124. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to deal with gun crime; her views on the first gun murder of 2015; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7632/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I do of course share the Deputy's concern about gun and other violent crime, and deplore the brutal shooting he refers to. He will appreciate, however, that it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on any specific crimes which are currently under Garda investigation.
It is unfortunately the case that gun crime has for some time been an inherent part of organised criminal activity in Ireland, as it is in other similar jurisdictions. I am in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner in relation to the challenges presented by this type of crime and the Commissioner has outlined the substantial efforts being made by An Garda Síochána to identify and target those involved. Such crimes demand a robust response, and this is precisely what is happening. Gardaí tackle this type of crime through a range of targeted and intelligence based operations, often disrupting and preventing incidents, as well as detecting and prosecuting those involved.
A range of Garda operations is in place to target and confront armed and organised criminals. In addition to these enforcement measures, An Garda Síochána also engage extensively with communities in a range of fora to address local concerns relating to crime and community safety, including the impact that organised crime can have at a community level.
Heavy penalties are provided for weapons offences in our criminal law and mandatory minimum penalties have been introduced for certain firearms offences. The considerable powers already available to Gardaí have been supplemented further by the DNA Database legislation enacted last year, which provides for the establishment of a Database which will have the capacity to link suspects to unsolved crimes using forensic evidence, and will greatly assist Gardaí in investigating a whole range serious offences.
I should also advise the Deputy that, in view of public safety concerns raised by the Garda Commissioner, a joint Review of operational, legislative and administrative issues governing firearms licensing was conducted by my Department and An Garda Síochána. The report of this working group review was published in November 2014 and submissions on the report were sought from stakeholders and the public by 31 January 2015. The submissions received are currently being examined and incorporated into a report for my attention. Question No. 125 answered with Question No. 121.