Seanad debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Community Safety and Investment: Motion [Private Members]


10:30 am

Photo of Emer CurrieEmer Currie (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Labour Party for bringing forward this motion. We have spent a great deal of time post the events in November focusing on law and order. It is timely that we come back to discussing that issue now in order to ensure that we are still all on the same page. I believe that we are. I thank Members of the Seanad for also putting forward amendments to the motion.

I commend the Minister and thank her for coming today. I also commend the members of An Garda Síochána on their actions on that terrible night in November. Furthermore, I commend the gardaí who were deployed in my community on Christmas Eve, where a horror story unfolded before the eyes of people who were in a restaurant in Blanchardstown village. I know members of that community who were impacted by those events. I also commend gardaí in Dublin's north inner city, Longford, Drogheda and all over the country on the work that they have done.

I am very wary of people talking down the morale of the force. A good way to describe the current situation is that we are at a pinch point. We are putting all of our energy into ensuring that we come out on the right side of that. There is still a huge amount of pride in An Garda Síochána and in local gardaí. I refer to members of the force who came to Dublin city to support their colleagues in Blanchardstown on Christmas Eve, which is the most important night of the year for many families. Between 40 and 60 people arrived at Blanchardstown Garda station to help deal with what happened in the village. Let us remember that people still have great pride in An Garda Síochána. Let us not it talk down and be continually negative about where matters stand. It is important to acknowledge how hard people are working.

Covid had an impact on resources. During that important time, we in this Chamber agreed that we had to shut Templemore. If we had not done so, Garda numbers would be where we want them to be right now. We are under pressure, but we understand where that pressure has come from. The important thing is that we are dealing with it. I am very hopeful because 6,500 people came forward during the recent recruitment campaign and indicated that they want to be part of An Garda Síochána. The measures the Minister has introduced in the context of raising the age profile and the training allowance are very positive. Every couple of months recruits are coming out of Templemore and going straight to work in Garda stations. We thank them for that.

There was a perception after what happened in November that when it came to overtime, resources were going into the city centre. Certainly, that is something I picked up on in Blanchardstown, Castleknock and Ongar. It was not the case, however. I met the local superintendent who explained that the overtime that was offered went to all parts of Dublin, which was very positive. Bodycams are being introduced, which is a positive development. Plus facial recognition technology is back on the agenda. I very much believe that such technology should be in place and that it will play a role.

What the Minister has done in the context of local community safety partnerships should tick a large number of the boxes relating to the motion. Those partnerships will move us beyond traditional policing and will support community policing. I am from County Tyrone. It took me a while to get used to how different policing is in the South. To me, community policing is the backbone of the success story of An Garda Síochána. It is the reason that we have so much trust in our police force. We need to protect community policing. Wrapping services around community policing will really improve community safety. I completely agree with the direction in which the Minister has moved by involving youth workers, Tusla, the HSE, drug prevention workers, businesses and voluntary organisations.I want the Minister to prioritise Dublin West. I have said this to her. We do not just need one local community safety partnership. We have lots of communities that need that attention. I am concerned about the lack of funding for those initiatives that we might want to see. We are relying on existing funds from Tusla and the HSE. I want them to have their own fund so that we can go to it with innovative ideas. This is one of those ideas. It is 6 km from Blanchardstown Garda station to Ongar and Tyrellstown. We need a police presence in those villages.


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