Private Members' Business. - Road Traffic (Joyriding) Bill, 2002: Second Stage (Resumed).

Wednesday, 24 April 2002

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 552 No. 4

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  I wish to share time with Deputy Boylan.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Briscoe): Information on Ben Briscoe  Zoom on Ben Briscoe  Is that agreed? Agreed.

[1154]Mr. Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  I take this opportunity to acknowledge, on the record of this House, the terrible tragedy which took place last week when two members of the Garda Síochána were killed by joyriders. I offer my sympathy to the family, friends and neighbours of Garda Padden, a constituent of mine from Shanaghy in Belmullet. I attended the funeral of Garda Padden last week and it was evident the town in north Mayo was devastated by the terrible tragedy.

I also wish to be associated with expressions of sympathy to the family of Garda Tighe. I have a strong association with the Garda Síochána as my grand-uncle was the first assistant commissioner in the 1920s. I thank the Garda for the wonderful job they do for the people. Many of us are unaware of what they face when they go out at night and we are, at times, very critical of them. They deserve the public's support and deserve to be protected by law.

I compliment the Labour Party for introducing this Bill. It is important that we put in place legislation to deal with young people who are underage and cannot be prosecuted or made pay for their crimes. Something will have to be done to stop joyriding, though that is not the word we should be using. We should change the title of the Bill in this regard. Young people are stealing high powered vehicles and driving them through one-way systems at high speed resulting in death. We have witnessed the many families left without loved ones as a result of this activity. It is time this House and Parliament put in place the necessary legislation to deal with these people.

We read reports last week in the media of offenders brought before the courts on 20 or 25 occasions, some awaiting conviction in relation to previous offences. We must put a stop to this. Parents will have to take responsibility for their out of control children and places to detain them will have to be found. If youngsters commit such a crime once they will do it twice or, as we have seen, 20 times. That cannot be allowed to continue. We must enact legislation that will prevent the occurrence of such tragedies.

I heard recently, on a programme on RTE, people living in housing estates complaining there is no legislation to deal with this activity. These people are unable to allow their children out to play during the day or late in the evening because of the incidence of joyriding. The joyriders are putting at risk their houses and their children. It is, perhaps, because this crime is occurring in working class areas that we have not taken it seriously.

I am glad the Labour Party has introduced this Bill which, I hope, will be accepted. I hope the necessary legislation to prevent another terrible tragedy will be put in place. It took the tragedy of last week to highlight this issue again. I hope we will not witness the killing of any more people. We must stop the lunacy of young people stealing high powered cars, driving them at high speed throughout the country and putting people's lives at risk.

[1155]I offer my sympathy to the Garda Síochána who represent us so well. They are the people faced with the task of tackling young people driving high powered cars at high speed. These youngsters do not seem to care about life or law and order. Something has to be done to prevent them putting other people's lives at risk. I am glad this House is at last taking this issue seriously.

I support the Labour Party Bill and hope the Government will accept it and that the necessary legislation will be put in place to protect our people so they can walk the streets and housing estates without fear. The media should cease calling this activity joyriding. It is not joyriding, it is murder-riding and it must be stopped.

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  I wish to be associated with the sentiments expressed by Deputy Ring in relation to the loss of life of two fine members of the Garda Síochána. I extend my sympathy to the families of both men. It is a shocking tragedy that should not have happened. It is, however, only the most recent tragedy; there have been others. Regrettably, respect for gardaí is, in certain sections of society, dwindling. We must address that issue. The presence of a garda in our community is a source of comfort to elderly people in particular. We must respect the gardaí and appreciate the great work they do. They put their lives at risk for us. It is not good enough that when a garda leaves his home in the morning his wife and young family or his immediate family cannot be sure if he will return. This is a new phenomenon which stems from lack of respect.

Long ago, people were courteous to a garda on duty in a village or town. We must curtail the activities of the small number of people who disrespect the law. Also, the Judiciary are not doing their job. People often frown when I am critical of the Judiciary. They are not above criticism. They are appointed by the Government and they are failing in their duty. Simply giving a slap on the wrist to people who behave in this manner is not good enough. These young people must be taught a lesson. They are out of control. In many instances judges are helpless as they have no places to detain such people. The Government must accept its responsibility in this area and provide safe places in which to detain these youngsters. I read recently in an article in a newspaper that we are now looking to Northern Ireland as a place of safe keeping for these people. We should not be exporting our young people; we should look after them.

The use of the word “joyriding” gives one a sense that this is a sport and is fun. Rather than fun it is dangerous and can end in murder. This crime must and can be curtailed whether through the installation of surveillance cameras in housing estates or an increase in the number of gardaí on the streets. We must provide the Garda with better equipment to deal with this activity. If the patrol car is not safe they must be provided with [1156] a more secure vehicle, be it a four-wheel drive or a specially designed vehicle. We cannot send them out in flimsy cars which are unable to stand up to the types of activities in which these people are involved. These people have no regard for the car they are driving because it does not belong to them.

Joyriding is not a major problem in Cavan but it is beginning to creep in. We must stamp out this activity. The nonsense which prevails in my court district of the judge providing a poor box at the back of the court into which these youngsters are required to pay €30 on leaving the court must be stopped. I understand that when such a penalty is imposed there is no record involved. When that young person is brought back to court on another conviction it is treated as a first offence because the previous offence is not registered. I know of young people who when brought to court and given a fine of €30 asked the garda involved if they could borrow the money from him to pay the fine. They were not in the least bit worried. The judge then awarded them ten days to pay. They only needed 24 hours because that night they broke into a house and stole the money. They were caught and fined again. That is the type of nonsense that is taking place. Let us deal with this issue. We must prevent it from happening and lock away those involved. We must also train these people while they are locked up.

I thank the Labour Party for the opportunity to make those few brief comments. In particular I sympathise with the Garda Síochána and the families of those who lost their lives. I avail of this opportunity to put on record my admiration for the great done being done by the Garda and I hope it will always have the support of the House.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  I wish to share time with Deputies Kelleher, Kitt and Lenihan. This is the third time the Labour Party has tabled a Bill or motion dealing with this topic in the past few years. This time it is being done on the back of the terrible accident last week. As others have done, I convey my sympathy to the families of Garda Tighe and Garda Padden.

