Thursday, 23 June 2005
Garda Síochána Bill 2004 [Seanad]: Report Stage (Resumed).
I welcome the fact the Minister has accepted the concept of the ombudsman. If we accept that position, it is important the staff and resources for the ombudsman's office are put in place. I note the Minister stated it would only have half the staff of the ombudsman's office in the North. If it is to work, resources must be invested.
The Minister referred to a divided, polarised society. I want to give an example of how people have been polarised and have lost faith in the system. Anyone who has attended court proceedings in the State has regularly encountered wheeling and dealing at the back of the court. Also, a situation arises whereby solicitors in cases of alleged Garda brutality, where a formal complaint has been made, recommend to their clients that they withdraw their complaints for fear of victimisation. Of 1,200 complaints processed by the Garda Síochána Complaints Board, some 600 were ruled out. The usual excuse for this was that the complaints were vexatious, mischievous or time-wasting. It is clear the system is not working and that the public do not have faith in it. The office of the ombudsman would work.
I was consulted by a woman whose son died in Garda custody in my area. She had not heard anything from the Garda authorities in the seven months following her son's death. The man died in Tallaght and the case was investigated by gardaí from another area. However, the family was not informed of the details. I put a question down at the time — I understand it was on 19 January last — and received a letter stating the Garda authorities had been in touch with the family. However, they were only in touch with the family on the back of my request. I informed them this was not acceptable. The woman felt let down because she did not know the reason for the delay, whereas I was told it was due to the wait for a toxicology report. Moreover, the woman's son had been in Tallaght Hospital yet nobody from the hospital had been in touch to tell her what medication he had been on. It is one example of system failure.
Reference has been made in the debate to the situation in Donegal and the resignation of members of the Garda Síochána there and so on. A further example from my area involves the case of a young man, Kevin O'Reilly, who was stabbed and died. His father called for an independent inquiry but the case collapsed. That man cannot have closure on his son's death. It was another case of gardaí investigating gardaí. The father made serious allegations that many of those involved in that case may have been involved in collusion with gardaí and were Garda informers.
A number of cases have arisen in my area. A young man, Stephen Hughes-Connors, died in a den in the Rossfield area. The prime suspect in the case and his girlfriend have never been interviewed. The view in the locality is that it was a slipshod investigation by the Garda Síochána. As with the other cases, the victim's mother and her family are left without closure while some of the gardaí involved in the investigation have resigned or moved on.
It was always assumed there was no police corruption in this State. However, we need only examine the newspapers to find examples of it. In the past there was a crazy situation in that while there were corrupt Irish police all over the world, there were none in Ireland. That is nonsense. Gardaí have abused their positions and there has been criticism in the past, although that is not to take away from those doing positive work in the community. The involvement of gardaí in corruption undermines the force and those gardaí who have served the force well, in many cases for the best part of their lives. This is why it is important we get the Bill right and have the time to debate it.
On the office of the ombudsman, I favour a single ombudsman. It is easier to identify with one individual. I listened to the Minister's point about having a chairperson and perhaps a spokesperson. However, for many the point is not whether there is one or three people but that the Minister is worried a strong, independent individual would be appointed to the position, which was a concern voiced to me. There is confusion as to why the Minister has not opted for a one-person ombudsman's office. While I noted his reference to other areas of the world, there is a question of credibility on this issue.
The Minister talked in terms of simple solutions. He gave an example of the three judges of the Special Criminal Court. However, many of those aware of the workings of the Special Criminal Court will look back on the prime example of the sleeping judge. The simple solution in that instance was that there was a judge on either side to wake up the sleeping judge with an elbow. A three-person panel is not always the solution.
I have no difficulty with the idea of having more people available to carry out investigatory work. Many individuals will make complaints if the system is seen to be fair. I have listened to what gardaí have said and they are not happy with the idea of being investigated by other gardaí. That is a positive move by them.
Many difficulties exist and in many communities Garda credibility is on the line. If we hear of assaults in Garda stations, particularly in this city, and people constantly coming to the courts claiming they were assaulted in a Garda station, it raises the hackles of anyone in public life.
It is important the Minister and the Executive listen and make themselves aware of what is happening within the Garda Síochána. I see the ombudsman having a listening role. In the past people felt it was not politically correct or right for people to criticise what the Garda Síochána did. For some unknown reason it was thought this would take away from the good work of the majority of gardaí. That mentality has weakened the position of the Garda Síochána in many communities.
A number of years ago in my area we had a drug epidemic and the number of people in the area on drugs was above the national average. People were forced into going out in huts to monitor the role of drug dealers. On one occasion a stolen car in the area was recovered by people in the huts. Gardaí came to the area, recovered the car from local residents and left. Some time later a woman called to say she had heard from local gardaí that the car had been recovered and that she was coming to collect it. To my knowledge, that car was never recovered by the woman and a question mark lies over the incident. We had corrupt gardaí in Tallaght. One was expelled from the force because of his involvement with the gang that allegedly killed Veronica Guerin. There are isolated cases and individuals involved in this.
It is important that procedures be put in place and that they be open and transparent. A person with credibility in the justice system should have the role of ombudsman and the selection process should reflect this. The key has to be finance and resources if we are to put in place structures that will work.
I think it unlikely we will reach section 57 so I wish to make a few comments on the ombudsman at this stage. It is vital the institution now put in place will have public confidence. I firmly believe the Minister is still on the wrong track, despite the amendments he has made. Having one of the three-person commission as a chairperson, as suggested by Deputy Costello, is an improvement but the outcome is still a fudge. I do not think the case made by the Minister for a three-person committee rather than a single ombudsman stands up.
He stated that the Garda Síochána has twice the strength of the PSNI in Northern Ireland and he spoke of the need for the ombudsman to go on holidays. The public has confidence in a single ombudsman, the same type as the office of Nuala O'Loan in Northern Ireland. There is no reason a similar situation should not arise here. After all, we have a single Ombudsman in Emily O'Reilly and we have a single children's ombudsman in Emily Logan. Such a position is for one person and all of these people go on holidays. I do not accept that the practical arrangements of people going on holidays take from the point of having a single ombudsman. The public wants that and has confidence in it.
At this late stage there is still time to change. The Minister is the only person who is dug in on this issue. He refuses to accept the confidence that exists in Nuala O'Loan on both sides of a very divided community in Northern Ireland. Surely that is the precedent we should follow. Despite the changes made by the Minister the outcome is still a fudge and will not bring the public confidence that is so badly needed in this new institution. I support the proposal to change the definition from an ombudsman commission to an ombudsman on the basis of the substantive issue that we should have a single ombudsman. That is what people want and the Minister is not giving it. This is the last chance to do it.
I strongly support amendment No. 12, which is very important. This is an important issue that goes to the core of the debate, and the amendment strengthens the legislation. On Committee Stage we had seen historic cross-party agreement on the importance of an ombudsman in dealing with the Garda Síochána and policing generally. This opportunity was missed by many people, including some outside the Dáil. On Committee Stage all the different parties and the Independents agreed strongly on the urgent need for a single ombudsman to deal with the issue.
This was based on the experience of Northern Ireland. It is also based on international good practice. Despite 30 years of conflict, there is not one person in the House, as far as I am aware, who has concerns about the professionalism and integrity of a person of the calibre of Nuala O'Loan. History will record that this ombudsman has made a major contribution to peace and to the concept of winning trust in communities that did not trust or respect police forces. I know this from many friends in Northern Ireland, particularly those in Nationalist areas, who suffered for years and had no confidence in policing. Here is an opportunity for us to have a similar situation and to have a single ombudsman. As other Deputies have mentioned, we have it in other areas, so there should be no major problem.
