Dáil debates

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Scrambler Motorbikes and Quad Bikes: Motion [Private Members]


6:50 pm

Paul Donnelly (Dublin West, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I move:

That Dáil Éireann: acknowledges that:
— the unlawful use of quad-bikes and scrambler motorcycles has resulted in serious injury and death;

— Gardaí do not have the required training, resources or legislative powers to effectively address the unlawful and dangerous use of quad-bikes and scrambler motorcycles;

— the current practice is that Gardaí do not follow or apprehend those using or driving quad-bikes or scrambler motorcycles in an unlawful or dangerous manner;

— the scourge of scrambler motorcycles and off-road motorbikes is at an all-time high in urban centres across the State, with some cases where parents are afraid to allow young children out to play in housing estates and public parks;

— elderly people who use local parks for recreation are afraid to go for their daily walk and that local sports clubs have been forced to abandon their activities where their pitches have been destroyed by the illegal use of scrambler motorcycles and quadbikes;

— there are reports from communities that quad-bikes and scrambler motorcycles are being used for the delivery and distribution of drugs, in order to avoid apprehension by the Gardaí;

— the current legislation is not adequate to effectively address this issue and needs to be reformed, amended and robustly enforced; and

— public parks and community recreational facilities have been damaged as a result of the unlawful use of quad-bikes and scrambler motorcycles, at significant cost to local authorities; and
calls on the Government to:
— bring forward, as a matter of urgency, amending legislation to give the Gardaí powers to seize and detain quad-bikes and scrambler motorcycles when being used unlawfully or in a dangerous or reckless manner;

— extend the relevant legal definition of public place to include public parks, green spaces in estates, public recreational areas and sporting grounds under the ownership of local authorities or clubs;

— ensure that Gardaí are provided with the necessary resources and training to follow and apprehend those using quad-bikes and scrambler motorcycles unlawfully;

— extend the National Vehicle and Driver File database, to provide for the compulsory registration of all quad-bikes and scrambler motorcycles;

— conduct a review of practices in other jurisdictions which result in the police performing a controlled stop on those illegally riding motorcycles and scrambler motorcycles;

— introduce, as a standard operational practice, the successful pilot scheme rolled out in Finglas in 2019, which resulted in the seizure of over 40 motorcycles and scrambler motorcycles which were being used illegally on the roads;

— put in place a campaign to highlight the dangers of scrambler motorcycles and quadbikes, when driven recklessly or in public places;

— run an effective public awareness campaign in the run-up to Christmas to discourage the purchase of such vehicles for children and young people; and

— encourage local authorities to explore the feasibility of providing suitable spaces for the use of registered quad-bikes and scrambler motorcycles in a safe, controlled and responsible manner.

I thank my colleagues, Deputies Ellis and Munster, who did a lot of the heavy lifting on this issue in the last Dáil. This evening Sinn Féin is proposing a motion to deal with the unlawful and dangerous use of quads and scramblers which has resulted in serious injuries and deaths in our communities. Six people have died and 60 have been injured, many in life-changing ways, over the past five years. The scourge of scramblers and off-road motorbikes is at an all-time high across urban centres in this State.

The current practice whereby gardaí do not follow or apprehend those using or driving quads or scramblers in an unlawful and dangerous manner must change. Gardaí do not have the required training, resources or legislative power to address effectively the unlawful use of quads and scramblers. I know of no other area of the law that gardaí will openly admit they cannot tackle or are prohibited by their management from tackling. I understand that it is a difficult decision and safety must be paramount. I suggest that we look to other countries, including our neighbours in England, who adopted a very robust policing strategy when this problem threatened to spiral out of control in many areas. They have had a significant amount of success.

We intend to bring forward legislation to give gardaí the power to seize and retain quad bikes and scramblers when they are used unlawfully or in a dangerous and reckless manner. We will seek to extend the legal definition of a public place to include public parks, green spaces in housing estates, public recreational areas and sporting grounds in the ownership of local authorities and clubs. This issue has plagued local authorities, sports clubs, including GAA and soccer clubs, and any other bodies that have a piece of ground in urban areas. They have all had their property damaged by people using scramblers and quad bikes in an illegal way.

The hard work of our parks and operations departments is wrecked every day. In my own area from Ongar, Hartstown and Tyrrelstown, all the way down the Navan Road and along the Royal Canal, people are absolutely plagued by quads and scramblers. It is extremely dangerous for older people who want to go for a walk, for parents who want to let their children out to play, and for sports teams who want to play their games. The latter are regularly called off because of the damage being done. We are spending millions of euro throughout this State on building walls, erecting railings and manufacturing kissing gates that will not prevent people with disabilities from entering our public parks. Why? It is primarily because of quads and scramblers. This is an awful waste of money, especially in view of the need for more playgrounds and skate parks for children and our desire to enhance our parks.

Sinn Féin proposes to extend the national vehicle database to provide for the compulsory registration of all quad bikes and scramblers. This will enable gardaí to identify swiftly those people who are acting in an irresponsible and dangerous manner. An important element of this motion is our call for an effective public awareness campaign in the run-up to Christmas to discourage the purchase of these vehicles for children and young people. The ultimate responsibility lies with the parents who buy these quads and scramblers. They are putting their own children as well as other children and adults at risk.

We also want to encourage local authorities to work with local motor sport enthusiasts. It is a massive sport throughout the State, but unfortunately it is very difficult to get land and insurance to set up a properly constituted motocross club. This is not all about the stick; it should also be about the carrot. We must determine what we can do for those who have a love of the sport and who want to do it in a safe way. With the proper training, some enthusiasts could go on to become professionals.

I urge the Government to support this motion. Let us work together on this because this issue has been raised time and again in this House. We must work together to try to get these changes across the line.

Photo of Dessie EllisDessie Ellis (Dublin North West, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

In 2017 Sinn Féin moved its first Bill on quads and scramblers to tackle the scourge of the illegal use of these vehicles which has plagued our communities for years. In 2018 our Bill was debated in the Dáil and was voted down by the Government and Fianna Fáil. Since then, a number of deaths and many injuries have been caused by these vehicles. I have repeatedly raised this issue in the Dáil and on safety forums and policing committees over many years.

A working group was set up by the then Department of Justice and Equality to consider a cross-agency approach to this issue but it has scarcely met over the years. So far, the working group has not put forward any realistic solutions, particularly with regard to the use of such vehicles in parks and on green areas in housing estates. The Government is relying on the use of by-laws in parks to stop such activity, but by-laws are not the solution to this problem. Proper legislation is required to prohibit this sort of activity in these public spaces. We have looked closely at the concerns raised by the Government and others with regard to tackling this issue. We have taken them into consideration and put forward solutions. The legislation we will publish later this week will adequately address these concerns. However, there is nothing to stop the Government from implementing some practical solutions now that do not require legislation.

It is important that gardaí are able to enforce existing road traffic legislation. One of the most effective initiatives in my constituency of Dublin North-West was a pilot scheme that operated in Finglas. A garda who had received specialised motorcycle training was able within a two-month period to pursue and seize 40 motorcycles and scramblers being used illegally. Unfortunately, this highly successful initiative has now ceased, but such a scheme should become standard across all Garda divisions. Gardaí should be properly trained and equipped with specialised motorcycles to pursue and seize scramblers when being used illegally.

The initiative to which I referred had a noticeable effect in Dublin North-West, with a welcome reduction in the antisocial activity associated with the illegal use of such vehicles. However, since the initiative was stopped, there has been an increase in the presence of these vehicles and a corresponding increase in antisocial activity. This is amplified by the current policy of the Garda not to pursue people driving the vehicles. That policy needs to be reversed and reintroducing the Finglas initiative is one way of doing so.

I conclude by appealing to parents not to buy quad or scrambler bikes for their children this Christmas and to consider the effects the illegal use of such vehicles has on their neighbours and their community, as well as the dangers posed to young people in riding them, as often happens, without any safety equipment.

7:00 pm

Photo of Eoin Ó BroinEoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

St. Cuthbert's Park is a medium-sized park in south-west Clondalkin, in my constituency, which is surrounded by some 2,000 houses, comprising both council housing and private homes. The people living in Bawnogue work very hard and pay their rent or mortgage and their taxes, including the property tax. They contribute enormously to the very vibrant local community. For example, the Friends of St. Cuthbert's Park group organises family days and cinema evenings. Local men and women put an enormous amount of time voluntarily into the very active local soccer club, Clondalkin Celtic FC, in which more than 200 boys and girls participate. The local GAA team, Round Tower GAA Club, is also active in the area. In addition, there is also a local community safety forum. It is a really vibrant place to live, with very good people.

Unfortunately, St Cuthbert's Park has been plagued for years by the reckless use of quad and scrambler bikes, so much so that we had to set up a task force, led by the local authority and local gardaí, and the membership of which includes local councillors, Deputies, residents and sports club representatives. For as long as the task force has existed, senior gardaí in Clondalkin have been telling it that they do not have enough power to seize the quad and scrambler bikes that are putting people's lives at risk. It is not Opposition Deputies or members of the community who are saying that. The people tasked by the Government to keep our community safe are asking it to change the law. The reason I mention St. Cuthbert's Park is that the local community, local authority and community gardaí are doing everything they can. A change in the law is what is needed.

My colleague, Deputy Ellis, referred to the numerous occasions when he and other Opposition Deputies have called for the Government to take action on this matter. There is a widespread belief in the communities we represent that it is because this problem predominantly affects working-class communities that the Government has not taken action for years. That is the widely held belief of many of the people we represent. If the kinds of problems we see with quad and scrambler bikes were as prevalent in more affluent parts of our urban centres, people believe that the law would have been changed years ago. I know the Minister has been given a statement by his officials which she will read presently. We are urging her, when this debate is over and she goes back to her Department and to her officials, not to do what her predecessor, Deputy Flanagan, did. We ask that she not tell us there is going to be action when no action is planned. We are asking her to look at this issue, hear what Deputies are saying, take it seriously and come back with proposals to empower the Garda to assist people and keep our communities safe. That is not too much to ask of the Minister for Justice.