There are two different issues. The last two speakers referred to the terrible tragedy although the Bill deals with a different issue altogether. However, it is a reasonable opportunity to talk about it, particularly from the Labour Party point of view. While the Labour Party has had a go at this on three occasions it has been shot down each time because the Bill is deficient. We cannot deny there is a problem. The question is whether the Bill is a solution or whether it helps along the way. In the ten days since that terrible accident much has been said about crime. Suddenly crime is almost the central issue in the country yet it seems a new issue to the Labour Party which did not mention it in its little pledge card which it issued some weeks ago. Obviously people such as Deputy Broughan may have had an input into the card, but if so nobody was listening because this lovely sexy little card, which contains all sorts of [1157] politically correct stuff, has not a dicky bird about joyriding or crime of any sort whatsoever. We all have problems and one must sympathise with Deputy Broughan. Depending on the constituency from which we come we chip away at highlighting what we see as major problems. Had Deputy Broughan been listened to there would have been some mention if not of joyriding—

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The Deputy did not get the local pledge card.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Is the Deputy backing each way? Has he got one for each of the 42 constituencies?

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  There is a Dublin one.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  There is no mention of it on this card which is more pertinent to Sandymount than to Clonshaugh.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  It is more pertinent than the World Cup dates which the Deputy is giving out.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  To be fair to Deputy Broughan, he is chipping away at a very real problem. The cars involved in that terrible accident were worth £40,000 and were stolen from nice areas of the city. That is a matter for the Garda. There is a great deal of legislation in that area. This Bill is not about the terrible accident last week but about cars which have reached the end of their lives. There is a problem. Some of the speech from the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, last night was theoretical. Not only did Deputy Broughan fail to get the message across but I failed to get the message across. The Minister suggested there might be a bit of a problem with end-of-life vehicles. It is more than a bit of a problem – in certain constituencies it is a huge problem. While the general objections to the deficiencies in the Bill may be valid the Minister's response was theoretical. It appears that thinking in the Department has not moved on.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Fair play to the Deputy.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Will the Deputy take it easy? I am not supporting the Bill or losing the head. There is a problem.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Break out.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  There is a major problem involving children and it was probably at its peak when the national car test was introduced about 18 months to two years ago. While the position is not quite as bad now the problem has not gone away. It is all right to say the Garda has power and we rush in here with legislation every time there is a problem. Legislation is not always the answer. We have lashings of legislation, what is needed is somebody to implement it.

Occasionally the Garda stops a 14 year old [1158] driving a banger bought from Travellers. If some of the officials dealing with this issue in the Department were to visit some of our constituencies – through the Minister I invited them to visit Dunsink Lane in my constituency – they would see the realities of life and the deficiencies in legislation and it would take the theory out of some of these issues. The Garda has the power to take a car from a 14 year old whom he sees driving around, but there is nowhere to put such cars. Changes are needed in the legislation to allow the Garda scrap a banger after seven days. It is acceptable to keep a 01-D car for three or six months until the owner is found but for a banger of six to ten years old there should be a sliding scale which would allow these vehicles to be crushed after seven or 14 days. In any event most of them are abandoned. The Garda will not take in those vehicles because it has nowhere to put them. It has a big compound in my constituency into which all kinds of cars are put. The Garda will tell one informally that it could fill the compound ten times over but it will not. If it takes them in, it has to keep them for anything up to three months. That period might be valid for a good car but not for a banger.

I thought progress was being made in regard to the end-of-life measure. A voluntary industry-led measure will get nowhere. At present the industry is involved in end-of-life certificates where one deregisters a car. There is such leakage from the industry through all forms of back lanes and Travellers that it cannot work. A voluntary industry led project is no good. The only way to solve it, and I thought that was the way we were proceeding, is to charge €200 extra VRT on the purchase price of a car which could be recouped when it receives an end-of-life certificate and is taken to the scrapyard. Perhaps the amount should be more than €200. The only way to solve the problem is to have a charge at the beginning and a refund at the end. There is an enormous problem on the fringes of the city, where city meets country, in working class suburbs and it has to be tackled. This is totally separate from the taking of expensive cars which are capable of travelling at speed.

This Bill may not be the solution to the problem but it offers an opportunity to again highlight the issue and it has to be grappled with. While a banger may not be capable of travelling at 140 miles per hour on a motorway it is still a lethal vehicle and can do much damage. This problem was at its peak 18 months to two years ago but it will not go away. There is always an accident waiting to happen. I hope the Department will bring forward an end-of-life measure.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Hear, hear.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Forget about the voluntary code as it will not work. A bill of a couple of hundred euro will have to be added to the initial VRT. This is no big deal as people are buying new cars like smarties. Once one gets a refund at the end [1159] of life of the vehicle it will work. I ask the Minister to do it and help solve the problem. It will not solve the problem of stealing.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The Deputy should come through the lobby with us.

Mr. N. Ahern: Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Sadly, the Bill is deficient. It will not solve the problem of stalling cars on the motorway but it would help one part of the problem. Perhaps the Deputy will forward the 42 local pledge cards as I would appreciate having a look at them.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  There are four.

A Deputy:  Is it a red card?

Mr. Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  I extend my deepest sympathy to the families of the two gardaí who were tragically killed last week and to the force. This Bill is about dealing with company cars which is a huge problem, particularly in large urban areas. Many of these cars are purchased for small sums of money and driven at high speed and, more than likely, taken to a field and burned out. That is happening wholesale in certain constituencies and it is time it was addressed. There is also the issue of joyriding and whether it involves a company car which was bought for £100 or a stolen car the fact is that the people in those cars are a huge threat to life and limb. In Cork there have been tragic cases of people having been mowed down and killed by joyriders, and joyriders themselves, some as young as 13 years of age, have also lost their lives. We face a major challenge in tackling this problem and we must do so from two directions. Any person who steals a car and drives it at high speed, whether in an urban or rural area, should be treated severely when brought before a court. Excuses have been made in recent years as to why these people are driving stolen cars at high speed, but that is not good enough. We must show that we are serious about tackling this problem and sentences imposed for such an offence must be stiff. If people are convicted of committing this very serious crime, proper rehabilitation measures should be in place for them.

What is currently happening is unacceptable. When offenders are released on probation they will steal again and probably cause harm to themselves, passengers in the car they have stolen or a pedestrian. They may eventually be given a custodial sentence, but there are no rehabilitation measures in place and they are back on the streets in three or four months' time. Gardaí say that the minute they get a telephone call from a prison officer informing them that a certain individual is being let out of jail, they know that within days the joyriding incidents will start up again. The ringleader comes out, the pals are back and they are on the road again. This is unacceptable. I do not know whether it is due to the revolving door syndrome, but the necessary [1160] rehabilitation facilities are not in place to wean such offenders off this activity.

Joyriding is a problem in society and much of it is due to dysfunctional family backgrounds where, to say the least, parental guidance is not the best. That area also needs to be addressed. Is a 14 year old who drives a car at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. attending school? Is such young person's school attendance checked? There should be a central attendance roll, which would highlight when young persons are not attending school and in such cases someone could call to the home and check what is happening there.

