Dáil Éireann - Volume 372 - 13 May, 1987

Statements. - Incident at Emyvale, County Monaghan.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Collins): Before I go into the details of what happened [1696] at Emyvale, County Monaghan on the evening of Monday last there are two points I want to make clear. There is a long and hallowed tradition in our country of respect for the dead irrespective of who they are or the circumstances in which they died. Funerals are traditionally dignified occasions where the feelings of grieving relatives are treated with the utmost regard and sympathy. In common with the rest of us — after all, we are all part of one and the same community — the members of the Garda Síochána know and are aware of and accept that tradition of respect for the dead and for funerals.

The gardaí exist for a very specific purpose, to uphold the law of the land. That is their duty, a duty they swear to fulfil without fear or favour when they are inducted into the Garda Síochána. They cannot and must not be expected to turn a blind eye or use discretion where a serious breach of the law is involved. Let there be no mistake about it, the presence of masked men in paramilitary uniforms discharging firearms in any part of our territory is, no matter what the circumstances, a serious offence.

The incidents that occurred on Monday evening related to the funeral of the late James Lynagh. We have another worthy tradition of speaking no ill of the dead and I shall respect that, too. I do not propose to say anything of what he was, or what he may have done, or the manner of his death. The simple fact is that on Monday he was dead and as an initial stage of his funeral his body had to be conveyed from Craigavon Hospital to his home. It was obvious to everybody this would not be a normal funeral, that an exceptionally large crowd could be expected to be in attendance and also that there was the possibility that some form of paramilitary demonstration would take place in breach of the law. This placed the gardaí in a most unenviable situation.

If the possibility of an unlawful demonstration were to be completely ruled out, gardaí would have to be in attendance in such numbers and so close to the [1697] centre of things that their presence could be regarded as, at best, insensitive and, at worst, as provocative and overbearing. The other alternatives was for the gardaí to respect the dignity that belongs to all funerals, to facilitate the easy passage of the funeral along the route it was to follow and to maintain a discreet presence, to monitor what was happening and to prevent, as far as possible, any unlawful activity from taking place. On the basis of the professional judgment of the senior Garda officers who met to consider the matter, this was the action decided upon and this is what Monday evening's Garda operation was designed to achieve.

The funeral, as expected, was a particularly large one, accompanied by a big number of cars. On its way from the Border to Monaghan it had to pass through Emyvale which is approximately five miles from the Border. As arranged, the gardaí were present in discreet numbers, some in uniform and some detectives in plain clothes. At Emyvale the funeral paused, ostensibly to allow the coffin to be carried through the village. When the hearse stopped, cars from the following cortege blocked the road by parking three abreast across it. The coffin was removed from the hearse and was shouldered by six men in relays through the village, flanked on both sides by walking men and women wearing masks and dark glasses. When this procession reached the end of the village the cortege stopped and immediately the crowd, estimated to be in the region of 700, tightened in close around it and linked arms. At this, three men, in battle dress and black balaclavas and carrying what appeared to be high powered rifles quickly emerged from a nearby laneway. They lined up at the side of the coffin and fired some single shots followed by a burst of shots before retreating through the crowd, which broke into cheers, facilitated the retreat of the gunmen and obstructed the gardaí who were close at hand from pursuing them.

Two Garda detectives who were manning a car patrolling a side road observed the same gunmen who had been followed [1698] by uniformed gardaí. The detectives' car was observed by the crowd to be blocking the road and preventing the gunmen's escape. The crowd surrounded the car in which one of the detectives were sitting and proceeded to heave it over a two foot high wall to drop it about four feet lower than the road into a stream about five feet wide and eight feet deep. It must be borne in mind that at this stage the life of the garda inside the car was in considerable danger. Apart from any other injury he might sustain, the engine of the car was running so there was a real danger that the car would go on fire.

