Deputy Broughan recently asked the Minister for Justice and Equality to report on the number of instances of Garda firearms and less than lethal weapons being discharged in each of the years 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form and for a statement on the matter. In a reply to that Parliamentary Question received today, Deputy Broughan was informed that Pepper Spray was used 657 times in 2017, taser was used 34 times and firearms were discharged 6 times that year. In 2018, there were 687 instances of Pepper Spray, 31 instances of use of tasers and 4 discharges of firearms. To date in 2019, there have been 257 instances of Pepper Spray, 8 of tasers and 1 discharge of a firearm. The Minister for Justice and Equality and GSOC did not provide any further information with the breakdown of figures.
This morning, we had another homicide on O’Connell Street. That follows a string of terrible murders in my constituency, the Taoiseach’s constituency and across the northside generally. Nearly two weeks ago I wrote to the Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister with responsibility for communities asking if they were prepared to set up some kind of interdepartmental task force to examine the resources that hard-pressed, disadvantaged communities need, especially those that are deeply affected by serious anti-social and criminal behaviour, including these recent murders. Is that something the Taoiseach would embark on given that it was his party’s Governments that slashed spending and resources to the many community bodies in my constituency over the past eight years since 2011? As he knows, I am a director of a number of those bodies.
As the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, knows, I sought yesterday to adjourn Dáil Éireann to address the subject matter of this Topical Issue, which is for the Government to take all urgent steps to resource An Garda Síochána and to introduce any necessary legislation to end the appalling series of murders on the north side of Dublin in recent months
The Taoiseach might recall that last week I asked him and the Minister for Justice and Equality what steps are being taken in response to an appalling shooting and murder in my constituency. That dastardly crime was the latest in a litany of gun murders, which include tragic victims recently in Swords and Leixlip. The Minister for Justice and Equality told me in January that the Garda’s Operation Hybrid had resulted in 86 arrests and the seizure of 91 firearms, including machine guns and assault rifles. I welcome the work of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau in the investigation of gun crime but the number of firearms seized in almost four years seems low by comparison with the number of reported crimes. There is a significant number of unsolved gun crimes.
Today, during Leaders’ Questions, Deputy Broughan has called on the Taoiseach and Fine Gael to ensure that the need for a Garda Station and greater police presence is highlighted with Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris. Deputy Broughan told the Taoiseach that some districts of Dublin Bay North have being suffering greatly from burglaries, car theft and related joyriding, illegal dumping and serious nightly anti-social and criminal behaviour. Deputy Broughan said that while nationally homicides and a number of other crime categories thankfully fell in 2018, there are disturbing rises in several types of crime in recent figures recently presented at the DMR (Dublin Metropolitan Region) North Joint Policing Committee. These include assaults, burglary, criminal damage, thefts, public order incidents and domestic violence.
We all watched Shane O’Farrell’s mother, Lucia, speak with great sadness and eloquence on “Prime Time” last week and make an unanswerable case for a full public inquiry. Both Houses of the Oireachtas have voted for that and overwhelmingly want it. This young man would still be alive had the criminal justice system and certain gardaí done their jobs properly. That is the crux of the matter. Zigmantas Gridzuiska was driving the car that killed Shane on 2 August 2011. Just one hour before he killed him, driving a car that had no NCT and no valid insurance, he was stopped by gardaí and had been allowed to continue driving. We know that he breached bail 18 times, had 42 previous convictions and a history of heroin abuse.
Following a spate of violent gun crimes in the last number of months, Deputy Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality to report on what steps are being taken by An Garda Síochána to seize and eliminate illegal guns especially in the Dublin region. The reply stated that “since the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau was established in March 2015, it has been responsible for the seizure of a total of ninety-one (91) firearms, including fifty-three (53) hand guns, nine (9) machine guns, seven (7) assault rifles, eight (8) shotguns; four (4) rifles and ten (10) stun guns. Many of these seizures have taken place in very dangerous circumstances where their use was allegedly imminent. A number of suspects have been arrested and in some cases have since been successfully convicted”.
Deputy Broughan consistently asks Parliamentary Questions to both the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, on road safety legislation and the implementation of that legislation. Sometimes, in the cases of questions to Justice, Deputy Broughan can be waiting for years for replies. When Deputy Broughan asked both Ministers about the number of drivers disqualified in court each year in the years 2016, 2017 and to date in 2018 he was very surprised to see that the Department of Justice and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) both provided different figures in their replies.
At 11 a.m., a large number of us marched to the Office of the Attorney General, Mr. Seamus Woulfe, to deliver an astonishing 48,000 signed postcards asking for a new inquest into the Stardust tragedy of 14 February 1981. Those 48,000 signatures are the culmination of the heroic Truth campaign begun by the Stardust Relatives and Victims Committee, which has been courageously led over the years by Ms Antoinette Keegan, her mother Chrissie, Ms Gertrude Barrett, Ms Bridget McDermott and Mr. Eugene Kelly. I welcome them all to the Public Gallery today. We were accompanied by some distinguished Irish citizens, including the great musician Christy Moore, famous journalist Charlie Bird and many others. I commend our Sinn Féin colleagues and especially Ms Lynn Boylan, MEP, on her Trojan work with the committee on this campaign.
I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on the Bill. I commend Deputies Dessie Ellis and Imelda Munster on bringing the Bill forward and I will, of course, support it. Figures recently released to me by the HSE showed that, on average, at least one person per week is injured by an “all-terrain or other motor vehicle designed primarily for off-road use”. In fact, the Minister for Health told me there were 56 such injuries in 2015, 71 in 2016 and 62 in 2017. Of course, earlier this year, in my constituency of Dublin Bay North, we had the tragic case of the couple, former teacher Anzhela Kotsinian and her roofer husband Ilabek Avetian, whose lives were changed dramatically after a scrambler landed on them in a local park and left Mr. Avetian with devastating injuries. Over many years, constituents have had their peace disturbed or have been placed in acute danger by the use of scramblers in high amenity areas across the north of Dublin Bay North such as Streamville Park, Darndale Park and Riverside Green.