There is a deeper issue here. If there is a question of trust in our police force and in the investigation and accountability of the Garda Síochána I find it strange that people have a problem with this concept. All public servants, including gardaí, bin collectors, teachers and nurses or doctors in the health service should have no problem being accountable to the taxpayers of this State if they are genuinely committed to the concept of public service. This is an important principle in the debate on democratic values in Irish society today. Recent events have damaged the integrity of many people who work in different sectors of the public service. There is a cry from those people that they want to be responsible, accountable and they want openness and transparency.
Amendment No. 12, from Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh, is part of the modern, progressive tradition that is emerging in Irish society. It is a very important amendment and it is up to everyone in the House to support it. We cannot talk to the McBreartys, the McConnells and the Barron family if we do not do something sensible and logical in this legislation.
Members of the Garda Síochána should be the guardians of the peace at all times. They must earn the support and respect of the community. At the moment we have a major problem which we as Members of the Oireachtas must face. There is a major crisis of confidence in some sections of the force and on the broader issue of policing generally.
Amendment No. 12 would make a major impact and would go a long way towards developing quality community policing with integrity. We cannot allow a situation to continue whereby people are not accountable. An independent Garda ombudsman is required who will have public confidence and trust. Many talented people in this State would be excellent candidates for that particular job. People who have the interests of society at heart would be delighted to take up such an opportunity.
I urge all Deputies to support Deputy Ó Snodaigh's amendment No. 12. I ask the Minister to leave aside his political baggage and try to examine the amendment logically, sensibly and objectively. The amendment is good for taxpayers and citizens generally. It is also good for the well being of the Garda Síochána.
This amendment concerns the issue of a Garda ombudsman. Earlier this week, the former Ombudsman, Mr. Kevin Murphy, made a number of interesting comments about the obligation on Government to be amenable and accountable for its actions through the Oireachtas and about the responsibility of the Oireachtas to ensure Government accountability, through this House, to the public. These comments are particularly relevant to the case which was made here yesterday by my colleague Deputy Howlin. He spoke about the timing of the receipt of the report by Assistant Commissioner Carty concerning the matters under investigation in Donegal. Deputy Howlin reminded the House that he had believed that the former Minister for Justice——
Yes, and at the very outset, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I stated that the amendment was about a Garda ombudsman. I am referring to the comments that were made by the former Ombudsman, Mr. Kevin Murphy, about the relationship between the work of an ombudsman——
Perhaps you could hear me out, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. My colleague, Deputy Howlin, drew attention to the fact that last Friday the Minister, Deputy McDowell, informed the House that the Carty report was not delivered to him or to the then Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, at a time when its full contents would have definitely been of interest to them and would have enabled them to make earlier judgments on some of the issues involved. Yesterday, the Taoiseach stated that a partial version of the Carty report was eventually furnished in November 2001 and that the complete report was not furnished to the Minister and to the Attorney General until the very end of January or early February 2002.
However, during his period as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue repeatedly indicated to the House that he had the Carty report. On 7 February 2001, in response to parliamentary questions, he did not indicate in any way that he did not have the Carty report, although he had plenty of opportunity to do so. On 23 May 2001, he stated that "the investigation by Assistant Commissioner Carty was completed and presented to me and, in turn, to the DPP".
Yesterday, Deputy Howlin confronted this House with a clear contradiction in the statements that have been made by the current Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, and his predecessor as Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, concerning the same matter. In terms of parliamentary accountability, there is no more serious matter than a Minister misleading the House.
Quite clearly, one or other of those Ministers is not telling the truth to the House. Either the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, had the report in 2000 or 2001 — as he told the House on 23 May 2001 that Assistant Commissioner Carty's report was completed and presented to him and, in turn, to the DPP — or he did not. If that version is not correct, then at the very least there is an obligation on the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, to correct the record and explain to the House why he told us that in 2001. If, on the other hand, what the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, stated in 2001 is correct, then the current Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, has a difficulty in terms of what he told the House last Friday. At that time he said that the previous Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, did not have the report. The Taoiseach repeated that the report was not available until 2002.
This is not a minor matter concerning some incidental documentation that got lost in the amalgam of material that goes through a Minister's departmental office. This was a major report on an investigation into matters of the most serious character concerning the conduct of gardaí in Donegal. The serious nature of what occurred is now in the public domain as a result of the report of the Morris tribunal. This was about citizens of this State being stitched up by gardaí and a subsequent attempt to cover up that stitching up. I can think of no more serious matter relating to the conduct of gardaí than that contained in the Morris tribunal's report, the substance of which we now know was in the report of Assistant Commissioner Carty which was available three or four years ago.
The question to which the House must have an answer is when did the Minister know that? Did he have the report or did he not have it? Is the statement made to this House by the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, accurate or is the statement made by the Minister, Deputy McDowell, accurate? The House is entitled to know because Ministers are accountable to the public through this House. As a House of Parliament we are entitled to know and to be told.
We are debating the Garda Síochána Bill, much of whose contents arise from the matters investigated by the Morris tribunal and which have been reported upon. We are entitled to know the facts. We have an entitlement to question and probe the matter until we get a direct and acceptable answer.
Which statement is the accurate one? Is it the statement made by the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, in 2001 that he had the report, or the statement by the Minister, Deputy McDowell, that he did not? Other issues will arise depending on the answer to that question. If Deputy O'Donoghue misinformed the House — let me put it as gently as that — then there are questions and issues which this House will have to address concerning his stewardship as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and his suitability to continue as a Minister.
If the information provided to this House by the Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, is correct, in other words, that he had the report back in 2001, as he stated, then other equally serious questions arise. They include why that report was not transferred to the then Attorney General, why the motion proposed at the time by the Labour Party seeking a public inquiry into these matters was voted down, and why the Executive maintained a position concerning the matters in Donegal, in the face of what it would then have known arising from the Carty report?
We are discussing serious matters for the people directly involved. We are also talking about grave matters in terms of the accountability of Government and the Executive. I am serious when I say, "We are in resignation territory here." It is an extremely serious matter when one Minister comes into the House and says something is black and another comes in a few years later and says it is white. The situation is as straightforward as that. One or other of the Ministers is not telling the truth to the House.
We are debating the Garda Bill here and no doubt, the Minister, Deputy McDowell will address the issue. I invite him to do so. There is also ample opportunity for the former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, to come into the House to respond to the issues Deputy Howlin raised yesterday. It is extraordinary that there has been no response by now from the Ministers concerned, a day after the charges were made. They must give a response today.
I support the amendment. The late US President Eisenhower had a sign on his desk saying "The buck stops here." The buck must stop somewhere. With regard to the ombudsman, it must stop at some individual's desk. It cannot stop at such a diffuse arrangement as a majority of an ombudsman commission.
We do not have to look far for an appropriate model. If Nuala O'Loan, in her position as police ombudsman, is good enough for Sinn Féin in the north of this island, a similar arrangement should be good enough for us. The Green Party proposes amendments based on the Northern Ireland legislation because we do not believe a committee, a commission or any other form of quango is appropriate. The office must have the authority, trust and clout to deliver. I am not convinced this legislation offers this. Therefore, I support this amendment for a single ombudsman.
I agree there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed in the context of the amendments and the importance of the legislation before the House. Everybody agrees with the necessity of the legislation and the urgent need to deal with this serious issue. It must be dealt with now.
However, in light of the questions raised by Deputy Gilmore, others and the leaders of the Fine Gael and Labour Parties this morning, there is a shadow hanging over the House and this legislation because of the need for clarification on certain issues and the veracity of statements by two successive Ministers for Justice, one of whom is the promoter of the legislation. A clash and contradiction arise from this.