Photo of Denise MitchellDenise Mitchell (Dublin Bay North, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Many Deputies have been contacted by people in their constituencies about scrambler and quad bikes being used in public places. This motion aims to tackle that scourge. The debate on this issue has been going on for years in communities and at joint policing committee, JPC, meetings and it has been raised many times on the floor of the Dáil. The Garda does not have the powers it needs to seize these bikes and take them out of our public spaces. It is in the interests of public safety that gardaí get the powers and training they need to tackle this problem.

We have all heard about somebody who was injured in a bad accident involving a quad or scrambler bike. In fact, a number of people have lost their lives in such incidents in the past few years. A month ago, there was an accident in my constituency, where a dedicated community worker was walking home one evening and was knocked down by a person driving one of these bikes on the footpath. She suffered serious injuries in the incident and I can only imagine how traumatic it was for her. This motion is about tackling those people who use scrambler and quad bikes in a reckless and dangerous manner. Previous Governments have not acted to protect communities that are plagued by these nuisance bikes. They are destroying football pitches for which many clubs fought hard. There are young children afraid to use their local park and people in many communities are kept awake night after night as the bikes are driven up and down the roads. Some are being used to transport drugs around estates. They are a nuisance and a danger.

Fianna Fáil has previously supported the need for legislation in this area. I hope its Members will support this motion. It is a chance to do something positive that will prevent further accidents, injuries and deaths. With any new power comes the need for resources. It must be compulsory for these vehicles to be registered with the national fleet database. The Road Safety Authority, RSA, needs to conduct a public information campaign on the dangers of these bikes and how they are not a suitable toy for children this Christmas. I hope the motion receives broad support across all parties and none. It will send a strong message to communities that we are serious about tackling this scourge.

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

The misuse of scrambler and quad bikes presents a great danger to people in many of our communities when they are used by children or adults without any level of training, supervision or respect for one's neighbours. I accept that this problem is not occurring in every area but it is a phenomenon that is growing every year. Many of our communities are plagued by the buzzing noise to which other Deputies referred. I can often hear that buzz from my garden as the bikes go up and down the road all day, seven days a week. It is particularly bad at the weekend. I have talked to the Garda about how I have witnessed incidents where scramblers have been used on main roads and in green spaces. There is any amount of video evidence of such activity. Other speakers have talked about how these vehicles are being used by drug dealers. I know that is true because I witness it every day. Again, it is certain communities that are being impacted by this activity. There is clear evidence that the bikes are being used to transport drugs and I would like to see the Garda being much more proactive in tackling it.

This is not the first time we have raised this issue in the House. I have brought it to the attention of different Governments over many years. The response from Government has always been about what cannot be done but not what can be done. Different parties have made all sorts of efforts to come up with legislative changes but it always comes back to the claim that there are difficulties to contend with which mean the proposals cannot be implemented. I want to hear from the Minister this evening about what can be done to address this problem. Some areas have been much more proactive in this regard than others. I want to learn from them and see the same thing happening in my own area.

I have seen at first hand the damage that has been done to our green spaces and playing pitches by quad and scrambler bikes. It is soul-destroying for people to take their children to play a game only to find that the pitch is destroyed. I could give the Minister numerous examples of this involving GAA and soccer clubs. We do not want to take away anyone's fun. These vehicles are used legitimately across the State for a variety of purposes, including on farms and in forestry. However, they are not toys and they are not suitable for use in public places where pedestrians are present. There are clearly problems with their use and I want to see the Garda authorities being more proactive, with additional powers given to seize and detain the vehicles. I am told that the people driving them cannot be stopped but I see them going around without helmets and with no regard for their own safety or that of others. Walking through a park, one may find one of these vehicles being driven right alongside one on the walkway. Our parks should be inclusive spaces, not places where people are excluded because of the reckless activities of others. That is the reality of what is happening in many communities. Only a small minority of people are causing problems and it needs to stop. I want to see an end to these vehicles being driven on our roads and in our parks and in a way that destroys pitches and green spaces.

Photo of Mark WardMark Ward (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Scrambler and quad bikes have been the bane of our communities for several years.

It is not uncommon for a person driving along the Neilstown Road or in Bawnogue, parts of Lucan, Knockmitten or anywhere else in Dublin Mid-West in his or her own car to be confronted by a young person coming towards him or her on a scrambler. As often as not, such young people do not have a helmet or any protective clothing whatsoever. According to the Road Safety Authority, 48% of incidents related to scramblers and quads involve persons aged under 18.

As someone who has, in the past, driven motorbikes for a living, I know the danger in which these people are putting themselves. Not only are these scramblers endangering their own lives, however, they are also endangering the lives of others. This total disregard must be tackled. One should be able to go about one's business in one's own community without the fear that scramblers and quads bring. The illegal use of quads and scramblers is the scourge of my community, in which residents and the public are plagued by people doing wheelies, tearing up football pitches and generally using quads and scramblers recklessly.

It has already been said that we are coming up to Christmas. I, for one, am sick to the back teeth of being woken up on Christmas morning by the noise of scramblers and quads in my community. I urge any parents who are considering buying a scrambler for their child to realise the very real danger in which they are putting that child and the impact it will have on their neighbours.

I will also raise the very real issue of scramblers being used for the transport and dealing of drugs. It is common knowledge in parts of my community that unscrupulous dealers are using young people to deliver and sell drugs. Unfortunately, using children as drug couriers is not a new phenomenon. Using kids to deliver drugs by scrambler, however, is relatively new. Dealers adapt to their environment in order to carry out their illicit behaviours. The problem is that the law does not adapt quickly enough to tackle this. While this motion is not directed at the illegal drug trade, it would go a long way towards stopping the grooming of children for use as drug couriers.

Last month, Sinn Féin tabled a very sensible motion on fireworks and public safety. We saw a lot of nodding along and agreement with the rationale behind the motion from the Government benches, but the Government parties still voted against it. The public can clearly see that the Government is playing politics with people's quality of life and how safe they feel within their own communities. This is another motion that makes sense. The issue of scramblers has been raised by the Government in the past. I urge the Minister to do the right thing for the communities she says she represents and to support this motion.

7:10 pm

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“is concerned that: — the misuse of scrambler motorcycles, quad-bikes and other vehicles is a matter of public concern and has led to serious safety risks and interference with the enjoyment of amenities for communities in some areas of the country; and

— regrettably, the misuse of these vehicles has resulted in death or serious injury in some cases; notes that: — An Garda Síochána pursue appropriate policing strategies with due regard to the need to ensure that responses to the misuse of vehicles do not lead to increased and exacerbated public safety risks;

— An Garda Síochána pursue consistent law enforcement practices by responding appropriately to incidents and local circumstances;

— the existing legislation requires the safe use of vehicles as well as compliance with conditions for driver licensing, motor taxation and insurance, and the relevant legislative provisions have already been subject of close examination by Government departments and advice from the Attorney General;

— Gardaí already have significant enforcement powers in relation to dangerous misuse of vehicles and non-compliance with regulations on driver licensing, taxation and insurance, including seizure of vehicles where appropriate;

— the Government has provided extensive resources to An Garda Síochána to support law enforcement and effective policing;

— Gardaí successes in the seizure of vehicles underline the need to continue to support An Garda Síochána to respond to local situations and provide appropriate resources and technical support; and

— An Garda Síochána continues to provide a robust policing response to the trade in illegal drugs and to adopt intelligence-led approaches to counter the activities of criminal groups, notwithstanding the current pressures on the Garda service due to the restrictions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic; and supports: — the Programme for Government ‘Our Shared Future’ commitment to enhance powers available to An Garda Síochána to limit the use of scrambler motorcycles and quad-bikes by those engaged in anti-social behaviour and enact legislation to add to those powers if needed;

— the recent publicity campaign by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána to discourage the purchase of scrambler motorcycles and quad-bikes, particularly in the run up to Christmas;

— the ongoing engagement between Government departments and agencies to assess if there are any further means of strengthening legislation in this area, as well as enhancing enforcement measures, public awareness raising and community-based responses;

— the ongoing development of policing responses by An Garda Síochána;

— the ongoing engagement between An Garda Síochána, local authorities and communities, to support appropriate responses to local circumstances;

— the ongoing work of the RSA to raise awareness of the dangers of misuse of vehicles;

— the additional resources provided by Government in Budget 2021 for youth services;

— the imminent publication of a new Youth Justice Strategy which will provide a renewed framework to enhance responses to youth crime and anti-social behaviour;

— the work of the forum on anti-social behaviour, which was recently convened by the Minister of State for Law Reform, in line with a commitment in the Programme for Government ‘Our Shared Future’; and

— the recent announcement to pilot local community safety partnerships which recognise the need for a collaborative approach between communities, local authorities and services, including policing and youth services, to effectively target issues affecting communities, such as anti-social behaviour, including through the misuse of scrambler motorcycles.”

I thank the Deputies for raising this issue and putting forward this motion this evening. I welcome the opportunity to update the Dáil on the ongoing proactive work being undertaken to combat the unlawful use of scramblers and quad bikes in public spaces. I know the issue is of concern to many people in this House, within both the Government and the Opposition. More importantly, it is a great concern for many communities. I acknowledge that Deputies are genuine in bringing forward the motion and in bringing these concerns to the floor of the House. I am not dismissing any concerns or only paying lip service to the issue. I want to work with Deputies, as does the Minister of State, Deputy James Browne, who has responsibility for youth justice.

