Thursday, 15 May 2003
Dáil Eireann Debate
This afternoon I have the privilege to present to the House and open the debate on this innov ative legislation on police co-operation on this island. The introduction of this Bill is timely, having regard to the events taking place in Northern Ireland. It is a key measure towards implementing the policing principles contained in the Good Friday Agreement. The Bill completed its passage through the Seanad on 9 April.
The Garda Síochána (Police Co-Operation) Bill 2003 is a firm indication of the real progress made in relation to North-South co-operation on policing matters and is an important milestone in the implementation of the Patten report. It represents a step forward into a new age and creates a formalised link between the Garda Síochana and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI, which will bring benefits to both jurisdictions in the form of improved effectiveness in crime prevention and detection.
The Garda Síochána (Police Co-Operation) Bill is grounded in the agreement between Ireland and the UK on police co-operation which was signed in Belfast on 29 April 2002. The full text of that agreement is contained in the Schedule to the Bill and I will take this opportunity to expand a little on the historical background to the agreement which is set out in its preamble. The independent commission on policing for Northern ireland was set up pursuant to the Good Friday Agreement signed in Belfast in April 1998. That commission produced its report, known as the Patten report, in September 1999. The Patten report contained 175 recommendations. Nine of these related specifically to co-operation with the Garda Síochána and a further recommendation was that the community balance at more senior ranks in the police service should be addressed by lateral entry from other police services.
Members of the House will recall that the Patten report led to much debate in Northern Ireland and in these islands generally. There were discussions between the two Governments in Weston Park in July 2001, which I attended as Attorney General, which led to the publication of an updated implementation plan for the Patten report in August 2001. The intergovernmental agreement which provides the basis for this Bill provides the legal framework for the implementation of certain Patten recommendations in so far as they involve the Garda Síochána, as well as providing for ongoing enhancement of police co-operation.
While there has always been a comprehensive level of co-operation between the Garda Síochána and the PSNI, this co-operation has been enhanced in recent years. Closer communication and co-operation between our police services can only improve the effectiveness of cross-Border policing in the fight against terrorism, drugs, smuggling and other organised crime. It will directly assist in crime prevention and detection.
The intergovernmental agreement on which the Bill is based provides for three levels of personnel “exchange”. Under Article 1, members of  each police service are to be eligible to apply for certain posts in the other police service. Under Article 2, a programme is to be put in place to enable members of each police service to be seconded with full police powers to the other police service for periods not exceeding three years and under Article 5, a programme of placements is to be put in place to enable the transfer of experience and expertise, including in the area of training.
A five sided group was established at an early stage to oversee the process of implementing these articles. Senior figures from the Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Policing Board for Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Office and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform have been meeting on a regular basis to progress the various issues involved. The full implementation of the different categories of personnel exchange provided for in the agreement required detailed negotiation involving all relevant parties on a number of issues.
This Bill provides for the implementation of Articles 1 and 2 of the intergovernmental agreement. The programme of placements provided for in Article 5 does not have any legislative implications as officers participating in that programme will not be exercising any police powers in the other jurisdiction. A formal protocol on these placements will be signed by the Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable as soon as consultations with the Garda associations are finalised. Pending the signing of the formal protocol to provide for the placements, I am pleased to say that informal measures have already been initiated in this area and placements have taken place involving experts in police training.
Before outlining the provisions of the Bill concerning Articles 1 and 2 of the agreement, let me briefly touch on what is happening regarding other provisions of that agreement. I welcome the ongoing strengthening of co-operation between the two services which is exemplified in the holding of the first annual conference in our National Garda Training College in March last year. The convening of annual conferences between the Garda and the PSNI is provided for in article 4 of the intergovernmental agreement and a follow-up conference is planned for later this year. I was also present at the Garda Representative Association annual conference and I was glad to see the representative associations on this island are also putting in place new ways to get together more frequently.
Work is under way in joint emergency planning under Article 8 of the agreement in the form of a joint Garda Síochána-PSNI major disaster project. As part of a European Union Oisín project, co-funded by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, a joint practical exercise will take place during 2003 on the Border involving the Garda Síochána and the PSNI. This practical exercise will simulate a disaster and responses by the appropriate agencies from the two juris dictions will be observed and analysed by experts from participating EU member states.
Article 9 of the intergovernmental agreement provides for measures to be taken to facilitate joint investigations between the Garda and the PSNI having regard to EU developments in this area. In this regard, I am also pleased to inform Deputies that Second Stage of Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Bill is being debated in the Seanad. The purpose of that Bill is to give effect to the requirements of an EU Council framework decision. It provides for the setting up of joint investigation teams by mutual consent of member states for a specific purpose and limited period. The teams will carry out criminal investigations with a cross-border dimension in one or more of the member states setting up the team. Effective co-operation is of increasing importance in our efforts to combat transnational crime. Law enforcement agencies must actively implement measures agreed by Governments to ensure boundaries do not militate against effective co-operation. The establishment and operation of joint investigation teams represents such a measure.
The provisions of the EU framework decision interact with a number of the recommendations in the Patten report on policing in Northern Ireland – such as that the PSNI and the Garda Síochána should have written protocols covering key aspects of co-operation, that there should be a programme of long-term personnel exchanges between them in specialist areas, to which I have referred previously, and that consideration be given to establishing a provision for an immediate exchange of officers and pooling of investigative teams after major incidents with a substantial cross-Border dimension.
Returning to the Bill before the House, it builds on the co-operation to which I have referred and gives a legal basis and framework for a more enhanced and structured co-operation between the two police services by providing that personnel from one police service may move and work in the other police service in accordance with Articles 1 and 2 of the intergovernmental agreement. Specifically, the Bill provides that members of the PSNI may be appointed permanently to the Garda Síochána above the rank of inspector and that members of the Garda Síochána may be seconded to the PSNI, and vice versa, with full police powers for a period of up to three years. I should also mention that the UK Government will be putting the necessary arrangements in place to allow members of the Garda Síochána compete for positions above the rank of inspector in the PSNI.
I mentioned at the outset that there was a novel aspect to this legislation on which I would like to focus. Since 1925 there has been only one police service in this State and there has never been any special provision for a member of another police service to join the Garda. We have experience of gardaí participating in police peacekeeping missions abroad with the United Nations,  but they have always remained part of the Garda organisation and subject to the direction and control of the Garda Commissioner.
Occasionally, members of the Garda Síochána have gone to work with international organisations such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia pursuing war crimes in the Balkans. In those cases the members resigned with an option to reapply to the Garda when they had completed their work.
The idea of transfers between police services is not such a new concept for the police in Northern Ireland. There are over 40 police services in the United Kingdom with broadly similar terms and conditions of service and well established arrangements for transfers and secondments. However, what is new for the PSNI is the concept of exchanges with a police service from an outside jurisdiction. From both our perspectives, therefore, the movement of personnel between the Garda and the Police Service of Northern Ireland provided for in this Bill is unprecedented.
Before discussing the specific details of the Bill, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge before the House the commitment of the Garda Commissioner and the current and previous Chief Constables of the PSNI, and the positive involvement of both their services in this process. The new relationship between the two police services on the island will provide extended opportunities for police officers in both services as well as enhancing the safety of all of the people of Ireland.
I also wish to acknowledge the role which the Garda associations have played in this process to date. We should not forget that the success or failure of the proposed personnel exchanges will depend on the individual members of the respective police services. These personnel exchanges will be on a voluntary basis so it is important that the associations representing the police are positively engaged in the process. My officials, together with Garda management, have held informal briefing sessions with the four Garda representative associations to keep them abreast of developments in this area and will engage in a detailed consultative process with them.
Turning now to the detail of the Bill before the House, I would like to say that it serves two essential purposes. First, it provides for members of the PSNI to be appointed permanently to the Garda Síochána above the rank of inspector and, second, it provides for the secondment of members of the Garda Síochána to the PSNI, and vice versa, with full police powers for a period of up to three years. It also provides for a new disciplinary framework to deal with the secondments to and from the Garda Síochána.
Section 2 provides that the Government may appoint members of the PSNI to specified ranks in the Garda Síochána not below the rank of superintendent, as is provided for in the intergovernmental agreement. For this to happen, eligible members of the PSNI will have to compete in a merit-based selection procedure with  Garda Síochána applicants for appointment to the ranks in the Garda Síochána concerned. The extent to which each such rank will be opened up to competition can be varied by regulation under the Bill.
The implementation of this section will mean that members of the PSNI will be enabled to move to the Garda Síochána on a permanent basis. We will be encouraging Garda members to apply for posts in the PSNI but it is very much a decision for the individuals in question. I would hope that the programme of placements and secondments referred to above will facilitate an improved understanding and appreciation between the two police services and so overcome any reluctance to apply for a permanent post in the other organisation.
