Dáil Éireann - Volume 547 - 31 January, 2002

Private Members' Business. - Crime Levels: Motion Resumed.

  The following motion was moved by Deputy Shatter on Wednesday, 30 January 2002:

    That Dáil Éireann, conscious of the promises made by the Government to cut crime down to zero-tolerance levels and mindful of the need for ordinary citizens to feel safe while going about their daily lives and the fact that many Irish people are living in fear of violent attack, borne out by the recently published Garda Annual Report which shows a dramatic increase in the incidents of violent crime and highlights the failure of the Government to implement its promised zero-tolerance approach, condemns:

    –the attempts by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to portray Ireland as a place of falling crime rates by focusing on so-called 'headline offence' figures which ignore the occurrence of assaults and woundings;

    –the failure of this Government to address the problem of violent assault which resulted in over 10,400 reported assaults to an Garda Síochána in 2000, and which includes a 131% increase in assaults causing harm;

    –the inaction of the Minister in combating the prevalence of rape, which now averages six per week, violent assaults causing harm that number 5 per day and serious drug offences, of which there are four every day of the year;

    –the way in which the present administration has allowed a situation to develop whereby only one in four crimes are reported to the Gardaí, thereby damaging the reputation of the force and diminishing their status within the wider community;

    –the refusal to publish preliminary figures for 2001 which would provide a more up-to-date picture of crime in this country but [855] which are being withheld from public scrutiny for brazenly party political reasons;

    –the contempt with which the Government holds the business community, half of whose enterprises were victims of crime in 2000 and who have witnessed a 19% increase in crime since the Government came to power;

    –the lack of determination to address lawlessness which, in 2001, led to 5,000 people in Dublin needing overnight hospital care following violent attacks; and

    –the Government for failing to make our streets safe, for the dramatic escalation in violence and for betraying the promises it made to the electorate prior to the general election on this critical issue.

  Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

    To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

    –welcomes the substantial decrease in serious crime since the Government took office and the 'zero tolerance' measures taken by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in bringing this about;

    –commends the unprecedented level of resources that has been made available to the Garda Síochána including the increase of IR£251 million, €318.7 million – 53% – in the Garda Síochána Vote, from IR£472 million, €599.3 million, in 1997 to IR£723 million, €918 million, in the current year;

    –acknowledges that the strength of the Garda Síochána now exceeds 11,700, an all-time high, which represents an increase of approximately 900 gardaí since the Government took office, and is on target to reach the planned strength of 12,000 this year;

    –notes the important steps that have been taken in relation to dealing effectively with crime and crime-related issues through the establishment of the State's first ever National Crime Council;

    –endorses the measures that have been adopted on the basis of the additional funding in the sum of IR£87 million, €110.5 million, allocated under the National Development Plan 2000-2006 for crime prevention directed towards young offenders;

    –commends the Minister's legislative record since taking office in enacting an unprecedented 42 Bills and, particularly, his reform of the criminal law;

    –notes the social crime prevention activities supported by this Government as an important intervention in the lives of 'at [856] risk' young persons, not least the significant numerical expansion in Garda youth diversion projects, from 12 in 1997 to 64 at present;

    –welcomes the specific measures by this Government to deal with the problem of violence against women, including the establishment of a high-level, interdisciplinary, multi-agency steering committee chaired by a Minister of State;

    –welcomes the measures taken at community level to deal with local crime problems, including the expansion of the Garda CCTV programme, for which €15 million has been allocated over the period 2001 to 2003;

    –acknowledges the measures taken by the Garda Síochána to facilitate the reporting of crime, particularly among members of ethnic minorities, through its quality customer service initiative and the establishment of a Garda racial and intercultural office;

    –notes that enhanced Garda enforcement of the law has brought about increased detection of offences;

    –acknowledges the improvements in recent years in the service to victims of crime, including the provision of additional funding to service providers;

    –recognises the long-term benefits which PULSE will contribute to the analysis of crime statistics;

    –recognises the provision of substantial additional resources to other areas of the criminal justice system to underpin the work of the Garda Síochána, including increasing the number of prison places by 1,207 to date, with approximately 700 additional closed places on the way;

    –acknowledges the significant structural reforms being made to the criminal justice system through, for example, the appointment of additional judges, the establishment of the Courts Service and the Prisons Service and the significant progress that is being made in reforming the administration of the Garda Síochána, particularly through the strategic management initiative;

    –acknowledges the successful operations undertaken by the Criminal Assets Bureau and the excellent results it has secured;

    –recognises the underpinning of the work of the Garda Síochána through the Government's unprecedented and comprehensive programme of criminal law reform;

    –welcomes the high level of support among the community for the Garda Síochána; and

[857]     –approves the Government's continuing commitment to give priority to resourcing structural and legislative measures to build on the significant advances that have been made in the fight against crime and, in particular, to tackle effectively the problem of street violence.”

–(Minister for Justice, Equality and  

Law Reform).  

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Rabbitte was in possession. He has ten minutes remaining.

  Mr. Rabbitte: I am much obliged, a Cheann Comhairle. I had been indicating to you since the beginning of the Order of Business and I did not catch your eye. Perhaps I will do so next week.

  An Ceann Comhairle: That is understandable in the circumstances.

  Mr. Rabbitte: It is probably.

  There are some areas of Government failure where a certain tolerance can be anticipated from the public in terms of the customary media manipulation, stage managed photo opportunities and spin doctoring that goes on. For example, for reasons I can never understand, an otherwise angry and frustrated commuting public will still laugh out loud when the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, pulls an outrageous stunt like being photographed beside a static tram that comes from nowhere and goes nowhere. However, the crime situation is no laughing matter. It is not just the admitted 130% increase in violent crime or the almost weekly spate of gangland killings and other violent deaths, nor is it only about the manipulation and so-called reclassification of statistics and the apparent deliberate delay in publishing up to date statistics. Above all, it is the fact that large tracts of our cities are unsafe and many working class communities are besieged by lawlessness and marauding gangs of young thugs. Women are afraid to walk the streets at night, old people are afraid to leave their homes and parents are fearful their children will fall in with youth gangs or be preyed upon by local drug pushers. Some of these communities in our principal cities betray all the signs of being ravaged by anti-social behaviour, petty crime and, latterly and all too frequently, violent crime.

  Only in Ireland could all this have transpired under a Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who came to office loudly banging the zero tolerance drum. Couched in the verbosity of his advisers in the Bar Library and reflecting his own unerring predilection for hyperbole, he whipped up a storm of fear and exaggeration. The House will remember the homilies about New York and how big John would, once in office, pin on the sheriff's badge and clean up this town. Woe betide the wrongdoers and criminals as big John, like St. Patrick, would drive them from our shores. He could see no complexity or obstacles [858] in the way of his mission, only a supposed lack of political will on the part of his predecessor. He milked it for all it was worth without any sense of responsibility and scant regard for the facts.

  The Taoiseach told us this morning that we on this side of the House should not exaggerate criminal activity. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform got where he is today through exaggeration and bombast and without responsibility or regard to the facts. The only thread of consistency between his barnstorming in Opposition and his blundering in Government is his capacity to ignore the facts. He refuses to see that there are entire communities devastated by lawlessness and crime or to acknowledge the extent to which law-abiding citizens despair of even reporting petty crime. He refuses to understand urban Ireland and the complexities of the policing needs of working class communities. He refuses to take the necessary steps to bring the production of accurate, intelligible and accessible statistics up to date. He refuses to understand the reason the traditional high regard in which this society held the Garda has been eroded and, in many areas, regrettably replaced by alienation. He fails to understand the reason reform of the Garda is not just essential in terms of the requirements of our society but in terms of the Garda itself.

  There is no refuge for the Minister in latching on to the performance of the Criminal Assets Bureau or in hitching his case to the modest abatement of figures for burglaries, break-ins, handbag snatching and such crimes. Both decisions which contributed to this modest improvement were taken by the rainbow Government. It decided to introduce the Criminal Assets Bureau and the legislation was put through the House by my colleague, Deputy Quinn.

  The abatement in crime covering break-ins, burglaries, thefts and handbag snatching is primarily due to the decision I took in the previous Government to set up the local drugs task forces. As recently as last night on the “Tonight with Vincent Browne” programme, the well known and respected criminologist, Dr. Paul O'Mahony attributed the abatement in this type of crime to the decision to set up the local drugs task forces, to the community treatment centres they put in place and to the stabilisation effect of the methadone programme. This is what has contributed to the modest improvement in this type of crime about which the Minister boasted last night.

