Thursday, 20 June 2002
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Haughey: I congratulate the Ceann Comhairle on his appointment and wish him well in his endeavours. I know he will be fair and will keep order and discipline in the House. I also congratulate the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, on his appointment. He will be a decisive and reforming Minister and I look forward to the many legislative proposals he will bring to the House.
Crime has emerged as a major issue for the electorate. The view is that the quality of life is seen to be threatened by public disorder and anti-social behaviour, generally by gangs. It is threatened also by under-age drinking, vandalism and lawlessness and by unprovoked attacks. A situation has developed where parents are afraid to let their children go to town at night for an evening's entertainment. In some areas elderly people are afraid to go to Saturday evening mass for fear of attack. In some parts of the city, and elsewhere in the country, our green areas and parks have become no-go areas. We need to tackle this, restore community life to the way it was and allow citizens go about their normal business without fear of attack.
Many changes have taken place in Irish society as a result of our substantial economic growth. Young people are more affluent and some are consuming more alcohol than they should. This has resulted in the disorder we have witnessed on our streets and which this Bill seeks to address. There is a new aggression in society as well, as other Members have mentioned. There is a problem with senseless, unprovoked attacks, particularly against young men. It is a worry and it affects all classes in society, not just areas of disadvantage. On the contrary, it seems to be affluent young men who engage in such unprovoked attacks. It is they, too, who are at the receiving end of these appalling crimes.
There is a new lack of respect for members of the Garda Síochána. That issue must be addressed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It should not be tolerated. If the gardaí have a constitutional role in upholding law and order, they must be respected in their role. The training which gardaí receive should deal with that new situation. In particular, young gardaí should not let themselves be abused or attacked. They have an important role to play. We must restore respect for members of the Garda Síochána, given its important role in society.
In many communities there are no alternative venues to the pub. They do not have a community centre or youth club premises which could provide alternative entertainment for young people. The Government will have to address this through its various programmes. There are sev eral programmes in place but facilities must also be put in place to encourage community and youth activity generally.
Finally, we need to review the licensing laws. Opening hours were extended under legislation last year and this has caused problems, particularly late at night when young people are flooding onto the streets. We need to review and tweak the licensing laws in view of the difficult situation which has emerged with regard to public disorder.
Mr. M. Higgins: I welcome the opportunity to comment on this legislation. It is also necessary to make a statement about some aspects of the speeches that were made yesterday, which were not just of concern but were quite appalling in a number of respects. This legislation seems to be intended, and could be welcomed in that context, to address the issue of widespread concern about crime, particularly late night crime and crime that is associated with alcohol abuse. It is not just an election issue. Many people, particularly elderly people and young, unaccompanied people, are concerned at the disappearance of their right and ability to move from their homes to places of entertainment, places in which they might previously have been able to socialise without fear.
I deplore the fact that so much fear exists at all levels of society and I support legislative efforts to address this issue. However, I cannot accept some of the assumptions in the Minister's speech and I oppose the thinking that was reflected in some of the speeches by Opposition Members yesterday. I spent about 24 years of my academic life lecturing in the area of the sociology of deviance and crime, in Ireland and abroad. In 1962, Albert Cohen published his book, Deviance and Control, in which he said there seemed to be more interest in control than in the understanding of deviance. Even though this was stated 40 years ago, the same fallacy surfaced again as late as yesterday. I feel strongly about this issue. The only construction in some of the speeches yesterday was that we should almost declare war on young people. We announce that we are going to escalate our side of the equation to deal with their behaviour on the other side without an examination of the behavioural sources and what is influencing the behaviour which is causing such problems.
I do not want what I have said to be construed simply in the context of a dichotomy between hard or soft in relation to liberal issues. This society has lived with massive abuse by advertising and alcohol. Sweden, for example, took action to protect its children from the child abuse that forms of advertising directed at children constitute. The former president of the American Psychological Association took the unusual step some years ago of writing to members of the association asking them to consider their position on the ethical grounds that they were lending their skills to the abuse of children through advertising. There is evidence everywhere in the literature of the connection between the promotion of  alcohol and advertising. There was a hope that in the Swedish Government's Presidency of the European Union the children's side of this issue might be addressed but that opportunity was lost.
This country, which is now to announce that it is going to war after dark, seems unwilling to look at the sources of its problem. I have mentioned one, the connection between advertising and alcohol. Another is the construction of great temples to the consumption of alcohol. There was a time when in many cities and towns, including Dublin, part of the character of a public house, be it in the public bar or the lounge, was the ability of the proprietor to know a certain proportion of the clients and to be in effective control. One cannot reconcile the thinking that said there is to be no limit on the number of pubs a person may own, no limit on the square footage that can be licensed and no control over or connection between ownership, management and effective control with trying to retain the behaviour of the small and intimate pub.
Look at the example that is being given in this country from the top levels. There is an assumption that when dignitaries visit Ireland, be they presidents or prime ministers, their tongues are hanging out for a pint of beer and that we must assemble the cameras and press and take them to a pub. I have to be careful not to mention any particular establishment but some have been in the headlines more than others. Even when our heads of State visit cultures that are thousands of years old, they head for an Irish pub. That tells us something about the thinking that lies behind the behaviour which will produce legislation that purports to deal with young people. I mention this as background information. The Government claims to be dealing with the consequences of the connection between alcohol, misbehaviour and breaking the law, but it is not addressing the fact that a major alcohol abuse crisis is well under way. I have never seen so many young people who are vulnerable as a result of alcohol abuse and everything associated with it. This issue is not being dealt with.
As a member of the Cabinet which introduced the Public Order Act, 1994, I wish to make clear a second reservation in relation to this Bill. I regret that we did not include greater protection of civil rights in the legislation at that time, as it has since been abused. I recall that it was specifically intended to deal with loutish behaviour, but, unfortunately, I could give several instances of the Act being invoked for little less than political reasons.
If young people are to be interested in politics, they must feel they are entitled to object to the world's unaccountable corporate powers. I could list many corporations, such as Monsanto, which have bought power in several Administrations. They have been granted special meetings with the Commission and ensure topics are shifted from one area of the Commission to the other as they make their way to the World Trade Organisation.  The Taoiseach was lobbied as he travelled around New York on St. Patrick's Day. These issues have been well documented. Young people take to the streets to object to an unaccountable corporate power which is having detrimental economic, social and ecological effects on the planet.
The 1994 Act was not intended to be abused in this manner. I ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in his Second Stage reply to tell the House whether there will be an investigation into the use of the 1994 Act. Will he strengthen this Bill to ensure it will not be abused beyond its express intent? If I were to perform a more subtle deconstruction of the Minister's opening speech, I would find it interesting that he saw fit to mention that the Bill “deals with an area of great public concern to ordinary law-abiding people.” I am sure there are extraordinary law-abiding people, but moving on from the redundant use of language, I am more interested in the reference to “those who may wish to socialise in the evening and late at night and those who wish to relax in the quiet enjoyment of their property.” There is no reference to the role of the family in the quiet enjoyment of property, which reflects in a curious way the shift in institutional emphasis.
I wish to mention a few other matters that are neglected in the Bill, such as the fact that it does not consider the temples to consumption known as superpubs. I am sure such establishments make it more difficult for Taoisigh who may wish to move from the public bar to the lounge more frequently and with less interruption. It must be difficult to deal with every floor of the superpub. Discussions on alcohol are marked by incredible hypocrisy. While I welcome the sections of the Bill that wish to increase the legal responsibility on owners of licensed premises, I have reservations about the manner in which the provisions may be implemented. The Bill will face immediate difficulties in the case of an offence occurring within 100 metres of three pubs adjacent to each other. How can one determine which publican should be held responsible? I could speak on such matters at length and may do so if the Bill progresses to Committee Stage.
Other aspects of the Bill are similarly important. I wish to be positive about the crime problems we face, many of which are linked to economic factors. As late as ten years ago, people of all ages could be found during the day in communities in Dublin, provincial towns and rural  Ireland, but this is no longer possible. Couples have been conscripted to work, which involves leaving their homes early in the morning and returning late at night. Their children are moved around in search of child care, but provision is inadequate. One does not need to be a sociologist to know that if life is emptied from communities during the day, their survival will be placed at risk.
Conclusions may also be drawn about the relationship between generations. I do not consider it strange to note that this is a terrible time for young people in Ireland. The number of male suicides is frighteningly high, for example. Those who talk to young people hear about the alienation and hopelessness to which they are condemned. The Government has allowed for the second lowest social provision in Europe. Teenagers and those in their twenties and thirties throughout Europe go alone, in pairs or in larger groups to skating rinks and similar venues not associated with alcohol. They may decide to drink coffee or beer. There is no such facility in this jurisdiction, although there is one in Belfast. Older legislators do not listen attentively to the requests of young people; they respond to their needs with ideas that reflect their own version of life. Young people write to me at election time asking for facilities associated with particular forms of recreation, such as skateboard parks or ice rinks. Such amenities are provided by civilised societies but not here.
Mr. M. Higgins: Why do we wonder that young people feel alienated and hopeless, given that this country seems to be committed to redistributing wealth to the rich by reducing the top rate of tax? Why is it a surprise that our communities are under stress? I call on the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to assure the House that the powers given to the Garda under the Bill will not be abused. One of his former colleagues on the Bench recently dealt with the case of a young man who had been approached by a garda while standing outside a hotel near the Spanish Arch in Galway. The garda asked him to move on and when he had not done so within a few minutes, the garda accused him of being disrespectful. He explained that he had argued with his girlfriend and was waiting for her to return, but he was arrested. He was threatened with a jail sentence when the case came before the courts. What kind of thinking does this demonstrate? When I examine certain queries from my constituents I am told that they gave cheek or were disrespectful. We live in a culture in which four letter words are often heard on radio and television and seen in the newspapers. If a young person uses such language and is considered by a garda to be disrespectful, he or she will fall under the remit of this new Bill. Are gardaí trained to exercise discretion in such situations?
The new Minister for Justice, Equality and Law  Reform, Deputy McDowell, is consistent, at least. In his speech yesterday he claimed to be interested in the deterrent effect of the deferment of a custodial sentence:
In this context, I acknowledge that punishment and sentencing are the functions of the judicial arm of the State. While we would not expect the Judiciary to regard imprisonment as a first resort for offenders who cause disorder while drunk, it may be that a judicious combination of immediate substantial fines, coupled with a deferment of the issue of custodial sentences could be part of an effective strategy to curb public order offences, especially in the case of first offenders.
Does the Minister intend to introduce similar measures to deal with white collar crime? The programme for Government states the new Administration will seek to encourage corporate responsibility. The Labour Party is waiting for proof of this. The possibility that a first offender will be punished in this manner is outrageous and draconian. It does nothing to deal with social problems or provide the security demanded by those in communities.
A number of unfortunate speeches were made yesterday. Who in 2002 wants to go down the road of issuing the gardaí with stun guns? Who thinks in regard to this problem that people should be arbitrarily thrown in for the night and when they sober up in the morning they will feel better? Young people are currently going through an unbelievable level of stress. Doctors say that in cases of male suicide, for example, where a young person dies, a whole network of friends and peers are affected by the event. Frequently, there is no counselling service available to enable these people to deal with a very traumatic event.
To suggest that the Garda is at war with young people is an unbelievably disastrous strategy. I say to those Members of the Opposition who have been advocating the strategy that we will be known as the John Waynes of future Irish politics to think very carefully. The gardaí are called the Garda Síochána, the guardians of the peace. What about people? I agree with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that ordinary people are asking for the presence of gardaí. The issue is not the numbers of gardaí but their dispersal and management. People are asking for accountability from gardaí. They want a distinction drawn between an ordinary individual who is in trouble on a haphazard basis and someone who is a consistent offender. Not everyone is a lout. People want a distinction drawn between those who protest for whatever reason and those who are involved in anti-social behaviour of a totally destructive kind.
There is another interesting point. I listened to Deputy Haughey who suggested there is a neat and simple equation between affluence and alcohol abuse. Believe it or not, there are many societies whose income increased and which did  not fall apart. They were able to celebrate forms of social solidarity and social relationships that were enriching and important. One of the most significant factors over the past ten years is the influence of peer groups. Young people are terrorising each other. Young people are taking norms of consumption derived from elsewhere and putting pressure on each other to follow a particular pattern of behaviour. Analysis of social patterns of drinking, for example, will indicate a significant difference. Twenty years ago the number of times people got drunk and were not capable of being in charge anymore occurred over a very long period. It was something that crept up on one. Now the emphasis is on getting out of one's head as fast as possible so as to be totally incoherent and spaced out.
Everything in advertising supports this. The development of the drinks industry and the mixture of spirits with other forms of mixer, for example, is entirely new. No one in this House will ever make progress on the pressures on young people unless they are willing to tackle the alcohol industry, those who believe they have a right to own any size of pub for any kind of consumption and those who are making a fortune out of the child abuse that is advertising connected to alcohol and tobacco.
The Minister places an obligation on those with premises that might possibly face a closure order to ensure order in the environs of their premises. It is one of the great changes in Ireland that one can no longer find such a pub. I look at young people outside clubs late at night and they are corralled like cattle. There is no control over the way in which bouncers behave. It is something which is not currently regulated. One can see people being pushed and shoved into lines and examined for permission to enter and pay over the rate for expensive drink. This is an indictment of Ireland. It is interesting that we have been hearing for five years that the Republic has the fastest growth rate in Europe and that it has performed miracles. The Minister, Deputy McCreevy, cannot finish a sentence without getting excited at what he has done, yet we have produced the largest number of bouncers in Europe from a low rate and the worst queues in Europe.
It will be wonderful if we get a reply from the Minister. I will be interested to hear his views on what is happening to a society for whom alcohol consumption is the only way of forgetting the kind of society in which people live. That is the description for young people, a deeply alienating society where there is little to encourage them. My hope is that these people will reject alcohol and that the next generation of politicians will demand facilities, provide skating rinks, music venues, etc, so that people can enjoy fulfilling lives without getting out of their heads and providing a fortune for multiple pub owners and people who want big temples to their own ignorance.
Mr. Gogarty: Much as I am enjoying the debate and finding it very elucidating, there is no quorum present. I call for a quorum given that it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure a quorum is present.
Cecilia Keaveney: I am delighted to welcome this Bill. For long months I have raised the issue of under-age drinking and the associated public order problems at the Committee on Health and Children and at parliamentary party meetings. I did this as it is such an important issue for the towns and villages in my constituency of Donegal North-East.
This Bill is another step on the right road, but it will not be, as many have said, a panacea to all ills in society, nor is it intended to be. Alcohol related and public order offences top the agenda at most of our clinics and are uppermost in our minds and I wish the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform well in dealing with the wider implications of drink for our society. This is not a criticism of the Bill, but seeks to provide food for thought in terms of forthcoming legislation. Deputy O'Donoghue set up the committee on liquor licensing and the recommendations of the task force pointed to the key issue which is the number of Departments involved, including Health and Children, Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Education and Science, Finance, Arts, Sport and Tourism, Social and Family Affairs and the Environment and Local Government. I congratulate the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, for the expansion in the remit of the task force and for the fact that we have the interim report of May 2002. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform must be proactive on the recommendations of the group and ensure interdepartmental development of what is possibly the largest single issue we face in these new years of the millennium.
