Tim Ryan, Oireachtas Correspondent
A garda from a station outside Tipperary recently rang Independent Deputy Mattie McGrath to state there was no light in the bathroom when he wanted to use it and he did not have a light bulb to put in it, he told the Dáil. On another occasion a member of the community alerted gardaí when he saw some strange activity. When the gardaí arrived, they did not have flashlights and were using their telephones. That, he said, was a sad state of affairs.
He said society is dealing with gangland crime in the cities and it featured in his town quite recently.
“In recent weeks, especially, there have been attacks on elderly people and families in rural and urban areas,” he said. “I do not blame the Tánaiste for the criminals but the crimes are a direct result of the Government’s policies. I am delighted the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, is here because his policies, as pursued by the Government over almost two years, are aiding and abetting criminals. The policies have denuded rural areas of Garda stations. I now see that stations in urban areas, such as Stepaside and Whitehall, are being closed. The gardaí do not have squad cars.”
Deputy McGrath said he wished to express sympathy to the victims of all these crimes and wonder if these crimes would have occurred if the victims’ savings had been safe in the banks or credit unions.
“People’s money, however, is not safe anywhere with the Tánaiste’s policies,” he said. “I ask the Tánaiste and the Government to consider launching a public information and awareness campaign on security and on the matter, as was done in the past, of keeping cash in their homes because they are afraid to keep it in any of the institutions, the guaranteed ones or otherwise. By doing that they would support Muintir Na Tíre and all the other groups that are helping to fit safety alarms and equipment.”
He asked the Tánaiste and the Minister for Justice and Equality to visit with the gardaí some of the homes of the people who have been savagely attacked not only once but in some cases twice or three times.
“No place is safe from attack any more not even not church sacristies. I ask the Tánaiste to deal with this issue in a serious manner.”
Cigarette should remain most expensive in Europe - Healy
Irish cigarettes prices are currently the most expensive in Europe and they should stay as such, South Tipperary Independent Deputy Seamus Healy told the Dáil.
Speaking on new legislation governing the price of tobacco products, he said price has a significant effect on consumption and it definitely reduces smoking.
“Some surveys show that a 10% increase in price will decrease smoking by between 5% and 7% on average,” he said. “The World Health Organisation has already been referred to. It has concluded that ‘Increasing the price of tobacco through higher taxes is the single most effective way to encourage tobacco users to quit and prevent children from starting to smoke. Prices are a significant factor in ensuring a reduction in smoking and they should be kept high. We should ensure there is no below-cost selling and no way in which tobacco companies and the industry can get around very high tobacco and cigarette prices. I support the call from ASH Ireland for a 50 cent environmental levy on the tobacco industry for each packet of 20 cigarettes sold.”
Deputy Healy said the facts relating to smoking are horrendous. Significant initial headway was made with the ban on smoking in public places in 2004 but, unfortunately, it appears that despite this initial headway the rate of smoking is now at pre-2004 levels. There was a particular concern about the percentage of young women and less well-off people who are smoking.
“Tobacco is the single largest cause of preventable death and disease in Ireland, killing half of all lifetime users,” he added. “Approximately 30% of people in Ireland smoke and 16 people per day die as a result. Up to 79% of smokers wish to quit, but it is difficult to do so. Smoking causes one third of all cancers and nine out of ten lung cancers. Clearly, this is remarkably harmful to the individual and to society in general as well.”
It had been stated that the cost to the State of smoking is approximately €1 billion, he added. There would be a great cost advantage to the State in ensuring that there was a proper comprehensive campaign to turn this around. This had been done to a large extent in the area of road traffic accidents by the Road Safety Authority and there was no reason it should not be possible in this area as well.
“I welcome the provision whereby graphic images will be on cigarette packets in future.”