Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Enterprise Dara Calleary has said he is disappointed at the Government’s opposition to proposals providing extra protection to frontline emergency workers.
Fine Gael and Labour have said the will reject Deputy Calleary’s ‘Assault on Emergency Workers Bill’ when a vote takes place on Monday. The Bill proposes a minimum 5 year jail term for anyone convicted of assaulting or threatening the life of an on duty garda, nurse, ambulance worker or fireman.
Speaking in the Dáil Deputy Calleary said, “My interest in this area came from the death of Garda Robbie McCallion in 2009 while on duty in Letterkenny. A native of Swinford in County Mayo, Robbie died serving and protecting the people of Letterkenny and he was killed while on duty. There was a time in this country when the killing of a garda while on duty was a capital offence. However, that has changed. In the case of Garda Robbie McCallion, and later in the similar case of Garda Garry McLoughlin, the fact that they were serving members of the Garda and were on duty when they were killed was discounted in the court cases.
“We are all familiar with accident and emergency departments and the danger posed to personnel there particularly at weekends, both from overcrowding but, more importantly, from drunk and drug-fuelled violence. We ask nurses, doctors and accident and emergency department personnel to go into those departments every weekend to face into their work every evening not knowing what kind of atmosphere they will find.
“The ethos of the legislation is very simple: we value emergency workers. There is clearly a gap in our legislation when a garda in the course of his duty is killed but does not get recognition for the fact that he was a serving member of An Garda Síochána. What have we come to as a State if we cannot give protection to those who seek to protect us?”
Deputy Calleary expressed his frustration at Fine Gael and Labour’s opposition to the Bill. He said that any imperfections in the legislation could easily be fixed with amendments.
“I was in town on Arthur’s night and it was not a good place to be. It is the same every night, at Hallowe’en, St. Patrick’s night, 21st birthday parties and 50th birthday parties. Tomorrow night it will be the same in town, yet we are saying to those who are sent out to protect us that we will get the Law Reform Commission to look at the issue; that we will look at it and all will be well. And the next time something happens we will all simply express our sympathy.
“In April 2013 and December 2013, four years will have elapsed since those cases in Donegal. But we are no further on. I am disappointed but not surprised at this. I am pleading with the Government to treat this with some urgency. We need to deal with this issue because the legislation is not working.
“The vote on this Bill will take place on Monday. I am asking the Government to reconsider its deision to reject this constructive piece of legislation outright,” Deputy Calleary said.