  I will refer in passing to my constituency. I attended a meeting before Christmas in a part of that constituency with gardaí and representatives of the local community about the extent to which it has been taken over by marauding young thugs and the reason there is a general air of lawlessness and intimidation of people. The gardaí did what they must do in such a position; they made the best of a bad lot. They do not get into the politics of criticising the Government for adequacy of policing. They suggested the position was not that bad. While we were inside at the [859] meeting, youths outside set fire to one of the cars. When the gardaí emerged from the meeting, the car was on fire.

  Despite this, a decision taken to give divisional status to Tallaght in 1997 by the then Minister, Deputy Owen, has still not been implemented. Until that decision, Tallaght, with a population of 101,000, was a sub-station of Crumlin. A chief superintendent has been appointed and that is all that has been done. The excuse is that there is not enough room in the station. Can Members present from Cork and Laoighis-Offaly understand what it must be like for there to be only one Garda station in a population of 101,000 people?

  The excuse of big John, who was going to clean up this country, for not implementing the decision is that there is not room in Tallaght Garda station to allocate the additional resources, manpower, vehicles and equipment that would have come normally with the decision to award divisional status. It is a disgrace. There are 159 gardaí to police that area on five days over seven with three shifts in operation. According to the Minister's reply to a parliamentary question, Limerick, which has serious problems such as we discussed last night and today, has an allocation of 446 gardaí. How can he justify that allocation?

  This man does not understand urban Ireland. He came to office banging the zero tolerance drum, outrageously exploiting fear and building this exaggerated case. Deputy Howlin pointed out last night that the Minister said in November 1997 that he wants to be judged at the end of his term of office according to the test of whether people feel safer in their homes. By that yardstick, he has been a disgraceful and lamentable failure because people do not feel safer in their homes. They are afraid to walk the streets of some of the cities. Old people are besieged in their homes, women are afraid to walk in public parks and when their teenage children go out, parents are concerned about the condition in which they might return. That is the reality.

  There is no emphasis on community policing or recognition by the Minister that reform is badly needed in the Garda. This is the legacy the author of zero tolerance has left our society. It is a disgrace. It has been a hypocritical period in office. He drives up from Caherciveen and signs whatever is put on his desk by his officials. He has never taken control of his Department or of the Garda and the country is the worse for it.

  Mr. O'Flynn: I wish to share my time with other Deputies. I have given a list of them to the Ceann Comhairle. I pay tribute to the Garda Síochána whose members have always been in the front line of the fight against crime. They do a difficult job well. They are prepared to place their lives and wellbeing at risk on a daily basis so that we can go about our own business, live in our communities and enjoy ourselves without always having to look over our shoulders. The Garda deserve our unstinting support in this [860] endeavour. There is a real responsibility on communities, parents, educators and others in our society to play their parts in ensuring that crime is wiped out.

  Too often we hear that the Garda do nothing, that young thugs are allowed to run riot and that criminals are never caught. However, in my own area of Cork gardaí are performing their duties to the highest level. The Garda Síochána crime figures for 2000 show that the fight against crime in Cork city is achieving results. Three homicides were recorded for the period and three were detected. Of the 117 assaults recorded, the culprits were detected in 92 cases. Overall, the detection rate for Cork city stands at a remarkable 51%, as opposed to a national average of 42%.

  I return to the important matter of public support for the Garda. We, as legislators, entrust the Garda Síochána with the onerous duties we expect them to fulfil. It ill behoves us, therefore, to undermine them in this role by heedless or unwarranted criticism in pursuit of political point scoring. Of course, where wrongdoing on the part of any member of the Garda is found we should speak out, but only to ensure that the force as a whole is not tainted by the actions of a few. I appeal to all sides of the House to demonstrate their support for the Garda Síochána as the legitimate police force in this republic.

  This Government is tough on crime and I applaud it for that. However, the long-term anti-crime policy must engage local communities in co-operation with the Garda Síochána. This is why the Government established a national crime forum in 1998 and established the State's first ever national crime council to continue this open and innovative approach to crime policy development. It is the high priority of the Government to ensure that everything possible is done to divert young people at risk from becoming involved in crime. While the mechanisms and legislation are in place to tackle crime it is equally important to tackle the causes of crime and prevent young people entering the downward spiral which so often marks a life of crime.

  I listened to criticism last night from Deputies Shatter and Howlin and this morning from Deputy Quinn. I now respond to those criticisms. I have been vocal about anti-social behaviour and crime on our streets since I first entered politics. Am I now to be silenced because some of those causing the problem are illegal immigrants? Deputies will find the coverage given to my remarks by The Irish Times on 29 January 2002 paints an accurate picture of what I said. However, I would amend the headline to read, “Illlegal Immigrants” and not “Asylum Seekers”. I do not write the headlines. I can also give Deputies a copy of comments I have received from NASC, the Irish immigrants support centre in Cork so that they can see the point of view of that body. NASC is asking me to reconsider my stance. This I will not do.

[861]   Mr. Shatter: Deputy Flynn's comments are a disgrace. He should apologise to the House.

  Mr. O'Flynn: NASC says it is going to campaign against me and other politicians who have similar viewpoints. It mistakenly accuses me of asylum seeker bashing. My remarks are aimed at the many illegal immigrants who are causing hostile public reaction because of their anti-social behaviour and abuse of Irish hospitality.

  Mr. Shatter: Deputy O'Flynn is fomenting racism. He is a disgrace.

  Mr. O'Flynn: I expressed my reservations about this matter in Dáil Éireann more than two years ago. I have seen nothing since to cause me to change my mind about illegal immigration. I will continue to express the concerns conveyed to me daily by my constituents. I have received many telephone calls regarding anti-social behaviour by some illegal immigrants on the north side of Cork city.

  Mr. Shatter: Will Deputy O'Flynn give way?

  Mr. O'Flynn: I will not give way.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is not giving way. Deputy Shatter should resume his seat.

  Mr. Shatter: Did Deputy O'Flynn say the same to the Irish illegals who went to the United States in the 1980s?

  Mr. Enright: Deputy O'Flynn is a disgrace.

  Mr. O'Flynn: I hope Deputies will sympathise with me when I tell them—

  Mr. Enright: What he is saying is reprehensible.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Enright must resume his seat. If he does not I will ask him to leave the House.

  Mr. Shatter: May I raise a point of order?

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Shatter must resume his seat. The Chair is on its feet. You may not raise a point of order when the Chair is on its feet.

  Mr. O'Flynn: I hope Deputies will sympathise with me when I tell them I have received very critical telephone calls—

  Mr. Shatter: May I raise a point of order?

  An Ceann Comhairle: I will hear the point of order.

  Mr. Shatter: Under Standing Orders specific allegations may not be made about identifiable people. The Deputy is making scurrilous racist comments about individuals who are readily identifiable. This is a disgrace. He should not be [862] allowed to abuse the privilege of this House by continuing with the type of speech he is making.

  Mr. O'Flynn: I hope Deputy Shatter will sympathise with me when I tell him I am receiving very critical telephone calls complaining that I am not putting the public viewpoint strongly enough. Am I to be denied the right to highlight the sentiments of my constituents because they refer to some illegal immigrants who are causing problems in Cork city?

  Mr. Shatter: Deputy O'Flynn's colleagues are grinning behind him. They betray the Taoiseach's policy of playing the racial card.

  Mr. O'Flynn: It has been alleged in this House that the rights of illegal immigrants are being trampled on. What about the rights of the citizens of Cork, whom I represent? Will I advise them to complain of misbehaviour on the streets only if it is coming from our own people and not from illegal immigrants?

  Mr. Enright: The fair minded people of Cork are disgusted by Deputy O'Flynn.

  Mr. Shatter: Most of the crime in Cork is committed by people who were born and reared there.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I have asked Deputy Shatter three times already not to interrupt. I will not ask him again.

  Mr. Shatter: Deputy O'Flynn is a disgrace.

  Mr. Enright: This is outrageous. It is hard to believe a Deputy would behave in this manner in this day and age.