Indeed, when I sat down to put my thoughts on the issue of public order on paper, I almost felt like a spoilsport because our culture is so drink orientated that it is not trendy to denounce it. I wonder sometimes if we prefer the view of us from the days of poitín drinking and leprechauns, which was that of the Americans and others, or if we prefer the real view. I speak as someone who takes a drink, usually in moderation, yet I see what is going on particularly with our youth in terms of drinking. Ireland has, as Deputy Higgins said, the fastest growing economy in Europe and the prosperity that has yielded has reached into and become part of the lives of our youth. Their disposable incomes are manifested in the weekly show of prosperity on our streets. It is not all good news and the cost to our economy of the abuse of alcohol is reckoned to be in the region of €2.4 billion, comprising €279 million in health care costs, €215 million in road accident costs, €100 million in alcohol related crime, €1,034 mill ion on loss of output due to alcohol related absences from work, €404 million in alcohol related transfer payments and €234 million in taxes not received on lost output. It would be ironic if the social face of our prosperity, the importance of the pub, became implicated in the loss of our prosperity due to the costs which I have just mentioned.
During the recent election, I listened again to concerned parents who worry that their children are not coming home until 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. They are concerned that their children do not feel safe on the street as they make their way home from a night out, they bemoan the fact that the streets of rural areas are no longer safe and they feel harassed in their homes when their property is vandalised. The answer provided is always the easy one of suggesting the pubs be closed earlier, but is that really what should happen? Perhaps it is part of the solution. Too often in the blame game it is everyone else's fault, not our own. It is the fault of the child, the publican, the Garda, the parents or the teachers, even of society, but never ours. It is never something quantifiable. What is quantifiable is the scale of the problem facing us.
Let us look at the children and their place in this issue of public order. According to the survey “Health Behaviour in School Age Children”, over half of young people begin experimenting with alcohol before they are 12, 20% of 12 to 14 year olds are drinkers and between the ages of 15 and 16 half of girls and two thirds of boys are drinkers. Some drink very large quantities of alcohol, engage in binge drinking and are frequently drunk. The peer pressure on our youth is immense. Nationally, our society celebrates success or consoles itself with alcohol, our reputation world wide still revolves around our drink culture and, despite its wonderful performance, the recent fortunes of the Irish soccer team provide a classic example. We celebrated with alcohol when we won and consoled ourselves when we lost. Our heroic ability to consume alcohol is what is admired around the world. Many young people are getting drink from a variety of sources, including pubs, off-licences, parents, relations, friends or from the cabinet at home. They drink in more and more public places as time goes on. They drink to excess and often become violent.
There is no logic in the manner in which many young people drink in that they mix their drinks and have nasty reactions as a result, which translates into increases in assaults. There has been a steady increase in assaults and public order offences since 1995 and from 1996 to 2000 street violence offences increased by 97%. The Garda Commissioner highlighted the link between alcohol and the rise in street violence. In 2000 there were 62,000 instances of public order offences and 38,000 people were charged and 24,000 cautioned. It is awful that serious assaults increased in 2000 and the fact that most of them were alcohol related gives us pause for thought. Alcohol related offences might be committed by adults,  but there is concern that the intoxication in public among teenagers has increased by 370% since 1996. Much of this goes unseen due to the JLO system and I ask the Minister to look at that system in terms of the discretion of local gardaí. They have no discretion to intervene and recommend a prosecution of an individual and in many cases the really serious juvenile offender is laughing at the system when they are referred to JLO which they know is soft. JLO works extremely well for the soft criminal who just needs a good sharp shock, but I ask that the Minister look at it possibly to allow a local sergeant, inspector or superintendent to have some input into whether a person should be prosecuted.
I hear people saying that young people have nothing else to do and they speak of the need for sports facilities, with which I agree in part, but I watch reality. I see the impact over the last few years of the national lottery moneys and the associated facilities which have been made available, but they are not utilised by those who would prefer to be in a back alley or on the shorefront with a six pack. Last week when the Irish team was going to play at 12.30 p.m. I was walking along the shore and trying to get back in time for the match while half a dozen young fellows were just arriving down with their six pack of cider, their Smirnoff Ice and their Hooch ready for their session. Even though there was something sporting on television and they all had access to sports viewing, they were not going to be there, they were going to be antisocially “enjoying” themselves. That is not to say that we cannot encourage more drop-in centres such as the one in Buncrana or the after-school and homework clubs operating in many towns, but the Minister should speak to his relevant colleague in relation to a national insurance scheme which must be created to address and overcome the problems for parks, playgrounds and skateboard facilities about which Deputy Higgins spoke.
Young adults in the 18 to 24 year age group are the most directly affected by the issue of binge drinking. This and the younger age groups may live through the consequences of the less exciting part of alcohol consumption which is unwanted pregnancy. Of school going teenagers surveyed, 35% who were sexually active said that alcohol played a significant part in leading to them becoming so. Other problems include sexually transmitted infections, increasing disharmony in family relations, marriage break-ups, depression often leading to suicide, health problems such as sclerosis of the liver and various cancers, which like smoking related diseases make no impact on a young generation because they often take years to manifest themselves, accidents in the house and car accidents.
I ask that the Minister, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, the Garda and local authorities discuss what is to be done with the burnt-out cars that are so prevalent around our countryside due to youngsters gaining access to old cars which have perhaps failed the  MOT and are joyridden before being abandoned and burnt out.
When public order is raised with us as politicians, often the Garda gets the brunt of the blame, rightly or wrongly. The last Government increased the number of gardaí and there is a commitment to again increase their numbers significantly this term, which I welcome, but there needs to be an examination of how they are deployed. I disagree with Deputy Higgins about whether it is a numbers game. How can we have a visible Garda presence on our streets and towns if there are only one or two on duty at any time? Gardaí on the beat pick up information and are a visual deterrent to people who may think twice in the presence of authority, which goes back to my JLO argument. Some people will not be deterred by a garda – I was told of a recent incident where a person went up to a garda and took his cap – but others will be deterred from soft crime. However, I agree with speakers last night who raised the issue of many young people not having respect for authority, which means gardaí will be faced with very difficult problems on our streets unless they have the proper numbers and back-up facilities.
Many young people do not have respect for authority. Therefore, gardaí are faced with difficulties on our streets, unless they are given adequate resources and supports. The number of gardaí on duty on my peninsula at weekends is in single figures. That may be okay for a rural location, but the Inishowen Peninsula is not such a location. It has a population of 30,000, which increases dramatically at weekends because it is a social outlet for Derry, capital of the north west. Given the advent of a ferry service across Lough Foyle recently, the peninsula's role as a suburb of the large urban centres in the north west is even more marked. I ask the new Minister to examine policing in County Donegal together with the Garda hierarchy and collate figures which take into account that 70 miles of east Donegal runs along the Border while 140 miles of west Donegal runs along the Atlantic Ocean with less than seven miles of the county bordering the Republic.
I am concerned about public order because every week I receive an increasing number of complaints from individuals along the Border whose houses or businesses have been raided, often in smash and grab raids by gangs from the North. I commend the Garda's work in conjunction with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which has resulted in arrests and the return of goods. However, I ask the Minister to examine the duty rosters of Garda stations in Inishowen at weekends and respond regarding how effective gardaí can be and how the community can feel safe given the current level of Garda support. The official reply to this question in the past is that per head of population Inishowen has more gardaí than it deserves, but the area is a suburb of many large urban centres and is not the rural backwater that some people think.
Public order problems are not unique to my constituency. There is a growing problem of drunken children taking over the streets and green areas of our towns. In the past 16 to 18 year olds engaged in under age drinking. Subsequently, 14 to 16 year olds became involved, but nowadays ten to 14 year olds are causing most grief as a result of drinking. A small percentage of our youth cause major problems for their peers, parents and the elderly. A number of gardaí believe parents do not care. When they pick up these juveniles for public order offences and take them home they are abused while the child is not chastised. This leads to the more important question of parental control and responsibility. When the Children Act, 2001, is fully implemented will it address the issue of reduced parental control which we are experiencing as a society?
I am often asked whether a system should be implemented under which the Garda would be provided with sufficient paddywagons to pick up young offenders, bring them back to stations and hold them until their parents arrive to collect them. Gardaí believe many parents would not bother to do so, but a charge could be imposed to cover the cost of keeping these juveniles. Deputy Joe Higgins would be very irate at this concept. Many Garda stations are not big enough to hold numerous offenders. Perhaps the Minister could review the progress of the Garda station building programme.
Deputy Higgins is correct, however, that research must be carried out to examine the problems underlying the reasons these children are drinking to excess in order that we do not resort to the easy solution, which is to lock them up and throw away the key or use stun guns. We are too used to adopting the easy solution. The Garda's frustrations are understandable when one considers the force does not have enough manpower, patrol cars or basic resources in stations and it often does not receive support from parents. A number of gardaí have been reported as saying they have no legislation to assist them to deal with young people causing public order difficulties, but that is not the case and resources will be put in place to implement the legislation fully.
I am most concerned about this issue. I do not want to contribute to a debate on legislation and be party to putting more paper into a system if it is not workable. I, therefore, ask the Minister to ensure the necessary resources are put in place to ensure the legislation can be fully enacted in order that it will not be something to which we can point and say it is in place if only the Garda is prepared to implement it.
Should parents be assisted to educate children about responsible drinking? I have spoken to a number of experts who deal with alcoholics and people involved with Alcoholics Anonymous and I am concerned to find that the average age of an alcoholic is reducing significantly. What used to be a phenomenon among 40 to 60 year olds has become a phenomenon among 25 to 35 year olds. This is a serious problem which must be tackled  on a cross-departmental basis. This issue is not solely the responsibility of the Minister.
I commend the drinks industry on doing a great job. Guinness hijacked the Irish flag during the World Cup, but it is not an offence because the company used replicas. However, Guinness made the national flag part of its sales and advertising campaign which was wrong.
Cecilia Keaveney: Something should be done. It may not be possible to address defacing the flag through legislation, but the House must issue a strong message that this is unacceptable. We do not want the national flag to become a symbol for the drinks industry. Young children have been running around waving replica flags or with tricolours wrapped around them throughout the World Cup and drinks companies have tapped into this. Tennents is the official lager of the World Cup, but I do not know how the company achieved that title.
The drinks industry is at the heart of the sponsorship of sports events. Drinks such as Bacardi Breezer and Smirnoff Ice, a mixture of spirits and soft drinks, have taken over from beer and wine in terms of the highest sales in Ireland. It is scary that young children who take up drinking start on spirits. Can we not find a way to encourage them to drink responsibly? The drinks industry does not enforce legislation regarding under age drinking, particularly in pubs and off-licences, and adults are knowingly served on behalf of children. While there is legislation in place, this issue must continue to be addressed. The onus of responsibility on publicans for serving under age drinkers was a good concept, but it is not being enforced rigorously. A good sharp shock in this regard could make people more responsible. As the Minister stated, the drinks industry has a significant role in society because it has a captive market, but it must become more responsible.
No matter what the problem is in society, everybody says if another subject is added to the school curriculum, it will be solved by teachers. Communities must come together because they comprise people from different backgrounds and we all have something to offer in terms of a solution. There should be more collective responsibility. I look forward to the expansion of the CCTV system.
Alcohol abuse is a significant risk factor in suicide and compounds the other factors in suicide.Research in an Irish general hospital reported that 30 per cent of all male patients and 8 per cent of female patients were identified as having underlying alcohol abuse or dependency problems. However, many of these cases were not detected by the admitting medical team. The study highlights the deficiencies  and the under recording of alcohol-related problems in the hospital setting.
That is a serious problem and more research needs to be carried out. If the problem cannot be identified, we need to draw on the experiences of other countries. Other countries are not in the same position, even though the pubs may have longer opening hours.
I will conclude on what is perhaps a negative point because I worry about what the future will hold for the 21% of our children who are under 15 years of age. In the period 1989 to 1999, there was a 41% increase in the per capita amount of alcohol consumption whereas there has been a decline in consumption in most of Europe. We have a serious problem. We need to take enforcement very seriously. The task force report contains a review of the policy effectiveness of solutions to alcohol-related issues and I ask the Minister to consider that review.
I wish the Minister well as he begins his term of office. I hope my attitude does not seem too negative but I believe it is such a big issue that we must take an all-party approach and do everything possible to enact workable legislation and introduce other support mechanisms for people who obviously have a problem with alcohol. We must support parents and children to help them overcome the difficulties they are facing in every community at present.
Mr. Connaughton: I wish the new Minister every success. I am sure he will perform very well and I note that he is expected to be a “super” Minister. He has a difficult job to do and it is certainly not getting any easier.
I am not confident that this Bill will solve the problems but parts of the Bill are necessary. I am proud to have been a Pioneer all my life but like most of my colleagues I spend a lot of my time in public houses. I have always believed that the less restriction there is on the availability of alcohol the better, although I acknowledge that this is an unusual stance for someone with my background. However, I am beginning to change my mind. This nation is now submerged in alcohol. I cannot find words to express how bad the situation has become at every level. Unless we can put a brake on this over the next few years, we will continue down a road where it appears that alcohol abuse is accepted in circumstances that would not have been envisaged ten years ago. The effects on society of the abuse of alcohol is costing the State millions.
There could be a connection made between the fact that people have more disposable income and their desire to consume more alcohol. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to understand that. This must be examined in the context of wealthier European countries where there is not similar abuse of alcohol. There seems to be a different psychological approach to it.
I agree with Deputy Michael Higgins and other speakers regarding the way the alcohol industry  is treated in this country. I was a member of the Joint Committee on Health and Children which examined the tobacco industry. Tobacco is hugely injurious to health but I believe it would not hold a candle to the damage done by alcohol abuse.
I ask the Members to imagine a situation where at four and five o'clock in the morning a battlefield is created in every town and city where law and order cannot prevail. Night-clubs are allowed a huge extension of opening hours. In years gone by, I often sat outside night-clubs at three o' clock in the morning waiting to collect my own children. I was a youth officer before I was in politics and I note that 95% of the present younger generation are no different from the youth of 25 or 40 years ago. They do the things that young people should do at that age and there is nothing in the world wrong with them. The loutish behaviour of 5% or 10% has become very vicious and it is frightening to be a witness to such behaviour.
About three or four years ago I was outside a hotel one night in a large town in my constituency. A young person came out of the hotel holding a pint bottle, tapped it against the railings and made a bee-line for another young person who was obviously a foe of his. He tried to imbed the bottle in the other's neck. I spoke to the local sergeant about my shock at the incident and he said that only for the grace of God there would be huge numbers of casualties to deal with.
