Thursday, 17 November 2005
Matter raised under Standing Order 30.
I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to raise this matter of concern. It is only a matter of time before innocent bystanders are killed or seriously injured as part of the ongoing gangland warfare in Dublin. Law-abiding citizens are genuinely frightened that their communities will be targeted next, as gunmen roam the streets. Eighteen people have lost their lives already this year as a new, younger and more vicious criminal culture takes root. The lethal combination of drugs and guns has resulted in the creation of a small and ruthless subculture in which certain individuals believe they have the right to determine who lives and who dies. It is not that such people think they are above the law, but that they do not recognise the law at all.
I propose that the Government should consider the introduction of administrative detention for a limited period to take such individuals off the streets, where they are a danger to themselves and the public. We are told regularly that the Garda knows who such individuals are and from where they operate. The detention of 40 or 50 individuals for a limited period on a charge of gang membership might help to break up the command structure within gangs and to act as a serious deterrent to those who make a living from wielding such control. Crucially, it would help the Garda to build a case against such people, as witnesses could come forward without the constant fear of intimidation and threat.
A decision to detain an individual in this way should be a matter for the Special Criminal Court, upon application by the Garda and after a charge of gang membership has been preferred. This proposal would, in effect, give judicial discretion to the courts to refuse bail on the grounds that an individual is a member of a gang. There must, of course, be some prima facie evidence linking the individual with gangland crime. There are many examples of similar systems throughout Europe. Under Belgian law, suspects can be taken into custody for 24 hours, after which they must appear before a judicial tribunal to confirm their detention. The tribunal must sanction the continued detention of a suspect every month, while the prosecution builds its case.
Gangland crime must be challenged because it is an affront to the State and to the institutions of the State. Earlier this year, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, described an upsurge of gangland crime as "the last sting of a dying wasp". That statement shows how out of touch he is with the crisis we face in Dublin. I ask the Government to consider the measure I have proposed. Some people might regard it as draconian, but I believe it is the right response to the crisis we face in Dublin at present.