Dáil Éireann - Volume 416 - 20 February, 1992

Adjournment Debate. - Tallaght (Dublin) Community Hall Search.

Mr. Taylor: Killinarden is a Dublin Corporation estate in Tallaght where people got together some years back and, by dint of very great local effort, collected money and organised the building of their own community hall. This was a rare enough event in Dublin city and county, for residents of a corporation estate to be able to do this. However, they have a great sense of local pride and tremendous effort and endeavours were employed. The Killinarden parish community council duly opened their hall a couple of years ago. They do wonderful work, they run advice services, help the people of the area, run social functions and youth functions and employ people on SES schemes.

Certain disturbing events took place there on Tuesday, 14 January 1992. According to the information furnished to me, at about 9.30 a.m. some ten members of the Garda Síochána Special Branch raided the Killinarden parish community hall, some of them openly carrying Uzi submachine guns. They produced a search warrant which indicated that the search was being carried out under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act. In the community hall on the occasion there were three members taking part in a special employment scheme of the Department of Labour in addition to a few members of the parish community council.

One of the special employment scheme workers was extremely shocked when she saw an armed man going to the pool room where she was sweeping up and closing the door behind him. Despite her request the armed officer gave the woman no explanation as to who he was or what he was doing. The member of the council present — and who saw the warrant — said that there was no need for the Garda Special Branch officers to openly display [202] their weapons and requested that they be put away. However, this request was ignored.

A general search of the community centre ensued; the officers did not search the shower area where chairs were stacked, not, for some inexplicable reason, a number of lockers. However, they searched through certain private papers relating to certain individuals in the community. As I said, the community council operate an advice service and would have documents and papers relating to the private affairs of individuals. I am informed that these papers were examined although they are the property of the local community council.

The whole episode lasted approximately 40 minutes and the whole community council committee are appalled at this sinister development. They are ordinary, local, hardworking people, virtually all of whom I have known for many years, dedicated to local community work and, as far as I know, have no criminal or political involvement. The members of the community council feel that there has been an ongoing campaign over the last few months by certain members of the Garda Special Branch who pay visits to some members of the community council and to members of other committees in the area.

Shortly before the events which I have narrated, three young children going into the centre were approached and questioned about meetings held in it and about who the committee members are, although these matters are all above board as the members are elected at annual general meetings in the normal way. The residents of this corporation estate feel that they are being intimidated; they promote, in accordance with the requirements of their constitution the general, social and economic interests of the people in all things for the attainment of those objects. The committee are nonpolitical, the information they acquire is confidential and nothing of any substance was discovered.

I realise that the Garda have their job to do, they indicate that information had [203] been passed to them, but very often information is passed on a mischievous basis and it is a sad day when hard working local members of a corporation estate feel intimidated by members of the Garda Síochána. I express the strong and sincere hope to the Minister that he will ensure the pressure and intimidation which they feel is dissipated and discontinued.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. Flood): Like Deputy Taylor, I am familiar with the Killinarden community centre and its operations. I agree with the views expressed by my colleague in the constituency, Deputy Taylor, regarding the efficient centre and the excellent contribution it has made over the years to the development of the Killinarden parish area, which is very substantial.

The Minister for Justice has been informed by the Garda authorities that the search in question was carried out by members from Tallaght Garda station and members of the Special Detective Unit in accordance with the law and was duly authorised by a warrant issued under section 29 of the Offences Against the State Act, 1939. It has never been the practice to disclose the specific information available to the Garda which causes such a warrant to be issued and, as the Deputy will appreciate, there are very good reasons for that. The basis on which a warrant can be issued is set out in the relevant provision of the 1939 Act which specifies generally that such warrants may be issued where a senior Garda officer is satisfied that there is reasonable grounds for believing that evidence relating to the commission of certain serious offences is to be found in a particular building or place.

The Minister for Justice has also been informed by the Garda authorities that, prior to the search being carried out, the caretaker of the premises was asked to attend to open the building. After the search had been completed, the chairman of the parish community council, who had arrived on the scene, was asked if [204] he had any complaints about the way in which the search had been conducted. He replied to the effect that he had no complaints but that he objected to the search itself.

I understand that the Garda in Tallaght have regular meetings with representatives of the Killinarden parish community council to discuss matters of mutual interest related to policing. The subject of this search was raised at a meeting on 15 February when objections were made to the fact that gardaí engaged in the search were armed and that their weapons were visible. The Garda undertook to consider the various points made and to respond at a suitable opportunity and I think it is appropriate that the considered Garda response take place in that regular and agreed forum.

I should also mention that the Garda Síochána Complaints Board were established by law to investigate complaints by members of the public against the Garda Síochána. If persons concerned about the issues raised by the Deputy are alleging Garda misconduct in the way the search was carried out then the board will consider that complaint if it is brought to their attention in writing, by calling to their offices or by informing the Garda. The Minister for Justice cannot pass on a complaint to the board on a person's behalf as it is a condition of the relevant legislation that the complaint must be made in one of the ways described. Of course, any such complaint must relate to alleged misconduct on the part of the Garda and not merely to the fact that they were carrying out their duty in accordance with the law.