Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Department of An Taoiseach
Programme for Government Initiatives
105. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will report on the commitment in the programme for Government on extending Garda oversight and accountability. [4121/17]
Since my appointment as Minister for Justice and Equality, I have overseen a significant programme of reform in Garda oversight and accountability.
The establishment of the Policing Authority represents one of the most significant and progressive reforms to the justice sector over recent years and the recent transfer of the appointment function in relation to the senior ranks is a particularly important signal of this reform.
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has a hugely important role in ensuring that public confidence in the Garda Síochána is safeguarded. I am committed to ensuring that we have in place the most effective possible mechanism for the investigation of complaints. GSOC has been operating for 10 years now, and I believe it is time to examine fundamentally the legislative provisions relating to the manner in which complaints are made to and dealt with by GSOC. Accordingly, it is my intention to seek Government approval to prepare Heads of a Bill to amend the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to enable GSOC to carry out its functions more effectively and efficiently and help continue to ensure proper accountability of the Garda Síochána in providing a service to the public.
The Garda Inspectorate performs a very valuable service in seeking to ensure that the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness in the operation and administration of the Garda Síochána is maintained. The Garda Inspectorate report 'Changing Policing in Ireland', published in December 2015, is a comprehensive report into all aspects of the administration of An Garda Síochána. Last July the Government approved my proposals for a Five Year Reform and High Level Workforce Plan for An Garda Síochána which combines the Government’s response to the report of the Garda Inspectorate and the commitments in the Programme for a Partnership Government to increase the visibility, effectiveness and responsiveness of An Garda Síochána. In this regard it sets out an overall vision of a Garda workforce of 21,000 comprising 15,000 Gardaí, 2,000 Reserves and 4,000 civilians to be to be achieved incrementally over five years in tandem with the delivery of reforms. The delivery of this overall vision is supported by the provision in Budget 2017 for the recruitment of 800 trainee Gardaí, up to 500 additional civilian staff and 300 Reserves.
The Garda Commissioner’s Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021, published in June 2016, is the vehicle for the implementation of the Inspectorate’s wide range of recommendations aimed at her organisation. I have asked the Policing Authority to monitor implementation of these agreed recommendations by An Garda Síochána and to report to me on progress on a quarterly basis.
I believe the new Code of Ethics, prepared by the Policing Authority and An Garda Síochána in conjunction with a range of stakeholders, is an important milestone. I also welcome the commitments in the Policing Plan 2017 to embed this Code into the day to day thinking and actions of the organisation.
Both I and the Government are committed to ensuring that An Garda Síochána continue to provide a modern, efficient and accountable policing service and I have every confidence that the new structures which have been put in place are a significant contribution to that.
106. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will report on the Government's plans for the referendum committed to in the programme for Government on Article 41.2.1 of the Constitution. [7055/17]
The Programme for a Partnership Government, published in May 2016, states that we will hold a referendum on Article 41.2.1 of the Constitution regarding a “woman’s life within the home”. The Tánaiste will in due course bring forward proposals for the Government's consideration regarding the proposed approach to the referendum. Once approved by Government, the General Scheme of the referendum Bill will be drafted setting out the referendum wording and implementing legislation, if needed. No timing has been decided on yet in respect of a referendum on this matter.