Thursday, 15 July 2021
Firearms and Offensive Weapons (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage [Private Members]
I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I will share my time with Deputy Devlin, who I believe is to speak for five minutes. I welcome the opportunity to commence the Second Stage debate on the Firearms and Offensive Weapons (Amendment) Bill 2021. Fianna Fáil and I introduced this legislation last March because of the increasing concern of the parliamentary party regarding the increased use of knives in disputes and fights taking place in public areas. This is an issue of considerable concern not only to young people, but to their parents, because of a number of very high-profile and tragic cases of knife crime that resulted in the deaths of boys and young men.
Along with everyone in Fianna Fáil, I fully recognise that the issue of knife crime cannot be resolved through legislation alone. Simply enacting this legislation, or any other legislation, will not resolve the problem of knife crime. It is important to accept that there will always be an issue with, and an incidence of, knife crime in our society, just as there is in most other societies in the world. However, if we see the incidence of knife crime rising, we must, as policymakers, take steps to try to reduce that incidence. Legislation in one way whereby this can be achieved but there are many others. I will talk about those in due course. We need to look at issues such as educating men and young boys about the danger of carrying knives. We need to think about whether it may be necessary to introduce an amnesty for those persons who hold onto knives for the purpose of inflicting harm on others. We also need to reflect on whether we need to introduce legislation preventing the sale of knives to people under a certain age.
I commend the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, on the interest he has taken in this topic since assuming office ten months ago. I know it is an issue he is very concerned about and I commend him on driving the issue in his Department. He has spoken to me, Deputy Devlin and many other Fianna Fáil Deputies about this issue. He has a significant concern in this regard and I very much look forward to the speech he is to give in due course.
This Bill was introduced last March because of a number of very tragic killings of boys and young men with knives. Last January, not far from this convention centre, a boy called Josh Dunne was fatally stabbed as a result of a row. It was terrible not only for this family and friends, but for society in general, to see a young boy of such talent being lost so needlessly. Of course, a year prior to Josh Dunne's fatal stabbing, we saw the fatal stabbing of a young man in Cork, Cameron Blair. Again, this was a young man of tremendous potential with a great life to live who was needlessly killed as a result of a dispute arising on a night when everyone should have been enjoying themselves. Prior to that, not far from my constituency, another young man, Azzam Raguragui, was fatally stabbed in Finsbury Park in the summer of 2019. All of these deaths were terrible tragedies for the families of the boy and young men who died.
However, they had another impact. They devastated the lives of the people involved in the disputes, including persons subsequently convicted of the manslaughter and-or killing of the individuals concerned.
We need to send a message to young men and boys in our society that it is not acceptable for them to carry knives. Some boys and young men seem to believe it is appropriate and necessary to carry knives to defend themselves. The carrying of knives for what may be perceived as self-defence purposes can lead to tragic outcomes. A fight or dispute develops, a knife is produced, a person is unintentionally killed and there are terminal and tragic consequences for the person killed, their family and the other individuals involved in the dispute.
We need to reflect upon the fact that knives are not just commonly used for violent purposes by boys and young men. I know from speaking to the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, that there is a high incidence of use of knives for violent purposes in domestic violence disputes. We need to tackle that issue, not just through legislation in respect of knife crime but predominantly through ensuring domestic violence is recognised as the scourge it is and tackled relentlessly in order that it be stamped out.
This Bill seeks to amend section 9 of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act 1990. That sections provides that it shall be a criminal offence to carry a knife with the intent to inflict harm or injury upon another. The legislation we introduced last March and are debating today seeks to increase the maximum sentence that can apply for any person convicted of carrying a knife for the purpose of seeking to inflict harm upon another person. At present, the maximum sentence on indictment is five years. Under the terms of the Bill, that would increase to ten years.
