Thursday, 4 April 2019
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach and welcome the Minister of State.
I am raising an issue I have raised in the past. At the time the initial Garda response to the call for a new Garda station in Castletroy to serve the greater east Limerick area was that a new station was not warranted. I have had discussions with senior gardaí in Limerick. I have also been in touch with and attended meetings organised by residents to discuss anti-social behaviour and other issues in the area, in which there is a very young population. Following the discussions with senior gardaí, I understand the Garda is considering the question of whether a Garda station is warranted in the area. Therefore, I seek an update on the matter.
Castletroy has a huge student population of about 15,000. There are also many families living in the area which is expanding greatly outwards. Henry Street Garda station serves not only city centre areas but also all the way out as far as Montpelier and Castleconnel. Realistically, the station does not have the resources or manpower to service those areas fully. Recently there was a serious break-in, but, unfortunately, the people affected had to wait quite a while for assistance because there was no Garda car available to deal with the incident. Local and national politicians in all parties and all of the residents' associations support the call for a new Garda station. I also understand it now has the support of senior gardaí in Limerick.
I thank the Senator for raising this important matter and wish to advise her that I am answering on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality. She will appreciate that the Garda Commissioner is responsible for managing and controlling the administration and business of An Garda Síochána who holds primary responsibility for the effective and efficient use of the resources available to An Garda Síochána. He is responsible for the opening and closing of Garda stations. The Minister has no direct role in such matters. The Senator may recall that, as recently as December 2018, the Garda Inspectorate, in its report entitled, Policing with Local Communities, confirmed that it was appropriate for the Commissioner to continue to hold this responsibility.
The Minister and the Department are informed that Garda management keeps under review overall policing arrangements, including the operation of Garda stations and the assignment of personnel throughout the State. Garda management has regard to various factors, including crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a district, divisional and regional level. This ensures optimum use is made of Garda resources and that the best possible policing service is provided for the public.The Garda Síochána Building and Refurbishment Programme 2016-2021 includes a number of projects which reflect the agreed priorities of An Garda Síochána. Provision of a Garda station in Castletroy, Limerick, is not included in this programme. The Minister and I very much understand that people want to see a visible Garda presence in their own locality. In this context, the programme for Government commits to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. A cornerstone of this commitment is the Government plans to achieve an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 reserve members and 4,000 civilians.
As the Senator will be aware, there has been an unprecedented level of investment in Garda resources across the State in recent years. The budgetary allocation to An Garda Síochána for 2019 amounts to €1.76 billion. Significant capital investment is also being made in An Garda Síochána. This includes a total of €342 million being invested in Garda information and communications technology, ICT, infrastructure between 2016 and 2021. Furthermore, the Government's capital plan 2016-2021 provides €46 million for investment in the Garda fleet to ensure that An Garda Síochána has a modern, effective and fit for purpose fleet.
With respect to Limerick, the Minister is informed by the Commissioner that the overall strength of the Limerick division as of the 28 February 2019, the latest date for which figures are available, was 589. In addition, some 86 vehicles were allocated to the Limerick division. I understand the area referred to by the Senator is covered by Henry Street Garda station, which forms part of the Henry Street Garda district. I am informed by the Commissioner that the strength of the Henry Street Garda district, as of 28 February 2019, was 320, of whom 257 are assigned to Henry Street Garda station. There are 31 Garda staff and 15 Garda Reserve members attached to the district.
When appropriate, the work of local gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the armed support units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 2,600 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, 87 of whom were assigned to the Limerick division, including 52 probationer gardaí assigned to Henry Street Garda station. I would expect that the ongoing recruitment process will continue.
As to the question of where stations are located, as I have said, the Senator will appreciate that this is a matter for the Commissioner and that the detailed examination of the matter by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate concluded as recently as December 2018 that it is appropriate for the Commissioner to continue to hold this responsibility.
I thank the Minister of State for her detailed response. I welcome all the new gardaí who have been recruited in Limerick and, on the other side, I congratulate the 26 members who were promoted. It is wonderful that they went for promotions and were successful. Some posts have to be back-filled, therefore, it is not quite the case that this station receives the number required because members are being moved from posts. The gardaí provide a wonderful service but this area is greatly expanding. The Minister of State might relay that point to the Minister and he might explain the position to the Commissioner. I have spoken to senior gardaí in the area and they are aware of how much the area is expanding. The gardaí have to cover the courthouse and prison visits. There are so many areas the gardaí from Henry Street Garda station have to cover that it is hard for them to be able to cover everything at the one time. Issues related to anti-social behaviour in the city centre arose recently. Gardaí that had been assigned to a Garda operation that was working had to be taken off that operation to be sent to other areas. This is an expanding area and it needs to be examined. Anything the Minister can do to impress on the Commissioner that this is area that really needs to be examined, I would welcome.