I see the situation as part of a vicious circle of events. Young people start the night in a pub and usually go on to a night-club. At three o'clock in the morning, five or six hundred youngsters pour out onto the street. The only time one is normally likely to see such numbers on the streets of a town would be if the county hurling final was being held and that would be in broad daylight. The takeaway and chip shops delay them for another hour or two. How can two or three gardaí in a squad car deal with those numbers and with the sort of gusto that some of those hooligans exhibit? They are expected to contain a situation when they are surrounded by five or six hundred youngsters. A situation has been created at that level in which the Garda cannot win.
I believe that however it is managed, the opening hours of the night-clubs must be curtailed. I suppose it could be argued that the takeaways do not create the problem but they need to be better managed. I do not understand why there should be any activity at four o'clock in the morning in any town or village. I am no kill-joy and I know that it is important for youth to have its outlet. We should at least ensure that the Garda are empowered to contain the situation; they cannot do so at the moment. Some Members mentioned that. To put it crudely, long ago it was felt by many households that they would be doing well if youngsters could be kept away from alcohol until they were 18. People hoped that youngsters would then have enough sense to handle themselves with alcohol. That age came down to 16. Some of my family are teachers and that age is  ten to 12 years for some of their pupils. It does not matter how good the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform or any of the other 165 Deputies are, law and order will be very difficult to manage if children of 11 or 12 are drinking. That is very difficult for the State to manage.
This brings us back to parental control. I have no magic wand with which to solve this, no more than anyone else, but we must put responsibility back where it belongs. If parents do not know or care where their children are at a particular time or on a particular night, then we are heading for horrendous times. That may not be politically correct but it is how I see it. I spent some years as a professional youth officer and was involved with Macra na Feirme and Foróige. I have a great interest in that area and there is no doubt that any funding the State puts into that kind of work is extremely well spent. Unfortunately, when times get tough economically, that funding is always the first to be cut. As sure as night follows day, if economic circumstances change, then organisations' youth development officers and programmes are the first to be hit. I hope that does not happen in the next five years as every euro spent on youth development, regardless of the organisation, is good for the individuals concerned and their communities.
There has been unfair bashing of the Garda in recent years, even in this House. I understand that there must be control mechanisms for the police force of any democracy. However, it is important to understand that if there was no Garda presence on our behalf, we would be in serious difficulty. There must be more respect for gardaí. People say one must earn respect no matter who one is and there is some truth to that. However, although the Minister has probably heard this point a hundred times already, he will hear it again from me. In ensuring the Garda was equipped and trained to deal with all sorts of crime, one major mistake was made in relation to community policing approximately ten years ago. Some may say I am speaking from a backwater; I am from a rural constituency in east Galway and our biggest town has a population of only 6,000 to 7,000. However, the situation in the cities is the same: a community officer or garda on the beat, whether he is in a part of Dublin or Mountbellew, Ballinasloe or Tuam, knows all the families in his area. All criminals start small, as has been said, as thugs engaged in minor crime. It is important that there should be a record of that on some Garda database – who the people involved are and where they are from. They should be easily identified by the people we pay to protect us.
Many Garda stations were closed, presumably in the name of progress and to save money. Even worse, the squad car became the all-important policing instrument. One has to have squad cars to police a huge rural area and I do not want to return to the era of the bicycle, but what happened was that no matter how good the gardaí in the squad car were, there was a break in the  community. A squad car could go through a village 20 times a day and after five years the gardaí would still not know a person in the village. The communication link is broken. That is why so many people will say to the Minister: “I used to know the gardaí in my area well before but now I cannot name one of them.” That also works in reverse because the community garda does not have the opportunity to know who people are in a low-key way. There is no hi-tech aspect to this apart from the gardaí being able to use the information in a hi-tech way. Unless we get back to that level we will be unable to identify the real thugs who are causing so much trouble on our streets late at night.
There should be an early warning system but that can only be operated by the gardaí using the kind of methods I have described. It needs extra resources and more gardaí would have to be stationed in rural areas. They should be put on the beat where they can meet people and talk to them; they get involved in communities and get to know what is happening. It is striking that many of the police forces of the world I have looked at which have achieved results have done so by having people on the beat at that level. The Minister should take this seriously as it is something I will speak about a lot; I believe in this concept.
No matter who was in Government, I sometimes got the impression that because a town had a population of 600 or 6,000, there was no need for a large Garda presence – one squad car just had to run through the place every so often. That is no good and we are reaping the rewards of that policy now. There is no great difference between what happens after a disco in Dublin and one in Tuam, Athenry or Galway. It is almost the same activity and it is not confined to any particular place. One simply has a higher concentration of people in the bigger cities. The actions of the louts are the same and there is no great change.
I hope this legislation will help but many other things will have to be done before it can even hope to be successful. It is an issue we shall return to on many occasions in the future. At the end of the day those vicious attacks which are taking place in all our towns and villages will have to come to an end because the public will not wear it. Most important, the 95% of young people who have nothing to do with it do not want it and wish to see it brought to an end.
Mr. F. McGrath: I welcome this debate on the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill. It has been a good debate so far. Listening to different ideas on this issue across party lines will aid the solution to many of our problems. At the same time  we have to look seriously at this legislation. I wish to offer some ideas to deal with crime as a priority issue, particularly public disorder and alcohol abuse.
When we speak about public order what we really mean is making the community feel safe and secure. We already have a situation where elderly pensioners lock their doors at 7 p.m. each night during the months of May and June because they feel intimidated by anti-social elements. During the recent election campaign, many canvassers commented that they had knocked on doors at 6.30 p.m. and 7 p.m. and found that elderly people were afraid to answer the door. I felt sad when I saw elderly people who had contributed so much to the State ending up in this situation. That is not acceptable. Political parties should not accept it and it should cease now.
When speaking about the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill we should not be afraid to stand back and take a look at where society is going. The abuse of alcohol and drugs and the actions of dysfunctional people are factors. The “spoilt brat” syndrome is also a factor. This is where young people from affluent families get involved in anti-social behaviour and sometimes they are treated differently from children from disadvantaged areas. We have to seriously examine this issue. As one who has worked in a disadvantaged area for 20 to 25 years, I believe that 85% of pupils who come from areas riddled with poverty and disadvantage do not get into trouble, it is always the 15%. This is something that should be highlighted. Some 85% of people in poor areas can behave themselves and can work against the odds, and they should be supported. There should be strategies in place to assist the 15% who break our hearts.
If we are serious about this Bill, there will have to be equality and justice and the causes of crime will have to be dealt with. When dealing with the Bill and public order generally we should look at examples of good practice. Let us look at the drugs issue. Ten years ago there were in the region of 15,000 addicts in the city of Dublin without treatment. Today there are 6,000 addicts in treatment making slow progress, but it is a major step in the right direction. However, as is clear from the recent march by the Dublin Citywide Drugs Campaign we cannot let up on this issue and cut back on services. Services will have to be developed, particularly in targeted disadvantaged areas and, if necessary, Criminal Assets Bureau money used to assist worthwhile projects – for example, projects in the primary school sector, such as Breaking the Cycle, where 33 of the poorest schools nationally were selected on merit because they were located in priority areas. They were given funding and staff, and extra after-school projects were put in place to assist the schools. I worked in one of those schools and in five years we turned depressed children into happy-go-lucky children and built up their self-esteem. It has to be acknowledged that projects such as this have made an impact.
Other speakers, such as Deputy Ring, discussed the crisis and violence outside chip shops and pubs. This is where we can look at examples of good practice. I know of one chip shop where there were fights, violence and anti-social behaviour on Friday and Saturday nights, particularly between the hours of 11.30 p.m. and 1.30 a.m. In my constituency there were two tragic deaths involving two young people who were assaulted. One was a young married man who was assaulted and murdered outside a public house and the other was a young non-national in another part of the constituency. These were alcohol related crimes.
On the issue of good practice, one creative good sergeant and a young garda took it upon themselves to go to this particular chip shop and stand 50 meters away from the door every Friday and Saturday night between the hours of 11.30 p.m. and 1.30 a.m. This had the effect of reducing violent incidents in that area by 60%. That is an example of good practice, good police work, good community work and crime prevention. I do not go along with those who say nothing can be done about this problem. There are examples of good police work and good community work in the State and those people should be used when dealing with this issue. Those are the issues that should be taken on board when dealing with this Bill.
We must also listen to ideas on the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill. l hope we have learned something from each other today in regard to doing something about crime and its causes. If issues such as low self-esteem and literacy are not tackled and if violent children are not controlled at an early age the seeds of crime are sown. That is an issue on which I have worked during the past 20 years. I have seen children of four, five and six years of age in dysfunctional families and abusive situations where we have not intervened sufficiently early with the provision of services. We have made a start with Breaking the Cycle by helping those children at the ages of four and five. There is no point in starting at the ages of nine, ten, 11 and 12 when the damage is done. They have to be helped at an early age by means of counselling and back-up services.
We have to listen to people with creative ideas, such as John Lonergan, Governor of Mountjoy, Fergus McCabe, Seanie Lambe of the Inner City Partnership and, particularly in the past few days, Anna Quigley who was involved in the drugs campaign and in crisis areas. These people are on the front line in dealing with prisoners, young people, addicts and those at risk. They have put forward many creative ideas that will tackle poverty, disadvantage and crime. That is what the Bill should be about. Let us tell people they are worthwhile and that we care about them, but at the same time we have to stand up to the bullies. This is the way forward and the only way to tackle crime.
We have heard the discussion on alcohol and  alcohol abuse. We have to look internationally at example of good practice. Let us take France, for example, and its attitude to alcohol and young people. I remember being on holidays in France two years ago on Bastille Day and going to the beach to see the fireworks display. Within half an hour there were 30,000 people present. I was there with my family. Having seen hundreds of teenagers beside me without cans who were not drunk or disorderly I asked what kind of a system has it got that it has a healthy attitude towards alcohol. We must learn from other European countries. This debate is very important.
I agree with the remarks made by Deputy Higgins concerning child abuse and advertising aimed at young people. It is unfair that massive advertising is directed at young people. They are constantly bombarded by it. Large companies use young people to sell their message. There was a reference to the national flag being used to promote Guinness. That is appalling. Such advertising should not be allowed.
Dr. Cowley: I congratulate the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on his appointment and wish him every success. Every Minister has the potential to do many good things but it is important that this Minister makes an effort to make a major difference for the betterment of Irish society, and I hope he can do that.
I welcome the debate on the Bill. This debate is all about people. I am here because the people sent me here. I have been a rural GP for many years. Like Deputy McGrath, who has worked at the coalface, I have something to say. There is a perception that we are closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. We are treating only one symptom of the disease rather than addressing the root cause.
The explanatory memorandum blames alcohol. That is a gross understatement because the problem goes much deeper than that. The Bill attempts to address a situation which is just a barometer of where we are in a post-Celtic tiger modern Ireland. Our work is only beginning and this legislation is but a small part of it.
We should not underestimate the level of abuse of alcohol in our society. People have grown up with it. In my practice I see the damage it does in families, to the people who take it and to the children. I see the damage it does in society. In putting this Bill forward the Government is saying something very important. However, we are also talking about the abuse of alcohol. I hope that same resolution and determination to get things done will be there when it comes to banning the advertising of alcohol, which is a step in the right direction – we are not at the stage of banning alcohol because of the extent to which  big business is involved. A colleague of mine, Dr. Mick Loftus from County Mayo, has also highlighted the problem of alcohol abuse, as have other doctors. As a coroner he has seen people die, particularly young people, who should not have died. It is terrible.
I hope everybody in the Dáil, where the buck stops or should stop, will be equally strong in support of legislating for a complete ban on the advertising of alcohol. It will be interesting to see whether, in the fullness of time, the Government, because of the revenue from alcohol sales and lobbying by vested commercial interests, will soften and render such legislation largely ineffective. It will be interesting to see where the commitment is then.
Community festivals, in which I involve myself, depend on sponsorship because there is no Government investment in such events. Such festivals are very important and they are sponsored by breweries to a major extent. If the Government is serious it should step in to address the situation by sponsoring festivals and sports events. Both young and old partake in sport. The recent World Cup testifies to the great interest in sport. However, when big breweries are involved what chance is there that young people will think other than that this is where it is at.
How can we expect our young people to behave sensibly in regard to alcohol when – I speak collectively – we abuse alcohol ourselves, when they see their parents abusing it. It is not from the wind they learn. It should not, therefore, be a case of “do as I say, not as I do”. In management circles it is said that one must decide where one is and where one wants to go, but it can be useful to, perhaps, look back to see where we came from and recognise a common thread running through all of this. Much sense is talked by many people. I hope that sense will be converted into action. My biggest fear, however, is that this may turn out to be just another talking shop. I hope not because we should be doing what needs to be done, and this legislation is not by any means enough.
There was a time when the only thing a local garda had to worry about was whether somebody had a lamp on his or her bicycle or whether it was defective. Those were simple days. Nowadays gardaí are often seen as enemies rather than friends, to young people in particular. Gardaí no longer live in the communities in which they serve. In my area we know the garda who serves our community. He gives a very fine service, but he does not live in the area and that is regrettable. Gardaí, therefore, do not have the same intimate knowledge of the people living in an area as they had previously. If people living next door to each other in a city often do not know each other, how can we expect gardaí to know the young people and their problems? In the past, young people who showed signs of embarking on the wrong line were put right by a garda who knew them and nipped a criminal career in the bud. Such young people never came to the notice of the authorities  because the garda dealt with them more effectively than could a social worker or anybody else. That is missing, and it is a shame. I pay tribute to the gardaí who worked in communities. I hope we will see a resurgence of gardaí working with people in communities, which they did in a friendly and not in a threatening way. Nowadays gardaí are reactive rather than proactive and that is where the problem lies. It is hard to blame young people. They see gardaí only when something is wrong and they see them as “big brother” coming to tell them off or to punish them in one way or another. Gardaí should live in the community and interact with the people. If there were more of them they could do that. However, the Garda Síochána no longer has the presence on the ground it should have. Gardaí driving around in squad cars cannot have the same contact as they would be able to have if they were on foot, but because there are fewer gardaí in rural areas they have to cover the ground in squad cars. It is lack of resources that is to blame, not the Garda.
Let me turn to the situation in hospitals. Every weekend casualty departments are bunged up with young people who have been involved in fights. Those casualty departments are often understaffed. Mayo General Hospital is understaffed to the extent of 60 nurses. We would love to have an observation ward attached to the accident and emergency ward where young people and others recovering from the effects of alcohol could at least be observed and then sent home without blocking beds that are badly needed in a hospital that is chronically under provided for.
This is not all about legislation. We all have a role to play. Legislation plays only a minimal part. The family and the community also have a role. However, there is no room for grandmothers in the flats or apartments of modern urban Ireland. I was about to ask where there would be room for a grandmother in the flats in Ballymun, but they are being knocked down. In the move to urbanisation there is not the same room for grandparents. In the past there was always room for an old person in the corner, for the cailleach, who got the best and warmest spot in the house and was there to ensure her grandchildren were reared in a God-fearing and law-abiding way. The move to urbanisation has done away with that and grandmothers are sent to an old folks' home. Their influence on child-rearing is no more and we are the poorer for it and are bearing the consequences of it.