We should consider the article in today's Irish Examiner where the previous ombudsman sets out clearly the responsibilities of Ministers and what they should reasonably know to ensure that the buck stops somewhere. Some of us thought this was what always happened and that this is what should happen in any event. It is imperative that when the original statement was made to the House three or four years ago by way of parliamentary question, the information given was the truth. There are no exceptions.
Recently, it has become obvious that there is a reluctance to give information. This reluctance is borne out by the change in the Freedom of Information Act and elsewhere. For example, yesterday approximately 25 of the parliamentary questions I asked were referred to the Health Service Executive, which will answer in due course. I got no answer in the House. Somebody outside of the House must take responsibility for those questions.
There is a serious issue to be addressed. It is unfair to either Minister ——
In any circumstances, it is imperative that the Minister of any Department should be capable of answering questions honestly in the House. If information is withheld from the Minister, for one reason or another, the Minister does not need legislation in order to determine what to do. This has been well established by precedent.
The problem now is, apparently, that three or four years ago when the Minister was asked a question, he gave the correct answer. Or, did he? We are discussing serious legislation that will impact, for the foreseeable future, on the lives of the Garda Síochána and the people. Therefore, we must determine who told the true story at that time. Was system or ministerial failure involved? Did somebody decide that it was not in the interest of the Oireachtas to know the answer to the question? If this is so, who was it who decided to withhold the true information? This House is entitled to the answer.
The information we have is that the Minister indicated at the time that he had the particular report. If he had, presumably some action would follow. We do not know. More recently we have had a correction that just an abridged version or summary of the report was available at that time. Do we know? Which version is correct? How are we expected to proceed in a debate on serious and fundamental amendments to this legislation against a backdrop of failing to get that vital information? The only way we can do that is to appeal to the Chair and its office to try to get that information for us.
This is also in the interest of any Minister in order for him or her to be able to stand over the information he or she is given. If it arises that the information given is not correct, for whatever reason, procedures must be followed instantly to protect democracy. We are slipping down the democratic ladder if we depart from that.
I suggest that the Chair should bring to the attention of both Ministers the content of the report in the Irish Examiner today. It sets out clearly the responsibilities of civil servants to Ministers, Governments and the Oireachtas. This has been clearly stated in recent days. If this debate proceeds without a clear and unambiguous clarification as to the veracity of those issues, a long shadow will be cast over this legislation.
I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on the important issue of the Garda ombudsman, or the Garda ombudsman commission, that will in due course have responsibility to ensure that all matters regarding complaints against members of An Garda Síochána are independently analysed and investigated.
I want to return to the issue that is of extreme importance here. It is not simply a matter, serious as that would be, of a conflict of testimony between two Ministers on a matter of the most serious gravity. Our judgment of the conduct of the Government hinges on the issue of when the Minister and the Government had the Carty report. My information is that if they had the essence of the Carty report, it would have been impossible for them not to act and immediately acquiesce to the pressure from this House for a sworn independent inquiry into the clear evidence of wrongdoing that Assistant Commissioner Carty presented in his report. I have not seen his report, but that is the information I have. The problem is much more serious because the two Ministers whose evidence is now in diametric conflict sat around the same Cabinet table — Deputy McDowell as the then Attorney General and Deputy O'Donoghue as the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
I understood before last Friday that the then Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, received a copy of the Carty report in the summer of 2000. My belief was based on what I was told by Deputy O'Donoghue in this House on Question Time. I quoted last night the most direct response given by the then Minister that I could find when I looked through all his responses. He said on 23 May 2001 that he had certainly received the report of Assistant Commissioner Carty's investigation. My colleagues have quoted Deputy O'Donoghue's remarks of that date and I will do so again: "the investigation by Assistant Commissioner Carty was completed and presented to me and, in turn, to the DPP."
The current Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform spoke in the House last Friday about the report of the Morris tribunal. The Minister, Deputy McDowell, said that:
My job as Attorney General was to advise the Government and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and also to conduct the defence of those proceedings. In that context it was necessary for me to assess as best I could all the information that should have been available to me as the legal adviser to the Government and should have been available to the legal team, for which I was responsible, conducting the civil proceedings on behalf of the State. Repeatedly during the year 2000 and into 2001, the Office of the Attorney General sought from the Garda Síochána a clear statement of the facts, as they were known to the Garda Síochána, to enable it to conduct the defence of the civil proceedings. Even after the Carty report had been furnished to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Office of the Attorney General repeatedly sought sight of that report
I emphasise that the current Minister, Deputy McDowell, said last week that when he was Attorney General, he was deprived of the Carty report even after the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions had been given a copy of it. The former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, told the House in 2001 that the report was given to him before it was given to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions
Is the Minister, Deputy McDowell, suggesting that the Cabinet colleague, Deputy O'Donoghue, refused to give him a copy of the report at that time? This aspect of the matter is not clear. The current Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform went on to say last Friday:
Unfortunately, it was the case at the time, doubtless in good faith, that there was a doctrine that the Garda Síochána was in privity with the Director of Public Prosecutions and that it was open to senior gardaí in consultation with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide what the then Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue and myself could see in respect of the investigations being carried out in Donegal.
We need clarity on this matter. Differing versions of events have been presented in this House as the truth. I could give many more examples of a clear and undeniable presentation that the then Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, had the Carty report, or at least the essence of the Carty report, by July or early August 2000.
The Taoiseach said in the House yesterday:
A partial version of the Carty report was eventually furnished in November 2001, the same month in which Shane Murphy, Senior Counsel, was appointed to review the matter. The complete Carty report, as was stated last week, including appendices, was not furnished to the Minister or the Attorney General until the very end of January or early February 2002.
According to the Taoiseach, they did not even get a partial version of the report until November 2001.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and his officials have had the overnight period to consider this matter. I do not doubt that the Minister will make a further presentation to the House. I invite him to be clear and frank in his statements on this matter. He should not obfuscate. He said in the House last Friday that he was denied access to the Carty report when he was Attorney General. He told me privately that he "screamed" for the report at that time. As a consequence of not being given access to the report, he was not in a position to advise the Government adequately in advance of a Private Members' motion on the matter. The Minister has said that he wrote to then Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, to advise him that he was not in a position to give full advice to the Government because he had been denied access to the Carty report.
It is extraordinary beyond measure that when he was Attorney General, the current Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform did not resign when he was deprived of the vital information he needed to advise the Government on a matter of great seriousness. I would have expected somebody of the calibre and status of Deputy McDowell to have refused to tolerate the failure of an agent of the State to provide him with the information he needed to carry out his proper function as Attorney General, which was to give proper and full legal advice to the Government. I would have expected him to have stated clearly that he had no recourse other than to resign if he was not furnished with all adequate information. That is not what happened, apparently.
When he was the legal adviser to the Government, Deputy McDowell allowed the Government to vote down an Opposition motion to establish a full inquiry, even though the full facts or their essence were known, as far as I understand, to the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue. It is clear that the then Minister did not communicate very effectively with the then Attorney General. The House has been told in recent days that neither the then Minister nor the then Attorney General knew anything of substance until November 2001, and that they did not have the complete picture until late January or early February 2002. It is unbelievable.
I hope the House will be given some clarity, rather than more smoke, during this debate. This entire issue has been shrouded with smoke from the start. We need clarity from the Minister and the former Minister about these matters so that the Parliament is no longer treated with the contempt that Ministers clearly have for it. The House should assert itself as a working and democratic Parliament rather than a mockery.
Amendment No. 12 is simple. I am trying to convince the Minister to establish a one-person position of Garda ombudsman, rather than an ombudsman commission. I have outlined the reasons for my proposal. The Minister has pointed out that there are commissions of this nature in other jurisdictions, but he was wrong to claim that such a model is used in Canada. There is no singular police service in Canada.