Having said that, I have proposed an amendment setting out the current and future work of the Garda and Government in respect of the issues on which this motion has been tabled. The seriousness with which the Government takes this issue is reflected in the programme for Government commitment to "Enhance powers available to An Garda Síochána to limit the use of scramblers and quads by those engaged in anti-social behaviour and enact legislation to add to those powers if needed." This is a clear commitment which I do not mention as a means to dismiss what the Deputies are proposing this evening. As this commitment recognises, potential legislation is just one part of the solution and my Government colleagues and I will not hesitate to choose that option if it is required.

An Garda Síochána tackles this behaviour on a number of fronts including through targeted enforcement in areas with high activity, working with petrol stations to prohibit the sale of fuel to persons who are using these vehicles and community outreach. Some of the Deputies have outlined what is happening in their own communities in this regard. Engagement with communities and awareness raising are just as important in tackling the misuse of scramblers and other vehicles. Such engagement and awareness raising includes making younger people aware of the dangers to themselves and others of using such vehicles and highlighting the dangers to parents considering buying such vehicles for their children. I join all Deputies in urging and asking parents not to buy scramblers or quad bikes for their children this Christmas and to acknowledge and understand the dangers that come with them and the impact they have on communities.

The misuse of scramblers, quad bikes and similar off-road urban vehicles is a cause for concern in a number of communities. We see this right across the country. It is principally, although not solely, an issue in Dublin. It also affects other urban centres. Issues typically arise where vehicles are used in public open spaces such as housing estates, playing pitches or public parks. Tragically, there have been cases in recent years where the misuse of these vehicles has led to death or very serious life-changing injuries. I know that all members of the House will join me in extending my deepest sympathies to all those who have been impacted by these horrific incidents.

Gardaí in areas such as Finglas have had success in reducing the number of issues with scramblers through targeted enforcement, as has been identified by Deputies, while youth community engagement groups in Limerick have had success in diverting young people away from using these vehicles in a dangerous manner in public places and towards properly organised motocross events. An Garda Síochána will continue to develop responses appropriate to the situation in each locality by working with local authorities and community partners. I know Deputies McAuliffe and Lahart have also made proposals in this area. These proposals, and those included in tonight's motion, will be considered as part of the work currently under way on this issue.

A cross-agency group to examine this issue, which has been mentioned and which principally involves my Department, the Department of Transport and An Garda Síochána, has been in place since 2018. The group has also engaged with other Departments, the Office of the Attorney General and local authorities. The group most recently met on 28 September and the principal issues arising from this meeting were identified across the areas of legislation, enforcement, community engagement and public awareness.

As Deputies will be aware, responsibility for legislation surrounding road safety and traffic enforcement rests with the Minister for Transport. In this context, responsibility for introducing any new legislative provisions which would seek to deliver on the commitments on scramblers and quad bikes contained in the programme for Government lies with my colleague, the Minister for Transport, although, to be very clear, my Department will also do what it can. I can inform the House that this matter has been subject to careful scrutiny by the Department of Transport, An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice. I look forward to working with the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, on this issue.

Gardaí already have significant enforcement powers in respect of the dangerous misuse of vehicles and non-compliance with regulations on driver licensing, taxation and insurance, including the power to seize vehicles where appropriate. While it is not possible to quantify specifically the number of scramblers seized, as these are not categorised separately from other types of motorcycles in Garda records, I am informed that 51 quad bikes were seized by gardaí in 2019 and that an additional five were seized between January and September of this year. I anticipate this number increasing before the year is out.

Following further consideration of the matter by the Garda authorities, the Department of Transport is leading an additional examination to see if there are avenues for enhancing the existing overall legislative provisions. Any proposals in this regard would need to align with other relevant legislation, including local authority by-laws. Policing responses will still have to take account of the immediate safety issues involved in pursuing what are often very young drivers of vehicles in public areas. Interception of persons engaged in the use of these vehicles on public roads and spaces presents dangers not only to the users of the vehicles, but also to the public and members of the Garda. These difficulties will remain, irrespective of any legislative enhancements. Having spoken to gardaí about this, I know they are concerned that if they chase or follow young people using these scramblers, they may be partially responsible for causing an accident, making things even worse. Gardaí must make very difficult decisions in these instances and this will continue to be the case. Effective local engagement to raise awareness of the dangers involved and to promote positive behavioural change is fundamental to tackling this issue.

I welcome and acknowledge the ongoing work of the Road Safety Authority, RSA, to raise awareness of the dangers of the misuse of these vehicles. Deputies may have already heard the campaign advertisements which have been produced by the RSA and An Garda Síochána with the participation of the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton. These advertisements highlight the dangers involved and ask parents not to buy scramblers or quad bikes as presents for their children this Christmas.

My Department is also considering how best to develop actions to increase awareness of the dangers of these vehicles. The intention is that this work will be carried out in conjunction with affected communities, community groups and other stakeholders affected by the misuse of scramblers. It will also explore how best to engage with young people who are drawn to this behaviour.

In the year to date, my Department has been examining options in this area, with due regard to social distancing requirements and relevant public health advice. This has included a survey of the national network of Garda youth diversion projects, which was carried out early in 2020, to inform a more targeted approach for awareness raising measures. While the Covid-19 pandemic has, to some degree, hampered significant further development in this area, it is something my Department will continue to explore.

For example, the Department will consider if it is possible to target online awareness to the localities most affected, and will support suitable proposals for local initiatives, principally via the network of the 105 Garda youth diversion programmes. Deputies may be interested to know that the Moyross Garda youth diversion programme in Limerick has already devised a programme of tuition in vehicle maintenance and responsible use. This comes back to the point that when they are used safely and when people have an opportunity to do so, such an approach can be effective and reduces the risk and danger involved.

While the Garda youth diversion programmes have adapted their operations in light of the Covid-19 restrictions, there are still obvious limitations in pursuing increased engagement with particular groups within the communities. The key issue will be engaging effectively with those who use or are most likely to use scramblers or quad bikes inappropriately, and this will require locally generated strategies which respond to local circumstances. In this regard, I would envision that issues such as the misuse of these vehicles would also be the kind of issue which could be considered by the local community safety partnerships, which it is anticipated will be established under the upcoming policing and community safety Bill, the development of which forms a key part of the recommendations emerging from the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.

As Deputies will be aware, specifically on this issue, last week I announced the locations of three pilot schemes for the local community safety partnerships, which will run for two years in the areas of the Dublin north inner city electoral area, Waterford and Longford, and which will inform a national roll-out to all local authority areas. The partnerships recognise the need for a collaborative approach between communities, local authorities and services, including policing and youth services, to target efficiently issues affecting communities such as anti-social behaviour, including the misuse of scramblers.

Deputies have mentioned that a high percentage of those who are using these scramblers are under the age of 18. Therefore, issues of youth crime and anti-social behaviour will also be addressed in the new youth justice strategy, which will be brought to Government before the end of this year by my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy James Browne, and will provide a renewed framework to enhance responses to youth crime and anti-social behaviour. Likewise, the forum on anti-social behaviour, which was recently convened by the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, in line with a commitment in the programme for Government, will also address this.

As Deputies will be aware, the Government has provided extensive resources to An Garda Síochána to support law enforcement and effective policing across all forms of offending. Garda numbers have increased, as have the financial supports and the availability of the equipment and vehicles the Garda. An Garda Síochána's budget for 2021 is an unprecedented €1.952 billion. This level of funding is enabling sustained and ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff. As a result, there are now some 14,600 Garda members and more than 3,000 Garda staff. The latter represent almost 20% of our force, which is a significant increase in a small number of years. Budget 2021 will allow for the recruitment of up to 620 new gardaí and an extra 500 Garda staff.

The Government and An Garda Síochána are committed to combatting issues of the misuse of scramblers and quad bikes and to addressing anti-social behaviour more broadly because this is part of a wider issue. We want to work proactively with all Members within the House in doing that and I ask Members to support this amendment. I support Deputies in their call to ask parents not to buy these for their children this Christmas, acknowledging and recognising the danger they pose as well as the impact they have on our communities.

7:20 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Deputy Quinlivan is sharing time with Deputies Patricia Ryan, Munster and Ó Snodaigh.

Photo of Maurice QuinlivanMaurice Quinlivan (Limerick City, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank my colleagues for bringing forward this motion. My colleagues, Deputies Ellis and Munster, brought a similar motion forward during the previous Dáil as well.

This has been an ongoing issue in my constituency for years. I have spoken on this issue on a number of occasions, the last of which was on a Fianna Fáil Bill. At the time, the then Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport had no interest in solving the issue. I raised the concern I had that the reason he had no interest, and Deputy Ó Broin made the same point, is that this is an issue that mostly affects working-class communities.

Unfortunately, with the Covid-19 crisis we have seen that people are at home and working from home with scramblers outside the door. I know of people who have moved homes because the noise from scramblers is preventing them from doing their work. People who work in sales, the Revenue Commissioners and different offices in Limerick who are working from their homes cannot work properly because of the noise scramblers cause.

We need to have proper legislation on this because local gardaí will tell us they are instructed by their senior officers not to chase young fellows on bikes. The Minister referenced that herself and she can understand why that is the case because of the danger such action would pose to themselves and to people in those communities.

