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 Header Item Prison Visiting Committees Expenditure (Continued)
 Header Item Gangland Killings

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter] An action plan is now in place implementing all of the inspector's recommendations, with more than 80% of the recommendations having been implemented to date.

  I have yet to publish the visiting committee's annual report for 2011. In light of the inspector's report, I asked if the committee would consider the issues raised by the inspector and whether it would wish to comment on its contents in the context of its report for 2011. I will publish its report when I receive its response.

  As the Deputy is aware, the Government committed in the programme for Government to ending the practice of sending children to St. Patrick's Institution. The practice of sending 16-year-old boys to St. Patrick’s ceased on 1 May 2012. From that date, all newly remanded or sentenced 16 year olds have been detained in the child detention facilities at Oberstown, Lusk, County Dublin. The detention of children at St. Patrick’s Institution will end with the provision of more appropriate accommodation and regimes in the new detention facility at Oberstown by mid-2014. Last week, the Government allocated €20.4 million in capital funding for 2013 to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to enable this project to proceed.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House

In the interim, the Irish Prison Service is devising a specific strategy for the management of young offenders, working with its partners and other agencies to ensure that the regime for young offenders is age-appropriate and that best practice is observed. Central to this strategy is enhanced co-operation with the Irish Youth Justice Service, including the placement of a number of care staff from the child detention school to work alongside prison staff in St Patrick's. It is intended that this will take place in mid-January 2013. In addition, the feasibility of accommodating some categories of the 17-year-old age group in the child detention schools before mid-2014 is being actively examined.

  As part of this strategy, the prison service will also review the overall approach taken to the placement of 18 to 21 year olds, in line with my intention to introduce primary legislation for the purpose of closing St. Patrick's Institution as a detention centre for persons aged 21 and under.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan The positive message from the Minister's reply is that he acknowledges what other reports, including the Whitaker report and the reports of the Ombudsman for Children, prison chaplains and the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, have highlighted since 1985, namely, that there is an appalling breach of the human rights of young people in St. Patrick's. What is the long-term plan to provide for those under the age of 21 there, of whom there are currently approximately 160, including 14 who are young women? International best practice indicates that those under 21 should not be detained in the same prisons as adults. The need for the immediate publication of reports has been highlighted and there should be no delay in their publication. That is my first point - that reports should be published in a timely way. My other question is whether the reports will go directly to the Oireachtas. There is an acknowledgement of wrongdoing on the part of the personnel in St. Patrick's, but there are also questions to be answered by the Department of Justice and Equality and the Irish Prison Service.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter It is my intention to introduce legislation, which is also referenced in the programme for Government, under which the visiting committee reports will be submitted directly to the Inspector of Prisons, and if members of visiting committees have concerns about any institution they visit during a year they will have direct contact with the Inspector of Prisons. Under the new legislation, it will be the inspector who publishes the visiting committee reports and engages in any follow-up that may be necessary.

A review group is currently reviewing prison policy issues. As the Deputy will be aware, the construction of a new wing of the Midlands Prison is being completed and there are plans to build a new prison in Cork. When the new wing of the Midlands Prison is open and the new facility is constructed in Oberstown, I intend to take steps to bring about further reform in respect of the 18 to 21 year olds at St. Patrick's Institution, how they are dealt with and where they will be located. There is an issue as to whether we should be locating all 18 to 21 year olds in one facility. I have concerns about the need for additional facilities for young people who are in prison in order that we do the maximum possible to encourage them to desist from reoffending when released from prison.

