Thursday, 23 June 2005
Question 3: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 314 of 20 May 2005, if, in view of the fact that the majority of gardaí performing duties in the environs of Croke Park on major match days are there to facilitate access to the match and major concerts in Croke Park, the RDS and other venues in which very large profits are generated by the event organisers, he will review the present arrangements whereby the event organisers pay nothing towards the costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21643/05]
As the Deputy is aware, over the years numerous organisations have requested and have been given the assistance of gardaí on a non-public duty basis. This non-public duty is performed by members of An Garda Síochána under arrangements made by the Garda authorities with organisers of events such as football matches, race meetings and rock concerts who seek their services to perform duties to which they would not normally be assigned. Traditionally, members of the force have been made available for the performance of such duties and the State has charged for their services. The work is done by members who would otherwise be off duty.
At present, the organisers of events who request the services of gardaí on a non-public duty basis are made aware of the conditions attached to this arrangement by the relevant district officers and pay for the cost of non-public duties performed by gardaí inside the event location, such as, for example, at sporting events, major GAA or soccer matches and rock concerts. Gardaí who operate inside the venue are paid, while those on duty outside are supplied without payment.
The cost of policing duties performed by gardaí outside such as traffic control, beat patrols etc., are not paid for by the organisers of events and fall to be paid from public funds. The Garda authorities point out that it is difficult to distinguish where public duty ends and private policing starts on these occasions. Section 26 of the Garda Síochána Bill, which is before the House at present, provides a new statutory basis for the Garda Commissioner to charge for police services for commercial events such as sports fixtures, concerts etc. Regulations may also be made under the Bill governing this new power and, in particular, the costs which are to be taken into account by the Commissioner. That matter will be dealt with by regulation but it is my intention that those who run for profit events in particular, should pay a very considerable portion of the policing costs occasioned by their events inside and outside the venue. A graduated approach will have to be taken to this issue because it would be wrong to start charging the organisers of not for profit events, such as the community games, for policing. We also have to consider places like Lansdowne Road and Croke Park, GAA matches and the like. I want a system that is fair to the taxpayer. The people who charge big money for the tickets for these events should factor into the price a reasonable portion of the cost to the community of running the event. They cannot simply take the profit and leave the community to pay the bills.
I welcome the Minister's reply in so far as I understand that he intends to change what has been the position until now. My question relates to events that generate very large profits. I am referring to police activities outside the events that, until now, the event organiser gets free gratis. In other words, the taxpayer subsidises them.
I mention Croke Park because I know it best; it is in my area. On non-match days one would be lucky to see a garda anywhere in the environs of Croke Park yet on match days the gardaí rightly operate a cordon on streets around the stadium. They patrol the area in vans, on motorcycles and with dogs, mounted units, tow trucks and all the other paraphernalia. It all descends on the place to facilitate Croke Park but it equally facilitates public safety. Incidentally, Croke Park made €2 million profit on tickets last year.
Is the Minister aware that the Garda admit that despite the intense activity they organise when major events arise — we have three nights of U2 concerts coming up this weekend — it still cannot control people drinking on footpaths outside pubs, urinating in public and illegally parking cars and obstructing residents, which makes life very difficult for residents living in the area? They cannot extend the cordon to areas within a reasonable distance, such as Iona Road, which is across the Drumcondra Road from Croke Park. Not only does the event organiser not pay——
——for the police activities outside the event, areas around the cordoned area cannot be properly policed. If the event organisers were paying their fair share, instead of the taxpayers subsidising huge profits, perhaps the Garda could put in the resources and ensure public safety in respect of everyone but particularly the people who live in those areas.
I agree with Deputy Gregory that if event organisers, particularly those who organise high profit events, were obliged to pay their fair share of the extra security and policing costs the event creates, there would be more resources and it would be easier for local district officers to assign gardaí to deal with the problems to which the Deputy refers. For instance, we all see people on occasion drinking outside pubs throughout the city. Although it is technically illegal in nearly every case, it is something one might think the gardaí in many cases correctly decide is not worth taking names and address for, but they should warn the publicans that they are breaching the law by allowing drink to be served on the street outside the premises. Urinating in public places is one of the offences for which I hope to bring in a fixed penalty notice system because gardaí should not have to go to the District Court three months later to try to identify the lamp-post against which the urination in question took place.
I fully appreciate that people who live in the environs of large stadiums want the area and the patrons of the event to be properly policed. In Lansdowne Road, for instance, in my constituency, one aspect on which the residents have a very strong view, especially in the context of its redevelopment, is that there would be a comprehensive traffic management plan which would come into effect under special by-laws that would decide who is allowed park and all those issues rather than find themselves in a community under siege, which the Deputy would echo in terms of the environs of Croke Park, on these occasions. It is very difficult for people who live near a stadium to have to put up with behaviour of that kind on a regular basis. I agree with the Deputy that the more money that is made available by the event organisers to the Garda to police those events, both inside and outside but particularly outside, the happier the community will be.