Dáil Éireann - Volume 236 - 29 October, 1968
Committee on Finance. - Vote 20—Office of the Minister for Justice (Resumed).
Debate resumed on the following motion:
That a sum not exceeding £292,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1969, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Justice, and of certain other Services administered  by that Office, including a Grant-in-Aid; and of the Public Record Office, and of the Keeper of State Papers and for the purchase of Historical Documents, etc. —(Minister for Justice).
Mr. M. O'Leary Mr. M. O'Leary
Mr. M. O'Leary: I was saying that despite some of the reforms that have taken place in the prison service, in general the detention service is in need of what I would call a facelift. It is in need of a completely new approach on the part of the State to the grading of the personnel in the service and to the kind of training they should undergo. We should inaugurate, as we have done in the case of the Garda Síochána, a general introductory training course for those who join what I would prefer to call the detention service rather than the prison service. We should have a general course for those who wish to become members of the State detention service. We should have a completely new approach to both the training and the status of that service. Although there have been some improvements there is still a tendency to regard the person working in the detention service as little better than what he was in other days, namely the keeper of the criminal classes who are doomed to remain in that state for ever, to regard him merely as their keeper on behalf of society. That tendency still lingers on in some official quarters.
I recall putting a question to the Minister for Justice some months ago — I cannot recall who was the Minister then; there have been so many changes made by this Government that we should be forgiven for not remembering the names of Ministers of the day — asking him whether we were going to make any arrangements in the city whereby officers in the detention service could attend the appropriate university level courses to keep them up-to-date in any aspect of criminology or in any other area in which they should have refresher courses. I cannot remember the exact reply but I got the impression from the Minister then that the idea of an officer in the detention service attending a university in any capacity was some kind of heresy and that it was totally inappropriate to the training and grading of these  officials. From the Minister downwards we must change our ideas about the people in the detention service. In view of the duties and responsibilities given to them today by society, and in view of our changed attitude to the whole question of criminals in custody — the fact that we believe such persons can be rehabilitated and in many cases made into useful citizens in society—the people who help in this process must be regarded as being on a pretty responsible level. As such officers are given the task of helping to rehabilitate people in custody and ensuring that once again they become useful citizens, it is important that we should approach their occupations and conditions in the detention service with great seriousness.
Regrettably the old attitude in regard to the single officer in the service still persists and he is still forced, because of a ridiculous convention, to return to the detention centre each evening by 11.30 p.m. It does not seem to me that we are going the right way about attracting the right type of young person to this branch of the public service when we have this ridiculous convention still operating. I do not know whether some people in the Department of Justice understand some of the present day social habits of young people today but it could be said at the very least that they do not include being home each night at 11.30. We would certainly be putting a great handicap on the material prospects of any young man today if we said that he must return home each evening by 11.30 p.m. This rule should be abolished as quickly as possible. In addition, we should change immediately the requirement whereby the single person in the service is required to have quarters within the confines of the prison itself, within the detention centre.
As I said, in 1968 it should be possible for us to imitate other more enlightened countries such as the Scandinavian countries, or Britain, or even that part of our country where, whatever their failures may be in other directions, they are more enlightened in this regard. In Northern Ireland they allow single officers to live out. If  a young man is in the service it should not be considered part of the job that he should be regarded as a member of the overall security services of the detention centre. This is what is implied by the requirement that he should return to the detention service by 11.30 p.m. This is unfair to the individual and we should allow him to live out wherever this is possible. If he does find accommodation outside we should not insist on the other part of this ridiculous convention, that £1 a week should be deducted from his salary for the accommodation provided within the centre. That rule should also go.
I hope that the next time we come to consider this Estimate, whoever will be here holding the seal of office, we will see that changes have been made in regard to these matters. I cannot see any reason why this rule should be allowed to continue. In addition, as part of the general boost to morale in the service, we should consider improving the quality of the uniform. It is often thought that the duties of an officer in the detention service are confined in their operations and take place behind the prison walls but it should be remembered that like the Garda Síochána the officers in the detention service have to meet members of the public and they may have to spend a considerable amount of time escorting people who have been detained to the courts. Therefore, they should have a certain smartness in their appearance in order to keep up the standard of the service. At present a man may come off fatigue work and be expected to accompany someone in custody to the courts. If we are looking at the question of uniforms the matter of better quality cloth should be considered, a quality better able to stand up to wear. We should also consider the possibility of a more frequent issue of uniforms and that issue should include, as in the case of the Garda Síochána, the issue of shirts and so on, because this is an integral part of the uniform. It is important that an officer's appearance should be smart at all times and this would help in that direction.
 We should, too, have a look at the position in which many servants of the State find themselves when they retire. A number of problems arise for those who have given their best years to the service of the State. They are faced with the problem of finding housing accommodation on an already overcrowded market. What help can be given to these people? The accommodation available is severely limited. It is not a sufficient answer to say that a man's gratuity should suffice to enable him to provide himself with housing accommodation. I would ask the Minister to have a look at this problem to see what can be done. We cannot just sweep the problem under a mat and say that, once a man retires, he is no longer our problem. We must make amends now for our years of neglect where these people are concerned. Their numbers are small. There is no publicity attaching to their work and they, therefore, have difficulty in airing their grievances. They have been neglected and it is time, even at this late stage, that we made amends.
Some consideration will, I hope, be given to the suggestions I have made. I trust every step will be taken to obliterate the remnants of Victorianism attaching to the detention service. As public representatives, we should all make it our business to visit these detention centres and report on conditions in them. I trust that the process of improvement already initiated by the Department will continue. We must cease to regard these centres as sacro-sanct, as places which must not be mentioned in public. I believe conditions in every part of the Public Service should be discussed in public. This is the place to raise such matters in an effort to bring about some improvement. When facts are brought to our attention it is our duty to mention them here. I trust the Minister will look into the matters I have raised and I trust that, next year, we will have no scope for criticism, even in matters of detail.
Mr. H.P. Dockrell Mr. H.P. Dockrell
Mr. H.P. Dockrell: I should like to bring a few matters to the attention of the Minister. The Committee on Court Practice and Procedure was referred to  by the Minister. I should like to remind the Minister that there have been various resolutions by Dún Laoghaire Corporation and Dún Laoghaire Chamber of Commerce calling for a district court and a circuit court for Dún Laoghaire. A deputation from Dún Laoghaire Corporation to the Minister's predecessor withdrew the application for a circuit court, but I want to bring to the notice of the Minister the present position with regard to the district court and to ask him to redraw the court areas.
A large section of Sallynoggin has at present to litigate in the district court in Bray. If a litigant is not satisfied with the decision of the district court in Bray he then finds himself in the position of having to go to the Wicklow circuit court. That position arises because the Shankill district court area was added to Bray district court area. I suggest to the Minister that the line should be drawn at the bridge over the old railway at Shankill. People living at points between there and Dún Laoghaire would be better suited by going to Dún Laoghaire rather than to Bray.
Much the same position obtains in Stillorgan. There you have both the Dublin Metropolitan district court area and the Kilmainham district court area. It would be easier for the people in the Stillorgan area to go either to Dún Laoghaire, to which they could get the 46A bus, or go into Dublin to the Dublin metropolitan district court instead of having to go to Kilmainham court, to which there is no direct bus route. People affected have to take a bus into Dublin and another bus out to Kilmainham; en route to Kilmainham they find themselves passing the Dublin metropolitan district court. The areas should be redrawn to facilitate litigants as much as possible.
I am not quite sure whether the resolution passed by Dún Laoghaire Corporation and other bodies in Dún Laoghaire necessarily means that the people of Dún Laoghaire want to have a Dún Laoghaire district court. By that I mean that they do not necessarily want to have a Dún Laoghaire district court, Court No. so and so. I think they would be satisfied with an outrider  court of the Dublin metropolitan district court sitting in Dún Laoghaire Courthouse. I do not know if the Minister has ever visited the Dún Laoghaire court but I would remind him that it has parking accommodation and is a court that could be used. I think, and people of Dún Laoghaire think, it should be used more than it is used at present.
If one turns to the circuit court, I think one will find that certain parts of Killiney, and from there on into Bray, do not litigate in the Dublin Circuit Court but have to litigate in Wicklow. I think that is a position that should be changed also.
Regarding a Circuit Court for Dún Laoghaire, as I say, the deputation which came from the Dún Laoghaire Corporation withdrew that request for a separate Circuit Court for Dún Laoghaire but I think that, again Dún Laoghaire could be used for certain sittings of the Dublin Circuit Court. I am somewhat in a difficulty here tonight because, like Deputy P.J. Burke who spoke earlier, I have no copy of this report, the Report of the Committee on Court Practice and Procedure, and, anyway it would be rather difficult to follow it without having a map. The Minister has said that he has sent a copy of this interim report to various people but I notice he does not name the Dublin Solicitors' Bar Association nor does he name the Society of Young Solicitors although I think both of those bodies would be vitally interested in any re-organisation and might have many suggestions to make to the Minister.
The Minister also referred to a record number of 1,493 adoptions which took place in the year 1967. Like him, I welcome this. However, I think the time is now ripe for the Minister to have another look at the Adoption Act. First of all, I should like to suggest that he consider the raising of the age for adoption. The present ceiling is either seven or nine years of age and I think the time is now ripe to raise it still further. In that regard might I inquire if the Minister would have another look at the section of that Act which precludes the partners of a marriage between a Roman Catholic and a Protestant from  being allowed to adopt a child. In this day and age, that is a matter that might perhaps be reconsidered.
Deputies: Hear, hear.
