I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on the Vehicle Registration Data (Automated Searching and Exchange) Bill 2018. This legislation, which was initiated in the Seanad, gives effect to Council decisions 2008/615/JHA and 2008/616/JHA of 23 June 2008 relating to co-operation between European Union states, Iceland and Norway for sharing vehicle registration data to assist in combatting cross-border crime and, in particular, terrorism. The co-operation is very welcome. The decisions are commonly referred to as the Prüm decisions and despite the upcoming general data protection regulation, GDPR, due to come into effect on 25 May next the Data Protection Act 1988 will apply in this case. That exclusion is interesting, given that Deputies are trying to make themselves familiar with the general data protection regulation as it affects us.
Deputy Broughan has recently been receiving figures relating to serious injuries in road traffic collisions and data on roadside Mandatory Intoxicant Testing results. Deputy Broughan has been sent the information through replies to Parliamentary Questions he continues to raise on these important road safety matters. He also recently questioned the Minister for Justice and Equality about the expected 10% increase in the Traffic Corp announced for this year. There was a worry about which baseline figure would be used for this increase as Traffic Corp numbers had dropped to 623 by the end of December 2017 which is almost half what it was at full strength of 1,200.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I wish a speedy recovery to the garda who was injured in the line of duty last week. When such an incident happens it is a reminder of the grave dangers of the job of protecting and serving our communities and that our respect and gratitude must be extended to our Garda public servants, those men and women who put their lives on the line for us.
Just a few weeks after the school holidays began last summer and over following weeks I received shocking reports from delegations of my constituents about outrageous anti-social and criminal behaviour involving joyriding and related mayhem being inflicted on residents night after night and often all throughout the night.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I have raised the issue of serious public disorder and anti-social and criminal behaviour in districts of Dublin Bay North with the Minister for Justice and Equality several times since June. I was responding to great distress of constituents who sent me photographs and video recordings of cars being burnt out in broad daylight. I was told of appalling anti-social and criminal behaviour as up to five and six vehicles were recklessly driven around estates and then set on fire in nightly episodes often lasting until 6 a.m. This outrageous behaviour is incredibly dangerous, as homes were effectively blockaded by abandoned and burning vehicles and the lives of families and local children were put at risk.
Deputy Broughan has recently asked the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, whether he is considering legislation to restructure our policing services. On the 21st of September 2017, Deputy Broughan received a reply to his Parliamentary Question confirming that the Minister will bring forward legislation if recommended by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. However, the Commission is not due to report to the Minister until September 2018.
Deputy Broughan today received a reply to a Parliamentary Question that he raised back in July with the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, on the number of test purchases carried out under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 per county each year since 2014. Figures received today show that there have been 1,103 test purchases nationally since 2014 up to the 16th of July 2017 and that 116 of these were listed as ‘Crime’ and 987 were listed as ‘Non-Crime’. However, on further analysis of the data provided, there are 8 counties in which no test purchases were carried out over the three and a half years (Galway, Kilkenny, Carlow, Laois, Offaly, Roscommon, Longford and Wexford) and a further 6 that have had no test purchases since 2015 (Clare, DMR East, Sligo, Leitrim, Tipperary and Waterford).
Recently Mr Noel Clancy received a bill from An Garda Síochána for almost €2,000 for copies of the Garda abstracts and statements relating to the Road Traffic Collison where his wife, Geraldine, and daughter, Louise, tragically lost their lives. At the time of receiving the Bill, Mr Clancy contacted Ms Susan Gray from PARC Road Safety group as he was aware that Ms Gray and Deputy Tommy Broughan had campaigned to have these fees waived for families bereaved by RTCs and capped at €1,000 for those seriously injured. This waiver and capping of fees for those seriously injured was confirmed in August 2016 and was to come into effect on the 1st of January 2017. However, the Policing Authority confirmed recently to PARC that the Directive (36/2017) on this matter was only sent to all Gardaí on the 29th of June 2017, which incidentally was the same day that the Clancy story broke in the media.
Deputy Broughan consistently asks Parliamentary Questions around varying aspects of Road Safety Legislation and enforcement of same. A recent question was on the number of persons detected for driving while not wearing a seatbelt or having their passenger wearing a seatbelt each year since 2015, the number of persons that paid the fixed charge notice (FCN) for this offence within the 56 day limit.
Today, Deputy Broughan received a reply from the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald which showed that the total number of FCNs issued for this offence were 10,182 in 2015, 9,816 in 2016 and 3,175 from the 1st of January this year up to the 12th of May 2017.
I am delighted to have an opportunity to speak briefly on the motion and I thank Sinn Féin for bringing it forward. For many of our constituents’ confidence in An Garda Síochána, the revelations on the Garda MAT tests statistics prompted by the reports by David Labanyi in The Irish Times and the subsequent revelations on illegal convictions of 14,700 drivers were the last straws.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I, like many others, was shocked to read the article by David Labanyi in The Irish Times on 20 February which first revealed the problems with mandatory alcohol testing, MAT. I tabled five parliamentary questions to the Tánaiste inquiring about the number of MAT checkpoints operated in each county between 2009 and 2015 and the number of disposable mouthpieces ordered by An Garda Síochána during that period. In the composite answer she provided on 28 February, the Tánaiste did not answer those questions. However, she did say, “The Garda authorities have also assured me that no issues stem from this audit with regard to the performance of MAT checkpoints or prosecutions emanating therefrom.” Did the Tánaiste not mislead me and Dáil Éireann? Should she not be considering her own position? There has been much talk of the Garda Commissioner doing so.