As I said, it is an ongoing issue in my constituency. The Minister referenced Moyross and I grew up in the estate next door. In my local area, we were all shocked in recent times to see a Garda video where three gardaí were pinned against the wall by lads who had quad bikes. Unfortunately, the gardaí did not have the power to take away the quad bike and they had to leave. It was a situation in which the two fingers were shown to the Garda and it caused huge anger in the community. The same day, when those scramblers were being driven around morning, noon and night in that estate, there were two funerals. In the context of Covid-19, people could not go into the house for those funerals so they were standing outside of the gates and they had to get out of the way of those scramblers while they were flying around. We need to have some sort of legislation in place to make sure that people are able to live in their communities safely.

I welcome the moves to look at the positives. It is good to give lads with scramblers a different outlet. There is one such project in Moyross that the Minister mentioned and we need to look at more of that. I know family members who were involved in bikes and scramblers and so on and they have looked after them properly. However, it is important that we take action against the people who have wrecked our local communities, football pitches, grass, and green areas. We need to legislate for this and it is to be hoped the Minister will do that.

Patricia Ryan (Kildare South, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank my colleagues, na Teachtaí Ellis and Paul Donnelly, for bringing forward this motion. Anyone who has experienced the terror of scramblers and quad bikes being driven recklessly at speed in their community will know that the proposed legislation is long overdue. Every year we have warnings around this time appealing to parents not to buy scramblers and quad bikes for children for Christmas. It is about time the Garda had adequate powers to deal with this menace on our streets.

In the period from 2014 to 2019, the Minister will be aware that six people died as a result of incidents involving quad bikes or scramblers, three of whom were aged 18 or under, according to statistics published by the Road Safety Authority. In the same period, 60 people were injured in collisions involving a quad bike or scrambler on public roads. Of those killed or injured, 41% of casualties were 18 years of age or under.

There is no doubt that the use of scramblers and quad bikes by children pose a serious safety hazard. These are powerful machines which have the potential to injure someone severely or even fatally. That is why they are not suitable for use by children or inexperienced riders. Parents considering buying quad bikes or scramblers for their children this Christmas need to be aware that when used on public roads, they are subject to the same rules as any other mechanically propelled vehicle. They are required to be registered, taxed and in good roadworthy condition. The driver of the vehicle must hold an appropriate driving licence and be insured to drive the vehicle.

Aside from being a danger due to accidents, quads and scrambler bikes represent a fire hazard. Gardaí believe youths on quad bikes and scramblers may have caused a massive fire which burned for days on bogland near Carbury in County Kildare during the summer. It is thought that bike engines, chains or exhausts may have ignited the dry underbrush. The fire, which was beside the Bord na Móna Drehid waste management disposal plant, took several units of Kildare Fire Service and the aid of the Air Corps helicopter to bring it under control.

Local authorities should explore the feasibility of providing suitable spaces for the use of registered quad bikes and scramblers in a safe, controlled and responsible manner. This approach was used with great success to tackle the issue of wandering horses and ponies in the past. I urge all Deputies of all parties and none to support this motion so that this danger in our communities can be regulated properly and so that the Garda will have the powers it needs to deal effectively with the problem.

Photo of Imelda MunsterImelda Munster (Louth, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

It is unbelievable that we are back in here yet again debating legislating for scramblers and quad bikes, despite the scourge of these bikes on communities. It appears to me that the Government has no interest in dealing with it. I say that on the basis that my colleague, Deputy Ellis, and I brought a similar Bill and motion before the Dáil about three years ago and both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil voted against it. In that three-year space, when there would have been ample time to deal with the scourge of scrambler and quad bikes on communities, the Government did nothing. The Government has come in here with a reactionary amendment to the motion that we put forward instead of being proactive in recent years.

We have all known that these vehicles are an absolute scourge on communities and cause havoc in them. That has included the deaths of six people over the five years leading up to 2019 and one further death this year. So many other people have been seriously injured.

We also know that local green spaces and recreational areas have been destroyed by these bikes. People in those communities and residential estates have been living in fear. We are coming up to Christmas, and we know the problem is set to get much worse than it is. As other Deputies said, every year we ask parents to be responsible and to not buy these quad and scrambler bikes for their children, because they are not toys and are not fit to be driven by young people in public areas.

Almost half of the incidents where people are injured or killed by these bikes involve children under the age of 18. Gardaí have said time and again that they cannot adequately deal with the problem, and that they need stronger legislation to back them up. The Minister knows that, however, because she has been told that numerous times. Under the current law, these bikes can only be driven, legally, on private land and can only be seized when they are used on public roads and footpaths. That leaves a legal gap when it comes from public recreational spaces and green areas within housing estates.

Further to that point, gardaí have been instructed not to give chase to these vehicles for safety reasons, and we can understand that. If the gardaí had the legislation, however, they could act. Our proposed legislation, therefore, would give powers to gardaí to seize and detain quad and scrambler bikes being driven dangerously in a public space, including recreational green spaces, and it makes it an offence to use a quad or scrambler bike in a dangerous manner in a public space. I hope this issue will be addressed and that the Minister will support this motion. Instead of tabling an amendment to this motion as a reactionary thing, I hope she will back it and the forthcoming legislation.

7:30 pm

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I take this opportunity to thank Superintendent Tony Twomey, who was behind the seizure of some quad bikes in Cherry Orchard recently. That was a proactive move and many locals are glad of the relative quiet on their roads since then. Some roads, however, have been and are plagued by an element who are racing up and down, oblivious to the noise they are making and to the danger they pose to children and the elderly in parks or on paths as they hurtle past loudly. Those getting kicks from continuously revving the quad and scrambler bikes and other off-road vehicles on small narrow roads, racing each other on the main roads or ploughing up football pitches in local parks do not care for local people, for children playing or for peaceful neighbourhoods.

We have, regrettably, seen the consequences of their indifference and their destruction. Tens of thousands of euro annually must be spent fixing pitches, railings and paths in public parks. This element also seems to be indifferent even to the deaths and injuries they cause to themselves and others when they lose control. At this time of the year, the message needs to go out, loud and clear, that these vehicles are not toys. They should not be bought for children or for teenagers at Christmas. I ask that people not be part of the scourge on our communities.

Garda Inspector David O'Brien said at the inquest of a teenager who died in a tragic scrambler accident in Cherry Orchard more than five years ago that:

These bikes are made for off-road conditions such as grass, fields and wooded areas. Their tyres are like studs on a football boot. They should not have been anywhere near a road surface.

The purpose of our motion is to get the Government to tackle this scourge once and for all. We need our public paths, parks and canals to be safe where people can walk or play. A co-ordinated approach between the Garda and Dublin City Council can deliver if the Government closes the loopholes and gives the gardaí access to and powers in public parks. A proper licensing and registration regime should also be introduced immediately for scrambler and quad bikes. We also need an all-Ireland approach. The sale of such vehicles in the North is banned, unless a person is a farmer or the like.

Photo of Aodhán Ó RíordáinAodhán Ó Ríordáin (Dublin Bay North, Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank Sinn Féin for bringing forward this motion, which the Labour Party will support. I appreciate that the Minister will be sympathetic regarding the issue being raised. There are often calls for tough Garda action regarding what happens in communities, including action against parents, young people and those who sell scramblers and quad bikes. That has to happen and the gardaí need to empowered.

We also need to understand the rationale behind why, in certain communities, this is considered to be a good use of one's time. What is often lost when we debate any sort of social ill is that we think we can police our way out of it. Policing our way out of a situation is, of course, a part of the solution. There must be a justice element involved, because a dangerous machine cannot be handed to a child, one cannot purchase something which one knows to be dangerous, and one cannot drive such a machine in a dangerous fashion. We all know that, so there must rules, regulations and restrictions laid down. We must also understand the mentality as to why this is so attractive and why so many young people feel that this is a good use of their time.

That is something which can be drilled into if it is accepted, and as was advocated for in the last Oireachtas and accepted by the Minister's party, that there is a need for a different way of policing, of engaging with communities and of understanding communities and young people. In the Dublin 5, Dublin 13 and Dublin 17 area, we have advocated for a Mulvey-style commission to engage with all the different actors in the community, so that we will not just talk to the Garda when it comes to issues such as scrambler bikes, anti-social behaviour, drug dealing or drug taking. We need to try to get in behind the statistics in terms of why these things happen. Why do young people feel empowered by this sort of activity? What is it that gives them their kicks? Why are those kicks not found somewhere else?

If there really is a passion for and an interest in the motor, the noise or the power, could we facilitate that in some kind of safe way? These questions and answers can be tossed and turned over and back with those actors in the community who know best. The Minister's Government agreed that we should have such a Mulvey-style commission for the northside of Dublin. One was agreed for Drogheda as well. We feel strongly that we are wasting an awful lot of time without having these kinds of discussions. It should not take a Deputy in the Opposition to bring forward this issue again and again for the Government to act not just on this issue, but on a wide variety of issues which are underpinned by a sense of disengagement, disconnection and disfranchisement.

It is very difficult to stand up in a community and speak about disconnection and disenfranchisement when someone is clearly engaging in violent anti-social behaviour with a motorised vehicle which is creating great noise and distress in that community. We must, however, have that conversation on some level, and that would be the type of forum in which these issues could be teased out. I am sure if we talk to youth workers, as we all do in our different communities, they would say that we need tighter restrictions and regulations and that we must also talk to parents about how in God's name they think it is sensible to hand a dangerous machine to a child. We must go a little bit beyond that as well, however, and talk about what is happening in these communities as to why young people feel that the power they get from making this noise makes them feel important. There must be a space for that conversation.

I take the opportunity to speak about the commitment of the Government and the assistant commissioner to establish a Garda station in the Dublin 13 and Dublin 17 area. I still feel strongly about that issue and want to work with the Minister to ensure it can be built. It will not solve every problem. We cannot put a Garda station in every area of disadvantage and expect that to solve all the issues. It would, however, give that hugely expanding area of Dublin 13 and Dublin 17 a sense that community infrastructure is being put in place, which most communities of that size would expect.

