Dáil debates

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Gangland Crime

5:00 pm

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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People in Dublin 15 have been reeling with shock following incident after incident of gang warfare, linked to the drugs trade, being played out on the streets in different parts of Dublin West. Children are afraid and their parents are afraid for them, even when they are walking to school. In one particular area parents and teachers are fearful because of two incidents where a gun was fired in front of a primary school and a week or two later, outside a secondary school. What, if anything, does the Government intend to do to address this?

I recently asked the Minister for Justice and Equality how many community gardaí are working in the area, which has a population of over 100,000.

There are 13 community gardaí, of whom one is a sergeant and 12 are gardaí. All of the different policing reports, with which the Minister will be familiar, suggest that community policing should be at the heart of policing in this country. In an area that is bigger than Limerick city or Waterford city, there are only 13 community gardaí - two hands plus three more fingers. Are we asked to believe this is adequate?

Some weeks ago the Minister committed to addressing this problem. The Taoiseach himself, who represents the area, pronounced that he was extremely concerned about what was happening on our streets. Absolutely nothing has been done however. We need a special crime task force, interventions to help young people, and interventions to provide alternatives to crime for teenagers who are being drawn in by the drugs gangs. We need to help parents who are being levied with drug debts on behalf of their children. We need to see action from this Government. Fine Gael has always talked of itself as a party which, when in government, seeks to keep law and order. In certain parts of Dublin 15, it is failing dramatically. This is because it is not competent to run the Garda, the policing service, in a way that provides citizens and their children with the help they need.

What is more, we are being told that Tusla is proposing to withdraw the limited counselling services it provides in a number of DEIS schools. These services are provided in schools in which children have seen young men with guns about 100 yd from the school gate and Tusla is withdrawing them because they are not part of any Tusla-type medical service. What is going to happen? I really am perplexed as to why a Government which suggested at its outset that it might have some competence is unable to learn the lessons of what happened in the north inner city because of the ongoing drug feud in that area. It has now allowed a parallel drug feud to explode in another significant area of the city and appears to have absolutely no answer for it.

5:10 pm

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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I am taking this Topical Issue debate on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality who, unfortunately, cannot be here as he was required to be in London for the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. He regrets not being able to be here in person and has asked me to thank the Deputy for raising this important issue.

The Minister is very much aware of the impact that this type of criminal activity can have on a community whether in Blanchardstown, Drogheda or elsewhere. It can profoundly affect a whole community and not just those involved. It is simply unacceptable for people to feel threatened when they should feel safe and secure in their locality. As the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, has said, this type of criminal behaviour will not be tolerated. The Minister is advised that An Garda Síochána is conducting full investigations into each case. It would be inappropriate for me to comment while these investigations are ongoing.

Last Thursday, the Minister visited Blanchardstown Garda station and met with two detective inspectors. He was briefed on the ongoing operations including the outcome of a number of searches which have been conducted since the beginning of the year. The Minister has also been informed by An Garda Síochána that a crime prevention and detection initiative, including high-visibility uniformed and armed patrols to disrupt criminal activities, has been put in place by senior Garda management in the Dublin metropolitan region west. This operation is specifically targeting criminality associated with disputes between crime groupings in the region and is being managed and co-ordinated through the incident room established to co-ordinate the related criminal investigations.

An Garda Síochána has further advised that every opportunity to target the criminal activities of those involved directly in the ongoing dispute is being availed of in order to maintain control of the situation. Local gardaí, both uniformed and plain-clothes, are working with other national units, including the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, the special detective unit and armed support units, as well as security and intelligence branch in Garda headquarters to ensure that all intelligence available is circulated in a timely manner.

Both the Minister and I would like to take this opportunity to thank local groups and other statutory agencies for the vital role they play at a community level. The Minister is assured that An Garda Síochána will continue to make every effort to disrupt the activities of any groups which may be involved in these incidents, to arrest and prosecute offenders and to deny access to the road networks for those involved. Finally, I take this opportunity to urge anyone that may have information regarding these incidents to contact their local or nearest Garda station or to avail of the Garda confidential line, the telephone number for which is 1800 666 111, as soon as possible. Any information, no matter how small, could be of great assistance to the ongoing Garda inquiries.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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I thank the Minister for his answer. I appreciate him taking the debate. I also appreciate that the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, is involved in talks regarding the North and I wish him well in that respect. I am not hearing anything about the number of extra community gardaí the Government is going to supply. With regard to the 13 I mentioned, many serving gardaí laughed at the idea that there were 13 community gardaí available because they are diverted to other duties all the time. I am sure the Minister appreciates that community gardaí are the backbone of the policing service. They get to know the people. They get to know the kids who may have got into a bit of trouble and who can be deterred away from it. They get to know the families and where the problems are.

Dublin and Ireland are in the grip of an epidemic of heroin use and, in particular, cocaine use the like of which we have not seen for 30 years. This is happening on the Government's watch. What is it going to do about it? The gangs in Dublin west seem to have control over the streets. I get phone calls regarding some streets. Gardaí come up in a van or a car for a period of time but as soon as they go stuff starts to happen again because there is no constant presence. I appreciate gardaí pleading with local people to assist them. Local people and organisations have done a tremendous job, particularly in trying to deter young people and, indeed, older people in their 20s and 30s away from cocaine and to prevent them seeing it as simply some kind of party drug.

If the Minister talks to any doorman working in any pub in Ireland he or she will tell him that there is a tide of drugs in this country which is causing severe damage. I will say again that it is happening on the Government's watch and it is not offering any competent remedies to communities. Instead what is happening is what happened in central Dublin. As the Minister himself said, that spread to Drogheda. It is now in Dublin west and pretty soon it will be all over the country.

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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I share the Deputy's concerns, as does the Minister, Deputy Flanagan. I thank her for bringing her comments to the attention of the Minister. Let us be clear: this type of criminal behaviour has no place in civilised society and will not be tolerated. Gardaí in the Dublin metropolitan region west have put in place a policing operation to prevent, detect and mitigate against any further escalation of violence. We wish them every success in their work.

In the last month alone, gardaí in that division have conducted a number of successful operations in the locality. Gardaí investigating an incident of criminal damage by fire to a house in Blanchardstown on Saturday, 4 May have already arrested two males in connection with the incident. A file is now being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions. On Tuesday, 2 April, gardaí responded to a report of shots fired in the vicinity of the community college on Blanchardstown Road North. Gardaí carried out searches in the Corduff area and a man in his 20s was arrested and detained. On Friday, 26 April, gardaí from Blanchardstown, supported by members of the Defence Forces, carried out a search of waste ground and discovered a loaded pistol and silencer. At a separate location they discovered a small quantity of ammunition. Forensic testing was carried out and inquiries are ongoing. On Tuesday, 30 April, a residential premises and wasteland at Sheephill Park, Blanchardstown was searched. During this search a loaded semi-automatic sawn-off shotgun which had been concealed in undergrowth was recovered.

The weapon has been forwarded to Garda headquarters for ballistic testing and investigations are continuing. I acknowledge the commitment of An Garda Síochána in endeavouring to make our communities safe. Like the Deputy, I also acknowledge the role of communities and leadership within them in ensuring there is a comprehensive approach to this. I assure the House that the Minister for Justice and Equality will continue to monitor developments closely.

5:20 pm

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Dublin West, Labour)
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Unless the Government commits more resources to Dublin 15, the gardaí are doing an excellent job but they will not be able to get on top of this.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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There is no provision in Standing Orders for this, Deputy. I was very generous with the time.