Tuesday, 8 April 2003
Garda Síochána (Police Co-Operation) Bill 2003: Second Stage.
Willie O'Dea (Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
I thank all Senators who have contributed to the debate on this very important legislation and thank them in particular for the welcome they have afforded the Bill and for their very constructive comments.
I recognise the special position of Senator Maurice Hayes and express my appreciation of his work as a member of the Patten commission. With no disrespect to other speakers, I listened very carefully to what he had to say. I note his point about regulations that will have to be speedily introduced, and I will certainly convey that to the Minister. I also note his important point that there must be an incentive to take up the new opportunities provided for in the Bill. There must be some incentive provided, or, at least, there must be no disincentive. The point was well made, and it is a matter I will certainly discuss with the Minister.
I welcome the broadly positive response to the Bill from other Senators and will briefly address some of the points they have made. We will have more opportunity to do that tomorrow on Committee Stage. As the Minister for Defence, Deputy Michael Smith, said in introducing the Bill to the House, this legislation is a firm indication of the very real progress made in relation to North-South co-operation on policing matters and is an important milestone in the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and the Patten report. There has always been a comprehensive level of co-operation between the Garda Síochána and the PSNI, as it is now, and this co-operation has been enhanced in recent years. Closer communication and co-operation between our police services can only improve the effectiveness of cross-Border policing and the fight against terrorism, drug smuggling and other organised crime.
This Bill represents one of a range of measures which will bring benefits to both jurisdictions in the form of improved effectiveness in crime prevention and detection, to the benefit of all the people on this island. The on-going development of co-operation between the police services on this island will be further cemented by this Bill, which provides that members of the PSNI may be appointed permanently to the Garda Síochána above the rank of inspector, and vice versa. Members of the Garda Síochána may be seconded to the PSNI, and vice versa, with full police powers for a period of up to three years.