We support this motion and tough action against scrambler and quad bikes, but we must have a deeper discussion on what the motivation is behind young people needing to feel empowered by this type of activity. That type of conversation is worthy of us.

Duncan Smith (Dublin Fingal, Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank Sinn Féin and Deputy Paul Donnelly for bringing forward this motion. I know he is not new to this issue. I shared a seat on Fingal County Council with Deputy Donnelly for nearly six years before coming to this House. He also raised this issue, as I did, on the floor of that chamber. When I was growing up, Santa Claus would have brought bikes and skateboards on Christmas morning, and they were the sounds and noises one would have heard.

Deputy Shortall, who will speak after me, is in the constituency I grew up in and I am sure she could attest to that. I am sure it is also the same in the constituency I now represent, from Swords to Balbriggan. That is not the case now and we know that many of us who live in these areas and in these constituencies will wake up on Christmas morning to the close or distant sounds of these scramblers or quad bikes causing absolute havoc and tearing around in our public parks, on our open spaces, and in our residential roads.

There is no reason to have a quad bike or scrambler other than for reasons of work, or for an organised quad bike race taking place in an organised fashion on private grounds. There is absolutely no other reason for anybody to have one unless it is in those circumstances. We need to take them away.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin spoke very eloquently and passionately about the desire or need behind having these bikes, and he needs to be listened to. We need to have that conversation. We also need to take them away right now. The motion speaks very well to that. We would not tolerate an individual with a gun licence going into an open park or an open space and discharging it at a flock of birds. It is the same principle with a quad bike or a scrambler. The bikes have the capacity to cause as much damage and it is like giving a loaded gun to somebody who is untrained. They are then going into our public parks and open spaces to use them. Communities are not divided on this. It is not a contentious issue and 99.9% of people want to see these bikes totally removed from their communities.

Let us be straight that this disproportionately affects working-class communities. Again it is working-class communities that suffer from the actions of a reckless minority. Any powers that could be given should be given to the Garda. I know its members have huge difficulties in that they cannot go into a public park in a squad car and chase after them. We know this. The motion does not speak to that. It speaks to the reality that we face with quad bikes and scramblers. Working-class communities need to be protected from a number of things, I know because I grew up in one, and this is one of those things. What is most frustrating is that we can see the quad bikes, we can see who is on them, and we know who owns them and the addresses where they live. We need to go and get them.

There have been great pilot schemes such as the scheme in Finglas, of which I am very proud, where 40 quad bikes were taken off the road. This was fantastic. Deputy Ó Snodaigh also mentioned another project in Cherry Orchard with Superintendent Tony Twomey, formerly the superintendent with Balbriggan Garda in north County Dublin, who is a fantastic superintendent doing great work. I am delighted to hear that this project is happening but we need to see more of it.

As I said earlier, people are united on this issue throughout the State, and especially in working-class communities. We need to take the danger out of our open spaces and we need to take it out of our parks. We need to ensure that, as much as we can, on Christmas morning we hear the sound of proper, normal gifts of bikes, skateboards and safe gifts. Santa Claus does not want to bring scramblers and quad bikes to children, so stop asking for them, and stop facilitating them being bought. It is absolutely intolerable and it must stop. I commend the motion and I ask the Minister, Deputy McEntee, on behalf of the Government, to take back its reactive amendment. I think we are actually all on the same page on this.

7:40 pm

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Social Democrats)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I commend Sinn Féin on the motion. This motion and its sentiment have been expressed many times in this House, including in the current Dáil, the previous Dáil and the Dáil before that. Unfortunately, we have yet to see any kind of serious action being taken on it at Government level.

I respect that the Minister, Deputy McEntee, is a new Minister in this portfolio. The Minister came in and in all sincerity she delivered that speech tonight, but there is really nothing new in it at all. I would have to refer to it as the same empty promises we have heard for years in this House. Irrespective of who the Minister is, I believe there is a mindset behind that, which probably comes from the Department and from senior people in different State agencies who simply do not understand this problem. Some of us have been raising this matter here until we are blue in the face. We just cannot understand why we cannot have action from Government.

For years it has been the case in my constituency and, I am sure, in many other constituencies, especially in urban constituencies, that the issue of quad bikes and scramblers is the single most common issue raised at residents' meetings. It is standard practice, be it at joint policing committees, residents' associations or safety forums, that the number one issue is the same: the law is being totally disregarded by the tolerance of the use of these very dangerous vehicles. Gardaí are left there to try to defend what they are doing, but they cannot. They know that they do not have the backing of the Department or their senior superiors in doing what they want to do. Public representatives, Deputies, and councillors, are left sitting at these meetings impotent and powerless. We have been listening to these complaints for years. We understand the nature of the complaints. We understand what has to be done.

There is no defence of the fact that the Government will not take action in this area. We have been here on umpteen occasions pleading with the Minister of the day to please do something. I am not holding the Minister, Deputy McEntee, responsible at this point because she is a new Minister, but the kind of stuff that was in her speech means nothing to people. We have been hearing this for years. I make a very earnest plea to her to listen to what Members of this House are saying and have been saying for donkey's years. There is a huge problem here and it is a very significant social problem. It is symptomatic of much deeper problems, and I agree with the points that have been made in that regard. That the establishment and official Ireland seems impotent and incapable of addressing this issue brings everybody into disrepute: the law, Government, public representatives and the Garda. The elements who are determined to drag areas down and to create the kind of lawlessness in which anti-social behaviour and much more serious crime can flourish are delighted with the neglect of this issue by the establishment. I plead with the Minister not to allow that neglect to continue.

We regularly have to stand up and say to people that we know and understand the problem, that we have raised it in the Dáil umpteen times, but that unfortunately nothing is being done. There is no defence of that. We put it to the Minister that she has a responsibility, as the Minister for Justice, to take the issue seriously and to listen to what people are saying. Members do not come in here and make up stories about this. We have been identifying this as a serious social problem for at least ten years. It is infuriating that the powers that be continue to ignore it.

The issue has posed a threat to life and limb for many years but it also causes that sense of devastation in many communities, working-class communities in the main. Let us be clear about this. If this problem was going on in middle-class areas, it would have been solved long ago. It is a terrible reflection on Government that when issues affect working-class communities, they do not rate the way middle-class issues rate. This is at the heart of the failure to address this problem.

The point has already been made that this is not something working-class communities want to continue. The vast majority living and working in working-class communities want this issue tackled. They are crying out for the authorities to deal with it. They are pleading with public representatives and with the Garda to tackle it. If the Garda is not empowered to step in and address this very pressing social problem, then it is inevitable that somebody else will sort it out. I put it to the Minister that she has a responsibility to take the appropriate action that is needed to address the issue.

Of course, local people in working-class communities are the most impacted by this issue. At certain times of year or in certain areas, young people and old people are afraid to leave their homes. They are afraid to go to parks and to use them. They are afraid to allow their children to go out and play in local housing estates because of the threat posed by the widespread use of quad bikes and scramblers.

Like most problems, it started very small. It was a tiny thing and we hardly noticed it when it began but because of the neglect of this issue, year on year, it has now gotten to a point where it is exceptionally hard to deal with. However, it desperately needs to be dealt with. It is all very well to talk about diverting young people into other activities and we need more funding for youth services and sports activities. There is nothing worse and more soul-destroying for football teams than arriving for a match or training on a Saturday morning and discovering that their pitch has been churned up by this kind of activity. There is nothing worse than parents who want to take their kids out to local parks to play being afraid to do so because of the imminent threat of someone coming along on one of these bikes and posing a danger to them. Deaths and serious injuries have been caused by these vehicles.

The Minister cannot continue to ignore this. We spent years begging her predecessors to establish an interagency forum, which was finally set up a number of years ago. We waited for meetings to be held and occasional quarterly meetings occurred. We were then told that a decision had been made that the law was strong enough and that the Attorney General had recommended that we did not need a new law. Meanwhile, we hear from gardaí in our constituencies that their hands are tied and that the law does not equip them to tackle this problem. It was only when we kept on raising that with the Garda and advised it to move it up the line to the Garda Commissioner that there was finally an admission that the law is not adequate in this area. Now we are waiting. Is there any possibility that we might get action on this or that the Minister will listen to what people are saying and produce the necessary legislation? The Garda's hands are tied as regards enforcing the law in parks and other public off-road places because the traffic legislation does not apply there. There is also a complete failure to enforce the law on tax, insurance and driver licences for people over 16 who are using these vehicles, not to mention those who are underage. A complete blind eye is being turned to this huge problem and it can only get worse if the necessary action is not taken. I am pleading with the Minister to take this issue seriously, unlike her predecessors, before more people are killed and more communities are alienated by the failure of the establishment to tackle this. I urge her to take action.

7:50 pm

Photo of Gino KennyGino Kenny (Dublin Mid West, People Before Profit Alliance)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank Sinn Féin for this motion. It is quite comprehensive and deals with all the substantial issues in this situation. I was thinking about what to say today and the irresponsible use of these vehicles, which are very dangerous, is a huge issue in the area I come from in Clondalkin. There are parallels between this and the epidemic of stolen cars in the mid-1990s. I am not going to go in-depth into how that was tackled but there is a wider societal issue when it comes to why young people need to do these activities. The law needs to change because there is ambiguity about the laws around off-road vehicles, but we could change the law tomorrow and there would still be a societal issue. Why do people engage in these activities, particularly in working-class communities? They are a huge danger to themselves, as these vehicles are not meant to go on tarmacked roads. They are off-road vehicles. If someone comes off one of those bikes, and these lads do not wear helmets, they will die or kill someone else. There have been deaths and people have suffered serious, life-changing injuries over the past few years. We definitely need clarity on the law because, as far as I can see, there is ambiguity and the law on these vehicles needs to change.

