Seanad debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Community Safety and Investment: Motion [Private Members]


10:30 am

Photo of Lynn BoylanLynn Boylan (Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Labour Party Seanad team for bringing this motion tonight. Sinn Féin has no problem in supporting its contents. We are all in agreement that the safety of the general public is the number one priority for any police service anywhere in the world. People's safety as they go about their daily lives is of paramount importance. It is the bedrock on which society harmoniously functions. For this to be achieved though, the Garda need to be fully resourced to ensure its capacity is capable of delivering protection to the public wherever and whenever it is required. There will be occasions, which we saw with the riots in Dublin city centre, that expose serious flaws in the preparedness of the Garda to deal with a situation, but also to predict that there was going to be unrest given what had happened earlier in the day. These flaws were very publicly exposed. It is now not just a matter of improving the organisational deficiencies but also of restoring public confidence in the Garda. Public confidence is crucial, especially when it comes to policing in the community.

The Labour Party's Private Members' motion correctly puts a focus on policing with the community. A number of years back, possibly in 2014, when we were doing away with our community policing, the EU was actually highlighting the fact that Ireland was a brilliant model of community policing and that it was the model that should be followed in other European countries. At the time we were actually defunding it. A former Garda Commissioner has a wonderful opinion piece in If it is still up I would recommend everybody to read it. The Labour Party's motion correctly focuses on policing with the community and sets out the context for that while also highlighting the social and economic environment, the need for efficient public services, local inward investment, and access to sports and recreational facilities. The point has also been made about the importance of building safe and sustainable towns and cities. We all know the evidence is there and there is no denying that there is a direct link between poverty and criminality.We need to break the poverty cycle. The young people who are growing up in areas of deprivation are particularly vulnerable to being exploited by organised criminals enticing them into criminal behaviour.

Public confidence is not the only competence that is required for gardaí to be effective in their role, however. At all levels, An Garda Síochána has to have confidence and belief in itself to perform its duties. It is very clear that there is an internal morale problem at the moment. This relates to a number of matters, including the failure to recruit sufficient numbers and retain those already on the force, internal dissension with regard to working conditions and morale-related problems.

The Sinn Féin justice spokesperson, Deputy Pa Daly, has highlighted an issue of concern in respect of Garda Reserve regulations. Deputy Daly recently welcomed the Minister's response to a question on this topic, when she informed him that she intends to bring regulations to Cabinet and launch a recruitment campaign. Although Reserve members cannot replace full-time, highly trained and sworn gardaí, they can offer capacity to cover events and other duties that would otherwise occupy full-time gardaí. Having the Reserve frees full-time officers up to do other important work.

The removal of the upper age limit has been welcomed across the board. This is something we had called for previously. It effectively gave rise to an increase in the number of applications to the latest Garda recruitment drive, which is to be welcomed. We need to ensure that not only are the recruitment targets that have been set achieved but also that they are exceeded in order that we can restore the required service level relating to An Garda Síochána. The outcome will go a long way to making policing in the community the success it needs to be to ensure that communities are safe and police officers have the confidence of the community and have confidence in themselves to do their very important job.


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