There are also sirens which can be installed, and all these things are useful in the case of attack.
In many cases in western Ireland shotgun licences have been given to people to eradicate vermin. The attitude among many people now is to use their shotguns, as the shotgun was used in the Ballyfermot case. The Minister should make a comment rejecting the use of guns and the Garda should be seen to be achieving results.
I commend to the Minister the continuation of the supply of radio links and increased mobility to the Garda. This is an absolute necessity. The vast distances which must be travelled in rural Ireland are an advantage to the Garda. The area of Erris is as large as County Louth but there have been very few robberies here because there are only three roads into it and out of it. Through mobility and a radio link the advantage must be continued to be given to the Garda.
In relation to the rural policing scheme, I would ask the Minister to set a specific termination date on this scheme. There are gardaí and sergeants in that scheme who do not and could not know the people in villages 20 miles from themselves. The “green man” system has not worked in some cases. The Minister said that this was a pilot scheme and when it is over it should be assessed and terminated.
In relation to promotion, I welcome it. Where possible gardaí should be encouraged to live within their own areas. I know it causes difficulties with wives and families. But we must look at the English system. The Lancashire police are born and reared in their own areas.
 In relation to strangers selling goods and taking deposits for televisions and that sort of thing, I would ask the Minister to look at the hawkers licence situation and extend it to strangers who are selling in rural Ireland. Let them have a licence for £500 a year, let them notify the local superintendent beforehand that they intend to sell their goods in the area and, if they do not have a licence there should be an automatic following fine of £500. I do not mean this in relation to travelling shops, such as bread vans and butchers vans and so on, that have been there for years.
I welcome the proposal in relation to Spike Island but there should not be TVs or videos down there. We might have the first national conference of joyriders held on Spike Island. Some people claim that joyriders should be out cutting turf and thinning forests to provide free fuel for the old people. A combination of these suggestions implemented by the Minister will, like Synge's play, “Riders to the Sea”— or should it be “Joyriders to the Sea”— end up so that we can say “They are all gone now and there is nothing more that wind or sea can do to me”.
Mr. Durcan: I commend the Minister on the recent initiative he has taken in reopening Spike Island. This debate takes place against a backdrop of consistent persistent public demands for immediate action in relation to specific serious crimes that have been on the increase. The public are calling for the kind of measures which the Government took in the last few days, but they are also calling for a much stiffer system of penalties in the sense that they now expect that the criminal convicted of the serious crimes of drug trafficking, car stealing and robbery with violence should be treated in a manner in prison which would bring home to criminals that they have perpetrated a serious crime against society. The general public do not want criminals to have modern conveniences such as colour television sets and all the mod cons that go with modern prison life.
In relation to car stealing, we have had debates over the past few years on this  topic. I have always felt that when a car is stolen the thief is in a situation similar to that of a person holding a loaded gun. In fact, recent events have proved that to be an accurate comparison. The Minister's initiative in that area is proving to be satisfactory.
In relation to robbery with violence, the only simple answer is detection and punishment and the punishment will have to fit the crime. The people with criminal tendencies will have to know before they embark upon a life of crime that they will be caught and punished.
So far as drug trafficking is concerned, there is considerable public opinion that for far too long the perpetrators of these crimes have been treated with kid gloves. The time has come to call a halt. There are a number of causes for these crimes, but time does not permit me to dwell on them. I have always held that unemployment is a major contributory factor, although not the only one. As the Minister has said, we had unemployment in the past and there are a number of people who are now suffering deprivation who do not necessarily embark on a life of crime. However, unemployment is a major factor and we will have to spend money resolving that problem in order to alleviate the situation.
Mr. Durcan: Both drugs and alcohol are a contributory factor in relation to crime. Cider parties seem to have become popular in recent years and they are an increasing problem particularly in relation to young people. To eliminate that problem we need better education.
Mr. P. Gallagher: I support the motion in the name of Deputy Vincent Brady in relation to crime. The Government have failed miserably to come to grips with the spiralling crime situation. They have not dealt adequately with the position in the west and north-west where many elderly people are being attacked or with the problem in Dublin city where car thieves operate. I will confine my remarks to the position in my area, the north-west and the west. The attacks on the elderly are unprecedented and have left behind a trail of fear, terror, injuries and smashed homes. Earlier it was suggested in the House that the situation in other countries in relation to crime was worse, but that is not a consolation to the many people who have been attacked in my area and live in fear in their homes each night. We should not lead from behind.