Section 3 provides for the secondment of members of the PSNI to the Garda Síochána with full Garda powers for a period not exceeding three years. Secondees will continue to be paid by the PSNI but will be under the direction and control of the Garda Commissioner and have the powers, rights, duties and obligations of a member of the Garda Síochána of the rank to which they are appointed. A secondment under this section may be terminated by the Commissioner or the Government, where it made the appointment. The ranks in the Garda Síochána to which members may be appointed under this section and the number to be so appointed may be prescribed by regulation under the Bill. The section also makes certain technical amendments to the Garda Síochána Acts to reflect the position of secondees.
Section 4 provides for secondments from the Garda Síochána to the PSNI with full police powers for a period not exceeding three years. Secondees will continue to be paid as members of the Garda Síochána but shall not be subject to the direction or control of the Garda Commissioner or be entitled to exercise in the State any Garda powers. Secondees shall continue to be entitled to claim compensation under the Garda Compensation Acts 1941 and 1945 and their service on secondment shall be regarded as service with the Garda Síochána for pension, promotion and seniority purposes. The number and rank of members of the Garda Síochána who may be seconded under this section may be prescribed by regulation under the Bill.
The type of secondments provided for in sections 3 and 4 provide a mechanism whereby Garda members, who do not wish to leave the Garda Síochána, can make their experience and expertise available to the PSNI for an extended period of up to three years. It also allows for PSNI officers to be seconded to the Garda Síochána and hopefully we will see a two-way flow, enhancing policing standards in both organisations.
Section 5 provides for the procedures which will apply regarding breaches of discipline by a member of the Garda Síochána who is seconded  to the PSNI. A standalone disciplinary framework is provided in this regard whereby the investigation of any alleged breach of discipline by a seconded member of the Garda Síochána is carried out under the law and procedure applicable to the investigation of breaches of discipline by members of the PSNI. Any appeal against or request for review of a finding of that disciplinary process is also made under the law and procedure applicable in Northern Ireland. However, no disciplinary action may be taken against a seconded member of the Garda Síochána by the Chief Constable of the PSNI. Instead, the findings of a disciplinary investigation or the outcome of an appeal or review of such findings will be transmitted to the Garda Commissioner, or the Government in respect of gardaí above the rank of inspector, for whatever action is deemed appropriate. The disciplinary action which may be taken by the Commissioner or the Government under this section is defined. A member of the Garda Síochána whose secondment to the PSNI has expired or been terminated will be obliged to co-operate with any such investigation as if he or she were a member of the PSNI and any failure to do so shall itself constitute a breach of discipline.
Section 6 provides for the procedures which will apply regarding breaches of discipline by a member of the PSNI who is seconded to the Garda Síochána. Similar to the approach taken in section 5, the investigation of any alleged breach of discipline by a seconded member of the PSNI will be carried out in accordance with the Garda Síochána disciplinary regulations or, as may be the case, the Garda Síochána Complaints Board procedures. Any appeals or requests for review of the findings will also be determined within that process. No disciplinary action will be taken by the Garda Commissioner against a PSNI secondee. Instead, the findings of the disciplinary process will be transmitted by the Garda Commissioner to the Chief Constable for whatever action is deemed appropriate. Section 7 provides for the making of regulations for the purpose of giving full effect to the provisions of the Bill.
These represent the key elements of the Bill. The Bill contains certain other procedural provisions as well as consequential amendments to a number of Acts to which I could also refer. However, I am conscious that I have already spoken at length and that there will be the opportunity to deal with any queries Deputies may have regarding those provisions in my reply or on Committee Stage. I hope that what I have said will assist the House in its task of considering the Bill.
The Bill further strengthens the relationship between the two police services on the island. It will provide extended opportunities for police officers in both services and enhance the safety of all of the people of Ireland. In addition, and  most importantly, the enactment of this legislation is a key measure towards implementing the policing principles contained in the Good Friday Agreement and the Patten report, particularly regarding improving the level of cross-community confidence in the impartiality of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland. It is further evidence of the determination of both Governments to continue to make progress in implementing the Good Friday Agreement.
I should add that the issue of enhancing North-South co-operation was also addressed in the Joint Declaration issued by the Irish and British Governments on 1 May last. In that declaration, we gave a commitment that, “further progress towards normal policing will also include the prompt enactment of the necessary legislation by both Governments to allow for lateral entry and secondments.”
The Joint Declaration is part of an overall package which we have described as acts of completion. When briefing the House last week on the latest developments in the peace process, both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, reported that, despite considerable progress and advances across a range of issues in the recent talks, it has not proved possible at this point to achieve a final agreement on all outstanding issues regarding the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. However, the two Governments have agreed that those aspects of the Joint Declaration which are not contingent on acts of completion by others will now be taken forward. The Joint Declaration which is our template for the full implementation of the Agreement is now also the shared agenda for action between the two Governments. We are committed to doing all within our power to make rapid progress in the areas it covers. The issues addressed by this Bill fall into this category and can be taken forward with the approval of this House.
Mr. Deasy: I wish to share my time with Deputy Crawford. Fine Gael will be supporting this legislation. As the Minister has explained it implements the recommendations of the Patten report on cross-Border police co-operation. Members of each police service will now be eligible to apply for certain posts in the other police service and there will be a programme for members of each police service to be seconded with full police powers to the other police service for periods not exceeding three years.
It would be difficult for Fine Gael not to support this Bill. Its broad concept was shaped by the then leader of Fine Gael, Garret FitzGerald, 21 years ago. He came up with the idea of closer ties with the law enforcement agencies in the North in the early 1980s. At the time he explained  that an all-Ireland policing system would ensure that people who had committed crimes could not evade arrest and conviction by passing rapidly across the Border from one jurisdiction to another. At the time he explained that it was a complex idea and without international precedent but he pushed it and felt it was the right thing to do. He went on to say that we should be looking for a structure, however novel, that would enable the people of Ireland to tackle together things that could not be done as well separately, and how right he was. Fianna Fáil played the green card. Garret FitzGerald was taking an honest, constructive approach on the serious paramilitary threat that confronted Ireland.
It was unfortunate that at the time Fianna Fáil played politics with the idea and the political notion was that if Garret FitzGerald had his way, the RUC would be policing the streets of Cork, Kerry, Waterford and Dublin 4, and it was conveyed skilfully, politically speaking. It was effective. He was accused of collusion with the British Government, of being a puppet and of conspiring with British spy masters at the time. Some people may recall the debate between the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, and Garret FitzGerald in 1982. Charles Haughey started it and accused Garret FitzGerald of creating a British-Irish police force. Dr. FitzGerald retorted by pushing forward his policy document and asking Charles Haughey to pick out one instance where that was cited. Mr. Haughey backed down at that point. It was a pity that Fianna Fáil had to play politics at that time because it is probably the case that had it not done so, lives would have been saved. Here we are 21 years later and a Fianna Fáil Government is introducing that same concept and notion that Dr. FitzGerald bravely put forward.
Mr. Deasy: The detail of the Bill has great merit. Some Members will vote against this for their own reasons. We do not have any option but to take this approach with regard to the security of the State. It is still the case that we have dissident republican groups who remain active, and that organised crime throughout Europe is growing. The Government should reconsider this idea of an organised crime unit. Garda sergeants and inspectors have put it to the Minister. If he is not going to do that it is incumbent upon us to create closer ties with police forces in different jurisdictions. Last year some senior officers met at a conference to discuss the exploitation of borders or frontiers by organised  crime networks. Assistant Garda Commissioner Kevin Carthy stated very simply that the police are required to stop at borders, but the criminals are not and exploit that weakness. The shortcomings in co-operation between the PSNI and the Garda Síochána came to light in the post mortem of policing activities surrounding the Omagh bombing.
A report was commissioned by the University of Limerick and the University of Ulster, the findings of which were fairly damning. It concluded that the failure to form joint investigative teams was brought into sharper focus by the events in Omagh in 1998. I know that the Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Bill 2003 was in the Seanad yesterday. We need to push the matter forward, and it is something that we can support absolutely. The report went on to state that the investigation that followed the bombing was limited to parallel investigations on both sides of the Border rather than employing any kind of joint investigative team. It exposed the superficial nature of co-operation, where serious legislative and procedural barriers had been largely neglected in the hope that informal, ad hoc police co-operation would suffice. If we wish to avoid another Omagh, we must pass legislation and move on initiatives such as this.
Another major finding in the report was that the police forces on either side of the Border had no joint disaster plan. We are now more conscious of global terrorism, and the question of Sellafield has come up again and again, as has the possibility of strikes against chemical plants. Once again, we must get the two police forces working together on this.
Under this legislation, gardaí will be able to apply for senior PSNI jobs and vice versa. It is conceivable that, at some future date, the Garda Commissioner will come from the North. Would that not be something? There has not been a bar on that since 1925, but the Bill would certainly make its occurrence far more likely. At present the Garda Síochána and the PSNI can second officers or agree long-term personnel exchanges, but their officers do not have constabulary powers, and the legislation will correct that.
