FG electronic tagging proposals would have put Marlo’s 23 associates under 24 hour monitoringJustice Minister Michael McDowell has made a complete U-turn on Garda resourcing today by suddenly publishing an uncosted package of crime proposals (Tuesday), only days after he insisted that resourcing was not an issue, according to Fine Gael Justice Spokesman Jim O’Keeffe TD.
‘The problem of Garda resources is not a new one, but the Tánaiste is only now waking up to the scale of the problem. Fine Gael has been demanding increases in Garda equipment and manpower for years. Only last Sunday the Minister announced that Garda resourcing was not an issue, but the Minister has now undergone a miraculous Pauline conversion. Much of this proposed new spending is not contained in the Department of Justice’s Estimates for 2007, most notably the increase in the Garda Reserve and ‘unlimited’ investment in the Witness Protection Scheme. However, he has failed to put the Witness Protection Scheme on a statutory basis and it will continue its steady decline.
‘The most newsworthy element of the Minister’s ‘new’ proposals is that they closely mirror Fine Gael and Labour’s joint policing policy launched this week. The Minister has adopted Fine Gael’s proposals to further increase policing numbers, but has failed to make provision for future expansion in line with demographic changes. He has also followed Fine Gael’s lead on the need for more civilianisation. Last April I identified that 225 Garda positions in human resources, IT and the Garda Press Office could be civilianised overnight. Why did Michael McDowell wait so long before taking action? And why has he so consistently rubbished this idea, only to finally accept it?
‘The Minister is doing nothing to strengthen the bail laws, is making no provision for the Special Criminal Court to try lethal criminals, and has no plans to beef up the Criminal Assets Bureau. The Minister has rowed back on his criticism of the judiciary and will not accept Fine Gael’s common sense proposal to electronically tag persons on bail, which would have provided 24 hour surveillance of lethal criminals, including the 23 associates of the murdered ganglord Martin ‘Marlo’ Hyland.
‘Fine Gael will publish a schedule of offences that the DPP must consider for prosecution in the Special Criminal Court, increase the powers and the spread of the CAB, allow the DPP to appeal bail more readily, bring in new legislation for a statutory witness protection programme, and take a firm stand on organised and gangland crime the way we did in the aftermath of the murder of Veronica Guerin when last we were in Government.
‘The Fianna Fáil/PD Government has lost the plot on crime, changing its policies on a weekly basis, lacking any new initiatives, and refusing to implement sensible and effective opposition proposals. In the absence of any conviction for gangland crime since John Gilligan, Michael McDowell has yet to claim any significant victory against crime as Minister for Justice. Perhaps he should go back to the Law Library where his record is not so shameful.’