Up to last year the elderly people in rural areas were able to go about their daily business without fear of being attacked and live out the remaining years of their life in relative tranquility and security. Now they retire at night not knowing if they will be brutally attacked by the gangs of thugs who roam our countryside, who break into isolated houses, terrorise the occupants and steal their savings. In some cases the takings represent the life savings of people while in others attacks are carried out for paltry amounts. However, in all cases the victims are society's most vulnerable citizens. In the past a knock on the door at night signalled the arrival of a neighbour or friend to visit, but now a knock on the door is an indication of the arrival of a gang of thugs to ransack the house and physically assault people.
I must pose the question: is there to be any end to this? Will the gangs who smash their way into homes in remote areas and before leaving issue out threats of murder, be dealt with? I believe such gangs escape into the mists of time. It is beyond human comprehension that our elected Government have nothing more to offer people in this barbaric atmosphere than simple cosmetic replies, stock answers such as “the situation is under control” or “new measures  are being introduced”. The Minister told us that he viewed these attacks with great concern. Last Wednesday he told us that there was every reason to hope that what was being done would achieve results quickly. I must point out that the criminals operating in County Donegal never had it so good because there are not enough gardaí in the county to apprehend them. The Government are not giving leadership on this issue. They are not doing much to deal with the criminals and the situation will worsen.
My constituents are enraged and are planning to form community action groups to support the Garda. Discussions on such plans are taking place. I am pleased to say that there is no immediate suggestion to set up vigilante groups but it will be difficult to dissuade those enraged constituents if the Government do not take action. I cannot rule out vigilante groups in that area, but I appeal publicly to those who are thinking on those lines to help the Garda in their efforts to bring law and order to rural areas. The country needs leadership. The people in the west, the elderly in particular, are more interested in law and order than in Bills dealing with family planning or discussions on divorce. I view them as diversionary tactics to cover up the inefficiency in Government Departments, particularly in regard to law and order. The Minister should admit to the House that law and order is gradually breaking down. His Cabinet colleagues must be aware of this. The Government should take immediate action to deal with the problem. The prospect of vigilante groups being set up worries me and we must all speak out against that prospect. However, it will be difficult to convince people in rural areas not to embark on that course. As responsible politicians and leaders in our communities we should impress upon our constituents that setting up vigilante groups will not resolve the problem.
I should like to challenge the Minister in regard to a reply he gave me on 7 March concerning the number of attacks in County Donegal from November 1984 to February 1985. The Minister said that, while attacks of this nature would always  have to be regarded as serious, he understood that in only one case of the 35 was physical injury caused to an elderly person. I have spoken to many of the 35 people who were attacked and they were appalled to hear the Minister's reply.
We must be concerned about the effects of such attacks on elderly people. I should like to draw the attention of the House to the view of a leading psychiatrist employed by the Eastern Health Board, Dr. Brian McCafferty. He said that psychiatric training was not needed to know that the life of virtually every old person subjected to attacks was ruined even if they escape without serious physical injury. He said that suffering extends far beyond the victims and a wave of fear spreads among old people. In his view it was impossible to calculate the damage such attacks do to old people. I understand from a psychiatrist that the attackers do not have any feelings whatever for their victims.
Are the Minister, the Department or the Garda Siochána aware of a brutal attack on a brother and sister in west Donegal when the brother was held against the wall by timber rafters while be was being abused and assaulted? His earpiece was smashed on the ground and his sister was held with a knife to her throat. That attack was not referred to by the Minister in the reply he gave me last week. More up to date information should be obtained by the Minister on attacks in Donegal. It is ironic that the attack I have referred to was not highlighted, in spite of the fact that I mentioned it time and again, until a number of equally serious attacks occurred in the west.
What feeling has the Minister in his heart for the Donegal lady who was held captive in her house for more than two hours at knife point? That lady handed over a sum of money, but the attacker remained in the house and gave her the various reasons why he would not kill her. Such attacks are frightening. Recently an elderly man was beaten after he had been robbed of a sum of money. His attacker fled after locking him inside his wrecked  cottage. Later in the day he was found and removed to hospital.