  An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputies must resume their seats. The Chair is on its feet. I note that Deputies Shatter and Enright are listed to speak in the course of the debate.

  Mr. Enright: Deputy O'Flynn reminds us of the late Enoch Powell.

  Mr. O'Flynn: Am I to tell the citizens of Cork that they have no right to express views on events such as occurred at the North Quay Centre a few days ago? Must I tell them not to complain about being pushed off the pavement by illegal immigrants because that would be racist? Will I tell shopkeepers in Cork that they are to close their eyes to the intimidation they are suffering when some groups of illegal immigrants enter their shops and steal from them? Some, as Deputies know, have chosen a life of crime, including credit card scams and drug dealing. Is this the behaviour of people who entered this country looking for asylum? Surely they should be behaving them[863] selves and conforming with the laws of this country.

  Mr. Enright: This is outrageous.

  Mr. O'Flynn: NASC has tried to manipulate me politically by stating that it will even campaign against me. I have never been critical of genuine asylum seekers coming into this country. I have helped people to get asylum.

  Mr. Shatter: Allegations are being made about an identifiable group of people. You have a role in this matter, a Cheann Comhairle.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Shatter must resume his seat. The Deputy should not lecture the Chair in a democratic Parliament.

  Mr. Enright: I call on the Taoiseach to come to the House to hear what is being said. Never before have I witnessed such an attack in this House.

  Mr. O'Flynn: Every day of the week I help people to get work visas and with the naturalisation process. We have a problem with certain elements among illegal immigrants and the sooner we face up to the fact that they must face the full rigours of the law the better.

  Mr. Enright: Deputy O'Flynn is in danger of inciting racist attacks in Cork.

  Mr. O'Flynn: I am now being accused of racism. This is racism in reverse. Am I to be denied free speech on this issue?

  Mr. Fleming: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion regarding crime and to bring some serious tone to the debate. It is important in a democracy that one is allowed to express one's views and that people are allowed to oppose them because people are entitled to their views. It is essential that the law of the land is applied to everyone in the country regardless of their race, creed or religion. There should be no special treatment for natives of the country or those who have recently come here. The same rules should apply across the board to everyone.

  It is important to realise that there has been a major reduction in serious crime in the past four years. I was first elected to this House following the last general election. During the run up to the election the only issue mentioned on a consistent basis at meetings I attended throughout Laois and Offaly was the level of crime and the fact that people living in rural areas were afraid in their own homes. The message candidates received was that they were being elected to this House to do something about crime. The Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, has done a magnificent job. There has been a major improvement in detection rates.

[864]   Mr. Enright: He has not done much in the meantime in Laoighis-Offaly.

  Mr. Fleming: The revolving door syndrome has ended, which required tough measures. Those measures included putting people in prison when convicted of committing crime, which the previous Government failed to do. Previously there was a revolving door syndrome because of the lack of space. In that context, I particularly welcome the opening of the new Midlands Prison in Portlaoise where there are several hundred places available for criminals who commit serious crime. In addition, as a result of the work of the Government and my constituency colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, we are now experiencing a peace dividend. Places are now available in the high security prison in Portlaoise for serious criminals and drugs barons which were previously held exclusively for subversives. These people should be held in high security centres such as Portlaoise Prison. Tremendous progress has been made in ensuring that people responsible for crime are put behind bars and remain there.

  A record amount of legislation has been introduced. The assets of drug barons can now be seized. The Criminal Assets Bureau has tremendous power and there are mandatory jail sentences if the amount of drugs seized exceeds a certain figure. I welcome the Government's announcement yesterday of the publication of a Criminal Justice Enforcement Public Order Bill which will be passed into law during this session. This is very important because street violence is a major concern. Street violence experienced in provincial towns and other areas throughout the country is due to a large extent to the consumption of too much drink and drugs. In future we must clamp down on this type of crime.

  Some pubs have been closed temporarily where the owners have been found guilty of allowing under age drinking. I call for the introduction of legislation to ensure that pubs, discos and night clubs where drugs such as heroin, hash or ecstacy are found will be closed for a period. If owners of some night clubs and discos in towns throughout the country knew they would face closure in the event that drugs were found on their premises they would quickly clean up their premises. I realise it is an inordinate onus on owners of these premises because they are not responsible for everyone. However, the message will get across quickly and people who leave discos at night will not fear the occurrence of rows on the streets.

  Tremendous progress has been made in increasing the strength of the Garda to approximately 12,000. However, in this day and age there cannot be sufficient numbers of gardaí. I would like to see more gardaí in Portlaoise, Mountrath, Borris-in-Ossory, Arles, Ballylinan and other areas in the constituency. I would like to see consistency among judges by putting people who are convicted behind bars and taking a more stern line with them.

[865]   Mr. Kenneally: I regret I have little time available to me because I would like to say a number of things to the motion, including the audacity of members of the Opposition who tabled it.

  I compliment the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, on the excellent job he has done over the past five years and which he continues to do on a daily basis. It is of little surprise that there is still a problem with crime given the type of society in which we live. I speak not just of Ireland but globally. One need not look past 11 September last to see just how low some people have sunk in their efforts to strike at the heart of decency as we have traditionally known it.

  We too have suffered a reduction in standards by a small section of the population. That section which has traditionally given trouble has got involved in crime and has consistently been part of the statistics for many years. There are always people who will break the law but the measures we apply to deal with these criminals is what matters. Let me give an example from my own constituency and city. At first glance the crime figures might seem bad and in decline given that there were more crimes in Waterford city in 2000, the last year for which figures are available, than in Limerick city. The comparative figures are 1,543 to 1,412. However, on closer examination it emerges that the reporting rate in Waterford is much higher than in Limerick. There is a 68% detection rate in Waterford, the highest in the country, while the national figure stands at 42%. This means the gardaí in Waterford must have adopted some procedures which other areas have yet to do. Crime figures for 2000 are down and I believe the trend continued into 2001. I await the official figures with interest but I have no doubt they will bring good news both for the communities and the Garda Síochána.

  Crime is being reported and co-operation is given to the gardaí in Waterford at a level which is probably ahead of other areas throughout the country. This stems from people having confidence in the gardaí and in their policing measures and methods. This, in turn, can be traced back to the actions of the Minister and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the policies they have devised and implemented. I compliment them on the job they are doing and the professional manner in which they go about it.

  This success also stems from the programmes which have been initiated in the city in recent years, particularly that of community policing. There are now two sergeants and nine gardaí on community policing duties. This has the effect of penetrating deep into the lives of the people of Waterford, raising the profile of the gardaí and encouraging co-operation on the part of the people in preventing and detecting crime. There are several Garda-sponsored projects for specific areas of the city or for specific target groups, particularly youth groups. There is the BALL project, the SWAY project and another inner city initiative on the way. There are 36 neighbour[866] hood watch areas, all of which have built up an excellent rapport between the community and the gardaí. All this is as a result of the solid policies promoted and implemented by the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, who has given an exemplary lead in the fight against crime.

  Closed circuit television is about to arrive in Waterford, which will further strengthen the fight against crime, assist convictions and act as an effective deterrent. I am pleased Dungarvan has initiated moves to cover the town centre with CCTV. I hope it will be assisted in this measure in the near future. All this may not be happening in other areas but the benefits await those who avail of all the schemes and initiatives available. This will take little initiative on the part of local communities but the benefits gained are well worth the effort and communities will find that gardaí will only be too willing to respond to any lead given by the community. It is up to all of us to help in the fight against crime and not slavishly wait for the gardaí to do everything. The gardaí are well aware that a vigilant and co-operative public is its greatest asset and I urge communities to assist the gardaí whenever and wherever possible.

  Parental control is another area which needs to be seriously considered. Unless and until parents are made responsible for the actions of their dependent children, there will be little incentive shown by them in controlling their children.

  I regret that time constraints do not allow for a greater indepth study of crime figures generally but I am confident the Minister has the various agencies properly directed and motivated. I fully support his measures and initiatives. His record in regard to legislation is unsurpassed, which is just one of the more visible benefits he has brought to his office. I again express my confidence in the Minister whose record is a proud one and is there for all to see.