Some people who use these vehicles use them very irresponsibly, although a huge number of people use them very responsibly. I am aware of two motocross clubs in Dublin, one in Mulhuddart and one in Dublin city. They engage with young people and give them responsibility around vehicles such as quad bikes or motorbikes. That shows them how dangerous these vehicles can be, but also how enjoyable they can be because once they are used in a controlled manner, they can be a very enjoyable hobby. The vast majority of people who use these vehicles use them in a safe and controlled environment. That is important.

The current legislation is unfit for an urban environment. This issue has been raised many times, not only here but in council chambers or at joint policing committees, JPCs, and working-class communities want to see some sort of action. That action should be a change of law but it should also involve giving young people alternative things to do. Local authorities are trying to address these issues. It is not a panacea by any means but we should give young people an alternative in order that they can go from anti-social behaviour, although I hate using the term, to pro-social behaviour. We can give them the adrenaline rush young people sometimes want in a safe and controlled environment where they can show responsibility, not only for themselves but for their peers as well. It is vitally important that we engage with young people and look for alternatives to these vehicles. As I said, they can bring immense joy but they can also bring immense misery if they are used irresponsibly.

The law needs to change as the police are confined to certain things that cannot be done in public parks but we should go back to the societal issue as to why these vehicles are used in a way that can be extremely negative and irresponsible for the communities where most of these people live. We need to change the law and look for an alternative. As well as the clubs in Dublin, there are many clubs across the State that use motocross vehicles in very responsible manner. We must look for alternatives and work with local communities and young people. We will not get through to everybody. There is an element of people who use them for other purposes, such as dealing drugs and so forth, but we have to look for alternatives. If we can look for alternatives, we can in some way address the issue.

Photo of Paul MurphyPaul Murphy (Dublin South West, RISE)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I listened to the Minister's speech and I was struck by how out of touch the Government is as regards seeing how significant an issue this is. That is nothing personal. This is a huge issue for working-class communities. The dangerous, irresponsible and unsafe use of scramblers and quad bikes is a scourge for working-class communities. It should be a major political issue but it is not treated that way by the Government and was not treated that way by the Minister in her response. I agree with Deputy Gino Kenny that the term "anti-social behaviour" is often overused but this is the definition of anti-social behaviour because it turns public spaces, which are social spaces to be used by communities for sports, walking, kids playing, and whatever else, into areas where people feel scared and do not feel able to use public facilities for what they are meant to be used for.

People are genuinely in fear of their kids going out to play on the green or in the playground because they might be hit by a scrambler or a quad. Older people who go for walks are genuinely in fear that they cannot go into the park, which at this time with Covid is more necessary for people than ever. The point has been made about sports teams having their facilities and their pitches ruined. None of that even touches what Deputy Paul Donnelly referred to with the tragedy of six people who have died over the past five years and 60 people who have been seriously injured by these bikes.

Communities feel deeply frustrated by the general response of the authorities to this problem. I spoke to a woman earlier who is involved in organising her community to stop this activity. She said she goes to the Garda which tells her to get on to the parks department of the council. When she does, the parks department tells her it is the Garda she should be talking to. People feel nothing is done to address it.

The majority of young people who are engaged in this anti-social behaviour are not bad or evil people. They need to be brought face to face with the impact of what they are doing. They need to understand that because of what they are doing, other people are scared or do not feel comfortable to use the parks that they should feel able to use. We need a programme of education around that, aimed at young people and making them realise the consequences of their actions, as well as aimed at parents who might be considering buying scooters or quads. In some cases, these can be very young children and it should be made clear that it is not an appropriate present.

We must look at the broader societal context. The point is being made repeatedly, and it is clearly accurate, that this is a problem that particularly exists to a much greater extent in working-class communities than in better-off communities. Why is that? Is there something inherent in the genes of working-class young people which makes them far more likely to want to get on a quad or scrambler to fly around the local park? Obviously there is not. It is linked to wider disadvantage, lack of opportunity and a lack of facilities. In my opinion, it cannot be separated from the kind of brutal cuts that we saw across the board throughout the course of the crisis, in particular to youth facilities. Between 2007 and 2015, youth services were cut by 31%. Even now, after some element of restoration, they are still down 15% than when before the crisis hit.

Actually investing in and giving people facilities, opportunities and so on is vital. I agree with Deputy Gino Kenny that part of that can actually be investing in motocross facilities, making it a safe, enjoyable sport for people to participate in as opposed to it being an anti-social action. These are the kind of alternatives that we need to provide for young people, as well as educating them and so on about the impact of their actions.

8:00 pm

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

The unlawful use of scramblers and quad bikes must be extremely difficult, especially in city places and highly built-up communities. I can well imagine the frustration, upset and dangers this is causing for residents in those areas.

The main users of these scramblers and quad bikes are young people. We need to focus on the positive things that young people do. Unfortunately, with this situation, that is not what we are doing. If there is wrongdoing, then it is right. However, I look at situations where we tried to turn things around in my constituency with our young people and Garda youth awards. This encouraged young people to keep away from mischievous behaviour or crime. It turned their lives around in some ways. Some of those kids were going in the right direction but more may not have been. Garda Damian White and others in west Cork have been strongly pushing this initiative. It has succeeded each year, with 20 young people getting a youth award and focusing their minds more positively. If that is the way that these communities could travel, they should certainly look at it.

I am in a community alert group in Schull. We have a young person of the year award aimed at encouraging young people to do right in their communities. Unfortunately, some go wrong and end up in unlawful situations with scramblers and quad bikes, which sometimes leads to drugs and so forth. There are facilities for them. However, such a facility in west Cork, Cara Lodge in Enniskeane, was closed recently. It was a treatment centre for young people who needed help with addiction and other issues in their lives. They would probably have been well able to turn it around if they had had that little bit of encouragement. Sadly, the Government – I raised it here with the Taoiseach - refused to intervene. Unfortunately, the HSE refused to give the funding and the centre for young people in Enniskeane in west Cork is now closed. That is an indictment of where we are going. We are taking our eye off the ball and easily criticising young people here.

Richard O'Donoghue (Limerick County, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I grew up around quad bikes and scramblers. Now they are faster and people buy them as Christmas presents but do not think of the consequences. Many people, however, use quad or scrambler bikes responsibly in a controlled environment, wearing the proper gear. I have great friends who are still doing it. We have a minority, however, who do not respect those around them when they are on their quad bikes.

The Minister can fix it. If people were playing hurling on the road, hurling pitches would be made available, the same for soccer. The Minister has to give those using quad bikes and scramblers the facilities in which they can be trained like in any other sport. If that is done, it can be regulated and people shown how to use them safely. If we want people to drive vehicles properly, we have to give them a facility where they can be taught. That comes back to the Minister.

Mondello Park is a facility for racing cars. However, a person living where I come from has to travel nearly two hours to get there to race his or her vehicle. The Minister must look at other sports and put facilities in place where children and adults can learn properly. If they need to drive their quads and bikes, they should be able to do so in a safe environment and be taught how to do it properly. Everyone is entitled to their sport. It is up to the Minister to provide the facilities in which they can do it. The Minister should not close this down because of a minority who are being disrespectful. Instead, it should be enhanced with systems put in place and facilities where people can drive these bikes responsibly.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I support this motion and compliment the movers of it. This is the second time recently we have debated this issue. I could not agree more with the previous speaker. Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh siad. We have to praise our young and they will come. There is a song, "Teach Your Children Well". I do not know who sang it but I love it as it has a nice tune and rhyme. We have to train the people and give them support in the communities. I am not for locking them up and throwing away the key. We need to bring them on and train them.

Community policing is the essence. With your indulgence, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I was late today as I was at a sochraid. Garda Sergeant Niall O'Halloran was laid to rest today at 47 years of age. He was an excellent community garda. He, along with his team, was the essence of community policing. I want to pay tribute to him and his colleagues who came together for their fallen hero while observing social distancing. The community police are all important. They must know their community, stand in the kitchens, know the people and visit the schools. Sergeant Niall O'Halloran would bring the national school fifth and sixth classes gach bhliain on a turas go dtí Templemore and the Garda headquarters there to show them, to give them an enthusiasm for the uniform and for all the aspects of Garda life.

That is what we have to do. We should not create an "us and them" mentality by chasing them with a squad car whenever there is an issue. I know how dangerous these vehicles are and how serious it is to be hit by one. I have a quad for use on a hilly sheep farm. I know how dangerous they are. They have to be used properly. We can never beat this behaviour out of young people. We have to encourage them and give them tracks to use. A new track for cars is being developed near Duneske in Cahir. It is to be hoped people will be able to use it to train. Planning permission has just been granted by An Bord Pleanála. I compliment the Buttimer family on this project. It is to be hoped young men and women will be able to drive their cars and get experience there. There is nothing like experience.

I pass on my sympathies to Sergeant O'Halloran's wife, Sandra, his young son, Richard, the Garda community and the Garda Representative Association. Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís. He came into our community ten years ago. He got to know the people, lived for them, had their backs and was available to them. We need that kind of interaction. Gardaí should get out of the squad cars and the offices and be with the people. If An Garda stands with the people, the people will stand with An Garda. Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh siad. Measaim gurb é sin an scéal.

8:10 pm

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank Sinn Féin for bringing this very sound and worthwhile debate before the Dáil. Sinn Féin is trying to do what we would all like to do, that is, protect people's peace, quiet and safety. In turn this would help to ensure the safety of the people partaking in this nuisance behaviour. If they are not capable of ensuring their own safety, we have to do so by encouraging legislation. I do not welcome every new law or restriction because we can sometimes tie ourselves up in knots, but this is sensible.

