Thursday, 14 April 2005
Closed Circuit Television Systems.
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this matter and welcome the Minister of State. Drogheda is now the largest town in Ireland, growing in population to outstrip any other town, including Dundalk. More than 31,000 people live in the town, but it has the same number of gardaí— 90 — as five years ago despite the significant increase in population. Similar to other town centres around the country, there are serious problems with anti-social behaviour late at night.
It is essential that Drogheda is added to the list of towns in receipt of CCTV cameras. There are 17 towns on the waiting list and I wish them all well, but Drogheda is not one of them. It demonstrates the political neglect of this administration, particularly Fianna Fáil, with regard to Drogheda by refusing to install CCTV cameras in the country's largest town.
The issue also relates to the sister town of Dundalk. Its superintendent was last week pictured in The Argus and the Dundalk Democrat in front of a fine array of approximately 20 screens. He spoke convincingly and clearly about the benefit of CCTV cameras in Dundalk, and we welcome that. He is now in a position to declare that he wants to extend their use and I support him in that regard. Drogheda has absolutely nothing.
This is an issue of immediacy and we cannot afford to wait until 2007. In a written response earlier this week, I was told by the Minister that the application currently on hand with the advisory committee will be finalised towards the end of 2006. This means that Drogheda cannot be considered or included in the list until 2007, which is totally unacceptable. We insist that the Government acts now and that the Minister fast-tracks Drogheda's application on the simple grounds that it is the largest town in Ireland and needs these cameras now.
I am replying on behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and thank the Deputy for raising the matter. I hope to give him some information about this subject.
An application for a Garda CCTV system in Drogheda has been received by the CCTV advisory committee, which was established by the Garda Commissioner to advise on all matters relating to CCTV systems.
There are 17 CCTV schemes nationwide at installation, tender or planning stages. The locations were selected as priority based on policing requirements throughout the country. The Garda CCTV programme is being implemented on a phased basis. Phase one covered Bray, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire, Finglas, Galway and Limerick, phase two will cover Athlone, Clondalkin, Tallaght and Waterford and phase three will cover Ballyfermot, Carlow, Castlebar, Clonmel, Ennis, Kilkenny and Sligo. While I appreciate the Deputy is anxious that the case for Drogheda be progressed, it is a tribute to the citizens of Drogheda that it does not appear on this list.
I am not denying the need. The installation of phase one systems in Bray, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire and Limerick has been completed and these systems are now fully operational. Thirteen of the 18 cameras in Galway are also fully operational. It is proposed to install the final five cameras in tandem with major redevelopment works currently being undertaken by Galway City Council in the Eyre Square area.
The issue regarding the provision of suitable space to accommodate the monitoring of CCTV cameras in Finglas Garda station is currently being considered, in conjunction with the Office of Public Works, with regard to the overall accommodation needs of Finglas Garda station. It is hoped that work can proceed to completion in Finglas in 2005.
Installation of the CCTV systems is of necessity a detailed, complex and lengthy process and because of this Garda authorities are now giving careful consideration to a restructuring of the manner in which these systems go to tender.
The Minister is anxious to accelerate the implementation of the remainder of the Garda CCTV programme and reduce as much as possible the workload of the Garda Síochána in this regard. He believes that the proposed restructuring of the tender process provides an opportunity to outsource the installation of Garda CCTV systems to the greatest possible extent, making use not only of technical but also project management expertise in the private sector. In that regard, he has asked the Garda Commissioner to submit proposals for a revised tender document for the 11 locations in the remaining two phases, with a view to achieving implementation in priority locations by the end of 2006.
The inclusion of other town centre locations, including Drogheda, beyond the 17 already listed in the programme will be considered in the context of the Commissioner's proposals.
Regarding community-based CCTV cameras in Drogheda, the Deputy will appreciate it is not possible for the Garda Síochána to install CCTV systems in all areas that have sought them. Some applications received by the advisory committee relate to schemes which, while of importance to the local community, cannot be regarded as a national Garda priority.
The Deputy may be aware that in May 2002, the previous Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, laid the ground work for a grant aid scheme to facilitate community-based groups who wished to press ahead with their local CCTV system.
It is the current Minister's intention to implement that scheme with clear details of the application process, terms and conditions, a timescale within which to apply in the first round and a clear commitment as to when funding will be available.
Under the terms of this scheme, grant assistance of up to €100,000 will, subject to the availability of funds, be obtainable from the Department towards the cost of such systems. It will be up to the community groups, in conjunction with the relevant local authority, to install, maintain and monitor community-based CCTV schemes.
The Minister is pleased that further to discussions between their respective Departments, his colleague, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, has given a commitment to provide successful applications from RAPID areas with a further grant to a maximum of €100,000. This means that RAPID areas wishing to install their own CCTV system will be able to avail of an overall maximum grant of up to €200,000.
A decision has also been taken to engage Area Development Management Limited, ADM, to administer and project manage the scheme and evaluate applications received.
There is a demonstrated demand from local communities across Ireland for the provision of community CCTV systems and significant work has been done in developing proposals which will allow communities to quickly define their needs and submit high quality proposals for funding which have broad local support and high levels of sustainability.
The Minister intends to launch this scheme in the coming weeks. By the end of July 2005, the Department should be aware of the list of applications to be funded in the first round. By year end, these communities could be well on the way to having their CCTV systems in place.
CCTV plays an important role in modern policing and has demonstrated its benefits in those areas where it has been installed. The programme of installation is now being overhauled to ensure much faster implementation, and the town of Drogheda is among the areas under consideration for the next tranche of CCTV, once the existing programme has been implemented.