We can examine some practical examples of co-operation between the PSNI and the Garda. Such co-operation happened recently between the A1 and the M1, one of the most dangerous stretches of road on the island. The PSNI and the Garda have been working together in an attempt to reduce accidents on that route, and those kinds of initiatives can be very effective. It was interesting to read recently that the US Congress House Committee on International Relations had framed legislation that, if passed by Congress, would allow funding to go to the PSNI and the Garda Síochána for human rights and computer training. It is a State Department authorisation  Bill to foster greater co-operation and communication between the two police forces. That the Americans have identified that they would like to be able to assist in such initiatives and endeavours is very positive.
Both my grandfathers were in the old IRA. One was from west Cork, and he was not terribly vocal about his time in the War of Independence. I recall my grandmother telling us about his tangles with RIC officers. He later went on to become a garda sergeant and was shot at by the new IRA, but I suppose that is another story. People such as my grandfather would welcome this Bill and would like to see this co-operation happening. Senator Maurice Hayes was right when he said in the Seanad that this is a new beginning. He is also correct to say that the two police forces' level of respect for each other has moved on. I understand why one Member of the Seanad might suggest that the Bill be delayed because of question marks over members of the PSNI, but the issue is much bigger than that. I remind him too that we have some beauties in our own police force. It is not a question of whether we should support this legislation for, if we wish to save our nation, we must do so. It was Garret FitzGerald who bravely advocated this concept more than 20 years ago – better late than never.
Mr. Crawford: I, too, welcome the Bill as a further step in the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. As one who lives within a few miles of the Border and has served that area, not only in my days in this House but previously in agriculture, I know better than most that things do not simply stop at the Border. I have seen the Border spiked and parts of it blown up, and I have also seen some of the biggest bombs ever used in Northern Ireland carried across open fields in the dark of night. The Border is not like the Berlin Wall, it is a very open frontier. Under EU rules, it is now open economically too.
I remember, way back in the early 70s when we were discussing EU entry, talking to a very affable Sinn Féin councillor about prospects under EU rule and saying that if we all worked together, the Border might in time disappear so that we might all come to live and work together. His retort at that stage was to ask who would get the thanks for it. Thank God we have come a long way since then, but many lives have been lost in the meantime. I welcome the concept that the Garda and PSNI members should be able to work within each other's forces in a legitimate manner. I also welcome increased involvement between the two forces. Unfortunately, I did not hear the Minister's full speech, but that is my fault rather than his.
As Deputy Deasy said, we want to see much more involvement between the two forces in ordinary routine matters such as the traffic corps, for  example, on the Newtownbutler Road crossing the Border near Clones. Personnel on that road have very often contacted public representatives to complain that they can never enforce speed limits there since, if gardaí try to follow someone breaking the speed limit out of the town, the person has crossed over the Border before they have any chance of getting control of the situation.
Those are the kinds of simple things that could save lives. Anyone who drives along the M1, M2 or M3 at around 60 miles an hour and sees a car flash by them quickly realises that it has a Northern Ireland number plate. We must rectify that matter if we are serious about saving lives and controlling traffic, for we have seen some horrific accidents, perhaps not directly involving people from Northern Ireland, but often caused by them. I am not saying that those south of the Border are great drivers or those north of the Border bad, for the opposite happens too. When some people drive through the North, they try to be less subservient.
There is also the issue of drugs control. I remind Members that, when John Bruton was Taoiseach during Ireland's Presidency of the European Union, he turned the need to control drug-trafficking into an important issue. If we are to deal with this and other issues on this island, we must have a high level of co-operation between the PSNI and the Garda Síochána.
I would like to return to the foundation of the PSNI. Obviously, people have reason to be genuinely worried, especially in the light of all the recent revelations. We must realise that it is a new force. There may be old personnel therein but it is under new control. That a person from a different force in the UK is now the head of the PSNI is a breath of fresh air.
I congratulate the Official Unionists and the SDLP on getting dug into that new body and trying to work from the inside to ensure the PSNI worked in a proper way. I urge Sinn Féin to do likewise. If the Agreement is to work we have to take the difficult decisions. Sometimes it is easier to hurl on the ditch than to get inside and work. Looking at the recent applications for recruitment to the PSNI I was amazed so many Catholics were prepared to apply in light of the background situation and all the difficulties involved. It can become a much more impartial force than heretofore. With the Garda Síochána and the PSNI working together over the three years, or whatever period the Agreement allows, minds can broaden and attitudes can change.
Organised crime is still a major issue. One way to beat organised crime is to have people in the forces from different backgrounds. This will allow easier access to information and ensure such crime is brought to an end or to as low a level as possible. As one who was on the scene as quickly as possible after the Omagh bombing to see what could be done, I realise the seriousness of the sit uation. It was not just the deaths but the trauma and the horror for everybody concerned, from the children to the grandmothers, from the members of the police forces to the private citizens. Had there been closer co-operation between the two forces at that time we could have people under lock and key now. There is no doubt there are some people who know, and did know from the first day, who was responsible for that desperate horror. There are people in Omagh who will always carry the scars and who need to know that the police forces of this island are working together to ensure those criminals are apprehended and controlled. If not, there is no guarantee that some other splinter group will not act again, tomorrow or some other day. This is a matter about which we must be careful.
As one who has supported the Good Friday Agreement from the outset, my support goes back to the Anglo-Irish Agreement when Dr. Garret FitzGerald was carrying the flag. There was criticism that he was selling us down the drain. Some of the people from minority religions, south of the Border, were sore that he did what he did and have never forgiven him for it. However, it moved the situation forward. Each Taoiseach since then has played a role in some small way to move that whole issue forward to where we are today. Nobody wants to go back to the bad old days of the deaths of in excess of 3,000 people and the thousands of others who died indirectly as a result of the pressures and trauma from cancer etc.
There were two main chapters of the Agreement in which I had a major interest, those on the release of prisoners and decommissioning. I am happy enough at this stage that the prisoners were released although it was very difficult to say to a person whose brother had been murdered at his place of worship that it was right that the prisoner should be released. However, that happened and people have come to live with it through time.
The issue of decommissioning has not been fully dealt with. I urge those who have control over it on both sides of the divide – the hardline Protestant groups and the IRA – to come to the table at this late stage to ensure that not only does this policing Bill do its aspect of the job of finalising the Good Friday Agreement but that the total Agreement can be seen to actually work. If we are to lead the way in international affairs, for which we have received much publicity, and show others how to deal with similar traumas and problems, it is vital that we finalise it. Nothing is finished until the last issue is dealt with.
We are dealing with the policing issue, on which I congratulate the Minister. I congratulate him also on his ongoing work and that of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Taoiseach and all others who are in favour of the Agreement. For God's sake, let those who have issues to  finalise on either side get on with the job and finalise them in the same spirit as we are doing today.
Over the years I have received various items in the post regarding my activities, including telephone calls suggesting I was not behaving myself in a way that was deemed proper by some of these organisations. I received a card the other day asking me if I was ashamed of myself and if I would condemn this, that and the other. I take serious exception to it because it was not properly signed but had a scrawl at the bottom and said that I condemned republicanism. As a member of a republican party, I have never condemned republicanism. I have condemned criminal activities and do not apologise for that. There are people who refused to condemn the murders and the catastrophes down through the years and recently condemned fairly minor issues regarding paint etc. I want to make it absolutely clear that I condemn murder from whatever side it comes. I do not carry any can for loyalists, Unionists, IRA-Sinn Féin or anybody else. Anyone who goes out and takes the life of another in the name of this country, as a terrorist, does not deserve any congratulations or roses. The only way this country will be united is through people sitting down together acting in a constructive, compassionate way, trying to understand each other's problems. There are still many problems in Northern Ireland and in this country. I say to those people who are afraid to sign their names to letters to stand up and be counted, to take a stand on behalf of this island home of ours and ensure those who deserve condemnation are condemned and those who deserve congratulations for their work towards peace on this island and the successful police force, be it the Garda Síochána or the PSNI, are congratulated. I will continue to do this in whatever way I can.
Mr. Costello: I, too, support this legislation. The establishment of formal links, ties and co-operation with another police force on this island is a milestone. It is a unique development that members of the Garda Síochána may be seconded to serve under the Chief Constable of the PSNI, with all the rights, duties and powers being exercised by him in another jurisdiction. The only difference is that pay and pension conditions will remain in this jurisdiction, and vice versa in respect of members of the PSNI serving under the Garda Síochána in the Republic.
