Dáil debates

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

An Garda Síochána

11:20 pm

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this issue and the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, for being here this evening to respond. I congratulate the Minister for Justice and the Government on the publication today of the Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill. That is landmark legislation that marks a new departure for policing in Ireland. I will focus on community safety. It is central to the reforms in the published Bill today. It talks about ensuring that people are safe and feel safe. For decades, sociologists all over the world have recognised that the fear of crime can be as damaging and in some cases more damaging than crime itself. It is not always clear that the fear of crime is associated with actual crime rates. It is associated more often with social and physical vulnerability factors than with actual crime rates. Some studies show that community policing where police interact even briefly with residents and business owners the fear of crime reduces significantly within such neighbourhoods. Lowering fear of crime enhances the well-being of residents and business owners. This is where the Garda Reserve has a huge role to play.

On 19 October 2021, the Garda Reserve Strategy 2021-2025 was published. I congratulate the Commissioner and his team for producing a strategy with measurable objectives and a clear timetable. It is an excellent document. It speaks to diversity and inclusion. In the foreword, the Commissioner talks about the delivery of a proactive high visibility policing which contributes to keeping people safe. That is why I would like to see recruitment to the Garda Reserve starting as soon as possible. After all, it is more than a year since the strategy was published. On 25 October 2021 I was informed in a reply to a parliamentary question that Garda management and the Government were committed to increasing the number in the Reserve to 2,000. A year ago the number in the Reserve was 439, now it is 389, so the numbers are falling rapidly. I understand there was a pause in recruitment while the strategy was being developed. The Policing Authority, in its Policing Priorities 2022-2024, sees Garda visibility as a key area in supporting and ensuring community safety and that one of the areas of measured success will be the implementation of the Garda Reserve strategy. In March last year, the Minister told me by way of a response to a parliamentary question that recruitment to the Garda Reserve would be launched later in 2022. On 24 May last, the Minister told me it was anticipated that a recruitment process would be launched in late 2022 or early 2023, predicated with the Public Appointments Service, PAS, as to the timetable for the recruitment process. On 20 October last, I was informed that a new recruitment campaign would be formed in the second half of next year, that is, 2023. That will be almost two years since the excellent strategy on the Garda Reserve was published. I think that is too far in the future. My purpose here this evening, while of course recognising the exclusive responsibility with the Garda Commissioner for the recruitment, training and deployment of Garda members and members of the Garda Reserve, is to respectfully request that the recruitment campaign for the Garda Reserve begin early in 2023 as originally anticipated. The Garda Reserve has a great range of functions laid down in legislation. We actually debated this quite a number of years ago. I was here at the time. The Houses saw the value and importance of the Reserve, and that is why I believe that putting off the recruitment process until this time next year is too far away. I would like to see it starting in the new year. The more visibility we have on the streets of people in Garda uniforms, the better. It helps the Garda. There are people who want to be part of the Garda Reserve and give back to the community by being part of it. The Commissioner recognises that in the strategy. I ask that the Commissioner, who I hope is listening this evening, and his team, would take note of this and would work together with the Department to ensure the recruitment begins as soon as possible in 2023.


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