People may ask why Fianna Fáil is putting this forward. It is because we think it is necessary to develop a debate and start a conversation about knife crime. It is important we send out a strong message that the carrying of knives for the purpose of seeking to inflict harm on others is something our society abhors and wants to challenge. For that reason, it is appropriate the sentencing available to a judge in respect of a person convicted of carrying a knife should be increased in the way we have outlined.
Legislation in itself is not the solution. We need to look at other factors. I mentioned that we need to look at education when it comes to boys and young men and the carrying of knives. We need to start looking in our schools and educate boys going through school on the danger caused and the harm inflicted by knives. People are not generally aware of the extent of the damage that can be inflicted by them. Boys and young men seem to think knives can be carried for the purpose of defending themselves or revealing the knife to deter somebody who may seek to attack them. Unfortunately, we know from experience that that is not what occurs. When a knife is produced in a fight or dispute, it can have tragic consequences.
We need to look at whether we need to create other offences relating to the age at which people are entitled to purchase knives from shops. We will never be able to remove knives from Irish society. They play an important and significant role in culinary matters. In every kitchen in Ireland, there will be knives. We are not talking about trying to remove those, but particular types of knives are manufactured not for culinary purposes but for those of combat. We need to ensure they are outlawed and that young people under a certain age cannot purchase them. If we introduce legislation around that as well as rolling out an information and education programme to young people throughout our society, it will improve the opportunity and increase societal discussion about violence and the use of knives.
We do not know the extent to which knives are used in domestic violence disputes. We do not know the number of times knives are used threateningly but not for inflicting physical harm on a partner. We do know the full statistics as to the number of times knives are used threateningly in a domestic environment. We need to ensure that when we seek to tackle, outlaw and target the scourge of domestic violence, we emphasise that it comes in many forms and the threat of violence is as significant as violence itself.
I will stop and give my colleague, Deputy Devlin, time to speak on the matter. Then I await with interest what the Minister of State has to say.
Like my colleague, I welcome the opportunity to examine the Firearms and Offensive Weapons (Amendment) Bill 2021. I thank the Deputy for introducing this Bill last March. It seeks to increase the maximum prison sentence that can be imposed for the possession of knives.
The Bill is a direct response to the increase in knife crime we have witnessed, unfortunately, in the capital and throughout Ireland. We have seen a spate of high-profile incidents, including Josh Dunne and others, in recent years. Physical or other types of assaults and knife crime constitute the worst nightmare of any parent of a teenage child or older.
Statistics from the Garda demonstrate the problem is getting worse. In 2016, gardaí seized 1,200 knives. This rose to 1,600 in 2017 and a staggering 2,000 in 2018. It is clear we have an ongoing problem with the possession and use of knives, particularly in Dublin. The solution is not exclusively through the criminal justice system. We also need to recognise the need to educate young men and boys in particular about the dangers of carrying knives. Many of them carry knives for the purpose of seeking to defend themselves, not intending to use them. Often the carriers of knives become the victims of same. We have seen far too often the tragic experience that, on a night when a knife is used, people can lose their lives through being fatally stabbed. Lives are being destroyed, especially young lives. Part of the solution is in education. We need to provide more public information about the use and dangers of knives and to warn young people about the consequences that can arise from carrying a knife.
It is not just young people. It is also men and women, as the Deputy alluded to in relation to domestic violence. We need to look at the criminal justice system. Fianna Fáil is of the opinion that the maximum sentence for carrying a knife for the purpose of trying to inflict harm on another person is far too low and should be increased to give a court greater discretion. This will not be the only solution but it sends a strong message to our community that it is unacceptable to carry knives.
This Bill will amend the existing legislation to increase, from five to ten years, the maximum prison sentence that can be imposed for possession of a knife likely to injure, incapacitate or intimidate any person. The Bill is essential. It sends that strong message and recognises that knives can be just as dangerous as other offensive weapons. I know the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, is working on that and I thank him for being in the House. I know he will engage and work constructively on this.
