Seanad Éireann - Volume 107 - 13 March, 1985
Request under Standing Order 29: Attacks on Elderly.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach An Leas-Chathaoirleach
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: We now come to Senator Durcan's request under Standing Order No. 29. The time limit on this is one and a half hours. I suggest that the Minister be allowed at least 20 minutes to reply. Is that agreed?
Mr. Durcan Mr. Durcan
Mr. Durcan: I raise this matter on what, within Standing Orders is a matter of specific and important public interest requiring urgent consideration, the matter being:
The widespread disquiet in west Mayo and the western seaboard arising from the recent outrages particularly of last weekend committed against the elderly which suggests inadequacies in existing rural policing methods.
When I moved this morning to seek leave of the Seanad to introduce this emergency motion tonight I was very moved by the fact that whereas Standing Orders provide that five Members of the House must stand to support the Member who seeks to introduce such a motion, in this case every Member of the House present at the time stood in support of the motion. By doing so Members of the House in a silent way, in a way that will not be recorded on the record of the House, showed their solidarity with the  old, the weak, with the thousands living in fear behind bolted doors.
I was motivated to introduce this emergency motion first by virtue of the occurrences of the last weekend but also by virtue of my knowledge of what has been happening in the west in recent times. The events of last weekend brought home very clearly to me what has been happening in other parts of the western seaboard. I know the Carroll family and also the Tunney family. The Carroll homestead which was burned is about two-and-a-half miles from my home. The seriousness and horror of the crime committed against that family can only be understood clearly if one realises where that house is situated. It is situated about one-quarter of a mile from the public road in a hidden valley and access to it is over a rough mountainside. There is no driveway; there is no rural road leading to the Carroll home: it is simply a mountain track. It was over that mountain track that these bandits with criminal intent went on Friday night of last week to perpetrate a crime which was frightening and which has, by its nature, created tremendous fear in the hearts and minds of many people.
On Monday night of last week I went to the home of a friend about one mile from Westport town. It is a house I have visited frequently at night time when normally I would gain admission to the house by pushing in the back door. It did not strike me that the dwellers in that house would be fearful. Their attitude was portrayed very clearly to me by the presence of a new lock on their door and by the fact that before I was afforded admission I was asked from behind closed curtains who I was. That is the kind of situation which has developed and which gives rise to the concern which motivated me to bring this motion before the House.
My friend, Senator O'Toole on the Opposition benches, lives about eight miles from where I live. He knows the people who have been the subject of these crimes. He shares with me the horror and the feeling of unrest and fear that is prevalent in the area we represent.
In relation to the solution of these  crimes I would like to compliment the Gardaí for their activity in recent days and for their determination to ensure that those responsible are speedily brought to justice. I thank them also for their concern for those who have suffered.
In addressing myself to the events which have occurred I have specified in the motion that there are inadequacies in existing rural policing methods. I want to refer to three of these inadequacies. In suggesting that some of these inadequacies are glaring I am not necessarily criticising the Garda as such. I am criticising a system which has developed within which they are caught. I am asking the Minister, as the person with ultimate responsibility, to issue the required directive to ensure that these inadequacies are speedily remedied.
The first inadequacy I see in the existing system of rural policing is what I would call the insensitivity with which the Garda frequently carry out their duty. Policing in any rural community, if it is to be effective, must be of a personalised nature. Gardaí must know the people with whom they are dealing. One example of the kind of insensitivity I am speaking about is what I would call the indiscriminate operation of road traffic patrols operating in rural Ireland. In one of these areas affected by these crimes, the Mayo traffic corps did a very detailed patrol on Monday last. I would call that total insensitivity in an area where people were living in fear and where people were still recoiling from the shock resulting from these attacks. I do not think it is appropriate at a time when people are suffering from shock that they should be faced with road traffic patrols. One can say that if somebody is in breach of the road traffic law he should be subject to the law. This to my mind was very bad policemanship, that at a time of stress people should be subjected to that type of thing.
The Garda in rural Ireland until recently were looked upon in the same way as the priest, the lawyer, the doctor or the politician. The garda was the kind of person in whom people imposed trust. In the exercise of his duties he operated  in a very discriminating way. I do not think that the indiscriminate operation of road traffic patrols is of any help.
The second matter which is of concern to me and which I would see as an inadequacy in existing rural policing is the location of Garda stations. It seems to me that Garda stations are located in roughly the same places as they were 100 years ago when the RIC were operating effectively. I would like to see the Garda and the Department of Justice carrying out a detailed survey to ascertain the best places for the location of Garda stations in rural Ireland. There is a need to open up many of the small stations that have been closed down. I am happy to know that the Minister has given a commitment that no more small Garda stations will be closed, but I think a look must be taken at the places where closures have occurred and a look must also be taken to see if there are any other places where stations could be conveniently opened. It is interesting to note that the two Garda stations which were closed in my area are Garda stations which would relate in terms of proximity, very closely to the Carroll and Tunney households. What was the Murrisk Garda station is a very short distance from the Carroll household and what was the Carrickkennedy Garda station is a very short distance from the Tunney household. I wonder if these stations were still manned by resident gardaí, would the situation be any different.
I would tie in with the question of the location of Garda stations the whole question of what is being termed as the pilot rural policing schemes, operated in south Mayo and Kilkenny initially and I believe now operating in other places. That scheme, while preserving the rural police station, certainly in its operation has not given any confidence to the people it was meant to serve. It was meant to be a pilot scheme but it seems to be a pilot scheme that is moving on now without direction and it is a pilot scheme the operation of which we have not been given any account. I would like the Minister to comment on the operation of that scheme and to indicate  whether its operation is to continue or whether he is satisfied with it.
The third inadequacy which I see in rural policing and the one that I am most concerned about, is the fact that too many of our gardaí do not live in the area to which they are assigned. The garda is a privileged person in society. He is a person with a permanent and pensionable job. He is a person with a statutory position in many situations. He is a person who is accorded traditional respect. He is person who until recently was the repository of many people's trust. That trust and respect which people had for the garda in great measure developed because people knew the garda, he lived in their area and he, in turn, knew them.
It seems to me that the greatest weapon against crime is not necessarily a sophisticated radio system which is now operating throughout the country. I compliment the Minister for bringing that system into operation and bringing it as far as it has been brought: it is welcome and it certainly is an aid, but it seems to me that the most important weapon a garda can have in dealing with crime is his eyes and his ears and his feet. If the garda is to use these human faculties properly then he must live in the area. He must be able to respond to any change in that area, whether it be a change in normal traffic or a change in people's habits or a change in the occupation of buildings. The garda can get that information only if he resides in the area.
