Topical Issues Debate
17th June 2014
Opening Remarks by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD
– The wounding of a 6 year old child in a gun attack at a house in Cherry Orchard last Friday night.
– The need for adequate Garda resources to be dedicated to the increasing gangland shootings, including the shooting and wounding of a child in Ballyfermot on Friday evening last
Aengus Ó Snodaigh
I would like to thank the Deputies for raising this matter. At the outset I would like to record my outrage, at the appalling incident last Friday where a young child was shot at Croftwood Gardens, Ballyfermot.
A major Garda investigation is underway. When I met her yesterday on a range of matters, the interim Garda Commissioner assured me that progress is being made with all necessary resources deployed. An Garda Síochána is determined to bring to justice those involved and I am sure that they have the full support of the local community in identifying the perpetrators. Clearly, anyone who has information which could be helpful to the Gardaí should pass this on immediately.
I am further advised that a Garda Family Liaison Officer has been appointed to assist the family.
Gun crime represents a real challenge for policing and poses significant potential for harm in the community; in this case in the form of very serious injuries to a child.
Garda strategy for tackling gun crime involves targeted and intelligence based operations, often disrupting and preventing incidents before harm is caused, as well as detecting and prosecuting those involved. Much of this work goes unheralded but it is carried out with great determination by the men and women of An Garda Síochána, who can themselves face great risk in taking on armed criminals.
The robust Garda response to violent crime has led to firearms offences decreasing last year by 7%, and the number of crime incidents in which a firearm was involved was also down, by more than 7%.
The precise deployment of resources is a matter for the Garda Commissioner but I have discussed the policing situation in Ballyfermot in general terms with her and been assured that the Gardaí are working with the community and providing the best possible support on the ground.
The sale and possession of legally held firearms in this jurisdiction is highly regulated. However, my Department is currently conducting a review of firearms legislation after which I will engage in broader consultations ahead of preparing any legislative changes arising from the review.
Ahead of completion of the that review, I would point out that our criminal law already, quite rightly, provides heavy penalties for weapons offences and mandatory minimum penalties are in place for certain firearms offences.
The Gardaí also have considerable powers available to them in tackling serious and armed crime, and these have been supplemented further by the recent DNA Database legislation which has been passed in both Houses. When established, the DNA Database will have the capacity to link suspects to unsolved crimes using forensic evidence, and will greatly assist Gardaí in investigating crime.
The interim Commissioner is aware that if there are other legislative measures or steps she feels would assist in tackling armed and serious crime they will be given careful consideration.
In conclusion, I thank the Deputies again and will take careful note of the views expressed during the debate. I am sure that all our thoughts and prayers will be for the recovery of the young victim of this shooting and for the wellbeing of his family during this very difficult time.