One aspect of Covid-19 was people reconnecting with their local open spaces. Anti-social behaviour, intimidation, racism and crime in these places is unacceptable and must be tackled. Everyone has the right to feel safe while enjoying public spaces in our cities, towns, villages and wider communities. In particular, we must feel safe here in our capital city of Dublin and it must be welcoming for everybody. Recent high-profile incidents have been unacceptable and more must be done to ensure communities are supported and streets and parks kept safe.
This Bill is one part of a solution to tackle knife crime. We also need increased support for organisations working with communities and a continued Garda presence to deter such incidents. I welcome efforts by the Government in this regard, particularly the introduction of local community safety partnerships. These partnerships grew out of the reform of the joint policing committees that were established to work in each local authority area. They will draw up local community safety plans to address issues of concern in their local area. Three pilot projects are currently being established, in Dublin's north inner city, Waterford and Longford, and will run for the next two years ahead of a national roll-out. Projects like these will ensure public spaces are safe and can be enjoyed by everyone. I commend the Bill to the House and thank Deputy Jim O'Callaghan for his work in bringing it forward.
I conclude by thanking the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for her assistance during our sittings in the convention centre. This may be our last time talking in this space. I also thank the ushers and all the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas and the convention centre for their help during the pandemic period.
I echo the sentiments of Deputy Devlin in thanking the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, the Ceann Comhairle, the ushers and other staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas, the staff in the convention centre and the members of An Garda Síochána who assisted us. They have done Trojan work over the recent period in keeping us all safe and effective as we did our work in the convention centre.
I acknowledge the great public concern, which the Government shares, arising from a number of serious knife crimes that have occurred in recent months and years. We are all conscious in this House of the serious impact violent crime, particularly attacks of a random nature, has on victims and families. I join all Deputies in condemning such crimes in the strongest possible terms. These offences pose serious questions of the criminal justice system. They raise questions of our society in terms of the conditions that exist to induce some of our citizens to engage in such crimes. They also raise particular challenges for Members in our role of reflecting the concerns of the people we represent.
Deputy Jim O'Callaghan is to be commended for seeking to advance the legislative position in this area. His Bill gives us an opportunity to reflect on the appropriate policy and legislative response to the issue of knife crime. I have had an opportunity to discuss this issue with the Deputy on a number of occasions since my appointment as Minister of State, as well as with Deputies Devlin, McAuliffe, Pádraig O'Sullivan, Martin Kenny and others. I know the concern in regard to knife crime is shared right across the House. The overall picture on crimes involving the use of knives in this State is a mixed one. This is not in any way to downplay the traumatic effect of individual offences on victims and their families. I will seek to address this debate by placing it in the wider context of the available data on the extent of crimes involving knives and other offensive weapons, policy considerations on the most effective responses to such crime and some observations in regard to the provisions in the Bill.
Information on knife-related crime gathered by An Garda Síochána notes that such crime trends should be viewed in the context of the pandemic and the associated general decrease in criminality, but also the successful number of proactive seizures and interventions. While there was a decline in overall knife seizures in the period from 2010 to 2016, there has been an increase in the number of knives seized each year since then. This is due in large part to the introduction of new systems for the recording of all objects seized, including knives. More recently, there has also been an increase due to proactive policing operations, particularly during 2020, which saw an increased Garda presence due to the Covid-19 restrictions. This is reflected in the fact that knives, at 1.4%, accounted for the lowest ever proportion of all objects seized. The Government welcomes and supports the continued efforts of An Garda Síochána in this regard.
The most recent available HSE data, for 2005 to 2019, show a general decline in hospital discharges following an assault by knife since 2006. This is consistent with the trend shown by Garda data on crime incidents where a knife was involved. While there was a slight increase in hospital discharges following an assault by knife between 2018 and 2019, the numbers remain considerably lower than those seen up to 2011 and below the slight rises seen between 2013 and 2015. That is not in any way to lessen the seriousness of these crimes. Overall, while there is no strong evidence to suggest there has been any increase in crime incidents involving knives, any such incident is very serious and we must always be focused on lowering the incidence as much as possible. We should have regard to this mixed picture when considering the need for further measures.