My understanding is that it was a rule in the Garda Síochána until recently that a member of the Garda Síochána should live in the area within which he operated. If it is still a rule it is honoured more in the breach than the observance. I raised this matter in this House on Committee Stage of the Criminal Justice Bill. I referred then to the situation existing in County Mayo. The Minister responded at that time by saying that he was aware of the situation in County Mayo but that he understood that the situation was being improved.
At that time I made a public statement expressing concern at the fact that the  chief superintendent for County Mayo does not live in the county, that he lives in County Cork and that he simply comes and stays for the working nights of the week in an apartment in County Mayo. I am very dissatisfied with that position. I am equally dissatisfied with the fact that of six superintendents in County Mayo, to my knowledge only two of them, the superintendents in Ballina and Castlebar, live in their areas of operation. I am horrified at the fact that, as I understand it, four superintendents in County Mayo do not permanently reside within the county. Of the seven senior Garda officers in County Mayo only two of them, I understand, reside permanently in their areas of appointment. Five reside permanently elsewhere with their wives and children. If these men are to give effective leadership and if the Garda are to get the kind of support that they need, and that we all want them to have, then the people must know who they are. I do not believe that half a dozen people in County Mayo know who the chief superintendent is. To my mind, the Garda officer in charge in a particular county should be known and should be seen. He should be seen in uniform on ceremonial occasions. He should be available to people who have recourse to the law. People should be aware of his existence, of who he is and of his availability.
The same thing applies to the six superintendents. If they are to achieve confidence, if they are to instill leadership in their men, and if they are to instil leadership in all of us as law-abiding citizens who want to have communication with the Garda, then they should be residing with their wives and children and have permanent roots in the areas to which they are assigned. The same thing goes right down to the ordinary garda and to the sergeant rank. There are many members of the force in County Mayo who do not live permanently in the area to which they are assigned. I submit that by virtue of the privileged position which the Garda have they should either come in or get out. By that I mean that they should come in and live in their areas and become part of the community in the  full sense or else they should resign their commission or their membership and leave it to many other people who would dearly love to have the job.
I call upon the Minister and the Government to issue a very specific direction to the Garda Commissioner and to every member of the force to ensure that operational gardaí — those from superintendent rank downwards — come and live and operate permanently among the people that they serve, so that the people can at least achieve a knowledge and an understanding of them. These are the inadequacies existing in rural policing. These are the inadequacies which have brought about a lack of confidence on the part of the people in rural Ireland in their Garda force. That lack of confidence exists. In the clinic which I held last weekend — I spent all of last Saturday from 11.30 a.m. to 1 a.m. in the morning on a non-stop clinic trip — every second person I met spoke to me about this issue and expressed their concern. On investigating their views on the issue I detected an alarming lack of confidence in the Garda.
As a public representative and as a member of the legal profession who comes into frequent contact with gardaí, I do not have a lack of confidence in them. I have confidence in the Garda; I have confidence in most members of the force, certainly in my area along the western seaboard. I want to see that confidence communicated to the people at large. I believe it can only be done if the inadequacies which I have mentioned are remedied. We can speak about the Criminal Justice Act and we can speak about the Community Work Act. I compliment the Minister on introducing both of these measures. These measures are necessary. This Government have given to the Garda the additional technical equipment which they need to carry out their duties effectively. If the Garda are to be truly effective, if our rural policing system is to be truly effective, then the members who operate within that system must be known to and must be trusted by the people.
I have heard many people fashionably  criticise the role once played by the Garda in checking for noxious weeds and compiling census returns or involving themselves, as they did in former years, in social welfare assessments. We can say that is not the role of the policeman. I believe the role of the policeman is to have trust in people and to know what is going on. In rural Ireland it might be no harm if gardaí got out of their white squad cars and got back on their bikes and engaged themselves in the activities which will give them an understanding of what is happening in the area.
These are the reasons why I put forward this motion. I put it forward because I am aware of the concern and the worry. I am also concerned about what the Minister is trying to do to remedy the matter. But I would hope that the direction in relation to the three specific matters I have mentioned will issue from Government to ensure that these inadequacies existing in our rural policing system are remedied.
Mr. M. O'Toole Mr. M. O'Toole
Mr. M. O'Toole: First, let me say that I welcome the opportunity for this debate here this evening. It is what I would call an emergency debate and I am delighted that Senator Durcan took the initiative. Early today I found out that he had a motion down; so I did not put down a motion as I had intended. But it is even better as it is since we have more time to debate this in full whereas on a matter on the Adjournment one only gets 20 minutes, with ten minutes for the Minister to reply.
I want to point out to the Minister that we in Mayo took the initiative long before the recent crimes over the last two or three weeks. We got in touch with the chief superintendent and the superintendents of the county with a view to having a debate in committee with Mayo County Council. That took place last Monday night week and we had roughly a two and a half hour debate and I can assure the Minister that it was frank and forthright with no punches pulled. We have 31 able councillors in Mayo on all sides, who are well able to put their case and outline the inadequacies which exist with regard to  crime detection or prevention. We did not await the burning of the home mentioned by Senator Durcan, the Carroll home, or the break-ins we had during the week. If you like, we were ahead of the posse in the awareness of the lack of security in Mayo at the moment. I speak about Mayo, but the west of Ireland is identical in that respect. I will speak about Mayo because I know it best. I live very close to the families that were concerned, poor defenceless people. The Minister mentioned the Carroll family on “Today Tonight” and the deplorable attitude of these thugs who reach for defenceless people, people who have very little, if any, money. But for their tact and ingenuity in trying to get released from the house, I think they would have been in much greater danger.
At a meeting of Mayo County Council on Monday night after these events, we put forward two resolutions. We suggested a £5,000 reward for anybody who would come up with information to the Garda leading to a conviction of the criminals in these cases. That was a positive step in the right direction. We also called on the Minister to reintroduce the overtime for gardaí in the area. Our meeting was held in committee for one positive reason, so that we would not make any political capital on either side. Senator Jim Higgins, who is a member, is sitting here, and he was at that meeting. There was no political capital-making involved. No statement was released after that meeting, but at least we got home to the Garda force the home truth of what the people on the ground were feeling — the terror and the fear in the hearts of the old, disabled and infirm of the county. It was a worthwhile exercise. At least we let the authorities know our position and our feelings as regards security in the area.