Mr. H.P. Dockrell Mr. H.P. Dockrell
Mr. H.P. Dockrell: With regard to the District Court Rules, if I may get back to that because I omitted to mention this, I understand that it is proposed to amend the Rules. I should like to ask the Minister to make sure that the District Court Rules, if there is to be any amendment, will be unified and that the amended Rules will include all the Rules of the District Court —instead of the present position where you have to go back years to old Rules—and thus have them in one document.
Finally, I would ask the Minister about the position regarding the coroner for County Dublin. Has the post been filled? If it has not, who will fill it and when is it proposed to fill the post?
Mr. L'Estrange Mr. L'Estrange
Mr. L'Estrange: Some good Fianna Fáil man will fill it.
Mr. O'Malley Mr. O'Malley
Mr. O'Malley: I should like to start, before I get on to more general matters, with a particularly urgent problem in my constituency and that is the difficulties that unfortunately have been arising from time to time in the Limerick District Court. I understand that representations have been made a number of times to the Minister in an effort to solve these difficulties but, so far, there has been no success.
I want to preface my remarks by saying that I am not in any way critical of the learned justice who sits in Limerick city. He performs remarkable feats of endurance and patience under most trying circumstances. The position in Limerick is that the district court, summary district court, which sits on a Friday at 10.30 a.m. is frequently not finished until 8 or 9 o'clock at night. The result is that the learned justice is sitting for eight or nine hours. They are not 300 trivial matters such as double parking or bicycle lamps, and so on. Fifty of those cases may be serious matters carrying possibly long terms of imprisonment, on conviction—matters on which a defendant would be entitled to every possible  consideration. I myself on one occasion had finished in the district court in Limerick at 9.30 p.m., having been there since 10.30 a.m., and the court was not finished at that time. I do not go there very often now but I am told by my colleagues and by members of the general public who have recourse to the court that it is still frequently sitting, unfortunately, until 7 or 8 p.m.—and even then the court is not finished. The learned justice—very properly, in my view— decides to adjourn any further cases rather than keep people there any longer.
The root of the problem probably is that there is only one day a week made available specifically for the hearing of criminal cases in Limerick city. There are sittings on other days for Limerick rural district court area. There are sittings of the Limerick district civil court, but the vast bulk of the work is done in the Limerick city district criminal court and these matters are expected to be disposed of in one day, a physical impossibility, particularly when one bears in mind that Cork city, about twice the size of Limerick, has a district justice of its own who sits every day of the week to deal with Cork city alone.
The learned justice who sits in Limerick also has to preside at five or six other district courts in various parts of County Limerick, County Clare and County Tipperary. One of the district courts is as far away as Thurles. It is a burden that is too much for one man and I appeal to the Minister to attempt to lessen the size of District No. 14 in order that the learned justice who sits there will be confined more or less to Limerick city and the immediate surrounding area. As it is, he must work in the whole of County Limerick, in County Clare, practically the whole of the North Riding of Tipperary and a certain section of Tipperary South Riding also.
I am glad to see in the Minister's speech that he proposes to introduce legislation shortly to deal with the Registry of Deeds. I do not think the public in general realise the archaic methods still being used in the Registry  of Deeds. A precis or summary of every deed executed has to be written out on goatskin parchment and registered in the Registry of Deeds.
Mr. Donegan Mr. Donegan
Mr. Donegan: I told him about it today and I said that Fianna Fáil were ten years behind the times.
Mr. O'Malley Mr. O'Malley
Mr. O'Malley: I urge on the Minister that, in doing away with this outmoded system, he will simplify things by microfilming all deeds so that memorials will not be needed, but if it is felt that they are needed it should be done on ordinary paper.
Mr. Moran Mr. Moran
Mr. Moran: Should we do away also with skins of men like Deputy Donegan?
Mr. Donegan Mr. Donegan
Mr. Donegan: What did the Minister say?
Mr. Coogan Mr. Coogan
Mr. Coogan: And buck goats.
Mr. Donegan Mr. Donegan
Mr. Donegan: During the past 14 years Fianna Fáil have been looking for my skin but it is still intact.
Mr. O'Malley Mr. O'Malley
Mr. O'Malley: At Question Time today I heard the Minister answering a question on the subject of delays in respect of Land Registry maps. He admitted there were excessive delays but I am afraid that maps are not the only subject of delay in the Land Registry. There are frequently delays in excess of 12 months with regard to dealings in land registration. I know there are staff problems in the Land Registry, but the Minister should be prepared to spend considerable sums of money, if necessary, to try to overcome these staff problems in order that these appalling delays can be eliminated.
One of the results of these delays, brought home to me clearly in recent months, was when there was an increase in mortgage rates some months ago. A great many people who had applied for and had been passed for loans at the previous lower rate found themselves burdened with the higher rate simply because of delay in the Land Registry in getting their titles registered. The local authority would not give the loans until new folios had been opened and leases registered. The  delays are often up to 12 months and I know of cases in excess of that period. The average delay in getting a deed registered, involving a change of ownership or a similar dealing, is in the region of six months. I know the Minister is cognisant of this problem, but I add my voice to that of others in urging him to try to overcome it more speedily.
The Minister said that legislation to increase the jurisdiction of the district and circuit courts, presumably on the civil side, is imminent. This is urgently needed. The civil jurisdiction of the district court is £50 which is quite ludicrous. The most minor accident today results in damage or injury exceeding £50. The result is that the time of the court is used for very little except the collection of small debts. I suggest that the appropriate figure for the district court is £300. My figure for the jurisdiction of the circuit court would be £1,500 or £2,000. Certainly a substantial increase on the present figure is called for. At present somebody who is involved in a serious accident from which he might hope to recover £700 damages is forced to take proceedings in the High Court, not always a very rewarding occupation for a litigant.
The Minister mentioned the Criminal Justice Bill which I hope to see before the House shortly for a Second Reading. I do not with to go into the details of it now but I hope one or two sections which appear to be controversial will not prevent the great bulk of the Bill from getting the consideration it deserves because the Bill is a splendid effort, indeed, to bring our criminal law up to date in many important respects.
I notice also that the Minister intends to revise the malicious injuries code. I am glad to see that he proposes to bring in some system of compensation for physical and personal injuries as opposed to damage to property. We had such a system previously but it was done away with in the 1920s. It is a very welcome measure and I hope that when it is introduced the cost of it will be borne by the Exchequer rather than by local rates. If the Minister sees fit, as I suggest he should do, to make  the cost of compensation for personal injuries a national charge, he should avail of that opportunity also to make compensation for damage to property a national charge because we have had experience in recent years of heavy decrees being given in counties and cities that were not at all well able to bear them.
In recent years there was a claim for £120,000 in Limerick which, very fortunately from the point of view of the ratepayers, was dismissed. If it had been awarded it would have meant something in the region of 11/- in the £ on the rates. There have been substantial decrees given in other counties and, the value of property increasing as it is, I do not think the risk should be taken in the future of saddling an innocent community with, for them, such enormous sums of money. This should be made a national charge.
I am glad to see that under the present Minister law reform seems to be proceeding satisfactorily in the Department. I am glad to see such activity in the Department in that respect. A number of commissions are sitting to advise the Minister and the Department on various aspects of law reform and I urge the Minister to try to implement the findings of these commissions as speedily as possible.
Mr. James Tully Mr. James Tully
Mr. James Tully: I do not intend to detain the House very long but there are a few matters to which I should like to refer, the question of law reform and also the question of court practice and procedure.
There was one thing referred to by Deputy P.J. Burke which I think deserves further consideration. It is a suggestion that the Swords Court is to lose value as a court and that in effect cases from the Swords area, which stretches from Santry to Donabate and from Lusk to Garretstown, which is a very wide area, are to be taken to Dublin. If somebody is arrested on what may turn out to be a trivial offence his case must be taken to Inns Quay. The man must come up and then he is referred back to Swords. It seems a blundering type of thing which should not be proceeded with. The  Minister will see a difficulty which could arise and which seems to be entirely unnecessary.
Another thing proposed is that all children's cases must be taken to Dublin. The case made for that is that probationary service is better in Dublin than in the country. It is almost non-existent in the country. I wonder can the Minister envisage children in the Garretstown district, which is near the Meath border, being charged with some offence and going to court in Dublin. First, they must be taken into Balbriggan or near Balbriggan to get a bus into Dublin to the Busaras. Then they must be taken across town to where the case is being heard and finally back again. This course is recommended without consideration for the needs of the people living in the country districts. Possibly this is because of the fact that there does not seem to be anybody on the committee from the country district. It seems to be a Dublin idea. They seem to feel that so long as the Dublin end is looked after it does not matter about the country district.
The same thing applies to licensing applications. I would hate to think that these cases should be allocated to somebody practising in Dublin. Normally it means they must now be taken in Dublin. In the case of civil bills, for instance, somebody who normally went to Swords must now come into Dublin. Perhaps, the Minister will agree that in some cases this will result in decrees being given against them because they will not attend. They will find it impossible to attend. I understand one of the reasons given in the recommendation was that the people concerned, the hire purchase companies who would be dealing with these, mostly had offices in Dublin. If that is so it is a ridiculous suggestion. This affects the people against whom the charge is being taken—they may be people of very limited means who really should receive more consideration than the people who talked them into taking out hire purchase agreements which they were unable to meet. The hire purchase gentlemen are facilitated by having these cases heard in Dublin. They are in a far better position  to travel to Swords to have the cases heard than the unfortunate people from the Garretstown or Donabate areas are, who if this is put into operation would have to travel to Dublin and home again. If they are working people they would lose a whole day which, I think, is wrong.