We do not call these vehicles scramblers. The quads I am talking about are used as work vehicles similar to tractors. A lot of the people where I come from have quads. They are a terribly important part of their working life. We can be sure that they are not for pleasure or leisure. Just like a tractor, a quad is used for getting to places, carrying goods, maintaining wiring and doing all the work that needs to be done around a farm. Of course there is a place for other types of scramblers or motorbikes. As has already been soundly stated, that activity is fine if it happens in the places where it is supposed to.

Many years ago our local authority, Kerry County Council, was very proactive in adopting bylaws to protect the safety of its beaches, as I am sure many other local authorities were. We did not want people driving onto our beaches with motorbikes, scramblers or any similar four-wheeled vehicles that might upset or endanger children or people enjoying the surroundings. Now we have to protect public parks and other places. Of course, if people want to do this they can do it. If they want to buy vehicles for these purposes and they have the money to do so, God bless them. We want them to do it somewhere where this activity is safe and regulated and does not upset or interfere with anybody else.

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I very much agree with the previous speaker on the use of quad bikes. It is important to recognise that they can be essential work vehicles but they can also be a complete nuisance. I commend Sinn Féin on putting this motion before the Dáil. It is important that we discuss the serious injury and death as well as the mere nuisance that quad bikes and scramblers can cause when inappropriately used.

I wish to bring to the attention of the Dáil one other thing which I think should be included in this category, namely, jet skis. I do not know anybody for whom a jet ski is an essential work vehicle. They are a nuisance which I encountered throughout this summer. There were a lot more people in the water in Clare than in previous years. As a result, jet skis were used in lakes throughout the county. I urge the Minister to look at the nuisance jet skis cause. The last Minister to look at this and propose a licensing regime was the former Minister for State at the then Department of the Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Hugh Byrne, a Fianna Fáil member from the Minister's part of the world.

I know that general boating is not subject to licensing in Ireland and I do not think it should be. There is a long tradition of lake boating where I come from in Clare, and I am sure it is the same in most counties with lakes. However jet skis are very different from a young lad doing a bit of fishing in a boat on a lake. He can ramp up the outboard engine as much as he wants but he will not cause much nuisance. However, one of my earlier childhood memories is of someone wrapping a jet ski around a pier. The rider was going at full throttle and simply did not know how to stop. Apparently a jet ski will stop if one drops it, but this person did not know it and ploughed straight into a pier. They were brought to hospital by an ambulance. Luckily they survived, though the jet ski did not. The nuisance continues in that same spot year after year.

I refer again to the increased number of people on the water this summer because of the lockdown and the initial good weather. Jet skis were used on lakes where they had never been seen before. I spoke to a constituent about it yesterday. She told me of an incident on her family farm, which adjoins a lake. A cow was so panicked by jet skis on the lake that she threw a calf.

There can be no doubt that jet skis are a nuisance. I am not suggesting for a moment that all jet skis are a nuisance. There is a time and a place for jet skis, just as there is for quad bikes and scrambler motorcycles, as Sinn Féin fully recognises in this motion. Those vehicles are appropriate in properly fenced and secured mountain biking areas. However, jet skis on the water and motorbikes in parks are potentially very dangerous vehicles. We are all very aware of the very sad story of the Armenian couple which might have partly inspired this motion. Other people have come close to very serious harm because of the inappropriate use of motorcycles and quad bikes.

I urge the Minister to keep jet skis in mind when dealing with this issue because they pose a particular threat. They also pose a threat to people who just want to go about their lives and enjoy a tranquil and scenic day on Lough Derg or Lough Corrib. Someone wishing to do some quiet and contemplative fishing can be confronted with an idiot on a jet ski. Not every jet ski owner is an idiot. Many are highly responsible, but unfortunately not all of them are. Some kind of regime must be put in place to differentiate between those who use jet skis in appropriate places and those who do not, and thus break the peace and tranquility of the area and endanger human and animal life on quiet lakes, frequently frightening cattle.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

That was a lenient interpretation of the motion.

Photo of Michael McNamaraMichael McNamara (Clare, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

They pose a similar problem.

Photo of Michael FitzmauriceMichael Fitzmaurice (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I welcome the opportunity to speak in support of this motion. We were all young and we all tried to have a go on the first engine we saw. Everything is fine until something goes wrong.

There is a wild streak in every youngster. Young people need opportunity as well. The one thing we have not done in this country is provide a safe environment where youngsters who want to use these vehicles can do so responsibly. We do not seem to want to do that. This activity is a torment in a lot of cities and areas.

Unfortunately, what is a great bit of craic sometimes ends up in someone losing a limb or a life, which is regrettable. We have to start regulating them. It is as simple as that. We have to make sure we put a person's life or limbs ahead of everything and make sure that this activity takes place in a safe environment. The message that needs to go out is that when doing one thing, a person needs to be doing something else in parallel. We need to give them the facility to express and enjoy themselves but in an environment operated by people who ensure the proper precautions are taken and, above all else, in an environment that is safe. This activity is a problem in many large cities. In the country, we do not see much of it. A person might see a quad bike quicker than he or she would see a scrambler. In the cities or the large towns, this activity gathers a crowd. There is no point in saying otherwise. It is great craic going up hills until something goes wrong.

There is one thing we could do in regard to quad bikes. I recall that years ago when we had a problem with very old tractors turning over and, unfortunately, people were being killed, a safety bar was put around them. Similar to the safety bar that was developed for the tractors which years ago had no cabs. We should look to that in regard to quad bikes. Unfortunately, the statistics show that a lot of people get caught when a quad bike tumbles over. I am not suggesting a safety bar is the be-all and end-all and that it would resolve everything but it could help. We need to make sure quad bikes have indicators for road use. To be honest, I think the cost of road tax on a quad bike is scandalous, especially for the farming community.

I will not labour and talk all night. I support the motion. We need to do it. In terms of recreation and sport and youngsters, they have had little to do over the past eight or nine months. The media sometimes likes to show them on television doing this or that wrong, or to show them outside some place in Dublin, Limerick or Galway and so on. In general, they can take a bow for the effort they have made in this country over the past seven or eight months. For people in our age group it is not as tough as it is for young, energetic people who want to go out and break free. We should be giving them the option to enjoy themselves safely and putting in place the facilities to enable them to do that.

I have spoken many times about Mondello Park. Last Sunday night week I spent time with a person aged 74 whose licence had expired. What have we become as a society that a person of 74 years of age who is well able to drive but whose licence has expired had to retake a theory test? Could we not have a bit of cop-on and bring them into the likes of Mondello Park, put up the signs and see whether they are fit to drive or not. This is what we are doing. As a society we tend to apply the hammer. We do not seem to have a sweet at all to try to bring people with us. We should look at that.

8:20 pm

Photo of James BrowneJames Browne (Wexford, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank all the Deputies who have contributed this evening. I think we all agree on the importance of ensuring this issue is effectively addressed. It is an issue of serious and genuine concern that makes our public and social spaces unsafe for others and creates a sense of real fear among the public. Anti-social behaviour in any form negatively impacts on the quality of life of our communities and it is an issue that as Minister of State I am keen to address.

Those who engage in the reckless or dangerous misuse of these vehicles require support from the whole of government. Raising awareness of the dangers inherent in the misuse of these vehicles is key in helping to reduce the number of young people engaged in this type of behaviour. The Garda and Road Safety Authority, RSA, launched a new public awareness campaign on 23 October to highlight the dangers quad bikes and scramblers pose to children and to urge parents not to gift these as Christmas presents.

The Road Safety Authority reports that three of the six people who died in Ireland as a result of an incident involving a quad bike or scrambler in the period 2014 to 2019 were aged 18 or under. The casualty figures also show that between 2014 and 2019, 60 people were injured in collisions involving a quad bike or scrambler on a public road. Of those killed or injured between 2014 and 2019, 41% of casualties were 18 years of age or under. These collisions occurred on public roads, were reported to An Garda Síochána and involved a vehicle specified as being a quad bike or scrambler.

The public awareness campaign includes a national and local radio advertising campaign, which is fronted by Mr. Keith Synnott, consultant orthopaedic and spine surgeon of the national spinal injuries unit in the Mater hospital. This campaign also features the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton. As stated earlier by the Minister, Deputy McEntee, the seriousness with which the Government takes this issue is reflected in the programme for Government commitment to enhance powers available to An Garda Síochána to limit the use of scramblers and quads by those engaged in anti-social behaviour and to enact legislation to add to those powers if needed. Legislation is just one part of the solution and we will not hesitate to look at new legislation if it is required. The Department of Transport is responsible for road traffic law, road safety and road traffic enforcement, but the Department of Justice will do whatever it needs to do.

Clearly, the issues underlying anti-social behaviour of whatever sort cannot be addressed entirely through new legislation in this area alone. Public awareness of the dangers posed by the misuse of these types of vehicles is a key element of tackling any such misuse and my Department has agreed to consider and develop actions to increase awareness of the dangers of these vehicles. The intention is that this work will be carried out in conjunction with affected communities, community groups and other stakeholders affected by the misuse of scramblers. It will also explore how best to engage with young people who are drawn to this behaviour.

Deputies will also be aware that a draft new youth justice strategy was published by my Department earlier this year to facilitate a public consultation process. Implementation of the youth justice strategy will make a valuable contribution to ongoing efforts to combat anti-social behaviour, including the misuse of scramblers and quad bikes. Issues such as the need for early intervention and family support, coupled with collaborative working by agencies and community partners, are central to the approach contained in the youth justice strategy. The importance of the strategy is endorsed by and prioritised in the programme for Government. Acting on the issue of anti-social behaviour will not be solved by stand-alone interventions. It will need a cross-governmental approach to tackle the causes of anti-social behaviour as well as the actions that are being carried out. It means also creating opportunities and will involve, I believe, restorative justice, requiring face-to-face interaction with the victims and their communities by those carrying out these activities.