I have the height of respect for the Garda force in our area, but I feel they have not enough facilities and enough overtime to curb the break-ins that we have had recently in that part of the country. Crime is not confined, I can assure you, just to the rural part of Mayo but it  is indeed very prevalent in the towns of Mayo where people are continually breaking into premises and escaping detection or conviction.
My own view is that the Government should have prepared an emergency plan in consultation with the chief Garda officers in the county with a view to intensification of surveillance. That is a very important thing. So is the setting up of checkpoints. If, as the Minister was saying on “Today Tonight”, these criminals have gone across the Border, surely many checkpoints could be in operation between Mayo and the Border to ensure that these people would not get through the net in the early hours of the morning. That is important.
Responsible advice should be given to the aged, the infirm and the disabled, in a television programme and on radio to warn them about what they should and should not be doing and try to prepare themselves against attack and to assure them that there is protection for them and that it will be put into operation. To date there is no radio or television programme to assure old people that they have any protection whatsoever.
Change in the social welfare code is a necessity. These people have small amounts of money in their possession. They are in fear of lodging it in any bank or post office in case they may lose their old age pension or their widow's pension. Some latitude should be allowed for old age pensioners, widows and the disabled so that they could lodge their money without getting into difficulty with either the pension officer or whoever would be investigating their old age or disability pension claims.
The divisional task force should be reestablished in rural areas with a specific brief to combat this type of terrorism. Notwithstanding what the Minister has stated, there is a reduction in the Garda force in rural areas. This is deplorable. Listening to the Minister speaking on a TV programme last night, one would believe that all the moneys that are necessary were available to the gardaí to deploy forces to deal with this terrorism,  regarded by him as an epidemic. This is an untruth. There is £12 million provided for overtime this year and there will be over the next three years as outlined in Building on Reality on page 137:
7.27 “the present strength of the Garda force at 11,400 is some 600 higher than when the Government took office at the end of 1982.”
This increase was inherited from the Fianna Fáil Government. You cannot take gardaí down off a shelf in the Department of Justice and put them out onto the streets; they have to be examined academically. They must be screened.
Acting Chairman (Mr. Browne) Acting Chairman (Mr. Browne)
Acting Chairman (Mr. Browne): There is a vote in the Dáil. The Minister has to leave the House. Does the Senator wish to continue in his absence?
Mr. M. O'Toole Mr. M. O'Toole
Mr. M. O'Toole: I regret that the Minister has to leave. I will continue, as Standing Orders will not allow this House to adjourn.
The increase of 600 gardaí mentioned by the Minister was in line and came on stream when he took office. It was the policy of our side of the House to bring the Garda force up to 12,000 in number. This is 600 less than our target. In 1982 we made provision for £18 million for overtime for the Garda force. This is now reduced by one-third to £12 million and will continue to be reduced for the next three years. With inflation running at what it is the figure required in real terms is much higher. It is no use having the Minister telling the people on television that moneys are available for overtime. There is a cut-back of £6 million, one-third of the £18 million which was provided in 1982. I am open to contradiction. The people from my county have a very high IQ and they do not believe these statements. There is no presence of gardaí on the ground.
The Minister stated that he closed no rural station since he took office, but he reduced the personnel in rural stations. Most of the rural stations are closed for  periods. As a result squad cars are conveying gardaí from one location to another. This is mostly what the squad cars are used for when they should be patrolling rural areas, setting up checkpoints and bringing terrorists to justice.
It is a sorry state of affairs for the Minister to go on TV, at the same time as old people were about to roll stones and iron bars to their doors in order to keep terrorists out, saying that everything is all right, that the Garda will get all the money they want to deploy gardaí from the city or elsewhere to deal with this epidemic problem which has now arisen. This problem has existed for the last two years. Outside Ballinrobe two brothers were murdered by itinerants and a third brother died at a later date as a result of the abuse he received. There was a disabled woman tied up on the same night outside Headford. The Government have taken no action in bringing the terrorists responsible for this to justice. The blame for the fear of the people and for the break-ins that are prevalent in the west lies with the Minister and the Government. Corrective measures should be taken.
It was stated at a meeting in committee that a squad car left County Mayo with a prisoner for Mountjoy. After the prisoner was admitted the squad car occupants went for a meal. On their way down, at Maynooth, the same prisoner hitched a lift home from that same squad car. This is the type of imprisonment which the Minister has talked about. The Minister inherited the improved accommodation at Mountjoy, Cork, Lusk and Trinity House. This was in train long before the Minister took office. He provided accommodation for 500 more prisoners. It was Fianna Fáil planning over the years that brought this increase about and not planning during the Minister's time.
I agree with Senator Durcan in relation to the location of new garda stations. Garda stations were built at the beginning of the century and were for a garda force who were then on pedal cycles. The terrain was such that it was more advantageous to have the station located at a  given point so that mileage would be curtailed considerably. This does not apply now. Advantage for detection should be the criterion for locating garda stations in rural areas.
I will not hog the time of the Seanad further on this except to say that I am appalled at the attitude adopted by the Minister, on TV last night, when he made political points. People in County Mayo are not worried about who is in Government. They are more concerned about their protection. The Garda are there to provide protection. It is the Minister's duty and not the Garda Commissioner's duty to deploy gardaí. It is the Minister's duty to make the necessary funds available in this emergency.
We were unfortunate in County Mayo that we had the lowest crime rate in Ireland. This is the reason that the garda force was moved from the western counties to intensify activity in other areas where crime was at a high level.
I concur with most of the opinions expressed by Senator Durcan. I appeal to the Minister to make funds available to bring back the task force in a temporary capacity and to increase overtime so that terrorism can be curbed. People living in County Mayo are living in fear and awaiting the Minister's action in this regard.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: Before I call on the next Senator I am obliged to state that the Minister will be speaking in the House at 7.40 p.m. I have now five or six speakers and everybody cannot be accommodated. I am just informing Senators of the position.
Mr. M. Higgins Mr. M. Higgins
Mr. M. Higgins: I can assure you I will be considerate of the fact that a number of Senators wish to contribute and my remarks will accordingly be brief. I want first of all to concur with the mover of this resolution and with Senator O'Toole from the opposite benches in condemning the most recent spate of attacks on elderly people living alone in isolated accommodation in Mayo. In doing so, may I say that I think attacks upon the elderly  in isolated areas are particularly cowardly? It is a kind of crime which has correctly brought the condemnation of all right-minded people. Following what the other Senators said, those who have watched the interviews of people who were attacked could not but be moved by the description they gave, the appalling incursion, the attack made on their lives. I refer in particular to people who lost their home through fire and who had been burned in a particularly savage way. I would agree with the mover and seconder of this resolution in saying that it is a particularly horrific kind of crime.
