Dáil Éireann - Volume 450 - 14 March, 1995

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Safety of Tourists.

13. Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice the further initiatives, if any, she will take to ensure that the risk of attacks on tourists and theft of tourists' property are minimised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5284/95]

Mrs. Owen: The issue of crime against tourists is one which receives the highest priority from my Department and the Garda authorities. Close co-operation is maintained with Bord Fáilte to ensure that crimes of this nature are minimised to the greatest possible extent.

In answering a parliamentary question on 8 February 1995 regarding tourist crime statistics, I set out, in detail, the measures taken by the Garda to deal with this problem, which include the deployment of additional Garda patrols, both uniformed and plain clothes, in areas of high tourist interest. In this regard, it is noticeable that a limited number of locations feature in many instances of crime against tourists. For this reason, the Garda are targeting these areas to ensure the safety of tourists. Other measures include the provision and distribution of an information leaflet by the Garda which is written in three different European languages and gives advice to tourists on how to protect their property and personal belongings. These leaflets are also available at all seaports and airports. This is a simple crime prevention device which has proved to be of very practical value.

Another significant measure designed to help in tackling the problem is the provision of the Garda Office which opened in March 1990 in O'Connell Street, Dublin. This serves as a central location for advising tourists on preventive measures which they can take to safeguard themselves and their belongings. It also maintains a permanent Garda presence in the area.

[1169] An initiative deserving of special notice is the launch by the Garda Community Relations Unit of a street map for tourists in Dublin, listing places of historical and current interest and including crime prevention advice. Supervised carparks are depicted on the maps. I understand that it is intended to extend this project to other areas frequented by tourists. In addition, gardaí have carried out security surveys of all youth hostel accommodation. Advice has been given on securing entry and exit points to these buildings and providing facilities to allow tourists to store luggage securely. I have also made available resources to introduce closed circuit television in the Temple Bar area which, I hope, will be operational shortly after Easter.

So far, I have dealt with crime prevention. However, we must put in place measures to help those tourists unfortunate enough to end up as victims of crime. A new initiative in this area is the establishment of the Dublin Tourist Victim Support Service which was launched on 14 April 1994 and which is being operated by the Irish Association for Victim Support — IAVSI. This new concept is modelled on the existing Amsterdam Tourist Assistance Service and provides tourists who have been the victims of crime with a practical support service to assist them in overcoming the initial trauma of their experiences. The Garda Síochána have been involved in setting up this service and have provided premises for its operation at the Garda Dublin Metropolitan Area Headquarters at Harcourt Square. A coordinator with a victim support background has been appointed to head the team of volunteers who possess a wide range of foreign languages. All volunteers have received extensive training to allow them deal effectively with tourists who become victims of crime while on holiday in Ireland. I know that this service will prove to be of immense benefit to visitors to this country who suffer the misfortune of becoming victims of criminal activity.

[1170] It is necessary in discussing this subject to retain a sense of proportion. Dublin is a relatively safe city for visitors by comparison with the situation in other European and world capitals. The available statistics suggest that less than one tenth of one per cent of the 3.7 million or so visitors to this country each year fall victims to any form of crime. While not in any way wishing to understate the problem and fully recognising the need for the preventive and other measures which are being taken, I think it is important also that we avoid the risk of overstatement of portraying an image of our country which is excessively negative or which might scare off valuable and welcome tourism revenue from our shores.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: It is well past the time. Perhaps we will have one brief supplementary from Deputy Upton.

Dr. Upton: Does the Minister expect fewer tourist attacks in Dublin this year than during the past few years?

Mrs. Owen: I have no figures yet for 1995. It is too early.

Dr. Upton: Does the Minister anticipate that tourist attacks will be less of a problem this year than in the past?

Mrs. Owen: Unfortunately, when I became Minister for Justice I did not become a prophet. I cannot anticipate the extent of the problem. I hope the procedures put in place such as the closed circuit television in Temple Bar and other measures will reduce a number of tourists who fall foul of criminal activity and attacks. That should be our objective.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That concludes questions for today.