Neither is the Garda — it is a State police service. If we had a national police service, we might have the model proposed by Deputy Durkan. He suggested that there should be a single police commissioner for the whole nation.
I was on my final run at trying to persuade the Minister of the need for a single ombudsman rather than a trio, who could, and in most cases probably would, decide to agree, but who in other cases would disagree leaving one stuck with a problem of minority reports from the ombudsman commission. There is consensus among those on all sides in the House, including the Minister, of the need to change the debacle that was, and still is, the Garda Complaints Board so that whatever procedure we put in place has the full confidence of the public and that it will have faith in its procedures and recommendations. One does not want a position where solicitors are recommending, as they currently do in Dublin, to clients that they withdraw their allegations or complaints about Garda brutality or misconduct because if they left them stand, they would be victimised or it would augur badly for them in the conduct of the case or future cases. That is not as it should be.
I welcomed the fact the Minister was tackling the Garda Complaints Board in this Bill. I welcome the fact he moved from his original proposal and moved again on the issue of the chair because, as I said, perhaps at the end of this I will be proven wrong in two or three years' time, and so be it. The model I and others in Opposition have been putting forward is one of a single ombudsman with no commission which is already working on this island. The Minister has not shown a similar model to his which is working effectively in the same type of context which exists on this island.
The model we outlined is that of Mrs. Nuala O'Loan, which has been spectacularly successful so far. She enjoys the confidence of the public on all sides and of all persuasions in politics on this island and she has been commended for that. The model we recommended is the one recommended by Senator Maurice Hayes. It is the model recommended by Amnesty International for adoption in all EU countries so as to tackle the EU wide problem of impunity for police misconduct and the need for an effective independent civilian oversight.
The other aspect is there is no point in having such an ombudsman unless we give it the priority, status, resources and staff to address the significant number of complaints I believe will be received in its initial years because there are so many people out there who have no confidence in the Garda Complaints Board.
I have tabled other amendments on the ombudsman being given retrospective power. We should provide for that but I doubt we will come to the amendment. Such power is necessary because the Garda Complaints Board has been so poor and people have no faith in it and did not bother to make a complaint in the first instance as they knew what the result would be.
There are many cases in my area and throughout the country. Every Deputy present will have had constituents come to their offices making serious allegations against the Garda. Some of these can be borne out by their bruises or by other witnesses to Garda brutality. Others were not allegations of brutality, but just simple allegations of the gardaí not doing their job in the proper fashion. In one case, after the death of Ms Róisín Miley, her mother raised a number of serious questions regarding the procedures of investigation used by the Garda. She did not get any satisfaction in the case from the Garda Complaints Board or from the Minister.
Other cases concern people who have died in custody or shortly thereafter. Mr. John Moloney of Crumlin died in 2003 and many serious questions were raised about how he was held in Rathfarnham Garda station. Was the proper procedure carried out? There were contradictory statements made. There was bruising. There were serious allegations, but yet the mechanism that existed did not enjoy the confidence of anybody, including the Garda Síochána, in addressing those concerns and the allegations that family made that their son was assaulted in Rathfarnham Garda station and died from the hiding he got there.
There is another case which dates back 30 years, where a member of the Defence Forces was wrongly dismissed from the Army on the basis of incorrect Garda information. For 30 years afterwards, he has been obstructed and harassed by the authorities, in particular, by gardaí, when he has tried to vindicate his good name. The Garda records were never fully corrected. There were no apologies given to him. He was forced to go to the Supreme Court on one occasion and is looking to go again to get his name cleared and to get the mark on his previously exemplary record in the Army struck out.
Many people who went through a complaints procedure, whether with the Ombudsman or the Garda Complaints Board, but particularly the latter, were forced into court because they got no satisfaction. Most of them wanted only an apology for wrongful arrest or something like that. They did not want to go to court but they were left with no other option. We are putting together something in which, it is hoped, they can have confidence. However, and this is the reason for the amendment, if there is disagreement among the three people on the commission, if they contradict each other, how can the public have confidence in the procedure? A single person can take a decision and stand over it. That would be preferable to a three-person commission whose members might disagree. I mentioned last night when speaking on the Labour Party motion that Magill and other newspapers had highlighted Garda brutality and the fact that people were forced to go to court to at least get an apology. It would be worth ensuring the ombudsman has the ability to initiate his or her own investigation and to contact those who have made allegations in the media.
I met a number of constituents last week and asked them whether they had made a complaint to the Garda Complaints Board about a particular case. They related to me a horrific story about a man in Drimnagh who has been allowed to continue a reign of crime, intimidation, brutality and drug dealing for no other reason than that he is being protected by the Garda Síochána. My constituents made a complaint to the Garda Síochána that this individual had chased a car down the road with a gun. The answer given by gardaí in Crumlin to this serious allegation against a named individual was that it was okay, he was probably coked up and would not remember what he had done in the morning. This individual has appeared before the courts in connection with various activities. Last year he was before the courts having been arrested for driving while disqualified. The judge asked him why he was driving, to which he replied that he was in fear of his life, and he was allowed to walk free from the court and is driving to this day. The man in question is Seán Buckley. The Minister can ask the gardaí at Sundrive Garda Station whether they have a file on him and whether they will take action against him, given that there has been a number of complaints against him from residents and others throughout the three years I have been dealing with cases relating to him, and that they have named individual gardaí who have dealt with him and protected him when he breached barring orders and the like.
How many other police informers are protected in this way and allowed to carry on with their crime spree and attacks on communities? The victims of those individuals have no recourse, having lost faith in the Garda Síochána. Because the Garda Síochána protects these individuals, the victims cannot go to the Garda Complaints Board. Therefore, there is a crying need for an ombudsman and I agree with the Minister that we should accelerate this Bill as quickly as possible without interfering with parliamentary procedure, and that we should have the time to debate the new amendments he has put down.
There is consensus on the model I have put forward of a singular Garda ombudsman. The Commission on Human Rights, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the spokespersons of the parties who have spoken are all agreed on that. I could quote from various scripts I have, but in the interests of time I will not go down that road. It will suffice to refer the Minister again to the ICCL submission which states the best model of an independent complaints mechanism is that of an independent ombudsman based on the Hayes review. Professor Dermot Walsh, who did a critique of the Minister's proposals, was of the same opinion. Amnesty International made a major statement in its document, Human Rights Begin at Home, when making recommendations in the context of the Irish EU Presidency last year.
My party made a submission at the request of the Minister on policy on Garda reform before the Bill was put together. We took much of what other people had to say and added to it. At that stage we recommended an independent Garda ombudsman to investigate police misconduct. It was to be a merit-based appointment with selection on the basis of published criteria, and it was to be adequately resourced and staffed. On Committee Stage, the Minister suggested the staffing of the Ombudsman Commission would be half that which the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Ms Nuala O'Loan, enjoys, despite the fact that we have two and a half times the population of Northern Ireland and, it appears, double or treble the amount of skullduggery in the Garda in comparison to the RUC. We said it should be granted the necessary legal powers and resources to conduct independent investigations and allowed a scope of investigation that includes the special detective unit. The necessity for that is borne out if one looks at the Morris reports. It should be authorised to question witnesses, compel document disclosure and access locations at will, and granted the same legal powers as the Garda to arrest and hold criminal suspects related to its investigations. It should be empowered to determine breaches of Garda disciplinary codes and to refer evidence of criminality to the Director of Public Prosecutions. It should be empowered to resolve appropriate complaints informally with the complainant's consent. It should be empowered to resolve complaints formally by assigning penalties and remedies, including a recommendation for disciplinary action, dismissal, changes in policy or procedure or compensation to the complainant. It should be empowered to investigate systematic problems, including policies and practices, and to make general recommendations to eliminate causes of classes of complaints where determined necessary by the ombudsman. In line with that, the Garda Síochána human rights audit, which was carried out by Ionann Management Consultants in June of last year, suggested in relation to the ethnic and national origin of complainants that the ombudsman may also consider conducting thematic investigations into the handling of complaints of race and other hate crimes. The ethnic and national origins of complainants, their ages and sex should be monitored with the nature of complaints and their origin to establish if patterns or trends emerge.