It is also a unique development in terms of fulfilling what was envisaged at the start of the peace process and the implementation of the structures agreed in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Following the establishment of the independent policing commission, chaired by Chris Patten, and the subsequent Patten report, very important decisions were taken on the basis that  unless the questions of security and policing were correctly addressed it would be very difficult to maintain a successful peace process.
The Good Friday Agreement refers to North-South co-operation and the development of North-South bodies. The Bill is the ultimate manifestation of progress in this area. The Weston Park discussions and the intergovernmental agreement between this country and United Kingdom last year made specific provision for the appointment and secondment of members of the PSNI and the Garda Síochána. The Bill is the legislative outcome of these developments.
The Minister referred to the discussions on 1 May regarding acts of completion. The strand of policing which began in 1998 has continued in all of the major intergovernmental meetings. Second Stage of the Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Bill was debated in the Seanad yesterday. The Bill envisages a similar type of co-operation, not necessarily with the same structures, in the European Union to deal with matters such as trans-national and cross-border activities in dealing with criminal offences.
The question of structures is very important in the process of implementing what was agreed on Good Friday 1998. It is important that all of the areas covered are addressed. Progress has been made on political matters in terms of the British-Irish Parliamentary Body and North-South co-operation. Progress has also been made in economic areas in terms of cross-Border co-operative activities. Various Departments are now co-operating strongly. There is also co-operation on social, educational and cultural activities.
Last, but by no means least, there is co-operation on the question of policing, probably one of the most crucial areas for co-operation. Unless a community is prepared to accept a police body in which all traditions feel they are represented, outstanding problems will not be resolved and will continue to fester. That is the nub of the problem at present.
The macro situation has been addressed in that many of the required structures have been put in place. However, there continues to be considerable community unrest and an absence of full acceptance of the existing police force in the North, the PSNI. There is also a considerable degree of paramilitary activity on both sides of the divide. There continues to be a high rate of punishment beatings with sections of the community continuing to take the law into their own hands. In addition, certain other activities continue, including smuggling, drug pushing and trafficking and cross-Border activities contrary to the kind envisaged by this legislation.
Such activities cannot be tolerated in a peace process if that process is to be meaningful. There cannot be an independent army or police force and there must be an acceptance of structures in which people will participate. It is an integral part  of the peace process that this be done. It will involve pain on a number of sides, but all steps must be taken to ensure it is done.
It is a shame that the Assembly elections have had to be postponed twice. Democracy cannot wait. In this regard the Government and the SDLP rightly opposed the postponement of the elections. They cannot be postponed at the behest of one political party which does not consider that the time is right to hold them. Once this begins to happen it indicates a lack of confidence in the structures that have been established. It is wrong when it appears that one political party in the North has greater influence than others over the British Government and that the British Government should take greater note of its views than those expressed by the Irish Government or the major parties of the other tradition.
Close links have existed in the past between the RUC and the British Army and military intelligence, including MI5 and MI6. Recent revelations indicate the extent of the involvement by the RUC in paramilitary organisations and informers and the degree to which that activity was a licence to kill. That must leave a major question mark over a police force. When such revelations surface, a suffering community will always begin to believe the worst and feel that the police force cannot be trusted.
Questions have also arisen regarding informers within the Garda ranks who seem to have a licence to import drugs because they say their Garda handlers knew about it. Such practices cannot be tolerated in any police force, certainly not where an informer has a licence to kill simply to protect sources. Such issues have arisen in connection with the recent reports on the Stakeknife issue and the Pat Finucane killing. Questions on the degree of involvement by the police force have raised concerns about credibility which will justify those who dig in their heels and refuse to join the PSNI on the basis that they still do not know the extent of the residue of these connections.
We have still not been given answers in regard to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in respect of which there have been allegations of considerable collusion between paramilitaries and British intelligence. It is nearly 30 years since perhaps the worst atrocity of the troubles took place and its anniversary is coming up this week. All sorts of allegations have been made with regard to the murky business of Omagh and the failure to make information available due to the manner in which intelligence services operated. These matters could delay the process of achieving cross-Border police co-operation.
I hope we can put that aside and accept this legislation in the spirit in which it is brought to us. It is a coherent and integral part of the Good Friday Agreement. The Patten report has been valuable and the decision to establish a police  authority was extremely important. We have seen how the authority has operated in Northern Ireland with considerable input from elected representatives. Transparency and effective control by elected representatives has been introduced. The same principle extends to the operation of the Police Service of Northern Ireland in respect of which there is a degree of accountability at local level by local authorities. It is important to have this principle of drip-down accountability in any police force in the country. With the establishment of the independent ombudsman we have a body and a structure which can hold the police force accountable.
The package of proposals for the new police force in Northern Ireland is second to none and I would welcome the introduction of such a package here. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform says he will do great things in that regard and I would like to see similar mechanisms introduced in terms of structures and the level of accountability and transparency. An independent policing commission made the proposals and I give my full support to their implementation throughout the island. We should examine the matter carefully.
To get down to the nitty gritty, one of the proposals in the legislation before the House seeks to address disciplinary matters. The process is cumbersome since the Minister seeks to give to the Chief Constable powers of authority over people who are seconded to serve in the police force in Northern Ireland, without ceding the power to discipline. Powers of investigation into disciplinary matters are given, but powers of action to implement disciplinary proceedings are not. If similar disciplinary mechanisms and an ombudsman were in place, if we got rid of the outdated Garda complaints mechanism and took on board the complaints mechanism in Northern Ireland, we could get rid of the cumbersome provisions of the Bill which raise all sorts of problems. What will happen if someone is investigated within six months of taking up a position and is found to be in breach of discipline? The law says we will approve of recommendations, but nothing can be done until the term, perhaps three years, of the secondment is over. Will such a person be given full permission to serve in the force even though he or she has been investigated and found wanting?
We need a tighter provision in respect of discipline and the two police forces must co-operate in that regard. If we could bring forward some provisions of the Garda Bill the Minister has spoken of, we could eliminate some of the cumbersome elements of the provisions in this Bill. We do not know what is in the proposed legislation, but we hope for great things.
What are the provisions in respect of firearms? The Garda is an unarmed force and it is not part of its code of conduct or operations to carry  weapons as a matter of course. The PSNI is an armed body. Presumably, an officer coming from the Northern jurisdiction would be subject to our unarmed code which implies that gardaí who have sworn an oath to uphold the law without arms will be armed for the duration of their service in Northern Ireland. Will they receive training in the use of weapons? If so, it will represent a sea change in their service. Again, the Bill is silent on a matter which changes dramatically the nature of policing carried out by members of the Garda.
The provision which allows members of each force above the rank of inspector to apply for positions in the ranks of the other is important. I hope it will represent a valuable levelling process of bringing people who have achieved a certain level of seniority in one force into the other. It will enable such people to bring their skills in a particular method of policing to the other force with beneficial operational effects. It is to be hoped that in the long-term the culture of unarmed activity which has operated in this jurisdiction since the foundation of the State comes to the fore and results in an unarmed police force in Northern Ireland also.
There have already been a number of co-operative activities. We have mentioned before the football match which took place in Parnell Park and the first annual conference in Templemore between the Garda and the PSNI. Far more serious levels of co-operation are necessary. A significant amount of criminal activity is taking place in both parts of this island, some of which is terrorist related and some of which is drug related. The co-operation of police forces in both jurisdictions is of particular importance in addressing these matters. Credibility is the most important thing of all in a police force. Being able to see uniformed police on the streets, who are easily identifiable and have the confidence of the community, is the way forward in all circumstances. We must recognise that neither crime nor criminals recognise borders. Likewise, police co-operation, whether it is between Northern Ireland and the Republic or between Ireland and any number of EU countries, should be as strong as possible. As an island, Ireland is vulnerable to crime from outside the State along its huge border with the sea as well as that between North and South.
Therefore, a co-operative approach is extremely important and, whether we like it or not, we must have a police service in Northern Ireland which is accepted as part of the structures that arise from the Good Friday Agreement. Some groups may not be able to accept it at present but it is inevitable. If it is not accepted, the Good Friday Agreement cannot be implemented because the question of security and policing is at the heart of confidence and par ticipation in the community. However, it must be seen to be representative of all of the traditions on the island and to be accountable and transparent. The levelling process that will come about from the Garda being part and parcel of the PSNI through secondment, recruitment and appointment at senior level, will assist in quelling the fears of people who are concerned about the new PSNI.
This Bill is an important step in the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the Green Party supports it. The Green Party, North and South, supports the implementation of the measures in this Bill on an operational level. There has already been a considerable delay in bringing about the measures contained in the Bill, which is regrettable. It is annoying to hear from UK Government sources that they are not able to make as much progress as they would like in terms of reforming the Police Service of Northern Ireland due to delays they cite as being the responsibility of the Irish Government.