The mention of imposing a curfew would send a shiver down people's spines because they would perceive it to be an infringement on their liberty. It is time we considered the imposition of a curfew as a measure to be used in tackling this problem. If an individual is brought before the courts for a public order offence or a more minor offence that does not carry a custodial sentence, I do not see anything wrong in placing a curfew on that individual to require him or her to be indoors at certain times. If the individual is under a certain age, he or she could attend school and go to games, but should be required to be indoors during the hours of darkness. If the individual is older, he or she could attend work and then be required to be indoors. The imposition of a curfew to tackle this problem should be considered seriously. Such a curfew would not infringe society's rights which we are trying to protect.

Unfortunately, some individuals in society are causing mayhem, whether they are driving stolen cars at high speed through estates instilling terror and fear in people or causing a great nuisance by committing public order offences. An enforcement officer could be assigned to the larger Garda stations and available technology could be used to tag individuals to a bleep system to ensure they are in a certain area, say, their homes. Such a system is used in other countries and we should seriously consider using it here. The necessary technology is available. If the political will existed to use it, such a system would be a very effective way to force such individuals to confront their problems and, if they were placed under a curfew and breached it, such an offence should carry a stiffer penalty.

Some company cars are being sold for €100 because it costs money to scrap them in order to comply with environmental policy. The oil would have to be taken out of car, the battery disposed of and the tyres taken off. Such cars are advertised for sale and a contact mobile telephone number is given. A young person can buy such a car for €100, the seller may fill it with petrol and the young person can drive off in it immediately. We must put a stop to that mechanism of young people purchasing company cars. The next Government will have to seriously examine this practice which enables many of these young people to buy cars. Some people would argue that if these young people cannot buy these cars, they will steal cars. We should try to cut off every [1161] source from which these young people can get cars. The alarms and advanced technology in modern cars make them difficult to steal and these young people are being forced to use company cars.

There have been tragic cases in Cork. It is time we confronted the problem of joyriding. When a tragedy happens it is call death-riding. We have lost too many young people through this activity. Young people from where I come do not seem to learn from the mistakes of their peers or older siblings. This problem is being continually perpetrated by a small number of offenders. If such offenders are given a custodial sentence, they should also have access to rehabilitation to ensure they are weaned off this activity rather than being let out, having spent three months in Rathmore Road, and the first thing they do is head for a car.

We face a challenge in tackling this problem. The debate on this Bill is an opportunity to speak on this issue, even though the Bill really seeks to address the problem posed by the availability of company cars. Irrespective of whoever is in the next Government, this matter should be a priority. Such offenders should have access to rehabilitation and more severe sentences should be imposed.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  I thank the Leas-Ceann Comhairle for his indulgence. I admire the persistence of Deputy Broughan in reintroducing this measure with his usual skilful sense of timing in the dying days of this Dáil. We may even be in the dying hours or minutes of this Dáil as it is questionable whether we will even meet tomorrow. We are on the cusp of a great general election, which will prove once and for all that there is only one real party in this country—

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The Deputy might get a shock.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  —that delivers when it comes to issues such as the one raised by Deputy Broughan and the overall crime problem that afflicts this country and city, a city which I am lucky to represent.

I admire the Deputy's persistence, but in the Labour Party we are seeing more and more of the triumph of image over substance, the image of being seen to do something in this Chamber and the expression of outrage in the media about the crime problem in order to garner votes. I do not believe this to be true of Deputy Broughan, but there is a perception among the public that the Labour Party has gone corporate and is no longer interested in representing the ordinary people on the ground. That was evidenced by the defection of councillor Michael Billane to our party in the past week or so.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  He voted for charges, like Fianna Fáil.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  The important point in debating this Bill is that we must get to grips with [1162] addressing the highly dysfunctional situation of a number of young persistent offenders. That is the nub of tackling the problem of joyriding and crime in this city. A dysfunctional group of young people, generally males, are committing most criminal offences. We saw that in relation to a number of high profile cases recently where offenders had been in and out of prison for offences, some numbering 20, prior to their most recent offence. This is a serious problem, but it is one that is being addressed by the Government.

I am delighted the Minister has made known to Deputies that on 1 May the Children Bill will be enacted, part of which relates to—

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  It is five years too late.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  —something that was called for and talked about by the Members opposite—

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  We drew it up.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  —when they were in Government, the issue of paying compensation where there is a clear sign that there has been wilful parental neglect. However, the previous Government did nothing about it.

There is a disturbing trend in modern Ireland, particularly because of prosperity, in that much more money is floating around and youngsters have more money for all sorts of anti-social activity. They are drinking far more than a previous generation who did not have the same resources. That is a serious problem, but it is one for which the Government cannot legislate. We cannot legislate as a House for good parenting and the idea that we could is, to my mind, ridiculous.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The Government could give parents a hand. It could provide for child care.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  This problem boils down to the fact that some people live in disadvantaged and somewhat dysfunctional situations of unemployment, poverty and perhaps even worse, wilful neglect or abuse in the household. The children are alienated from the household and are out running wild, committing serious offences such as car theft.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Give parents a hand.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  We must have some level of intervention. We can have a social policy that is directed at radical intervention to prevent the neglect that is giving rise to these problems but one cannot legislate for good parenting. Good parenting comes from a proper upbringing, proper material resources for a family and social support at a level that helps the family in difficulty or which needs assistance from the State. Those are the essential planks of this Government – increasing social welfare and the levels of intervention. The Minister for Justice, Equality and [1163] Law Reform referred to this when talking about the RAPID programme being rolled out in some of the most disadvantaged areas in the country, including some parts of my constituency. There are also 13 drug task forces, which means targeted intervention for those communities most in need—

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Deputy Rabbitte started that.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  I am glad the Deputy mentioned Deputy Rabbitte. He started the process but I am more disturbed by the contributions he and Deputy Hayes made recently on television. I was on the same programme with them analysing a poll in the constituency and what concerned me most about their interventions was that in dramatising the crime problem – Deputy Rabbitte is very strong on the microphone side of political life – he was running down his own constituency. I stress that very carefully. He caused grave annoyance and at least 100 constituents rang my office about it. They were furious that Deputies Rabbitte and Hayes highlighted a stereotypical view of the Tallaght area which is not in accordance with the facts.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  The Deputy must never have been to certain parts of Tallaght.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  It caused grave annoyance even to those living in the disadvantaged communities, from where a lot of this crime emanates and where much of the dysfunction to which I referred exists. Even people from those areas, the majority of them law-abiding, were annoyed that two public representatives would go to the lengths of trying to make a career—

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  They are more annoyed with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  —out of the disadvantage and misfortune in their constituency. I deplore that carry-on. It is wrong but because we are on the eve of an election certain Members opposite are trying to exploit the crime issue. In doing so they are damaging communities and the progress that has been achieved in recent years.