Sinn Féin, in its document on Garda reform, calls for the Garda ombudsman to be:
—empowered to conduct independent investigations on matters of public interest on his or her own volition, or on the request of the Minister, without the need for a complainant. . . . [that is the point I made earlier] . . . . and this would be compulsory in the case of certain violations involving loss of life, excessive force, ill-treatment in custody, discrimination and political interference;
—Granted retrospective investigative powers;
—Required to produce an Annual Report for publication, including statistics, identified trends or patterns, analyses and recommendations;
—Provided with a mechanism for effective interaction, sharing of information, and collaborative investigation that enables the Garda Ombudsman and the Police Ombudsman for the Six Counties to work together.
That is what Sinn Féin had to say on this issue in December 2003 and early 2004. Thankfully many of those powers are contained in the Bill. My amendment No. 189 and amendment No. 180 in the name of Deputy Cuffe seek to transcribe the full Patten model into the legislation. There is consensus on the ombudsman being a singular person.
The word "ombudsman" as gaeilge, even though it appears in the parliamentary dictionary as "ombudsman" is "fear an pobal" or "bean an pobal". That translation, as used in the past, has proper meaning. It means a man of the people or a woman of the people who represents the best interests of the public. Such a person is independent and puts the best interests of the public first. I believe that task can be served best by one person rather than the trio, as suggested by the Minister, who can agree or disagree. That proposal could cause problems in the future.
Before the Leas-Cheann Comhairle took the Chair, the Minister had offered to respond to serious matters that arose during the discussion on this amendment and the House had yielded to the request that we suspend Standing Orders to allow him to do so.
I wish to address some remarks made earlier today in the House by some of the Members opposite on an apparent inconsistency between what former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, told the House in May 2001 and what I told the House last Friday. I draw the attention of Members opposite to their duty, before they make an allegation of dishonesty or impugn the integrity of a Minister, to be fair in the manner in which they carry out their parliamentary functions. I have a copy of the full text of the response of the former Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, to the Priority Question from former Deputy Alan Shatter. The record speaks for itself. I will not read it all but will read a passage which I believe the House should hear. It states:
I have already advised the House that a file on this matter, following Assistant Commissioner Carty's investigation, has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Following receipt of directions from the DPP, one person not a member of an Garda Síochána, has been arrested and charged. Further directions are awaited in respect of other aspects of the investigation. A number of civil actions relating to the case are outstanding.
The Garda Commissioner has already taken action to restore confidence. The Deputy will be aware that when the commissioner received the report of the assistant commissioner on the allegations in question, he decided in the best interests of the public and the Garda Síochána to transfer a number of personnel.
I have also recently been informed by the Garda authorities that an inquiry under the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations, 1989, has been initiated by the Garda Commissioner with a view to investigating suspected breaches of discipline by a number of members of the Garda Síochána in the Donegal division arising from the investigation conducted by Assistant Commissioner Carty.
The Deputy asks if I intend to publish the reports of the earlier investigations into the allegations of Garda misconduct in the Donegal area and, in this regard, if I have received the completed reports from the Garda Commissioner. On the latter point, the Deputy will be aware from recent correspondence that I have not seen the investigation file nor would it be normal practice for the Minister to do so. I have, of course, as I have previously informed the House, received a report of the assistant commissioner's investigation from the Garda Commissioner.
That is what he said. He then went on to say:
Given the various investigations and proceedings ongoing in relation to this matter, I do not believe it would be appropriate at this time to publish any of the reports that I have received in the matter nor to lodge them in the Oireachtas Library.
My primary concern is to take whatever actions are necessary to ensure that the truth of what happened in Donegal is established and becomes known to the public. . . .
I will repeat that.
My primary concern is to take whatever actions are necessary to ensure that the truth of what happened in Donegal is established and becomes known to the public and while also ensuring that this is done in such a way that no proceedings are jeopardised so that justice can be done and be seen to be done.
That is what he said. He went on to say, in reply to Deputy Shatter: "As I have indicated on a number of occasions I am anxious that we get to the bottom of what happened in Donegal." The Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, then made the following remarks as outlined by Deputy Howlin: "The investigation by Assistant Commissioner Carty was completed and presented to me and, in turn, to the DPP."
That is the truth. The problem is that selective quotation from the transcript of 23 May has been indulged in by the Labour Party with a view to conveying to this House that the Minister on that day said he had received the entire Carty report, files and all.
Is it not a point of order that the Minister engages in personal abuse? I expect the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to take action here. Had I addressed to the Minister the phrase that he has just addressed to me, I would expect the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to ask me to withdraw it. I expect nothing less.
I want to reiterate that what was left out of all of the protestations last night and today was a clear statement that Deputy O'Donoghue, as former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, told this House in the clearest and most unequivocal terms that he had not seen the investigation file in question——
Deputy O'Donoghue had received a report of the assistant commissioner's investigation from the Garda Commissioner. That is what Deputy O'Donoghue said and that is the truth. He had received from the Garda Commissioner a report on the Carty investigation prepared by Assistant Commissioner, Noel Conroy. That is the plain, unvarnished truth of the matter.
Yesterday, he conjured up an attempt by me to have the Garda Commissioner dismissed. On another occasion, he came into the House and spoke about a letter that would shake the foundations of this State. The extent of Deputy Rabbitte's imagination is unbounded and his neck is equally hard.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 55 (Michael Ahern, Seán Ardagh, Niall Blaney, Johnny Brady, Martin Brady, Séamus Brennan, John Browne, Pat Carey, John Carty, John Cregan, John Curran, Tony Dempsey, John Dennehy, John Ellis, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Mildred Fox, Jim Glennon, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Seán Haughey, Máire Hoctor, Cecilia Keaveney, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Tony Killeen, Séamus Kirk, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Michael McDowell, Tom McEllistrim, John Moloney, Donal Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Charlie O'Connor, Liz O'Donnell, Batt O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Malley, Tim O'Malley, Tom Parlon, Peter Power, Seán Power, Mae Sexton, Brendan Smith, Michael Smith, Noel Treacy, Dan Wallace, Mary Wallace, Joe Walsh, Ollie Wilkinson, Michael Woods)
Against the motion: 45 (Dan Boyle, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton, Paul Connaughton, Joe Costello, Jerry Cowley, Seymour Crawford, Seán Crowe, Ciarán Cuffe, John Deasy, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Eamon Gilmore, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, Pádraic McCormack, Finian McGrath, Paddy McHugh, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Arthur Morgan, Catherine Murphy, Gerard Murphy, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Jim O'Keeffe, Brian O'Shea, Willie Penrose, Pat Rabbitte, Michael Ring, Eamon Ryan, Seán Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Joe Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Mary Upton, Jack Wall)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Ó Snodaigh and Kehoe.
Question declared carried.
I move amendment No. 13:
In page 10, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:
"'1989 Regulations' means the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations 1989 (S.I. No. 94 of 1989);".
This amendment merely defines what is meant by the 1989 regulations where that phrase is used throughout the Bill.