The hope in this debate is that this Bill will see sufficient measures put in place to allow secondment to take place, rather than further delays being presented as other issues are thrown up which have not been taken into account in this legislation. I seek the Minister's reassurance that we will see the matter progressed after this Bill is passed and that it is not one of a number of Bills which still needs to be considered by way of regulations.
There is no doubt that all is not well. There are many imperfections in the police services on both sides of the Border and list of serious accusations regarding collusion is outstanding. Nevertheless, many Nationalists have joined the PSNI and their courage, in the face of such unresolved issues, is to be commended and their expectations of reforms should not be dashed. It should focus the attention of both Governments on making sure that the Patten recommendations are fully implemented and that there is no break in the momentum.
The spirit of the Patten report is also needed south of the Border. The Chief Constable of the PSNI made it known that he needs this legislation. He needs senior ranking officers to be seconded from other jurisdictions in order that he can carry out his work against the challenges facing him. Equal urgency needs to be brought to bear on the implementation of those recommendations south of the Border. Night after night, we hear reconstructions of the Abbeylara investi gation and it is difficult to listen to, given the loss of life that took place. There is also the issue of the regrettable and counterproductive police measures employed during the “reclaim the streets” fiasco last year, which did not enamour the police service to many civilians, and which is still unresolved. Many of the reforms need to be faced up to on both sides of the Border and, hopefully, this Bill will increase the momentum towards that.
Equally, there are inconsistencies which are difficult to resolve north of the Border. The police ombudsman's position is something which is being called for south of the Border, yet here we are talking about a Garda inspectorate and the Government is telling us that it is more or less the same thing. In the eyes of the public, it is not the same thing and, unless the Garda has the full confidence of the public, we will have a problem. We should face up to the need for similar structures south as well as north of the Border in terms of the ombudsman position.
We also need to come to terms with the promise of an extra 2,000 gardaí. This legislation refers to the secondment of members of the Garda Síochána to the North, as well as the other way around. Despite the lack of resources in my own constituency, in places such as Lusk and Oberstown – and I had a complaint about the lack of Garda resources in Clonmel – gardaí are on escorting duty. They are being taken away from their normal duties and one could argue we cannot spare gardaí for secondment, although we are referring to senior ranking gardaí. Nevertheless, there is a lack of resources which needs to be dealt with.
Section 5 of the Bill relates to disciplinary action. Questions need to be answered regarding the time lapse between a charge of malpractice and the disciplinary action. Where do the officers stay? Do they stay where they are seconded or are they taken back? These questions may well be raised by way of amendment.
The issue of collusion is even more pronounced now than it was a week ago, due to the weekend newspaper reports. There is a need to know that British military espionage in Northern Ireland has ended. That assurance must be secured from the British Government so that we can move on and ensure that all intelligence gathering is done through the police rather than the military. There is a clear and important difference in what is being said here.
I hope the Government has received assurances from the British Government that it will deploy police intelligence and not military intelligence to fight crime. A debate is ongoing on in the Northern Policing Board on how sensitive information is to be dealt with. There is to be a representative sub-group to adjudicate on the sensitivity of information. Something similar is probably  needed south of the Border – Vincent Browne regularly reminds us about Seán O'Callaghan and his role. These are issues that are still in the public mind and need to be resolved.
There is also a need for inquiries. We often deal with this during Taoiseach's Question Time; whether we resolve it is another matter, but we certainly air the issues of the many outstanding inquiries. There are so many inquiries now needed and demanded that the question arises of whether there should be an omnibus of inquiries. Perhaps we should move on to the South African model of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to deal with matters North and South. This Saturday is the 29th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and there are still many outstanding issues related to this.
How well screened are members of both police forces? In the South, people will have questions about the PSNI and some of its long-standing members if they are to be offered secondment to the Garda Síochána. I have heard that there will be attempts to delay this matter; that members of one or other police service will hold out for pensions or other gratifications. The Government must state to us, as well as to the public, whether this matter will be dealt with through this legislation. I see similarities to the arrangement whereby members of the Garda work in Kosovo, for example. They go there, do their jobs and come back. It does not seem to affect pension rights or anything else, and it should be spelled out clearly that this is along the same lines and that there is no further need for negotiation. The legislation is badly needed and has been for a long time. We should get on with it.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh: It was my hope that when the Garda Síochána (Police Co-Operation) Bill came before the House it would be in the context of a fundamental positive change in policing structures, practice and culture on this island. It was also my hope that ordinary Irish citizens who have been to the forefront of pressing for police reform, together with Sinn Féin, could say that their daily experience of policing had changed utterly and for the better. This is not yet a reality.
Dá mbeadh sin fíor, chuirfinn fáilte roimh an Bhille seo mar bheadh sé mar an chéad chéim i dtreo poilínteacht ar an dá chuid den oileán a nascadh le chéile, proiséas a theastaíonn uainn leis an an oileán seo – forsa poilínteacht amháin leis an chaighdeán is airde maidir le ceartaí daonna a chuirfeadh an dhlí i bhfeidhm ar bhunús chothrom do gach uile saoránach in Éirinn aontaithe. Cé gur mhaith le Sinn Féin tacaíocht a thabhairt do Bhille mar seo, ag an am seo ní féidir linn.
The bottom line is that this measure is important, but it is entirely premature and will be seen as a distraction from the ongoing debate about the PSNI, lending respectability to it and  exonerating it, in its present and past incarnations, of its human rights abuses. It would not be appropriate for this House to enact the Bill until such time as a proper policing service is established in the Six Counties, one that, at the very least, fully reflects the Patten recommendations. Sinn Féin regards these as a compromise, an absolute minimum standard. They are not at all the ultimate guide to creating the world-class police service to which we aspire, and which Irish citizens deserve. What we have in the PSNI does not even meet the Patten threshold. Just as Sinn Féin cannot sit on the policing board for this reason, neither can we support this Bill. I urge Members not to fall into the SDLP trap of setting their sights too low and settling too soon for too little.
Let us look at the implementation of the Patten report to date. The Patten commission made 175 recommendations. The Mandelson Bill of 2000 explicitly rejected 89 of those recommendations. Only 11 Patten recommendations were definitively adopted. Due to the deliberately vague and imprecise nature of this Bill and its implementation plan, it is impossible to determine the status of 75 of the recommendations. Despite subsequent amendments, the Police Act 2000 needs significant further amendment to bring it into conformity with the Patten report. The British Government has acknowledged this since the 2001 Weston Park talks.
Deputies should not be confused by the fact that the SDLP broke the broad Nationalist consensus by joining the police force on foot of a still outstanding promise that the Patten report would be fully implemented. The fact that we have yet to achieve implementation of the Patten report is one reason that this Bill cannot be supported at this time. I urge Members of this House planning to support this Bill to reconsider that support in light of recent events. The British Government has not only suspended the Assembly, a democratically elected institution, but it has gone a step further in its interference in the democratic process by cancelling the elections of 29 May, in the face of overwhelming opposition expressed on both sides of this House last week. Perhaps the most important consideration, however, is the recent confirmation in the Stevens report of collusion between the RUC Special Branch and the loyalist death squads. My colleagues will deal with this in more detail later. To support this Bill at this time effectively gives endorsement to the PSNI as it now stands – a cosmetically reconstructed RUC, with the wholly discredited special branch intact, complete with serving officers who have been involved in collusion, murder and human rights abuses. This is a bridge too far.
This Bill wrongly presumes that the much needed police reforms are complete. I draw Members' attention to section 2, subsections (3)  and (4) of the Bill, which set out eligibility requirements for members of the PSNI to serve with the Garda Síochána. It lists equivalent qualifications including experience and rank and specifies a merit-based selection process, but nowhere does it explicitly set out procedures for screening for past involvement in human rights abuses in the course of duty, nor indicate that eligibility will be predicated on human rights training or skills improvement. Indeed, given the history of policing in Northern Ireland, human rights training should be a minimum requirement for members of the Garda Síochána so that they may eventually serve in an acceptable policing service in the North. Not a single line of this Bill mentions human rights standards and this in itself is a fundamental flaw.
There is nothing in this Bill to stop internationally discredited special branch officers from serving in this State. There is also nothing to screen out serving officers of the PSNI who are subject to investigation or legal proceedings in relation to abuse of powers. This cannot be allowed to happen and must be explicitly safeguarded against.
We also believe that the passing of this legislation is fundamentally inappropriate until such time as policing and justice powers have been devolved and are no longer vested in a foreign power in a foreign country – an occupying power. Full justice and full self-determination for the people of Ireland demand bringing policing back under local democratic control and shaping it as an effective, trusted community service, not as a tool of oppression and sectarianism. At a minimum, policing and justice power must be devolved to the Assembly, the Executive and the All-Ireland Ministerial Council as an interim prerequisite.
The RUC was the armed wing of unionism. It was sectarian in its make-up and nature. It was routinely involved in collusion with Unionist paramilitaries. It engaged in a shoot to kill policy, intimidated lawyers and operated within the framework of repressive emergency legislation.
