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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill 2016: Second Stage (Continued).

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill 2016: Second Stage (Continued). (14 Jul 2016)

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Deputy Jim O'Callaghan: The money that goes into the confiscated assets account is then used exclusively in communities which have been affected by drug use and criminal activity so that the people in those communities can see that money is being put back into the community and that the money is a consequence of, and derives from, the proceeds of crime which have been seized. I know that there is a hesitancy or reluctance on the part of the all too powerful Department of Finance and other associated Departments to allow separate funds that go into the Exchequer to go into separate funds. However, we need to consider doing so in respect of this legislation because it would be to the benefit of those communities if the proceeds of crime seized could be used exclusively in order to educate children in those communities about drugs and build better projects and provide better services in those communities. All these factors are important in ensuring that the threat of drugs to our communities is properly and adequately dealt with. As I said, however, we will support this legislation.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: We will also support the quick passage of this legislation through the House. On Committee Stage in the Seanad, we tabled an amendment, which I will come back to in a minute, but it was ruled out of order. We have said previously that we will always support legislation which we feel is progressive and will deal with the issue of organised crime. For this reason, we supported the changes that the Minister brought forward the week before last, I think, regarding section 38 and were happy to do so. As a party, we will also support the changes being brought forward under the amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act, even though I personally have some concerns about that legislation.

I take this opportunity to raise the issue of the proceeds seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau because it is a bugbear of mine. I have always said that there is a need to show communities that the proceeds of crime are being pumped back into organisations in these communities where people have been the victims of these organised criminals who have devastated their communities. Currently, that is not the case; it goes into the central Exchequer and then may trickle back into communities through various Departments that fund local projects. For the sake of transparency, however, we should consider the possibility that those proceeds be allowed to be put directly back into communities, so that one can track what has been seized and what is being pumped back into local communities through funding. That was the aim of the amendment we tabled in the Seanad last week which I know was ruled out of order. I probably will not table an amendment on Committee Stage because it will be ruled out of order again and I do not want to waste anyone's time, considering that this legislation needs to be passed as quickly as possible. I know it is scheduled to come back before the House next Tuesday for a resumption of Second Stage but, with any luck, we may even finish Second Stage today, which would allow Committee Stage to be taken next week.

As part of the wider reforms that the Minister mentioned in her speech, we need to look at that element of the proceeds of crime which are confiscated. Over the past ten years or so, the proceeds have amounted to around €14 million. A sum of €14 million would go a long way to funding some of the front-line community and voluntary organisations which in recent years, because of the economic collapse, have had their funding drastically reduced. If there is an opportunity to try to show them solidarity in their daily fight in their local communities, we should consider that very seriously.

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