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 11, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:
4.—Every order or regulation made by the Minister pursuant to this Act shall be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas and, if a resolution annulling the regulation or order is passed within the next twenty one days after the House has sat following such laying, the order or regulation shall be annulled accordingly but without prejudice to anything previously done thereunder.".
The purpose of this amendment is to adopt the standard procedures for accountability, namely, that every order made under the regulations by the Minister pursuant to this Act would be laid before the House. There is currently no provision for this, and I am proposing the amendment because of the huge number of issues to be dealt with by regulation. In many ways this is enabling legislation and subject to an enormous number of regulations in terms of its implementation.
I spoke to Deputy Jim O'Keeffe a minute ago about the whistleblowers' charter which consists of some ten lines in terms of the Minister's amendment. However, its actual implementation will be subject to regulations to be drawn up. It is proposed, with regard to that matter, that the regulations will be put before the House, but how many other sections will not be put before the House? One of the Minister's most recent amendments, amendment No. 13, refers to the 1989 regulations. We also dealt with discipline regulations under sections 115 and 119. This legislation is peppered with provisions for regulations to be drawn up by the Commissioner and the Minister, but they will not be made available to the House in all cases. When enacted, this will be very large legislation considering all of the amendments put forward. However, it will be much larger if one adds up the number of regulatory provisions that will be grafted on in terms of rolling out this legislation.
The Minister has already appointed Senator Maurice Hayes to be responsible for oversight of the rolling out of this legislation. To what extent will he be involved with the Minister and the Department in drawing up the regulations? Does the Minister intend to involve the Oireachtas Joint Committee for Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights in this matter because of the plethora of necessary regulations?
I insist in this amendment that the Minister at least has the courtesy and proper procedure to make sure the regulations are laid before the House so that there is an opportunity to examine, object to and seek to amend them.
We have already had major controversy on some of these issues. The Garda organisations are quite put out by the manner in which the Minister has presented some of the amendments. We will not have the opportunity to go into any detail in the discussions or to properly scrutinise any of the substantial amendments. The Minister confused everybody by not including them in the two main books presented to us, even though he gave the impression that all the amendments were included. The Minister then surreptitiously turned up with his own white paper, presenting these substantial amendments which will not be the subject of any proper debate. As a result, my amendment is all the more important because of so many key and sensitive issues regarding the organisation and discipline of the Garda, issues which can result in a great deal of harm if not dealt with properly.
As the Minister knows, the next time he goes to conciliation with the Garda, he will hear loudly enough what the force has to say about his amendments today in terms of how he has treated the Garda with regard to consultation or lack thereof, or any attempt to enter into a form of conciliation on some of the matters which provide for summary dismissal.
The Minister must think about families, terms of employment and so on and cannot simply barge in like a bull in a china shop. The manner in which the Minister is bringing forward some of the amendments regarding accountability will undermine the good work of a lot of this legislation because it threatens the morale of the Garda. Unless the Garda is brought along with us on this legislation in a fair way in terms of due process, we are building up trouble in the foreseeable future.
It is important that every item of regulation and every provision that comes under the precept of this Bill be presented to this House so that the Members can have an opportunity to see it and object to any undesirable aspects, considering that the Minister has refused to give us adequate time to explore and scrutinise his amendments, tabled as usual at the last minute without due consideration for the proper legislative procedures of this House.
I strongly support the amendment tabled by Deputy Costello. It goes to the heart of the involvement of the Oireachtas in issues of primary and secondary legislation.
Having called to the General Office just half an hour ago to seek the complete up-to-date list of all the amendments on Report Stage of the Bill, I was appalled that the only document the office could give me was the one which was available yesterday and which was not the full list. I was trying to trace the amendment relating to the whistleblowers' charter and could not find it in the green paper version. My colleague, Deputy Costello, then informed me that two or three more sheets of amendments had since been circulated, and that I would have to go through them. This is quite ridiculous.
I am drifting a little, but I am normally a most reasoned and reasonable Member of this House. Arising out of what Deputy Costello said, this House has a genuine function in the preservation and development of our democracy. I found myself more than cross, not just at the general way in which this House was dealt with by the Government and the Minister with regard to this Bill, but by the very sloppy way in which the Minister——
This is part of the counter-attack. Deputy Costello proposes that all regulations would have to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and that it would have an adequate length of time to deal with those. In some ways I would go further because there are different ways of dealing with secondary legislation. I fully endorse Deputy Costello's proposal in so far as it goes, but there are some regulations where we should go even further and insist on an affirmative vote of the Houses of the Oireachtas before the regulation would come into effect. Otherwise there is a danger that we will have the process of having orders and regulations merely mentioned at the back of the Order Paper each day, having been laid before the Oireachtas Library, and never even noticed.
It is a start of the counter-attack to get the Oireachtas into the centre of the stage as far primary and secondary legislation are concerned. From that point of view I heartily endorse Deputy Costello's amendment.
There are many matters covered by regulation in this Bill, some of them matters of minute regulation of a disciplined force. Others are of a broader nature. The Bill differentiates in various sections between regulations which must be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and ones which do not have to be. That is how the Garda Síochána has always been run. Some regulations must be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas while others need not be. It does not make sense to say that every regulation in either the Army or the Garda Síochána should have to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. In some cases we must be practical about such matters.
Deputy Jim O'Keeffe should also take on board that with the great raft of secondary legislation for which this House already has responsibility, the degree of scrutiny is far less than it might be. That applies to all sides of this House.
Adding to the raft of material coming to the House will not address that issue. We do not have scrutiny arrangements in this House which are appropriate or adequate to the task. The Parliament in the United Kingdom has secondary legislation scrutiny which is much more active and vigilant than that managed by this House at any time in the past.
Members of this House can see every regulation made merely by asking to see it.
The highfalutin notion that everything, down to the size of buttons on Garda uniforms and so on, should be provided for by statutory instruments laid before the House and subject to annulment within 21 days, is not a practical way of doing business.
The Bill provides that in a great number of cases, the regulations must be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, but that in other cases they need not be. If, for example, Garda uniforms are provided for in regulation, is the size of the harp on the jacket button to be the subject of a statutory instrument? Is that what the Opposition wants? I do not think so. On the other hand, it has to be the subject of some form of regulation. Under the existing law, some forms of regulation are put before the Houses, and will be under this law, whereas others are not. A blanket approach of the kind suggested by Deputy Costello's amendment is cumbersome. It is delusional that if that were the case, it would increase the democratic accountability of the way in which the Garda is run. I doubt it would, and it would add to the unread pile of paper in the Oireachtas Library.
I do not wish to digress in a disorderly fashion but the Deputy has consistently suggested I am responsible for the order in which the amendments have been tabled. My Department submitted all its amendments by 7.30 p.m. last Monday while Deputy Ó Snodaigh's amendments were submitted the following day. I have no control whatsoever over whether the amendments appear on green or white sheets or in what order they are tabled. That is a matter for the Bills Office and I have no input whatsoever in this regard. All I did was deliver the amendments by a specified deadline, which was extended to 7.30 p.m. last Monday, and I have not submitted a line to that office since. Deputy Ó Snodaigh was treated somewhat more generously and he was permitted to table his amendments——
Deputy Ó Snodaigh's amendments were also circulated. Just as the Deputy has no control over what sheet of paper his amendments appear on, neither do I. An independent office of the Legislature decides the sequence in which the amendments are taken.
It arises in the Bills Office. The first numbered list of amendments contains amendments addressed to pages 1 to 18, inclusive, of the Bill. The following day we received the second numbered list of amendments, which contains all amendments addressed to remaining pages of the Bill. We then received a third list, which does not state where it emanates from or what it seeks to cover but it contains amendments tabled by the Minister exclusively. This document is not what it purports to be, a totality of amendments. It contains 34 amendments not included on the first two lists, which is what we are working from, having been given the impression——
Our main complaint is that because of the rushed nature of the work done over the past few days, a confusing set of amendments was published. I do not blame the Bills Office. I lay blame at the door of the Minister because of the manner in which he has conducted business.
