The urgent need for the Minister for Justice to provide additional resources to an Garda Síochána and to review legislation on the sale of alcohol following very large gatherings at seaside resorts, including Portmarnock and Howth, during the recent spell of good weather which resulted in some serious incidents of anti-social behaviour and which put great pressure on the members of An Garda Síochána in protecting residents and visitors to the seaside.
Thomas P. Broughan Ceann Comhairle,
On behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality & Defence, who is attending an engagement in Brussels in his capacity as the Minister for Defence, I wish to thank the Deputy for raising this matter which is of significant public importance.
I should say first of all that extended periods of good weather are no excuse for the type of anti-social behaviour referred to by Deputy.
The Minister has been informed by the Garda Commissioner that sufficient Garda resources were available and deployed to deal with all the incidents which arose.
The House will be aware that the Commissioner is responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel and transport, throughout the organisation and the Minister has no direct function in the matter. This allocation of resources is constantly monitored by the Commissioner and his senior management in the context of demographics, crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a District, Divisional and Regional level to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources.
A Regional Operation Plan (Operation Irene) has commenced in the Dublin Metropolitan Region which incorporates a range of policing actions to be implemented at identified "hot spots", which, with the advent of milder weather, longer evenings and school holidays, may experience an upsurge in anti-social behaviour associated with alcohol consumption e.g. public parks, laneways and other open spaces. The Operation commenced on 1 June 2013 and will continue until 31 August 2013.
Specifically in relation to the incidents at Howth and Portmarnock, Gardai established checkpoints to identify persons bringing alcohol into the areas in question, a number of arrests were made and significant quantities of alcohol were seized. There was close cooperation with local businesses and in one instance the store owner agreed to remove alcohol from sale, for which they are to be commended.
There is also a range of strong legislative provisions available to an An Garda Síochána to combat anti-social behaviour.
The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 provides Gardaí with powers to deal with anti-social conduct attributable to excessive drinking, including exclusion orders in respect of premises and closure orders for licensed premises and catering outlets following anti-social behaviour related offences.
The Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 provides for the seizure of alcohol in the possession of a person under the age of 18 which Gardaí suspect is for consumption in a public place. Gardaí may also seize alcohol to forestall public disorder or damage to property. Fixed charge notices may be issued for the offences of intoxication in a public place and/or disorderly conduct in a public place. This option has the benefit of a more efficient use of Garda and Court resources, while also allowing an offender who complies with the notice to avoid a possible criminal record.
While the Minster is satisfied that sufficient legislative powers are in place to deal with these issues, he will keep the matter under close review in consultation with the Commissioner.
Garda Management is satisfied that a full and comprehensive policing service is being delivered to the communities in the area concerned and that current structures in place meet the requirements of the delivery of an effective and efficient policing service.
The Minister is determined that the resources of An Garda Síochána will be used in the best, most effective and efficient way possible. He remains confident that the primary Garda objective of combating crime will continue to be achieved, and that, despite the pressure on the public finances, it will be possible for the Force to operate to the optimum benefit of our communities in a manner that will facilitate the prevention and detection of offences.
20 June, 2013