As the Minister is aware, I was engaged in certain work on the Constitution which required a minute examination of the Constitution. One of the things we did was to look into every letter and every word of the Constitution and if I remember rightly it was suggested that so far as possible in courts of justice that justice should be done locally. Is this being taken into account in putting this recommendation into operation?
With regard to the Balbriggan Court, the administration is to be from Dublin. Normally a district justice is allocated to an area and over a period of years in that area he knows those who come before him and the type of crime which normally happens there and he has a certain way of dealing with them. In my opinion it is wrong that a situation could arise where there would be a different justice at every court and, perhaps, the administration of justice would appear to be lopsided. Something for which there is a heavy penalty one time could receive a light penalty another time. The old lag could go in there and because there is a strange justice might talk himself out of a situation. This could happen very much more often if the new arrangement is put into operation.
Is there any reason why a new district should not be made in Kilmainham with Kilmainham, Swords and Balbriggan, and have one justice do the rounds and have one court a week in each place? At the present time there are two courts a month, both fairly full. This is not the way to do things at all and we suggested— and I mentioned in Private Members' Business—trying to remove the administration of many things from the city. People talk about having this done. Here we have a case in which somebody decided that unless everything is controlled and done from Dublin it could not be properly done  and people who live in Dublin even if they sell on hire-purchase should be facilitated while the unfortunates who live in the country will not be taken into account at all. I do not want to say anything more about that, but it is my opinion that the Minister should give grave consideration to this before he decides to accept the recommendation, even if it is a unanimous recommendation by the committee. It is a unanimous decision of the committee without taking into consideration all its effects.
With regard to the Garda, we have had much criticism from time to time about the way the police act. I believe that the police in this country are doing a wonderful job under grave provocation. We all know we have at the present time throughout the country and throughout the world people who are against everything and who would just love to start a row of some kind. These people consider that it is their mission in life to protest and by protesting they mean hitting somebody they feel will not hit them back with bottle or baton. The police in this country have been doing a good job particularly over the last year or so and have shown great restraint. I have condemned in this House on some occasions acts of violence carried out by members of the force. I should like to pay tribute to the Garda. They are doing exceptionally well.
I should also like to point out that the type of new recruit being accepted into the force seems to be improving. About two years ago there were young Gardaí in the force who certainly did not appear to be of the same calibre as those who went before them. They were prepared to give the short answer to anybody who asked them a question and to be pretty stringent with somebody caught committing a minor traffic offence. They have grown out of that and the new people who have now joined the force certainly do not adopt the same tactics.
Most of the Gardaí at present are doing a good job but the Minister might have a look at two things. First, the number of Gardaí must be increased, because it is just too bad that there are not sufficient Gardaí to  deal with crime. Secondly, the Gardaí must be adequately remunerated. I am glad that a commission has been set up to investigate this matter. I would ask the Minister and the people on the commission to remember that, when somebody who has been badly paid suddenly gets a substantial increase, it is likely to cause an outcry. This outcry should not be heeded. I believe that the substantial increase which has been recommended for the Gardaí should be paid by the Government without any attention being paid to those who will raise their hands in horror. I believe the Gardaí are doing a good job and the only way to keep them is by paying them properly.
I do not know how musical the Minister is but perhaps he will at his leisure have a look at what happened to the Garda Band and see if it would not be a good idea to restore it. Perhaps it was shortage of funds which prompted the Minister's predecessor to chop it off so ruthlessly. It was a pity it should have happened.
I wish to refer now to something I have mentioned on practically every occasion I have spoken on this Estimate. That is the question of district justices. We have in this country a group of district justices who are doing a very good job. The only fault I have to find with some of them is that they tend to be too lenient with the criminal type. I believe that when a cold-blooded person appears in court for doing some blackguardly act it is a bit of a joke if that person can succeed in getting away with it again and again or, perhaps, he may put on the poor mouth and persuade the justice to give him a light sentence.
District justices, on the whole, are dispensing justice courteously and well, but there are one or two exceptions. I had occasion here before to refer to a personal incident when a district justice abused me when I appeared as a witness in a court case.
Mr. Ryan Mr. Ryan
Mr. Ryan: He was getting his own back.
Mr. James Tully Mr. James Tully
Mr. James Tully: He got his own back before I left the court. I understand  that this still happens with the odd district justice. It is no excuse to say that he is ill. If he is, he should not be on the bench; if he has ulcers he should have them treated; if there is something wrong with his head, there is a place for him, too; if he abuses witnesses or tries to be funny, there is also a place for him. The stage has been reached where they are attacking solicitors and counsel and they feel that they are perfectly entitled to do this. However, for the most part they are a decent body of men doing a good job. If a man is too ill to be on the bench he should take a few months off until he is well enough to do his job properly.
Deputy O'Malley referred to the Malicious Injuries Act. It has been suggested by the Minister that he proposes to introduce legislation to ensure that injuries to persons as well as to property will be dealt with. I believe that the Malicious Injuries Act should be dealt with in a different way. As far as I can see the only people who wish the Act to remain as it is are the insurance companies. They seem to be doing quite well, while the unfortunate ratepayers throughout the country are paying again and again for something which should be adequately covered by insurance. It is not good enough that this should continue.
In my district recently some blackguard blew up a bus. I am quite sure that when we are striking the rate next year for the county council we shall have to make provision for the cost of that bus. I am sure that bus was adequately insured and that it is the insurance company who should pay. In another area more than one bus was blown up. These heroes who go around freeing Ireland by doing malicious damage should be responsible and, if not they, the insurance companies who take money for insuring property of that nature should be held responsible. The responsibility should not be on the unfortunate ratepayers who have no reason to feel guilty about it in any way.
Injuries to persons, particularly those who go to the assistance of Gardaí, should be adequately covered. As the Minister knows, agreement on such legislation was reached recently in  another country. Damage to property should be dealt with in a different way. It was introduced as a punitive measure —the collective punishment system. Why should we continue with collective punishment? I do not see enough of the punishment being carried out on the people who perpetuated it. Very often the children of wealthy parents get away scot free when they do damage and it is the ratepayers who have to pay. If the Minister could think of some way of getting around this problem, I believe it would be appreciated to a great extent.
The Minister has referred also to the Adoption Board. The Adoption Board are doing a good job, but I agree with Deputy Dockrell's reference to the question of adoption by people of different religion. This is something which could be looked into. I do not wish to meddle in church affairs—there are enough people doing that—but I feel that this is a matter which should be given attention.
It is my opinion, too, that the Adoption Board are too stringent in their regulations regarding adoptive parents. Perhaps it was necessary to be strict in the early days of the Adoption Board, but I feel that at present there is not a necessity to be so strict. If it could be eased slightly it would possibly help in a big way. It makes a big difference to a child reared in a institution whether it is boarded out to people who have little responsibility for it except that they are paid for keeping it until the child is old enough to do work, or whether it is given to people who adopt it into a home where it is treated as a member of a family. This should be taken into consideration and, if at all possible, the regulations regarding adoption should be less stringent than they are.
The Minister referred to traffic wardens and I wish he had not. I was about to say that these would be under the Department of Local Government and any reference to them here would be ruled out of order. When the Road Traffic Bill was going through the House a number of Deputies referred to the fact that ex-Gardaí were to be  appointed at low wages. What we told them is what has happened. I am one of those who believe that membership of the Garda Síochána is an honourable position and that people who serve in the force until they reach pension age should get a decent pension. To have them taken on again as a kind of half-garda with a most peculiar type of uniform—I did see milkmen some years ago wearing something like it except that they did not have a blue collar but this is the nearest thing I can think of—and doing that work at a low wage is not the way to do it. I am in agreement with the necessity to relieve the gardaí of this type of duty and replace them with somebody else. I would prefer to see young people, who would perhaps later on become gardaí, or junior recruits who had passed the Garda examination but who were not called, doing this work and paid a decent wage rather than have the situation that exists.
I am not casting any aspersions on the people doing this work but it is too bad that these men when they have gone into honourable retirement—and it must be because their pensions are not good enough—have to come back to do something with which they thought they would be finished a few years ago. It is not right. Other persons should be employed on this work and paid a decent wage. The Minister says that 97,000 fine-on-the-spot notices were issued for contraventions of the parking bye-laws and similar offences and in slightly less that 15,000 of those cases there were prosecutions. There were 97,000 on-the-spot fines and this would, therefore, compensate for the employment of people and the payment of a decent wage.
Mr. Coogan Mr. Coogan
Mr. Coogan: It would not pay for the referendum.
Mr. James Tully Mr. James Tully
Mr. James Tully: We will never have a referendum like that again. The Minister has referred to the fact that there has been an increase under subhead B which deals with travelling and expenses, and he says that there has been a threefold expansion in the radio service. I agree that the equipping  of a number of gardaí with radio has improved the efficiency of the service very much and nobody will grudge the extra money required to pay for something like that.
The one thing which is rather alarming is the number of crimes under various headings and the fact that the Minister refers to a high rate of detection. He says that it is 64 per cent and that this is away beyond what is achieved in any other country the statistics of which we have studied. This does not get away from the fact that a certain percentage of criminals are not caught. I know that larcenies of pedal cycles, and so on, are included. Perhaps there could be some way in future years in which the Minister could take pedal cycles—the larceny of pedal cycles is not in the same category as other offences—and list them separately.
