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 Header Item Defence Forces Deployment (Continued)
 Header Item Other Questions
 Header Item Equality Issues

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Tom Fleming: Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming] This is a worrying aspect of what is happening in gangland crime as well. We should take recognition of this and we must take action. This is one method whereby we can do as much as possible to minimise the actions of terror that are occurring. I call on the Minister to seriously reconsider what I am putting forward.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I put it to the Deputy that the members of the Defence Forces have specific training and capabilities and it is important that they use those capabilities in appropriate circumstances. Members of the Defence Forces are not trained in the prevention and detection of crime. The training provided to members of An Garda Síochána is quite different from that provided to members of the Defence Forces, although in some areas they have joint concerns, including the possible impact of international terrorism on the country. The Garda Síochána has a particular role in this regard as do the Defence Forces. It would not be appropriate, as the Deputy has suggested, to deploy soldiers at corporal and sergeant level to act as assistants to the Garda Síochána for a period of two months following three months of training. It would be completely inappropriate. The training members of the Defence Forces get is very specific. It is important that we have a particular strength available within the Defence Forces for deployment either to assist the civil power or to deal with other domestic duties that arise and to engage in international peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions, as they do with great distinction in various parts of the world.

I return to what I said to Deputy Niall Collins. There are 13,450 members in An Garda Síochána currently. On top of this, there are in excess of 1,000 members in the Garda Reserve. Some 2,000 civilians are employed within An Garda Síochána and within the force there is the skill, expertise and resources required to address issues of criminality. I am sorry if I upset Deputy Niall Collins by saying it, but as a result of the closure of Garda stations which the Commissioner has determined to have no operational value we will be freeing more members of the force to engage in community policing and crime detection and prevention. I have every confidence in the capacity of the Garda to provide the service that the community requires.

Deputy Tom Fleming: Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming Certainly, I agree with the views of the Minister regarding our peacekeeping forces, which have been active internationally. They have served the country well as peacekeepers. However, at this point there are approximately 10,000 personnel. I imagine that Border patrolling has been reduced to approximately nil.

The other point is the reality that we are a neutral country. I cannot see that we will be rolled over at any stage in an act of war in the medium to longer term. There is enough in the forces to redeploy some personnel. I am conscious of the rural Garda deployment situation. Defence Forces personnel could have a high-visibility presence in conjunction with the Garda and they could be under the supervision of the Garda. This would give the Minister an opportunity to release some of the Garda force to come to rural areas and to assist there. The force is under extreme pressure at the moment because of the indiscriminate closure of the many of our rural stations. People are living in fear and terror.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I caution the Deputy about talking about fear and terror. Let us get back to the discussion of the closure of Garda stations. Some 94% of the stations that have closed were open for no more than three hours and the vast majority of these were only open in the morning. They made no contribution of significance to crime prevention by their presence. The vast majority of burglaries take place in the late afternoon or evening time. Does the Deputy or any Deputy in the House really imagine that a rural Garda station open for three hours in the morning can make any contribution to crime prevention in these areas? Operation Fiacla is making a contribution to crime prevention and detection in these areas. It was put in place last February by the Garda Commissioner and has resulted in a substantial number of arrests, in the region of 3,500 arrests since the beginning of October. In the region of 1,700 charges have been brought against individuals purely by focusing on and tacking the area of burglary.

I realise the Deputy's question is well meant but the Defence Forces, composed of the Army, the Naval Service and the Air Corps, perform distinct and specific functions entirely different from those of An Garda Síochána. Gardaí have particular training and skills which are important not only for crime detection and prevention but for the large array of laws that they must administer. That level of study could not be undertaken by any well-meaning member of the Defence Forces, even if it were desirable, within a three month period.

The concluding comment I wish to make and which is appropriate on this subject because it is not acknowledged enough is that I am conscious as Minister in both of these Departments of the extraordinary bravery not only of members of the Garda force in confronting subversion and organised crime within the country, but of the Defence Forces, in particular the explosive and ordnance disposal teams. There is no real public understanding yet of the extent to which some of those engaged in organised crime are resorting to the use of such ordnance and of the bravery of members of the specialist unit within the Army, which is regularly called out to dispose of pipe bombs and similar ordnance, the remarkable efficiency with which it does so, the extent to which these instruments are neutralised and the safety the unit provides for the community. It is in the connectivity between the distinct functions of the Garda and the specialist knowledge of the Defence Forces that the Defence Forces are playing a role in protecting the community and it is right that we pay tribute to the bravery of those who undertake these missions.

Other Questions

Equality Issues

 56. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans to reassure those with potential equality claims that their cases will continue to be processed in an effective way by the new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and by the Workplace Relations Commission, into which the Equality Tribunal is to be merged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54483/12]

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I can provide absolute assurance to persons with potential discrimination claims under employment equality legislation and equal status legislation that they will, on the merger of the Equality Tribunal into the new workplace relations service, continue to be able to pursue formal complaints before the new body and that these complaints will be dealt with as effectively as by the Equality Tribunal. In addition, the new Irish human rights and equality commission, to be established on the merger of the Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission, will continue to provide advice and assistance to persons wishing to pursue such complaints, a role currently fulfilled by the authority. The new commission will have enhanced powers and functions and will be able to provide advice and assistance on both equality and human rights issues in an integrated way. These arrangements will make it easier for people to vindicate their rights by making our institutional arrangements clearer, thereby making it easier to navigate one's way around the system.

Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn As the Minister is aware there has been serious concern in recent years at the cutbacks in funding to the Equality Authority. I know from previous answers from the Minister of his determination to ensure that the new human rights and equality commission will be properly resourced and independent in line with the Paris and Belgrade principles and so on. I listened to a powerful lecture yesterday evening by the President, Michael D. Higgins, on the overall subject. Will the Minister provide more detail about how an ordinary person, who may believe he is the victim of discrimination and who may wish to raise a case, will be resourced? Will independent assistance be given to him and will he be protected? What will be the role and function of the Equality Authority in ensuring this continues in the new structure to be established?

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