We have made enormous strides in the past 18 months in this area. It is very much a work in progress. Issues have been neglected for many years and they cannot all be addressed in 18 to 20 months, but we are making enormous progress. I believe that by the time the Government has completed its term we will have an entirely different prison policy and a different approach to dealing with young people who have to serve sentences.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan I represent Dublin Central and we know about the revolving door syndrome and the incidence of repeat offences. We should be all on the same wavelength in encouraging rehabilitation and ensuring conditions in prison facilitate it rather than hinder it. Will the Minister engage with those civil society organisations who are involved in the prison and speak with former prisoners to get their views on this? The Minister mentioned the establishment of a comprehensive complaints system and I believe he suggested 2015 in that context, but in the meantime, we do not want to lose the generation of young people who are in St. Patrick's.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter New arrangements have already been established with regard to a complaints system. On the question of meeting former prisoners, in the preparation of his report on St. Patrick's Institution, the Inspector of Prisons not only visited the prison at various unexpected times of the day and night, including at weekends, but went to the trouble of meeting former prisoners from St. Patrick's Institution. The important and detailed report he produced was the result of 14 to 16 months of focused work and engagement by him. We should be grateful to him for the important work he has done. We rapidly set up an action plan to ensure that all issues addressed by him and all the recommendations made by him would be fully implemented, and that is the road we are travelling.

Gangland Killings

 54. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the steps being taken to address the increase in gangland crime and murders over the past number of months; if his attention has been drawn to a recent United States Congressional Research Service report entitled Terrorism and Transnational Crime: Foreign Policy Issues for Congress, in which it cited US Department of Homeland Security authorities which found that the production, smuggling and sale of tobacco products, including genuine and counterfeit cigarettes, is a lucrative form of financing for organised crime as well as terrorist groups (details supplied): if he is satisfied that Garda resources are being adequately deployed to tackle this source of income for dissident republicans as part of their efforts to tackle gangland crime; if he has discussed the issue with the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Finance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [55543/12]

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I remain in ongoing contact with the Garda Commissioner about all aspects of serious crime and I can assure the House that the Garda authorities will continue to bear down heavily on the activities of those involved in gangland crime, including criminal terrorists.

  I am aware of the US report to which the Deputy refers, and it confirms our long-standing knowledge of the involvement of terrorist groups in organised crime. It is clear that the paramilitary groups that wish to undermine the peaceful intent of the majority of people on this island have inextricable links to organised crime. Many of their activities, including drug smuggling, tobacco and fuel fraud and extortion, are plain, unvarnished criminality. Whatever veneer of patriotism these gangs of criminal terrorists may wish to employ, the fact is that organised crime is organised crime and they are up to their necks in it.

  The only effective way to combat organised crime is by disrupting and prosecuting those involved in its operations, especially the drugs trade, which is at the heart of much of its profits. As the Deputy will know, extensive Garda operations have been launched against gangs and there have been significant drug seizures in recent months and weeks. These have included a major programme of more than 200 searches which were carried out nationwide under Operation Wireless, resulting in the seizure of a substantial amount of drugs and more than 100 arrests. Overall, the Garda Síochána seized drugs of an estimated value of €65.5 million in 2011, with drug seizures estimated at €90.4 million for the first nine months of this year.

  Equally, the Deputy will be aware that the Garda Síochána has launched a series of sustained operations against the activities of criminal terrorists in so-called dissident republican organisations. As a number of people are facing charges in this regard, the House will appreciate why I cannot be more specific.

  I am also advised by the Revenue Commissioners, which has the lead role in combating tobacco fraud, that in the period from January to October this year a total of 91 million cigarettes and almost 4,000 kg of tobacco were seized. In addition, during that period there were more than 100 convictions for smuggling or selling of illicit tobacco products.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House

  Although we should not underestimate the difficulties the Garda authorities face in trying to prevent these criminal enterprises and in bringing their perpetrators to justice, I can assure the House that the Garda is determined, in co-operation with the PSNI and other relevant agencies, including the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Customs Service, to tackle robustly the activities of these criminal terrorists and the organised crime gangs with which they are inextricably linked.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins When the Garda Commissioner appeared before the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality recently, as the Minister will be aware, he outlined up to 25 criminal organisations operating in the State which are part of an organised crime network and gangland activities. It is mind-boggling to think that up to €860 million is being lost to the Exchequer by way of the illegal tobacco trade, fuel laundering, counterfeit goods, digital piracy and counterfeit medicines, apart from the illegal drugs trade, which is wreaking havoc in many communities throughout the country. People have asked me and others whether the State is beginning to lose the battle against these gangland criminals who are operating in Dublin and right across the country.

Linked to that, the Minister needs to nail his colours to the mast in stating what will be the minimum number of members of An Garda Síochána in terms of the strength of the force.

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