In recent months the criminal scene in Donegal has got blacker. It is estimated that in the region of £200,000 has been stolen from elderly people in my county. People in the twilight of their lives should enjoy peace and serenity instead of being besieged by fear and loneliness. I must give credit to the Garda who are doing their utmost to track down the perpetrators, but their equipment is ancient. In rural areas they are too thin on the ground. Greater backup is needed. In Donegal and the west one garda and one patrol car cover four or five stations. Without wishing to make a political point I must state that morale among the Garda is at its lowest since the foundation of the force.
Every time we referred to an attack in Donegal we were met with a chorus of condemnation from Government spokesman, and rightly so, but that is not what we require. Only positive action will achieve results. The Minister informed us last week that they knew the identify of some of the thugs and gangs and the registration numbers of cars, but what action has been taken to bring these thugs to justice? The Minister must be naive if he believes that such a wave of crime is under control. Does he not believe that unless the Garda seek a backup from the Army we will have more and more serious crimes in my county?
I make some suggestions to the Minister. The attacks which we know of are only some of the many attacks which take place. Many of these attacks are not reported because of the fear of reprisals. We are not seeking anything more than a constitutional right, a commitment here from the Minister and the Government, to use the necessary powers and resources to protect the old and the not so old in their homes and to guarantee that punishment fitting these crimes will be meted out by the courts. In these rural areas more gardaí, more mobile patrols and backup from the Army are required, because many of these gangs and thugs  are breaking through the Garda checkpoints and it is impossible for the Garda to apprehend them when this happens.
We should revert to the system of the 24-hour barrack orderly which we had many years ago, in peaceful times. At that time a garda was available at every station and he could co-ordinate everything that happened in his area. While the “green man” may operate in areas that have an automatic exchange, the county I represent still has a considerable number of manual exchanges. The headquarters, Glenties, and my area are manual while most of the other areas are automatic, so it is almost impossible to make contact there. Rural areas throughout the country should have a 24-hour telephone service and an alarm system and, in addition, a community alert system should operate.
I hope that the Minister will take into consideration some of the suggestions that have been made from this side of the House and the fact that we have moved this not as a political motion but to assist the Minister and the Government.
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: I thank Deputy Gallagher and Deputy Tunney for giving me some of their time. First of all, I pay tribute to the Garda Síochána in my district for the excellent way they tracked down the perpetrators of two murders which were committed in my area of Cork East——
Mr. E. O'Keeffe: Any lowering of the credibility and undermining of the authority of the Garda Síochána in the public mind at such a key moment in the history of the force, at such a vital time in the fight against the appalling crime rate, can have very serious consequences for the stability of our society. A feeling of apathy towards the Garda tends to lead communities to turn to other groups for support and assistance in tackling crime  in their areas. This sliding slope towards vigilanteism is one of the most dangerous developments in recent times and it has been referred to by all my colleagues who spoke here this evening. The recent apathy of the public towards the Garda has been fuelled by the latest epidemic of brutal attacks on the elderly, the lowest possible form of crime, and also the high incidence of joyriding, which leads to serious injury and sometimes death of law-abiding people going about their business. The aforementioned crimes are in themselves bad enough, but when all categories of crime are examined the picture is indeed very grim. The foot dragging of people in authority must cease and remedial action in its many and varied forms must be seen as urgent.
I welcome the proposed provision for detention at Spike Island, even though it is somewhat belated. The new provision will serve a twofold purpose. It will go some way to alleviate overcrowding in the prisons and will provide a centre for the detention of persistent young offenders. Early release of persistent offenders is an insult to the Garda, the Judiciary and the taxpayer. This action compounds the problem and greatly minimises the deterrent to young offenders.