The incidence of car stealing in this city has reached a stage it is hard to believe possible. Somebody said in a newspaper that there was an average of 18 cars per day “temporarily mislaid”—that was the term used. If that is so something special must be done to try and prevent this sort of thing going on. It means that that number of uninsured cars are careering around the city and country. An extra effort should be made to try and prevent this. This is where I would condemn the district justices who have young brats, some of whom confess to having stolen as many as a dozen cars, being brought before them and who tell them to be good boys. I think that is wrong, no matter who these offenders are. In many cases they are people who come from good, or shall I say, wealthy homes and they should be dealt with the same as if they came out of a cabin. The one way to deal with them and teach them that this will not be taken from them is to give them a good, stiff sentence. If this were done a few times the incidence of car stealing would drop.
With regard to witnesses expenses, I am glad to see that a new system for paying these expenses is being introduced. I happened to have to make representations to the Minister's predecessor on half a dozen occasions on  behalf of unfortunate working men who had been unwilling witnesses. They were taken to court and lost half a day's pay plus travelling expenses, which they could not afford. In one case it was two years before payment was made. The sum involved was small to the Department of Justice but for a man earning £10 a week to have to be without £4 of it for a period of two years is not good enough. I am glad that arrangements are now being made to have these expenses disposed of more quickly.
I was about to say something about extradition but in view of the situation at present it might be safer to say nothing.
With regard to prisons, I should like to say that trying to help prisoners who are about to be discharged and making an effort to get jobs for them is certainly, apart from anything else, a work of charity. I am glad efforts are being made towards this end. I believe our prisons are reasonably comfortable, as long as we remember that people do not go to prison to be comfortable. Otherwise, there would be no prisons at all.
With regard to young offenders there is something wrong when the Minister states:—
Because of inadequate accommodation it was not possible to transfer from prisons to St. Patrick's young offenders who might derive more benefit from treatment in the latter institution and this has made it necessary to explore further the question of additional or alternative accommodation for the inmates of St. Patrick's Institution.
The Minister goes on further to say that accommodation is being found for from 50 to 60 boys in another institution. This is a step in the right direction but I feel that since we have (a) apparently a sizeable number of this type of offender and (b) a growing number of this age group, as is mentioned further on in the Minister's brief something should be done as a matter of urgency to find extra accommodation to deal with them. The one thing that will make a criminal out of a young offender is putting him in with  old lads who will not be very long teaching him all the tricks which kept them behind bars for so many years. Every penny spent on this would be money well spent.
I know Artane comes under a different heading. Otherwise I would be asking the Minister if he could say anything about the Artane Band and what is going to happen there. However, it belongs to another Department so I suppose it is not possible for him to give any information on it.
I have had some communication with the Minister since he has taken over office. I have got courteous replies to all my letters. His officials, on the occasions on which I have found it necessary to communicate with them, have been very courteous and I am glad to make the comment that throughout the country any time I have met the public face of the law which is the Garda, from the ordinary garda up to chief superintendent, all of them have been more than courteous and willing to assist in any way they could. I think that is what we should require of a police force and particularly the way in which they have been handling incidents which have been occurring in this city over the past few months proves that they are made of the right stuff.
Mr. Coogan Mr. Coogan
Mr. Coogan: Like Deputy O'Higgins I would like to take the opportunity of paying tribute to the Garda Síochána from the top down, especially to the men who went out and founded the Force and founded law and order in the country. They have the respect of all right-thinking citizens.
During the fight for freedom it was the policy of the old IRA to close down all the RIC stations. There was a purpose in that and it worked very well. Now I think there is a similar policy abroad today and the Minister made a statement which I think is a double-barrelled statement. The Minister states:
It is clear that, if our police service is to maintain or improve on its standards of service, its strength must be increased fairly substantially...
But he adds the word “or”. We all agree that there is need for more  gardaí. Every speaker has stressed that point today and before we finish I suppose we will have other Deputies doing so. After the word “or” we read:
....the existing structure must be overhauled so that the distribution of the force will reflect the needs of each locality and, in particular, requirements in relation to serious crime.
He goes on further and talks about vehicles and the number of cars in the Force. In other words, we are going to have what is known as the squad car effort. This in its place is laudable but I think it is not the view of many people throughout the country who have realised that it is the intention to close down many stations. That was lost in the fog of PR over the past few months and the people thought it was shelved but as I read it here it is at the back of the Minister's mind. The people in the country feel that they are entitled to protection. Are the people to be left at the mercy of the mechanised marauder we see on “Garda Patrol” when we hear that this house and that house has been broken into? Before Christmas we will hear of many a turkey disappearing and the culprit will not be the fox.
I read in a local paper in my county of a young garda who, at great risk to himself, entered a blazing train and removed explosives which were liable to cause great damage and possibly loss of life. This garda's name rings a bell with me. His name is Garda McCurtin. I never met the man. He is no connection or no friend of mine but this is the second occasion on which this man has performed something of an heroic nature. I feel it is only right to mention this. We are critical at times of the Garda so we should not let this occasion pass without paying a tribute. I would respectfully ask the Minister to pass on that tribute to the garda's superiors.
In the last couple of years I have noticed the great success of the Garda Boat Club. It brings to mind the great victories of a former Garda Boxing Club. They were internationally famous men who brought great credit to this country. I think it would be a good thing to see this brought back  because you can see the respect that is paid to any garda who is trained in the art of self-defence. Mind you, there is great respect shown by some of the young blackguards in parts of the country when one of these men comes on the scene. He does not have to do anything. They know he has the power to deal with any situation that may arise.
I should like to sound a note of warning to the Minister. While you have in the Garda Síochána men of the highest calibre it may not be so easy to keep those men on. When one looks at the conditions under which they have to work and the hours they have to work and compares them with conditions abroad it is not easy to expect men to remain on in the Force. The Minister should look at a few of the little things I should like to mention. One thing is the condition of our Garda barracks in places. They are damp, black old holes. I heard of one man who was brought into the day-room and thought it was the black hole. When he was told it was the dayroom he said: “If this is the day-room, God help me if I was put in the black hole.” There are many of those dayrooms around the country. It is something like our schools which had been let go to rack and ruin. I have seen barracks in which a young garda hung up a uniform and found it covered with green mould a few days later. Such conditions do not encourage young men to remain on. Something should be done to improve things for them.
At a time when so many banners are being carried throughout the country we should take another look at an element associated with this activity. There are many banners with which we thoroughly agree but one finds a certain element following all the banners irrespective of what they advocate. This element I should like to see weeded out. It is the element of troublemakers. Unless they are weeded out before the parades—I have seen them in London and Dublin but thank God not yet in my own town—these elements make things very difficult for  the forces of law and order. There are words that are easily used by these elements, the words “police brutality”. This term is becoming international but I think there is not enough brutality for some of these gentlemen and it is time the authorities had another look at them and realised that they are there to make trouble. That should be anticipated before it happens.
In regard to sales of bicycles the owners of which have not been traced, could the possibility be examined of having these machines registered? The bicycle is the small man's motor car and may make the difference between having a job and not having one. I understand the matter has been examined before but when one sees these bicycles piling up in local barracks, their owners untraced, it is time some form of registration was introduced, even with a fee if necessary. I should like the Minister to examine that because the bicycle means a great deal to those who use it.
The Minister mentioned payment of State witnesses but I do not see any mention of payment for the loss sustained by jury men. This causes much worry and if we want justice to be done and seen to be done it should be done all round. Unfortunate workers who can ill afford it sometimes have to stand around for a fortnight without a penny.
I notice reference to the training of first offenders who have been convicted and it says here that they are trained in such things as decorating and vehicle driving. Is it easy for some of these to get a licence to drive when many people find it so hard?
I have been criticised on this account before but I make no apology for repeating my argument in this House as regards the return of the “cat” in cases where young criminals make murderous attacks on old people who may have saved a few pounds to ensure a decent burial. I make no apology for advocating the return of the “cat” although we may have outbursts by some people who will go around with banners saying: “Do away with the `cat' ”. The defence of blackguards should not be attempted and we should adopt a sane approach in this matter. Deputy  Tully mentioned the finger-wagging of the Bench and the admonition not to do it again and then the criminal is let off. It is time we put our priorities right in this matter.
Major de Valera Major de Valera
Major de Valera: This Estimate covers practically all activities of the Department and what falls naturally into a number of subheads is set out in the Minister's opening statement. Some of these are interlinked; others are not obviously connected. I should like to begin with a few words about the Garda as other Deputies have done. We are unanimous in praise of our police force but the police force or the Garda, no more than any other human institution, will not thrive merely on compliments and pleasant words. If our police force in the modern setup we now have here is to be effective it must have certain facilities and it must have the support of the people. From our point oi view the first question to ask is: what is the basic element that goes into a police force? No matter how much we talk about mechanisms, about cars, radios and such things the basic unit is the man, the individual garda. To express my own view, I think our police force is under strength for our requirements, having regard to modern conditions. We need more men in the Force and, as the Minister himself remarked in his statement, more men available for what are properly police duties.
I should not like to think—and it has been suggested to me—that financial restrictions would come into this matter of keeping the Force up to the strength needed. What that strength should be is a matter for expert examination, I freely concede, but I should like to ask the Minister if we have been in the position in recent times when we could get recruits and there were financial restrictions to prevent us getting them. It was said in the very recent past that the recruits were not on offer but I would not be talking as I am now if I had not a reason for asking this question—not having very precise information I am merely putting it as a question—have the Garda been able to recruit what is available, because it is vitally important that they should? Have financial restrictions,  what I might call ordinary budget restrictions, Department of Finance restrictions, if I may put it that way, been operating to the detriment of the Garda?
