Dáil debates

Thursday, 23 June 2005

3:00 pm

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Independent)
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Question 9: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the promised Garda traffic corps is intended to be additional to the 2,000 promised new gardaí; the way in which the additional gardaí will be factored into the equation of reducing the size of the public sector in accord with the Government's intention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21322/05]

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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As the Deputy is aware, the Minister announced the establishment within the Garda Síochána of the traffic corps on 23 November 2004. The Government subsequently approved the appointment of Eddie Rock as assistant commissioner, with the Commissioner appointing him to take charge of the traffic corps. Never before has the enforcement of road traffic law been given this level of priority within the force. Assistant Commissioner Rock is a member of the top management team in the force and brings authority and visible leadership to the traffic corps from the outset. He has been tasked with implementing the recommendations contained in the Garda Strategic Review of Traffic Policing encompassing a number of resource areas, including human resources, transport and speed detection equipment. Implementation will be over a three and a half to four year period.

The Deputy will also be aware that the Government has approved the Minister's proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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That is something of a dead duck.

Photo of Jim O'KeeffeJim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
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The record is broken at this stage.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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It follows that the planned reduction in public service numbers does not apply to the Garda Síochána. As each cycle of recruit training is completed, the Garda Commissioner will assign these new members to the areas of greatest need with particular regard to certain priorities, including the traffic corps. All personnel assigned to the new traffic corps will have completed the standard training programme.

I am informed that the strength of the Garda traffic corps over the next four years will rise as follows: to 563 in 2005, to 805 in 2006, to 1,030 in 2007 and to 1,200 in 2008. The assignment of 640 extra gardaí to the traffic corps over the next three years will be made possible through the increase of 2,000 in the force's overall numbers over the period. All gardaí have responsibility, inter alia, to enforce road traffic laws. Resources will be deployed in built-up areas, on non-urban regional and local roads, national roads and motorways, to achieve the six strategic objectives for road traffic policing identified in the Strategic Review of Traffic Policing.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Independent)
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I welcome the fact that the Garda does not fall under the public service employment embargo because I did not want to see an extra garda at the expense of a speech therapist, for example.

Looking at the figures for 2003, there were two Garda divisions where 84,000 speeding fines were applied, while the other four divisions accounted for 73,000 such fines. Accordingly there is a disproportionate application of speeding fines relative to the population. I asked if the traffic corps would be treated separately in order that the speeding fines would be applied evenly around the country. People often note for example that a Gatso camera van is frequently located at a particular place on the N4 where its task is like shooting fish in a barrel. It is very easy to collect fines in that way. If we are to have a traffic corps which will prevent road traffic accidents, it should look at the profiles of accidents around the country and apportion speeding fines on that basis rather than concentrating on areas where return can be reaped in terms of fines, which is what currently seems to happen. Is this how the traffic corps will operate?

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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The deployment of gardaí is a matter for the Commissioner and his staff, but I assure the Deputy that she is correct in assuming what will happen, and that there will be a benchmarking of accident locations and those prone to have greater numbers of accidents. In the location of the traffic corps personnel that benchmarking exercise will be taken into account.