Thursday, 8 June 2006
Question 3: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will immediately increase Garda numbers in south Tipperary, particularly community and drug unit gardaí in view of the increased crime levels in the area, the increased levels of drug-related crime, the recent drug-related murder, a number of unsolved murders in the Clonmel area and heightened levels of anti-social behaviour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22114/06]
Deputy Healy will appreciate that policing operations and the deployment of Garda resources are matters for the Garda authorities. It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within divisions on a priority basis, in accordance with overall policing requirements. However, I am in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner to keep the measures and resources for tackling serious crime under continuous review. The overall allocation of Garda resources, including manpower, to the Garda Commissioner reflects the Government's policing priorities. The Garda Síochána has never been better resourced at any time in its history.
I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength, all ranks, of the Garda Síochána is set to rise to 12,641 today, following the attestation of 273 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702, all ranks, on 30 June 1997 and represents an increase of 1,939, or 18.1%, in the personnel strength of the Garda Síochána during that period. The total number of gardaí in training or fully attested will reach 14,000 in December 2006.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of the Tipperary Garda division on 7 June 2006 was 315 gardaí, and that the strength of each Garda district in the division on the same date was as follows: Clonmel, 65; Cahir, 47; Nenagh, 42; Templemore, 50; Thurles, 73; and Tipperary town, 38. I am further informed that an additional 15 gardaí are due to be allocated to the Tipperary division on 9 June 2006. This allocation will comprise 13 probationer gardaí who have been attested as members of the Garda Síochána, in addition to two gardaí who will be allocated to the division by way of permanent inter-divisional transfer. Overall, this will bring the total strength of the Tipperary division to 330 gardaí, all ranks. This represents an increase of 33 gardaí, or 11%, compared to the figure as of 31 December 1997. I understand that Garda management proposes to allocate the 15 additional gardaí among districts as follows: four for Clonmel; three for Thurles; three for Nenagh; two for Templemore; two for Tipperary town; and one for Cahir.
The Garda authorities inform me that the crime situation in the division, including drug-related crime and anti-social behaviour, is continually monitored by local Garda management and resources are deployed to meet specific needs. Funding has been allocated to the division from the budget for Operation Anvil, which has been extended to rural areas to target criminal activity. As the Deputy is probably aware, a special operation is ongoing in Clonmel. The community policing units in the division work closely with local communities and other initiatives are frequently taken to target specific types of criminal activity.
The personnel strength of the divisional drugs unit is one sergeant and eight gardaí. The Garda national drugs unit provides assistance and expertise to the divisional drugs unit, as necessary, in operational, intelligence and training matters. Moreover, all gardaí have responsibility, inter alia, to deal with drug related issues as they arise.
While any increase in Garda numbers is welcome, does the Minister accept that an unacceptable situation has been allowed to develop by him and the Government, as well as the previous Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats Administration, in south Tipperary over the past ten years? For example, there has been no increase in the number of gardaí in south Tipperary during the lifespan of this Government. Moreover, since the Progressive Democrats-Fianna Fáil Government came into office in 1997, only four additional gardaí have been deployed within the south Tipperary Garda area. This constitutes an increase of approximately4%. During the same period, overall Garda strength increased by more than 16%.
Hence, the allocation to south Tipperary has been completely inadequate and unfair. While the additional numbers which the Minister has just provided are welcome, they do not meet the needs of the south Tipperary area. As the Minister is aware, the area has experienced a considerable increase in crime levels, including drug-related crime.
In recent years, there has been a considerable increase in the rate of unsolved murders. When will the Minister appoint community gardaí to the area? Not a single community garda is dedicated to that office in south Tipperary. When will he allocate community gardaí? When will he allocate additional gardaí for drug-related work? Only two gardaí in south Tipperary deal with this matter. An increase in numbers is necessary.
I welcome the Deputy's acknowledgment that the number of gardaí has increased in the Tipperary division. I reiterate my earlier statement, namely, that the number of gardaí has, during the lifetime of the Progressive Democrats-Fianna Fáil coalitions, risen by 11%.
——that this compares with an 18% increase of the strength of the force nationally. In addition, groups such as the national drugs unit, the Garda National Immigration Bureau and other national units that support local gardaí have also been strengthened. Second, as the Deputy has been operating with two particular parties in mind, he should know that when we came to office in 1997, we discovered that the number of gardaí in the force had fallen during the lifetime of the rainbow Government.
As already stated, until today, no increase had taken place in the past five years. Moreover, according to the Minister's reply to Question No. 431 of 23 May 2006, before today's announcement there had only been an increase of 4% in the previous ten-year period. Many responsible organisations, such as South Tipperary County Council, Clonmel Borough Council, the RAPID organisation and others have asked the Minister to meet the public representatives in south Tipperary. However, he has refused to so do. Will the Minister inform the House whether he will meet those organisations in the near future to discuss this issue?
I will inform those organisations, as I have informed the Deputy, that from today, Clonmel will receive an additional four gardaí, Thurles and Nenagh will receive an additional three gardaí each, Templemore and Tipperary town will receive an extra two gardaí each and one more will be deployed to Cahir.