I do not want to go back over old ground but the reason I raise the point at all is that it happened more than 20 years ago that it was my job to review the situation of the recruitment to the Defence Forces before the last war and the story of the dead hand of the administration was an appalling one from whose consequences we only escaped by a very fortunate concatenation of causes in 1939 and 1940. This is not the Estimate on which to go into detail but I mention that fact to ground the fears that I have in this case that it could happen. If recruits were available to bring the Garda up to a strength that would be desirable, I should like to be reassured that no mere financial restrictions have operated in that regard.
I am not making that point merely as a criticism of any other Department. The Department of Finance have their job to do and I do not mean it to be taken as a criticism of the Department of Finance but in relation to one very fundamental thing about police duties. The efficient functioning of a police force depends on having sufficient men available for the jobs in hand and as far as I can see—maybe I am wrong; I have not any figures—but from a casual impression, looking at the strength of the police forces across the Atlantic, on the Continent of Europe and across the water in Britain, I rather think that the strength of our police force may, perhaps, be a little low. I should not say “a little low”— “inadequate” might be the better word.
In that connection there is a very interesting comment to be made on something that happened in London only a week ago. I was not there myself but from reading newspaper reports and from what I have heard directly, the police force in London were able to deal with what could have been an extremely ugly situation in a very competent way and, what is more, in a very restrained manner, and got a very favourable press all over the world for  their behaviour—an unarmed police force which did not even go so far as drawing their batons, collectively anyway.
That is all very admirable and that is a very fine ideal and one that I should like to see here but let us who are talking about this problem not blind ourselves to the fact that that excellent performance of that police force depended, first, on having the numbers. If you look carefully at what happened in London you will see that there was a very strong force available, a force that was so strong that it was possible for it to function in the way it did. This is a vital point in this question of responsible police action in the mass. I am not taking away from the high organisation and the good leading. That is the second factor that comes into the situation. The point I want to emphasise for the purpose of this Estimate is the numbers that were there. In dealing with things like that, difficulties often arise where you have an insufficient number of men, who are then attacked in such a way that they have no option but to act in a way that people afterwards will feel was a little harsh.
Let us understand this—and the ultimate responsibility comes back on us—in that London demonstration there were enough police there to keep the situation under control. There was a big enough body and even the moral effect of that prevented further undesirable things happening. But, if you have only a handful of unfortunate gardaí, first of all, there is a temptation to rush them and get the better of them and, secondly, in that situation a small body of men trying to enforce order, if they have not got the mass behind them, have a very simple but horrible choice—either not to do their duty, or else, in the doing of their duty they are forced to act in a way that could be avoided if the strength of the Force were sufficient.
The same thing goes for crime in general, especially in highly-organised modern cities. If you have a weak police force and it is not properly backed up, then the individual policeman will be the victim very often of the criminal. I remember in the past  year raising this point about the undesirability of unfortunate gardaí being left singly patrolling parts of my own constituency at night time. We have all known of cases of gardaí who have been seriously injured. I pleaded here years ago that they should patrol in pairs. This has helped very materially with the squad car and radio contact. I know that is so. The point I want to make is that by the very fact that you have a police force of sufficient strength you have won nearly half the battle of order, quite apart from the fact that you are also ensuring that the morale of the force is maintained. Therefore, the first plea that I should like to make to the Minister is to see that in future, even if we have to pinch in other directions, the strength, and particularly the available strength, of the Garda Síochána be maintained.
Granted the strength, we have now a second consideration—the remuneration of the policeman. I do not want to go into this in any detail, nor do I want to go into it in connection with the specific circumstances of the moment, but I want to talk about a principle. In the 19th century and in the early part of the 20th century here and, indeed, in many other places as well, there was a tendency to think that when everything is arranged in the administrative office, life is ordered. The people in the administrative offices are vitally important, too, but there is a tendency to think that the whole community completely depends on the man in the office— whether I start with the Minister himself down to the whole of the public service organisation—and that everything else is completely subordinate. I think we are getting to the stage when it might be very useful for governments and administrators to remember that their position and the ultimate sanctions depend on the garda, just as the ultimate economy depends on the worker. I would be digressing rather far in discussing the relative merits of people in a community but I have often thought that one of the things that are wrong with our modern civilisation is just this fact that the productive worker, the garda who maintains law and order, the person who is actually doing the work, is regarded as a worker,  as being on a lower level to the administrator. He is just as important in the community as any other branch of the public service or of the community as a whole and in assessing remuneration and status this factor should be taken into account.
I do not want to go into detail in regard to remuneration here but I should like to enunciate the principle that, whether it is the teacher, the Garda, the technical officer or any other member of the public service, these are as vital as any other section of the community and remuneration and conditions should be comparable. Graduations of responsibility in all parts of the public service will naturally carry their remuneration as well. In the last analysis it is on these categories I mentioned that the stability of the whole structure ultimately depends.
Therefore, in asking the Minister the question I have asked about keeping up the strength of the force, I should like to mention the second principle, what I call the social evaluation and the social worth of the Gardaí. Lastly, of course, there comes in the question of facilities and technical equipment, which is receiving attention and, reading the Minister's speech, I do not think it calls for any other comment from us here than to say: Go ahead with that. That is good work.
The next thing is the availability of Gardaí for duty. That is a difficult matter. I notice the Minister refers to the absorption of the Gardaí in traffic duties. It is an improvement to be able to shed off, in this city at any rate, the parking duties, and to bring in traffic wardens. It might not be any harm to make this remark in parenthesis: these wardens will need a certain amount of support; the situation has become rather chaotic and they have, to say the least of it, a pretty tough job before them. But granted these wardens, there will always be a necessity for certain traffic police, motor cycle police in particular. I presume these problems are having attention, but the main function of a police force of preserving law and order in the community and protecting  the law-abiding citizen should not be lost sight of, and it is for that essentially the Gardaí are needed.
On many previous occasions with other Ministers here I have talked about the support of the Gardaí by officialdom and by the public. It is vitally important that the good relations the Gardaí have established over 45 years with the community as a whole should be maintained. On their side it means a certain amount of forbearance and courtesy, but they should also remember that they are esteemed and respected for the firmness and efficiency with which they do their duty.
This comes back to the whole question of the morale of the force. Granting, as I say, the first two points I made—strength and working conditions and remuneration—it is vitally necessary that they should get the support of the community and, in particular, of the administration and of the courts. I do not think it would be fair to suggest that they are not getting support from the Government and particularly from the Department of Justice. There can be no complaint with that Department on that score. However, it has been far too often said that the Gardaí are very often not supported when it comes to the prosecution of a criminal apprehended, and that can arise in two ways. The most dangerous way is where the criminal, because of a legal technicality or what I might call sloppy thinking, is able to thumb his nose at the Gardaí. Remember, a garda is a human being, and if the garda finds, having done his duty, that the result of it is that somebody who is guilty can turn around and sneer at him because he has been made into an object of pity, it is very disheartening. It is all right where that is a genuine case, but there are too many of the other type of case. The garda who has that experience once or twice has a hard battle to keep up his morale and to do his duty.
While I would not go so far as Deputy Coogan, my own approach to this is that, except in the case of first offenders—very often you can win them and I want to accept that, but I am referring to the cynical, hardened  criminal—we must not make the mistake of sacrificing the community to the criminal. I do not want to suggest for a moment that he should be unjustly treated or made an example of. However, we must weigh up whether the effect of what has been done is to sacrifice the law-abiding citizen.
There have been many instances of violent crime where the perpetrators got off because somebody wanted to reform them. They may be put in jail, a home from home, as it is now. What about the person who has been assaulted? What about the rights of the community and order in the community? What about the right of the law-abiding citizen to move abroad freely? That is a side of the story that has to be looked into. There is also the question of the morale of the Garda. Everybody should be alert to these problems.
I know the pattern is changing. I know the pattern in the world is changing. I know that problems of this nature are very difficult and that it is very easy to make black and white statements standing here and to make all reasonable allowances for the things that may be said and the arguments that can validly be advanced, but the old British system—and I make no apology for referring to it—as operated in England was a very fine one. It went on the principle that the law was for all citizens without respect to persons and it was to be so administered impartially and there were courts and judges who did that. The law was meticulously administered and gave the benefit of the doubt. If there was a doubt it was given to the criminal because, as the maxim went, it is better that ten guilty persons should go free than that one innocent person should be convicted.
Taking all that into account you had a judiciary, a judicial system and a legal framework uncomplicated by a lot of the psychiatry and psychosis that have come into modern life. That in itself was a very just protection for the criminal and a very fine safeguard for the law-abiding citizen. The way in which those judges functioned had the  effect of keeping the police force up to scratch. It was necessary for the police force to be efficient and to operate properly. Mark you, under that system if there was any dereliction of duty or abuse of power by the police the same court that protected the community from the criminal by means of a sentence of the court, which was duly executed afterwards, controlled the functioning of the police arm. If a policeman was guilty of any particular crime, particularly of the abuse of his own duties and powers, merciless and exemplary sentences were imposed.
There is still much to be said for that system but for its efficient working it presupposes certain things. It presupposes, first, that the police force is efficiently organised and has the numbers to do the job; secondly, it presupposes that there is a code of law there that will enable the courts to take that impartial judicial view of each individual case, and, thirdly, it presupposes facilities and organisation for the execution of the sentence. This is happening all over the world and is bound to happen. I do not know what the answer to the problem is but it is bound to happen in huge conglomerate cities like New York or any other big city, and Dublin is becoming a big city now. What are you going to do about it? I know that half the trouble stems from the fact that nobody wants to maintain jails. On more than one occasion I have been tempted— although I have not actually done it as I was not sure that the form in which I would do it would be in the public interest—to ask a question about culpable homicide. I do not want a general answer to this; I just want to raise the thought. I should like to know how many people convicted of culpable homicide have served a term at all comparable with the crime involved. I know that this is not peculiar to this country but it would be interesting to go back on the statistics of convictions for murder and serious assault and see exactly what happened. If these statistics were to be sought out one might have many questions to ask. One problem which the Department of Justice and the police are up against in all this is to some extent a financial  problem, to cope with the post-sentence phase where the criminal is involved.