Let me return to the plight of the elderly living in remote areas. They are the builders of our new State and must be protected from outrageous attacks no matter what the cost. In recent times the reduction in the numbers of gardaí in rural stations must have contributed greatly to this epidemic of attacks on the elderly. Most rural stations have suffered the loss of one garda. For example, a station with one sergeant and two gardaí formerly may now have a sergeant and one garda. This downgrading effectively reduces the station's working to one-man level when holidays, sickness and free time are taken into account. This is the greatest cause of our problems in rural areas. As the Minister stated, in the last ten years we have not seen the closing of Garda stations. However, we have seen a downgrading. Often stations are not manned at weekends, the vital time. The  presence of gardaí in a rural station is much more important than their residing full time in the area. The servicing of very large rural areas is most important, as is the presence of the gardaí. People see them when they go to Mass, on their way through the village, etc. Rural areas must receive greater Garda patrolling in the long term rather than saturation with gardaí drawn from a wide area, including Dublin, when some old person is murdered. That is closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
I turn my attention to the beleaguered people living in urban areas, particularly Dublin, who have seen what must be described as a total breakdown of law and order. They are afraid to leave their homes. They have their property stolen. They are afraid to be in their homes, when an intruder may kick down their doors in the middle of the night and cause them personal injury. The business community are suffering greatly at the hands of the criminal and more and more people are being forced out of business by persistent attacks, robberies and damage to property. This can only lead to further unemployment and great hardship. Urgent solutions are needed. More gardaí should be on the beat. Cutbacks have been responsible for failure to appoint more clerical assistants in Garda stations in order to release more men for the beat. Unnecessary paper work in Garda stations should be reduced. The administrative system is archaic and antiquated and should be simplified. Trained gardaí should not be wasted in offices but should be assisting in the fight against crime. The embargo on public service recruitment should not be implemented in the case of the Garda. Clerical assistants, male or female, should be employed in local Garda offices to do the simple chores of typewriting and telephone calling.
Mr. Tunney: I am disappointed that the Minister for Justice, for whom I have expressed admiration in this House, has not seen fit to accept the simple motion before the House. The motion is aimed at (1) establishing a need for additional  resources to deal with crime and (2) highlighting the need to restore law and order. That is all the House is being asked to accept. The Minister by introducing his amendment is rejecting the need for additional resources — if he can demonstrate in his reply that that is not so we will be very happy — or else he is trying to demonstrate what everybody in this House tonight has established, that an emergency exists in the country and we have not got normal law and order. They are the hard facts.
Some weeks ago I had an opportunity of directing the attention of an almost empty House to the fact that death and slaughter by joyriding in Dublin has reached emergency proportions. The position has worsened every day since then. The Minister has rejected the statement which bears out that it appears there are not adequate resources to contain this situation.
I would direct the attention of the Minister to legislation which he brought before the House, the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Bill, 1983, in which there was a new approach which would solve our problems. I was critical of the approach in that resources were not being made available to the Minister for that which he envisaged. At column 162 of the Official Report of 3 May 1983, when the Minister was introducing the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Bill, I stated:
Mr. Tunney: The Minister is a representative of the State and he is charged with the responsibility of guaranteeing that Article 41 of the Constitution is honoured. That article guarantees protection to the individual. Anyone who walks the streets not only of Dublin but of Ireland, be they worker, shopkeeper, industrialist or unemployed, walks in terror. We hear much talk about the old people being attacked in the west. Two of those who suffered recent attacks were relations of mine, so what I have to say will not be taken as playing down the position of the old in the west. At least they can walk about freely during the day. For the last two years the old people in Dublin have been confined to their houses. They are afraid to move out and while they are in they are afraid of being attacked.
Out of hard earned taxpayers' money we give £250 million to the Garda and £30 million to the courts. Our courts have been turned into a mockery. People who are sentenced to six months' imprisonment are referred to Mountjoy or St. Patrick's. Within two or three days a civil servant will speak to the governor and tell him that they intend to release convict A. Law and order is being administered by civil servants, and by convenience. Every criminal and aspiring criminal knows that a six months' sentence means nothing. The Minister tried to deny that, but it has been confirmed by the prison officers and every garda in Dublin. One garda in Dublin told me he followed a fellow for six months and brought him before the courts. He was sentenced to six months in prison but two days later a civil servant asked him would he mind if the prisoner was released. The prisoner  met the garda on the street and gave him a Harvey Smith sign.
The free legal aid scheme has become an absolute racket. We have the scandal of taxpayers being attacked while their hard earned money is used so that legal people can advise criminals, who admit to them that they have stolen a car or rammed a police car, to plead not guilty. I do not see why the legal system should be set up to defy anyone to prove that a person is guilty when the world and its mother knows that the person is guilty. The Garda and solicitors defending him know that he is guilty.
