Friday 2 December 2016

'High time' Labour took justice ministry

Published 14/02/2016 | 02:30

PLAN: Aodhan O Riordain is keen to target drug pushers
PLAN: Aodhan O Riordain is keen to target drug pushers

The Labour Party would like to hold the justice portfolio if the Coalition is re-elected, two prominent TDs have said.

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Junior minister Aodhan O Riordain has said justice "would certainly be of interest to us" as the party launched its plan for making communities safer.

Labour has only held the justice ministry once, in the 1950s, though Mr O Riordain is a Minister of State in the department.

"I think we have a very different, nuanced view of how policing can go forward," he said.

Dublin Central TD Joe Costello, whose constituency was the scene of the murder of Eddie Hutch Snr, went further, saying it was "high time" Labour had a justice minister.

"Gangland criminals have done two significant things over the last eight days," he said.

"First, they have once again shocked and intimidated our communities with their brazen, callous and ruthless murderous attacks.

"Second, by their evil activities, including attempts to intimidate the brave journalists who report on them, they have ensured that gangland crime, policing and criminal justice are centre stage in this election.

"We're the people that came up with the Criminal Assets Bureau. We're the people who came up with the proceeds of crime legislation. We're the people who produced the policing authority.

"We're the people who produced the community policing model. It is the Labour Party that has brought about the initiatives in relation to policing, so it's high time we had the justice portfolio."

The Labour Party's plan for safer communities includes the recruitment of 700 gardai every year until the size of the force reaches 14,500.

They also want to free up 1,000 gardai for frontline duties by recruiting the same number of civilian staff.

Tanaiste Joan Burton's party has plans to create a Garda Serious and Organised Crime Unit to target gangland criminals and cybercrime.

"Sinn Fein claims that ganglands do not exist and it champions tax dodgers and thugs above the rights of ordinary decent citizens who find themselves thrust into the roles of witnesses or juries," Mr Costello said.

"The rest of us are in no doubt about the threat from these gangs."

Mr O Riordain added: "I believe that in light of recent events, it is imperative that we introduce measures to reduce the demand for drugs while simultaneously ensuring that the necessary medical supports are put in place for victims of drug abuse.

"Our plan is to introduce a new and comprehensive approach to dealing with drug addiction, putting the Drugs Court on a statutory footing and expanding its remit. We must also ensure that the resources of the criminal justice system are targeted at drug pushers and those that wish to damage our communities, not their victims."

Labour senator Mairia Cahill also spoke at the policy launch in Dublin, pointing out that the plan includes the introduction of mandatory training on sexual violence for all trainee gardai and a new domestic violence bill.

Criticising how Sinn Fein treated her after she went public with her story of abuse, Ms Cahill revealed that she turned down the opportunity of going into a witness protection programme as part of her attempts to have the man accused of raping her prosecuted.

Ms Cahill, who was raped as a teenager by an IRA leader, said she did not want to have to change her identity and leave the country.

Sunday Independent

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