The Bills Office does a great job considering the pressure it is put under. It is absolutely unfair to put it under the pressure the Minister has applied this week. It is part of the unseemly rush to get the Bill on to the Statute Book without appropriate deliberation.
With regard to the amendment, for once I agree with the Minister that there is inadequate scrutiny by the House of secondary legislation and we should consider better ways to achieve that. The only progress in this regard has been made by the scrutiny sub-committee of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Affairs, which is effective. I made a proposal to the Minister, with which I understood he was in agreement, that an Oireachtas security committee should be established. If such a committee were established, secondary legislation in this area could be scrutinised.
I am glad the Minister agrees with the proposal but I sought its implementation. It must be set up by the House but that will involve the Minister making a proposal to set it up or bringing a memorandum to Government. Even though we may agree on the proposal, it will not happen unless the Government causes it to happen. I would be glad if the Minister would confirm he is making arrangements accordingly.
He tabled amendment No. 6 on the first list of amendments. He also tabled amendment No. 94 to amend amendment No. 94a.
I support the amendment. Onerous duties and responsibilities will be proffered on the Garda and there should be proper democratic scrutiny. The orders and regulations relating to our police force should be laid before the House and a mechanism needs to be found to examine them. For example, a reserve force will be established at some stage in the future and the regulations pertaining to its establishment need to be fully scrutinised to ensure the issues I raised about it yesterday are addressed. The public and the Legislature should understand fully how the reserve force will operate, who will be in charge and the uniform, hours, pay and training that will be involved, as it is not clear in the legislation. These issues must be scrutinised, not to delay the implementation of the force but to ensure the best police service is provided in our communities.
Certain things should be the subject of parliamentary scrutiny and others need not be. The Bill differentiates between the two and provides, in some cases, that there will be parliamentary scrutiny and, in others, that there will not. That is a practical and reasonable way to approach this issue. It is not something about which the House must be informed every time there is a minute change in the internal regulation of the Garda.
I wish to be associated with the Ceann Comhairle's remarks about the Bills Office. It works extremely hard to serve the House and at times we impose difficult workloads on that office. I am conscious of that but I have no control over the order in which pieces of paper come to this House, no more than Deputy Ó Snodaigh had control over the sheet of paper on which his material appeared. These matters are decided by the House through the Bills Office, not by me.
We all pay tribute to the Bills Office but we should ensure that it is not put under such pressure by giving it intolerable deadlines. The people responsible for that should be departmental officials. Perhaps the Ceann Comhairle will examine this matter and discuss it with the Bills Office. It is unsatisfactory.
The main reason given by the Minister for rejecting the amendment is that every regulation that is made cannot be laid before the House. Members can see the regulations on demand. The Minister mentioned that the regulation could be about the size of the buttons or the brass for the uniform of an officer. However, I am not referring to the regulations made by the Commissioner but to those made by the Minister. The amendment refers to "every order or regulation made by the Minister". An order made by the Minister would not deal with the daily operation of the Garda or the design of the uniform but would refer to important matters.
I have in mind Part 6 of the legislation which deals with regulations and miscellaneous provisions. A raft of disciplinary and organisational matters are subject to the provisions in Part 6. The Minister will be responsible for drafting and approving those regulations, with the approval of the Government. Section 115 covers many matters of extreme concern to members with regard to rank, pay, allowances, training, use of facilities, penalties and the retirement of members. Volunteer members are governed by the disciplinary regulations as well. Part 6 deals with many serious matters relating to the code of conduct and the organisation and discipline of the Garda Síochána.
I do not understand why the Minister should object to regulations on these matters being put before the House or into the Oireachtas Library. We will not have a debate on them but we will have the opportunity to peruse them and, if appropriate, object to them within 21 days. It is standard practice. It would not be difficult for the Minister to do that. If the regulations or orders must be drafted and printed and put in somebody's cupboard somewhere, why can they not be laid before the House? I do not understand why we cannot adopt a standard way of dealing with regulations drawn up by a Minister. They can be annulled, if necessary, after 21 days but they should be laid before the House for scrutiny.
Suggesting that we are dealing with buttons and brass is not helpful. We are dealing with the implementation of this legislation and the important issues that will be dealt with by regulation. These are the issues that will determine whether this legislation is effective. Much of the work will be done under the oversight of Senator Maurice Hayes. The Minister will work on it too. Obviously, if the justice committee could assist, it would. However, what is not required is that regulations be drawn up in secret. If the Minister states that certain regulations should not be in the public domain, so be it. He can put his case and establish the caveat that matters that deal with the security of the State will be withheld from public scrutiny.
However, that is not the same as refusing to put disciplinary and organisational regulations before the House for the scrutiny of Members. That is particularly so when the Minister has refused us the opportunity to have a full and thorough debate on the provisions of this legislation. The fact that we did not have the opportunity to have that debate means we will be reliant on the roll-out of this legislation by regulation. The secondary legislation will be as important as the primary legislation in that respect but the Minister does not intend to give us the opportunity to examine either. We have seen these enabling provisions but the Minister will deny us the opportunity to see what they will enable the authorities and the agents of the State to do or how they propose to deal with the organisation, work and discipline of the Garda. We are entitled to see that.
The Minister says he will let us see some of the regulations and refuse to let us see others. He then gave the most menial example imaginable. That is no way to conduct business and it is not an acceptable explanation. The Minister must accept this standard form of accountability. It is, as Deputy Jim O'Keeffe said, a low threshold of accountability. It is not a proactive threshold whereby the regulations could be put on the Order Paper for debate or referral to a committee. It merely provides that they will be placed in the Oireachtas Library and that Members will be made aware of them and will have 21 days to exercise their option of responding to them. The Minister considers this too much work, involving too much paper. It is too much of a problem. In reality, however, no extra work or paper is involved and it would cause no greater difficulty. It would provide a level of oversight by the House that would not otherwise exist.
It is not a major task to make these regulations available to the House. I do not know if the Minister thinks he is concealing something or if he wishes to put everything under the broad brush of security but it is not good enough. Certain matters come within the ambit of security but, by and large, they are few and far between. They do not involve many regulations. The Minister could accept this amendment and thereby establish a precedent for every order or regulation made not just by this Minister but also by other Ministers, pursuant to the legislation in place. If they are important enough to be included in the legislation, they should be sufficiently important to be laid before the House in some format so Members can exercise oversight of them. Perhaps the Minister will change his mind and save us putting this issue to a vote by accepting this amendment, which has the support of all parties on this side of the House.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 43 (Dan Boyle, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton, Paul Connaughton, Joe Costello, Jerry Cowley, Seymour Crawford, Seán Crowe, Ciarán Cuffe, John Deasy, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Eamon Gilmore, Tony Gregory, Michael D Higgins, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Pádraic McCormack, Finian McGrath, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Arthur Morgan, Catherine Murphy, Gerard Murphy, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Jim O'Keeffe, Brian O'Shea, Séamus Pattison, Willie Penrose, Pat Rabbitte, Michael Ring, Eamon Ryan, Seán Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Joe Sherlock, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Mary Upton, Jack Wall)
Against the motion: 57 (Michael Ahern, Seán Ardagh, Niall Blaney, Johnny Brady, Martin Brady, Séamus Brennan, John Browne, Pat Carey, John Carty, John Cregan, John Curran, Tony Dempsey, John Dennehy, John Ellis, Frank Fahey, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Mildred Fox, Pat Gallagher, Jim Glennon, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Seán Haughey, Máire Hoctor, Cecilia Keaveney, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Tony Killeen, Séamus Kirk, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Michael McDowell, Tom McEllistrim, John Moloney, Donal Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Charlie O'Connor, Liz O'Donnell, Batt O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Malley, Tim O'Malley, Tom Parlon, Peter Power, Seán Power, Mae Sexton, Brendan Smith, Michael Smith, Noel Treacy, Dan Wallace, Mary Wallace, Joe Walsh, Ollie Wilkinson, Michael Woods)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Stagg and Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher.