I am aware that knives, given their accessibility in the home, may be used in domestic violence. This is a serious and deeply concerning issue. The use of a knife against a person in his or her home by a person he or she should be able to trust is a truly despicable act. I urge anybody who is in fear of his or her safety to reach out to An Garda Síochána and seek help.
Crime of any sort is not a phenomenon that exists in isolation. It is inevitably connected to significant and often complex underlying factors, including the insidious influence of criminal groups tempting young people into a life of crime, the effects of trauma and personal adversity, and the immediate effects of the misuse of alcohol or illegal drugs. All of these factors must be taken into account when considering policy and legislative options. There is a need for a more focused consideration of the factors that prompt people to carry knives in public places and any additional practical measures that might be useful, whether law enforcement or community engagement initiatives. There is international evidence to suggest that knife-carrying may be related to a perceived need for self-protection but we would need to validate those indications in an Irish context. The international evidence cautions against generic awareness campaigns, particularly if targeted at young people, as having a possible unintended consequence of increasing feelings of insecurity or creating the impression that knife-carrying is more widespread that it is. However, that does not negate the need for, or importance of, educating people on the dangers of carrying knives. It can be difficult to strike a balance in this regard but it is important to do so.
We need to develop an approach that addresses the specific circumstances in communities in this country and which can be pursued through our policing and public service frameworks. Nevertheless, examples in other jurisdictions may prove useful. In particular, we may have something to learn from the public health approach to knife crime that has been employed in Scotland. Previously, the approach there involved a focus on police enforcement. There was a change in focus in 2004 to looking at this type of violence as a public health problem. This was based on a recognition of the relationship between inequality and violence and the impact of adverse childhood experiences. Between 2008 and 2012, a strategy was put in place involving direct engagement with violent offenders, which provided an opportunity to break the cycle of offending. A range of projects to engage offenders and at-risk persons was put in place, with an emphasis on education, employment and self-improvement. In this State, current approaches such as the youth justice strategy, Garda diversion projects and probation schemes align with those taken in Scotland and will be further developed in the context of ongoing work.
To support a reasoned assessment of options to enhance responses to knife crime, I am convening a special subgroup of the forum on antisocial behaviour to examine this matter in the coming weeks. Some months ago, I convened a similar forum to address the issue of scramblers, out of which came reforming legislation and funding streams to provide social supports within the communities affected by the menace of scramblers. I established the forum on antisocial behaviour in October last year, in line with a commitment in the programme for Government. It draws together key agencies and expert representatives from community, business and academic backgrounds. The intention is that a subgroup of the forum will examine the various aspects of the knife crime phenomenon, including community-based programmes, areas for further research and how legislation might best be framed to support enforcement and a reduction in the carrying of knives and their use in violent crime.
Deputy Jim O'Callaghan's Bill will form an important part of that review and will be examined by the subgroup. This broad and considered approach will enable us to arrive at legislative proposals that are clearly aimed at producing effective results and putting plans in place to provide supports for communities. Issues relating to education and harm reduction will also form an important part of the subgroup's deliberations. It will carry out its work over a period of three months and will report as soon as possible thereafter on the proposed steps to be taken. I welcome the input of Deputy Jim O'Callaghan or any other Deputy into the work of the forum.
I turn now to the provisions of the Bill. The proposed removal of judicial discretion to impose a fine not exceeding €5,000 on summary conviction for possession of a knife or related articles may be problematic in certain technical aspects but that is something on which we can work with the Deputy prior to Committee Stage. Of course, in instances of assault where an offensive weapon is used, other charges may be brought that are more serious in nature and attract a higher sentence.
For example, where a knife is used, charges may be brought for assault causing serious bodily harm, attempted murder or murder.