Mr. M. Kitt: Information on Michael P. Kitt  Zoom on Michael P. Kitt  I join in expressions of sympathy to the two gardaí who lost their lives in the so-called joyriding accident last week. There are some good points in this Bill and I congratulate Deputy Broughan for bringing it back to us. Every radio programme has discussed this issue in the past week and it is important we debate it. However, producing legislation for the sake of it is not the answer. We should have practical proposals and a comprehensive package of measures to deal with many of these anti-social problems. We should not be seen to be just doing something. My yardstick for measures we should take is to ask if the Garda needs new powers and it [1164] has not said it needs them. Will the legislation provide the Garda with additional enforceable measures to tackle the problem?

I will give the perspective of small rural towns on this matter. Many anti-social issues are now appearing in such areas. I said in the debate on motor insurance that we should use the transition year in schools for discussing the responsibilities of drivers and for education programmes in relation to advertising campaigns and the courtesy needed from those buying or renting cars. That is very important. People say some of the advertising campaigns are very graphic but that is necessary to drive home the message that one cannot allow speeding or drink driving. The necessity of wearing seat belts must also be stressed. We are all familiar with the slogan “Speed kills” and so-called joyriding is all about irresponsible driving.

The Minister for the Environment and Local Government made the point that not all the cars involved are stolen. Old cars and end-of-life vehicles are also available and are being used by young people in urban areas. What is the status of the EU directive on end-of-life vehicles? I understood that directive would ensure that all end-of-life vehicles would be collected, dismantled and recovered by the industry at no cost to the final owner of the vehicle. I am inundated with requests from tidy town committees in east Galway about these old vehicles which are dumped in towns and become eyesores while these hard-working committees are trying to improve the grading of their towns in this prestigious competition. The Garda should take stronger action on this issue. It can impound stolen or old cars if necessary. Those under 16 are prohibited from holding driving licences and there are other offences under the Road Traffic Act, 1961, such as driving in a public place without insurance. Fines for such offences have been increased to €2,500. The legislation is in place.

The Chair has often spoken about having more gardaí on the ground. The Government has increased the number of gardaí and the Taoiseach recently said at our Árd Fheis that our party is committed to recruiting an extra 2,000 gardaí. We need the extra personnel on the street because the Garda has made it clear that many of its members are retiring while other gardaí must do different work.

I referred to transition year, which is a useful and innovative year in second level schools. Anti-social behaviour must also be examined and improving young people's self-esteem is part of that. The Minister for the Environment and Local Government referred to the RAPID programme and mentioned the need to promote social inclusion. In Galway, Ballinasloe, Tuam and parts of Galway city are included in the programme, which shows there have been failings in education facilities and housing and health services in these areas. I hope the RAPID programme is applied quickly to these areas – for example, the provision of a community hospital in Tuam is one [1165] aspect of the programme I hope will receive priority. The education programmes I want to see should be focused on the primary school level. Issues such as seat belts and drunk driving are as important as speeding.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform referred to the shortage of remand accommodation for young offenders and said he had Government approval for the provision of additional accommodation, which is welcome. The courts should also be guaranteed that a small number of serious offenders can be detained. In some estates speed ramps and other control measures have been provided with the agreement of local residents, while traffic calming measures have been introduced in smaller towns. These measures need to be extended further, as traffic control measures have been very useful to the Garda as checkpoints. CCTV is also very useful in detecting crime, particularly street violence. I welcome the fact that the Government is providing CCTV systems for 17 towns and that grants are available for communities who wish to install local systems.

This Bill is flawed in terms of road traffic legislation, but I compliment Deputy Broughan. Hopefully, we will have a more comprehensive package of measures to deal with so-called joyriding and other anti-social problems.

Dr. Upton:  I wish to share my time with Deputies O'Sullivan, Shortall and O'Shea.

It has taken the tragic deaths of two gardaí in the course of their duty last weekend to again focus attention on the plague of stolen cars and the young men who drive them recklessly. In reality this plague is a nightly phenomenon in many parts of the city, particularly in disadvantaged and deprived areas. It is not acceptable that two men whose mission was to protect the public should be the victims of these reckless and irresponsible activities.

This debate is not about so-called joyriding, but about the Government's failure to deal with a serious social problem of which all Members are aware. In deference to Deputy Conor Lenihan, this is not an instant response to the events of two weeks ago. Deputy Broughan raised this issue two years ago and tabled a road traffic Bill which proposed to make it an offence to take and drive a car in a public place in a manner which is dangerous to the public. The Bill also aimed to deal with the problem of so-called company cars. Various penalties were proposed and a substantial set of recommendations were made to deal with the underlying causes of crime.

It is difficult to comprehend the Government's priorities when, in the dying hours of the 28th Dáil, it considers the building of a white elephant sports stadium to be a matter of serious debate. It is important that penalties are imposed and that the perpetrators of crime are not allowed to roam our streets instilling fear and terror. However, it is even more important that the fundamental reasons for their anti-social and reckless [1166] behaviour are acknowledged and addressed. That is why it is obscene that a monument is being promoted which will have no impact on the quality of life or the opportunities for those who steal cars and drive them recklessly.

In some parts of my constituency the dangerous driving of stolen cars is a regular event. Law abiding people live in fear and terror because of such activities. However, the gangs of youths who engage in such activities will never get a chance to see the inside of Stadium Ireland if it is ever built. They might have some hope of getting involved in a football team or a swimming club if they had a football pitch or a swimming pool near them.

In large tracts of my constituency there is no community centre. It is not acceptable that the services and facilities which might make a difference have to be competed for and, very often, fail to materialise. It is outrageous that schools in areas which are designated as disadvantaged have to struggle to get resource teachers and psychologists. The clichéd gap between rich and poor is alive and well and is providing an excellent breeding ground for those who are already at risk to acquire all the characteristics of the next generation of no-hopers.

There are some simple, practical steps which can be taken to alleviate this. Company cars can be removed and disposed of. The maximum legal speed limit is 70 mph, yet cars which can be driven at 140 mph or 150 mph are available. These cars can be disabled or adapted to operate near the 70 mph limit. A dedicated Garda corps could be introduced to deal specifically with stolen cars which are driven recklessly and youth services and facilities could be given a priority rating for those in need.

I have made every effort to avoid using the word “joyriding” as it is inappropriate. However, it is the only word available to describe an irresponsible and reckless activity. Hopefully, I have put forward proposals for penalties which are important. However, more importantly I have proposed facilities to underpin and address the opportunities which should be given to those most in need.