I am concerned not only about the people who live in the west but also about the elderly who live in fear and trepidation behind locks and bolts in the inner city of Dublin. Those of us who have canvassed during by-elections know the trepidation with which older people answered the door. To take up the point at which Senator O'Toole left off, and to be very brief, it is very important that anything we say and do now should be such as not to increase or amplify the fears of the elderly living alone and in isolated areas. I am very worried, as someone who has been interested in crime and the victims of crime for a great number of years, that we would not make worse a situation in which people are already living in fear. A number of people have spoken to me about what is likely to happen. People are influenced by the media. A great responsibility devolves on the press in striking a balance between accurate reporting and sensational reporting in relation to crimes that are committed against the elderly. The total impact on the elderly is a reasonable criterion by which to judge reporting, publication and action.
We should, out of the worst of things, seek to gain something. We have had dramatically demonstrated to us the circumstances in which many of the elderly are now living. The movers of the motion are particularly interested in the west. The demographic statistics show that in Leitrim and Roscommon, there are a great number of people, particularly women who are widowed and women  whose husbands have left and so forth, living alone. Equally, in Mayo, there are a great number of widows and a great number of deserted wives. There is the additional complication in Mayo of the terrain and the geographical features of the county. This means that demographically a great number of people are coming at risk. We need to ally the issues of supervision and crime with other issues in relation to the care of the elderly. With the greatest respect I support all the suggestions for a more efficient deployment of the Garda Síochána. They should be given the necessary facilities and there should be much reorganisation of schedules as would make an impact. I do not believe that you can reduce the risks to the elderly by Garda overtime. I would question that assumption. You need to use this experience of the fear of the elderly living alone. As a member of a health board reading the publications of other health boards and the publications of the Medico-Social Research Council and so forth I have found that where the elderly have been surveyed their feeling of loneliness is greater than their fear of intrusion. We must ask ourselves how we have addressed ourselves to the circumstances of the elderly. The millions about which people speak could probably be better spent in an integrated approach towards the needs of the elderly.
I am very conscious of the fact that we can put a figure on the number at risk who live alone and can identify their needs. It would not involve an enormous sum beyond our resources to provide for such electronic means as would enable the elderly to alert their neighbours when they are in danger. The advantage is that it makes it possible to deal with the person who is having a heart attack or a stroke or who is ill. Sometimes a great deal of money is wasted by the specification of qualifications for services for the elderly when it could be decided that everyone over a certain age living alone could qualify for a certain kind of provision.
We should ask ourselves whether it does not in a way reflect on us to think that the presence of gardaí — and I will  support the Senators who want more gardaí if they feel that will help — is a suitable approach. The force should be given every assistance to improve the detection rate and to apprehend those responsible for crime. They would have my support. Equally, there are questions that the communities involved must ask themselves in relation to the isolation of the elderly. We are being continually told that in urban Ireland we never had a sense of community or have lost it. A community spirit has existed in rural Ireland. My experience is that the isolation of the elderly in the rural community is far greater than in urban areas. I say that very deliberately. That is the evidence brought home to me as a sociologist where this issue has been surveyed.
We must ask the question as to the responsibility of the communities in which the elderly live, the extent to which they have been kept integrated into the life of the community. I do not mean just at Christmas Day. I mean on a regular basis. People who have studied ageing speak of the manner in which people have broken their links with life and have become isolated from regular contact with the community. Some of the people who are now most vulnerable are people who were isolated before they became elderly. We must ask a question about that and what barriers were placed in their way. I am in favour — I say this knowing that times are economically strained — of dealing with this grave, serious situation to which attention has been drawn and having a developed integrated approach towards it. It is possible in 1985 to make provision for such services as are necessary to enable the elderly to make contact not only, as I said, at times when they are being attacked physically but also when they have medical or other social needs. This could be done through the community care service of the health boards. I want to score no points whatsoever in relation to who will provide money or who will not. I happen to have the naive belief that it does not make a great deal of difference to the lives of the elderly in terms of reducing their fear as to which of the two major  parties are leading the Government of the day. I might be wrong in that. I make my appeal principally for the reduction of uncertainty and fear in the lives of elderly people.
In relation to the other question of apprehending criminals, it is its own comment on modern Ireland in many ways that criminals are far more mobile now and that people are able to drive through and past people who feel threatened. We must realise that this is happening. We must accept that as citizens we have an obligation to assist in the apprehension of these people and in making sure that their actions are not repeated in various areas. We would not want to minimise that obligation. Frankly, I think rural Ireland cannot be made safe. Perhaps the Garda can be better deployed and located.
I respect the right of the elderly, the handicapped, to live in isolated places if they so wish. They cannot be made to feel safe, negatively, by control. They have to be made safe positively by being shown that they belong and by a great deal of community responsibility in the provision of the services and the resources which I spoke about. I do not think that the cost of that is too high. It would provide security. I support Senator O'Toole when he said that there should be more advice for the elderly as to how to protect themselves. I do not think that it should be totally a matter of locks and bolts and guns. They must be shown that they matter.
We have to raise questions about attitudes that we assumed did not exist but which do exist in relation to the care of the elderly. The evidence is that they have been neglected, that they feel alone, that in many cases people have been callous towards them when they looked for assistance. It is time to ask ourselves the most serious questions. I make my plea to the Minister for Health and it is two fold. I would like to see the perpetrators of crimes against the elderly quickly apprehended. If this does not happen a number of dangerous statements may be made as to who is responsible for these  crimes, which would be irresponsible and regrettable. It is important that the criminals be apprehended so as to create a feeling of security in the minds of the elderly. Above all else I would ask the Minister for Justice to consult with the Minister for Health and the Cabinet with a view to making available such additional resources as are necessary to move from a very serious situation affecting the elderly to one that will be of positive benefit to them. I support the idea of an integrated approach towards this problem.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: I might point out before I call on Senator Ryan that there are about 18 minutes left.
Mr. B. Ryan Mr. B. Ryan
Mr. B. Ryan: I will be brief.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: I am only pointing that out. The Senator knows my situation, I do not want anybody blaming me when the time is up.