I always remember the night we passed the Bill abolishing capital punishment. A number of individuals thought that the ordinary human being does not want to see anybody, even the unfortunate murderer, being capitally punished. My own view is that I would only consider this necessary where it is in the interests of the community. However, one has to keep that open and the murder of a Garda or a warder would be something which must be met in that way, or else the whole order falls. However, that night some people in this House, some women, approached me and to my surprise they said: “It is all right for you people but if you had to move around as we have to, returning home from our jobs at 11 o'clock at night you would know what it means to run the danger of assault or of having the few pounds you have on you taken from you”.
That was said to me in this House. I do not want to be more specific because it might identify the people and the class who said it but I never forgot it. It is a thought that we should keep in our minds in dealing with this whole problem of the police and the problem of dealing with crime. Ninety per cent of the community are law-abiding, useful citizens and it is they who suffer and they who pay if law and order are not maintained. That mere fact alone must point to the vital importance of the Garda and of warders in prison. Before moving from this aspect I should also like to repeat what I have said on many previous occasions, that where a warder or a Garda is injured in the course of his duty adequate compensation should be available, the criminal responsible should be dealt with accordingly and the law enforced in such a way that the probability of similar occurrences would be reduced to very small proportions. What I have said here is not to be taken in any way as a criticism of the Minister or his Department, for rather am I trying to say things that might be helpful to the Department. The Department and the Minister must be vitally interested in having a police force of adequate  strength and morale, efficiently organised to deal with the problems that they know only too well exist.
Under the heading of crime, I shall not go into details. Neither shall I go into the details as to what I think the criminal law should be, but we must, I think, face the fact that, when you have big urban centres growing up, such as you have in Dublin and its environs at the moment, the problem of indictable crime will undoubtedly grow. Let us face it. I do not see in these figures any ground whatever for criticising either the administration of the Department of Justice or the Garda Síochána. I am, in fact, agreeably surprised that we have been able to maintain a relatively favourable situation for so long, but that is all the more reason why thought should be given to maintaining that situation at any cost.
With regard to criminal legislation one has to be a little bit careful of how it is framed. I am afraid there is a tendency in modern times for Departments to frame legislation to deal with particular cases as those particular cases arise. It is becoming too easy to get Acts of Parliament through modern parliaments. It would be better, in my view, to deal with more general principles and general propositions because there is always a danger in too specific legislation. I came across a case recently which will show what I mean. An Act was passed for a very good purpose. I think most people would agree with the purpose. When it came to be applied an attempt was made in court to apply it in a way that was never intended, if one is to judge by what was said here. We know, of course, that no matter what the Minister says, or what any one of us here says, that will have nothing to do with the subsequent interpretation of the particular law. The Act will be interpreted by the court without regard to parliamentary discussion; I might add that it is a very good job that that is so.
How does it work? A section of an Act was designed to protect the accused. The whole purpose was to prevent publicity in a certain case in order to protect the accused. There was a case—I shall not go into the details, but it was very interesting—in which  an attempt was made—it did not succeed—to turn that Act around for a totally different purpose, a pernicious purpose, to my mind. I am not saying that was deliberately contemplated, but it shows the danger of a certain type of ad hoc legislation.
One does not want to make the job of those who administer the law any harder and so I shall take another example to illustrate what I mean and to show how things can operate in the public service. This is outside the scope of the Estimate, but I want to use the illustration to show my point. There was an old rule of law that a local authority was responsible for misfeasance and not for monfeasance. If a local authority did a job of work on a road, so long as that law was there, it at least left the road in a reasonable condition afterwards. I think that was abolished.
Mr. Ryan Mr. Ryan
Mr. Ryan: No.
Major de Valera Major de Valera
Major de Valera: I remember it being discussed here.
Mr. Ryan Mr. Ryan
Mr. Ryan: There is provision in the law for the Minister to make an order abolishing it; it should have been abolished this year, but it was not.
Major de Valera Major de Valera
Major de Valera: I was under the impression it had been abolished. If a road is botched it becomes a trap and I was blaming the local authority for that. The purpose of legislation like that is to get the necessary power to curb abuse. In fact, when one has that, one very often raises something worse because of misapplication. Where criminal law is concerned certain definite general principles are the best and, after that, let us rely on encouraging the courts to take the impartial view to which I referred earlier. But, in doing that, it is absolutely vital both for the morale of the courts and the morale of the gardaí that the sentence be executed in the spirit intended and that there is no window-dressing. A man is condemned for murder and, under the law at present, if he gets a life sentence he is roaming around within ten years as if nothing had ever happened.
Mr. James Tully Mr. James Tully
 Mr. James Tully: Ten? Seven.
Major de Valera Major de Valera
Major de Valera: I am playing on the safe side, I know. What can one expect of either court or Garda in that situation? Just what can one expect? I know this goes back to prison accommodation, organisation and so forth but, having the warning and experience elsewhere, I believe the thinking of people now should enable Deputies, talking for the people, to say to the Minister, the Government and the Minister's Department that the support of the people would be forthcoming to enable them to deal adequately with these rather serious problems. Deputy Tully smiles. I do not think he disagrees with me and I could, therefore, nearly go so far as to say the House would be almost unanimous on any reasonable propositions in this particular field.
I have, perhaps, said some unpopular things. I do not want to be in any way vicious or to offend against the charity one should have for another, but the majority, and they are the majority, of law-abiding citizens have rights and, in the nature of things, they should be protected.
I do not want my remarks about the status and remuneration of Gardaí and teachers to be taken in any controversial spirit. They were not meant in any way as a reflection on other sections of the State service. All I want to do is to point out their vital importance in our community and what can be gained by raising their status and that which brings status to the proper level. Deputy Tully may be surprised to hear me say that, if we were to go outside the public service, I would adhere to the same principle.
Mr. James Tully Mr. James Tully
Mr. James Tully: Good for the Deputy.
Major de Valera Major de Valera
Major de Valera: I notice that the Minister is considering amending the law relating to landlord and tenant. I should like some information on this. The Minister referred to certain reports. Are these reports available to us to read or will they be forthcoming? This is an intricate, but interesting, subject. As a result of experience I have been driven to a certain conclusion  in regard to the acquisition of property by the individual citizen. Now, it was right and proper—in fact, it was the only way it could be done— that housing in this city, and in the growing city, could be provided only through State and local authority effort: in the last analysis, it was through State effort. It was very noticeable how the whole standard and outlook and living of people improved with proper accommodation. Indeed, the phenomenon I refer to is not in evidence at all as it used to be but it is a phenomenon that indicates the point I am making.
In the old days when they were clearing out some of the very worst slums of Dublin and people were being transferred to areas on the outskirts of the city—for a while there was an area in Dublin once known as “The Wild West”—when they went out they could not immediately adjust themselves and there was vandalism and lack of appreciation of the houses they got, and so on. The interesting thing is that this settled down. One will see and one sees it also in the centre of the city where a proper block of flats is put up or where there is proper housing, that very quickly the majority of the people going into these places have an appreciation of their worth and you will see a very great improvement. You will see comfortable homes built and developed and people taking a pride in the furnishings of their own houses and their decoration of them, and so on. That is very noticeable. The cynic might well pause to think about it.
Going through the city, I have often noticed how tastefully kept are many of the blocks of our corporation flats and all these houses by people who are in the so-called lower remuneration wage bracket, and so on—people who, before, because they had not accommodation, were living under totally different conditions. In other words, the provision of housing is vitally important. As soon as a family and these groups of people grow into the feeling that they have a stake in it, it immediately raises everything to their own benefit and for the benefit of the community as a whole.
 Perhaps a certain type of socialist will not agree with me but I think there is a lesson to be drawn from that and it is simply this: enable a man to have a stake in the community, particularly something to call his own—in a modest way, yes, if you like—and he is all the better citizen for it and both he and the community benefit. Housing is not in this Estimate but it is referred to in a sense from the point of view of acquisition. I think the policy of enabling, in a reasonable way, the tenant to acquire his house or even his flat—there may be problems with a flat, all right, in these corporation buildings—is a pretty sound social principle. It makes for stability: so much so that, perhaps, we might think far too much of what we might call the balance-sheet accounting in all this. Perhaps one could go too far, in making a calculation to see what the sum for acquisition should be, in going back to see cost. After all, this housing is actually built and has been paid for, and so on. There will still be maintenance charges for the local authority, and so on. However, weigh up the whole thing. It might be a very good national policy to try to enable people to purchase the property of which they are in possession. I am not able to read anything, definitely, in the Minister's comments on this matter. However, I think this type of legislation, emanating from his Department, should be correlated with the activities of the Department of Local Government in the provision of housing.
On the question of law reform and court reform, my observations will be brief. So far as law reform is concerned, let us make sure that it is reform and not some of the patch-work stuff we had already.
Mr. Ryan Mr. Ryan
Mr. Ryan: Hear, hear.
Major de Valera Major de Valera
Major de Valera: I am thinking of the Succession Act as one of those beautiful bits of purple patching. I think that, eventually, we shall have more trouble than we bargained for in the amended form. Let us see that we have a homogeneous legal structure that the courts can really administer. As to the organisation of the courts,  I think we have all said as much as we might usefully say on that subject until some specific proposals are put before us.