Ms O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  I hope the Government parties will support this Bill which they rejected in the past. There is a need for practical support for the Garda. It is inconceivable that we will not give the force whatever supports it needs, including strong and effective legislation such as this which can address some of the specific problems faced by communities.

Neither Deputy Upton nor I wish to use the word “joyriding” as “deathriding” is probably more appropriate. Deputy Broughan's Bill proposes a practical means to address this issue in legislation. I do not know how the Government parties can fail to support the Bill if they are serious about addressing the issue of crime.

The Garda needs a framework of support which should include legislation such as this. It [1167] should also include the resources, equipment and manpower which the force needs to take on these small groups of young people who are virtually waging a reign of terror on their communities. These people seem to have no regard for their lives or those of others.

The gardaí also need to be sure that places of detention are available for those convicted of crimes so they are kept off the streets. There seems to be no deterrent against this destructive behaviour which is not just anti-social but, as we saw last week, is also anti-life. There is a need for a crisis response, particularly regarding the shortage of places of detention for young offenders. It makes a mockery of the work of the Garda when offenders are released to reoffend simply because there is no place to put them.

With my colleagues, I am dealing with a case in Limerick involving a young person who has been put in a place of detention, but who is released every weekend to prey on his community. He is then taken back for the week and let out again the following weekend. This is not effective and does not protect the communities about which we are talking from what is happening.

I attended a meeting in another community in Limerick last week at which the main topic was how to produce bollards in a residential estate which would be strong enough to combat the ramming of cars by so-called joyriders. This is not just a problem for Dublin, but for urban centres throughout the country.

This problem can be tackled if there is a determined effort. It requires effective legislation and sufficient places of detention. It is disgraceful at this stage of the Celtic tiger that we do not have places to lock up young offenders who have been found guilty and who have been terrorising their communities, yet judges have to let them go because there is nowhere to put them. As was evident from the case last week, people who are locked up and who have committed a number of offences have to be let out to make room for new offenders. This is unacceptable.

It is unbelievable to communities to whom we speak that the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform can tell the House that the level of crime is decreasing. Crime is the biggest issue for people in this election and they find it incredible that the Government is suggesting that the figures are decreasing. As a public representative I also find that suggestion incredible.

The public wants a determined response to this issue. People do not wish to see Members just talking about this issue, they want a real response in their communities. This is not just about legislation, manpower and places of detention. It is also about providing measures which ensure that more young people will not grow up to carry out this kind of anti-social behaviour.

Deputy Shortall will have more to say regarding education. However, figures released this [1168] week suggest that 3,400 young people drop out of school every year with no qualifications. In many cases these people do not have the basic backup they need when in school. There is a shortage of psychologists and places in special schools for children who do not get places in regular schools. A school in my constituency does excellent work, but it has to turn away young people every year because it does not have enough places.

Another young person came to my clinic last week with his mother. He has been two years out of school. He left primary school, did not get a place in secondary school and now two years later he is still out of school. These issues can be tackled when there is money in the economy, as there is now. It is a shame on our community that we have young people like this who do not have an appropriate educational system that can respond to their needs. It is inevitable that the younger brothers of the current criminals in that age group will probably end up offending also unless there is intervention at an earlier stage. In most communities it would be very easy to predict the young people who will end up in these situations. Educationalists know what kind of intervention is needed. Community leaders also know what is needed yet that intervention is not provided.

I hope the Government parties will be in a position to support this measure. It is just one of the things that needs to be done. It would strengthen the hands of the Garda in situations where young people are driving with no concern for the lives of others around them with, as we saw last week, horrifying results. I understand that indications have been given that this support will not come but even at this late stage I request that consideration be given to it.

Ms Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  It is strange and cynical for a number of Government backbenchers to agree with the sentiments and intent of Deputy Broughan's Bill when at 8.30 p.m. they are unlikely to support these measures and will troop like sheep behind their Ministers into the lobbies to vote down this legislation for the second time. They know from first-hand experience in their constituencies that this is a serious problem that needs urgent attention and with bleeding hearts they talk about how bad it is. I hope their constituents are aware of their cynical actions.

The tragic deaths of the two gardaí last Sunday week have focused attention on this problem. It is a disgrace that it has taken those deaths to bring that attention to bear. This is not a new or isolated problem. Many of us who represent urban communities have lived with this problem for many years. There are large numbers of our constituents living in communities under constant siege from out of control young people running riot in their local communities. Most public meetings in our constitutencies focus at some point on the issue of juvenile offenders. It is the big issue in urban areas. People feel threatened by it and it is the main cause of concern. Other concerns [1169] are the problems of living in fear in a flat or house because of the regularity of joyriding in the community, people being afraid to go out at night for fear of being knocked down or caught up in an accident and people afraid to let their children out to play, even in the afternoon, for fear they will be mown down by a joyrider. These are aspects of the problem of young people out of control.

Another problem throughout the country is excessive under age drinking. We have an appalling attitude to under age drinking and a huge tolerance of drink in our society. The legislation that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, boasted so much about when he introduced it in July 2000 is not being enforced. Now 18 months after that legislation was introduced not a single pub in the Dublin area has been closed for selling drink to under age persons. We know that, throughout Dublin in particular, there is a massive problem of under age drinking. There seems to be no difficulty with supply either from pubs or off-licences. The political will is not there to tackle the problem. That seems not entirely divorced from the political muscle that many of the publicans in the greater Dublin area seem to have.

The intimidation and threatening actions young offenders get involved in are another problem. People in a community who are different in any way, for example, a quiet child, a family with darker skin than the rest of us, a gay person, or a person with a disability, are seen as targets because they are seen to be weaker. They are subject to extraordinary abuse from gangs of young people in local communities. Is the Minister aware of this? Deputy Rabbitte made the point earlier that because the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is from a rural area there is a problem with his understanding and appreciation of the type of problems we have in urban areas.

It is hard to over estimate the scale of community crime. I do not mean organised crime but general lawlessness. There is a general breakdown in many communities and they become no-go areas. The Garda are then faced with a situation they find impossible to police. They are under resourced and the community Garda service is being run down for the sake of setting up special units. We no longer have the kind of community Garda service which works at community level and deals with these young people. If zero tolerance is to have any meaning it must be about picking up on youngsters when they first get involved in crime.

That area has been utterly neglected. It is the responsibility of the Minister for Education and Science. Last week, when he was in here being questioned about his stewardship of the juvenile justice system we saw that he did not know what he was talking about. He was rooting helplessly through his files trying to find answers and did not know what the situation was. He did not know how many places there were or how many [1170] had been lost over recent years. He was not in control of the situation. The responsibility for dealing with juvenile crime rightly falls to the Minister for Education and Science. It should be an education response that is provided to young offenders. By and large these are people who have been failed by our education system because of its two-tier nature. The lack of action by Deputy Woods shows he is incapable of dealing with the problem.