Mr. B. Ryan Mr. B. Ryan
Mr. B. Ryan: I have not been here for the entirety of the debate. From what I heard from Senator O'Toole and Senator Higgins, it is commendable and very worthy of this House that everything I have heard has been an expression of genuine concern for the elderly. There has not been a loud beating of the law and order drum in the way in which, sadly, sections of the media have responded to this problem. The problem here is not a problem so much of law and order as a problem of old people living in fear. That should be the centre of our concern and of the Government's concern rather than a cheap sort of point-scoring about who is better at law and order. What happened to old people in these recent weeks is reprehensible. It is wrong and beyond any sort of comprehension or excuse. I say that as one who is fairly frequently on his feet here in a variety of roles but the assaults on old people are among those things that nobody could ever justify.
On the other hand, if any good comes  out of these happenings it will be to re-emphasise the need to think about our old people not just when there is a spectacular tragedy but in the kind of continuing sad tragedy of their isolation and in the continuing sad tragedy of their exclusion not just by virtue of the demographic structure of many areas of rural Ireland but also because of the increasing concentration of younger people in urban areas. This happens for reasons of employment and indeed, in some cases for reasons of planning. Where young people are free to live and to build houses is often in less isolated and more urbanised areas. So the old people are being further and further excluded from participation in a community.
A community is not something that can be switched on when there is a major crisis. It is something that has to exist. If we are going to help our old people in this specific area then quite clearly the first requirement is that the perpetrators of these recent horrible crimes should be brought to justice. Perhaps because I am innocent and also because I like the man, I am happy with the Minister's assurance that he believes that this will happen in the immediate future. It is to be hoped that he is correct and that this does happen. Apart from that, if these individuals are dealt with, what we have had identified for us is the frightening vulnerability of a large section of our society and it is not just a vulnerability, as Senator Higgins quite rightly said, in the area of crime; it is a vulnerability in the area of health and of other domestic problems such as outbreak of fire or anything like that. What we have to address now is means and methods of minimising the vulnerability of our old people. Crime is probably spectacular. It is definitely something that sections of the media will latch on to with the greatest of enthusiasm but the tragedy of old people who are ill, or who are frightened by fire or who perhaps have a threat of fire, who are living in dreadful conditions or whose health declines painfully and often in dreadful isolation is an equal part and an extra dimension of this tragedy which we need to address.
 If any good is to come out of these awful tragedies it is that we will begin to reflect not just on the criminal activities by criminal elements against our old people but indeed on the criminal neglect that we as a society often are guilty of towards our elderly people in the way we house them, in the way we ignore them, in the way perhaps many of our well-intentioned plans exclude them from society. I therefore hope that as well as the obvious necessary law and order dimensions that arise in this issue, the other dimensions of health, of mental welfare, of isolation, of communication, of support, will be addressed so that we will have a comprehensive plan to protect our old people not just from this immediate horrible threat but from all the other threats that arise from their being separated and excluded from the community.
Mr. J. Higgins Mr. J. Higgins
Mr. J. Higgins: I will be very brief indeed because I do not believe in regurgitating what has been said. I would agree with virtually everything that has been said in relation to this particular sad state of animalism that is particularly prevalent in the west of Ireland and particularly relevant to my own county, County Mayo. It is unfortunate that a county that some 18 months ago was bottom of the crime statistics has now gone very much to the top of the league, not so much top of the league but top in relation to this particular sad barbaric type of crime. As has been said, the central focal point, the objective of the whole exercise, should be the point made by Senator Brendan Ryan, initially made by Senator Michael Higgins, that was, that we should focus on the old, the vulnerable, the isolated, their welfare, their role in society, their role in the community and the need for a fully integrated social policy to care for these people, to look after their welfare and to ensure that protection accrues therefrom.
I would make the point that even if we had a massive Garda presence on a one-to-one basis it would need manning around the clock because of the sheer  difficulty in dealing with the type of terrain in Mayo. We are talking about hundreds and thousands of square miles, rugged, isolated, very difficult to control which again re-emphasises, revamps, underlines and highlights the need for participation by the community. I would agree wholeheartedly with the points made by Senator Durcan in relation to the role of the police force. We need an integrated police force. We need to get them out of the cars. We need to get them again into the traditional role that they held in society, that they were trusted, that they were made feel part of the community and people felt they could go to them in confidence and impart information to them. Nowadays a situation has arisen that by and large people do not feel that there is much point in going to them, unless they have something of particular grave substance to impart. The type of attitude that people automatically go to the Garda Síochána to pass on information that might possibly lead to deterrence or side-tracking of a crime or would-be criminal has been lost. We have got to revamp, resuscitate, revive that attitude and ensure that it is prevalent in the community.
I would agree with Senator Michael Higgins on the need for some type of electronic device. I would make the point that the west of Ireland is very badly serviced with regard to telephones. I have a letter from Telecom Éireann to a constituent. I am very conscious that Telecom Éireann is a high profile organisation that has done an enormous amount of work and is good in expediting the provision of telephones. However, the letter states:
There is a large volume of urgent work on hands and requiring attention in the area generally. You can be assured that your application will be dealt with at the earliest possible date, but present indications are that the work necessary to enable services to be provided is unlikely to be completed until towards the end of next year.
The person involved is old and lives in an  isolated area. I urge Telecom Éireann to adopt as their priority the provision of telephones for this category of persons. I am not talking about the provision of telephones so that they will be able to ring garda stations but so that they would be able to ring a neighbour or friend. They should have telephones so that they would be able to make instant communication if their livelihood or welfare is being threatened. This is something the Government should address themselves to. There are vast subsidies for the provision in rural areas of roadways, ESB supply services to the tune of 70 per cent, and water schemes amounting to 80 per cent but there is no subsidisation from the EC of this type of vital infrastructure. I would reiterate the words of exhortation from both sides of the House.
Mr. Ellis Mr. Ellis
Mr. Ellis: I appreciate that Senator Higgins has been very brief. I come from an area that has suffered very badly from the attacks on old and disabled people, and people who live in isolated areas. It appears that we are now trying to deal with a situation which should have been dealt with 12 months ago when the spate of robberies commenced first in the west. In quite a number of cases people were robbed in broad daylight, not at night. People had money taken from their homes and were beaten up. Old people have been murdered in the past 12 months because people thought they had money. That has been the basic cause of a lot of the problem. We should ask public servants to consider carrying identity cards with them when calling on these people. They should have an identity card to be produced upon arrival at a person's door. There have been cases where old people have been conned by vandals who pretended they were from either the Department of Social Welfare, BTE, or some other organisation.
