Thursday, 21 October 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
An Garda Síochána
86. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí assigned to the Donegal division in each of the years 2016 to 2020 and to date in 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51723/21]
This question is similar to a number of other questions on the Question Paper today. It relates to the number of gardaí assigned to the County Donegal division in the years from 2016 to 2020. I would like to see the figures.
I thank Deputy Pringle for raising this important matter of Garda numbers in County Donegal.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Commissioner is responsible, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, for the deployment of An Garda Síochána throughout the State and for the management and administration of Garda business, including the recruitment and training of Garda members and staff. As Minister of State, I play no direct role in these independent functions. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of policing priorities and crime trends, to ensure their optimum use.
I am pleased that budget 2022 reflects the commitment of the Government to ensuring our communities are safe and that An Garda Síochána has the resources to be an effective and trusted policing service. The budget provided by the Government to the Garda Commissioner continues to increase to unprecedented levels, with an allocation of €1.952 billion for 2021. Budget 2022 provides for more than €2 billion in funding.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of gardaí assigned to the Donegal division in each of the years from 2016 to 2020 is as follows: 382 in 2016; 386 in 2017; 404 in 2018; 460 in 2019; and 462 in 2020. At 30 September 2021, there were 449 gardaí assigned to Donegal division. While I acknowledge there has been a year-on-year drop in 2021 compared with the 2020 number, this year's figure represents an increase of almost 18% since 2016.
As the Deputy may be aware, Covid-19 restrictions on the Garda Training College in Templemore constrained recruitment and training for periods over the last 18 months. I am glad to confirm, however, that 450 gardaí will be recruited this year and the funding provided for next year fully supports an additional 800 gardaí and 400 staff being recruited.
I thank the Minister of State for his response. I listened to the figures for Garda numbers in Donegal and compared them with the answers to similar questions, for example, on Garda numbers in Longford. It is interesting that Donegal has three times the population of Longford and is probably five times its size but has proportionally fewer gardaí available to it. This is very worrying, particularly for my area in the south-west of the county where Killybegs, Glenties and Ardara are the larger towns. There are basically two gardaí on duty in that whole area which has a population of 30,000 or 40,000 people. That is nearly as many people as live in County Longford, yet there are only two gardaí on duty. In effect, gardaí cannot answer calls because they do not have the numbers to do so. This is very worrying and needs to be addressed.
Deputy Pringle keeps a strong watch on the number of gardaí because it is so important to have the necessary gardaí in place. As I said, the deployment of gardaí is a matter for the Garda Commissioner. I would hope that the additional gardaí going into training this year and next year will be distributed as necessary throughout the country, as they become available to the Commissioner.
I know Donegal well. It is a little similar to County Wexford where I am from. It is a long county with lots of towns spread throughout, as opposed to having one major metropolis in the county.
I have no say in where gardaí are deployed but hope the additional gardaí will be deployed fairly.
Deployment in a fair manner is key. Based on the figures the Minister of State provided today, by comparison with those provided in response to other questions, it does not seem to be fair. I ask him to impress on the Garda authorities that deployment should be fair and that every part of the country has to be policed in the same way. This is important for community safety. It is important that communities see gardaí have been deployed and are available. I ask the Minister of State to seek assurances from the Commissioner that Donegal is not being policed less than other parts of the country.
Again, I thank the Deputy for raising the matter of Garda numbers in Donegal. We will always endeavour in the Department of Justice to ensure the Garda Commissioner is deploying gardaí fairly throughout the country as they are needed.