Notwithstanding these initial points, I support the absolute principle behind the Bill, namely, that the penalties for offences involving knife crime or similar related articles should be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the significant trauma inflicted on victims of crime. I acknowledge the number of fatalities and serious injuries arising from knife-related incidents and the Government sympathises with those families. I know several Deputies have voiced concerns with regard to such incidents. The question of how best to achieve a proportionate response is one I am happy to discuss both now and in the future with all Deputies. This is, of course, subject to the usual scrutiny of the Bill. The Joint Committee on Justice will assess and discuss the Bill in more detail. Of course, any Bill involving the possibility of a money message usually has to be considered by Cabinet.
Finally, the message needs to go out that it is never appropriate to carry a knife, even for defensive purposes. When a knife is produced, it can cause serious risk of tragic outcomes, very often for the person who pulls the knife. We have to ensure that message goes out clearly. I thank Deputies O'Callaghan and Devlin for their contributions, as well as Deputy Martin Kenny who is about to contribute to the debate.
I thank Deputy O'Callaghan, the proposer of the Bill. It is an important debate to have in the House. Much of this came from several incidents in the early part of the year. A woman from Mongolia who worked as a cleaner was stabbed not far from where the House is sitting. Such tragedies that are suffered by families really bring into sharp focus the need to do something on these issues. Deputy O'Callaghan referred to Cameron Blair and the situation in that regard. I noticed that the person recently sentenced in connection with that case was carrying a kitchen knife above his head at the time. Although the knives that are the primary focus of this legislation are offensive weapon-type knives in particular, the reality is that knives are everywhere in communities and societies. In that context, offensive weapons are lying around in the kitchens of most households. The point in respect of domestic violence is well made. Knives are a weapon that have been used, or threatened to be used, on many occasions in that context. We need to be cognisant of that as well.
On the Bill itself, I agree and Deputy O'Callaghan has acknowledged that this will not be the solution to the entire problem. It may be part of the solution and it is certainly good to have a debate on the issue. The current provision is for a sentence of up to five years. My understanding is that these cases rarely, if ever, go to the Circuit Court. The vast majority of the cases are dealt with in the District Court, where the person is charged with possession of a knife only and there are no mitigating circumstances or additional charges and the sentence can be quite light. However, there are cases in which knives or other offensive weapons, such as tools that are normally used for cutting hedges, are being carried around as offensive weapons. We need strong legislation to deal with such behaviour as there is a serious threat of serious injury in that context.
The Minister of State referred to the fact that there are ebbs and flows in the incidence of knife crime. I looked up the figures for 2006-11. There was an average of approximately 250 cases of knife attacks involving hospitalisation per annum in that five-year period. In the following five-year period, the yearly average decreased to approximately 180 such cases. The number of incidents goes up and down. There were a couple of months recently when there were many very serious incidents and murders in this city and that brought sharp focus onto the issue.
The reality is that we have to consider best practice elsewhere. Reference was made to Scotland in that regard but there are examples in other countries. In 1995 a model was introduced in Boston and, within five years, the number of serious knife crime attacks reduced by more than 60%. All of those models point to the use of other measures which really relate to education, training, offering opportunity to people, ensuring there are supports for communities, anti-poverty measures, youth work, drug addiction services and addiction services in general. One of the key things we should be considering is increasing funding for all of those services. It is a broader issue than the focus of the Bill, which is on knife crime. It goes to a range of criminal activity into which young people in particular can fall, leading to a very chaotic and turbulent lifestyle which usually ends in tragedy.
One of the key initiatives in many of the attempts to tackle this issue in other jurisdictions was to ensure that people who were convicted and ended up in prison as a result of knife crime were given adequate training and an adequate sense of hope. When they were released, protection and services were put in place for them and it was ensured that they had a place to live and the opportunity for training and work. Those people then became advocates and role models who went to speak to young people in danger of going down the same tragic path. That was found to be one of the best ways to address the issue. The importance of that peer group work stems from the fact it was not a person with a degree from some university who was telling the young people how to live, change or improve their lives but, rather, people from their community who had gone through the same type of chaotic lifestyle and, perhaps, early childhood they had experienced. There may be work such as that to be done here. It is certainly a common example of the approach taken in many of the jurisdictions where they had a lot of success tackling this problem. There have also been amnesties during which knives were handed in and so on, but that was only done when all of the other things were in place.