There is a lack of garda presence in the west and in rural areas especially. I drive quite a lot at night and I have not been stopped at a garda checkpoint in the last 12 months. There have been no late night or early morning checks. It was regrettable last night to hear the Minister say  that these culprits may have escaped across the Border into Northern Ireland. The journey from Louisburgh to the nearest point on the Border, either Ballyshannon or Blacklion, where they could cross is at least two or two and a half hours drive. I should like to ask the Minister how many Garda stations in the west were manned last Friday night. How many of them had no member at all in attendance? How many patrol cars were in operation in the west last Friday night? How many patrol cars are in operation on any night? There is a lack of garda presence which I believe is due to cutbacks in the Minister's Department. The cutbacks seem to be continuing on because as Senator O'Toole said this year there is £6 million cutback in overtime, not allowing for inflation. I understand that the Minister's Department got only a 2 per cent increase for the Garda. That is not enough to help the Garda fight crime when one takes account of inflation. It is obvious that there are cutbacks because the cars gardaí are being provided with would not pass a Honda 50 in a lot of cases. The people committing crimes are using high powered vehicles to help them escape from garda patrols. In Dublin the joyriders do not take a bad car if they are going to taunt the gardaí. They take a car they know can outpace the Garda car. The Minister must give the Garda the necessary support by providing them with suitable vehicles.
I fear that there will be more deaths in the west but it will not be the hooligans who are causing the trouble who will suffer. I am concerned to hear that old people are buying shotguns. Senator Durcan when he went to a neighour's house had to call out who he was. However, if somebody arrives at a door whoever is inside may not be as cautious as Senator Durcan's friend. They may blast the shotgun and some innocent person may be found dead outside a neighbour's door as a result. That is sad but it is true. I hope advice will be given through the media to old people on how to protect themselves. Anybody who saw the Carrolls on television yesterday would feel for them. Those people were almost  afraid to talk about what happened to them for fear of reprisals from their assailants. It was sad to see an elderly person show a hand which had been burned by being stuck in the fire. That is something we do not expect to happen in Ireland.
I call on the Minister to deal with the problem. He should make available to the Gardaí the necessary resources to allow them fight this problem. I should like to ask him how much he has made available to the Garda in the west in the past week to cover the cost of the necessary overtime to deal with this problem. I hope he has made the money available and that he has instructed the chief superintendants in the area that whatever overtime is necessary will be paid to the Gardaí. I hope that is the position.
Mr. Noonan (Limerick East) Mr. Noonan (Limerick East)
Mr. Noonan (Limerick East): That is the position.
Mr. Ellis Mr. Ellis
Mr. Ellis: If it is not there will be more deaths. The Minister has a grave responsibility to maintain law and order. When these criminals come before the courts I hope the justices who have the privilege of administering justice will not be too lenient with them. If they are sentenced I hope they will not, as in the case mentioned by Senator O'Toole, be taken to Mountjoy only to be released a short time later. One individual was passed by the squad car that had taken him to Mountjoy and was thumbing a lift home.
These crimes are committed against the most helpless section of our community. They could rank in the same category as murder because they lead indirectly, due to the pressure caused to these people to death from worry and fear. We, as a community, and the Government have a responsibility to prevent these crimes and to deal with the people who are perpetrating them. I hope the Minister will instruct the Garda that whatever overtime and extra staff is needed will be provided. He should provide a 24-hour service at all Garda stations. A number of stations in very strategic places in the west and on the Border do not have 24 hour Garda presence. In cases squad cars  responsible for patrolling areas can be 40 miles away, at the other end of the area they are expected to patrol. It is impossible for gardaí to apprehend people carrying out crimes at the other end of their district. I hope that in future those unfortunate enough to be attacked will immediately, when the attackers have left, try to get to their nearest neighbour who would notify the Garda. An area within 50 or 60 miles should be sealed off and combed so that these people who are a menace to Irish society are brought to justice. Justice, when it is being handed down, should mean full sentences. Such a move should have the full support of this House.
Minister for Justice (Mr. Noonan, Limerick East) Michael Noonan
Minister for Justice (Mr. Noonan, Limerick East): I am glad to have the opportunity to place on the record of this House my utter condemnation of the atrocious crimes that have been committed against elderly people in the west of Ireland in the recent past and particularly in the last week or so. As Minister responsible for law and order in this State, I view these developments with great concern — as indeed does every member of the Government — and I am firmly committed to ensuring that everything that can possibly be done to detect and apprehend these criminals and bring them to justice will be done by those responsible for law enforcement in the country. Naturally, I wish to extend my sympathy, and that of the Government, to all the people who have been victims of these attacks, especially the elderly brother and sister who lost their home last week. Of course, to repeat a sentiment I expressed in the other House yesterday, sympathy without much more is not an adequate response in present circumstances. Action is what is required and what people now expect and, so far as I am concerned, action is what is being and will be provided by me and by the appropriate authorities in relation to this matter.
Coming straight to the point, let me say at once that, as far as I am concerned, the appropriate authorities or, perhaps  more correctly, the appropriate authority, in relation to criminal investigations here is the Garda Síochána, the established police force of this State. The Garda have the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources and, above all else, they have the required determination to deal with these outrages and I am fully confident that the measures now being taken by them — some of which I will outline presently — will be successful in the not-too-distant future.
Before I deal with that, let me recall briefly for the information of the House that this is not the first time that attacks of this kind have been perpetrated against elderly people in remote parts of rural Ireland. There was a spate of attacks in Donegal in the latter part of 1984 and the Garda response then was to send in a special unit of experienced detectives to assist local gardaí. My information is that, as a result of this action, the Garda have had a fair measure of success and some of the culprits have been made amenable to the law. I understand in fact that, in a number of the more serious cases, charges are still pending before the courts. In the two murders committed suspects have been charged.
I use this example solely in order to underscore the point I am making which is that the work of detecting and solving these crimes successfully is well within the competence of the Garda Síochána.