Too often both parents in a family must work and the children are left to their own devices. There are no proper recreational facilities to occupy them and they are bored silly. They hang around, try alcohol, drugs and other things for lack of something to do. They see their parents doing this too – they do not learn it from the winds.
Let us have more gardaí on the beat in the community. Let us provide the resources to support the minority of young people who are  involved in serious crime, who deserve to be supported. Let us provide them with proper leisure facilities such as swimming pools. In County Mayo, the townland of Erris, an area the size of County Louth, has no swimming pool.
We need also to consider the question of balanced regional development. In Mayo only 17% of young graduates taking up their first jobs can do so locally. Half of them must go to Dublin for their first jobs. Let us think about what we must do. Let us consider controlling legislation, but also putting a complete ban on the advertising of alcohol in order that the dignity of the person is ensured. I hope the Government will ban the advertising of alcohol with the same vehemence it is putting into this Bill.
Mr. Durkan: Like other speakers, I congratulate the Minister on his appointment. On behalf of my party, I assure him of a healthy and vigilant exchange of views across the floor of the House. My colleague, Deputy Deasy, outlined my party's opinions at great length yesterday. I wish the Minister a happy term of office and he can be assured of constructive criticism and strong opposition in the event of him deviating from his naturally inclined course.
The legislation before us is a restored Bill which is even more topical now than it was two months ago. We heard Members' views expressed when the Bill was before the House previously and have heard them again today, and they have not changed. They range from the liberal to the more traditional reaction to the problems the Bill seeks to address.
We are in a new situation in terms of the whole question of crime and the way it is impacting on society. It appears that Darwin's theory is beginning to manifest itself in that the law of the jungle prevails and only the fittest will survive. Unfortunately, society tends to go that way as affluence increases, as has happened here. We tend to recognise more and more the power that comes with affluence and it is not unnatural to assume that young people or, in some cases, the not so young will follow that trend. This country is similar now to American society in the 1960s, with the two car families and the young generation driving themselves to school and college. The theme in the late 1960s and early 1970s was “Make love, not war,” but in 2002 it appears to be “Make war and forget about everything else.” The pendulum of social development has always swung back and forth and it is now swinging back to an area where there is more aggression. There is little point in saying this is a trend particular to this country because it has happened in other countries also. Television undoubtedly has an influence on this problem. We have all heard about the lager louts who follow certain football teams in the United Kingdom and saw the difficulties they got into when they went abroad and the way they were treated. Therefore, what is happening now is not peculiar to this country.
What are the causes of this problem? There is no doubt that more money is one of the causes. When I was a teenager I did not have any money. We went to the local take-away where there was a jukebox sitting in a corner under a pile of newspapers and other articles. It had a booming bass sound and did not work on occasions. Young people did not have access to drink at that time and they certainly did not have access to drugs. Therefore, they did what they were entitled to do, now known as “hanging out”. Young people should always have a place to hang out in safety without fear of being harassed by anybody.
There is a lack of facilities and services. All of the new urban areas that have expanded over the past few years suffer from a lack of facilities for young people between the ages of, say, 14 and 19. We do not provide any facilities for them and say they are their parents' responsibility, which is very interesting. Everybody who is a parent will know the difficulty of always being responsible for the actions of their children. It is fine to say they are their responsibility, but parents cannot imprison their children in the home and not let them go anywhere. They will not get away with that. They can be totally responsible for all their actions and presume they have given them sufficient advice that will stand them in good stead in order that they will not drink or take drugs. They presume that everything will work out, but what if that is not the case? There is no way one can guarantee absolute adherence to the ground rules laid down in the home and there is little point in pretending otherwise. We can only do our best and having done so, society then has to take some responsibility in the matter.
There is a greater contempt for discipline and authority in schools. Perhaps that is the case in the home in that some children do not have the same respect for their parents as they did some years ago, and that is carried on onto the street. Every citizen should have the right to walk at will on the street without fear of being attacked, having their handbag snatched, being beaten up or raped. They should have the right to walk freely and be protected in their own society.
While the lack of recreational facilities is a problem – they need to be put in place – we also have to combat the consequences of that lack of facilities. The fact that young people do not have a place to go to is not necessarily a defence when it comes to beating up somebody standing at a bus stop, which is not unusual, nor is it usually the poor in society who are the culprits in every case. It is not unusual for a middle class young person to walk up to a law abiding citizen going about his or her business and beat him or her unconscious.
In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s somebody may have got a bloody nose or whatever and that was the end of it, but for some unknown reason it no longer stops at that. Serious assaults are now being committed. Somebody is pushed down on the road and kicked almost to death. In some cases the person has been kicked to death, yet  nobody accepts responsibility or feels ill at ease in any way.
The time has come to ask the reason this killer instinct has suddenly developed in our society. I am of the view that television has had an influence in that area for a long time. Some of the films available either through cinemas, videos or television would make the hair stand up on one's head in terms of the violence they contain. The way in which gratuitous violence is depicted is one of the most serious problems in society in that it attempts to glamorise gratuitous violence and go into it in great detail. It creates the impression that the perpetrator can get off with the crime. It appears to give the “two fingers” to society and get away with it. That is a serious matter. That is the law of the jungle. As a society, we have to examine that issue. There is no point in saying we cannot restrict what is happening in that area, but some make a great deal of money out of films which are an insult to all peace loving people. That is a fact of life.
Some years ago, in what was then my constituency, I called into premises on a Friday evening as part of my rounds. There was a television in the corner with a group of young people around it. It was about 7 p.m. and I thought it was unusual. Out of curiosity I looked at the television. I would not like to describe what I saw on the screen in graphic detail to the House. Suffice it to say, the censor would have dealt with the film in question. It justified and portrayed violence in a way that caught the interest of the young people concerned, some of whom were impressed by it, some of whom were shocked by it, but they all saw it and it was readily available. It depicted victory for those who had contempt for people's rights and privacy. Television is only the medium. It can be films or videos, but there is a problem.
What do wildlife programmes show kids nowadays? I have argued this point many times before. They show the law of the jungle. They show one animal chasing another, catching it and tearing it apart. I find that objectionable. I do not know what effect it will have on the impressionable mind of a five or six year old. I do not know if the children concerned will have been conditioned into accepting those principles by the time they are 15 or 16. We all know what the law of the jungle means. One animal kills another and then eats it. Nobody seems to have examined this in any detail, but schools all over Europe screen nature films which show this in great detail. I do not think it is funny. If one's domestic cat was being pursued by one's dog and footage was shown on television of one eating the other, people would be justifiably upset. This is part of the conditioning of young people and it is causing a problem.
The question of policing must also be dealt with. How does policing function now compared to some years ago? Various Members have mentioned foot patrols and old fashioned policing. Gardaí used to look into dance halls in the past  and then leave. They would come back an hour later and catch anyone up to mischief. That does not happen any more. Different policing methods are now used. The patrol car travels on a circuit and as soon as it has passed by, drugs dealers reappear. I remember canvassing during a by-election campaign in this city some years ago. Elderly people pointed out drug peddlers to us. They told us that they would disappear when the squad car came around the corner. When the gardaí got out of the squad car there is no-one to be seen, but they are back in business ten minutes later. What is the answer to this? It requires a change in policing. The Minister knows that himself. We must support him in doing that job. The purpose is to bring about a reduction in crime. We will not be doing our job if we do not support the Government in doing so. Likewise, if a Minister does not take the necessary measures, then he or she is not doing his or her job. We have a serious problem that needs to be tackled. The whole attitude to crime on the streets needs to be changed.
In the last ten or 15 years we have heard the courts, the juvenile courts in particular, complaining time and again. I know it is the job of the defence to make the best case for the accused. That is the nature of the business. Sometimes it is true and sometimes not – that is also the nature of the business. I cannot understand the reason it has not been possible to provide a system – in tandem with the Departments of Education and Science and Health and Children – where a place of detention can be found for a young brat who has been in trouble on 27 occasions and has a conviction list the length of both arms. The more a person of that age is allowed to show contempt for the law by being released and reoffending, the worse it is for society – and the child's parents. We have talked about this in the House many times in the past. I know the area of juvenile detention is not the Minister's responsibility, but it is the responsibility of one of his colleagues. I strongly suggest that the three Departments with an input in this area – the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Health and Children and Education and Science – get together and do what is necessary to ensure that when things have got out of hand as much as they have, custodian measures are in place to bring a halt to the gallop of the people concerned. If we do not do that, we are failing to recognise what is happening before our eyes.
The issue of drugs and alcohol and their effect on violence in society is an important one. I enjoy a drink as many people do and will not tell people not to drink. People should drink with respect for themselves and those around them. Having said that, if drink is mixed with other substances, the effect can be dramatic. This has already been mentioned by Deputy Deasy and others in the House. I do not know what the answer is, but society tends to go for kicks. Society always went for kicks, the problem is that the kicks society  now seeks are much more serious than they used to be. These kicks very often result in serious violence against innocent members of society. It is a serious problem. Some say drugs should be legalised. Members know what happened in the United States when prohibition was lifted. The money went from the bootleggers to the Government, but the consumption of alcohol increased by about 6,000%. That is the simple answer to the argument of legalising drugs. I do not agree with liberalisation. If drugs are causing a problem, legalising them will not stop people using them.
I could go on and on as, I am sure, every other Member could. The Minister now faces a tough job which requires all his time, energy and dedication. If he can do it, we will assist him and if he does not, we will criticise him.
Mr. McGuinness: I congratulate all those appointed last week and this week, particularly my constituency colleagues, Deputy Pattison and Deputy Aylward. I wish them all well in their service to the 29th Dáil. I congratulate the Minister and wish him well in a tough portfolio which I know he is up to and to which he will make a positive and definite contribution. He will have our support in this task. I listened to Deputy Durkan describing the chase and the kill and it made me reflect on the political process that we have just come through. It vividly reminded me of our in-party structures and what happens there. I can identify with the story that was told in terms of our political life here.
Like others, when I reflect on the current circumstances in urban centres, I observe that this is a typical example of a Bill which allows us to debate on Second Stage the many issues that confront us in urban and rural Ireland, identify the problems and explain in detail some of our experiences as public representatives, parents and members of a local community, but what is the follow-up? Sometimes, as politicians, we have a reputation for blowing hot air on issues but doing little. We may stand accused of that in relation to what we are debating here. We can identify the many problems but there is little tangible action on the ground so that local communities can say that, arising from the legislation, there has been a vast improvement in law and order. The particular problems of public disobedience, vandalism or the abuse of drink or drugs will continue unless we put resources in place with this legislation by putting in money and people. That is the position with much legislation passed by this House regarding local government, health boards or the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. If we do not invest the resources behind the legislation, then we are at nothing.
I am concerned about the structure of the Garda, but I preface my remarks by saying that the members of the force, and those who support it in what it is trying to achieve, are doing an excellent job. However, they are seriously under  resourced in terms of technology and funding. The Garda's structure is dated and past its shelf life. It must be examined in comparison to the more successful European models. Speaking from local experience, as we all do, if a person contacts the local Garda station concerning an incident that is not extremely serious or life threatening, one does not get the type of response expected. Many people discover that if they phone to make a complaint, it is difficult to get through because the Garda resources are stretched or they do not get a response to their complaint or the investigation and results that they expect. The result is that they question the force itself and this is happening throughout the country. I would welcome a restructuring of the force with more patrols in urban centres and a better response in both urban and rural communities as well as seeing the Garda being respected. However, we must build up the force before getting respect from the community.
Many young people today have little respect for the Garda because they know that there will be no response to vandalism, drunkenness or use of drugs. That is my concern about Bills like this. I see community gardaí at work in my community of Kilkenny city and they are extremely successful. It is a question of working with young people, their parents and community leaders to establish respect and to explain that the Garda are on their side and willing to listen and respond to problems on the ground, not from the patrol car or the station. That is not happening enough because the resources are not there. A community garda is often replaced or dragged from that important task to another one.
I raise this matter because the Bill discusses public disorder in terms of places where the public congregates such as chip shops, restaurants, bars and night-clubs, but what about public disorder in housing estates and the joyriding that occurs throughout the country in company cars? Seven of these were burned out in a field belonging to the local authority in Kilkenny, but the Garda stated that it could do nothing because it was county council property and therefore a council matter. If there is an inter-agency meeting, one blames the other. The health board will say that it does not have enough people, as does the Garda. The local authority is local government in name only as it is in reality a bureaucracy that functions from time to time. When pressure is applied, known culprits are visited. In most communities the individuals causing the trouble, being disorderly or dealing in drugs are known, yet they are at large, tormenting people in their homes. At weekends, or on particular nights of the week, older people on housing estates are prisoners in their own homes. Gardaí would not police one estate in Kilkenny city until there was a concerted effort over a period to bring law and order into it. That does nothing for confidence in public representatives or the Garda Síochána.
The Bill is designed to afford a greater degree of safety and protection to persons who may be  out and about most probably at night for whatever reason so that they will not be accosted by drunk and disorderly delinquents. It mentions CCTV cameras and other measures, but most public houses in Kilkenny and elsewhere have CCTV cameras and bouncers on the doors, which is something that I never thought I would see. The precautions are being taken, yet there is disorder.
I will explain what happens afterwards. The local authority gets involved and states it has a difficulty with the opening hours. That is a problem for us to address. We passed the Intoxicating Liquor Act, which has proven to be a problem. We will have to review it. In Europe the law may allow alcohol to be consumed publicly at all hours and for shops selling alcohol and drinking houses to be open for longer periods than is the position here – some may argue that should be the case here in that we are all good Europeans – but apparently such late opening hours do not work here. Even though premises may close at the hour they do, drinking after-hours still occurs. The opening hours for night clubs have been extended. The Intoxicating Liquor Act needs to be revisited as its provisions are not working on the ground. That is part of the problem being experienced.
The minute night clubs close, any number up to 5,000 to 8,000 people can be found on the streets in Kilkenny. The first place they would head to is the taxi rank or the chip shop, which is where the trouble starts. It continues from there and accident and emergency departments become crowded. In this way many problems occur at the same time.
In regard to planning, members of my local authority tried to set a closing time for all the chip shops that open late in Kilkenny. However, some of them had received planning permission before the recent planning laws were implemented while others have planning permission to stay open to a certain time. We cannot impose a reasonable hour of closing across the board until such time as we get agreement from each of them. They would have to agree because some of them have planning permission to stay open to a certain time. That is a problem. Policing the streets is one matter, being out and about and making sure such behaviour does not happen is another.
Addressing this problem involves many people ranging from the local authority in terms of planning to the Dáil in terms of passing the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 2000, and in dealing with this Bill. Account must also be taken of the Equal Status Act. Those who operate these premises tell us that they want to reclaim ownership of the running of their premises and that they are experiencing difficulty in doing so in terms of this Act. That is another matter we will have to address. As legislators, in addressing the various legislation relating to this matter we should look beyond what is happening in Dublin and start to consider some of the valid points made in Second  Stage debates. Such debates are not all hot air or about filling time. Some points are made in a genuine way to highlight the problems faced by local communities and to pass on the experience of what is happening constitutencies to feed into the passing of positive legislation.