This matter has displaced all the other economic and social problems we face because of the concern of people that personal freedom is being taken from them. Perhaps that is how the national handlers want it. Perhaps they want to divert attention from economic matters and from the terrible unemployment and social problems we have. Perhaps they want to busy giddy minds with other quarrels.
The Minister knows that the Garda are not satisfied that they have the resources or the legal backup they need. I would be critical of those Members of the House who during the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill put the Garda under a microscope. Instead of commending the Garda for the job they do, when they go to court they are put in the witness box. We are not concerned about commending them for work well done but about the academic examination of how they discovered the criminal. If by any chance they left a “t” uncrossed or an “i” undotted in so doing, the judge would throw out the case. The criminals retire to the local bar and clap their hands and say “This is great”. That has happened every day for the last 12 months and the Minister knows it.
The Garda suffered an affront by the Minister and his Department in relation to the establishment of a committee to examine the training and retraining of gardaí. They did not think it worth their while to put a member of the Garda on that committee. If that was a move aimed at indicating the confidence we had in the  Garda, I cannot understand it, and I hope the Minister will explain it. Is there anything more calculated to insult the Garda than to set up a committee to examine the inadequacies of Garda training and retraining and to exclude the Garda from it? The Minister and I belong to the teaching profession. How would we react if the Department of Education set up a committee to examine the training and retraining of teachers and left out representatives of the TUI and ASTI? We will not get the best result from any group of people by insulting them.
There is an emergency in this country. Desperate ills need desperate remedies and not just the chairman of the Labour Party castigating the press for daring to speak about it. There is no doubt that the Fourth Estate has been very vigilant. The Minister should not press his amendment to our motion but should accept our motion and accept the view on every side of the House that there is an emergency, that there is no law and order, and he has not got the resources. If he has, he is not using them properly.
Mr. McLoughlin: Deputy Tunney asked is there any other way to insult the Garda. The biggest insult to them appears in an example I will give. Gardaí arrest and bring to court a person who has robbed old people. That person lives outside the jurisdiction of the State and he puts up half the money he is alleged to have stolen as bail and walks out of the court. That is a disgrace, and it is happening.
Speaking as a Labour Deputy I believe the Government are committed to solving this problem. There are only two people who can solve it, the Garda and the community. We have one of the best police forces in the world. On occasion the community can be two-faced. I pity the Garda, who have to deal with illegal organisations, drug pushers and gangs who attack the old people. The community cannot have it both ways. In cases where illegal organisations committed murder and kidnapped people, when the Garda went looking for support, some of  the community remained silent. If the community hold back information or harbour murderers, they cannot expect the Garda to work efficiently on their behalf.
We have 11,400 gardaí. I have never been ill-treated by any of them. Nobody has ever come into my clinics who was wrongly arrested or ill-treated by the Garda. The community must recognise that most gardaí have wives and families. They are dealing with very serious crimes. Are their wives and families being harassed and intimidated? It is time for the community to stand behind the Garda and see that people who are in illegal organisations, or pushing drugs, and attacking old people, are brought to justice. If our police force get the cooperation of the community they are well capable of doing their job.
Much of the blame lies with our courts. Gardaí have worked hard and brought people to court and they have been let off under the Probation Act or they have been allowed to walk scot free out of the court. We cannot be two-faced. I gave an example of people who were arrested for robbing old people of £6,000 or £7,000. When brought to court they can put down bail of £3,000 and walk out. They do not even live in the State. What incentive is there for a garda to arrest such a person again? The garda's wife and family could be under threat when we are dealing with people living outside the State.
The Minister must look seriously at the sentences. I disagree with one thing the Minister said. He thinks the sentences in court are reasonably all right. I do not believe that. Judges take a peculiar attitude having regard to their style of life. Judges who have come from a wealthy background would take a very dim view of damage to property and they are not half as severe in dealing with cases of murder and other serious issues. The Minister should do something nationally about sentences. When people are brought to court they should be properly sentenced.