Tougher sentences alone will not resolve this issue. I do not think the individuals who are carrying a knife for whatever reason or are engaged in some kind of street battle will think for a moment about whether it is a five-year sentence or a ten-year sentence they will get. The reality is that they are in a different place. It is not about the sentence at that stage; it is about other things that are dominating their lives and it is dealing with those other things first that will resolve the issue.
I refer to the current problems and the possible ways of resolving them. I commend the Minister of State on the work to which he referred in the context of moving into that space and the work that was done on the issue of scramblers. A similar approach could be taken in respect of knife crime. We should be trying to extend local community safety partnerships, which are currently at pilot stage, to all areas as quickly as possible and particularly to areas where there are issues in respect of knife crime. It is usually the case that areas that have knife crime issues suffer from under-funding and have drug addiction issues and a range of other criminal and social issues. It all crosses over and there needs to be co-ordinated work between all the various agencies. Although criminal justice has a part to play, it is the failure and under-funding of all other agencies that leads to the criminal justice system being required.
I refer to the issue of mental health services in that regard. Many of those in prison are there as a result of mental health issues they may have developed due to the chaotic lifestyle they were leading or psychotic episodes while on drugs or recovering from drugs. If we had proper drug addiction services and youth services in particular in place, there would not be as much knife crime, addiction or mugging and all of the things that go with that.
Deputy O'Callaghan is to be commended on bringing forward the Bill. I think he acknowledges that it is not the end of the road and will not solve any problem initially, but it certainly puts a stronger deterrent in place. However, there is so much more work to do on the other side of the issue. I look forward to a full and comprehensive debate on Committee Stage of the Bill, when we can tease out and examine all of that and consider how we can come up with a solution. It is essential that a project similar to those that have worked in other jurisdictions is put in place. We need to look to best practice internationally, apply it and put the required funding in place because what cost can be put on one individual losing his or her life or undergoing a tragic and life-changing incident as a result of knife crime? A cost cannot be put on that.
If we simply narrow it down to financial terms, where a person ends up in prison and is in Mountjoy, it involves a substantial cost to the State to keep them there for the length of the sentence. If those costs were put into services at the early stages to ensure that did not happen, it would be money well-spent. The old saying, "a stitch in time saves nine", is a model we need to consider when we look at the whole system of how we deal with the issue of juvenile crime in particular and how we can deal with it and resolve it.
The Bill is a start, and I commend Deputy O'Callaghan on bringing it forward. I commend the Minister of State on the work he is doing on the issue. However, I feel that we need to look at the issue in a broader context. I hope we can do that in the coming days.
I take Deputy Kenny's comments on board. The broader piece is very important. In any instance where there is violent crime, education is critical, whatever the causes of the crime. Tackling socioeconomic problems and taking a wrap-around approach is also important. That is what we are doing with the antisocial behaviour forum. We are trying to find a way to look at the different causes of the issues around knife crime. It is not simply about legislation. Legislation is very important but we also need to look at the broader aspects around it.
I thank the Minister of State and my colleagues, Deputies Devlin and Kenny, for their contributions. It has been most beneficial that we have had this debate. As all speakers have recognised, changing this law is not really going to resolve the problem. Legislation itself is a very blunt instrument. Therefore, when we introduce legislation into this House, sometimes it can generate a debate and a discussion about an important issue. Obviously, when it comes to legislation, it is very difficult to implement into that legislation the type of broader issues we have been discussing in the debate, such as education, training and trying to ensure we can attack the inequality that is behind so much criminal activity that takes place in our society.