The detective who remained outside the car called on the crowd to stop their attack on the car with his colleague inside. As the crowd ignored his call and in view of the imminent danger to his colleague, he then fired six or seven bursts of automatic fire from his submachine gun over the heads of the crowd. The detective who was in the car, which landed on its roof, succeeded in extricating himself by breaking out through the rear car window. As he emerged from the car he, with two other uniformed gardaí who had been pushed into the stream, was showered with stones by the violently aggressive crowed. The detective who had fired the earlier shots at this stage drew his hand gun and fired one further shot over the heads of the crowd in an effort to make them disperse and to save his colleagues and himself from possible serious injury. The crowd then withdrew, the gunmen having by this time made good their escape. A uniformed sergeant and garda sustained some injuries which are not thought to be of a serious nature. They and the detective who was in the overturned car suffered a degree of shock. The entire incident, dramatic and violent as it was, took no more than a matter of minutes.

I have to exercise great restraint and caution in commencing on the incidents I have just described, as I understand there is every possibility that at least some of those responsible for the outrageous behaviour towards the Garda, as well as the other matters, will be brought before [1699] the courts and I am anxious that no comment of mine might even appear to be prejudicial to those who will face criminal charges arising out of these events. I ask all other Deputies to exercise similar restraint for the very same reason.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): I should like to thank the Minister for Justice for making this statement this morning. He refers to the traditional respect for the dead in this country and certainly I would like to agree with him on that. I am afraid, however, that members of the Provisional IRA have very little respect for the dead. They use young men while they are alive and when they are dead they abuse their funerals for political purposes. It is outrageous that masked men in paramilitary uniform were on the streets of one of our villages firing shots with automatic weapons. There is only one legitimate armed force in this State and that is the Irish Army. We should continue in this House to deplore any attempt by any organisation to usurp the conscience of this State.

I should like to sympathise with the members of the Garda who were on duty in Emyvale and to commend them for carrying out their duty in very difficult circumstances. We appreciate the emotional tradition of political funerals in this country. I can see and appreciate, from what the Minister has said, the difficult position in which the gardaí found themselves. I should like to compliment them and, in particular, the armed plain clothes garda who, in my opinion, quite rightly decided to use his Uzi submachine gun and his revolver in defence of his colleagues who were under attack.

There are a number of questions which arise and I should like the Minister to deal with them in his reply. First, how many members of the Garda Síochána were present? Secondly, was there a deliberate policy to approach the passing of the cortége in a low profile manner, was there a question of watching the cost of the operation, or any question of the gardaí not having the resources at their disposal, without recourse to overtime, [1700] to put sufficient numbers in the street in Emyvale on that occasion? I should like to ask also who was in charge of the gardaí? I am not looking for the name of the individual in charge, but I should appreciate if the Minister could inform us of the highest ranking garda present in Emyvale.

The question of the shooting is very disturbing. I think there is almost unanimous support in this House for the concept of an unarmed police force. It is a corollary of that that a small section of the police then have to be armed and have to be prepared to use their arms in special circumstances. Will the Minister inform the House how many shots were fired? Will he tell the House how many rounds are normally issued to plainclothes detectives both for their automatic weapons and their hand guns?

Mr. G. Collins: Will the Deputy repeat his question, please?

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): Will the Minister tell the House what is the standard issue of rounds of ammunition to plain clothes gardaí on duty for automatic weapons and hand guns because media reports suggest that the detective involved who was under threat was in the position that his Uzi submachine gun was useless because he ran out of ammunition after a couple of bursts and had to resort to the use of a hand gun? Will the Minister inform the House of the precise instructions issued to members of the Garda Síochána on the use of guns and of the procedures involved when they fire their weapons? Will the Minister tell the House the current precise instructions given to members of the force in regard to the discharge of their weapons on occasions like the one under discussion? I appreciate, as the Minister said, that charges may be imminent and I sincerely hope charges will be preferred. One has to be careful in commenting once there is a question of charges likely to be preferred.

Most of us get our information by impression from television. I should like to point to a contrast of impressions [1701] in the news bulletins on the night in question. There seemed to be no use of weaponry by the paramilitaries at funerals in the North but once the camera crew switched to our side of the Border we got a very graphic picture of three men in paramilitary uniforms using automatic weapons. That creates an extremely bad impression and provides a propaganda opportunity for those who do not have the interests of the country at heart and who will use an incident like this to suggest we are not as diligent as we might be in the suppression of the IRA. I know that the present Government, like the previous Government, are absolutely committed in their opposition to the IRA and I know that the Garda are extremely efficient in the carrying out of their duties but there is a residual impression which remains as a result of an incident like this and that can be used against the reputation of the Garda Síochána and of the country.