We have all come through an election campaign, where for the first time I had the experience of knocking on doors at a reasonable hour, at tea time or a little later, to find that the parents had gone out for the night and young children were at home alone. I am not saying that behaviour is widespread, but make this point by way of explaining how dysfunctional families and local communities have become. It is important that we relate that development here in terms of this legislation in order that it is understood that responsibility for tackling this problem not only rests with the Garda but must be taken by the parents of the children who run wild across housing estates in many urban centres, many of whom are known to be drug users and to peddle drugs of one kind or another. They cause serious problems and mayhem in some of the housing estates in my local community.
The reaction of the health board to such problems is to send in an over-worked social worker to prop up a local family experiencing difficulty. I admire the social workers concerned who sometimes work longer than their regular hours to assist families. They identify what is going wrong and make every effort to try to correct it. However, there are insufficient resources or inter-agency action in the health board system to tackle such problems.
Mr. McGuinness: What is required is a greater inter-agency approach to tackling this problem. In that context, there is a need to fund the relevant authorities. I support what the Minister is seeking to achieve in the Bill.
Mr. Healy: I congratulate the Minister on his appointment. I welcome the Bill which gives us an opportunity to discuss the matters proving difficult for people in the area of security and policing. I hope the Minister will take on board many of the suggestions made by Deputies.
Many members of the public find little understanding, at senior political level or at senior  Garda level, of the real difficulties they face on a daily basis. Not a day goes by but I am contacted in relation to anti-social behaviour in our estates, towns and villages. I constantly come across situations where people say there is no point in calling the local gardaí. That is not because the local gardaí do not want to respond. The fact is that the resources and staffing available to the Garda are not good enough to deal with the situation on the ground. Unfortunately, following from that people wonder if there is any point in ringing the local gardaí. Firstly, they may not come at all or it may be an hour or two later. Even when they do come what will they be able to do?
Many Deputies in the House, myself included, are standing in the gap and trying to stop a situation arising where we will have vigilantism in our towns and cities. On a regular basis I am asked what I can do for people in this context. Increasingly people are saying they will have to look elsewhere to have things resolved. That is not acceptable and I and other Members of the House do not want to see that happening. We need to put more resources into the Garda Síochána to ensure gardaí can respond and that when they do they will be able to take effective action. Ourselves and local authorities have that responsibility. In Tipperary South we have done that. In Clonmel we have a local liaison committee where local councillors meet with the Garda on a regular basis. While that is helpful it falls down as a practical response and resolution to the problems we are experiencing.
In relation to this legislation people say to me that the Oireachtas is prepared to respond to late night difficulties in our town centres but will not respond to difficulties with anti-social behaviour in our housing estates. People suggest that we are prepared to respond to late night town centre difficulties because people who own property in these areas are wealthy and can influence and put pressure on the Garda and on people with responsibility. I have a certain sympathy for that view taking the practical situation on the ground into account.
I have raised this matter in the House over the last 18 months on numerous occasions. I hope the new Minister will look seriously at anti-social behaviour in our estates. He should look in particular at the appointment of community gardaí. Many Members, including Deputy McGuinness, mentioned how successful community gardaí have been in places such as Kilkenny. I have visited Waterford and Letterkenny where successful community Garda systems are in operation. Will the Minister add the community Garda dimension to this Bill? Gardaí at senior level have told me that if additional gardaí were available to them for community policing and activities the major part of anti-social behaviour could be stopped. In Clonmel the local Garda superintendent has requested the appointment of a sergeant and two gardaí for that purpose. I ask the Minister to look at that request, and at the appoint ment of community gardaí, seriously and to include it in this legislation.
Another element of community policing is the issue of gardaí on the beat. At the moment resources are stretched and there are simply not enough gardaí. Response comes largely through the patrol car. The patrol car will visit an area or estate and the individuals creating difficulties disappear but when the gardaí go after five or ten minutes the anti-social individuals reappear. I would like to see gardaí on the beat in local areas where they should be based. In Clonmel, for instance, a part of a newer area of the town has up to 6,000 or 7,000 people. If that was a separate town it would have its own local Garda station. Large local areas like that should have their own Garda base and their own gardaí on the beat. Those gardaí would build up a relationship with local people who could identify difficulties at an early stage. They could build up trust with local people and in that way reduce our difficulties. People like ourselves and people with responsibility generally do not understand the difficulties residents experience with incidents such as drinking alcohol in public places, the shouting of abuse, stone throwing and the breaking of windows. Many of these are not criminal incidents in the normal sense but they constitute a low level of constant difficulty which means people do not feel safe in their homes. That aspect of community policing should be included in the legislation.
We need to put in place facilities for young people. While all major towns have swimming pools and local football, soccer and hurling clubs, more facilities are needed in specific areas, such as local housing estates. In the 1970s large housing estates of up to 400 houses were built without any facilities. Not only should that day be gone, with facilities being included in all new housing estates, but the estates built in the late 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s should be targeted for the provision of facilities. They should have clubs, indoor football and other recreation facilities so young people will have somewhere to go.
The huge difficulty is that many of the people causing problems in housing estates are extremely young. They are being brought along by peer pressure. It started with the 16 to 18 year olds. As a result of the example they gave and the fact that they could get away with causing trouble, the age range dropped to 13 and 14 year olds. Unfortunately, there are now children as young as seven and eight years of age making life hell for ordinary residents in housing estates. The Minister should specifically provide in the legislation for community gardaí in housing estates and for the appointment of additional gardaí for that purpose. He should also target the provision of facilities in those areas.
My final point relates to fast food outlets. They can give rise to many difficulties late at night. The opening hours of these outlets should be examined. Under the planning legislation my local authority has tried to ensure that these outlets  close at a reasonable hour. Unfortunately, those conditions have been appealed to An Bord Pleanála and have been overturned. I ask the Minister to ensure the opening hours of fast food outlets are reasonable and do not permit them to stay open until three, four or five o'clock in the morning.
Mr. J. Higgins: I am surprised the new Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has brought this legislation before the Dáil in his first major action as Minister. The legislation is an insult to the Dáil. It is a slap up Bill posing as serious legislation. It is true the Minister was not in office when the Bill was drafted but he is running with it and described it in his speech as very important. He must, therefore, take full responsibility for its limitations.
Undoubtedly, there is a crisis of alcohol abuse in the State. The Bill is said to be necessary to deal with the violent consequences of that abuse. Alcohol is an extremely dangerous drug. However, the Bill is a pathetic knee-jerk of an excuse for a real response to the violent incidents that take place each week as a result of excessive drinking at various times of the day but particularly at night. It is a cynical attempt by the Government to cover up the failure and incompetence of the previous Government to make any significant move to address what was, during its five years in office, a growing problem of alcohol related violence in society. This is yet another item of bitsy legislation which is meant to be an immediate response to a problem that has developed but is, in fact, a miserable response by any standards.
The Bill, therefore, represents a continuation of the method of operation of the previous Government with regard to serious social issues such as this. The Intoxicating Liquor Act, 2000, which significantly extended the opening hours of outlets selling alcohol, was introduced with no preparatory study of what the implications of this extension would be in terms of consumption of alcohol and the harm that might result from changes in behaviour as a result of extra consumption. During the Second Stage debate on that legislation and on the Order of Business, I called for a study to be undertaken by the Government before bringing such legislation before the House so the Members could vote in an enlightened state of knowledge as to whether the extension of opening times would contribute to a large increase in the consumption of alcohol or to an intensification of patterns of behaviour that might lead to increased violence related to alcohol consumption. However, with reckless irresponsibility the last Government ploughed ahead and pushed the legislation through the Dáil, with Deputies in complete ignorance as to its social effects.
The Bill now before the House, as a response to what everybody agrees is a serious social problem, proposes to give powers to exclude persons from licensed premises and to close premises  where trouble has been evident. The subtext is that these measures are to deal with problems arising from over consumption of alcohol. This Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform was famously associated with an exhortation to his party that it must be radical or redundant. A radical response to this serious crisis would be to go to the heart of the problem, rather than window dressing with this deplorable Bill. The problem with it is that it does not in any way begin to address the causes of violence on an increasing scale.
The strategic task force on alcohol recently produced an interim report, which contained many interesting comments on this matter. It held up a mirror to society's behaviour with regard to alcohol consumption and cited some alarming trends. Between 1989 and 1999 per capita consumption of alcohol in Ireland increased by 41%, compared to a modest increase in three other EU member states and a decrease in another ten. Eleven litres per capita of pure alcohol are consumed here each year, compared to an EU average of 9.1. The report alludes to an Australian study which indicated that 34% of accidental falls can be attributed to alcohol. Over 62,000 were hospitalised due to accidents, poisoning and violence in 1997, of which about 23,000 were admitted to acute hospitals due to falls. I do not doubt that many of these incidents resulted from excessive consumption of alcohol.
A pilot study of attendance in Irish accident and emergency wards shows that alcohol is a factor in 25% of cases. The task force's interim report states “poor school performance, accidents, relationship problems and delinquency” are among the difficulties faced by those aged 15 and 16 years who drink excessively. It continues:
The Garda Commissioner highlighted the link between alcohol and the rise in street violence. He noted that in 2000 there were 62,000 incidents of public order offences of which 38,000 people were charged and the remaining 24,000 were cautioned. The vast majority of public order offences are alcohol related. This would indicate that at least 1,200 alcohol related incidents take place every week in Ireland.
This points to a serious situation. Further evidence shows that a substantial proportion of admissions to psychiatric hospitals are related to excessive alcohol consumption. The report states, “Research in an Irish general hospital reported that 30% of all male patients and 8% of female patients were identified as having underlying alcohol abuse or dependency problems.” It points out:
 The Government has produced the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill, 2002, in response to these problems. It proposes that persons may be barred from a licensed premises, even though it is obvious they will simply drink at another premises instead. The Bill's recommendation of closing a fish and chip shop for a few hours if there is trouble in its vicinity is a pathetic response to a national problem of serious proportions. It is incredible that this legislation in response to a serious problem is so limited in its scope. It deals with the symptoms and aftermath of alcohol abuse and how best to deal with serious disturbances and violence which have already occurred, but ignores the kernel of the issue: the problem of alcohol consumption.
Alcohol is advertised relentlessly in the State by its manufacturers. It is incredible that this most dangerous of drugs is allowed to be relentlessly pushed in multi-million euro advertising campaigns in every corner of the land. Radio, television and other powerful media are freely prostituted to the biggest drug barons in the State. Although it cannot be denied that devastation is caused by gangsters who bring heroin into our communities, alcohol companies are the drug pushers who push their substances in the largest quantities. These multinational corporations peddle their wares legally. I wish to make clear that I am not a prohibitionist, but believe there should be an absolute prohibition on the advertising of alcohol. It is incredible that the Government should dare to come to the House with this miserable Bill which does not address the commercial behaviour of companies producing alcohol. Each day they seek to entice, cajole and seduce people to consume greater amounts of a dangerous drug.
It is similarly scandalous and incredible that national sports bodies allow themselves to be bought by the alcohol industry. The FAI and the GAA, which organise sports with millions of followers in the State, are steeped in sponsorship deals with the alcohol industry. Excessive alcohol use, heavily encouraged by advertising in stadiums, is the antithesis of the fitness promoted by the actions of those who participate in soccer, Gaelic football and other sports. The sports governing bodies, which sell themselves to the drinks industry, allow their venues to be used to portray alcohol consumption as seductive, attractive and cool. These bodies are responsible for the increased alcohol consumption which results from alcohol being allowed to be portrayed in this way. They are thereby implicated in the further intensification of alcohol consumption. However, the Bill does not mention this fact. If alcohol advertising was completely banned and other measures were taken to reduce significantly excessive and dangerous patterns of drinking alcohol and the abuse of alcohol, many of the problems the Bill is supposed to deal with would not arise in the first instance.
It is a betrayal of the country's youth in par ticular that the national sporting organisations are in hock to the alcohol industry in this way. It is ironic that those who act in a disgustingly disruptive way towards their fellow citizens by having consumed alcohol have a particular Bill designed solely for them, while the companies who make profits beyond their wildest dreams from these people's abuse of alcohol do not even merit a line in the legislation. Therefore, the legislation is absolutely unworthy of support.
The task force recommendations to which I already alluded clearly address these points. They recommend reducing the exposure of children and adolescents – I would include adults – to alcohol marketing; limiting where alcohol advertisements can be placed, that is, TV, radio, cinema, magazines, schools, youth centres, public transport, public buildings, etc.; ensuring the content of alcohol advertisements does not appeal to children or adolescents; and banning drinks industry sponsorship of children and adolescent leisure time activities, which I would apply to all sports and generally. I hope when replying to the debate that the Minister will tell Dáil why none of these issues is dealt with as a radical response to the situation which has developed. Instead of the culture of excessive alcohol consumption and pushing these advertisements, there should be encouragement for alternative community outlets such as combined sports and leisure centres and investment in community facilities to cater for the widest interests, past times and recreational activities, both passive and active, so they are not centred in the local pub.
The legislation on which this is dependent, the Public Order Act, 1994 is being seriously abused by the Garda Síochána. This was supposed to be introduced to deal with social disorder, thuggery and so on, arising in particular areas. However, it has most notably been used in opposition to political protest and political dissent against people quite legitimately and peacefully participating, for example, in anti-war marches. People involved in these protests are being dragged in front of the courts and charged under sections of the Public Order Act, 1994. Therefore, I object to anything constructed on that Act given the abuse of it.
Mr. Coveney: I wish to begin by congratulating Deputy O'Dea on his re-appointment as Minister of State and I wish him well. In his absence, I congratulate the new Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on his appointment. I hope he will take on the job with the same energy and enthusiasm with which he took on the general election so we may achieve results in some important areas where we failed to achieve results in the past three years.
The issue of public order is one I have repeatedly brought up in this House to try to get action. I was encouraged when I saw the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill on the list of Bills to come before the House. Unfortunately, after reading the content I tend to agree with most of the other  Opposition spokespersons that this is little more than shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. This is a massive problem and a huge challenge to legislators and policy makers. The purpose of the Bill is to strengthen the law in order to deal more effectively with late night public disorder and disturbance, which mainly has its origins in alcohol abuse. The Bill has two purposes, first, to add an exclusion order as a legitimate penalty and, second, to give the Garda power to apply to the District Court for a closure order or limitation order on the hours so that certain premises can stay open if the Garda sees fit. There is some merit in both of these suggestions but it is a miserable response to what is a very difficult and complex problem. I hope this inadequate legislation will soon be followed up by much more comprehensive legislation because time and again this Government has said it will prioritise street violence and crime. We have witnessed tragic instances and circumstances on the streets of Cork, Limerick, Galway and rural centres, particularly at weekends and late at night.