The strategy has been developed in light of the experience of State agencies and community partners who work with the comparatively small number of children and young people who come in contact with the criminal justice system. This work has built on the 2008 youth justice strategy and the subsequent Youth Justice Action Plan 2014-2018, and it tries to deal with many of the gaps that remain, as well as new challenges which have emerged. It is intended that the new strategy will align with successor frameworks to the current National Policy Framework for Children and Young Adults 2014-2020, which is overseen by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. It will also align with a new community safety strategy which my Department is preparing. The Minister, Deputy McEntee, recently announced locations for new community safety pilot projects which will inform the development of that strategy.

It is intended to bring the finalised youth justice strategy to Government later this year for approval. In terms of supports and programmes currently available, there are 105 Garda youth diversion projects throughout the State. The intention is to develop this service further so that it is available to every child in the State who could benefit from it through an ongoing expansion of existing services and, where necessary, the foundation of new projects.

The projects are being developed to provide family support to the parents of young people participating in the projects and are undertaking early intervention and preventative work. The role of the projects in respect of harder to engage young people is being enhanced and extended as part of the evolving youth justice system.

My Department is supporting ongoing development of practice in Garda youth diversion projects through the action research project led by the University of Limerick. The project works directly with front-line youth justice workers from local projects to develop interventions and best practice. Based on initial outcomes from the project and evaluations of several pilot projects, it is intended to develop proposals to expand existing services to ensure national coverage and a strong focus on difficult issues such as the hard to reach cohort.

More broadly, the programme for Government also contains a commitment to convene an expert forum on anti-social behaviour. This will provide a key focus for further development of policy and engagement with stakeholders on the issue. The commitment in the programme for Government to establish the forum refers not only to Garda enforcement powers but also to the provision of parenting supports. As Minister of State, I convened the initial meeting of the new forum on anti-social behaviour on 27 October.

It is through collaboration across Government, the public service and community stakeholders that the issue of the misuse of scramblers and quad bikes, and anti-social behaviour in general, can be tackled and our communities can be made safer. In the interim, I commend the work of An Garda Síochána on the issue. Targeted enforcement measures have been introduced in several areas where quad bikes and scramblers were causing difficulties. I am informed that An Garda Síochána will continue to pursue enforcement through the implementation of appropriate local plans and policing strategies. The Garda has advised my Department that it responds to all reports of anti-social behaviour and conducts operations on an ongoing basis to target anti-social activities of persons using scramblers, mopeds or quad bikes in parks and green areas. I ask the House to support the countermotion and the ongoing work to tackle this issue.

8:30 pm

Thomas Gould (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Many of the communities I represent in Cork North-Central, like other communities nationally, have been ravaged by scramblers and quad bikes. I commend my colleagues, Deputies Paul Donnelly and Ellis, on bringing forward the motion. They did so because Sinn Féin is committed to supporting communities and ending this scourge.

As the Minister of State said, in October the Garda, along with the Road Safety Authority, launched a campaign pleading with parents not to purchase these bikes or scramblers for their children for Christmas. In my constituency, several clubs have had their pitches destroyed by these bikes. These clubs cannot afford the thousands of euro needed to repair the pitches because they are run by volunteers in working-class areas who are doing their best. There is a green space close to where I live. Cork City Council has done brilliant work to make it an amenity with walkways and pitches for young people, older people and everyone else to enjoy, walk on and use to get out of the house. However, time and again it has been destroyed by quad bikes and scramblers driven by people who do not care about their neighbours or communities. We need action and the motion outlines the action we need to deliver.

I know some people who are really interested in bikes and quads. For young people, it would be a great initiative to provide facilities and places they can go to and enjoy themselves in a safe manner and be educated. What Sinn Féin is proposing are solutions for young people who are genuinely interested and for their friends as well as stronger measures to tackle those who wish to engage in anti-social behaviour and destruction. The noise that is generated by these bikes can be deafening for some people. Last Saturday, I drove through an area where I saw five or six young boys who were no more than 13 years old or 14 years old and were racing two scrambler bikes through a green space in the middle of a residential area. No disrespect to the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, but if communities have to wait on what he offered in his speech, they have no hope. I ask him to please support the motion. It makes sense and it will deliver now.

Ruairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

In Dundalk and elsewhere in County Louth I have dealt with countless constituents, as have many other Members in their areas, who are worried about the issue of scramblers and quad bikes racing through streets and community green spaces at all hours of the day and night. I refer to estates in Dundalk, council land, parks, private land and even farmland on the edge of town where crops were destroyed by scramblers.

Yearly, we are told by An Garda and the Road Safety Authority of the serious safety hazard of these powerful machines. They have the potential to injure people severely or fatally. Reference was made to the six people who died between 2014 and 2019 as a result of these machines. That is six families too many who have had their world turned upside down. That is why gates and bollards are erected to make it more difficult for scramblers to get into particular areas.

The Garda is often powerless and unable to chase people driving these bikes. That is understandable from a safety point of view. There have been instances when they have chased and seized some of these vehicles and generally that has been impactful. However, the legislation ensuing from the motion will give the Garda the legal powers and the necessary resources to tackle this issue.

I accept that some people use quad bikes and scramblers for essential work and for sport. I get that young people are lured to adrenaline sports. I would be the first to try out one of these bikes. As many would attest, I would also be the first to fall off the bike and do myself an injury. The use of these bikes for sport must take place in a controlled environment with rules, regulations and checks. Facilitating that needs to be explored, but that will not really happen until we deal with the serious issue of the underfunding of youth services and local authorities and the significant issue of insurance. Every summer, I have received calls regarding groups of kids in fields with scramblers and quads, drinking and doing whatever else and causing havoc for hours on end. I refer to parents with autistic children who are sensitive to noise and have to go through what, for them, is an absolute nightmare.

We need to ensure we do all we can do deal with this issue. Reference was made to the anti-social behaviour element and even to scramblers being used in drug runs. Later this week, Sinn Féin will deal with the issues of the lack of addiction services and interventions and the need for more community policing. The motion before the House deals with an issue that is impacting on communities. We need to facilitate them. I am calling on Members across the House to find a solution to this problem. I urge the House to support the motion and the ensuing legislation.

Paul Donnelly (Dublin West, Sinn Fein)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank Deputies for their contributions, particularly those who have supported the motion. I am really disappointed by the response of the Government. I am not talking about the remarks of the Minister, Deputy McEntee, or the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, which, to be honest, I take with a pinch of salt. The amendment tabled by the Minister, which I will go through, speaks volumes regarding where this Government is at. It states, "An Garda Síochána pursue appropriate policing strategies with due regard to the need to ensure that responses to the misuse of vehicles do not lead to increased and exacerbated public safety risks". It is obvious that the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, who is present, has not listened to a single word uttered by any of the contributors to the motion. There is no strategy or training in place and the Garda does not have the resources to tackle this issue. How do I know that is the case? I know because that is what they have told us. That is what Deputies have been saying all night. That is the situation is on the ground.

The amendment claims that "the existing legislation requires the safe use of vehicles as well as compliance with conditions for driver licensing, motor taxation and insurance, and the relevant legislative provisions have already been subject of close examination by Government departments". If that is the case, why have we heard Deputies speaking on the motion tell story after story of parks and open spaces being completely destroyed and how people, including older people, are afraid to walk down the street and parents are afraid to let their children out onto green spaces? I only have to look out my front door to know what the situation is on the ground. There is a green space in my area where there can be up to ten quads and scramblers driving up and down, especially in the summer, but also at all other times of the year. That is how I know that the strategy is not working.

The amendment further states that "Gardaí already have significant enforcement powers in relation to dangerous misuse of vehicles". If that is the case, why were two Fianna Fáil Deputies saying on social media this week that they will bring in legislation to change the situation around quads and scramblers?

Why did Deputy McAuliffe say in the Chamber today that he is bringing forward a Bill to change the legislation? This is in the Minister's amendment so why was he saying that, if this is okay and we do not need extra legislation? This flies in the face of the experience of every community I represent.

I wish to refer to one comment, as it is important that we hear from ordinary, local people. The person concerned lives in the estate next to me and we were tortured over the summer, and particularly during lockdown, with quad bikes and motorbikes in our community. When the woman rang the Garda station, after days of torture, the garda said he would send a car up when one became available, but said there was not much more the Garda could do. That was said directly by the garda. The call was in the middle of the day. The person was working from home because she was told to do so, but she could not work. She had to go somewhere else to work because of the noise.

Finally, the Minister of State said that the Garda successes in the seizure of vehicles underline the need to support An Garda Síochána to respond to local situations and to provide appropriate resources and technical support. He then went on to speak about the response to drug dealing and intelligence-led approaches to counter the activities of drug gangs. That is out of touch with the reality of what is happening with quad bikes and scramblers. The reason the gangs use these vehicles for drug dealing is that the Garda has a policy not to follow or chase them, not to deal with them and not to seize the vehicles. As Deputy Ward said earlier, that is why younger people are now being sucked into these gangs.

We put forward a very detailed motion. It does not tie the Government to a legislative process, but it certainly charts a way forward. I am very disappointed with the Government's response. The message will go from the House to every community in urban areas living with this daily nightmare that the Government has no intention of dealing seriously with this scourge in those communities.

Amendment put.

8:40 pm

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

In accordance with Standing Order 80(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Wednesday, 18 November 2020.

Sitting suspended at 8.33 p.m. and resumed at 8.53 p.m.