I thank the Minister of State for providing some very important information and data in his speech. It is very important when we are having a discussion, whether on specifically amending law or policy issues, that we do so from a position of information and empirical evidence. It was interesting to note the Minister of State has acknowledged that, between 2010 and 2016, there was an increase in the number of knives seized each year in that period. That was alluded to by my colleague, Deputy Devlin. However, it is also important to note there was a reduction in the number of incidents where knives were involved, from 1,500 in 2019 to 1,300 in 2020. I do not have the up-to-date information in respect of the incidents of knife crime; the Minister of State does. It is very beneficial he is putting that information before the House today. It is also beneficial he has given us information in respect of the slight increase between 2018 and 2019 in hospital discharges following an assault by knife.
I am not suggesting, nor do I think anyone in the House is suggesting, that young people should be targeted with increased penalties and sentences if they are apprehended carrying a knife for the first time. Great discretion is given to our judiciary when it comes to imposing sentences on people who have been convicted of offences. I would not like to see a situation develop where boys, children or young men who are apprehended with knives immediately face prosecution or, indeed, the sanction of a criminal sentence. That is why I agree with the Minister of State that the youth justice strategy is so important in trying to divert young people away from a pathway of crime. We must recognise that in certain communities, young people are targeted and presented with opportunities, as it were, to engage in crime. We must ensure that no longer persists in those communities. We need to recognise that certain communities require further attention from the State to ensure young children - boys and girls - and young men and women who are facing difficult struggles and inequalities in their lives are not led down the pathway of crime that so many of them could go down unless they were deterred from it.
I welcome the Minister of State's point about the model that operated in Scotland. That seems to be working most effectively. I was also interested to hear what Deputy Kenny had to say in respect of the experience in Boston. These models show that if you implement changes in policy and take a holistic approach to a problem such as this, it can result in the reduction of dangerous incidents of knife crime. That is why it is important we try to put together, as the Minister of State is trying to do, a policy in respect of it.
I am fully aware the legislation itself, if it is enacted, is not going to be a major part of the solution. However, as I have said, the purpose of legislation, particularly in its early phases as it passes through the House, is to try to generate a debate on policy issues that we must seek to attain. That is why I welcome the response of the Minister of State and, indeed, Deputies Kenny and Devlin in respect of the proposal. When the Bill goes beyond Second Stage, we will have a further opportunity to look at a broader approach and to try to ensure we can put in place policies that will have an impact in reducing the incidence of knife crime and will also have an impact in reducing the number of people who get involved in carrying knives and, as a result, lead themselves down a path towards trouble.
I am conscious I may be the last Deputy to speak in the convention centre. I hope I am. It is to be hoped we will never be back here as Deputies discussing legislation. I am aware the Seanad also sat here. I wish to thank the Ceann Comhairle and Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the work they have done. I thank all the staff who have been here. We have been here since last May or June. It has been a difficult time for Members of the Oireachtas. Sometimes, politicians are not given any sympathy by the public. Indeed, we are not looking for sympathy. However, I am very conscious that colleagues who were elected for the first time in 2020 have not had the opportunity yet to settle into life in Leinster House, which is a lot easier to work with than having to come down to the convention centre.
I thank Leas-Cheann Comhairle and all the staff for all the great work that has been done in facilitating us to come down here. I hope we will not be back again, notwithstanding the fact we all did enjoy our time in the centre.
Before we finish, earlier today I noted that this is our final day of the session of this Dáil. It is also, as Deputy O'Callaghan has just pointed out, likely to be our final sitting here in the convention centre as it is expected we will make a full return to Leinster House in September. As many Deputies have said, there has been a significant disruption to the lives of Deputies and the staff in particular as well. It is important at this point to record our gratitude to the board and the staff of the convention centre for accommodating sittings of both Houses in this venue. I also acknowledge the very high standard of support afforded to us all by those who work here. We have given out and given out but I think we will actually miss it a little. Certainly, the staff have been very helpful and co-operative. Go raibh míle maith agaibh as ucht bhur dtacaíochta agus slán abhaile.