Thursday, 21 October 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
An Garda Síochána
Since Fine Gael came into power, we have seen community Garda numbers reduce dramatically right across Dublin. Does budget 2022 provide for additional community gardaí in Dublin? When will the Garda number meet the needs of the citizens of Dublin?
Budget 2022 will see over €2.062 billion allocated to An Garda Síochána next year. This funding will include provision for the recruitment of 800 new Garda recruits and 400 Garda staff. This increase in the number of Garda members and staff will deliver significant growth in operational policing hours nationwide and improved services to the public generally.
In Dublin, through sustained Government investment in An Garda Síochána, the number of gardaí across all divisions in the Dublin metropolitan region, DMR, has increased by approximately 5.5% since 2018, while the number of gardaí designated as community gardaí in the DMR has increased by approximately 11% since 2018, bringing the total to 326 Garda members. This additional investment, in Dublin and throughout Ireland, is in line with the Government's commitment to ensuring that people feel safe in their communities.
Community policing is at the heart of the work of An Garda Síochána and all gardaí have a role to play in community policing in the course of carrying out their duties. The official categorisation as a community garda has referred to those who are exclusively assigned to building relationships with local communities and civil society, including by giving talks to schools, community groups and others.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the general management and administration of the Garda organisation under the Garda Síochána Act 2005. It is proper that I, as Minister of State, have no role in these independent functions. I am assured that Garda management keeps the distribution of Garda members throughout the State under continual review in the context of policing priorities and crime trends, to ensure An Garda Síochána is optimally positioned to keep our communities safe. I understand it is a matter for each divisional chief superintendent to determine the optimum distribution of duties among the personnel available to him or her, having regard to the profile of each area within the division and its specific needs.
The Minister of State mentioned that there has been an 11% increase since 2018 but I want to put that into context. There has been a 45% decrease since 2010 so we are only playing catch-up. The Minister of State said that, in an ideal world, community gardaí would have a visible presence – the feet on the beat. We do not live in an ideal world. We have lived under Fine Gael Governments since 2011. In this time, community Garda numbers have been decimated. In 2010, the year before Fine Gael came into power, there were 508 community gardaí right across Dublin. The latest figures I have, from 2020, show that we now have 278. That represents a 45% decrease in the number of community gardaí. This happened on the watch of the Minister of State, and parts of my city are being abandoned.
Since 2018, there has been an 11% increase in the number of community gardaí. The number of community garda members I have obtained from An Garda Síochána is 326. Four hundred and fifty additional gardaí will be recruited this year, and the budget has allowed for an allocation of funding for another 800 new Garda recruits for next year and 400 Garda staff. The additional Garda staff will also facilitate gardaí moving from administrative duties back onto the beat. The designation of community gardaí is a matter for the Garda Commissioner and chief superintendent in the relevant area. Unfortunately, I have no role in that matter.
The Minister of State mentioned that designation is a matter for the Garda Commissioner, but if the Commissioner does not have the personnel, he cannot move them around.
Rathcoole is a small town at the edge of my constituency, Dublin Mid-West. It has one of the fastest-growing populations in the State. It has a Garda station on Main Street. In 2010, prior to Fine Gael entering Government, there were 28 full-time gardaí in Rathcoole. In 2021, the figure dropped to 18, representing a decrease of 36% under Fine Gael's watch. Census figures indicate that Rathcoole's population grew by 27% from 2011 to 2016. It has increased since 2016. The village has one of the fastest-growing populations in the State. As the population has grown, Garda numbers have not.
The latest figure I have for the number of gardaí needed to keep pace with the population in Rathcoole is 36, not 18. Therefore, the station is at 50% capacity given the growing population, and that needs to be addressed.
I thank the Deputy for raising the important matter of Garda numbers in his area. As stated already, I do not have any powers regarding the distribution of gardaí or their designation. The 450 additional gardaí being recruited this year, the 800 to be recruited next year, and the 400 additional Garda staff that will be recruited will bring the total number to 14,600 fully attested members in 2022, with 600 in training, putting us on course to meet our target of 15,000 sworn members. Budget 2022 will bring the total number of Garda staff to 3,800, the highest ever number, ensuring that more gardaí can focus on core policing duties rather than administration. It will also enable the organisation to recruit special civilian staff – to combat cybercrime and fraud, for example – and improve the internal management of the organisation in finance and ICT. The distribution and designation of gardaí are matters for the Commissioner and chief superintendent but we are now on course. The numbers fell slightly as a result of Covid but we are on course to get the number up to the 15,000 mark over the next 18 months.
I wish to speak on the same issue. I have raised the question of Cherrywood Garda station. I thank the Minister of State for his clarification on distribution being a matter for the Commissioner.
On Garda strength, it has been the case over the past 20 years that the number of gardaí has been between 11,000 and 14,500. It is very welcome that recruitment has recommenced, with the reopening of Templemore in 2014. I thank the Minister of State for the continuing commitment to increasing the number of gardaí this year and every year it is possible.