The Good Friday Agreement, therefore, promised a new police service that would be impartial, representative, free from partisan political control, efficient, infused with a human rights culture, decentralised and democratically accountable at all levels, but the British response was to gut Patten and to try to convince us that the PSNI is an acceptable substitute for the real change promised. It was not and is not.
Five years on we still need root and branch reform of the policing and justice systems. We need the transfer of powers on policing and justice to the Assembly as an interim measure and we need effective inquiries into the murders of solicitors Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, the Brian Nelson affair and multiple allegations of collusion between the Unionist police force and  Unionist paramilitary groups. What we do not need is premature legislation such as this Bill before the House, which will work at cross purposes to the goal of resolving the policing issue that is so important to all of us on this island. I ask even at this late stage that the Governments delay fully enacting this Bill until such time as there is movement on Patten and until we get what the Irish people voted for when they voted to accept the Good Friday Agreement.
Ms Harkin: Part of any peace process is based on trust and co-operation. It indicates just how far we have travelled along the road to a more peaceful co-existence when in this House we are speaking on a Bill that will provide for the implementation of co-operation between the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland. A few years ago this Bill would be the stuff of illusions. It would belong to the realms of “if only”, yet today it is a reality. As a citizen and public representative, it is encouraging, hopeful and indicates that the future cannot only be different from the past, but perhaps it can be better. No single Bill can ensure that better future, but there are signposts on the way. This is one of them and it is pointing in the right direction.
This Bill will legislatively allow that members of each police service, the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, will be eligible to apply for certain posts in the other police service and can also be seconded with full police powers to the other police service for specified periods. This is a positive and courageous move. It breaks new ground and puts flesh on the bones of the aspiration that will help to provide a more open, accessible, broadly-based and acceptable police force in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland. This legislation cannot guarantee all of those aspirations, but it is a step in that direction.
In this context, we should have a Garda ombudsman in the South with powers similar to those of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. Bearing in mind the most recent serious revelations which indicate the insidious and pervasive influence of certain dark forces which governments may not always control, it is essential that the greatest care must be exercised to ensure that the placing of personnel in the police forces, North and South, does not provide an opportunity for any so-called intelligence service to cause problems and, consequently, impair the progress of the peace process.
There can be mutual enhancement of the capabilities of the two police forces. For example, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, due to the particular circumstances in which it has operated, has developed expertise in certain areas. For example, in the Abbeylara situation, there was expertise available in the PSNI which might have helped to avoid the unfortunate outcome of that  situation. However, in the final analysis, the more the two police services relate to each other, and this new measure will help considerably, the greater will be the opportunity to assist each other. That is in the interest of all of the people on this island.
As an Independent representative on the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, I have on several occasions advocated integrated education as part of an overall response to the situation in Northern Ireland, not because I know it will guarantee instant success, but as a former teacher, I believe that when young people spend time together while going about their daily business, they can reach an understanding that is valuable and they can sometimes learn to accept, and even value, difference and diversity and can recognise the truth in the maxim, “United we stand; divided we fall”. Equally, the co-operation proposed in this legislation has the capability to deliver a more acceptable police service and the potential to strengthen morale by virtue of delivering a better service because ultimately for all of us as citizens an equitable, just, fair and acceptable police service is a basic requirement.
I watched a video in the audio visual room of the Dáil along with 50 students from Mercy College in Sligo, my former school. This video outlines the history of the Dáil from the early 1990s and a visible thread running through it was the history of the peace process. Albert Reynolds, Dick Spring, the late Gordon Wilson, Deputy John Bruton, the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, the former President Clinton and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, were some of the images on the screen and I also recognise that many others who contributed centrally to the peace process were not on that video. The words of Tony Blair still resound in my mind. He said, “We have come too far to turn back.” Indeed, we have. I believe that today we are turning a corner on that road. I commend this Bill to the House and give it my full support.
Mr. Connolly: One of the principal aims of the Patten commission under the chairmanship of the EU Commissioner, Chris Patten, was to engage in the aggiornamento of the former RUC, which we all agree was in urgent need of a major root and branch overhaul and a decided change of direction. The Patten commission set about this task with a will and recommended sweeping changes to the former RUC, not least of which was a change of name, insignia and the revolutionary measure of cross-secondment between the two police services.
In order to make the new PSNI more representative of the two communities in Northern Ireland, recruitment was weighted on a 50:50 basis and initial responses have been disappointing with the lack of Nationalist confidence evident. Accordingly, the cross-fertilisation of  both police services should mark a major step forward in increasing mutual respect for the Garda and the PSNI in the eyes of the publics they serve. However, the involvement in the Troubles of undercover agents such as Fulton, Nelson and the latterly unmasked “Stakeknife”, will have to be seriously addressed before public confidence in the brave new world of policing on the island of Ireland can be solidified.
The level of criminal activity which has spiralled in recent years, the importation of drugs and the requirements of the road traffic control are merely some of the various areas where police co-operation will come into its own with mutual benefits accruing to both sides. The recently introduced penalty points legislation is a case in point where similar criteria should apply in both jurisdictions and points should apply to offending drivers, North and South. This would result in a further reduction in the number of road traffic fatalities.
Recent events such as joint attendance of the PSNI Chief Constable and the Garda Commissioner at respective passing out parades and the football challenges between the two police teams are further evidence of the mutual respect and friendship which already exists between them. In the past, officers serving in a variety of British constabularies were appointed to senior positions in the former RUC. Among them is the current Chief Constable, Hugh Orde. The joint opening of senior positions to gardaí and PSNI officers with equivalence of recognition of training courses will mark a further step on the road to cohesion of policing on the island.
Policemen and women from both services who participate in this secondment will be the principal purveyors of mutual understanding in the communities and largely instrumental in helping to build bridges between North and South and within the respective communities. I am aware that members of the Garda Síochána and the PSNI have served with distinction in policing missions in Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia as part of the OSCE operation in the Balkans.
Both police services have gained invaluable experience while training in US police departments in a number of cities. PSNI officers and gardaí have participated in joint training courses in the respective training colleges. It will be possible for young people to identify with gardaí on secondment in the North, thus enhancing respect for what may previously have been perceived as an alien police force.
I welcome the Bill as sending out positive signals to both communities in the North and both parts of the island. Positive results will flow from this level of co-operation to both parts of the island with the growth of mutual respect and confidence for both police services among the public.
Cecilia Keaveney: Tá áthas mór orm cúpla focal a rá faoin mBille stairiúil seo. We often speak of historic days. This is a unique day. I am glad to be able to contribute to the debate on the Bill and see the various issues addressed under the Good Friday Agreement, including policing, and the aims everyone had at the time being implemented. It is important that there will be a formalised link in this legislation between the Garda Síochána and the PSNI. I hope the Bill will result in improved crime prevention and detection and more effective apprehension of offenders in both jurisdictions.
The Patten report made 175 recommendations, nine of which specifically related to co-operation with the Garda Síochána. It is important the Government shows where it wants to go. We could wait forever for situations to be ideal. The question is when will they become ideal. Should we go ahead instead and take the lead? It is important we welcome the Bill because it will bring a balance into the community and senior ranks in the police service.
Given that the enactment of the legislation is a key measure in implementing the policing principles within the Good Friday Agreement and the Patten report, I want to see it improving the level of cross-community confidence, especially confidence in the impartiality of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland. There is no doubt that this will be difficult to achieve. There is a great deal of history. Members have already alluded to Brian Nelson, Stakeknife and others. A great deal of history must be overcome but unless we make a start, when will we ever reach the position to which we aspire? In this regard, this day is historic.
We must take on board that this legislation will lead to gardaí at some ranks working on an all-Ireland basis and facilitate the PSNI in working alongside the Garda. If someone had said to me when I first went to college in Belfast in 1986 that we would have a peace process, a new police service, significantly fewer killings and maimings, much more practical co-operation between local authorities on both sides of the Border and similar levels of co-operation between community groups, I would not have believed him or her, yet it has happened. There are practical examples in many parts of the province in which I live. For example, the car ferry crossing the Foyle linking counties Antrim and Donegal carried 198,000 passengers in the first six months. This may possibly offend many in Derry city because Donegal folk now go directly to County Antrim rather than through Derry. It is probably doing the same the other way around.
In terms of community groups, Farcet links people from the Shankill Road with those in Inishowen. When I met them in Belfast recently, they asked me would I have ever believed that I would be in a position to see the two groups  working hand in hand so well with common goals. Every time they seek assistance from funding agencies or others, they are asked what the Shankill Road and Inishowen have in common. On face value, perhaps it is not a lot but if one examines and works at it, it will be seen that they have much in common and in need of resolution. That is the case for all communities.