Bhí mé ag fanacht le beagán ciúnais; níl aon deifir.
I move amendment No. 19:
In page 11, between lines 20 and 21, to insert the following:
"(b) protecting and promoting human rights,".
Táimid ag déileáil le leasuithe Uimh. 19 go 22, 89 agus 96. Caithfimid léim ó leathanach go leathanach. Is iad leasuithe Uimh. 19, 20, 89 agus 96 na cinn uaimse. Is é an rud atá i gceist anseo ná cur leis na tosaíochtaí atá ag na gardaí agus tús áite a thabhairt do na gnéithe atá luaite agam sna leasuithe, ach go háirithe le go dtugaimis tacaíocht don seasamh ó thaobh cearta daonna de. Tá an ghné eile i leasú Uimh. 20, a thugann ceannaireacht don phobal áitiúil. San dá leasú deireannach, cothaímid ethos nó meon atá dírithe ar chearta daonna laistigh de na gardaí. Tá sé sin in easnamh faoi láthair, agus ní mise an duine a deir sin ach doiciméad a luaigh mé ní ba luaithe ó ghrúpa a dhein audit ar an Gharda Síochána anuraidh. Tiocfaidh mé ar ais chuige sin. Fuair na daoine a scríobh é nach raibh meon a bheadh ag cosaint cearta daonna, ag tacú leo agus á gcur chun cinn sa Gharda Síochána.
Is é an rud atá i gceist ná go gcuirfimid míreanna breise isteach sa Chuid seo den Bhille, Cuid 2, Alt 7(1), agus go gcuirfear isteach é tar éis na chéad ghné, preserving peace and public order. Ina dhiaidh sin, is é an chéad tosaíocht eile a bheadh againn ná go mbeimis ag cosaint cearta daonna agus á gcur chun cinn. Ina dhiaidh sin, bheimis ag cosaint sábháilteacht ár bpobal agus ag tabhairt ceannaireacht dhearfach dóibh chomh maith. Ansin, leanfaí ar aghaidh ag cosaint beatha, sealúchais agus sábháilteacht an Stáit. Dhéanfaí iarracht coireanna a chosc sula dtarlaíonn siad. Thógfaí coirpigh chuig na cúirteanna. Dhéanfaí fiosrúcháin ar choireanna. Is é an ceann deireannach ná bheith ag déileáil le trácht agus sábháilteacht bóithre. B'fhéidir, amach anseo, go mbunófaí an t-eagras a luaigh an tAire ní ba luaithe i mbliana, the traffic corps. Chuirfí a lán de na cúraim seo air.
Tagaim anois chuig an chuid lárnach den méid atá le rá agam. Casfaidh mé ar an Bhéarla, mar is as Béarla atá an tuairisc seo a luaigh mé. In the amendment I seek — I do not know if the Minister is seeking it yet —to protect and promote human rights. Last year, a Garda Síochána human rights audit was carried out by Ionann Management Consultants Limited. This English-based company produced a report which, although only 22 pages long, is detailed in terms of the significant scope of its remit. Its findings go to the core of what I seek in these amendments. The report observed that the Garda had launched a human rights initiative in 1999, five years prior to the audit, established a Garda human rights office and, in 2003, published a declaration of professional values and ethical standards. Despite these developments, the report concluded that human rights are not yet embedded in or intrinsic to the culture and ethos of An Garda Síochána.
This is an extremely serious conclusion, particularly in view of the findings of the Morris tribunals and the potential findings of the next eight modules over which Mr. Justice Morris will preside. It seems that initiatives and efforts to date have made no impact in reinforcing the human rights ethos that should prevail in An Garda Síochána. The independent audit found, for example, that there was a long delay in issuing the declaration even though it was supposed to come soon after the initiative was launched in 1999.
The audit report also found that the declaration was not reinforced through training and promotion of the human rights message. It was discovered that few members were aware of the contents of the declaration one year after its inception. Moreover, it was found that members who were aware of it did not understand its implications for their work practices. The consultants observed that the declaration itself was vaguely worded and that there was no management direction on how to incorporate the declaration into the daily work of gardaí.
The audit report also found that the existing Garda code does not reflect and embed human rights practice and that there is no mechanism in place to allow for systematic and routine monitoring of the use of police powers in regard to human rights issues. It found that most gardaí still consider human rights as a back-covering exercise. This situation demands decisive action and legislative prescription. I support the human rights auditors' recommendation for an urgent and thorough review of all Garda policies and operational procedures for human rights compliance.
This is the background to my request that a greater priority and a specific objective be given to An Garda Síochána to protect and promote human rights. One example in this regard is the issue of domestic violence, an issue with which many members of An Garda Síochána must deal and in respect of which some positive steps have been taken. Earlier this year, the chairwoman of the National Women's Council of Ireland, Ms Gráinne Healy, called on the Garda to re-prioritise domestic violence.
It is almost ten years since this issue was listed as a priority in the annual policing plan. Domestic violence, which affects a significant number of women, a small number of men and many children, is an issue of human rights. If the Garda is not willing to prioritise domestic violence in its annual policing plan, the issue should at the very least form part of the force's service objective by the express inclusion of human rights at the core of the functions of An Garda Síochána.
My party's submission to the Minister on Garda reform included a section dealing with the need for An Garda Síochána to have the human rights ethos at its core. From this would flow a proper policing service of which we could all be proud and which communities could work with, embrace and enhance as time goes on. Policing can and should make a positive contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights. Best practice on human rights in policing requires not only human rights training and periodic upskilling but also a pervasive human rights ethos underpinned by a specific code of conduct in line with international standards and reflecting a human rights-based philosophy of policing.
We have an opportunity for Garda reform. However, we have not ensured that the police service will be fully compliant with the relevant international instruments on policing standards as well as the UN and EU best practice guidelines on codes of conduct. We welcome the steps that have been taken since 1999 but we recommend that the human rights ethos should become a core value.
Amendment No. 20 is self-explanatory. Rather than sometimes working against the interests of communities, An Garda Síochána should work to protect the security of communities and should provide positive leadership. In my own area of Ballyfermot I am a member of the drugs task force, the Cherry Orchard regeneration forum and the Cherry Orchard development council. Members of An Garda Síochána play a valuable role on those bodies through their attendance and contribution. This participation means gardaí are beginning to look at the community in a more holistic fashion and to recognise that their role is not only to protect the security of the community but also, through their attendance at these vital democratic community fora, to assist in providing a positive communal leadership.
One hopes this example is mirrored throughout the country and gardaí are to be commended on their work in this regard. It may be frustrating for gardaí to spend hours attending residents' association meetings and other community fora. However, the time they invest at those meetings is time well invested and both the community and An Garda Síochána will benefit in the long term. I participated in a residents association meeting in Chapelizod some days ago which was attended by local gardaí——
I am explaining why I want this to be a core value and that the work already being done in some communities indicates the benefits of the Garda providing positive leadership. The examples I have given illustrate the reasoning behind my amendment.
Two gardaí spent an hour and a half at the residents' association meeting in Chapelizod to which I referred. They are to be commended on that.