Everyone who has spoken so far has welcomed the new jails. I also welcome new jails, but people who are sent to them should get proper training and  education so that when they are let out they will not be worse than when they went in. Educational facilities should be provided in jails.
Mr. Flynn: The general level of lawlessness and crime is unacceptable to us. The public are scandalised at the apparent ease with which car thieves and house thieves and robbers can operate not just in this city but throughout the country. We must look at the scale of the problem to bring home to the Minister just what we are talking about.
There were 40,000 burglaries last year, 100 per day. Goods worth £11 million were stolen last year, £7.5 million worth in this city. There are 200 vehicle stealing offenders wandering around the streets of the city. There is daily condemnation, but what is required by the public is action. They demand that action be seen on the ground. The public feel disillusioned about the limited effectiveness of the police agencies. There is a growing restlessness in the community. Without results people are being propelled into making their own arrangements for security. If “Saturday night specials” were freely available in gun shops in this city, we would have an enormous escalation in the number of people arming themselves for their own security. This is entirely unacceptable to us.
The recent spate of attacks on old people in isolated areas has caught the imagination of the people of this state. This violence has reached a new level of savagery. We thought we had seen the end of it after the incidence last year of this type of crime. It was always understood in rural areas that this kind of activity was associated with cities. We always had the benefit of the open door tradition in the west of Ireland. Because of that the impact of this new spate of crime is all the more serious. It is destroying the hospitality to strangers which was the hallmark of rural life for centuries.
It is a sad day when the literature of our national promotional agency on behalf of tourism has to include a warning to tourists that they are unsafe on the streets of our capital city. There is widespread  fear among the old and the families of the old. All the efforts to date to deal with this matter did not contain it. That is evident from the new level of viciousness attached to the recent spate of crime in the west. These violent attacks for small sums of money are all too common. The gangs are highly mobile. The Garda cover is very thin on the ground because they have to cover hundreds of miles. It is obvious that an over-centralised system of policing is not the answer for rural Ireland. The level of mobile patrols currently operating on the ground is not acceptable to us.
Local communities are responding and want to respond. They must only respond under the very closest Garda supervision. I ask the Minister to appoint a community alert officer in each division to deal with the members of the community who want to co-operate and to give them proper guidelines. These community alert officers would be able to report back to the Garda. We want no vigilantes and we want no private armies in the west of Ireland or anywhere else. There is too much talk about guns, and too many people, feeling insecure, are taking the option that they will restore the old gun or the old piece of equipment that they had, to deal with their own security matters. The public are asking us to get our priorities right. They are saying that there is over-indulgence in so far as police security matters on the Border are concerned, while people cannot sleep safely in their own beds at night. The community alert officer whom he appoints from among the Garda should do a proper survey of all the elderly in particular areas. There should be proper maps made available, free of charge to the communities, so that they can properly locate the people at risk. I recommend as the method of dealing properly with this that the Minister should ask the communities to adopt the old in their own areas.
The major incidence of these crimes takes place between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. It is absolutely necessary to have some extra manpower available in the sensitive areas. It is also essential to have more  plant by way of mobile cars made available. We must increase the number of mobile patrols in the isolated areas and we must increase the vigilance of the Garda. The traffic corps should be taken off that duty in the short term and specifically appointed to the protection of the old. There should be special investigation units appointed to the various divisions in the short term, until we get on top of this problem. The presence of the Garda is vital.
There are two matters which the Minister should support in so far as electronic surveillance is concerned. An alarm unit could be made available in a neighbour's house with technical assistance and a little grant assistance to provide this service at very little cost. A survey which I undertook last weekend in 12 small townlands in an isolated area outside Castlebar showed that there were 23 people at risk. If one multiplies that across the whole country one gets some idea of what exactly we are talking about in isolated areas. There has been a pattern in the raids. I am satisfied that these gangs are arriving in the west of Ireland with local knowledge and local help. If there is a direct line of inquiry, as the Minister stated last week, then I suggest that these people be brought to justice if, as we now believe, he can name the culprits.
There is another area where the Minister could ask for help from his colleagues, the Ministers for Social Welfare and for Communications. If one wants an extension installed from the home of an elderly couple to a nearby house of a son, daughter or neighbour willing to allow that extension to be put in and if the subscribers to the telephone are in receipt of a free telephone rental allowance, as soon as they make an application to have the extension put into the neighbour's house they are debarred from the free telephone rental allowance. That is a scandal. It will cost the Minister nothing and an immediate announcement in that regard would bring considerable ease to some of those who want to provide themselves with that little extra security.