  Mr. Moloney: I wish to avail of the opportunity to support the Government's programme over recent years and to reflect back on 1997 when the Government was campaigning for election and one of the issues was that of crime. It is fair to recognise and recall that the main issues then were the revolving door syndrome, the lack of Garda manpower and the lack of financial resources. These three ingredients were put clearly by the public during that campaign. Unless these issues were resolved the fight against crime could not be won. Looking back over the past four and a half years, I am pleased to say the ingredients to fight that problem have been put in place. I refer specifically to the commitment by the Minister to increase Garda manpower. While I acknowledge that the extra 900 gardaí on the streets will not be sufficient to resolve the problem, nevertheless it is a move in the right direction. There is also a clear commitment to ensure that gardaí will not be tied up with office duties.

  During the last general election campaign I attended many meetings in the constituency of [867] Laoighis-Offaly and obvious concern was expressed by people about the revolving-door system in prisons. They felt that not enough was being done to ensure that criminals stayed behind bars. People wondered what was the use of Garda manpower being used to catch law breakers when they would be back on the streets within a few months. I am pleased to see the Minister's commitment to tackling this issue is being lived up to. The provision of extra prison places, particularly in Portlaoise Prison, has backed up Garda activity.

  In his speech, the Minister referred to the issue of public order legislation which I would like to see being addressed in the coming months. Yesterday we had an opportunity to meet members of the Vintners' Federation of Ireland and this is clearly an issue we must address. Maybe the time has come for us to revisit the extension of public house opening hours and weekend trading. The issue is causing huge concern among people who feel it is impossible to have adequate Garda resources to assist on the streets late at night on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. I do not know of anybody who is actively campaigning to retain the extra hours, but many people say the longer opening period is causing more difficulty for the Garda Síochána in terms of resources. In the coming months we should examine that issue which is a cause for concern because people feel Garda resources are being used up when they could be more usefully directed elsewhere.

  The Minister also referred in his speech to rape and sexual assault generally and he made the point that the penalties for sexual offences are severe. He has invited Deputies from both sides of the House to put forward proposals as to how extra law enforcement measures can be introduced to make the streets safer, particularly for young women, and to deal with the terrible crime of sexual assault. Unfortunately, we have come to know such assaults not only in our cities but throughout the midland circuit. Local newspapers in recent months have reported a huge increase in such crimes.

  The campaign to fight crime generally, however, is well under way and the past four years have been a success in this regard. Garda manpower levels now exceed 11,700 and we are on target to meet the commitment of 12,000. When our party's manifesto was published some years ago, that very commitment was challenged and we were told it could not become a reality. Now, however, we are heading towards that target which forms part of the resources the Minister is making available to fight crime.

  While all the resources for which we campaigned four years ago have not been put in place, nevertheless, there has been an increase in spending in this area of £472 million to £723 million under the programme. The Minister was strong enough to secure £87 million under the national development plan for the period 2000-2006 under the heading “fighting crime”. He can [868] also be judged on his ability to enact legislation and it should be noted that he has introduced 42 Bills dealing with crime.

  I welcome the introduction of special powers to deal with the problem of violence against women. As we head into the next election campaign we will find that throughout constituencies there is great fear that not enough resources are allocated to combating this type of crime. I welcome the commitment of the Minister and his invitation to all Deputies to make submissions to deal with public order offences and violent crimes against women.

  Mr. P. Carey: I compliment the Minister and the Government for introducing a wide range of legislation to fight crime. The Minister has pioneered legislation and has identified the relevant issues in a changing society. Even when he was in Opposition, Deputy O'Donoghue, was able to identify serious crime issues to introduce legislation to deal with them.

  I compliment gardaí for the work they do. In many parts of the country it is now a thankless task to be a member of the Garda Síochána. I also thank the Garda Commissioner and his assistant commissioners for their work in fighting crime. With the co-operation of the community, public representatives and the Garda Síochána, we will be able to address many of the existing difficulties.

  We pass much legislation in the House but I often wonder if it is capable of being adequately enforced. The Public Order Act was passed by the previous Dáil, yet in my experience it is being enforced in an uneven way. It is capable of addressing many of what are now called crimes of anti-social behaviour. I wish the latter term could be dropped, however. Certain political groups seem to think that anyone who looks crookedly at anyone else is guilty of anti-social behaviour, but they are not.

  Dublin City Council introduced by-laws prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in public places but I have not seen those laws being enforced to any great extent. There is a huge amount of drinking in streets and other public places in Dublin so the by-laws should be enforced more rigorously. There are very good alternatives such as the village project run by the probation and welfare service in Finglas. It is far and away the best deterrent to crime for our young people. Previous speakers have also spoken about other crime diversion projects.

  I welcome the Minister's commitment to the further allocation of CCTV in Finglas. Such a scheme is in operation in one part of my constituency and it works extremely well in co-operation with the Garda Síochána. There has been a huge reduction in the level of drug-related crime and public order offences generally in that part of the constituency. In the other part of the constituency which is not covered by CCTV, however, the situation has not been as satisfactory.

[869]   There is no point in trying to brush issues under the carpet because our society has been changing rapidly in recent years. I strongly suspect that the people we will ask to vote has changed a great deal since the last general election in 1997. There is an increased level of street violence. Sadly, in my constituency in the past month three men have been murdered, one of whom will be buried today. This street violence is related to issues that we need to explore, such as late-night drinking and the increased availability of alcohol. It is possible to obtain alcohol in some supermarkets from 7.30 a.m. and by 10 a.m. some people are terribly drunk.

  Gangs of young people are congregating on street corners. I saw 25 people at one corner recently and they all had cans of drink. The licensing laws constitute a serious issue because young and not so young people are coming out of pubs very late at night or early in the morning almost incoherent because of alcohol. That problem needs to be addressed.

  There has been a spate of attacks on the elderly in my constituency, about which I am concerned. Thankfully, the matter is being addressed by the Garda Síochána. Another worrying issue is the interference with regular bus services. There is also an increased availability of guns around the place.

  I welcome the new legislation from the Minister which constitutes an important intervention in the fight against crime. He said that measures in forthcoming legislation might provoke resistance given the civil liberties instincts in some of us. However, I think the public is prepared to work with legislators and with the Garda Síochána to ensure that we have safer streets. The record of the Minister in that area is excellent. I have no doubt the legislation he introduces will address the current difficulties which are prevalent in urban areas. I look forward to co-operating with other parties in ensuring the passage of that legislation through the House.

  Mr. Bradford: I support the motion tabled by Deputy Shatter which is timely and of huge importance. The terror on the streets of almost every city and town needs to be tackled urgently. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform owes his position in office to the promises he made before the last general election to clean up our streets and to introduce the concept of zero tolerance. However, his efforts have proved to be a total farce. The statistics speak for themselves. Perhaps the most important statistic is the growing number of people who fail to report crimes committed against them because they do not expect them to be resolved or the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

  Mr. McGahon: They report crime to the IRA in the Minister's county of Kerry.

  Mr. Bradford: The Minister's efforts have failed. Instead of zero tolerance, we have had [870] zero action. He is now trying to quote statistics and to use words and phrases to make his track record seem less unimpressive than it is. It is false for the Taoiseach and the Minister to claim that the problem is under control. It is not.

  Some weeks ago I was a victim of crime within 150 yards of the gates of Leinster House. I was approached or set upon by a little gurrier with a syringe. It is not a pleasant experience to have someone push a syringe against one's face at 12.30 a.m. on the streets of Dublin, particularly when one is within a stone's throw of the seat of Administration. It is shocking that such occurrences are frequent. Many Members of the House have personal experience of crime. Although my experience ended without much difficulty, it was most unpleasant and it brought home to me the scale of the breakdown of law and order. Within a few yards of me on that occasion three or four young ladies were approached by the same gurrier and a colleague of his. Unfortunately, they were forced into handing over a sum of money to escape their clutches. The Garda were called and I am sure they did whatever they could. However, what chance did they have of apprehending such vicious thugs?

  This is an issue on every street in every town and city. We must declare that it is unacceptable. We must ask the Government in its dying days to do something about the levels of crime and to stop hiding behind statistics and talking about zero tolerance. Zero action is what we have got from the Government. We now want real action.

  Mr. Deenihan: It is a sad reflection of the Minister's policy of zero tolerance that in 2000 violent assaults increased by 131% on the 1999 figure, bringing them to a total of 1,703. It is virtually certain that the true figure is higher since these figures reflect only the crimes reported.