Will the Minister give an assurance that adequate Garda resources will be available at the funeral today? I appreciate he cannot give the details of the security arrangements which will be put in place by the Garda Síochána but I should like to get an assurance that adequate resources will be available, that adequate numbers of gardaí will be deployed and that, if necessary, the Army will be used as a back-up at today's funeral so that there will not be any repeat of the incidents that occurred at Emyvale.

I should like to make an associated point in regard to this matter. I understand the church authorities in Northern Ireland have an agreement with the relatives of those who die in incidents such as the one under discussion that there will be no paramilitary display within church grounds or in the church. I should like to know if the Minister is in a position to inform us if the church authorities in our part of the country have a similar arrangement. To return to where the Minister began, in our respect for the dead it is appropriate that that respect should be extended to ensure there is no use of paramilitary paraphernalia or arms on sanctified ground.

[1702] I should like to thank the Minister for coming before the House this morning to inform us in great detail of what happened. I hope the Minister will be able to answer my questions in the course of his reply to the statements or subsequently. I hope he can give an assurance to the House that adequate resources are available today to ensure there will be no repetition.

Miss Harney:Like other speakers I am glad to have an opportunity to comment on the incidents at Emyvale on Monday evening. Like many Members one is always very wary about being critical of our Garda Síochána. They have a very difficult job to do and many members of the force have tragically lost their lives trying to protect the State and its citizens. I can understand what happened at Emyvale but I fail to see why adequate precautions were not taken in advance to ensure there was adequate Garda strength there on the evening in question.

In that context I should like to ask the Minister if he was in touch with the Garda authorities over the weekend or on Monday to ensure there would be adequate Garda protection on duty on Monday evening in Emyvale. As the Minister said this morning, this was not a normal funeral. It was emotive like all such funerals. One has to have regard for the feelings of the family, relatives and friends of the deceased but one must strike a balance between having regard for the deceased, their relatives and friends, and having an adequate Garda presence to ensure that the law is upheld and the lives of citizens are not put in danger. One must ensure that the unlawful activities that occurred in Emyvale will not happen again. This is not the first time we have had a funeral of this type. Since the early seventies there have been a number of such funerals and about four years ago we had a similar episode in Tralee.

It appears to me there are no procedures for the Garda to follow in cases like this. It appears that it is left to the authorities in districts like Cavan-Monaghan to make a decision as to the [1703] number of Gardaí they will put into a town like Emyvale for such events. It does not appear that a decision was made at senior Garda level, at Commissioner level, and I should like the Minister to comment on that.

I should like to make a number of comments on the episode. We are all aware that it was widely publicised on television here, in Britain and elsewhere and that an impression was created that the Garda were not prepared for what was likely to happen. The impression was created that they were completely overwhelmed and were not capable of dealing with the incident. That has serious consequences for our system of justice, our faith in the Garda Síochána and the operations of the force. I agree with the Minister that this was no ordinary funeral. It was well known that Mr. Lynagh was a very prominent member of the Provisional IRA. The authorities had Saturday, Sunday and Monday to make adequate preparations for the funeral but it appears from newspaper reports that there was not a sergeant in charge on the occasion. It appears that the gardá adopted a traffic control performance, were controlling the crowd as they would control any crowd going to a concert or GAA match. At another level they had a surveillance operation mounted at Emyvale to check on who was present and what was going on but they did not seem to be prepared for what might happen or to have sufficient members to deal with the difficulty that arose.

I would like to ask the Minister, as Deputy Noonan has, to give us an assurance that there will be adequate gardaí present at this morning's funeral and that they will have available to them all the backup facilities they require. Emyvale is not a difficult area to patrol. It is simply a question of patrolling one street. It is not an area where there are a large number of roads, lay-bys and places that would enable people to escape easily. From my understanding — I have been there and I know people who are familiar with the area — it would have been relatively easy for the gardaí to have adopted [1704] a preventative approach to this incident and ensured that no person with firearms would have got through at the various points of entry to the town. That does not seem to have been the Garda approach; they waited until something happened before they did anything and then their number was so inadequate that they were not capable of dealing adequately with what arose.