 The Minister says that he has a direct line of inquiry going on and that the RUC have been helping out in this matter. Is it not very strange, then, to hear that the mobile patrols on the Border have been reduced in number and many of the checkpoints have been lifted? We do not regard that as an acceptable response if some of these gangs of thugs are located inside the Border.
The penalty must fit the crime. I support those Members who say that there should be a rehabilitation process on Spike Island or wherever these people are incarcerated. The short term response of opening another jail does not tackle the basic underlying problems which are the cause of the crimes. We wonder if the Minister is not undermining the morale of the Garda in some instances. Criticism of the Garda when they are under pressure is not the kind of response that invigorates a greater response by way of communication with the Garda. Take one instance. The fact that 1,600 detectives are opposing the new promotion regulations indicates that the new system is no incentive for promotion in the detective ranks. There is no vertical promotion there at this time. I cannot understand how the expertise and experience in specialised areas of the Garda are being lost to the force in the recommendations now on the Minister's desk for implementation.
There are detectives with special training, a special preparation period, special CID courses. These people, to get the promotion due to them have to leave the detective ranks and go into the uniformed ranks, but they hope to come back to the detective units again. I cannot see how the Minister can support that point of view. Is he aware of the intention to reduce the detective strength in the force from 15 per cent to 11 per cent? With subversives as active as they ever were and with major crime on an escalating pattern, this is not the time to reduce the numbers of detectives operating in the force.
According to a survey done between January 1977 and June 1978, 66 per cent of all indicatable crimes in this city were  detected by the detective units and they are only 7 per cent of the Garda force in the city. How can the Minister justify his present position in supporting this proposed new system of promotion within the detective ranks? The old system worked well and detectives got their promotion from experience and expertise. It worked well in the national interest and the Minister should stick with it.
We want to encourage communication between the Garda and the community. We recognise that the Garda are the first line of defence in protecting the community from the ravages of lawlessness and crime. We want to support them as our first line of defence against the creeping paralysis of crime which is pervading every single community, not just in the urbanised areas but the isolated rural areas, also. There is need in this House for verbal support of the Garda but there is need also—and greater need—for our commitment to providing the resources, manpower and plant necessary for the Garda to do the job entrusted to them on behalf of the people.
Certainly the public need to be reassured that we have an effective response to their just demands in the matter of security. The Minister's efforts to date leave a lot to be desired in combating what is now a national scandal and disgrace. It is his duty, not just to the population but also to the Garda, to provide the sinews of war for the battle against the crooks and gangsters who are running loose in our country. We await the Minister's response in that matter.  We want him not to undermine the morale of the Garda or to show delay in bringing offenders to answer for their crimes. We want a guarantee that offenders, when sentenced, will not be on the streets inside the period of sentence imposed on them by the justice in the court. There must be a better process of dealing with offenders. There must be better means of rehabilitating those who are unfortunate enough to fall foul of the law and have to be incarcerated.
There is a lack of commitment from the Minister in so far as the provision of money, of resources and of plant is concerned to enable the Garda to do their job effectively, not just in the urban areas but also in the rural isolated areas. We expect the Minister to outline in greater detail precisely what he has in mind by way of making these resources available to the Garda. We want more talk about the new training processes for the Garda. We expect the Minister to do his duty in this regard and do not want to listen to lip service and verbalisation which go on here ad infinitum. The general public desire some return from the taxes they pay so as to give them security in their homes and places of employment.
Birmingham, George Martin.
Conlon, John F.
Connaughton, Paul. Doyle, Avril.
Durkan, Bernard J.
Enright, Thomas W.
Farrelly, John V.
Flanagan, Oliver J.
Harte, Patrick D.
Cooney, Patrick Mark.
Cosgrave, Liam T.
Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
Deasy, Martin Austin.
Dowling, Dick. Mitchell, Jim.
Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East)
Sheehan, Patrick Joseph.
Burke, Raphael P.
Coughlan, Cathal Seán.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Gallagher, Pat Cope.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West).
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