Thursday, 27 April 2006
Garda Divisional Boundaries.
Question 7: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the counties or portions of counties which lie within the Garda Dublin metropolitan district; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15692/06]
For policing purposes the country is divided into six regions, each of which is commanded by a regional assistant commissioner. The duties of the commissioners are mainly operational and they are responsible for ensuring the operational efficiency of their respective region and, in particular, the quality of operational management exercised by their divisional and district officers. Each region is divided into divisions commanded by a chief superintendent, and each division is then divided into districts commanded by a superintendent, assisted by a number of inspectors. Garda divisions do not necessarily correspond to county boundaries.
The Dublin metropolitan region, DMR, is made up of the six Garda divisions of DMR south central, DMR north central, DMR south, DMR north, DMR west and DMR east. The Dublin metropolitan region extends into parts of counties Wicklow and Kildare. In this regard, the Garda stations in Bray, Greystones and Enniskerry, while within the County of Wicklow, form part of the DMR east region. Leixlip Garda station, which lies within the Kildare county boundary, forms part of the DMR west region.
Any proposal to alter the boundaries of any Garda region is in the first instance a matter for the Garda Commissioner. Under section 22 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, any such proposal must be contained in a draft policing plan for the following year which must be submitted to the Minister for approval. I will carefully consider any such proposal that the Commissioner may submit to me, although I understand that the Commissioner currently has no plans to alter the divisional boundaries within the DMR.
The issue is that the policing districts bear little relationship to local authority areas, Dáil constituencies, HSE health areas or postal districts. This makes it difficult to put a meaningful interpretation on statistics from the Garda Síochána. If the statistics are difficult to interpret, it will make for poor policing and poor analysis of data. Will the Minister bring his influence to bear to introduce co-ordination between the various offices of State that produce statistics in this regard? It is difficult enough to find one's way through the various definitions of crime, which seem not to have been updated for the past 100 years or so, but to use districts that bear no relation to the kinds of areas that the Central Statistics Office, the Health Service Executive, local authorities or other agencies use renders it a complete mess when one tries to put a meaningful construct on such data. Can the Minister use his influence to bring some meaningful co-ordination of the kinds of areas used by him and his colleagues at the Cabinet table?
I would like to see the people of Dublin 6W demanding to be moved back to Dublin 6 if they went to a different Garda station. I know that the Deputy is not seriously suggesting that we should structure policing around postal districts.
I accept the point that, as part of general reform of the Garda Síochána, the districts will have to be reviewed in one respect since we are now establishing local policing committees. If they are to function reasonably, they should correspond with understandable local authority boundaries, and that issue will be examined. Regarding the Dublin area, the facts say that Enniskerry is regarded as an adjunct of Dublin, although it is in the same Garda district as Shillelagh in lower County Wicklow, but that is not a significant issue for policing. As PULSE develops, it is becoming easier to produce very specific figures.
I also stress that, even if one operates by counties for statistics on offences, one finds that offenders do not look to see whether they are operating in South Dublin, Dún Laoghaire, Fingal or wherever. They carry out their functions as it suits them. Therefore, the concept of a greater Dublin policing area such as the Dublin metropolitan region is not suspect.
I put it to the Minister that we need greater co-ordination of data. I have heard anecdotes about bodies being pushed from one side of a river or canal to another to try to get a Garda division off the hook. When insurance companies charge different premia depending on one's postal district, that suggests a need for meaningful districts and areas allowing us to consider health and policing records and other data.
I am glad the Minister stated in his reply that there may well be a review of such areas, and I ask that he and his colleagues in Cabinet put their heads together to co-ordinate the various areas that they use. The confusion, overlap and disparity between them make it very difficult to formulate meaningful policies based on data produced by the Central Statistics Office or used by individual Departments. It illustrates the wider difficulty and danger in Departments' co-ordination. If the Minister could address the Garda policing districts, that would be a step in the right direction.
I will make a point to the Deputy concerning an area near enough to home for him. Shankill is not radically different from Bray. The Dargle River is the boundary between one part of Bray and Little Bray and lower Shankill, but they are not radically different when it comes to establishing a Garda command-and-control structure. To suggest otherwise places one at the margins of reality.
I do not accept the anecdote, which I know that the Deputy has told with his tongue in his cheek, and I will not huff and puff about it.