At this event there was a considerable representation of media people. I would like to refer to comments made by members of the media over the week-end and, in particular, to an article in this morning's Irish Times by their security correspondent who describes the people who attend these funerals as Republicans, sympathisers and so on. It is regrettable that people who support the activities of the Provisional IRA should merit the title, Republican. As one who lives by and supports the Republican ideal I know many people share my view and feel outraged when people who support the activities of the IRA are given the benefit of being branded “Republicans”.

In that context I am appalled at the insensitive comments made by members of Clare County Council, of Castleblayney Urban District Council, of Tralee Urban District Council and of Leitrim County Council in relation to the killings. I ask the members of those councils and the parties to which they belong to bear in mind that they have adopted a very one-sided approach to what happened. They have a very blinkered view of what happened at the weekend. The weapons found on the IRA men had been used to kill members of the RUC and business people involved in their ordinary everyday business activities. I find it very objectionable, as I know the vast majority of people do, to learn of the remarks made by these local representatives.

I would like to contrast the remarks made by members of those councils with the situation that arose in Monaghan Urban District Council when members of the council failed to adjourn their [1705] meeting as a mark of sympathy. I compliment them for taking that decision, I know how difficult it was for them given that Emyvale is in County Monaghan. It cannot have been very easy for them to take that courageous decision. They deserve our credit for so doing. Politicians here should not be afraid to speak out and to stand up when the name of Ireland and the names of fellow Irish people are bandied about by people who have no respect for law and order and human life.

Deputy Noonan referred to the regulations in relation to the use of firearms. The questions he asked were interesting in so far as he is a former Minister for Justice. I understand that these regulations lay down very specific guidelines as to when firearms can be used. One of the criteria laid down in such regulations is that firearms must be used only by a member of the force when he feels that his life or the life of a colleague is in danger. I would like to ask the Minister if these regulations have been looked at during the last couple of years and if he thinks it might be a good idea for the Garda authorities to have another look at these regulations in the light of recent incidents to make sure they are adequate to meet the demands of what is becoming increasingly an ever sophisticated campaign on behalf of the Provisional IRA.

I would like also to ask the Minister if he will give us an assurance that he will ensure, in conjunction with the Garda authorities, that adequate procedures are laid down in future for funerals of this kind. One hopes that such incidents will not occur again but one can never be sure about this. Given the number of times incidents like this happened in the early seventies it is time correct procedures were laid down and decisions in relation to Garda operations made at a very senior level so that gardaí do not operate on the basis of, “we will take a chance and see what happens”, which appears to have been the case at Emyvale.

I do not want to criticise what the members of the force on the ground did that night. It was probably necessary in the circumstances. It is all too easy for [1706] politicians to undermine the force by criticising constantly what they might and might not do. A few days ago members of the Garda Síochána were jeered and sneered at by members of Sinn Féin outside a courtroom after an extradition debacle. I know the difficult circumstances in which many gardaí operate. By being members of the Garda they take risks with their own lives and with the lives of their families. It ill-becomes any politician in this House to criticise unless one is absolutely sure that there was an abuse of power on Monday night and I am not convinced that there was. The remarks made by the Minister today indicate that the gardaí genuinely felt that the life of one of their colleagues was in danger. I can understand why they thought that. I think that situation arose because they did not have sufficient numbers and did not take the precautions one feels were necessary on that occasion.

Mr. Taylor: I would like to join with my colleagues in expressing my appreciation to the Minister for making a statement to the House in relation to the events at Emyvale on Monday night. As the Minister rightly said, the question of funerals is one of very great sensitivity and requires great care as to how they should be approached from a security point of view. As we know, the Provisional IRA use funerals as a staging arrangement for propaganda. They use the dead for this purpose. They have no respect either for the dead or for the living.