I want to put some of the facts on the record because it is important that people realise the scale and seriousness of the problem we as legislators face. It is regrettable that just alcoholism is mentioned in the explanatory memorandum and not drugs. I consider alcohol as an addictive drug and a substance which is abused on a regular basis. It is one of a number of drugs used. I would be the first to admit that alcohol is probably the primary cause of public disorder on the streets at night. However, there are other drugs which cannot be ignored.
These are some of the facts in regard to alcohol. There has been a 35% increase in consumption of alcohol since 1993. Between 1997 and 2000, there was a 300% increase in psychiatric treatment of teenagers with alcohol-related problems. Ireland has the worst under-age drinking record in Europe if one categorises the main problem of under-age drinking as binge drinking among young people under the age of 18. Alcohol consumption among all ages continues to increase steadily. To our shame, Ireland has the highest use of ecstacy in Europe. Some 18% of Irish teenagers smoke daily, the second highest in Europe. Ireland has the third highest use of cannabis in Europe, despite the fact that politicians say we must carry the fight against recreational drugs. We have the fourth highest use of stimulants in Europe, the fourth highest use of cocaine in Europe per capita, and the eighth highest use of opiates, including heroin, in Europe.
The only reason that is still the eighth highest and not higher is because, so far, the main heroin problem has remained with the 12,000 or so heroin addicts in Dublin, though that is starting to change. It is important to recognise that heroin is spreading across the country.
Let us be under no illusions here, we face a huge challenge in tackling substance abuse. One has only to ask any garda on the beat at night to know that there is doubtless a link between such  abuse and street violence and public disorder. My constituency office happens to be across the road from the main Garda station in Cork and I speak to gardaí on a regular basis about their experiences and the causes of the many problems with which they have to deal at night. They say time and time again that alcohol with sometimes the influence of other drugs is the lethal mix or cocktail of substances that drives what are in many cases young, shy and well-behaved teenagers to act in a way they would not normally dream of.
It is important to state the facts about street violence. The only official figures we have from the Garda date to the year 2000 and if there is one thing the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform should do quickly it is to ensure we get figures more quickly than we have in the past. It is unacceptable to have to wait 18 months or nearly two years to get Garda figures. What is the point of introducing a PULSE computer system, whereby information is supposed to be at our fingertips, if we cannot even access the 2001 Garda figures now? It is absolutely ridiculous. The figures for 2000 are stark in themselves. There were 39,000 public order offences and a 130% increase in violent assaults, which the Minister of State has heard over and over again. The number of serious assaults increased from 737 in 1999 to 1,737 in 2000 and only one in three crimes is being reported. In Dublin alone last year, 5,000 people had to spend the night in hospital following violent attacks or assaults and if one compares that figure to that of 1,737 serious assaults in the year 2000 one can see just how many people are not reporting attacks. That is a very worrying statistic for a Minister or a Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and I ask the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, to take note of it.
Unhappy with Garda figures, Fine Gael decided to try and get some statistics itself and I present some of those it got back from the south side of Dublin from a survey for which Alan Shatter was largely responsible. There was a very large number of respondents and I have highlighted some noteworthy figures such as the 97% of respondents who do not feel safe walking in Dublin city centre at night and the 85% who worry that somebody in their household may suffer injury as a result of an assault. Of parents, 99% worry that a teenage child will be assaulted while out at night and 100% of those surveyed regard crime as a very serious problem which needs more attention from Government. In relation to solutions, 99% said they wanted to see more gardaí on the beat, 96% said the Garda was not adequately resourced or equipped by Government and 96% said the Government was not doing enough to prevent crime. It is also very interesting to note that 71% said victims of assault should be compensated by either the person who committed the crime or by the State.
We are dealing with a population which is nervous about walking the streets at night. I have heard many people dismiss comments like that as  exaggeration of the problem and say there is no fear factor out there, but we made an identical survey on the south side of Cork city and we got almost identical results. I am the first to admit that most of those who respond to a survey like this are concerned about crime and that one is therefore bound to get very high figures, but even taking that into account the figures are still startling. The result is that a large number of people are not going to socialise in city centre locations any more and I suspect the Minister of State will have found that when canvassing in Limerick for the general election. As I did in Cork, he will have found that people say they do not go into the city centre on a Saturday night because they do not want the hassle. They are nervous and say they drink locally, which in a small island country is unacceptable and spells out a total failure of policy on the part of legislators and of those responsible for putting laws, policies and investment in place to protect people. It is about time we started looking at more imaginative ways of dealing with the problem we face.
There is no golden key that opens the door to the solution to street violence, crime, alcohol consumption and drug misuse, but I will outline some of the issues about which I feel strongly as a young person and as a young legislator. I have tried to break them down into medium, long-term and short-term solutions because any reasonable person cannot expect the Government to solve this problem overnight. I will talk about medium and long-term solutions first because I do not want to put too much emphasis on policing as that would be dangerous. We need to start setting clear targets to reverse the booze culture that has continued to develop and which has certainly existed since I took my first drink, which is quite some time ago now. We need to target certain areas which we have not targeted in the past, the first and most important of which is the family.
I get frustrated when I hear people discussing solutions to social problems and saying, “Let us get education to deal with this, let us add another subject to the school curriculum and get our teachers to lead young people and to change their mindsets about drink, drugs, sex and other damaging behaviour in which they may be involved”. Parental responsibility has not been targeted during my time in this House and that is a great shame. If parents take on the responsibility of having children they need to be responsible for them until they are 18 at least and we need to put structures and support systems in place to ensure they take on that responsibility and are given all the assistance they need. When they do not make any effort to take responsibility they need to be held to account. That may be an unpopular thing to say to some parents, but if one has a 16 or 17 year old who is running riot on Patrick Street in Cork or O'Connell Street in Dublin on a Saturday night and is involved in a brawl for whatever reason, the parents of that young person, who may be a girl or a boy, a young man or a young  woman, have a responsibility and must be held to account to a certain extent.
We need detailed debate in this House on ways in which we can do that because we should not hold parents to account in an unfair or draconian way. It is something we need to consider much more seriously if we are serious about supporting the family, which is the cornerstone of a healthy society and a positive upbringing for young people. We should then look at the education system and reinforce in schools the messages we can get across in the home through parents and family. Teachers should not be asked to do the job of parents because it is an impossible task for them to take on and it would be unfair to ask them to do so. They can, however, be asked to work with parents to reinforce the message and change the booze mindset of many young people, which is, why drink if one is not going to get drunk because that is the point of drinking? Under age drinking should also be targeted but I will address that issue later in terms of short-term solutions.
I do not agree with Deputy Joe Higgins on many issues but I agree with him that the role of alcohol advertising needs to be examined. It should not necessarily be banned but a much tougher line needs to be taken on the glorification of drinking and, latterly, getting drunk to liberate one socially in night clubs because that is damaging. We need to have guts to implement restrictions and regulations on alcohol advertising and, in particular, on the link between alcohol and sport. It is unfortunate that, on the one hand, sport is probably the most healthy way for a young person to expend energy and develop positively while, on the other, the abuse of alcohol has the opposite effect, yet alcohol and top level sports events are interlinked. That challenge should be faced and alcohol advertising and sports should be separated so that emphasis can be placed on sports as a positive way for young people to expend energy.
Role models are needed for young people, many of whom do not listen to us, as legislators, because they think we are out of touch. I have a young brother who regularly tells me I do not know what I am talking about and do not understand if I give him hassle about going out at night. Projects based around role models should be financed and developed so that young people, who are looked up to by their peers, can provide leadership. For example, Niall Quinn did so effectively prior to the election when he called on young people to vote for the first time. Such leadership is needed now more than ever to counter drug and alcohol abuse, which leads to young people losing their self-respect and to street violence.
Alternatives to going to the pub, such as sports facilities, should be provided. For example, the under age basketball club in my home town of Carrigaline has 450 members, yet it does not have a court. The club must use the resources at four local schools to facilitate the positive, voluntary work of its members. A youth work programme  is necessary and the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, who had responsibility for youth affairs during the previous Administration, will agree the youth work structure is totally inadequate in comparison to other countries such as Canada and Australia.
Short and medium-term solutions can be taken. Bouncers and security people on the doors of pubs and night clubs should be regulated immediately. The lack of regulation and training in this industry is unacceptable. Identity card schemes must be introduced for young people. If we are serious about tackling under age drinking, it is reasonable to ask a young person to prove his or her age before he or she is served alcohol, and publicans want such schemes.
I have not referred to policing because so many others have done so. CCTV schemes should be extended to communities that seek them desperately. Let us support the Garda, particularly in terms of the community work in which they are involved through the juvenile liaison and youth diversion schemes. There are examples of fantastically successful youth diversion programmes in Scotland, for example. The Children Act, 2001, addresses some of these issues and it should be implemented fully.
The number of gardaí on the beat should be increased. That means taking them out of stations and putting them on the beat at night on the streets, not necessarily increasing the overall number of gardaí in the force, so that when people go out at night at least they will feel there is somebody looking after their security. It is totally unacceptable in a country comprising many small cities and towns, other than Dublin, that people cannot go out at night, enjoy themselves and go home safely without worrying about getting hassled, verbally abused or beaten to within an inch of their lives, as happened in the case of two young people in Cork over the past year.
Mr. Carey: I wish to share time with my colleague, Deputy Ned O'Keeffe. I congratulate the Minister on his appointment and I look forward to many ground-breaking initiatives from him and his Department. We know what he has been saying over the past number of years and I know we will be in a position to support many of those initiatives.
I congratulate the Minister of State on his appointment to the Department. I am confident that there is no person who better understands the issues adverted to in this Bill. His constituency is not unlike mine and the issues which are addressed in the Bill are certainly all-pervasive in my constituency.
I wish I could put my hand on my heart and say that having listened to all the speeches in the House this Bill will make a huge difference to the lives of people. Based on my experience I am not filled with a great deal of confidence that such  will happen. We are quite good at introducing legislation but in many cases the enforcement of legislation leaves a lot to be desired. One of my colleagues from Dublin City Council, Deputy Eamon Ryan, is sitting on the other side of the House. He knows that the city council has introduced by-laws banning the consumption of alcohol in public places. By-laws have been introduced in the last two months to control the presence of dogs and horses in parks and public places. However, I see no great evidence of enforcement of those by-laws by the authorities. There is often a serious lack of connection between those who devise these laws and directives and those who implement them. If it was the case that having a high number of police and law enforcement agents would solve all the problems of society then Northern Ireland and South Africa would be two of the most peaceful societies in the world. I wish it were that simple. Deployment and management of resources must be taken into account.
This Bill is aimed at countering the effects of alcohol on society, in particular the public disorder associated with its abuse in the vicinity of licensed premises and take-away food shops. Last weekend there was such a level of public disorder in parts of my constituency in and around public houses that the Garda stopped making arrests under the Public Order Act because they were overwhelmed by the numbers involved in public disorder. Instead they were forced to engage in mere fire brigade action just to contain the situation. Last Sunday I saw a queue of people filling the church to venerate a relic of Padre Pio while just a mile away there was a queue of about 100 people waiting outside a local public house and preparing to consume vast amounts of alcohol for the rest of the day. That public house was forced to close its doors during the day. These two events show the contradictions in Irish society.
There is a vast amount of anti-social behaviour and I wonder if it is something that was invented only when the middle classes became concerned about it. Deputy Rabbitte and I were contributors one night on the Vincent Browne programme a few years ago. Vincent asked me, as only Vincent can, what was the biggest problem in my area. I said that it was anti-social behaviour. Vincent screamed and skitted at the top of his voice: “Anti-social behaviour. What is that?” I invited him to come to some areas of my constituency and try living there for a week with children as young as eight and nine years of age drinking from all hours of the morning and playing music until all hours at night and he would then know what constituted anti-social behaviour.
Bank holidays are hated in some parts of my constituency and the Garda hate them also. From Wednesday prior to a bank holiday the Garda are forced to deploy extra resources on overtime in order to counteract the effects of the amount of drink being sold to youngsters by off-licences and public houses. I have seen youngsters heading off up the fields carrying trays of cans. As my col league, Deputy John McGuinness, noted, they head up to the fields into an adjacent local authority area over which we have no control. The Garda endeavour to arrest them but the local authority, Dublin City Council, is powerless because it does not own the land where the activity, which includes robbing and burning cars, takes place.
I wish to make some suggestions. I cannot understand why society is not prepared to grasp the nettle of a national ID scheme. I heard Deputy Coveney say that young people should carry ID but I believe that everybody should have ID. I would not discriminate against young people in this regard. It is long past the time when we should introduce a national ID system. It would prevent young people being harassed as they are at present. It would ensure that owners of licensed premises act responsibly in the manner in which they distribute drink. I wonder if publicans are ever reminded of their obligation not to supply drink to people who are obviously drunk.
Being drunk seems to be a badge of honour. I heard an RTE reporter lauding the great Irish people who on the night before the Cameroon match were able to get drunk out of their minds and then queue up outside the famous bar in Portobello where everybody including Sky News goes and where they were again served. There is no control. There is certainly no control when people laugh about a leading pundit appearing on television pleading his tiredness and emotional condition.
Mr. Carey: No, he did not. Operators of licensed premises have a responsibility and they should be reminded of it. How often do the gardaí visit these places? There are pubs in my constituency which rarely seem to see gardaí and many of those pubs seem to open until any hour of the night. People have told me they hear the clatter of shutters coming down outside such pubs at 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. and I have heard the same about take-away restaurants. As another speaker said, there are certain restrictions imposed on take-aways by the planning legislation but those are circumvented by the establishments pulling down their shutters and continuing to serve pizzas, curries and so on after hours. Responsibility must be taken by the owners of licensed premises.
Serving drink to minors is also a scandal. There has not been a single successful prosecution in Dublin in recent weeks against premises which have been caught selling drink to minors. They are being prosecuted but their barristers are able to identify loopholes in the legislation and their clients get off scot-free. Unless this Bill is tightened up loopholes will also be found in it and there will be no prosecutions. Until such time as  publicans are made to feel the pain they will not do anything. They need to be prosecuted vigorously.
I did not want to see a complete ban on alcohol advertising but I am coming close to that position. Alcohol abuse is at least as insidious and more widespread than tobacco abuse. When one sees “Pure magic” emblazoned across the Irish flag by a certain drinks company, it raises questions about the subliminal messages the advertising industry is putting out on behalf of the drinks industry. There should be a voluntary attempt to curb the amount of alcohol advertising. The most innovative television advertisements are associated with alcohol and they must cost a small fortune to put together, therefore the companies are making a small fortune out of them. This matter should be pursued.
Regarding the restriction of opening hours, when one sees a pub, either in my constituency or elsewhere, with three or four burly bouncers on the door at 10.30 a.m. one has to wonder at its ethos. It speaks volumes about our society when that has to be done.