  I refer to a recent headline I saw in the Sunday Independent by Joe MacAnthony, which read: “Tide of Street Violence And Misery Is Of the Government's Making”. A similar headline in The Irish Times read: “The Insidious Creatures Stalking Our Streets”. Both headlines sum up what is happening on our streets.

  Although the overall crime detection rate by the Garda was 42% in 1999, only 5.5% of the €60 million worth of stolen property was recovered. I recognise the work the Garda does in detecting crime. However, 5.5% is a small amount of the total property taken. That statistic creates a sense of hopelessness, which is why people do not report burglaries and other crimes to the Garda. The number of crimes committed is higher. I am aware of people who do not bother to report the type of petty crime which they would have reported in the past and I am concerned that the statistics do not reflect the true extent of crime.

  What was most striking about the crime report was the vox pop when people were asked if they felt safe on the streets. The overwhelming response was that they did not. It is worth noting that between October 2000 and May 2001 there [871] were approximately 50,000 public order offences on our streets, which is staggering.

  I refer to the Minister's own county and to a recent crime survey I carried out in Tralee in response to concerns expressed to me by a number of people, particularly following assaults on gardaí. Six gardaí had to go on long-term sick leave because of assaults on them in Tralee in November. The GRA threatened industrial action at the time unless more resources were provided to help its members deal with public order in the town. The survey asked 19 questions, one of which was whether people believed they were safe walking in Tralee town centre. Some 84% of people said they were safe during the day, but 86% said they felt unsafe at night. Some 98.25% of people said they wanted to see more gardaí on the beat.

  The Minister bragged here last night about the extra 1,000 gardaí he has provided. He provided them during good economic circumstances. They would have been provided in the past if such circumstances had prevailed. However, those extra gardaí are tied up with PULSE and with drug and other programmes which were not available in the past. There are more demands now on Garda time than in the past. There are family breakdown problems, etc. with which gardaí must deal. As a result, there are not as many gardaí on the beat.

  The Minister disputed the figures from the survey. I know fear is hard to quantify. Rosita Boland summed it up in a recent article in The Irish Times when she said that fear is an insidiously powerful creature which can be very difficult to erase once it gets hold of the collective consciousness.

  The Minister said he was looking for the House to come up with proposals. I gave him recommendations, but he described my survey as balderdash. That is an insult to the people in Tralee who filled out the survey and returned it. More than 400 people sent it back, which means they were interested in it. The Minister's description of the survey as balderdash is an insult to those people. He was criticised in the responses. One comment was that the main reason for the breakdown of law and order in Tralee and other town centres around the country is alcohol abuse and that by extending pub opening hours, for which there was no demand from the public, the Minister is mainly responsible for the increased thuggery in our streets. The article by Joe MacAnthony states, “Ahern Government, unthinking and irresponsible in the extreme, has set society on an anarchical journey.”

  Mr. Crawford: I thank Deputy Shatter and his colleagues for giving us the opportunity to discuss this major issue. It was said that people are afraid on the streets of Dublin. I assure the Minister that people are afraid in small villages and everywhere else. A woman in my area who was widowed recently commented to her family that she would [872] live happily on her own until she was beaten to death some night. Those are her thoughts about living in rural Ireland and show how serious the situation is. By coincidence, shortly after, Sister Philomena's tragic death occurred in broad daylight in Ballybay.

  Anyone who says that things have improved is fooling himself or herself and being unrealistic. No one welcomes this situation. Extra gardaí on the streets of Ballybay resulted in a noticeable change because crowds no longer gather late at night outside chip shops after pubs close and older people have peace of mind. I hope that the two extra gardaí, who were drafted into that town before the death of the nun, remain as it is proven that having extra gardaí on the beat improves people's security.

  We all know of the robberies that have occurred, but in my constituency, as everywhere else, people no longer think that it is worthwhile to advise the Garda Síochána of crime because they have such difficulty in dealing with it. It comes down to manpower on the streets. Organised gangs come from Dublin to my constituency with wheelbarrows to steal cigarettes and other goods from two or three filling stations in one night.

  Drugs are a menace at every level. Some action has been taken, but there is much more known about drug pushers than the action would indicate. Parents do not know what to do with teenagers. Should they keep them at home or let them go to what is considered a safe place? However, it is difficult to find a safe place today in any town, village or city where parents can be sure that drugs will not be pushed. Much stronger action must be taken at an earlier stage against drug pushers.

  In line with that, the issue of late night pub hours must be re-examined. Before the change in legislation, young people left the pub to go to a disco or club for dancing. They might still have had access to alcohol, but they sweated it off in some activity. Today, with later pub hours – I was one of the few who objected to them – young people stay in pubs until they get drunk. Now they also get drugs. I am glad the Minister stated that at the end of five years, he will introduce legislation to deal with the problems the Garda experience with crowd control in areas where there is late night opening.

  However, we must ensure that young people and others can go out at night in towns and villages safe from being attacked or beaten to death, which is the current reality that we cannot escape. In my county, we have a higher than average level of suicide because of peer pressure. The Garda and the psychiatric services must seriously examine this problem instead of dismissing it as something that they can do nothing about. Something must be done.

  Mr. Boylan: At the outset, I despair at the response of the Minister for Justice, Equality and [873] Law Reform last night and the arrogance of the Taoiseach this morning when he tried to mislead the people by saying that there is no problem. He should at least face up to the problems and give the people some comfort in the realisation that the Government has at last got the message. However, he turns a blind eye and pretends that nothing is wrong. He does not fool the people and the answer will come on election day. The only light at the end of the tunnel is that there are only 90 days left of this failed Administration and failed Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

  Minister of State at the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Mr. E. Ryan): The Deputy should be careful or we might call the election sooner.

  Mr. Boylan: Is the Minister aware of the fear among people, young and old? The elderly who live alone and elderly couples living in remote areas and urban housing estates are being targeted for their savings by thugs who know they are a soft target. It was once commonplace for them to keep these savings and to leave the door on the latch for neighbours to walk in, but that day is gone. That is the result of the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue's stewardship over the past five years. The barricades are up, the shutters down and the blinds pulled as the elderly, who built this country, live in fear. If there is nothing else for them, there should at least be safety, but there is no effort to provide it.

  There is a pretence that nothing is wrong and that the Opposition is hyping up the problem. We are not hyping it but drawing attention to it. The Government does not listen, but its days are almost over and there will be a new Minister who will deal with this problem properly. Young thugs are murdering this country in every town, village and city. They should be dealt with in time but instead they receive a pat on the wrist. Young people have no fear of the gardaí or of court because the penalties are laughable. In the district court in my area, the new system is to put a donation into the poor box at the back of the court.

  Recently two thugs from this city who came to my county on an expedition of robbery and intimidation were told by the judge to donate €30 to the poor box. They had the cheek to ask a garda for the loan of the money. They were then given ten days to pay, during which time they organised another robbery with their friends to pay the fine and ended up back in court. They had no crime recorded against them because a donation to the poor box is not a sentence and so were treated as first time offenders. If such offenders were put behind bars and forced to do menial work, they would be taught a lesson and would think again before reoffending.

  If there is law and order, why do young people go out to discos armed with knives? Why do young people from good families go out afraid [874] of intimidation? As a family man, is the Minister aware that young people will only go out in groups to socialise for protection because there are other groups armed with knives? Why are they not searched?

  Mr. E. Ryan: The Deputy should not say such things.

  Mr. Boylan: People with knives are not intent on socialising but on maiming someone with whom they pick a fight, which is what is happening. I could go on but there is not enough time. As a decent man, will the Minister not recognise that there is a problem which the Government must deal with immediately, or else call the election and allow us to take over the Government benches? We were the party of law and order and will be the party of law and order.

  Mr. Neville: I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate and to express the concern of the many people who spoke to me in recent years about the level of crime and the fear they have for their lives and persons as they go about their daily business.

  The vast majority of people in this State feel unsafe when they leave their homes after dark. How can the Minister suggest that crime prevention is successful when the statistics decry that claim? There was a 133% increase in assaults during 2000. We do not have the information for 2001 but it will be very interesting. I speculate that the situation has deteriorated. This serious issue needs to be dealt with by the Minister. People are in fear for their lives and rightly so. In 2000 there was a 19% increase in murder and manslaughter.