As regards the specific measures that have been and are being taken to deal with the latest outbreak of attacks, I should like to say that, for the past two weeks or so, a special detective unit of the Garda Síochána has been operating in the Galway area under a detective inspector from the Technical Bureau. This unit has been assisting local gardaí and co-ordinating their efforts to locate these criminals. As the House may know, on Monday last another special detective unit was dispatched to Sligo to perform work of a similar nature there. All of the work is under the personal supervision of a Deputy Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, and has already visited one of the main centres to confer with local divisional chief superintendents and to  review Garda strategy. Immediate steps are being taken to intensify Garda efforts and additional manpower is being devoted to the investigation by redeploying existing resources within the areas affected. Special patrols are being mounted and these will concentrate particularly on the times and on the days of the week on which offences of this kind have been most frequently committed. I cannot, for obvious reasons, go into any greater detail about the measures the Garda are employing in their efforts to apprehend the perpetrators of these attacks. I can say, however, that the Garda believe that these attacks are the work of a small number of organised and highly mobile gangs and that there is a cross-Border dimension to at least some of the crimes. As I have said already they believe, in fact, that they know the identity of some of the people who were involved in a number of the recent attacks and they are following a definite line of inquiry. They also have information relating to the makes and registration numbers of vehicles suspected of being involved in some of the crimes. It would not be prudent of me to say more about that at present except that I am satisfied that everything possible is being done by the Garda to detect and apprehend those responsible and bring them to justice.
In all of this, of course, preventive measures have a very important role to play. The Garda are carrying out an urgent reappraisal of preventive measures to improve protection for elderly people living in isolated areas who may be at risk. One such measure, which is already in hand, is the preparation of a register of all elderly people living in western counties who may be vulnerable to attack. The purpose of this register is to provide the Garda with a quick and easy method of identifying elderly people who were most at risk and to enable the Garda to provide them with the maximum protection possible. The use of an appropriate alarm system may have a role to play here — many Senators mentioned this. In this context community alert project sponsored by Muintir na Tíre in the Cork area is being look at. The Garda  have already been working in close cooperation with local community groups and have been advising those groups and individuals on security measures. When attacks of this nature first occurred people were strongly advised not to keep large sums of money in their homes. They were urged to lodge their savings in banks or other financial institutions. I should, perhaps, remind the House that the Minister for Finance provided for special savings relief for older people in his recent budget and this should act as an incentive in this regard. The evidence available suggests that the advice given to people not to keep large sums of money in their homes is having an effect, if one is to judge at all events from the fact that, in the most recent attacks, very little cash appears to have been stolen, less than £180 in eight raids in total.
Over the past number of days quite a few suggestions have been put forward as to how this problem and, indeed, some other current problems on the crime front might be tackled. Some of these suggestions seem to have merit and, to the extent that the Garda find them practicable, will be implemented. Others, if I may say so, are not practicable, indeed some are fanciful, though no doubt they have been put forward for the best of motives and from a genuine concern to see the problem of crime successfully tackled. A few, however, in my view can only be described as mischievous and seem to be motivated solely by political considerations. Take for example the idea that the solution to this problem requires ground to air surveillance using Knock airport.
What contribution can ground to air surveillance be expected to make when most of these offences are committed and the criminals make good their escape during times when aircraft are rendered ineffective as far as surveillance is concerned because of the darkness?
While on this topic I want to repeat what I said yesterday about a possible role for the Army in the detection of these criminals. Nobody could exclude the use of the Army in support of the civil power if it could be shown that there  was a useful role for them to play. However, all the indications are — so far as I am aware — that there is no dimension to these crimes, either in terms of the use of arms, equipment, tactics or style of operation that would necessitate a military-type response. It should be remembered that the Garda Síochána, and particularly senior Garda officers, have many years of experience behind them and they are the professionals in this area. At the present time we must rely on the Garda Síochána to tackle crime. Certainly they need the assistance of the community as a whole to do this. What they do not need is empty rhetoric, destructive criticism and distrust. I am not accusing any speaker here this evening of such an approach because it was a most moderate debate and everybody was motified by genuine concern for the plight of old people living alone. Unfortunately, however I have to say that the Garda have been treated to an unacceptable amount of this type of criticism in recent times.
I have been urged to intervene to secure the re-establishment of the divisional task forces of some years back. Every time we have some outrage or other we have this proposition brought forward again notwithstanding the fact that I have on more than one occasion dealt comprehensively with the reasons why the Commissioner decided to reorganise these units. I would refer Senators to a statement I made in the other House on 24 January 1984, if anybody wishes to check the record.
The genesis of the task forces was an idea — thought to be a good one then but shown by hard experience not to have had much merit — that the best way to combat armed mobile organised terrorists was the setting up of units of this kind. However, I am informed by the Garda authorities that those units were wasteful of scarce Garda resources; that they were structured in such a way as to create serious problems of accountability for their activities, and that it is widely acknowledged in the local managerial structures of the force that, since their  disbandment, the personnel involved, who have been organised within the normal Garda command structure, are now much more effective in tackling crime. To be specific, these views are shared by the overwhelming majority, if not indeed all, of the Garda divisional officers throughout the force — those who have been appointed by the Government of the day to be primarily responsible for the local deployment of resources for the prevention and detection of crime.
Reference has also been made to overtime restrictions that I am alleged to have introduced and also to the closing of rural stations. I have already said that the national plan allows for very reasonable levels of Garda overtime in this year. I want to stress however, lest there should be any misunderstanding about it, that financial considerations are not being allowed to restrict in any way the effectiveness of Garda operations in relation to these crimes. I want that to be clearly understood. It is also untrue to say that rural stations are being closed. I have checked the record on this and the simple fact is that no rural stations have been closed for years past — certainly not since I became Minister or, indeed, I believe, for at least a decade.
While on the question of small rural stations there is one matter that I want to mention. There have at various times recently been rumours, very strong rumours indeed in some cases, that different small Garda stations were about to be closed down completely. I want to state here that responsibility for the provision of Garda stations or the closing of Garda stations rests with me as Minister for Justice and I want to say publicly and emphatically that I have no plan to close any Garda station anywhere in the country. That is the fact of the matter and I would ask the House to accept this and ignore all rumours to the contrary that may come to the ears of Members.
This very recent phenomenon of persistent and serious crime in rural areas is in marked contrast to the position of only a short while ago and it has caused some  people to question the present deployment of Garda manpower as between urban and rural Ireland. It is true to say that, because our rural areas have traditionally been almost crime-free, Garda strengths in these areas, leaving aside Border regions, have for a number of years tended to remain fairly static. But growing concern about crime in rural areas means that thought must now be given to ways of providing an improved Garda service to such areas. I am not here referring only to the outrageous crimes currently under discussion. Atrocities of this nature and viciousness are something totally new in our experience and are, I sincerely hope, a very temporary phenomenon. But apart from crime of this nature, the fact is that robberies, violence, and vandalism are now more prevalent in our rural communities than once was the case.
