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 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2020: Message from Select Committee
 Header Item Ábhair Shaincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Scrambler Motorbikes and Quad Bikes: Motion [Private Members]

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1000 No. 7

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Estimates for Public Services 2020: Message from Select Committee

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Select Committee on Justice has completed its consideration of the following Further Revised Estimates for Public Services for the service of the year ending 31 December 2020: Votes Nos. 20, 21, 22 and 24.

Ábhair Shaincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Matters

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 37 and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Steven Matthews - to discuss an Environmental Protection Agency report on water quality which highlights raw sewage outflows in 35 locations across Ireland; (2) Deputies Cathal Crowe and Willie O'Dea - to discuss the supports the Government will provide to Shannon Heritage to keep key tourist sites in the mid-west open from January 2021; (3) Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Patrick Costello, Joan Collins and Bríd Smith - to discuss the provision of autism spectrum disorder education in Dublin 12 and the future of Scoil Colm in Crumlin; (4) Deputy Louise O'Reilly - to discuss the need to address child and adolescent mental health services waiting lists in north county Dublin; (5) Deputy Brendan Griffin - to discuss the decision to grant permission for the iconic south Kerry greenway and the need for construction funding; (6) Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív - to discuss action to avoid a crisis in the timber milling industry; (7) Deputy Seán Canney - to discuss the issue of the undocumented Irish in America in light of the election of the President-elect of the USA and his knowledge of Irish-American relations; (8) Deputy Marian Harkin - to discuss the relocation of the sittings of Sligo High Court; (9) Deputies Sean Sherlock, Pádraig O'Sullivan and Thomas Gould - to discuss the need for out-of-hours GP services in Cork; (10) Deputy Michael McNamara - to discuss extending the defective concrete block scheme to County Clare; (11) Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin - to discuss the need to suspend the requirement on special needs assistants to complete 72 hours of non-contact work; (12) Deputies Eoin Ó Broin and Denise Mitchell - to discuss the decision of Dublin City Council not to transfer lands at Oscar Traynor Road to a private developer; (13) Deputy Darren O'Rourke - to discuss the urgent need to improve the customer service provided by telecommunications and utility companies; (14) Deputies Christopher O'Sullivan and James O'Connor - to review the progress of school development in the east Cork region in light of ongoing school capacity issues; (15) Deputy Maurice Quinlivan - to discuss delays in the construction of the Coonagh-Knockalisheen Road; (16) Deputy Martin Browne - to discuss the need for speedy assessments for treatment at the National Rehabilitation Clinic in Dún Laoghaire; (17) Deputy Holly Cairns - to discuss the response to repeated flooding in Bantry, County Cork; (18) Deputy Emer Higgins - to discuss building a more effective Covid-19 advertising strategy; (19) Deputy Jim O'Callaghan - to discuss permitting teenagers and young people to play competitive sporting fixtures if level 3 restrictions are imposed; and (20) Deputy Martin Kenny - to discuss the process of appointing Supreme Court judges.

Scrambler Motorbikes and Quad Bikes: Motion [Private Members]

Deputy Paul Donnelly: Information on Paul Donnelly Zoom on Paul Donnelly I move:

That Dáil Éireann:
acknowledges that:
— the unlawful use of quad-bikes and scrambler motorcycles has resulted in serious injury and death;

— Gardaí do not have the required training, resources or legislative powers to effectively address the unlawful and dangerous use of quad-bikes and scrambler motorcycles;

— the current practice is that Gardaí do not follow or apprehend those using or driving quad-bikes or scrambler motorcycles in an unlawful or dangerous manner;

— the scourge of scrambler motorcycles and off-road motorbikes is at an all-time high in urban centres across the State, with some cases where parents are afraid to allow young children out to play in housing estates and public parks;

— elderly people who use local parks for recreation are afraid to go for their daily walk and that local sports clubs have been forced to abandon their activities where their pitches have been destroyed by the illegal use of scrambler motorcycles and quadbikes;

— there are reports from communities that quad-bikes and scrambler motorcycles are being used for the delivery and distribution of drugs, in order to avoid apprehension by the Gardaí;

— the current legislation is not adequate to effectively address this issue and needs to be reformed, amended and robustly enforced; and

— public parks and community recreational facilities have been damaged as a result of the unlawful use of quad-bikes and scrambler motorcycles, at significant cost to local authorities; and
calls on the Government to:
— bring forward, as a matter of urgency, amending legislation to give the Gardaí powers to seize and detain quad-bikes and scrambler motorcycles when being used unlawfully or in a dangerous or reckless manner;

— extend the relevant legal definition of public place to include public parks, green spaces in estates, public recreational areas and sporting grounds under the ownership of local authorities or clubs;

— ensure that Gardaí are provided with the necessary resources and training to follow and apprehend those using quad-bikes and scrambler motorcycles unlawfully;

— extend the National Vehicle and Driver File database, to provide for the compulsory registration of all quad-bikes and scrambler motorcycles;

— conduct a review of practices in other jurisdictions which result in the police performing a controlled stop on those illegally riding motorcycles and scrambler motorcycles;

— introduce, as a standard operational practice, the successful pilot scheme rolled out in Finglas in 2019, which resulted in the seizure of over 40 motorcycles and scrambler motorcycles which were being used illegally on the roads;

— put in place a campaign to highlight the dangers of scrambler motorcycles and quadbikes, when driven recklessly or in public places;

— run an effective public awareness campaign in the run-up to Christmas to discourage the purchase of such vehicles for children and young people; and

— encourage local authorities to explore the feasibility of providing suitable spaces for the use of registered quad-bikes and scrambler motorcycles in a safe, controlled and responsible manner.