With regard to prisons, all I want to plead is the case of the warders. They need the same kind of support and protection that the gardaí need. I think that, with that, I can end generally my comments on the Minister's Estimate for this year.
In conclusion, I should like to emphasise that the role of the Department of Justice in the future will be even greater than in the past and that this is a Department in which this House should take a great interest. In the uncertainties and unsettled nature of modern times all over the world, when humanity is trying to evolve a social system compatible with population increase and technological development, there are bound to be problems of order and these will be the concern of this Department. In commending the Department for our most sympathetic consideration and support, I would commend to the Government and to the Department the need for a very practical and extensive support for the arm of the law, for the institutions which must enforce the law and make the law a reality for the benefit and protection of the law-abiding citizen who is so much in the majority in the community. That is why I make the plea for the gardaí and for the prison warders.
Mr. Ryan Mr. Ryan
Mr. Ryan: I am very pleased to make a contribution on the occasion on which the present Minister is presenting, for the first time, the Estimate for the Department of Justice because the political barometer indicates that it will also be his last time to do so. The Department of Justice, under successive Fianna Fáil Ministers over the past decade, has been mis-directing its energies introducing the kind of legislation which Deputy de Valera has rightly condemned, legislation which has changed for the sake of change, which has written into the Statute Book some casual readings of legal traditions from abroad without a proper understanding of the manner in which the application of these notions from abroad would  create injustice in Irish family arrangements and in the Irish judicial system.
We have, as we have seen, further warnings from the Minister in his statement today that this miserable meddling in our legal system is to go further and that the sacred principle of innocence until proof of guilt on which we have based our system of justice is to be swept aside because of some notions of convenience. The rights of the individual which are the foundation stone of our judicial system and democracy are to be suppressed. I will return to that extremely dangerous trend after I have dealt with a few particular matters which I think ought to alarm our people.
One area of gross neglect in the Department of Justice has been the imprisonment of juvenile offenders. For many years past we have had a serious worsening of the situation in St. Patrick's in Dublin. We had an admission from the Minister today that the situation is so bad, that the accommodation at St. Patrick's is so overcrowded, that as many as 50 youths who should have been sent to St. Patrick's in a year were not sent there. The situation is, of course, worse than that. Eighty inmates of St. Patrick's were released before the end of their term because it was necessary to release them to make room for other youths committed to that institution.
It is terribly important that when justices commit young people to an institution of correction for a particular period that they complete that period. Such youths are sent there in most cases not principally for the sake of punishment but primarily in the hope that during the period in which they are there they may be trained to become better citizens—that they may be, as it were, cleansed of the temptations which brought them into trouble in the first instance. If we have our juvenile prisons so overcrowded that young offenders, in particular first offenders, are unable to complete their terms of corrective training, we are only sowing the seeds of greater trouble in the future.
One would not be rash enough to suggest that this is the only reason why our crime figures are multiplying, but I think it is not without significance  that a growing proportion of crimes are committed by young people and that, though all the indications are that this was happening, our Ministers for Justice failed miserably to provide the accommodation necessary for the corrective training of young people. This is a serious blot on the Minister and his predecessors. Personally, the Minister has had too little time to put it right, but there is the doctrine of collective responsibility and he has shared responsibility with the Government who have failed during the past ten or 12 years to provide the necessary accommodation for corrective training necessary for young people. We have seen, however, that some amelioration is to be provided in the new institution in Shanganagh. We wish this project well and hope it will be the forerunner of a completely new approach to the correction of juvenile offenders. It is only by their correction that we can hope to prevent them becoming mature criminals.
If we do not take the necessary steps, irrespective of cost, even worse crime will develop in the years ahead. It is very disturbing that we now have some 5,000 more crimes per annum than we had in the years of much greater social unrest such as the years of the last war. I know that apparently the trend throughout the so-called civilised world is not dissimilar but we would hope that our land here would be spared some of the extremities of crime which have blotted less happy communities than ours. It behoves us to accept the warnings which are written there in large figures of criminal activity and to take all steps necessary to correct them.
May I say also that it is most unfair to our prison staffs to expect them to give of their best to the young people committed to their care in overcrowded and unsuitable buildings? I am not unaware of the circumstances which led to St. Patrick's being used as an institution for young offenders. It was, as many Members well know, formerly part of the women's prison in Mountjoy Jail. I somehow feel that an old nineteenth century building is not the best place in which to correct young offenders. I appreciate that the  new institution in Shanganagh is a departure from this old surrounding, but we need to get away from the atmosphere of an old Victorian building altogether if we are to give young offenders and those who seek to reform them a real chance. I do not believe the overcrowded conditions in St. Patrick's have given that chance in recent times.
It would be very churlish not to record our gratitude to all the staff— Governor, officers and warders—for the marvellous work they have done in extremely difficult circumstances in St. Patrick's. It is an indication of the high standard of the personnel we have administering our prison service, and I share with others the hope that they will receive remuneration commensurate with their responsibilities and services. It is extremely encouraging that so many of the people who work in the prison service give of their services not only during their hours of duty but also after hours in the aftercare of prisoners. They deserve to be very highly commended for this and I hope any applications which come from that quarter for improved conditions of service will be considered sympathetically.
On the question of prisons, I have spoken in the past and I shall speak again today about the need to have a different prison for road traffic offenders. It is true to say that except in very rare cases the degree of moral turpitude of a motor offender is insignificant compared with the moral turpitude of the ordinary criminal. It is wrong, therefore, to house in the same penal conditions some people who, in a moment of carelessness, mismanaged a motor car, and people who deliberately set about the commission of a crime, who deliberately and with malice aforethought set out to injure other people or their property. It is costing £16 a week to keep a prisoner in jail. Would it not be proper where you have some offender who has means of his own that he should be charged for the privilege of being kept in a State hotel? I think it would be particularly appropriate in the case of motor car  owners. Perhaps they could be charged something higher and given more reasonable accommodation. The main exercise in the imprisonment of road traffic offenders is correction and reform. The purpose of it is primarily to alert the wrong-doer to the seriousness of his misconduct, serious not only in relation to other people and their property but also to himself. What we need are institutions on the Scandinavian lines in which road traffic offenders are obliged to attend schools of motoring so that they may learn the rudiments of road safety and come out from these places much better drivers— a means of safety rather than a menace to the community. If we did that we would also be making available in institutions accommodation that could be used for people who are engaged in more notorious criminal activities.
I notice that for the umpteenth time the Minister for Justice has promised legislation to reform some of the practices in the Registry of Deeds. I am mindful of the fact that, as far back as July, 1967, the Fianna Fáil Minister for Justice also promised us legislation on similar lines which we have not got. We know just how long it takes any Minister in the present Government to implement the promise of legislation. This month three years ago legislation was promised to reform health services. We are still waiting. Several more promises have been given. We have promises for each quarter of the years in between.
On this occasion it is the same with regard to the Registry of Deeds. The Bill concerning the practices of the Registry of Deeds in order to achieve urgent reform needs be no more than six paragraphs. In my opinion it is inexcusable to delay this reform for so long. I suspect what we are going to get is not a Bill to reform the Registry of Deeds but rather to meddle in and make a mess of it and to convert the reasonably polite Registry of Deeds into something inefficient like the Land Registry. The Land Registry was created many years ago because it was said that the Registry of Deeds was slow and there was need to reform it.  It was also said that the Registry of Deeds was too costly. Since the Land Registry came into being each year the delays there extend into weeks and months. Even in this, almost the fourth quarter of the 20th century, you can get a deed through the Registry of Deeds in two to three days while in the reformed Land Registry it may take a year.
With regard to Deputy O'Malley's remarks about the Registry of Deeds what he said about memorials having to be inscribed in manuscript on parchment is, of course, true. But, if the Minister for Justice acknowledged as far back as February, 1965, that all that is necessary to remedy that is to allow memorials to be typed on paper, there is no need for a three-year delay in having a Bill to authorise that particular reform. That is unfortunately typical of what is happening in the Department of Justice. One hundred and one simple reforms which ought to be brought into effect are delayed because some people believe from their high positions that they alone have a prerogative to dictate to the legal profession and to those who work the systems and who know what reforms are necessary.
I asked the Minister for Justice if he would be good enough to let us know how soon we may expect the commencement of the building of the new Garda station at Rathmines. Rathmines is a suburb famous in song and story for graciousness of living. It is a sorry thing that the only wooden shack in that once salubrious suburb is the property of the Board of Works, to wit, the Rathmines Garda Station. The Gardaí had to be moved out of the old building several years ago because it was dangerous. The only wooden structure in the township of Rathmines is the Garda barracks. We were promised it would be replaced with a permanent building. There is no sign of a permanent building on its way.
Earlier we had a contribution from Deputy James Tully, which reminds me of his immediate bailiwick of Laytown and Bettystown. During the summer months many thousands of people repair by car and otherwise to  the famous Bettystown beach. For many years a great deal of traffic obstruction occurred. This year I was happy to see moveable “No Parking” signs which were on an excellent blackboard and easel principle, only they were white with markings on them in black, directing people not to park in particular places. I do not want to create any difficulty but it occurred to me that they were possibly not authorised by regulation even if very effective. Their height was 2½ to 3 feet. They had the effect of preventing parking and were much more effective than the signs with which we are all familiar, six to seven feet of a tubular pole with a round disc on the top. These signs had the virtue that they could be very easily removed so that the “No Parking” prohibition would not apply when there was no need for it. One of the great drawbacks about the normal no parking prohibitions is that they apply to hours of the day when there is no need to apply them. Because of the prohibition which applies during periods when there is no need for it people are inclined to hold the prohibition in contempt.