As the Minister said, the gardaí felt that the life of one of them was in danger. From the events described, some of which were seen on television, quite clearly the life of a garda was put in danger. Ordinary people would have seen and learned of those events with intense disquiet and with an intense sense of unease that when events like that can be allowed pass off, there is a threat to the security of the State. We are talking about an armed situation where evil people with guns attack the Garda.

One thing which must go forth from Dáil Éireann today is that the Garda [1707] have the full and unequivocal support and confidence of Irish people. We admire the work they do. They represent us in their work. We are behind them and support them in every respect. It must be shown and appreciated that any attack on the Garda force is an attack on the State, not an attack on an individual garda. It constitutes nothing less than a threat to the security of this State. This cannot be tolerated. The law must be upheld. We give to our police force our backing and our authority. We must ensure that the Garda, too, act in accordance with the law.

As I see it, no adequate thought was given to what approach should have been adopted at the Emyvale funeral. As the Minister said, there are two possible approaches in this kind of situation: one is to take a low profile approach and hope that the funeral will pass off quietly and without difficulty; and the other is to send in an adequate force to control an anticipated situation. I can appreciate the force of argument and reason that could be applied to either of those alternatives, but neither approach was taken here.

It appears that we fell between two stools. We did not keep an unarmed profile presence of the Garda; nor did we go in with a sufficient degree of force to control the situation. I suppose in the event we got out reasonably well. The matter could have been worse. We went in with a very small number of gardaí, without senior officers being present to control and direct them, and I could well visualise a situation where the gardaí could have been disarmed. As the Minister said, the officer with the machine gun ran out of ammunition and had to resort to the use of a handgun. Those weapons could have been appropriated and taken away from the gardaí. That would have been a serious and unacceptable humiliation of the security authorities of the State. It was a mistake to send in such a small number of gardaí without senior officers in control.

A decision has to be made in these cases on whether the approach should be heavy or light and that should be followed [1708] through all the way. We should not be caught in the middle which, quite clearly, is the worst of all options. This situation will arise from time to time and we should prepare operational plans on how to deal with it, plans adapted to the needs that apply to each case depending on the locality.

We must ensure that when the gardaí are given a task of this kind they have the full support of Dáil Éireann, the full support and confidence of the people and that the resources of the State are used to back them up. I believe there is no shortage of Garda and Army resources in that part of our country. They should be made available when necessary. It is unacceptable that a member of the Garda in a car with the engine running is attacked by a mob, the car rolled over into a stream and that officer's life put in danger. Such a possibility should not be countenanced and we should not leave ourselves open to it. I ask the Minister to ensure that we apply greater forethought and care to these situations and that a humiliation of that nature is not imposed on our Garda Síochána and on ourselves.

Tomás Mac Giolla: There is not much point in saying whether the gardaí were there in too great or too little strength. Only the Garda can decide that. We have had many examples of these difficult situations in Northern Ireland. I deplore the attacks on the gardaí which could have resulted in serious injury or loss of life. Some of those responsible were clearly identifiable in pictures and we support the Minister in whatever efforts can be taken to prosecute them. The funeral takes place today and we hope that, despite the provocative and irresponsible behaviour of the Provisional IRA, the gardaí will act firmly but with restraint and discipline. How that is to be done is a matter for themselves.

I want to make the point that the Provisionals are a dangerous, fascist, sectarian, paramilitary group, who thrive on emotional tensions. We have learned that already in Northern Ireland from a number of funerals during the past few months. Such emotionally tense areas [1709] should be avoided. The procedure which is now being adopted in the North at funerals is obviously better. You wait until later to make your prosecutions.

The incidents on Monday had their roots in the attack on Loughgall police station by a Provisional gang on Friday last. It is clear that this gang of eight or nine heavily armed Provisionals set off with a massive bomb in an attempt to do the maximum damage and inflict the maximum casualties on what they expected to be a lightly manned police station. The ultimate responsibility for the carnage in Loughgall on Friday must rest with the political and military leadership of the Provisionals who sent these young men to their deaths. It illustrates the obscenity of the ballot box and the Armalite strategy.

