Seanad debates

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Garda Reserve

10:30 am

Photo of John Paul PhelanJohn Paul Phelan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I remember the opposition and the issues that arose when a reserve was first mooted and introduced. From my experience of knowing people in the reserve, that some of them had similar appalling experiences to what was outlined by Senator McDowell. Equally, I could mention a number of people who are now gardaí having first been members of the Garda Reserve. It is not accurate to say the treatment meted out to members of the Garda Reserve was universally appalling, as mentioned by Deputy McDowell, but there were cultural and other issues.

The introduction of the reserve was an excellent initiative and was one which the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, strongly supported at the time. The Minister wants to acknowledge the deep interest in the reserve that Senator McDowell has, following his role in its establishment. Acknowledging the Senator's experience in this matter, I remind the House that the Garda Reserve was established to enhance the links between An Garda Síochána and local communities, through the deployment of locally recruited volunteers who operate in support of their full-time colleagues. The Garda Reserve continues to be a valuable operational resource for An Garda Síochána with approximately 530 reserve members currently working alongside gardaí to protect and serve their local communities.

The Minister has asked that I take this opportunity to commend the Garda Reserve members for their commitment to serving their communities. It is clear, as in other aspects of the overall organisation of policing and the provision of State services to protect communities, that there is a need to examine the reserve to ensure that it both operates to maximum effectiveness and fits coherently into the overall architecture of community policing in Ireland.

As the Senator will be aware, the Commission on the Future of Policing, which undertook a review of all aspects of policing in Ireland, published its report on 18 September 2018. The commission recommended that recruitment to the reserve be paused, pending completion of a strategic review of the reserve, with a view to ensuring that the best possible use is made of this valuable resource. On 18 December 2018, the Government endorsed the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland and agreed to accept all 157 recommendations contained in the report, including those relating to the Garda Reserve.

On 18 December, the Minister published a four year high-level plan, entitled A Policing Service for the Future, which sets out the approach to the full implementation of the commission's recommendations. As set out in the implementation plan, the strategic review of the Garda Reserve is one of the key issues being taken forward, as a matter of priority, in 2019. It is prudent that the role of the reserve is considered at this time of policing reform.

I know Senator McDowell shares the Minister's goal, which is to maximise the full potential of the reserve and ensure it is deployed in a meaningful way that best meets the needs of a modern police service and the communities which it serves. While it is disappointing that the number of reserve members has dropped in recent years, both the Government and the Garda Commissioner remain committed to increasing the strength of the reserve. In that regard An Garda Síochána has indicated that a training class of approximately 100 reserves, who successfully applied under previous recruitment drives, will commence training in the first quarter of 2019.


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