Private Members’ Business – Garda Síochána (Amendment) Bill 2013 [Private Members]: Second Stage
Tuesday, 16 July 2013
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. Members of An Garda Síochána must be independent, uphold the law at all times and must not abuse the powers vested in them. We should trust the gardaí. I do not believe that the Bill will improve the democratic accountability of An Garda Síochána. However, I believe it will remove the direct link between the gardaí and the democratically elected representatives of the people. In establishing the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and the Garda Síochána Inspectorate we have significantly strengthened the accountability of An Garda Síochána.
An Garda Síochána is not just a police force or police service.
It is our security and intelligence service and the Border control authority of this State, which is often overlooked by many. It is imperative that those who carry out these functions remain directly accountable to government and that there is an onus on them to adhere to the policies implemented by the elected Members of the Oireachtas. That is our task as Members of the Legislature. Under the Haddington Road agreement a review of the Garda Síochána will take place within the next three years. This review will encompass all aspects of the operation and administration of the force. It is a necessary and long overdue review, one which it is hoped will bring about change for An Garda Síochána.
The Minister, Deputy Shatter and Deputy Flanagan spoke in their contributions about human rights and heroes. On human rights and heroes, I would like in this part of my speech to single out garda Paul Franey, who founded G-Force and has worked within An Garda Síochána to promote full rights for gay and lesbian members of the force and in the pursuit of human and civic rights for members of the Garda Síochána. It is important to recognise the work he does. Deputy Tuffy spoke about the joint policing committees, JPCs. Community garda John Long in my area does Trojan work, often at the expense of his family time, in creating a bond between local gardaí in Bishopstown and the community. He is a leader within the community, is looked up to and is an inspiration to young and old.
Despite that we are in difficult economic times, the Minister, Deputy Shatter, is committed to the provision of resources to enable gardaí to carry out their duties. He secured an additional €400 million for the Garda plans for 2012, 2013 and 2104. He has also maintained Garda numbers above proposed Fianna Fáil reductions. Only this week, he announced recommencement of recruitment to the Garda Síochána. This means that for the first time since 2009 recruits will enter the Garda college in Templemore. These are positive steps to continue the trend of the commitment of An Garda Síochána to serve the people. Its task is to serve and police. The steps I have mentioned will strengthen the Garda Síochána and provide much needed employment to many young well educated people, including members of the Garda Reserve.
On the joint policing committees, I am a member of the joint policing committees in Cork city, Passage West and Anglesea Street. They are a important fora through which gardaí, communities and businesses can work together to curb and reduce crime. The latest crime statistics from An Garda Síochána in regard to Cork indicate that property crime has decreased by 4%, crime against the person has decreased by 5% and criminal damage and public order offences have decreased by 18%. These are welcome decreases. It is vital we continue to invest in and provide resources for the Garda Síochána.
The decision to recommence recruitment and to invest in the Garda fleet will provide much needed additional resources to allow An Garda Síochána continue its work in helping to reduce crime and work with communities to curb the threat of criminals.