Eight young men were sent out to die to boost the electoral prospects of people like Gerry Adams in West Belfast. Let there be no doubt that the motivation for the escalation of violence and killings during the past few months, with the expected response of the RUC and the British Army, is to heighten tensions and emotions in the North in order to maximise the Provisional vote in the Westminister elections and to ensure that Adams is re-elected. They depend on emotional support for their electoral success. They have nothing whatever to offer politically and they would never have achieved electoral support without the slow deaths of ten young men on hunger strikes. So eight more now die.

The people who are engaged in this vicious sectarian war against the Protestant people of the North will get no sympathy whatever from me or from The Workers' Party. It is an insult to all previous generations to link them as if they are Republicans in the same tradition. We support whatever measures are taken by the Minister and the Garda to ensure that these tensions and emotions do not develop in this State.

An Ceann Comhairle: May I advise Deputy Kemmy that on the Order of Business this morning this matter was decided. It was decided that the Minister [1710] for Justice should speak for ten minutes and that statements would be heard from a spokesperson for the parties in this House. The Deputy does not constitute a party so I regret I cannot hear him now.

Mr. Kemmy: I am a member of a party.

An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry Deputy but for the purpose of this debate you should have at least two members in the House.

Mr. Kemmy: I have spoken about this matter——

An Ceann Comhairle: I cannot hear you now Deputy. Obviously the Deputy was not here for the Order of Business. I regret I cannot hear you, Deputy.

Mr. Kemmy: I have strong views on this.

An Ceann Comhairle: It is a decision of the House.

Mr. Kemmy: If you sat where I am sitting——

An Ceann Comhairle: I would be very glad to hear the Deputy but the procedures laid down in respect of this matter are against you and I cannot hear you.

Mr. Kemmy: If we are to talk about democracy——

An Ceann Comhairle: I am calling on the Minister for Justice, Deputy Collins, to reply.

Mr. Kemmy: Obviously this House of Parliament——

An Ceann Comhairle: I have explained the position to the Deputy and I cannot do more.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Order.

[1711] Mr. Kemmy: It was many years before people——

An Ceann Comhairle: Thank you Deputy.

Mr. Kemmy: I disagree. Do you want me to be disorderly?

An Ceann Comhairle: The position is very, very clear.

Mr. Kemmy: It is a wrong ruling.

An Ceann Comhairle: You may disagree with me but you must accept my ruling in this matter now.

Mr. Kemmy: I disagree——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Minister.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Collins): I regret that Deputies such as Deputy Kemmy and others who might like an opportunity to contribute and let us have their views on this matter are not in a position to do so because of the way business was ordered. I regret that and I appreciate that Deputy Kemmy would be positive and constructive in what he would have to say in the matter.

I thank Members of the House for their statements on this very important and very delicate matter. In particular I thank them for their appreciation of the difficulties faced by the Garda Síochána and for their complimentary remarks on the way the Garda performed. It was, of course, a very difficult situation for the Garda to cope with and I should like the House to understand clearly that the decision with regard to the approach of the Garda to this issue was made by the Garda Commissioner, having discussed the matter in conference with his deputy commissioners and the assistant commissioner in charge with responsibility for security operations. It would be wrong to assume from what was said here this morning that this decision was made locally and in isolation. That is not so.

It is not the case that what has been described as the “low profile” approach [1712] by the Garda has anything to do with costs or lack of resources being available. These factors did not enter into it in any way whatsoever. The decision was made by the Garda at the highest level, having regard to their professional experience in matters such as this. There were some difficulties for the Garda in making their plans for the occasion because up to the last minute they were not sure whether the remains would be brought to Monaghan or Clones. This did not ease the planning of their operations.

As a former Minister for Justice, Deputy Noonan will be aware that it has never been the practice to give the information he is looking for with regard to numbers on duty at a particular time. Regarding the number of shots fired, I covered that matter in the statement. The gunmen who came with rifles appear to have fired two shots each initially and then fired a burst of shots. One can only guess the number of shots fired in a burst; an educated guess would be perhaps four or six shots. On the question of ammunition for the Uzi machine gun, I gather that between six and eight shots were fired from the Uzi gun. Deputy Noonan will readily appreciate that perhaps there were other supplies available but not immediately to hand which could not have been used.