  It is a disgrace that the Minister can state that there is not a crime crisis. He would do much better to face up to the situation and accept it. He would have much more credibility if he were to do this rather than browbeat people by saying that everything has improved, it is a much safer place. People are saying it is not. We know this because they are telling us. We are very much aware of it. People are entitled to feel safe and not to feel under constant threat to their lives. Law abiding people are attacked without warning and seriously injured. Lives are destroyed.

  One can only be appalled at the details of the savage attack on the Italian student whom we recently saw on television. A young, vibrant person, with a very fulfilling life ahead of him, was attacked without provocation and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He has very little use of most of his limbs. This happened in daylight. That young man's life was destroyed.

  Young people who socialise at night are in fear of their lives. They will talk about this. The Minister should listen to what they are saying about their fears and experiences. Deputy Boylan has pointed out very vividly the difficulties and fears experienced during the ordinary socialising of all young people. They are entitled to go to discos [875] without having to look over their shoulder. They are entitled to come out on the street, to walk to the chip shop, to their mode of transport or to their home. They do not feel safe doing these things. It is not good enough.

  The Minister must put resources into tackling the problem. The answer is, as most of this side have said, more gardaí on the beat. This is the immediate intervention which must take place. The installation of closed circuit television cameras in cities and towns must be given priority. People will know that they will be identified and charged if they offend. The proper penalties should be applied. The courts must take very seriously any attempt on someone's life or person. There does not appear to be a planned approach to tackling the problem.

  Elderly people are living in fear. Two women were assaulted in Newcastle West, in my constituency. They were tied up and left to suffer for a long time and were terrified out of their minds. I regret to learn today that one of these women has died. Surely the elderly are entitled to live the latter years of their lives in safety, without fear, in enjoyment and in looking back to their successes, rather than wondering who is going to knock at their door, who is going to tie them up, who is going to rob them, who is going to assault them, who is going to kill them. Surely that should not be the mindset of an elderly person.

  One in four crimes is unreported. The Minister's statistics are irrelevant in the context of the true level of crime.

  Mr. Sargent: I thank Deputy Shatter for putting down this motion and I support what has been said. I also thank Fine Gael for sharing time. It is clear, from the Green Party's point of view, that the Government is living in another world which is not based on the reality of people on the ground. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform says that the incidence of crime is going down. A garda inspector in my area is quite clear that crime is on the increase.

  It is important to recognise that there are very serious problems on an area by area basis. The headline in my local paper describes a major change for the worse in the last five years in Dublin North. That is of huge concern to me and I am surprised that it is not of huge concern to the Government. It is a matter of local interest. It is also a matter of national interest, given the large amount of white collar crime as well as violent and vicious crime.

  There is also an international interest. The Government is involved in paying other governments which are patently corrupt and have been found to be so. I refer to the Democratic Republic of Congo which was paying 21,652 non-existent, ghost civil servants. It was part of a corrupt scam in that country. In Bangladesh 25% of foreign aid reached its target group, so 75% was looted. This was money which the Government [876] paid to other governments in many cases, rather than to bona fide development agencies or community groups who need the money. That type of corruption reflects a culture which is enormously tolerant of crime.

  There is a type of crime which could be called discreet, in the sense that people do not hear about it every day. There is also the “in your face” crime referred to by Deputy Bradford when a syringe was literally in his face. Both kinds of crime must be seen as unacceptable and this type of event highlighted. There is no doubting the corruption in this country when we look at the Comptroller and Auditor General's report detailing 56 settlements to the Revenue Commissioners of over £100,000 each. Perhaps some were not corrupt but how could all of them have been oversights? Nobody is going to jail or being held accountable for the bank fraud of almost £200 million.

  The “pick me up” idea which some commentators discuss in relation to political parties must be examined if these parties are to have credibility. The Green Party is not involved in a “pick me up” scheme. Some commentators are loose in their terminology and talk about all political parties being involved in this scheme. They are as loose with their words as some people are with their tax compliance. It is important to report facts as facts.

  On the question of crime on the streets, it cannot be denied that people are in fear. They have good reason to be in fear when they see and hear the reports of particularly vicious crime and the number of break-ins. I hear reports daily of break-ins and burglaries in areas of my constituency such as Balbriggan, Skerries, Swords and Malahide. There is a constant feeling that people expect to be burgled. If they have not been burgled it is only a matter of time. That is an appalling level of acceptance of crime. It is not proper for the Government to indicate that this is any way acceptable.

  There is no doubt that the Garda are overstretched. They are living and operating with the same manpower as many years ago when there was a much smaller population in their areas. They are expected to deal with increased problems and attacks by gangs who are on the move. This is an issue in north County Dublin where there are many gangs coming from other areas. People in other rural areas have reported this previously.

  A number of people have said that the later opening time of licensed premises has been causing a problem. I agree. It is not possible to operate a European model where people go home when they have had one or two drinks. There is a culture in this country of binging and staying until the last minute or until you are thrown out. We have to recognise that and change the late opening hours as a result. The issue of drinking has to be addressed if we are serious about dealing with crime.

[877]   Mr. E. Ryan: I welcome this opportunity to outline the facts about the success the Government has had in tackling crime and to remind the Opposition that it was not so long ago, during the rainbow coalition's term in office, that crime statistics, no matter how one looked at them, were far worse than they are now. Members will recall that at that time the criminal justice system was disgracefully starved of resources.

  The Minister addressed many of the specific issues raised by Opposition Deputies last night and laid bare their lack of any meaningful contribution to solving the problem of crime. Already this morning some Fine Gael Deputies said they support specialist units in the Garda while others said they did not, so there seems to be a degree of disagreement within Fine Gael on how the Garda should be managed.

  Some speakers supporting the original motion have referred to unreported crime and accounts of individual victimisation. The most comprehensive personal and household victimisation survey carried out in the history of the State was conducted by the Central Statistics Office as part of its quarterly national household survey in late 1998. Among many other matters, the survey found that 63% of all assaults are reported to the Garda and that more than one quarter of those who did not report an assault failed to do so on the basis that those involved did not consider it important enough to do so. The phenomenon of unreported or unrecorded crime is well documented in international criminological literature and is not unique to this jurisdiction. Although Deputies have tried to insinuate that unreported crime is somehow a new arrival, there is no real evidence to suggest that the level of under reporting now is any greater than in the past or that the level of unreported crime in Ireland is any greater than in other jurisdictions.

  The recently published National Crime Council report, “Crime in Ireland” states that in some countries there has been at least 20 years' experience of crime surveys and that this is a substantial period over which to compare what can be learnt about levels of crime from both sources. One important conclusion that has emerged is that the recorded crime figures pick up on real changes in crime and can also be taken as an indication of its real level.

  The attempts by Deputies to find a cloud in every silver lining comes unstuck when faced with facts. The Minister's response to the spiralling crime problem, which he inherited from the rainbow coalition, has been wide-ranging and focused on a broad spectrum of measures which go beyond law enforcement. Much of this focus has been on tackling the causes of crime and the expansion in the number of local projects for offenders and young persons at risk is proof positive of this commitment. Last night the Minister outlined some of the measures in this regard. One [878] measure I have seen at work on many occasions is the Connect programme in prisons, which is a huge success. I compliment the prison officers working on this; they are hugely enthusiastic about it as they have had a great deal of success with it. People are not re-offending but are going out to work in the community and leading crime free lives. That is one of the many successful schemes.

  I share the Minister's concern with the incidence of violent assaults and the worrying anti-social behaviour of some young males. The Minister must be commended on the measures he has introduced regarding under-age drinking, public disorder and racism. Although law enforcement has a crucial role in dealing with these problems, many of them require changes in behaviour and attitudes. These are very difficult problems to solve and, as has emerged in other countries, there are no quick fix solutions. However, we are on the right track to dealing with them.

  Deputies will know all too well the personal and social costs associated with the misuse of drugs. As a result, extra demands are placed on the Garda, the courts and the prison services. Until this Government took office, these vital services were denied the resources they needed to manage even at minimal levels and the record high in crime figures we experienced under the previous Government was the inevitable result. Any fair-minded observer would concede that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has addressed the enormous problems he inherited with unprecedented resources and legislation. He has been successful in tackling crime and the causes of crime.