The industrial difficulties affecting the police force in New York brought forth last week what I think is one of the most significant admissions to come from civic authorities anywhere for a long time: The Mayor of New York regretted the police strike because it resulted in a substantial reduction in the number of parking fines with consequential serious loss to the municipal revenue. The main effect of extending the no-parking areas in Dublin has not been to relieve traffic congestion but has been to increase income to the State.
It is high time to see that there should be no further no-parking areas in Dublin or elsewhere until such time as the State spends the money it is unfairly getting from motor car owners in parking fines on the provision of parking accommodation. It does not matter whether the fault for not having sufficient off-street parking in Dublin lies with Dublin Corporation, the Department of Local Government or the Department of Justice; what is important is that all the money, which  now runs into millions of pounds and which is taken by the State for parking offences, is not being used to relieve the problem the fines are supposed to alleviate.
In Dublin Corporation some of us have already indicated that we will give no further approval to the erection of more no-parking signs. Of course, notwithstanding our refusal, the orders can nonetheless be made. However, I hope the day is not too far distant when that money will be ploughed back into the provision of off-street parking. By that I mean not simply the use of derelict areas, pending redevelopment, but rather the erection of under-street and multi-storey car parks which are necessary to the life of any modern city.
I am sorry that I must complain about the non-enforcement of clearway restrictions. During the last three months I have asked a number of people to observe clearways for me and from the reports that I have received it would appear that they never saw a clearway clear. From time to time when individual complaints are made to the Garda about the number of vehicles parked on the clearways, steps are taken for the subsequent few weeks to ensure they are kept clear. However, in relation to the clearways, as in relation to all other traffic matters, we find indifference. The indifference of the Minister and of the higher up authorities is reflected in the indifference of the Garda Síochána to this matter. At the moment the State is dealing with 97,000 parking fines per annum, amounting in fines to between £100,000 and £150,000. Could not some of that money go towards the provision of accommodation which would keep our clearways clear and prevent people using, in desperation, the areas in which they are prohibited to park at the present time?
We, as Members of this House have experienced great difficulty from time to time in endeavouring to reach Leinster House when coming through Molesworth Street. Very often up to 20 cars are parked in an area in which parking is prohibited. On my way to the house today at 2.55 p.m. there  were no less than 21 cars parked in Molesworth Street under no-parking signs. This is not an indication of a serious attempt on the part of the Minister to tackle the parking problem in Dublin. The Minister for Justice will find on the files in his office several complaints from Members of this House concerning the parking regulations. The Minister and his colleagues in the short time they will remain in office—they might go earlier than the Taoiseach wants to go if the Members are unable to reach the House during some critical Division— should see to it that the majority of road users have not to suffer through lack of consideration on the part of the few.
Another problem affecting traffic in Dublin is one concerning the Carriage Office and the licensing of taxis. In this city there are three times the number of taxis per head of the population that there are in similar cities abroad. The Department of Justice have, with the Department of Local Government, shared responsibility for these licences to some extent but the Carriage Office is still the authority which licences taxis and I would urge in the public interest that a limitation be put on the number of taxis operating in Dublin. I say it is in the public interest because, if there is a limitation on the number of taxi plates, it will be possible to enforce higher standards on taxis. If there is not limitation in this respect there will be a continuance of the present undesirable situation in which the full-time taxi men, who are trying to make a decent living, have to face unfair competition from the pirates and the part-timers who have little regard for the reputation of the taxi owners and the taxi drivers and still less regard for the public that the genuine taxi men ought to serve.
I would plead therefore that the Minister, with the Minister for Local Government, would tackle this problem once and for all. The Minister has suggested that he has a great concern for the liberty of the individual and the right of every person to trade. I gather this is the reason behind his refusal to enforce in Dublin what is enforced in all other similar cities in  Europe—a limitation on taxis. However, as I will be pointing out later, the Minister seems particularly keen in his devotion to the idea of the liberty of the individual but this is one case where the rights of the public need to be protected and they can be protected by giving those people who are now in the taxi trade a reasonable living. By those people I mean the genuine people in the trade and not the pirates and the part-timers who are only available whenever the cream of the traffic is available and who disappear whenever there is any difficult traffic to serve.
I spoke earlier about parking fines but I forgot to mention one incident which came to my notice and which I think should go on record. Last year, a foreign visitor to this city, like many visitors, decided to chance parking his car in a no-parking area. On his return there was an on-the-spot parking fine ticket affixed to his car. The person returned to England without paying the fine. He later wrote to the Garda station responsible for affixing the notice to the windscreen of the car explaining that he or she was a visitor. The reply to the person was addressed to Mr., Mrs., or Miss as the Garda did not know the sex or the marriage status of the person concerned. This letter which went out from the Garda station in reply to the English visitor, stated that at the time of the affixing of the notice the Garda who issued the parking notice was not aware that the car was being used by a visitor. It then went on to say that the practice in such cases was that the Garda asked the Motor Taxation Office to give information relating to the owner and, if the inquiry to the Motor Taxation Office showed that the car was owned by a car hire firm, the car hire firm was asked for a photostat copy of the hirer's agreement and this indicated the name of the person to whom the car was hired. This solemn notice from the Garda Síochána notified this visitor that, if the photostat copy indicated that the hirer came from outside the jurisdiction, that ended the matter. The notice had this little peroration—“The moral: if you incur one on your next visit do not  be alarmed. Kind regards”, and it was signed by a member of the Garda Síochána.
Mr. James Tully Mr. James Tully
Mr. James Tully: A very nice letter.
Mr. Ryan Mr. Ryan
Mr. Ryan: One can sympathise with the readiness and anxiety of the Gardaí to assist the tourist industry but it is going a little too far to say that any foreigner visiting Dublin can park indiscriminately. It may well be that some will try it on and get away with it. Europe is very concerned about this. Countries which are far more advanced in traffic regulations than ourselves are concerned and the day is not far distant when steps will be taken to ensure that the visitor will have to face the full wrath of the law like the native. We hope that, when the Fine Gael Government take office in the early spring, these offenders will get no privileges. They will be treated in exactly the same way as the natives.
In Vienna these notices are more sophisticated than that of the kind member of the Garda Síochána. There they affix to the windscreens of visitors' cars a notice pointing out that a traffic offence has been committed and that by so doing the offender has discommoded the Viennese and other people, and pleading with him not to do it again. In our case there is not even a plea to the visitor not to do it again. He is encouraged to try it on because he is told that, if he incurs another, he need not worry. This is going too far. It is indicative of the general attitude towards parking in no-parking areas. It is a kind of game played by both the motorist and the Garda.
If we are serious about the traffic problems in this city they will have to be tackled in a very effective way in the future and when I say tackled I refer to providing parking accommodation which will leave people with no reasons for parking in prohibited areas. I am the first to admit that the harassed motorist can often be excused for parking in prohibited areas when the State which collects so much money is doing nothing to provide this accommodation. If the Government come to their senses and provide car parking accommodation  then we will find less anti-social people in our community.
I share with Deputy H.P. Dockrell his criticism of court areas in Dublin which oblige many people to travel from far away to the centre of the city and then travel again from the centre to the surburb of Kilmainham to get justice. There appears to be little point in continuing the present haphazard court areas in Dublin. I understood the Minister to say there will be reform in this connection. There is one courthouse on every court day packed to the point where it makes not only the discharge of justice, but finding a seat, an extremely difficult task not only for the justice and the people involved but also for the newspaper men attending to report the proceedings and for several members of the public who have occasion to be there. Rathfarnham Courthouse is hopelessly inadequate for the population it now serves. I am not certain what the population is but it is probably in the region of 100,000 people. It was built when the population was not more than 7,000 or 8,000 people. Any person who has had occasion to make application for a licence in the area would know how many thousands of times the population has multiplied since the first decade of the century. It is intolerable that Rathfarnham court should be compelled to operate under the appalling conditions under which it is compelled to operate at the present time.
I share with Deputy James Tully great disappointment that the Garda Band has not yet been resurrected. It should never have been abolished. It was outrageous to abolish it, but this fact is related to the equally foolish decision of transferring the Garda Training Depot from Dublin to Templemore. The truth of the matter is, and the Minister acknowledges it in his statement, that the main burden of police work falls on the metropolis of Dublin. What is happening? Gardaí with no experience of urban life are being trained far away from the urban environment in which they will have to work. They are brought to Dublin and have to try and deal with the sophisticated methods of criminals in  the Dublin area. The Garda Síochána Band was doomed because the Minister found out something they had not thought of in time—that they could not maintain the Garda Band in Templemore and that the cost of transporting it to Templemore from Dublin on the occasions when we had to use it was prohibitive. We are the only civilised country now that has not a police band of its own. Now we have to march to canned music when we have pageantry. We have not real pageantry when we have not a police band. This was a deplorable step; it is a reflection on the Government that they took it and a reinforced reflection that they did not do something to mend their ways.
We have published in our Just Society policy something which we are sorry to say has not yet been stolen by the present Government. If, in the closing days of their office, they were now to steal it we would not regret it. We have recommended that probate fees be abolished. This would be a reasonable reform and would be of greater benefit to the families of deceased persons than the vexatious Succession Act which was brought in to make a complicated world more complicated. Fine Gael suggested that probate fees be abolished in estates where estate duty is not payable.
It is not because I consider that they are the last problem but because I consider that they are the first deserving of our attention that I mention the Garda Síochána.
Progress reported: Committee to sit again.
Dáil Éireann 236 Committee on Finance. Vote 20—Office of the Minister for Justice (Resumed).