It is very obvious that the detective garda who used the Uzi and his hand gun did so in an effort to save his colleague who was trapped in the overturned car while the engine was running. He feared that petrol would spill and the whole thing would go up in a blaze. Apart from his colleague in the car, he and two other colleagues were being stoned ruthlessly by the mob on the bank and he feared they would all be killed.

I should like Members to appreciate that all this took place in a matter of minutes. There were other members of the Garda Síochána in the district but they could not get through. As I said in my statement, the roads were blocked and the crowd in their well-rehearsed tactics closed in tightly. It was impossible for anybody to come to their assistance [1713] at that time. With regard to the precise instructions for the use of guns, I do not propose to go into this matter now. I suggest that we can talk about these instructions at Question Time or on some other occasion.

It could be said with hindsight that the Garda did not envisage the possibility of any incident in Emyvale. There were large numbers of gardaí deployed in other areas who were on call, ready to deal with situations that might arise in Monaghan and or Clones. I suppose it can be said with hindsight that they might have adopted a different approach but, as Deputy Harney said, a delicate balance has to be struck and that is a matter for the professional judgment of the Garda Síochána. I was advised of what was going on over the weekend but it was purely a Garda decision, as it should be. The question of how they will approach the problem today is purely a matter for decision by the Garda Commissioner and his top men, exercising their professional judgment. They have available to them all the resources of the State, including the Army on standby if the Garda feel it is necessary to call them in.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): What was the rank of the garda in charge in Emyvale?

Mr. Collins: I have not that information to hand but whoever was in charge would have been designated by the chief superintendent in the Garda division to be in charge of a unit there.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): There is a suggestion that there was nobody above the rank of sergeant. Can the Minister confirm or deny that?

Mr. Collins: I deny that. It is untrue.

Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): I accept that.

Mr. Collins: Deputy Noonan raised matters concerning the Church authorities and how the paramilitaries are going to respect Church grounds, having [1714] regard to the situation which has developed in Northern Ireland in recent times. I understand from the Garda Commissioner that he will not have members of the Garda Síochána in Church grounds today. I have just heard that, by way of information.

I have covered a number of points raised by Deputy Harney. It was a decision made at headquarters. The Garda authorities have to rely on their experience and professionalism in planning for these things. One never knows exactly what to expect on such occasions. In the past many Members of this House have witnessed situations where we had something like 500 troops on the front lawn of Leinster House in an effort to give the Garda the support they needed. There was genuine belief and fear that this House where we are sitting would be burned to the ground. These decisions were taken by the Garda, not by Ministers for Justice who are Members of this House. They have to try to anticipate what is going to happen and to deal with it. Deputy Taylor was correct when he said the Garda must always have the full support, backing and resources of the State and the people in an effort to ensure that they do what has to be done, and that goes without question.

Of course, decent ordinary people were incensed and outraged at what they saw on their TV screens on the night in question. I have spoken to a number of people and they were truly outraged at the way members of the Garda were dealt with. There is no doubt about that and if the exercise at Emyvale was meant to be a propaganda exercise for the purpose of encouraging recruits into the Provisional IRA the whole thing backfired very heavily on them because 99.99 per cent of the people in this part of the country have the highest respect for the Garda and what they are trying to do, and they support them. There are times, I suppose, when mistakes can happen and one must be careful of over-reaction. We must have that balance that we have been talking about, and we must accept that any attack on the Garda Síochána is an attack on the State and cannot be tolerated. Of [1715] course, occasions arose in the past when gardaí had their weaponry taken from them. I have no doubt that that possibility is always there and the Garda are very conscious of it. It is a humiliating experience for the member, the force generally and those they are meant to guard that such should happen, but we can be confident that the Garda are alert to this danger and they are naturally very careful.

Certainly there is no question of any shortage of resources in dealing with occasions such as this one and the Garda and the Commissioner have available to them today everything and anything needed by them. I thank Deputy Mac Giolla for his support for the Garda and for his condemnation of the attack on members of the Garda and I know his views will be shared by the Members of this House. I have no doubt that under very serious provocation the Garda will act firmly and fairly and in a disciplined fashion.

An Ceann Comhairle: That concludes the debate on this subject.