Company cars are another major cause of concern. There is a supplier in my constituency who has been operating from Dunsink Lane in Finglas for the last nine or ten years. In recent years since the national car test came in increasing numbers of people who knew their car would not pass their test, or who failed the test, just dumped their cars. The Garda take several abandoned cars every week off the M50. There is no follow up despite the fact that the legal responsibility is on the last owner of the car to report to the motor tax office. Cars are being abandoned or sold on for a few bob to scrap merchants.

The scrap merchant operating in Dunsink Lane has been supplying most of the youngsters engaged in driving company cars on the north side of Dublin for the last number of years. No action has been taken against him by the Garda or by Fingal County Council. The majority of youngsters buying company cars chip in a few bob and go along to this dealer and get a clapped out car for €30 or €40. They then take that car off for a cheap night's entertainment. They will drive it around their community at speed and it is just too bad if someone gets in their way. They will drive it until it is out of petrol, possibly crash it into somebody's front garden and then set it alight.

That is the nightly reality for many communities in urban Ireland and this intolerable situation has been allowed to continue by the current Minister, who has completely neglected the whole area of company cars and stolen cars being driven at speed.

The Government's record in the area of the juvenile justice system is an absolute disgrace. The Children Act, which had passed Second Stage in 1997, was dropped by this Government and sat on for four years. I asked about it on a monthly basis – the Taoiseach knew nothing about it, nor did the Ministers for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Education and Science. Finally, last year, a Bill was produced. It was passed through all Stages but it is yet to be commenced. Not a single section of that Act has been commenced and all we have had is lip service to the area of juvenile justice. Non-school attendance is obviously one of the first indications that there are problems in a child's life, yet we have a skeleton school attendance service and most of the country has no service at all. We were told this would be dealt with in the Education (Welfare) Bill, 1999. This Bill passed all Stages in this House three years ago and not a single additional school attendance officer has been appointed.

[1171]The record is abysmal. The number of detention places for young people is now smaller than it was five years ago. Many of those centres are in absolute chaos. There are increasing numbers of out-of-control young people living chaotic lives. If they are lucky they will be placed in detention centres which are likely to be just as chaotic as the lives they have left. The Government's record in this regard is a disgrace. It has failed many children in this community and it has failed the communities which are subjected to their joyriding.

Mr. O'Shea: Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  I compliment my colleague, Deputy Broughan, on bringing in the Road Traffic (Joyriding) Bill, 2002, before the Dáil for the second time. Unfortunately, all indications are that this very important and worthwhile Bill will be voted down by the Government for the second time in the lifetime of this Dáil. Before I deal with the substance of the Bill I intend to draw the attention of the House to two recommendations in the recent report on the motor insurance industry. The second recommendation says the current system of unsupervised driving by provisional licence holders should be reviewed and that consideration should be given to the introduction of a road safety and driver education syllabus in schools. The Motor Insurance Advisory Board, which looked at the motor insurance industry, adopted a hard financial approach rather than a humane one on the issue of accident trends but the introduction of such a syllabus in our schools would have important spin-off effects, not least the prevention strategy of educating potential joyriders within the system about the grave danger to themselves and to others that arises from reckless driving and excessive speeds. I am not suggesting that the introduction of such a syllabus would be any more than half a solution to the problem of joyriding but there is something to be said for the idea.

The Bill introduced by Deputy Broughan is effectively a fire-brigade measure, albeit a very effective and appropriate one. The prevention agenda, however, must emanate from the Department of Education and Science so it cannot be part of this Bill. The other recommendation of the MIAB which is relevant to our discussion is No. 37, which says that the Road Traffic Acts and other relevant legislation should be amended to facilitate the full adoption of articles of various EU directives on harmonisation of compulsory motor insurance so that the rights of victims may be clearly upheld under European law in accidents involving uninsured, untraced, defectively or allegedly defectively insured vehicles or drivers. The rest is not relevant here. The issue on which we must focus is the rights of victims because this practice of joyriding has many victims and many different kinds of victims.

My colleague Deputy Shortall placed the focus on a very important aspect of the discussion, which is the issue of parenting. It is not only [1172] important in relation to joyriding but also in relation to teenage drinking. There is frankly nobody in this Government who convinces me that any serious strategy is emerging in terms of dealing with the problems of under age drinking, violence on our streets and the fact that more and more children are becoming part of this culture. Nobody can argue that introducing a measure such as Deputy Broughan's is not sensible or that it is not workable. Whatever kind of obstinacy is emanating from the other side of the House, the fact that this Bill is being opposed is sending out the wrong signals. Since the recent terrible tragedy to which other speakers have alluded and which I do not want to bring up again, there has been a need to send out signals from this House that we understand what is happening and that we are prepared to come up with measures to deal with what is happening.

This Bill effectively seeks to introduce two new driving offences to do with supplying, or organising the supply of vehicles to under age people, meaning people of 16 and under. Obviously it does not address in full the issue of stealing vehicles: this is dealt with under other legislation. However, the reason this legislation is so utterly important is the issue of company cars, which was so ably described by my colleague Deputy Shortall. In God's name, what can one say about an Oireachtas which refuses legislation to deal effectively with this horror in our society? Adults are supplying cars to these young people so that they can career around the streets in a most dangerous and reckless fashion, putting many people's lives at risk. This is just unacceptable.

The issue was adequately dealt with by Deputy Broughan here previously and the Bill has only resurfaced against the background of the current events. This bankrupt Government could very well have considered emergency legislation in this area and it did not. A Bill is offered by the Labour Party which could effectively deal with the problem, but for the Government's own reasons – to an extent, reasons of electioneering – the Bill will not be accepted. The principle of the Bill is sound: if the Government wishes to make changes to it I have no doubt that Deputy Broughan would be very receptive to any amendments which would improve the Bill. It is a sad and sorry fact that on this day, probably the second last day of this Dáil, there is a huge problem out there to which the Labour Party is offering a solution, but the Government says it does not want it. Whatever else the Government claims about this “golden age”– I am afraid the gold of which the Government speaks is fool's gold – violence is increasing in our society. Public order incidents are increasing all over the place. It is about time that these issues were addressed.

This is the great legacy of the “golden age” of which the Taoiseach spoke this morning – a more violent society, more children out of control, the phenomenon of joyriding. What do we have? The fact the Government is not seeking to [1173] address these problems is borne out by its reluctance to assent to this simple and appropriate Bill. The “golden age” may be a reality for certain sectors of society, but the quality of life of those living in cities has diminished in the last five years. They no longer feel that their homes are secure or that the streets are safe. Society has become more violent and many citizens drink too much. Sporting success, for example, is all too often associated with drinking. We are sending the wrong message to our young people.