Given the nature of the areas to be policed — very wide areas, with intricate road networks and populations thinly spread — it seems reasonably clear that these require a system of Garda development different from that necessitated by the problems of towns and cities. The traditional system of policing has served rural areas well in the past but the changing pattern of crime, and the greater mobility enjoyed by criminals, make it necessary to see whether this system can, in fact, be improved upon. It is a common occurrence now for criminals to move quickly through several rural areas committing crime and the present policing system may have to be adjusted to cope with this problem. The greater availability of Garda cars and the provision of the new national Garda radio communications network — and in this respect I want to say that the network will be going “live” in all the rural divisions in the next couple of weeks — mean that new ways of providing a Garda service can be tried out.
Senator Durcan referred to studies that have been carried out. Studies have in fact been carried out by a team consisting of representatives of the Garda Research and Planning Unit and the Operations Research Unit of the Department of the  Public Service and a scheme designed to improve the policing of rural areas is in operation at present in the Garda districts of Claremorris, County Mayo and Thomastown, County Kilkenny. The main feature of the scheme is that the Garda personnel allocated to a group of four or five rural stations combine as a team to provide patrolling and other services for the whole area covered by these stations. This means, for example, that when personnel attached to a particular station are off duty, other gardaí assigned to the area will attend as required — for example, to open the station and to answer calls from the public for assistance. This scheme is under review at present to see how satisfactory it is in practice and to see whether the system as it is operating under the pilot scheme, or some variation of it, should be brought into operation in other areas. I can assure Senator Durcan that his criticisms of the scheme will be taken into account before I agree to any extension of it because while there are good features attached to the scheme it has been the object of criticism in local areas. I will take the Senator's views and the views expressed by other Senators into account.
As we strengthen the law — as we have done in the Criminal Justice Act — and as we improve Garda effectiveness with modern technology and equipment, it is to be expected that detection rates will improve. This will mean that more accommodation will be necessary in our prisons to hold those convicted and sentenced by the courts. The lack of adequate accommodation in prisons can render much of the good work done by the Garda and other sectors of the law enforcement area nugatory. For that reason I am determined to ensure, during my term of office, that additional prison accommodation will be provided. Already, in the space of two years, I have improved matters substantially.
In 1982 the daily average prison population was 1,235. Today there are 1,693 prisoners in custody. The rate of increase in the prison population is accelerating at present and it would appear this trend is going to continue. For example, since  1 January last, 189 persons have been sentenced to imprisonment, either on remand or to serve sentences, for offences involving car theft — another current epidemic — and, I understand, that there is about another 290 currently remanded on bail awaiting trial. This kind of intake into the prisons is putting an enormous strain on the prison system. As I have already indicated elsewhere, I have been discussing with some of my Cabinet colleagues various options which would help relieve the prison accommodation problem, at least on a temporary basis, and I would hope to be able to report progress in this area soon.
Before I conclude I want to respond to another contribution to this debate that I heard on radio this morning. There was a suggestion made — I do not remember exactly who the speaker was but he was from a local trade organisation — that people in rural Ireland should get out their old shotguns and make them ready to defend themselves against attacks of this kind. This is, of course, an understandable emotional reaction to the ordeal that people are undergoing at present. However, it is — to say the least of it — dangerous talk and, if heeded, it could place many lives at risk that would not otherwise be at risk in prevailing circumstances. I cannot condone this kind of advice and must urge people not to heed it. There are too many risks inherent in people arming themselves against possible intruders. I am glad that a number of Senators referred to that here this evening. If certain measures have to be taken ultimately, it is to the Garda that I will be looking to to take them.
I want to say that some people — including even some Members of this House — do not appear to understand clearly the distinction between the role of the Minister for Justice and that of the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána because they have — some more than once — demanded that I as Minister should direct the force to do certain things. In the context of this debate I think it is right that I should say something about this.
 While I accept that I am responsible to the Oireachtas and to the Government for the force and while, as I have already said, I am happy to answer for that role, I do not run the force on a day-to-day basis or indeed at all. This is the task of the Commissioner and his senior officers. My role is to provide the Garda Síochána with the resources they require to do their job, that is manpower, equipment, and a sound legal basis for operation. Since I became Minister for Justice I have been doing these very things. Manpower is being maintained at 11,400 — the highest number ever. I am providing better recruitment procedures; an expert committee has been established to examine the whole area of Garda training and I have introduced a new promotion scheme. The Garda are being provided with the most up-to-date equipment available in terms of radio communications — which I have already mentioned — and also computerisation. On the legal front I brought forward the Criminal Justice Bill within a short period of assuming office to give the Garda the necessary legal powers to tackle the criminal and to reform some of the procedures in our courts so as to secure the more effective administration of justice. I stand on my record in my two years of office and I look forward to continuing the work in the years ahead.
It is a matter of regret to me that I do not have time available to comment on the individual contributions made by Senators but I accept the sincerity of all the speakers and, in so far as advice was offered on specific matters, I will take that advice into account, particularly in the case of the proposer of the motion who made a very detailed contribution. One statistic which is worth putting on the record before I finish is the number of gardaí in the different counties. In Donegal' when I came into office in December of 1982, there were 445 gardaí. In December 1984 the number was 492 while on 28 February this year it was 491. Members can see from those figures that there was an increase of almost 50 in the number of gardaí. In December 1982 in Mayo the strength was 257 while at 31  December 1984 it was 259. The number in Mayo at the end of February this year was 260, a slight increase. In Sligo-Leitrim in December 1982 the figure was 251 while at the end of December 1984 it had increased to 283. At the end of February this year the figure was 282. In Galway-West at the end of December 1982 the figure was 308 while at the end of December in 1984 it had increased to 316. At the end of February this year the figure was 314. In Roscommon-Galway East at the end of December 1982 the  figure was 255 while at the end of December 1984 it had increased to 260. The figure at the end of February this year was 261. In all cases there has been an increase in Garda strength compared to the number in December 1982, when I took office. I should like to thank the House for giving me an opportunity to make a contribution and I thank the Senators who spoke.
The Seanad adjourned at 8 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 20 March 1985.
Seanad Éireann 107 Request under Standing Order 29: Attacks on Elderly.