Government refusal to ringfence CAB monies for crime prevention in disadvantaged areas scandalous
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, has expressed his disappointment that Minister Brian Lenihan has rejected his call for the proceeds of crime confiscated by the Criminal Assets Bureau to be "ringfenced for community development in disadvantaged areas". Describing it as "scandalous" he said it was an "opportunity missed" to address the inequalities people suffer in disadvantaged areas. Deputy Ó Snodaigh was speaking during the debate in the Dáil today on the Proceeds of Crime Bill.
Earlier in the debate Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Sinn Féin's amendments are all related to the proposition that the proceeds of crime confiscated by the Criminal Assets Bureau should be ringfenced in a specific fund that is used for community development purposes in economically disadvantaged areas, as part of a comprehensive programme of crime prevention.
"At present, the existing law and the legislative proposals before us today provide that the property seized shall be disposed of to the benefit of the Exchequer, for the Minister of Finance of the day to spend as he or she sees fit. This is what Sinn Féin proposes to change.
"The Irish people expect and also deserve these monies to be ploughed directly back into those working class communities that are hardest hit by crime, and whose children are at greatest risk of coming into conflict with the law, as confirmed by report after report of the National Crime Council. These are largely not the neighbourhoods that produce the white collar criminals responsible for corruption, but they do produce more than their share of organised crime bosses and drug kingpins, all of whose ill-gotten assets, we hope, will be eventually seized with the help of this legislation.
"We table these amendments because there needs to be further public debate on the principle of ringfencing funds - which is fundamental to socially and economically just budgeting - a concept completely foreign to the Minister for Justice and his colleagues. The principle of ringfencing is one the Government and the previous Minister for Finance have repeatedly rejected. At Committee Stage the Minister said he agreed with this position. But he did undertake to approach the Minister for Finance on the proposal that was raised not only by Sinn Féin but also by the other opposition parties. It is a matter on which there is agreement on this side of the House.
"But there are contradictions in the Government's position that ringfencing of funds is impossible:
- 52% of the dormant accounts fund is earmarked for allocation to RAPID areas and the Drugs Task Forces
- the lotto monies are earmarked for specific purposes, such as funding for sporting activities and health activities
- money from motor taxation is being ringfenced for local authorities to defray the cost of water charges
- the Minister admitted he agrees with the ringfencing of fines
- the last Minister for Finance ringfenced €300 million for the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund over the next four years So the precedent has been set, only political will is needed.
"From 1996 to the end of 2003, CAB has obtained seizure orders to the value of more than €73 million. This is potentially a source of serious additional funding that could make the most massive difference in working class communities in this state.
"The Minister argues about fungibility insisting that a euro spent on old age pensions is just as good as a euro spent on inner city deprived areas and therefore we should just funnel the money directly into the Exchequer trust the Minister of Finance to allocate monies appropriately. But the most recent figures on poverty in this state prove conclusively that this Government cannot be trusted to spend its money to close the poverty gap, to invest in communities where it is most needed.
"This is additional monies which in many cases has been generated by targeting people in deprived communities. Thus in some senses, it could be considered to be the peoples‚ money. It is not tax revenue owed to the state. It represents additional funds, and as such should be spent on programmes which would not normally be funded by the Exchequer. Like the Dormant Accounts Fund, CAB-confiscated assets should be kept separate, and a similar fund should be established."ENDS