Despite these problems, however, the Taoiseach said today that he feels we are living in a “golden age”. I do not wish to refer to matters which do not relate to this Bill to support my contention that we do not live in such an age, but it has been a bad five years for the quality of life and security of the people. I cannot see what is golden about this era in those respects. The Minister of State, Deputy Dan Wallace, is a decent man who is concerned about these issues. At this late stage of its life, I call on the Government to demonstrate a commitment to rectifying the social ills I have outlined.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. D. Wallace): Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  All Members of the House agree that joyriding is a deplorable activity that causes destruction and fear and that a multi-agency approach is required if we are to stop it. Last night, the Ministers for the Environment and Local Government and Justice, Equality and Law Reform outlined the strong measures being taken by this Government, which recognises that all anti-social behaviour must be tackled.

It is recognised that better management of public housing can make a significant contribution to addressing anti-social behaviour on local authority housing estates and flat complexes. While local authorities are responsible for the management and maintenance of rented dwellings, my Department plays an important role in supporting and guiding them in their efforts to better manage estates. I am pleased that the housing management initiative grant scheme, operated by my Department, has been particularly successful in this regard. Since 1997 over 130 projects have been approved under the scheme, representing a total grant allocation of almost €2.5 million. The vast majority of these projects relate to staffing, estate management programmes and staff and tenant training. In 2001, €200,000 was allocated to three local authorities for the appointment of specialist housing staff to deal with anti-social behaviour and this year my Department's overall grant allocation for these purposes is €2 million. Officials from my Department recently met officials from the major local authorities to discuss anti-social behaviour in local authority estates and were informed that proposals for grant assistance in this area would be particularly welcome under the 2002 scheme.

Last night, Deputy Coveney suggested that we need to speed up the length of time it takes to [1174] get a conviction in the courts. I remind him that the penalty points system, which was provided for in the Road Traffic Act, 2002, is designed to act primarily on an administrative basis. The system will apply to 69 offences, some of which are directly related to the joyriding phenomenon. Driving disqualifications arising from the accumulation of 12 penalty points will be notified administratively through a computerised system co-ordinated by my Department. The penalty points system has been developed against the background of the provision in the Constitution relating to the administration of justice. It is not aimed at imposing penalties or disqualifying drivers, but at improving the behaviour of those who recurrently breach traffic laws relating to safety. The system incorporates a significant deterrent: the imposition of an automatic disqualification where a person reaches a defined threshold of points.

Ms Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  It is not much good for 15 year olds.

Mr. D. Wallace: Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  This is the first occasion on which a disqualification will be imposed without the direct involvement of the courts. The Road Traffic Act will also promote a significant upward revision of maximum fines. The revamped system of administrative penalties promoted through a fixed charge system and the extended use of cameras to detect offences should result in improved driver behaviour and advanced road safety.

Ms Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  This is not relevant to 14 and 15 year olds.

Mr. D. Wallace: Information on Dan Wallace  Zoom on Dan Wallace  I did not interrupt the Deputy so she should keep her mouth shut. While the Bill we are debating may be supported by the best of motives, it will be of no benefit in addressing the issue it seeks to target. Car theft is adequately addressed in the criminal justice code of the Road Traffic Acts. The Bill would create offences relating to the supply of vehicles that would be impossible to prove. I am familiar with the difficulties caused by joyriding and the incident in which Garda Brian Shanahan was injured last weekend occurred in my constituency. The north side of Cork city suffers from the problem of joyriding in the same way that areas of Dublin and other cities have suffered. As my colleagues pointed out last night, the Bill brought forward by Deputy Broughan is not a solution to the problems created by joyriding. Enforcement of the laws that impact directly on the issue offers the best means of tackling this problem.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I thank Deputies from all parties who contributed to this Second Stage debate tonight and last night. On the weekend before last, we all felt a profound horror as a result of the deaths of Garda Tony Tighe and Garda Michael Padden. I sympathise with their families and colleagues on behalf of the Labour Party. [1175] The terrible incident ten days ago reminds us of the risks taken by gardaí on the streets of our cities each night as they attempt to combat car related crime. It is outrageous, therefore, that two senior Ministers said in this House last night that the resources and legal powers available to the Garda are entirely adequate. After five years, many gardaí feel that additional legal powers and physical resources should have been provided in certain significant areas. It has been reported in the newspapers that a senior garda said that new legal powers are needed in relation to company cars and the gift or sale of cars to youngsters, yet the Ministers said last night that new legal powers are not necessary.

It was striking to hear a succession of Fianna Fáil Deputies criticise the Ministers for the Environment and Local Government and Justice, Equality and Law Reform earlier tonight. Deputy Noel Ahern referred to last night's speech by the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, as a bit “theoretical”, but the view on the Labour benches is that after five years, the Minister is more than “theoretical”. He has not produced a single major development in relation to any of the problems in his Department's remit. Deputy Ahern commented on the Minister's reference to company cars as “a bit of problem”. As Deputy Gilmore has said on many occasions from these benches, the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, is completely out of touch with reality. The Minister listed the legal powers under the Road Traffic Acts, including sections 31, 56 and 112 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, which deal with insurance, taxation and the seizure of a vehicle. If these measures were appropriate, cars would be stopped and those selling them would be prevented from entering deprived and disadvantaged areas. It seems clear that there is a lacuna in the legal powers which are available to gardaí in relation to joyriding, an activity which does not exist as a crime in our legal code.

If the contribution of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government was typically theoretical and short on facts and realities, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform's contribution was in the realms of fantasy. He referred to the availability of stinger devices for use by the Garda, but we know that such devices are available to only one in three Garda cars. I have a high regard for the genial Minister of State, Deputy Dan Wallace, but the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, told us a pack of lies, in effect, last night when he said stingers were available to Garda cars throughout the country.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should withdraw the word “lies”.

Mr. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  I withdraw that term, but the Deputy from Cahirciveen is somebody who misuses the truth. Last night, he brazened his way through the operational details of the Garda [1176] Síochána, knowing full well that in his five years he did not provide the Garda with resources to address this problem. One of the most ludicrous part of the Minister's speech was his reference to remand accommodation. He said he was making plans – on the night before the Dáil will be dissolved – to increase the number of places for the young tearaways who caused the death of gardaí and 20 of our citizens over the past decade and a half in our urban areas. He talked about interim measures and providing places in St. Patrick's if the Minister for Education and Science will agree. It is unbelievable that after five years the Minister is talking about plans for remand and detention places.

