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Other Questions. - Traffic Corps.

Tuesday, 26 November 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 1

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 56. Mr. P. Breen Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen  asked the Minister for Transport Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan  when he intends to establish the new traffic corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23498/02]

 59. Ms Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall  asked the Minister for Transport Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan  when the dedicated traffic corps, promised in the programme for Government, will be established and operational; if funds have been allocated for this purpose in his Department's Estimates for 2003; the progress of the planned consultation process; if the establishment of the corps will require legislation; if the corps will have the power of arrest; the discussions there have been with the Garda Commissioner on the role of the corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23565/02]

 88. Ms Enright Information on Olwyn Enright Zoom on Olwyn Enright  asked the Minister for Transport Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan  if he will establish the traffic corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23499/02]

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan I propose to take Questions Nos. 56, 59 and 88 together.

Proposals for the implementation of the commitment set out in the programme for Government to establish a dedicated traffic corps is being developed by my Department, in consultation with the Garda Síochána. Once this preparatory work is completed, I will engage in detailed discussions with my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who has overall responsibility for the Garda Síochána, to determine how this commitment can best be progressed. The powers and functions of the proposed traffic corps, its financing, its relationship with the Garda Síochána, the extent of legislative change required to establish it and arrangements for supervising it, are matters to be decided by Government following consideration of proposals which will be submitted on foot of the discussions with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Síochána.

Mr. P. Breen: Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen I know the Minister entered his position with great aspirations last June and road safety was a key priority for him. What impact will the cutbacks in the Estimates have on the establishment of a Garda traffic corps? Who will have the overall responsibility for the traffic corps when it is established? Will it be the Department of Transport or the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform? Will the corps comprise gardaí or civilians?

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan These matters have yet to be decided. I am strongly committed to the introduction of a new traffic corps that will be separately identifiable and visible. Many countries have such a corps and Ireland should have the same.

I will have further discussions with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on how to shape the corps. There are many options, one of which is having routine matters dealt with by civ[31] ilians under Garda management. Another view – one that I do not share – is having a corps separate from the Garda. The programme for Government spoke of a six month consultation period but we are running a number of months late. We intend to progress it as rapidly as possible from here on. I do not have a specific date on which it will commence but I hope to have it established and operating by the end of next year.

Ms Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall Will the establishment of a special traffic corps require legislation? Does the Minister envisage members of this corps having powers of arrest? Is it not the case that no money has been provided for such a corps in the Department's Estimate? If that is not the case, perhaps the Minister will indicate the subhead under which provision is made.

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan It will almost certainly require legislation if we embark on the scale I envisage. Operationally, a traffic corps within the Garda Síochána can be established by the Commissioner. Garda members of the corps would obviously have powers of arrest. Civilians, subject to further discussions, would not have the same powers of arrest as a garda. They may have powers of referral the details of which could be worked out in legislation.

There is no specific sum provided for this in the 2003 Estimates. Necessary funding will be made available, as it is required, to support the development of the corps.

Ms Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall Will the Minister be more specific? Given the cutbacks across all Departments, on what basis is he giving the assurance that money will be found for this corps? Money will be required but there is no indication it has been provided. Despite the promises in the programme for Government, is the Minister talking about a long-term project? Is it not the case that there is not a hope in hell of a traffic corps being established within the next 12 months?

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan It is my aim to have something organised by the end of next year. Funds are available in the general Estimate to carry out the consultation and administration processes leading to the establishment of the corps. It is not yet clear what additional funding will be required – that will have to be worked out in discussions. It is not clear whether serving gardaí will be used or if additional recruitment is required but substantial restructuring may achieve a lot. I am fully committed to this project and will find the funds for it.

Ms Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall The Minister's thinking on this seems to be at a very early stage. I am shocked to hear him say funding will not be required and gardaí may be redeployed from their current duties to specific traffic duties. This is not what [32] the traffic corps is supposed to be about. There is agreement on all sides of the House that gardaí need to give more attention to crime, especially public order crime. Does the Minister accept there is a need for much greater enforcement of traffic regulations and that we should deploy substantial additional personnel to ensure such enforcement? There is an element of smoke and mirrors in this. The Minister says we want a new service but it may not cost any money and is just about administrative changes. Is this to be a proper new traffic corps or will it simply be a wing of the Garda Síochána? If it is the latter, there will be no net increase in personnel and no improvement in the service.

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan These issues have not yet been worked out. I have only commenced discussions with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It is a matter for him, through the commissioner, to deploy the Garda. I am not saying the new corps can be created without considerable extra expense, I believe it will cost a substantial amount of money.

Ms Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall Does the Minister admit money is not available this year?

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan We have to work out how it will be structured and led and its terms of reference. The costs will be estimated as this is worked out. I will seek funds once the costs have been estimated.

Ms Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall Whatever about the costs, has any money been allocated this year?

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan The Deputy should not be too pessimistic.

Ms Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall Where is the money?

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan It is not in the 2003 Estimates. Who is to say it will not be in the 2004—

Ms Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall Therefore we will not have a traffic corps next year.

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan A traffic corps could be established without spending enormous funds in 2003, but it might not be fully operational.

Ms Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall How does the Minister propose to employ people without money to pay them?

Mr. Brennan: Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan The people will be employed gradually; one does not hire them all on first day.

Mr. Connaughton: Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton It is another empty promise.


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