Crime continues to dominate election agenda


The issue of crime looks set to continue to dominate the General Election campaign today as rival parties criticised each others' policies.

The Minster for Justice Mr O'Donoghue today criticised Sinn Féin's proposal to abolish the Special Criminal Court, saying it would leave the country defenceless against subversives and organised crime.

Fine Gael said Ireland's elderly were left feeling vulnerable by increasing reports of attacks on older people, while The Labour Party called for an independent investigation into allegations of Garda brutality against demonstrators at an anti-globalisation march on Monday.

Fine Gael's deputy leader, Mr Jim Mitchell, criticised the Government’s record on crime. "News reports abound about vicious attacks - including murder - on older people in their homes, the places where they should feel most secure," he said.

"Our policies are designed to help those who have contributed to the creation and development of modern Ireland - and who deserve to live out their years with a decent quality of life," he added.

Meanwhile, Labour's deputy leader Mr Brendan Howlin said people had been "shocked" by television pictures of a police baton charge on a May Day demonstration.

He said: "There appears to have been a breakdown of discipline and a serious lack of leadership and management.

"In these circumstances I believe that it is essential that a person from outside of the force should be brought in to undertake an investigation into all aspects of Monday's events."

He added that the incident strengthened his party's case for the creation of a police ombudsman to investigate complaints against officers.

Party leader Ruairi Quinn attacked the response of the Taoiseach to the incident as "totally inadequate".

Although the opposition parties had already fired the opening shots of today's crime policy battle, Fianna Fáil was set to outline how it would drive down spiralling street violence.

Mr O'Donoghue was being joined by four junior ministers at the news conference in Dublin.

Also today Fine Gael and Labour were focusing on health care for the elderly and help for the socially disadvantaged.

The PDs were holding a briefing on its policies on insurance.

Afterwards Mary Harney will canvass in Longford and Roscommon.

Mr Ahern will be in Laois, Mr Noonan goes to Wicklow and Carlow and Mr Quinn is in Kildare and Dublin.

Green Party leader Mr Trevor Sargent is visiting the site of a proposed national waste incinerator site at Ringaskiddy in the Cork South Central constituency.

And Sinn Féin will outline its proposal to solve the housing crisis.