Dáil Éireann - Volume 466 - 11 June, 1996

Adjourment Debate. - Protection of Cash in Transit.

Mr. O'Dea: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me raise this very important matter. Last Friday morning an incident occurred in the village of Adare, County Limerick, which will enter the annals of legal history as one of the most dastardly, odious and brutal crimes ever perpetrated. Two policemen who were momentarily stunned and effectively trapped in their vehicle were gunned down in a cold-blooded, callous and merciless fashion. Those responsible for this outrage were vastly superior in terms of numbers and fire power. Needless to say, they also had the advantage of surprise.

These circumstances can be replicated anywhere at any time. Potential assailants, whether they be para-militaries or ordinary criminals, know the type of security provided for cash in transit, the routes, the time and place of each stop and the type of weapons available for use against them. All they have to do to virtually guarantee success is ensure that they deploy greater numbers and fire power. As if that is not enough, they will also have the advantage of surprise.

Essentially, the arrangements to protect large consignments of cash in transit are demonstrably and obviously unsafe. More seriously, the lives of those unfortunate plain clothes gardaí charged with providing the security are being placed in deadly jeopardy on a daily basis. It is long past time to change that system. For example, might it not be prudent or practicable to arrange for routes and times of delivery to be varied? In any case, is it not now obvious that the [1733] security provided should be strengthened? Available Garda manpower, of necessity, is limited. However, we have a fully equipped and trained Army that has available to it a considerable amount of weaponry and armoured cars which are highly mobile. Surely they could be utilised in this context?

Is it just or justifiable to continue to expose the lives of our gardaí daily to the tender mercies of ruthless, sadistic criminals who obviously have no regard for human life or suffering? If not, surely it is blindingly obvious that the system of protecting large consignments of cash in transit must be changed immediately.

While excusing the absence of the Minister for Justice, I eagerly await the comments of the Minister of State.

Mr. Allen: I apologise for the Minister's absence. I want to put on record the Government's utter condemnation of the murder of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe and the wounding of his colleague, Detective Garda Ben O'Sullivan in Adare on Friday morning last. The full rigours of the law are being applied to ensure that all those responsible for these abominable crimes will be apprehended and brought to justice.

I also again express the sincere sympathy of the Minister for Justice, my own and that of the Government to the family, relatives, friends and Garda colleagues of Jerry McCabe. His tragic death has deprived the McCabe family of a loving husband and father and the Garda Síochána of a loyal and dedicated member. Jerry McCabe lost his life in the performance of his Garda duty in the service of his country and community.

Out thoughts, too, at this time are with Detective Garda Ben O'Sullivan who is, thankfully, recovering in hospital from his injuries. We wish him a speedy recovery and return to full health.

The Garda authorities have reported that, on the morning in question, the two detective gardaí were deployed in an unmarked Garda car to escort an [1734] SDS van. After both vehicles arrived in Adare village at 6.55 a.m., the Garda car was rammed from behind by a black Pajero jeep. The occupants exited the jeep and shots were discharged fatally injuring Detective Garda McCabe and wounding Detective Garda O'Sullivan. The Pajero jeep was abandoned at the scene and its occupants were driven away in a silver Mitsubishi car which was later recovered by gardaí at Chawke's Cross, a few miles from Adare. The Garda authorities are satisfied that the motive for the attack was robbery of cash from the van which was under Garda escort.

A major Garda operation was put in place immediately and is ongoing. A number of persons have been detained for questioning and properties searched under warrant. The investigation has so far resulted in one man being brought before the Special Criminal Court today on charges relating to the possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and membership of an unlawful organisation.

It is not the practice for Ministers for Justice to detail the progress of Garda investigations and I do not, therefore, propose to comment further on the current investigation, other than to say that there has been a very substantial and heartening response from members of the public to the Garda appeals for assistance. I encourage anybody who has any further information about this crime, and who has not yet contacted the Garda, to do so without further delay. Every item of information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, can be important in progressing the Garda investigation.

The safety and security of all persons engaged on cash escorts, including members of the Garda Síochána, is one of the foremost concerns of the Garda authorities. The Garda authorities report that the security arrangements for these escorts are kept under continuing review and that the level of security provided takes account of all relevant circumstances.

For obvious reasons, it would not be [1735] appropriate to divulge the detailed security arrangements which apply in relation to cash escorts. These are confidential Garda arrangements and their effectiveness is dependent on their being kept confidential. However, the level of security provided on cash escorts can and does vary having regard to the Garda assessment of perceived security needs. There is provision, where considered necessary in the professional judgment of the Garda authorities, to augment the level of security provided on individual escorts where this is deemed appropriate and, of course, there are arrangements whereby the Defence Forces provide extensive operational support for Garda escorts of large cash consignments. I understand that Army support extends to approximately 27,000 cash escorts per annum and that, in addition, the Air Corps provides a level of aerial crime prevention support.

It is standard Garda practice to review the operational arrangements following all major crimes. This practice will, naturally, be followed in this case also and the Garda will fully assess the outcome of that review.

The immediate Garda focus is on the apprehension of all those responsible for last Friday's atrocity. The Government has pledged its full support for the Garda in their efforts to bring those responsible to justice. They deserve our support and the support of the wider community. The Minister for Justice acknowledges the support already given by many people in relation to this case.

Mr. O'Dea: In other words, the Minister will do nothing, shame on her.

Mr. Allen: The Deputy should not make a political football out of a tragedy.