  Mr. Cosgrave: I compliment Deputy Shatter on putting this motion before the House, as it affects every citizen of the capital city. One of the first duties of a Government is to protect its citizens and to create a climate in which people know they are safe. The current Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform presented himself as the great guardian angel who would allow no evil to interfere with the electorate. Some angel he has turned out to be. Since this Government took office, the public feels less confident that people are safe than at any other time in the history of modern Ireland.

  People live in fear. Almost two thirds of people are afraid to walk the streets of Dublin, irrespective of the time of day, because of the high levels of violent crime. Unfortunately this fear is shown to be well founded by the information contained in the annual Garda report, which shows how the Government has failed to deliver on its commitment to zero tolerance. When the Minister was in Opposition he proved to be most adept at shouting the odds but he has proved to be a consummate failure and someone who is incapable of producing a positive result – all mouth and little action. He chooses to ignore the occurrence of assaults, the crimes that get under the skin of the ordinary citizen and undermine people's confi[879] dence in walking their neighbourhoods at night unmolested.

  The Government ignored the 10,400 reported assaults in 2000. That figure reveals a massive increase in the number of assaults causing injury. The elderly lock themselves in their homes each evening and are fearful when they hear unexpected noises. They spend their last days waiting not for the grim reaper but for something more immediate and terrifying. It is the elderly generation which experiences the effect of inept administration by this Government. Violent assaults are running at more than 17,000 per year, with serious offences running at approximately 120 per month as a result of the failure to curtail the illegal drugs trade. Worst of all, six women are raped each week. Six women have their lives shattered each week because the Minister has allowed them to become victims and they must endeavour to reconstruct their lives.

  The public has little or no confidence in the logic of reporting crime to the Garda. Confidence has vanished. Women call to my office and tell me they are concerned for their families and communities. They feel helpless and see no sense in reporting crime. Today a young woman told me her Laser card was stolen and used to take £2,000 from her account just before Christmas. Despite the fact that the thief was filmed on closed-circuit television, the issue was not actively addressed until some 36 days later. This sort of service gives rise to a justifiable loss of confidence in the operational efficiency of the Garda.

  I welcome the announcement by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government regarding the establishment of a community warden to be utilised as a back-up for the Garda, as I proposed this measure here some 16 years ago. However, I object to its being implemented as a three year pilot scheme. We in the greater Dublin area need this additional presence now. The Garda operational division should be restructured to fit the pattern of the local authority profile so a true working relationship may be developed between the Garda and other community-based services. My constituency is ripe to be a pilot zone to test the effectiveness of the proposed operation. The great guardian of justice has presided over a near 20% increase in the crime affecting business and we are all aware that the streets are not safe. The Government's failure has caused some 5,000 people to require an overnight stay in hospitals because of injuries sustained during violent attacks in the city of Dublin.

  This House is brought into disrepute by the consummate failure of this Government which, while in Opposition, bragged it had all the solutions. However, on traversing the floor of the Chamber it has seemingly lost its direction and ability to determine the way.

  Mr. Enright: This is an important debate. The motion is about the need for ordinary citizens to feel safe while going about their daily lives. Many [880] Irish people are living in fear of violent attacks both on the streets and in their homes.

  The recently published annual Garda report highlights the fact that there is an alarming increase in crime, especially in attacks causing serious bodily harm. There is fear on the streets and people are afraid in their own homes. No bluff or bluster from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform can disguise this. The Garda report for the year 2000 shows that there was an increase of 131% in attacks causing bodily harm, with a jump from 737 attacks in 1999 to 1,703 in 2000. This is a major indictment of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue. The number of manslaughter cases, showing a 50% increase and jumping from nine to 17, is another worrying trend. These statistics and the breakdown of Garda figures from all over the country indicate the need for a major effort on the part of the Minister. This increase of 131% should cause any self-respecting Minister for Justice to go to Cabinet with proposals to reduce the level of crime but the Minister has not done so.

  This month a Chinese student, Zhao Liu Tao, was murdered in Beaumont. The Garda have confirmed that the attack was sparked by racism. The Minister is aware of that. He is also aware that a French woman of Moroccan heritage was left unable to bear children after an attack. There has been an enormous level of increase in attacks on people here. Members should show some leadership and try to ensure that racism does not raise its head.

  In 1999 the then chairman of the Eastern Health Board, Deputy Ivor Callelly, said that we needed to get tough on asylum seekers and throw out illegal immigrants. He said, “I am concerned about a block of people coming to Ireland to cash in on the benefits asylum seekers are able to claim.” He went on to say that to misspend money on people who had no right to come and claim asylum in Ireland was wrong. Deputy Noel Ahern also said at the time, “There is a concern, rightly or wrongly, amongst people who feel threatened by them and who feel they are in competition with them for housing and jobs.”

  The attack made by Deputy Noel O'Flynn is outrageous and it bears the hallmark of the comments made by the late Enoch Powell, a former member of the House of Commons. He repeated those comments here this morning despite the Taoiseach having said, “Needless to say, I reject those comments and since he is a member of my party I have already made that clear.” Yet the Deputy came in here a few minutes ago and repeated the same comments. It appears there is a concerted policy in Fianna Fáil to give free rein to backbenchers to say what they like and play whatever card they like. It appears that the racial card is being played and I regret having to say that in the House. It is alarming. The Taoiseach is distancing himself from it and just stands back and says that he regrets the comments.

[881]   Mr. E. Ryan: The Deputy was obviously not here when the Taoiseach spoke.

  Mr. Enright: I have it written here in front of me.

  Mr. E. Ryan: He was very clear in what he said. He condemned it in all parties.

  Mr. Enright: It is outrageous that comments such as “spongers” and racist comments should be made by anybody in the House and I condemn them unreservedly.

  Mr. Shatter: I thank all those who have contributed to the debate. I thank the Labour Party and the Green Party for joining with us and supporting the motion.

  I found the Minister's speech yesterday depressing. It was the usual mish mash of self-congratulatory back slapping that the Minister feels a need to engage in, presumably because if he does not slap himself on the back very few people bother to do so when he steps outside the House.

  Fianna Fáil came into office using the mantra of zero tolerance. We know that has meant an unprecedented escalation in street violence. People no longer feel safe in their neighbourhoods at night or in our towns and cities and far too many of our young people have been the victims of an attack. Elderly people no longer feel safe in their homes at night. The Minister has just sat back and congratulated himself on everything he has been doing and done absolutely nothing to prevent the escalation of street violence which has occurred. He tells us now, some two and a half months before a general election, that he has a Bill and he is going to produce some sort of measure dealing with public order, offences and assaults. Is it not extraordinary that the Minister has watched the growth of violence in our streets over four and a half years and in the dying days of his term of office some new unspecified legislation is to be published? Nobody will take that seriously.

  Mr. E. Ryan: He has brought in more legislation than any other Minister.

  Mr. Shatter: In the context of this issue we have had, in one aspect of the difficulties now being experienced in the State, an eloquent example from Deputy O'Flynn this morning of the worst possible face of Fianna Fáil. The Taoiseach presents the respectable face of Fianna Fáil and will continue to do so while all of his backbenchers and those around him seek to exploit people's [882] fears. They play the racial card for electoral purposes and make inflammatory speeches and use language which instigates the type of appalling incidents we have seen on the streets.

  Deputy O'Flynn made a speech this morning which went further than the disgraceful remarks reported in last weekend's papers which I referred to last night and which were referred to this morning by Deputy Quinn. The Taoiseach said this morning, “Needless to say, I reject those comments and since he is a member of my party I have already made that clear.” When did he do so? Was Deputy O'Flynn listening? When Deputy O'Flynn made what I would describe as the most disgraceful racist speech I have heard in my 21 years of membership of this House, what notice was he taking of the Taoiseach's comment? Will the Taoiseach call Deputy O'Flynn into his office and remonstrate with him or is the Taoiseach happy that Deputies O'Flynn and Callely and his own brother, Deputy Noel Ahern, make the type of speeches to which my colleague Deputy Enright referred? Is he happy an impression is created which results in further violence on our streets, with people picked out for no reason other than their ethnic origin or the colour of their skin? Is the Taoiseach now trying to follow the example of Prime Minister Howard in Australia and run the type of political campaign that produces the consequences that we have seen in Australia in recent days? Is that the Taoiseach's ploy in this election? Is this the scheme of things that is being prescribed for the backbench members of the Fianna Fáil Party and for the Fianna Fáil candidates around the country?

