| 5.7°C Dublin

Yes, we have a problem . . . but as Justice Minister I'm determined to sort it out

There have been some extremely serious and disturbing incidents on the streets of Dublin in recent times.

I know that the Garda Commissioner shares my concern about these incidents and that the gardai are determined to bring the perpetrators to justice and to continue to do everything they can to keep the streets safe.

Excessive drinking and/or drug use can fuel violence, and even one public order offence or one assault is one too many and entirely unacceptable. It is essential that everything possible is done to prevent such incidents happening on our streets.

Every night of the week, gardai are using the strong legal powers they have available to them under the Public Order Acts and the Intoxicating Liquor Acts to keep the streets of Dublin and, indeed, all our cities and towns, as safe as possible. Garda resources are deployed where experience and analysis shows they are most needed.

New garda rostering arrangements have been introduced in recent weeks. As a result of these, gardai can be on duty at the times of the day when they are most needed.

This is particularly important in dealing with public order issues, because it is generally on certain nights of the week and between certain hours that there is the greatest need for gardai to be on patrol.

Notwithstanding the appalling and entirely unacceptable violent incidents that recently occurred, it is,

I believe, important that Dublin is not singled out as a city more affected by public order problems than any other. Public order problems, particularly at night, can be associated with any major city or town the world over and, unfortunately, Dublin is no exception.

Too much violence is fuelled by young people drinking to excess and taking illegal drugs. This problem is not simply a matter of law and order.

This is an issue that requires action by parents, by educators and by those who sell alcohol, not only in public houses, but right across the retail sector.

I intend, in the coming months, to put in place new regulations to prohibit the below-cost selling of alcohol and also alcohol promotions that encourage excessive drinking.

It is very important that everyone plays their part in supporting the efforts of An Garda Siochana to keep our streets safe. The vast majority of young people who go out on the town do so to enjoy themselves, and do not drink to excess or take drugs. It is important that they, too, do all they can to discourage their friends from doing so.

Both I and the Garda Commissioner are committed to doing everything that is necessary to curb violent and gratuitous attacks on law-abiding people by individuals out of control as a consequence of their consumption of alcohol or drugs or both.

Despite understandable public concern over recent incidents, it is important that the great work carried out by An Garda Siochana is recognised. The latest figures show that in the year to March 31 -- through the efforts of the gardai -- there was a reduction of more than 8pc in assault and related cases and more than 14pc in public order offences. Indeed, most categories of recorded crime fell in the period.

We have seen, as recently as last Tuesday, results of garda efforts against those who control the drugs trade with the extraordinarily significant drug seizures made, in cooperation with the Revenue Customs Service, in Dublin and Kildare.

For my part, since my appointment as Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, I have been doing everything possible to support the gardai in their work. While it is true that no area can be exempt from our current economic difficulties, huge resources are still made available to policing.

The Garda Commissioner has been concentrating, with my full support, on making sure he is in a position to deploy the very dedicated men and women of An Garda Siochana as effectively as possible. The Commissioner is also very aware that I will give full consideration to any proposals for changes in the law that would help the gardai do their job better and more effectively.

In addition to effective policing, an effective prisons policy is also of crucial importance in tackling public order issues. I have been taking steps to make sure we have a sensible prisons policy which ensures that the danger posed to society by any convicted offender will be properly considered in the context of any decisions made in relation to a prisoner.

My message to the people of Dublin is this -- the Government and the gardai will continue to do all we can to ensure that the city is safe for those who wish to peacefully conduct their business or to enjoy the city at their leisure.

Those whose intent is to interfere with this objective should know that they will face the full rigours of the law.