Wednesday, 18 May 2011
The Garda Síochána, along with the Defence Forces, is responsible for the security of the visit of President Obama and I have the utmost confidence in the Garda Commissioner and his officers, who I know are totally committed to ensuring that these events pass off without incident. I am fully satisfied that the commissioner has available to him all the necessary and appropriate resources to ensure the safety and security of President Obama during his forthcoming visit to this jurisdiction and that the Defence Forces are providing all the appropriate support in aid of the civil power.
A whole range of security considerations must be taken into account and those considerations are based on an ongoing assessment of the risks involved. I am sure people generally will be understanding of the security arrangements which have to be made and will co-operate fully with them. Such arrangements are a necessary feature of visits of this kind to any country and I am sure they will not detract from the great welcome Irish people will give to President Obama.
Some people would seek to disrupt these visits. The right to protest is an important one and one that my Government will always uphold, but we will not tolerate those who seek to break the law.
I endorse the Minister's remarks, compliment the Garda and the Defence Forces on the operation to date and wish them well for the continuation of the operation around the Queen's visit and for next week. I compliment in particular those gardaí who were subject to attack yesterday in the city centre.
When the Garda Commissioner addressed the GRA conference, he said it would be "unreasonable" to expect the force to pay from its existing budget for the scale of the operation we are witnessing. I take it, therefore, that it will be necessary to introduce a new Estimate for the Garda and the Defence Forces to pay for the scale of the operation. Does the Minister plan to introduce such an Estimate or will he take the funding from existing resources within the Department?
I thank the Deputy for his comments on the work undertaken by the Garda for this week's visit. Substantial work of a security nature has been undertaken, with the assistance and contribution of the Defence Forces. The conduct of a small minority of individuals, in making threats against the State and a distinguished visitor and her husband, is regrettable. It is also regrettable that a multiplicity of hoax bomb warnings have been issued and that the finding of some dangerous devices has required the nature of the security operation that has been undertaken. It is regrettable that this has curtailed the capacity of the many thousands of people in Dublin, who would have liked to have seen matters a good deal closer and to have been present at some of the events involving the Queen and Prince Philip, so that they have had to follow those events on their television screens, all because a small group of people created difficulties on our streets and posed a serious threat. It is unfortunate in a democracy that on occasions we should be subject to the tyranny of a minority.
In the context of funding, the Government gave every assurance to the Garda Commissioner and my Department that any funding necessary to ensure that all necessary security steps would be taken during the course of the visit would be provided. When both visits are complete, we will assess the costs incurred and these will be factored financially into how matters develop in the coming year. These visits will not impact on the capacity of the Garda to properly conduct its duties during the rest of this year.
I find it extraordinary that a Government that prides itself on fiscal rectitude and the need for it does not have an estimate for the security and associated costs for the visits of the Queen and President Obama. Should we take it from the Minister's response that the Government has essentially given a blank cheque to the Garda and any other organs of the State involved in facilitating this visit suggesting they can have as much as they want and we will count the cost afterwards? At the same time vulnerable and impoverished sections of our society are pleading for some respite from austerity and cuts but are told again and again there is no money.
I welcome the Minister's comments about allowing and facilitating peaceful protests. In that regard I am somewhat bemused by the decision of Dublin City Council to ban posters advertising a planned demonstration by the Irish Anti-War Movement scheduled for this Sunday. The Irish Anti-War Movement will be holding a completely peaceful protest - as was the one we held last night - against US foreign policy on Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia and Bahrain where the US is financing regimes that are busy crushing democratic movements. Can the Minister use his offices to intervene with Dublin City Council and ask it that we be allowed to put up our posters advertising our peaceful anti-war demonstration and that that demonstration be allowed to proceed unhindered?
Deputy Catherine Murphy reminded me that a citizen has inquired and is concerned that the Queen may return to England thinking that our national colour is yellow since all she has seen on the streets of Dublin are thousands of individuals with high-visibility jackets.
I suppose Deputy Higgins really cannot contain himself in trying to think of some smart comment to make.
I always find Deputy Boyd Barrett's contributions interesting, and his and his Irish Anti-War Movement's anti-American obsession quite extraordinary. Perhaps the Irish Anti-War Movement might consider demonstrating against the Syrian Government killing its own people, now estimated at in excess of 1,000.
-----in circumstances in which there was an alleged protest. I find this approach by the Deputy amazing in the context of what he said. Of course it would be preferable if the resources that have been utilised to provide the level of security necessary because of the conduct of the types of individuals we saw on Dorset Street last night was not necessary.
It would be preferable if people accepted the democratic will of the people and allowed, as is the case in most civilised democracies, leaders of foreign countries to visit this State without them being under threat, without bomb hoaxes and without viable devices being placed.
There has been inferred criticism of the scale of the security operation. A bus left my town, Ballina, on Monday evening and somewhere between Ballina and Dublin a viable device was found on that bus containing completely innocent people who were going about their business. It is unfortunate that we need this scale of security operation. However, there are criminals - so-called republicans - purporting to act in the name of this country who do not care whom they maim. It is necessary to have that level of security and this party fully supports it.