The most incredible and almost Kafkaesque, or should that be “Gopaleenesque” as he has the kind of bearing that Myles na Gopaleen would have written about, part of his speech was his saying that if we did something about company cars, it would impinge on the constitutional property rights of the gougers and thugs who sell or give away these cars. We would impinge on their constitutional property rights and make an assumption that the young people were going to drive the car. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in his next incarnation, should consider a career as a comic – the king of comedy from County Kerry. It is outrageous that he would insult me, the Labour Party and this House last night with this farrago of nonsense. He failed to provide the resources to the Garda or to create the necessary legal powers to deal with the issue of company cars, yet he gives us a rigmarole which a garda on his first day on duty might read from his notebook in a district court.

It is an outrage and I am glad it is the second last night that he will be the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform since he and Deputy Dempsey will not be missed in their Departments. I hope that in a few short weeks we will have two new, vigorous Ministers who will address these issues, the alienation and despair on the sick and deprived estates of our cities and town, gaps in the law, and the lack of resources for the Garda, as well as look at new structures for the Garda to be more effective as Garda representative bodies have wanted for a long time.

A few hours after we leave here tonight, and for many hours after, in parts of the country, there will be the screech of vehicles being driven at 80 or 100 miles per hour through suburban streets. It will get louder and louder. Children will gather on corners to shout and create a din. The Garda will be informed and some vehicles will be sent out to desperately try to prevent young children and innocent passers-by from being injured. The mayhem will go on for hours. That will happen tonight and tomorrow and has been happening every night for the five years of Deputy O'Donoghue's ministry. This has been happening and the Minister has not dealt with it as he has not dealt with many problems. He has been a grossly incompetent and hypocritical Minister. He talks of zero tolerance yet he is leav[1177] ing this country with tracts of our cities in a state of insurrection and mayhem and with our children in grave risk. That is his legacy.

Many communities have tried to cope with this. Two years ago, when this party held a seminar to which we invited gardaí and community leaders, we heard stories of mayhem, despair and grief. We pledged to act but not in a simplistic way. This Bill is one of eight major initiatives which have to be taken in order to address this problem. Yet two years later, despite the Minister's waffle and comic lines, we have achieved nothing and those communities are in more despair than ever. I say to the people in those communities tonight “get mad, get angry and when the Fianna Fáil Deputies and Ministers come to the door, tell them that you are mad as hell and that you want them out of office”. That is what I say to communities which have been plagued by joyriding in the past five years. “Tell your Fianna Fáil Deputy, who says one thing tonight out of one corner of his mouth and votes down the Labour Party Bill, that you are mad as hell about this problem, that you will vote against them and will put them out”. Tell them that you are mad as hell that the Taoiseach is prepared to spend hundreds of millions of euro on a crazy proposal which could end up with a professional sports franchise being located in our city, while in many areas our streets suffer from the gravest deprivation, social disorder is rife and there is nightly mayhem. We need to send a message from this House that the Government, by turning down this Bill, is abandoning the most deprived and disadvantaged communities. I tell the people to send a message in the next three weeks to Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats.

I will be delighted if at long last, in the next three weeks, the Progressive Democrats Party is finally down-sized. It down-sized everything in sight and got rid of everything that this State had built up over many years. I will be delighted if it is down-sized by the people, as it deserves to be – to use the type of phrase that the Progressive Democrats loved to use in this House.

The simple Bill before us tonight seeks to make the seizure of a car for dangerous driving a specific crime, that is joyriding, as it says in section 2, “to direct, organise or participate in the unauthorised taking of a vehicle for the purpose of dangerous driving in a public place”. We are [1178] saying that young alienated people, who have dropped out of school, for whom Deputies Wood and O'Donoghue have made no provision in the past five years, yet who continue to defy their communities time and again will be punished severely. We want severe penalties imposed for that crime. We say in the first section that we would deal at long last with the horrendous problem, that has lasted for several decades, of company cars and end of life vehicles.

We had an appalling response on this issue also from Deputy Dempsey, who was even criticised by three of his own Deputies tonight for talking about a voluntary, industry led scrappage scheme for cars. We know that he has been negotiating with them for four or five years, under the waste management Act of 1986, to establish a system of what Conor Faughnan calls a death certificate for every vehicle. The industry refuse to negotiate or to do it voluntarily. Last November, he told a colleague that if there was no agreement, he would introduce compulsory regulation in April. This is the last day on which he could have done so, but Deputy Dempsey has done nothing because his party is afraid to take on the vested interest of the small cartel that controls the Irish car industry, just as it was afraid to take on the vested interest of the small cartel that controls the insurance industry and that which controls rented accommodation. Led by these two Ministers, Fianna Fáil has backed away from a range of issues and failed to take necessary action.

Our Bill provides for stiff penalties on indictment of up to seven years or a fine of €32,000 for its two key elements. A senior member of the Garda says the Bill is needed while the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who says he does not interfere in the operational matters of the Garda, and the Minister for the Environment and Local Government say it is not. Two years ago I said if there were more deaths or serious injuries as a result of this desperate crime, let it be on the heads of the Ministers for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Environment and Local Government and the Taoiseach. I reiterate that if there are more deaths and destruction as a result of this appalling carry on, which the Government has ignored, let it be on the heads of Deputy Bertie Ahern and the disgraced outgoing Government.

Question put.

Allen, Bernard.
Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Seán.
Bell, Michael.
Boylan, Andrew.
Bradford, Paul.
Broughan, Thomas P.
Clune, Deirdre.
Cosgrave, Michael.
Creed, Michael.
Currie, Austin.
Deasy, Austin.
Dukes, Alan.
Farrelly, John.
Gilmore, Éamon.
Gormley, John.
Hayes, Tom.
Healy, Seamus.
Higgins, Michael.
Hogan, Philip. Howlin, Brendan.[1179]

McDowell, Derek.
McGahon, Brendan.
McManus, Liz.
Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Owen, Nora.
[1180]Penrose, William.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, Seán.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stagg, Emmet.
Upton, Mary.
Yates, Ivan.

Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Andrews, David.
Aylward, Liam.
Blaney, Harry.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Matt.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Callely, Ivor.
Carey, Pat.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cowen, Brian.
Cullen, Martin.
Daly, Brendan.
Davern, Noel.
de Valera, Síle.
Dennehy, John.
Doherty, Seán.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Fleming, Seán.
Flood, Chris.
Gildea, Thomas.
Hanafin, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Kitt, Tom.
Lawlor, Liam.
Lenihan, Brian.
Lenihan, Conor.
McGennis, Marian.
McGuinness, John J.
Martin, Micheál.
Moffatt, Thomas.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Michael.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donnell, Liz.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Malley, Desmond.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Seán.
Roche, Dick.
Ryan, Eoin.
Treacy, Noel.
Wade, Eddie.
Wallace, Dan.
Walsh, Joe.
Woods, Michael.
Wright, G. V.

Question declared lost.


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