Thursday, 8 December 2016
I thank the Cathaoirleach for selecting for debate as a Commencement matter the question of the lack of a full and comprehensive Garda station in Maynooth, County Kildare. I spoke to officials in the Garda Commissioner's office yesterday to confirm some facts, which I will now outline. Maynooth Garda station opens for two hours a day from Monday to Friday. The highest ranking officer in the station is a sergeant. This is an issue of concern in light of a vicious attack that took place outside the local university recently. I will not go into the details of this ongoing matter, other than to say that the incident has heightened tensions, sensitivities and awareness of security among local residents. Numerous councillors from all parties have contacted my office in the past two weeks to ask what is going on. There is an unusual dynamic in Maynooth because there are 14,000 people coming and going on the university campus and a further 16,000 people living in the immediate catchment area. This means that the Garda station has to police 30,000 people, which is a huge number by any stretch of the imagination.
There is a general feeling in the north Kildare area that something needs to be done. There are Garda stations in Leixlip and in Clane. The people of Maynooth are crying out for the Garda station in the town to be fully resourced so that it can open seven days a week. Members of the Dáil from all parties and none have spoken previously at length about the need to do something. It is certainly not acceptable that the Garda station opens for just two hours a day, five days a week, and is of such limited capacity. I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, for coming to the House and I look forward to hearing what he feels he can do.
I am responding to the Senator on behalf of the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, who cannot be here today, unfortunately. She sends her apologies to the Senator.
I thank Senator Boyhan for raising this important issue. He will be aware that the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of resources among the various Garda divisions and that the Tánaiste has no direct role in the matter. It is a matter for the Garda Commissioner. As the Senator knows, Maynooth Garda station is in the Leixlip Garda district, which forms part of the Kildare division, and is open from 10 a.m. to 12 noon from Monday to Saturday. Furthermore, neighbourhood watch and community alert schemes are in place in the Leixlip area. The district officer in Leixlip attends municipal forum meetings, joint policing committee meetings and other meetings in respect of Maynooth town and its environs. During the academic year, An Garda Síochána liaises closely with the university security and staff of NUI Maynooth. Each September, gardaí deliver a presentation to all first year students during freshers' week to address matters like personal safety, general behaviour and community engagement.
I am informed that on 31 October last, which is the latest date for which figures are readily available, there were 307 members of An Garda Síochána assigned to the Kildare division, 12 of whom were assigned to Maynooth Garda station. The division is also supported by 22 members of the Garda Reserve and 29 civilian staff. The work of local gardaí is supported as appropriate by a number of Garda national units, such as the national bureau of criminal investigation, the national economic crime bureau and the national drugs and organised crime bureau. The 57 Garda vehicles that operate throughout the division provide a highly visible and mobile Garda presence. Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure the optimum use is made of them. This is reflected in the fact that local Garda management in the division has implemented additional policing measures in response to recent incidents, including additional Garda foot patrols, checkpoints and patrols by the regional support unit.
A Programme for a Partnership Government recognises community policing as the embodiment of An Garda Síochána because it provides a means of recognising that every community, both urban and rural, has its own concerns and expectations. It commits the Government to ensuring there is visible, effective and responsive policing in every community, with the most minimal response times possible. In support of this objective, the Tánaiste has asked the Policing Authority to oversee a review of, among other things, the dispersement of Garda stations in rural areas. I understand the authority has formally requested the Garda Inspectorate to examine the dispersement and use of resources available to the Garda in the delivery of policing services to local communities and to make recommendations for the provision of a more effective, visible and responsive policing service that takes account of the changing environments in rural, developing, urban and suburban areas; the views of local communities; the allocation to and deployment of Garda resources at local policing level, including the use of the Garda Reserve, Garda facilities and Garda equipment; and relevant recommendations made in previous inspectorate reports.
The Tánaiste recently announced that the Government has approved her proposal for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021, comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Garda Reserve members and 4,000 civilians.For 2017, funding has been provided for the recruitment of 800 Garda recruits and up to 500 civilians to support the wide-ranging reform plan in train in An Garda Síochána. Approximately 300 appointments will also be made to the Garda Reserve. I understand that since the reopening of the Garda Síochána College, 679 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána, of whom 35 have been assigned to the Kildare division. In addition, it is anticipated that in 2017, as recruitment continues, An Garda Síochána will be in a position to allocate more probationer gardaí to the division.
I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive reply. Will he keep this matter under review? It is unique. This is more than a rural Garda station. There are 14,000 students on campus and 16,000 living in the catchment area. It is unique. Recent events have heightened the anxiety of people. I call on the Department and the Minister to keep the issues around the station under review. I thank the Minister of State for his response.
Again, on behalf of the Tánaiste, I thank the Senator for raising this important matter in the House. As I have stated, the Government is committed to ensuring visible, effective and responsive policing in every community, including by way of minimal possible response times. In this context, Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure optimum use is made of these resources. Garda management has implemented additional policing measures in response to the recent incidents in the Kildare division to which the Senator has referred. Additional measures include Garda foot patrols, checkpoints and patrols by the regional support unit. This is in addition to the high level of Garda co-operation with local communities in the Maynooth area and the local university. The division has already benefited from the Government's accelerated Garda recruitment programme. It is anticipated that in 2017, as recruitment continues, An Garda Síochána will be in a position to allocate more probationer gardaí to the division. Again, I thank the Senator for raising this important matter and for his interest in these vital issues.