Wednesday, 25 September 2013
Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions
4. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which recruitment for the Garda will open; the number of gardaí that will be recruited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39933/13]
I thought that I had switched it off.
As the Deputy is aware, I have secured the approval of my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, for a recruitment competition for the Garda Síochána. There are a number of procedural issues that need to be finalised prior to the formal commencement of that competition and these are expected to conclude in the coming weeks.
The competition will be run by the Public Appointments Service, PAS, on behalf of the Garda Commissioner. An announcement will be issued as soon as recruitment starts, both on its website and directly to those who have registered an expression of interest in joining the Garda Síochána. Persons who would like to join An Garda Síochána and have not yet registered their interest in doing so may sign up on the PAS website, www.publicjobs.ie.
The first students are expected to enter the Garda College in Templemore, County Tipperary, in mid-2014. These recruits will complete the new Garda training programme before they are attested as sworn gardaí and assigned to stations to complete their training. The number of recruits to be drawn down from this new competition will be determined taking a number of factors into account, including the current and projected strength of the force, the projected retirement rate and, of course, the availability of resources.
I believe it is important for an organisation such as the Garda Síochána, particularly given the physical demands of policing, to have some regular intakes of new recruits even on a modest scale, and I was therefore very pleased to obtain the sanction of my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, for this recruitment competition.
While we welcome the announcement of a recruitment campaign, this is perhaps the third time that reference has been made to it. It was delayed previously due to the Haddington Road agreement. Surely the Minister knows how many personnel it is intended to be recruited.
On a related matter, what has the Minister concluded is the minimum number of gardaí required? The Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, has alluded to a figure of 13,000. Is this the figure from which the Minister is working? Does he share the Commissioner's view that numbers should not be allowed to reduce to below 13,000?
The simple answer is that I share the Commissioner's view. The number in the Garda force as of today, based on retirements to date this year, is 13,190. I do not know how many further retirements we will have before the end of this year. From recollection, and I think I am right in this, the number of members of the force we had at the end of December 2012 was 13,430. If I am ten out in the number, I presume that the Deputy will not shoot me, but I think that it was 13,430. Based on the agreement that his party entered into in November-December 2010 with the troika, the Garda was to be reduced by 31 December 2012 to 13,350. I managed to maintain and provide for 80 more gardaí at the end of that year than his party intended to be in An Garda Síochána.
In the context of the numbers to be recruited, there is a series of factors that will impact on that.
We obviously need to get some insight as to how many retirements there are by the end of this year. That will give us some indication of where we are, but that matter has yet to be finalised. There is a substantive administrative job to be done in the context of the recruitment process. An advertisement has been issued and in the region of 30,000 individuals have expressed an interest in joining An Garda Síochána. I am pleased therefore that we will be recruiting next year. In the Fianna Fáil Party's plans or financial figures, announced in 2010, no provision was made for any Garda recruitment between 2010 and 2015. I am pleased that I am in the current position. The numbers issue will be further addressed later this year.
I will resist becoming involved in what our plans were because the Minister is now responsible for implementing his plans. I welcome the fact that, perhaps for the first time, he has committed himself to a minimum number of 13,000 members in the Garda Síochána. That certainly is welcome but it poses a problem for the Minister, for us and more importantly for the public. In the interim - between the admission of these people to the Garda training college and their eventual qualification to function as full-time gardaí - what plans does the Minister have to bridge the gap and ensure that the numbers are maintained at 13,000 and that they will not fall below that? The Garda Commissioner has made it clear that in order to provide basic levels of Garda service, the figure of 13,000 is an absolute requirement.
Gardaí do a great deal more than providing a basic level of service. In the context of the current numbers in An Garda Síochána, they are providing an efficient and effective service which includes not just crime investigation but also crime prevention. If that was not the case we would not have seen a drop of over 20,000 in the number of offences that were recorded as being committed in the preceding 12 months. Rather than playing political games with Garda numbers in this House, it would be refreshing for the Deputy to acknowledge the substantial successes of the Garda Síochána, as well as the success of the more targeted approach that has been adopted in the past two or three years. Smart policing, which has been derided by the Opposition, has also brought about successes. It involves using intelligence proactively not only for crime investigation but also for crime prevention.
It is that type of smart policing that has successfully resulted in the region of 6,500 individuals intent on, or engaged in, burglary being arrested. In the region of 3,500 charges have been brought against individuals. I pay tribute to the work of An Garda Síochána and we should not forget that we currently have in excess of 1,200 members of the Garda reserve. In addition we have 2,000 civilians employed in An Garda Síochána who ensure that well trained members of the force, who in the past were unnecessarily engaged in administrative duties, are now available to engage in crime prevention and detection.
I am happy to pay tribute to the gardaí and we all recognise their successes. However, I asked the Minister a simple question about what he was going to do to bridge the gap between when candidates enter the Garda training college and eventually graduate. I also asked about the potential difficulty of Garda numbers falling below 13,000 which is the minimum number the Garda Commissioner and the Minister have indicated is required.
Those issues will be dealt with in the context of where we are moving towards. The Deputy is labouring under an illusion as to where Garda numbers might be in 12 to 18 months time. I cannot predict with certainty where numbers may be then. It may well be that next year we will have 100 more than 13,000 or 50 fewer than 13,000. As regards overall Garda strength, however, the objective is that the strength should be at 13,000 and that we will recruit to An Garda Síochána.
The Deputy may not be aware that a new training programme is in place for new recruits. The Garda Síochána has prepared that programme but has not yet had an opportunity to use it. The new student probationer training programme will be radically different and will be restructured into three phases. Phase 1 is for 32 weeks at the Garda college at the end of which successful students will be attested, i.e. become members of the Garda Síochána with full police powers. Phase 2 is for 65 weeks based in Garda stations. Phase 3 consists of seven weeks of exam preparation, exams and assessment. The programmes will now result in the award of a Bachelor of Arts level 7 degree in police studies. This is a far more sophisticated and different approach to what was there previously. The main difference between it and the earlier programme is that the new programme carries a greater emphasis on operational policing and focuses on real life scenarios which in turn prepare students better for the policing challenges they face.
The new programme will also instil a life-long learning philosophy for members of the Garda Síochána with a suite of mandatory and elective courses being made available. We are now in a different, more sophisticated and operationally-focused training programme.