I congratulate Deputy Noel Ahern on his appointment as Minister of State with responsibility for the environment and wider issues of social inclusion. This is a multi-agency issue and it is only by adopting the kind of multi-agency approach envisaged by his appointment that we will ever get anywhere with this problem. It is some time since a drugs task force of which I am a member suggested that as much attention be paid to the abuse of alcohol by youngsters as to the abuse of drugs. It is only now that this is coming to the fore as something that needs to be tackled. In relation to other initiatives, I agree that the introduction of CCTV would make a huge difference. In Finglas, money was allocated for it but it was announced by three Ministers, most of whom were from my party, over the last ten years. The Garda authorities suggested 21 to 23 cameras but only nine have been sanctioned, which is nowhere near enough. The Garda inspector responsible went to various agencies – the city council, the drugs task force and the health board – and got them to make a contribution towards providing additional cameras. Red tape in the Commissioner's office means it has been impossible to establish whether it is regarded by them as appropriate that contributions like this should be made towards funding a CCTV scheme.
Regarding the monitoring of this project, Finglas Garda station was built as a small country station early in the last century with a little extension tacked onto it in the 1960s. Finglas now has a population as large as the city of Limerick but it still has one tiny Garda station. If CCTV is established in Finglas it will be monitored, with luck, by the gardaí – though why it should be gardaí I do not know – from a Portakabin in an already inadequate car park beside the station. Issues such as the deployment of resources are  the key to this fight against public disorder. I could go on for another half an hour.
Mr. N. O'Keeffe: I congratulate Deputy Michael McDowell on his appointment to the prestigious position of Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. He is an excellent choice and will do wonderful work. He is tackling the issues.
Last year we changed the licensing laws by amendment under pressure from the vintners. I am from a rural area and there have been major changes in law and order on our streets after closing time. We were told we had to make that change because we were losing tourists and we had to have longer opening hours such as one finds abroad. However, those of us who go to foreign tourist resorts never see foreigners staying late in the pubs; the Irish and British tend to stay late. Drink is part of Irish culture and it has an effect on our rural areas. I sympathise with previous contributors.
The Garda are getting more powers but we must also revisit the licensing laws which were amended last year. This Bill goes part of the way but it is insufficient. Sunday opening hours have caused much damage to our society. In the past pubs closed at 2 p.m. and reopened at 5 p.m. We must look at that as well as the fact that people are coming out of discos up to 4 a.m. That has done a lot of damage to our communities.
Closing times should be more uniform. At present there is a lot of room to manoeuvre given the different closing times for different days of the week and bank holidays. We are seeing high levels of assault, lives being threatened and rowdy behaviour in discos, pubs and take-aways. Fast food outlets feature in the Bill and have been mentioned by many speakers. They will always be a source of problems because people congregate there in large numbers and can be provoked. There are rows in such places even without drink. We will not solve this problem by closing take-aways or penalising them further. The problem is related to drink and limiting the number of take-aways in a town will result in huge numbers congregating at them, causing rowdy behaviour and blackguarding.
What have we done by extending the hours of drinking? People have only so much money to spend. Parents are going out later and coming home later and the result is there is less order in the home. That is due to the drink culture in Ireland. People will not leave a pub until the last minute or until we are forced to leave. That is our culture and we are disturbing the fabric of our society with these late hours. This has to be examined in some form or other. The high level of drinking results in more illnesses and assaults, which take up hospital beds, and higher insurance premiums. Our gardaí are put under severe pressure and are afraid to go onto the streets – they are being assaulted and their vehicles are damaged night after night.
I was in a little country town one night recently  where 400 people left a disco. When they got on to the street two squad cars arrived because of disturbance in the area. The Garda arrested some of the individuals and took them to the Garda station. Rows broke out and the gardaí were embroiled in them and were injured. That is part of the problem with drink. I take a drink and do not want to be a spoilsport or a killjoy, as the Minister said in his speech.
We see what happened in France during the past few days where there is a new Government with a more right-wing approach which is going to deal with law and order. We will have to look at it on that basis. I am not the most right-wing person in the House but law and order has broken down in our streets and towns. The breakdown of land and order has always been associated with highly populated areas but a problem is arising in our country towns and villages. Rowdy behaviour and blackguardism is increasing.
Much has been said about the role of drink in the problem, which has to be looked at realistically. We are now more educated which should result in a better society, but that has not happened. I am concerned about law and order. I am concerned also about pubs which in rural areas are mainly owned by families who are under severe pressure with the long opening hours. I appeal to the Minister, side by side with the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill which is good legislation, to revisit the licensing laws. There is support for that and those laws have to be looked at in the light the change that took place last year. That change was forced upon the Government by the vintners' association who stated there was room for change and longer opening hours.
Mr. Rabbitte: —except that of a Deputy and a parent of teenagers. The issue is raised far more commonly than any of us would like in terms of my role as a public representative. In my role as a parent of three teenagers my concerns, like those of most parents, are about their safety at night and the environment abroad, especially in urban areas.
The Bill has provided a useful forum for Deputies to unburden themselves of the persistent representations that were undoubtedly made to them throughout the general election campaign. It is evident from listening to the tenor of remarks from the Government's backbenchers that there is very little difference in their comments and those of Members on this side regarding the extent of public concern and alarm about the breakdown of public order and the extent of anti-social behaviour. That is different from saying this is a good Bill. It seems to be a minimalist Bill and I have an open mind as to whether it is worth proceeding with it. Already a number of lucid criticisms have been advanced and I look  forward to hearing the Minister's response in due course.
For example, the new Opposition spokesman for Fine Gael, Deputy Deasy, made a number of interesting remarks. He also made a number of remarks that makes the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform eligible as a left-wing social democrat or even eligible for Deputy Joe Higgins's party. On that basis I look forward to Committee Stage.
Deputy Deasy's main point concerned the value of the Bill, per se, in terms of addressing the phenomenon on which so many Deputies have contributed. I look forward to hearing about that from the Minister because, clearly, he has inherited this legislation. It is apparent to anyone that the remark by my colleague, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, that this legislation is the subject of general election focus groups in Mount Street rather than officials in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, cannot be gainsaid. The general election is over but it is clear the Government parties, in particular Fianna Fáil, were alarmed by the extent of public concern about public disorder on our streets and outside our places of entertainment. They got the message back forcibly that this is a major issue among what are described in the Minister's speech as “ordinary citizens”. I am not sure about the interpretation of “ordinary citizens” by the Minister or his officials. I think it is because “extraordinary” citizens have been affected that there has been a rush to legislate and a rush to respond.
The Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, will agree with me, if not in the House then outside it, that in huge tracts of his constituency as well as mine this phenomenon has been a factor for years. There has been a breakdown of public order in parts of both constituencies and parts of working class urban areas for years. There have been terrible incidents of thuggery, violence and death and there has been very little response to it. However, when some of the better known names in the better off parts of this city began to manifest the same sentiments and when terrible incidents took place outside some of the more fashionable night clubs and drinking emporiums in this city, we got the type of response portrayed in this Bill. When it became a factor in the better off areas of the city, clearly the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform officials were persuaded by the Minister of the day that they had to do something about it. In other parts of the city and other parts of Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Galway, Waterford etc. this kind of conduct has been taking place for years and there has been no effective response to it. I unashamedly say, as did my colleague, Deputy Michael D. Higgins, there is a class bias in the approach to the formulation of legislation by the Department and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I refer to the former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. We do not know the colour of the new Minister's legislation yet.
I do not want to fight the general election all over again but it is apparent to everybody that the performance of the previous Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform measured against his own yardstick of “are people safer in their homes when I leave office than they are now”– that was his promulgation after becoming Minister – is that people do not feel safer in their homes and do not feel safer walking the streets of our cities. I am at a loss to understand how that has not permeated the Department because I do not believe the previous Minister ever came to grips with urban Ireland. I do not make that comment in any partisan way because he is a genuine public representative doing his job according to his own likes. I do not think he understands the circumstances in which citizens in urban areas are expected to live. It is more disturbing that there is no great evidence that the officials of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform understand these circumstances and the quality of life imposed on people in huge tracts of marginalised Ireland either. That worries me a great deal more.
There have been no focus groups in Mount Street on the problems that beset working class areas of this city. If there were, we would have had legislation on it. There was a not very effective response to terrible incidents in Malahide, outside the Burlington Hotel and in a number of other areas I will not mention here. I will refer to that issue later. There has been no adequate response to the situation that besets my constituency where people are besieged in their own homes, where people who are different are selected for persecution, where women living alone live in fear, where people are fearful of crossing the street because of the activity of so-called joy riders and where there is open intimidation by gangs of young thugs who seem either to have nothing else to do or are intent on making ugly the environment in which they live.
I received an e-mail today at lunch time which is typical of what I get. Listening to Deputy Carey and Deputy McGuinness and one or two others, it is clear that Government Deputies are getting the same thing. This one, mentioning a particular area and a particular public house and off-licence, states:
To date, this publican has not responded to us in any way, which only serves to heighten our concerns. This weekend there have been extremely serious violent attacks in the vicinity of [they name the pub and off-licence] by roving gangs of youths both under age and under the influence of alcohol. These incidents are only added to an extremely long list of similar incidents which illustrates that this situation is getting out of control.
They attach the copy of the letter that they sent to the owner of the premises in question in which they said: “Unrestricted and unlawful sale of alcohol to minors has directly contributed to a dramatic increase in the following: vandalism,  intimidation, bullying of the vulnerable, severe harassment, violence, assaults, theft, loitering with intent, drunk driving, incitement to racial violence”. That correspondence is not in any way different from the correspondence being received by Members on the Government benches. That is the reality of life in parts of urban Dublin and there does not seem to be any wish on the part of this House, the Oireachtas, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform or the outgoing Minister to address it. That leaves us with hundreds of thousands of citizens living and enduring a quality of life that is unconscionable in the times in which we live.
There are no focus groups to highlight the absence of youth facilities. The Bill, whatever one might think about it, proposes certain measures to address miscreants after they have committed a crime. There is nothing preventative in the Bill. There is nothing that details the absence of youth facilities and recreation amenities that no doubt contributes to problems in areas where the characterisation is one of great disadvantage, early school drop-out and so on. There is no infrastructure or amenities. Usually, there will be an off-licence or a pub and, it seems, no action is taken against the wholesale sale of alcohol to minors. Deputy Carey observed that there has been no conviction in this city for the offence of selling to those who are under age. I do not know whether that is true, but it is effectively true in my constituency. It is going on wholesale and there is no response to it.
It is this kind of environment that prompts me to question whether the spending of €1 billion, which is largely public money, on building a sporting emporium at a site that is difficult to access is the best use of public money. A fraction of that money spent on sporting and other recreational facilities in the community would make a much more significant contribution to addressing this problem. However, that argument seems to have been lost and the idea abandoned, including, unfortunately, by the new Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who was very vocal on that point during the course of the election. Ministerial office can be deluding and seductive and obviously that is what has happened here.
I do not see much in the Bill other than the proposals to be able to make exclusion orders and apply for closure orders. The closure order is already provided for under sections 13 and 14 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 2000, for the offence of selling alcohol to underage people. Have there been any prosecutions mounted under that provision? I would like to hear the Minister's views on that. If that measure has not been effective in the Intoxicating Liquor Act, why is it proposed to replicate it in this legislation? I would like to hear the Minister address that point because it seems to be fraught with all kinds of difficulties. Who is to say the owner of the premises outside which an affray or breakdown of public order or the offence contemplated by this legislation happens  is responsible? Very often the pattern in this city is that young people are well tanked up before they go to the late-night drinking place where the contemplated crime is supposed to have happened. How, therefore, can this be efficacious? How can it be applied? We seem to have no difficulty coming forward with new legislation to meet this or that imagined or real problem, but enforcement does not seem to be something with which we are overly concerned. If a measure in one piece of legislation has proved ineffective, how is it supposed to be more effective in another?
I am not sure I understand the relevance of exclusion orders. What does it matter to the ringleaders in a public affray that they may be excluded from a venue in the future? Many of them are visitors in any event, from a different part of the city, from a different city or from abroad. I do not know that the possibility of an exclusion order is something that will make them worry about whether they should or should not behave themselves. Many such offences are committed in such a fashion that an exclusion order would not have any meaning. The inference is that some of these dreadful incidents are the work of agents provocateurs and that if they could be weeded out, there would not be a problem because an exclusion order is something they would find unacceptable. I can see that it might be a problem if one was excluded from one's local pub because one might be separated from one's friends. However, given the kind and scale of problem with which we are dealing, an exclusion order would not be much of a deterrent. I do not see it as a major issue.
The Bill gives additional powers to the gardaí. I would like to hear the new Minister on the whole question of the extent of alienation, among young people in particular, from the Garda. In the interests of society and gardaí themselves, it is imperative that we address this issue. That would be a suitable issue for the Fianna Fáil component of the Government to conduct some of its focus groups, inside or outside Mount Street, because it is a matter of the most grave concern that there is such alienation from the gardaí among young people and that there is such a conviction among young people that there is abuse of power by individual gardaí that reflects badly on the force generally and on the many hundreds of decent gardaí who are trying to do a conscientious day's work. That is a grave matter of concern.
I want to make a proposal to the new Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform which, at the same time as dealing with the question of accountability of gardaí, would also serve to give a new dimension and important role to local government. Why are we virtually unique in not providing for democratic accountability when it comes to the Garda Síochána? Why do we suppose the Garda Síochána is different from the rest of us? We have seen in so many walks of Irish life, including politics, that we should not make  any such assumption. Even the Church, which is not a democratic institution, has to subject itself ultimately to some accountability but there is no effective accountability on the part of the Garda Síochána. The gardaí themselves admit that the Garda Complaints Board is virtually farcical. It is nonsense to recommend to a constituent that he or she should pursue a case to the Garda Complaints Board.
I propose to the Minister that he statutorily gives expression to a requirement on the most senior gardaí of whatever district to present before the county council, the corporation or a sub-committee of the county council or corporation on a regular, structured basis where there can be an exchange of views between the elected members at local government and the senior gardaí. That would lead not just to improved accountability but improved policing, would enhance the stature and standing of the Garda Síochána and allow local representatives an opportunity to return to the issues raised with them by residents' associations everywhere. I see my colleague, Deputy O'Connor, in the House. He will confirm that everywhere we go residents' associations raise questions with us about the responsiveness and efficacy of the role of policing in society. I suggest to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that if he were to bring forward proposals like that on a statutory basis, it would lead to badly needed and productive reforms in policing in Ireland.
Mr. Deenihan: I am delighted to have the opportunity of speaking on the Bill. Last November I carried out a survey in Tralee and the findings of that survey confirmed what I expected, namely, that there was grave concern in the town which would reflect similar concerns in towns of its size across the country. It showed, for example, that 86% of the population feared walking the town after dark and that of the parents with teenage children, a staggering 65% feared for their safety when they were out at night. In the same period, between November and Christmas, six gardaí were assaulted on the streets of Tralee, including one female garda who was viciously assaulted. At the time I published these worrying statistics, the then Minister referred to them as balderdash, but the reality was otherwise.
Tralee is a microcosm of what is happening throughout the country and there are a number of reasons for that. Since the 1950s, crime has almost doubled every decade and it is an increasing phenomenon that violent crime, where actual bodily harm is caused, is very much on the increase. The latest statistics up to 2000 – we  await with interest the statistics for 2001 – showed that the incidence of violent crime had increased by 131% over the previous year and that approximately 11,400 assaults were reported to the Garda.