This is not to say life in Ulster is rosy. It has a long way to go but has also come a long way. It is important to use every opportunity to commend the successes as well as be aware of what yet remains to be achieved. I remember the small things, the inconveniences, such as being stopped at the door of the larger shops and shopping centres waiting to be searched before going in; sitting in a queue at one of the many Border checkpoints on a Sunday night hoping the delay would not leave me late for the bus back to college in Belfast; having the bus return to its base after bricks came through the windows on certain nights, especially after marches, and wondering when or if we might reach our destination safely; walking around Derry and being very aware of, but taking as normal, the huge army presence amid the community which was about its regular business; and walking through Belfast to get the bus or train to Derry to hear, on arrival in Derry, that some of the very buildings I had passed by were blown up and I had just missed being caught up in the incident by minutes.
I remember the stories of how my late grandfather's pub was blown up in the early 1970s and knowing the devastating blow that that was for him and his family. I remember the time he and my grandmother, when they were in their late 70s-early 80s, were held at gunpoint in their home and their car – my grandfather's pride and joy – was taken and the trauma that was for them.
These are incidental points and not huge compared with the inconvenience, discommoding, terror and the many other words one can use to relate the horror people endured over the past 30 years on many different fronts, so much of which has become history. It is with great clarity I recall the first time I drove through the Culmore checkpoint and realised there were no soldiers present, although they had been that morning. With great clarity I recall my sense of concern and pure fear as I finally drove on without having been given the formal approval I was so conditioned to receiving. With a sense of optimism I have often thought of the number of children at primary school and going into secondary school in places such as the Creggan, where I taught, who never saw those days and I trust will never see them in the future.
It is time to put the past behind us and move on, something I know is easier to say than do. A great deal of history is involved. Some might say it is recent history. If that is the case, it needs to be dealt with. It is important to me that the Bor der continues to blur and that locations such as the north-west proceed and progress in the only way they can, namely, in unity and harmony.
We have faced the same difficulties to different degrees through our geographical location – from the traditional east--west bias that occurs on the island of Ireland through to the external perception of the “danger” of coming into the north-west with either a tourist or business venture. We have much shared history to overcome and many infrastructural deficiencies to remedy and the solutions lie in our working together. Inishowen has recently been traumatised by the decline of the textile industry which has also happened in Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh. The loss of Desmonds in the recent past has shown that we have the same difficulties in maintaining and gaining any sort of employment opportunities other than in the textile industry.
This Bill expands the formal links between the new PSNI and the Garda Síochána to yield real co-operation on the ground. The old gut reaction and old memories of what the RUC name provoked from very many Nationalists and republicans will take time to overcome but it is up to us all to ensure that the PSNI evolves into an organisation of all the people for all the people. It is vital that everyone respects and trusts their police force. This can only be achieved by the participation of all sections of the people to ensure that true community policing can be achieved. Confidence building will take time but I am sure that for some, the Garda moving into all parts of the island will also cause unease for some elements.
I am speaking in the debate on this Bill because I am a public representative for Donegal North-East and the issue of cross-Border crime remains high on the agenda particularly for Border towns and villages. I want to see a blurring of the Border as crime does not recognise borders and I believe criminals should not be harboured or facilitated by partitionist mentalities.
Donegal has had many murders and experienced crimes such as minor robbery. I remember people such as Breege Porter and Oliver Boyce who were murdered in Birdstown, Burnfoot, County Donegal on 1 January 1973. A number of years later, councillor Eddie Fullerton was murdered in Buncrana. Many minor robberies have been committed over the years and there have often been proven or unproven connections of a cross-Border nature. Some work has been happening in respect of co-operation and sharing of information and this has yielded, in some cases, results in the form of returned goods and-or convictions. In other cases, the Border has proven a safety net for some offenders and therefore the expansion of co-operative measures, in my opinion, has a huge potential for good in my constituency.
Types of crime and types of criminals do not vary much internationally. There are many com mon threads and much shared psychology. The Garda Síochána has its own experience and specialist knowledge as mentioned by other speakers and I note the criminal assets legislation and the effect that has had on tackling the “big guy”, for want of a better expression. I think of how much of the extortion rackets in the Six Counties could be tackled should the experience of the Garda and the legislation of the Republic expand into or be enacted there. Similarly, the Police Service in Northern Ireland will have its own expertise and special focus from which we too can learn. Last weekend I travelled from Coleraine to Belfast and passed seven separate patrols checking for speeding over this relatively short distance. This is not something seen in Donegal or on any other stretch of road that I have travelled for quite some time.
Cecilia Keaveney: I was far from hallucinating because there was a special event on that day because I counted more than 1,500 motorbikes. There were at least three patrol cars and three separate motorcycle patrols. Whatever about the three cameras we have, they were putting the resources where they thought problems could arise. The cross-fertilisation of ideas and approaches to crime can yield a better standard of living for all communities on our island.
There are resource implications attached to any Bill. We all have our own issues about Garda numbers in any given location. My sister's car was stolen in Belfast recently. The police there told her that they, too, were under pressure through lack of manpower. We seem to have common problems in that regard. I have difficulties in relation to the Garda numbers and Garda visibility in lnishowen that I have documented in many fora over the years. In 1980, the Garda strength in the Buncrana district was 103; now in 2003 we have 77 gardaí with a number of others due to return.
I received a letter recently from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform regarding my belief that the Border Garda stations are disappearing in terms of numbers of personnel. While this letter states that gardaí are not disappearing from rural stations in Inishowen, I take issue with that. The reason given for the drop in numbers is that of the changed needs of the Border. The threat to the Border regions may have changed post the Good Friday Agreement but Border crime, in my opinion, has not decreased and could be said to have increased given that the there is an economic boom in my area, particularly because of the difference in petrol and diesel prices. The dormant villages are now on  the other side of the Border and we have gained from the changes.
While I welcome an initiative set up by the Garda in Donegal to have a special unit to assist in fighting the particular problems facing Border businesses in places such as Muff, Bridgend and Lifford due to the petrol and diesel price differential, I worry about the strength of the force in the Buncrana district.
Muff is a very busy Border village whose population has increased by some 200% in just a couple of years and has a very high turnover in the mainly fuel-generated businesses located there. Figures supplied by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform state that this village is served by just one Garda sergeant and two gardaí. Given that there are four shifts in a day, we can imagine what stress that puts on these members of the force. Their plight is undermined further by the lack of a Garda station. It took the Office of Public Works two years to complete the purchase of a house and it looks like it could be months more before it becomes a station. The speed of progress is simply unacceptable and unfair. As this village is a focal access to and from Derry, cross-Border activity – of which there is plenty – leaves this community vulnerable and the Garda have relied on co-operation with the police in Derry to apprehend perpetrators and recover goods.
In the past two weeks, a Garda car was rammed in a chase in Bridgend caused by cross-Border crime. This village is served by the station in Burnfoot. Despite the burglaries and the ongoing incursions, to borrow a phrase, we are threatened with closure of the station at night. This would be more acceptable if we could see people on the ground at night. We have eight stations in Inishowen and six of those are no longer open at night. I remind the Minister that I was told officially in October 2002 that there is only one vehicle, sometimes two, on patrol in Inishowen. There are officially eight members of the Garda on duty on Sundays in the peninsula, despite it being a social focal point for many people in Derry and even County Antrim. It is a bit like saying that there are only three speed cameras in the whole country, even saying that can cause more problems than it solves because people do not believe they will be caught and they take the gamble.
Cecilia Keaveney: I cannot remain quiet as a local public representative for Donegal North East when I see a lack of visibility and what appears to be a lack of numbers of our basic security force. Without co-operation from across the Border in the recent past, we would be in an even more serious situation than that in which we  currently find ourselves. Co-operation has been a vital support, regardless of whether people realise it. I ask the Minister to assist me in setting up some forum with the commissioner so that I can relay to him the facts and statistics coming from both the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and his office. I am not particularly proud of these statistics.
I come from an area which includes Buncrana. People spoke about the atrocities which have not been resolved. I knew Rosemary Nelson very well and I am familiar with the families of some of the children blown up in the Omagh bomb. It is important that co-operation at every level continues in order to ensure that those responsible for the older atrocities, including the Omagh bombing, are brought to justice.
On a lighter note, someone mentioned the unification of the penalty points system, a development it would be possible to achieve. There has been a great deal of co-operation in the north-west on many cross-Border issues. I wish the Executive was in place and that the elections had proceeded. The fact that they did not go ahead is a great drawback for me in Donegal. While we are debating legislation to increase co-operation, I reiterate that we cannot move in respect of legislation on the Foyle because the Executive is not in place. We must bypass the Executive and get the British Government to update the legislation on the Foyle. There are problems in regard to roads, rail, gas, broadband and electricity – including the issue of a wind farm. All these matters could be advanced significantly if the Executive was in place. As stated previously, we have worked with Ministers of every political shade to try to advance cross-Border co-operation. Local interaction achieves results and, therefore, I would like to see the Executive in place as soon as possible. It is important to advance the issues to which I have referred.