  I do not believe that if the Minister, Deputy Ryan, was here this morning he would have tolerated the comments made by Deputy O'Flynn. I caution the Minister not to make comments and interrupt me in a manner that might be misinterpreted. I will conclude by inviting the Taoiseach to come back into the House today to disown the comments made by Deputy O'Flynn. If he does not do so—

  Mr. Enright: He must do so.

  Mr. Shatter: —-it can only be taken that he is happy with that type of comment.

  Acting Chairman (Mr. O'Malley): The time has expired. I ask Deputy Shatter to resume his seat.

  Mr. Shatter: I urge the House to support the resolution.

  Amendment put.

[883]

    Ahern, Bertie.

    Ahern, Michael.

    Ahern, Noel.

    Andrews, David.

    Aylward, Liam.

    Blaney, Harry.

    Brady, Johnny.

    Brady, Martin.

    Brennan, Matt.

    Brennan, Séamus.

    Briscoe, Ben.

    Browne, John (Wexford).

    Byrne, Hugh.

    Callely, Ivor.

    Carey, Pat.

    Collins, Michael.

    Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.

    Coughlan, Mary.

    de Valera, Síle.

    Dempsey, Noel.

    Dennehy, John.

    Doherty, Seán.

    Ellis, John.

    Fahey, Frank.

    Fleming, Seán.

    Flood, Chris.

    Foley, Denis.

    Fox, Mildred.

    Gildea, Thomas.

    Hanafin, Mary.

    Harney, Mary.

    Haughey, Seán.

    Healy-Rae, Jackie.

    Jacob, Joe.

    Keaveney, Cecilia.

[884]     Kelleher, Billy.

    Kenneally, Brendan.

    Killeen, Tony.

    Kirk, Séamus.

    Kitt, Michael P.

    Kitt, Tom.

    Lenihan, Brian.

    Lenihan, Conor.

    McCreevy, Charlie.

    McGennis, Marian.

    McGuinness, John J.

    Martin, Micheál.

    Moffatt, Thomas.

    Molloy, Robert.

    Moloney, John.

    Moynihan, Donal.

    Moynihan, Michael.

    Ó Cuív, Éamon.

    O'Dea, Willie.

    O'Flynn, Noel.

    O'Keeffe, Batt.

    O'Keeffe, Ned.

    O'Kennedy, Michael.

    O'Malley, Desmond.

    Power, Seán.

    Roche, Dick.

    Ryan, Eoin.

    Smith, Michael.

    Treacy, Noel.

    Wade, Eddie.

    Wallace, Dan.

    Wallace, Mary.

    Woods, Michael.

    Wright, G. V.

    

Níl

    Barnes, Monica.

    Bell, Michael.

    Boylan, Andrew.

    Bradford, Paul.

    Broughan, Thomas P.

    Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).

    Bruton, Richard.

    Burke, Ulick.

    Clune, Deirdre.

    Cosgrave, Michael.

    Coveney, Simon.

    Crawford, Seymour.

    Creed, Michael.

    Currie, Austin.

    D'Arcy, Michael.

    Deasy, Austin.

    Deenihan, Jimmy.

    Durkan, Bernard.

    Enright, Thomas.

    Farrelly, John.

    Finucane, Michael.

    Flanagan, Charles.

    Gilmore, Éamon.

    Gormley, John.

    Gregory, Tony.

    Hayes, Brian.

    Hayes, Tom.

    Healy, Seamus.

    Higgins, Jim.

    Higgins, Michael.

    Hogan, Philip.

    Howlin, Brendan.

    McCormack, Pádraic.

    McDowell, Derek.

    McGahon, Brendan.

    McGinley, Dinny.

    McGrath, Paul.

    McManus, Liz.

    Mitchell, Jim.

    Mitchell, Olivia.

    Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.

    Naughten, Denis.

    Neville, Dan.

    Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.

    O'Keeffe, Jim.

    O'Shea, Brian.

    O'Sullivan, Jan.

    Owen, Nora.

    Penrose, William.

    Perry, John.

    Quinn, Ruairí.

    Rabbitte, Pat.

    Reynolds, Gerard.

    Ryan, Seán.

    Sargent, Trevor.

    Shatter, Alan.

    Sheehan, Patrick.

    Shortall, Róisín.

    Spring, Dick.

    Stagg, Emmet.

    Stanton, David.

    Timmins, Billy.

    Upton, Mary.

    

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Power; Níl, Deputies Bradford and Stagg.

  Amendment declared carried.

  

  Question put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.”

[885]

    Ahern, Bertie.

    Ahern, Michael.

    Ahern, Noel.

    Andrews, David.

    Aylward, Liam.

    Blaney, Harry.

    Brady, Johnny.

    Brady, Martin.

    Brennan, Matt.

    Brennan, Séamus.

    Briscoe, Ben.

    Browne, John (Wexford).    Byrne, Hugh.

    Callely, Ivor.

    Carey, Pat.

    Collins, Michael.

    Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.

    Coughlan, Mary.

    de Valera, Síle.

    Dempsey, Noel.

    Dennehy, John.

    Doherty, Seán.

    Ellis, John.

    Fahey, Frank.

    Fleming, Seán.

    Flood, Chris.

    Foley, Denis.

    Fox, Mildred.

    Gildea, Thomas.

    Hanafin, Mary.

    Harney, Mary.

    Haughey, Seán.

    Healy-Rae, Jackie.

    Jacob, Joe.

[886]     Keaveney, Cecilia.

    Kelleher, Billy.

    Kenneally, Brendan.

    Killeen, Tony.

    Kirk, Séamus.

    Kitt, Michael P.

    Kitt, Tom.

    Lenihan, Brian.

    McCreevy, Charlie.

    McGennis, Marian.

    McGuinness, John J.

    Martin, Micheál.

    Molloy, Robert.

    Moloney, John.

    Moynihan, Donal.

    Moynihan, Michael.

    Ó Cuív, Éamon.

    O'Dea, Willie.

    O'Flynn, Noel.

    O'Keeffe, Batt.

    O'Keeffe, Ned.

    O'Kennedy, Michael.

    O'Malley, Desmond.

    Power, Seán.

    Roche, Dick.

    Ryan, Eoin.

    Smith, Michael.

    Treacy, Noel.

    Wade, Eddie.

    Wallace, Dan.

    Wallace, Mary.

    Woods, Michael.

    Wright, G. V.

    

Níl

    Barnes, Monica.

    Barrett, Seán.

    Boylan, Andrew.

    Bradford, Paul.

    Broughan, Thomas P.

    Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).    Bruton, Richard.

    Burke, Ulick.

    Clune, Deirdre.

    Cosgrave, Michael.

    Coveney, Simon.

    Crawford, Seymour.

    Creed, Michael.

    Currie, Austin.

    D'Arcy, Michael.

    Deasy, Austin.

    Deenihan, Jimmy.

    Durkan, Bernard.

    Enright, Thomas.

    Finucane, Michael.

    Flanagan, Charles.

    Gilmore, Éamon.

    Gormley, John.

    Gregory, Tony.

    Hayes, Brian.

    Hayes, Tom.

    Healy, Seamus.

    Higgins, Jim.

    Higgins, Michael.

    Hogan, Philip.

    Howlin, Brendan.

    McCormack, Pádraic.

    McDowell, Derek.

    McGahon, Brendan.

    McGinley, Dinny.

    McGrath, Paul.

    McManus, Liz.

    Mitchell, Jim.

    Mitchell, Olivia.

    Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.

    Naughten, Denis.

    Neville, Dan.

    Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.

    O'Keeffe, Jim.

    O'Shea, Brian.

    O'Sullivan, Jan.

    Owen, Nora.

    Penrose, William.

    Perry, John.

    Quinn, Ruairí.

    Rabbitte, Pat.

    Reynolds, Gerard.

    Ryan, Seán.

    Sargent, Trevor.

    Shatter, Alan.

    Sheehan, Patrick.

    Shortall, Róisín.

    Stagg, Emmet.

    Stanton, David.

    Timmins, Billy.

    Upton, Mary.

    

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Power; Níl, Deputies Bradford and Stagg.

  Question declared carried.

  

[887]