The most recent statistics for 2000 indicate that in accident and emergency departments throughout the country, approximately 5,000 people needed overnight care because of violent assault. If one compares the official Garda crime figures to those from accident and emergency departments and even some general practitioners, it is obvious that there is a large discrepancy. People who are attacked outside public houses and other places generally do not report the crime because they may not be badly injured, they are too embarrassed to report it or they do not want to get into further trouble with their assailant. There is a major problem, however, and while the Bill is well intentioned, I am not sure it will have the desired effect. I will refer to that issue later.
A significant development in recent years which has contributed more to public disorder and the assaults we have witnessed is the extension of licensing hours, which was referred to by a number of speakers. There was no need to extend licensing hours, lobbying for which supposedly came from the tourism industry. The incidence of attacks on tourists here gets widespread attention from the international media but the extension of licensing hours has been counterproductive in terms of promoting Ireland as a destination for tourists. These attacks are widely reported and bad news travels fast. Even our competitors are inclined to subtly use the “Ireland's streets are not safe” message against us. Rather than being an advantage to our tourism industry the extended licensing hours have become a major disadvantage.
I compliment the Minister of State on being reappointed to his Ministry but if the Minister were here I would ask him to review the licensing laws with a view to at least restoring them to the former hours. I have met numerous publicans in tourist destinations across the country who would have no objection to the licensing hours being restored to their former times or something similar. That is worth considering with the Licensed Vintners' Association because all the trouble takes place when young people spill out on to the streets at 2 a.m. and it is impossible for the gardaí to control many locations at different times. I am most familiar with Tralee in which there are about six locations where young people gather. If there are six gardaí on duty at night there will be two in a car and four on foot patrol. Some of them are engaged in community duties in council estates in the town. There is no way two or three gardaí can cope with the number of young people on the street if trouble breaks out. If trouble breaks out there is a tendency for people to get involved even if they were not involved initially. The licensing laws will have to be looked at very closely.
Gardaí are demoralised because of the lack of  support they are getting in terms of resources and equipment but also because of the criticism they receive, some of which emanates from this House. The Garda Siochána must be subject to the same scrutiny as any other group. They have gone through a very difficult period recently. The rank and file of the Garda Siochána are fine and responsible people. That is the reason they took their jobs. They are professional career people who must have a vocation for their job which is not an easy one. No-one in our job has to arrest or handle people. The Garda has an onerous responsibility. Any support either we or the Minister can give its members will be helpful.
We need more foot patrols on the streets. This point has been raised by a number of speakers. I am convinced that the law and order promises in the Fianna Fáil manifesto in 1997 helped change the Government. However, that Government did not follow through on its commitments. It made a commitment to put more gardaí on the streets but it did not. There was an increase of only 8% in the number of gardaí in Cork city and county between 1997 and 2001. In the Minister of State's home city of Limerick there was an increase of only 4%. In the Dublin metropolitan area the increase was only 4% despite an increase of public disorder on the streets. The last Government did not deliver on foot patrols, gardaí on the beat, the extension of closed circuit television and a whole range of other measures. The Government promised that it would withdraw gardaí from routine civilian work and traffic duties so that they would not be pushing pens at their desks but would be out among the public. That has not happened.
Public order must be addressed by a review of the licensing hours, a rethink of the number of gardaí on the beat and the proper equipping of the gardaí to allow them to cope with major public disorder incidents. There is also the question of providing proper alternative facilities for young people. In Paris young people gather in coffee shops where music is played but no alcoholic beverages are served.
Mr. English: I hate to be negative but I agree with Deputy Deasy that this Bill is a waste of time. It is worthless and it is not the answer to street violence. I have an interest in this as I have run a pub for the past couple of years. I cannot see this doing anything for me or the people on the streets. There is a breakdown in society in recent years, especially over the past five years, and it is a major crisis. By breakdown I mean there is a breakdown in respect. Many young people no longer have any respect. They do not respect their school teachers and they do not respect the gardaí. Lack of respect is the real problem in modern society. The Government is introducing ill-thought out legislation – which is simply being done to be seen to be doing something – rather than having the courage to admit  there is a real problem and there are no statutory implements to deal with it.
The problem falls between the Departments of Health and Children, Education and Science, Arts, Sport and Tourism, Environment and Local Government and Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It needs to be addressed in that context and not with legislation like this. This Bill is a case of wasting our time and resources and wasting the time of the gardaí. Why should the Garda need the power to close a place? There is no point in shutting the gate when the horse has bolted. Why are we not considering prevention? Why do we constantly move the problems from one place to another and sweep them under the carpet? These worthless powers which we are giving to the gardaí are neither needed nor wanted. The time of the gardaí is taken up with things of lesser importance than preventing crime. In the Louth-Meath area the gardaí have to answer about 10,000 alarm calls each year, the majority of which are mistakes. Surely we can look at other ways of dealing with these alarm calls. When I tried to open a bank account in my home town I had to go to the Garda station. Why are we putting so much pressure on our gardaí? When one applies for a gun licence or passport one must also go to a Garda station. We must find other ways of relieving the gardaí of these duties and allowing them to work on the street. They are trained to be on the street, it is where they are needed and where they want to be.
The causes of the problem stem from the abuse of alcohol, drugs and other substances. There are no alternative venues for our young people. I spent a few years working in fast food take-aways in Navan in which 12 to 14 year olds used to hang out. They want something to do but they are not getting a choice. We must provide youth centres where they can hang out and have a chat. What happens at the moment is that a group of, say, ten gather on a street because there is no place to go. There may only be one bad egg among them but that bad egg can infect the others and they will all find themselves in trouble. We owe it to our young people to give them a choice.
What percentage of the advertising budgets for our major sporting events, GAA, soccer and the Olympic Games, is drink related? What kind of a message are we sending out? I do not suggest there is no place for sponsorship in sport, but young people are affected by what they see portrayed through advertising. This is obviously the case or companies would not advertise. It is meant to promote for young people the idea that the inside of public houses and clubs is something akin to paradise. The current Baileys advertisement, for example, would encourage any young person to go into a pub. Nowhere in Government policy is the counter story being told. From behind the bar, I have seen the effects that drink has on people of all ages. We must highlight it. If a person buys a packet of cigarettes, there is a warning but there is none with drink and we must accept responsibility for that.
This is not the only cause of the problem. If we look at Kells, Navan or Athboy in County Meath, for example, we can see a direct correlation between crime and lack of facilities. There is a GAA club in these places, which I welcome as I follow the GAA, but it is extraordinary that most pitches have a bar, which is becoming as essential as the goalposts, and this is the root of the problem. As a 24 year old former bar manager from Navan, I have witnessed public disorder at first hand. I have got black eyes, a bruised nose and death threats and if I thought that this legislation would save anyone else from such abuse, I would wholeheartedly support it. However, nothing in this Bill gives me any hope. It mentions exclusion orders and a fine of €650. However, if a man gets his Christmas holidays and three or four weeks' bonus pay, he will go out looking for a good time and could arrive at my pub. If I tell him that he cannot come in because of an exclusion order and that he may be fined a couple of hundred euro, he will laugh at me first and then beat me up because the threat of such a fine will not bother him.
Much of the violence on our streets originates from those not in the pubs. Groups of teenagers often cause problems on the streets. A neighbour of mine recently had to get a Garda escort out of a cinema because a gang of youths threatened him. As he was put into a patrol car, it was kicked by the youths. We must go further than this Bill envisages. One reason I sought election was to tackle this problem and I am willing to work with any Government Department which is serious about it.
We should stop codding ourselves with this legislation which will make no difference – even the Minister does not believe it will make a difference. We should go back to the drawing board and begin by consulting all the people involved – pub and club owners, young people, those working in casualty departments and members of the Garda – and draft legislation with them. It will not be easy but anything that is worth doing is worth doing right. We should withdraw this Bill as it is not fooling us or the public. If in two week's time, I was to meet someone on the street who was drunk, he would neither realise nor care that we spent days discussing this, nor would a nurse in a casualty department who lives in fear of violence every weekend. This is because the Bill is not relevant to people.
Ms McManus: I am sorry that the new Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is not here as I would like to extend my congratulations on his appointment. He is recognised as a politician of considerable substance and it is, therefore, unfortunate that his first Bill in the House is not  substantial but more concerned with optics than objectives. The explanatory memorandum states that its purpose is to strengthen the law to deal more effectively with late night public disorder and disturbance which mainly has its origins in alcohol abuse. It is a laudable objective, but, undoubtedly, this Bill does not meet it. I agree with much of the criticism that has been expressed. No town is without this problem from time to time, which is increasing and can be serious and chronic, particularly in terms of injury and death. However, it cannot be dealt with in the way presented in this Bill, which is why I regret that it is the Minister's first as it does not do justice to him or the Government.
All of us can paint, and some have already, lurid pictures of what can happen late at night in our own communities. In my area when many young people, some very young, go out at night, particularly at weekends, they tend to tank up in the pubs on the main street until they close and then go to night-clubs or places with an extended licence on the seafront. Sometimes the extent of drinking is so severe that the gardaí, or others, must deal with young men and women who do not know who or where they are, with extremely serious implications for health. I am not convinced that an exclusion order is a practical way of dealing with this as it may not be possible to monitor one. People can move from pub to pub and in the cities we have giant super pubs where the staff, who are often casual and may not be from this country, will not be able to stop people with an exclusion order from entering.
Individual pictures are one thing, but there is also the national picture. It is clear to outsiders and to ourselves that drink is central to our cultural, sporting and community life. It is no accident that the quintessential totemic image of modern Ireland is of the Taoiseach with a pint of Bass in his hand. That expresses our kind of culture and, unfortunately, it is reinforced by that unhelpful image which certainly strikes a chord. In presenting that image to ourselves, we are not looking at the full picture. We do not take on board the fact that the level of binge drinking among 15 and 16 year olds is the highest in the European Union. We do not see it in the same way as the enjoyment and craic when everyone was having a wonderful time in the pub during the World Cup. There is no balance between the two. It is time we started to realise that binge drinking, which is too often evident, is an investment in ill health and affects the condition of young people's livers in 20 years' time and what is happening in our accident and emergency departments.
During a debate last year on the liberalisation of pub hours and on the selling of alcohol, it is interesting that the Minister's leader, the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney, was strongly in favour of deregulation, but the Minister for Health and Children took the opposite view. We need to get a clear idea from the Government, which presumably is embarking on a five year term of office, of  its view on alcohol policy because so far there have been two developments in tandem that are contradictory and mutually exclusive. The Minister for Health and Children has launched various phases of alcohol awareness campaigns during the past 18 months, but I am not conscious that anything good has come of them. I do not think that is possible when alcohol consumption is encouraged and promoted and its advertising is so powerful in terms of the message it sells. It sells sport, sex and drink. Of what more attractive combination could one think, and it all comes when one has a pint of beer.
If we have a policy on the advertising of nicotine and clear rules on what is acceptable and legal, why are we so tolerant of alcohol advertising? Why does our judgment not function when it comes to assessing the impact of advertising on people. I do not mean only young people but everyone who is constantly bombarded with advertising messages that sell products, which is what advertising does, but in this case a product that is dangerous, if abused, and has many implications in terms of people's health, to the extent that the Minister for Health and Children has argued trenchantly against liberalisation of opening hours, which leads to an increase in consumption.
The Minister for Heath and Children was responsible for making it well known that the WHO report in 1994 concluded that when alcohol is less available, less convenient to purchase or less accessible, consumption and alcohol related problems are lowered. That seems an obvious comment, but it is an issue that was not addressed when the licensing hours were extended and it is not addressed in terms of how pubs are developing, with the advent of many large-scale pubs. There may well be an argument for having smaller pubs that are easy to manage and can be monitored in regard to the enactment of legislation, if this Bill is passed.
This legislation will not make a significant difference. It promotes the idea that if the Garda had additional powers, this matter could be dealt with, but that is not the case. What is needed is a much more strategic approach which would take into account of issues such as education, community development and the provision of recreational facilities. The young people in my town of Bray spend too much time in the pubs and too little time in recreation not because they necessarily want to make that choice but because there is no choice. There is no swimming pool in my town, which is the eighth largest in the country. In one of the biggest areas of the town, Ballywaltrim, there is one community centre, which belongs in the Third World. It is an old Nissen hut from the Second World War. It is rat invested, lets in the rain and is in the type of substandard condition one would not be surprised to find in Nigeria, yet this is the alternative that is being offered to young people. In terms of whether they will expend their energies in the  pub or find other forms of activity to get together and engage with their friends, there is no contest.
The people who sell drink have an interest in ensuring that there is no contest, but we do not sell drink, we are here to legislate. What is disturbing is that the Government appears to be pursuing the same objective pursued by the previous Government, concentrating on the high profile Abbotstown project that will cost more than €1 billion instead of ensuring that at local level there are good and enriching recreational facilities that provide for the needs of girls and boys, young men and young women. I do not detect that the Government has that commitment and until we see that commitment there will not be a significant change in terms of alcohol abuse.
Mr. Costello: I thank Deputy McManus for sharing her time with me. I want to make a few pertinent points. As a tourist was advised when looking for directions, I advise the Minister that he should not have started from here.
Mr. Costello: The Minister has the power, but I hope all that power will not corrupt. He has power to withdraw this legislation and he should exercise that power. I do not see the benefit of an exclusion order. If one is imposed, the perpetrator can go to another public house and display the same type of unsuitable behaviour. In 1994 the gardaí demanded clamorously that we give them public order powers and they specified the powers they wanted. They are listed in the existing legislation and are quite draconian. They cover such behaviour as intoxication in a public place, disorderly conduct, threatening abuse and sulking behaviour, display of offensive material, failure to comply with a Garda direction and wilful obstruction. Two people hanging around a corner could be arrested under the existing legislation. The gardaí have enormous powers but they are not implementing them. There is no sense in giving them new powers, which again would be useless and unimplementable The best approach is to examine and consolidate the public order powers available to the gardaí rather than introduce new ones. The gardaí say they cannot do something because they do not have the necessary powers, but when they are given the powers the situation does not improve.
We should start to address this problem from the other direction by providing amenities for our youth, which does not come under the Minister's brief, and by examining other matters, including closing hours. People can leave pubs at 1 a.m. or 1.30 a.m. at the weekend and go to night clubs, which are effectively drinking dens, mostly large barns, because of a lack of deregulation in the public house arena. In most housing estates and new areas in Dublin there are large drinking barns. There is a variety of clubs in the city centre that effectively are drinking dens. After people  are well tanked up, they leave pubs at 1 a.m., go to night clubs and stay there until 4 a.m. It is almost inevitable that there will be confrontations in night clubs because there is anonymity among large groups of people, assembling at a time when they are already intoxicated. This must be examined. The question of bouncers and their control, training and professionalism must also be examined. In relation to advertising, there is something wrong when we see Guinness using the Irish flag to advertise drink.
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