Moving personnel from one police service to another so that people can work in co-operation is very important and the resources for this must be put in place. It will not undermine the co-operation which is currently taking place. A lot of good work is being done by the Garda and at cross-Border level in my area. I would like this to operate as positively as possible. I agree with screening people engaged in either police force to try to establish their background.
This is an historic and important Bill which builds on the relationship between the British and Irish Governments and all the other parties to the Good Friday Agreement. As previous speakers said, Garret FitzGerald was vilified for this principle in the 1970s just as Collins was vilified for his principles in the 1920s. When ideas are first mooted, they take a considerable period to perco late down to communities and, in particular, to some political parties.
Everyone can have confidence in the Bill. It is about having confidence, North and South, in the system of justice that obtains and in the police forces that will uphold the laws in both jurisdictions. It is not just the issue of a united Ireland, but one of a unity of purpose between North and South, even though it is a unity we in the South would ultimately like to see. It will be an historic and important day, the arrival of which we must encourage, when both communities in the North have confidence in the police force. The Bill will help us flesh out some thoughts on the issues concerned.
The recent question of “Stakeknife” has created much comment and concern in my constituency in County Louth. It reflects memories of when people in County Louth were tortured and savagely murdered by paramilitary organisations. People expressed to me this week their deep concerns about these events which happened not so long ago. One point which has been made very strongly is that all this must end. The fact that the IRA has been on ceasefire for five years and that Sinn Féin in the South and North has made political gains is welcome. However, one further step must be made. It has been brought to mind again this week that there must be an end to all paramilitary activities, including gun-running and targeting people, North and South. I want to stress that if and when that happens, we will have a true unity of purpose, North and South, in terms of working peacefully for our different political aims.
I congratulate Deputy Crawford on his contribution, which was particularly impressive. He spoke about his grandfather and I can talk about my granduncle, who fought with the IRA and then joined the Irish Army. My wife's grandfather was a member of the RIC and later became a member of the Garda Síochána. We can recall the commitment all our families and the different generations have given to their politics and views.
The Bill will ensure that our grandchildren will be able to say that this generation shaped their future, the peace in their country and brought about a unity of purpose – including a unified police force with independent control, North and South. The country is changing radically. As Deputy Deasy said to me earlier, we have come an awful long way in the past 20 years. This is one of the most important points in our history. We must encourage everyone to extend the hand of peace, North and South.
Like Deputy Keaveney, I can speak about my experiences coming from a Border county. When my children were young I would drive across the Border into Newry and they would ask, “Daddy, is this soldier town?” or say “We will go up to soldier town”, because there were soldiers everywhere. I recall one occasion which was quite  frightening at the time but which, looking back, was actually quite funny. I was travelling across the Border with the late councillor, Micheál O'Donnell, to attend a conference in Donegal. British Army soldiers jumped out of the ditch, pointed their guns at us and asked for our names. I told them my name was Fergus O'Dowd. They then turned to Micheál and asked, “What is your name?”. “Micheál O'Donnell is ainm dom”, a dúirt sé. I said, “God we'll be shot, you're an awful man, Micheál”. The soldier asked us where were we going and I gave him the directions. Micheál gave out to me and asked why I provided the information. I was damn glad to get out of the place. I drove Micheál O'Donnell to Donegal but I did not bring him home again – I left that pleasure to someone else. I thank God that those days are over and that things are progressing so much.
I want to reflect also on gardaí in Border areas. There was a very large Garda presence in Dromad, County Louth. While it had to be there, I am glad it will be significantly reduced and that gardaí will be redeployed from the Border, where they did a fantastic job, to work in our towns and cities where they are so badly needed.
I also remember the members of the Garda who sacrificed their lives during the struggle. In particular, I remember Garda Sergeant Morrissey, from Drogheda, who was murdered in County Louth. It was a tragedy for his family and the community. There is an international association of policemen in Dundalk and I discussed this with its members. I can only speak from my knowledge of the South but mention must be made of the tremendous work, commitment, dedication and patriotism of gardaí during the years, particularly the Troubles. Few people, when they leave home each day for work, think they might never return. It happened to Garda Gerry McCabe and Garda Clerkin. I also remember when Garda Fallon was murdered in the 1970s during the bank raid on the quays. I remember the spot, although it does not appear to be marked by a plaque. I have often looked but as there is a railing, I cannot see it clearly. The Garda has done a fantastic job.
I was most impressed by the Stevens inquiry. Everything is not perfect and the report contains many unanswered questions but I was particularly impressed by Sir John Stevens when he addressed the press conference. The new chief constable in the North is also impressive. Things have changed radically and well. Tony Blair made a significant contribution to the peace process. I cannot relate him in history to any previous Prime Minister. When one reads the history books, Mr. Gladstone comes across well but Tony Blair will probably be a significant and powerful figure in Irish history. I have the greatest respect for him.
On the political front, in the South there has been unity of purpose on this issue. When we say we praise the Government, we are mirroring the views of the people. All parties in the House have been together on this. It is not a politically divisive issue but one where we are acting with the force of history and the unity of our people to bring about these changes. I welcome the Bill and this debate.
Mr. Naughten: I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. It is historic legislation which traces its roots to Garret FitzGerald who, a number of years ago, suggested that there should be closer co-operation between the two police forces, North and South. It is great to see it come about eventually.
It was poignant of Deputy O'Dowd to mention the death of gardaí who were protecting the State and its institutions. They lost their lives serving the State. We should accord them recognition in the context of the debate on this legislation. I hope we will not return to past experiences or see again the huge and tragic loss of life experienced, North and South. County Roscommon experienced a number of incidents and a number of Garda personnel from the county lost their lives. A neighbour, Garda Hand, comes to mind in that regard.
This legislation deals with police co-operation, North and South. It is about unity of purpose between the two jurisdictions. One of the key aims of the Bill is to increase cross-Border co-operation for dealing with crime and enforcing legislation across the Border. However, it does not go far enough in that regard.
A number of speakers mentioned road safety, on which there could be close co-operation between the authorities, North and South. Currently, the penalty points system in the South cannot be applied to the licences of drivers from Northern Ireland or any other jurisdiction. There should be mutual recognition, between Northern Ireland and the Republic, of the system and the benefits that can come from it with regard to road safety. This will require an agreement between the Republic and either the authorities in Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom on the creation of a comparable list of offences and attaching penalty points to them which apply on either side of the Border and can be totalled together. The British-Irish Interparliamentary Body has produced a report on this. It suggests that a person who collects 12 penalty points, regardless of which side of the Border they collected them, be put off the road. We need to be conscious of cross-border co-operation not only with regard to the Border between the North and South but also with continental Europe in the context of the application of the penalty points system.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform was in Brussels on 8 May to agree the principles for the mutual recognition of financial penalties. In a statement following that Council meeting the Minister said that if somebody received a fine for a road traffic offence in the Republic, they could be pursued in the North. However, we really need to see this happen in relation to penalty points also. There is a correlation between the road accident statistics and the fact that Northern drivers coming south of the Border cannot be apprehended. I was speaking last evening with a former Member of the House, Brendan McGahon, who lives north of Dundalk on the Dundalk-Newry road. He has told me he has never seen a speed trap on that section of the road. The reason is that it is pointless for gardaí to do so because the people they catch are from Northern Ireland and cannot be pursued. This is something that must be examined.
There are also continental European drivers on our roads who sometimes drive on the wrong side of the road and become involved in road traffic accidents. In fact, 15% of all accidents happen on the wrong side of the road. In other words, one car is on the wrong side of the road. Nearly 12% of all accidents involve a foreign driver. The figures in relation to the North and the United Kingdom show that 3.6% of fatal and injury accidents involve either Northern Ireland or UK drivers in cars. However, this increases to 5.7% in the case of heavy goods vehicles. The big statistic relates to heavy goods vehicles coming from Northern Ireland. A total of 4.5% of all fatal and injury accidents on Irish roads involve a Northern driver of a heavy goods vehicle. This will bring to mind the accident in September 1998 when two children and three adults were killed in a head on collision in County Wicklow when a lorry ploughed into their minibus. In that case the driver was prosecuted.
There is a mindset among Northern drivers that once they cross the Border, they are free. I was talking to a friend recently who lives in Belfast and often travels to Dublin. He has told me that until he reaches the Border and sees the sign welcoming people to County Louth, he watches the speedometer because he can have penalty points attached to his licence. As soon as he reaches that sign, however, “I put the boot to the floor from there to Dublin.” That is the attitude of all Northern drivers when they travel south of the Border. The statistics show that 4.5% of all accidents which result in somebody being hospitalised involve a heavy goods vehicle from the North of Ireland.
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