I thank my colleagues, Deputies Ellis and Munster, who did a lot of the heavy lifting on this issue in the last Dáil. This evening Sinn Féin is proposing a motion to deal with the unlawful and dangerous use of quads and scramblers which has resulted in serious injuries and deaths in our communities. Six people have died and 60 have been injured, many in life-changing ways, over the past five years. The scourge of scramblers and off-road motorbikes is at an all-time high across urban centres in this State.

  The current practice whereby gardaí do not follow or apprehend those using or driving quads or scramblers in an unlawful and dangerous manner must change. Gardaí do not have the required training, resources or legislative power to address effectively the unlawful use of quads and scramblers. I know of no other area of the law that gardaí will openly admit they cannot tackle or are prohibited by their management from tackling. I understand that it is a difficult decision and safety must be paramount. I suggest that we look to other countries, including our neighbours in England, who adopted a very robust policing strategy when this problem threatened to spiral out of control in many areas. They have had a significant amount of success.

  We intend to bring forward legislation to give gardaí the power to seize and retain quad bikes and scramblers when they are used unlawfully or in a dangerous and reckless manner. We will seek to extend the legal definition of a public place to include public parks, green spaces in housing estates, public recreational areas and sporting grounds in the ownership of local authorities and clubs. This issue has plagued local authorities, sports clubs, including GAA and soccer clubs, and any other bodies that have a piece of ground in urban areas. They have all had their property damaged by people using scramblers and quad bikes in an illegal way.

  The hard work of our parks and operations departments is wrecked every day. In my own area from Ongar, Hartstown and Tyrrelstown, all the way down the Navan Road and along the Royal Canal, people are absolutely plagued by quads and scramblers. It is extremely dangerous for older people who want to go for a walk, for parents who want to let their children out to play, and for sports teams who want to play their games. The latter are regularly called off because of the damage being done. We are spending millions of euro throughout this State on building walls, erecting railings and manufacturing kissing gates that will not prevent people with disabilities from entering our public parks. Why? It is primarily because of quads and scramblers. This is an awful waste of money, especially in view of the need for more playgrounds and skate parks for children and our desire to enhance our parks.

  Sinn Féin proposes to extend the national vehicle database to provide for the compulsory registration of all quad bikes and scramblers. This will enable gardaí to identify swiftly those people who are acting in an irresponsible and dangerous manner. An important element of this motion is our call for an effective public awareness campaign in the run-up to Christmas to discourage the purchase of these vehicles for children and young people. The ultimate responsibility lies with the parents who buy these quads and scramblers. They are putting their own children as well as other children and adults at risk.

  We also want to encourage local authorities to work with local motor sport enthusiasts. It is a massive sport throughout the State, but unfortunately it is very difficult to get land and insurance to set up a properly constituted motocross club. This is not all about the stick; it should also be about the carrot. We must determine what we can do for those who have a love of the sport and who want to do it in a safe way. With the proper training, some enthusiasts could go on to become professionals.

  I urge the Government to support this motion. Let us work together on this because this issue has been raised time and again in this House. We must work together to try to get these changes across the line.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis In 2017 Sinn Féin moved its first Bill on quads and scramblers to tackle the scourge of the illegal use of these vehicles which has plagued our communities for years. In 2018 our Bill was debated in the Dáil and was voted down by the Government and Fianna Fáil. Since then, a number of deaths and many injuries have been caused by these vehicles. I have repeatedly raised this issue in the Dáil and on safety forums and policing committees over many years.

A working group was set up by the then Department of Justice and Equality to consider a cross-agency approach to this issue but it has scarcely met over the years. So far, the working group has not put forward any realistic solutions, particularly with regard to the use of such vehicles in parks and on green areas in housing estates. The Government is relying on the use of by-laws in parks to stop such activity, but by-laws are not the solution to this problem. Proper legislation is required to prohibit this sort of activity in these public spaces. We have looked closely at the concerns raised by the Government and others with regard to tackling this issue. We have taken them into consideration and put forward solutions. The legislation we will publish later this week will adequately address these concerns. However, there is nothing to stop the Government from implementing some practical solutions now that do not require legislation.

It is important that gardaí are able to enforce existing road traffic legislation. One of the most effective initiatives in my constituency of Dublin North-West was a pilot scheme that operated in Finglas. A garda who had received specialised motorcycle training was able within a two-month period to pursue and seize 40 motorcycles and scramblers being used illegally. Unfortunately, this highly successful initiative has now ceased, but such a scheme should become standard across all Garda divisions. Gardaí should be properly trained and equipped with specialised motorcycles to pursue and seize scramblers when being used illegally.

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