Tuesday, 27 June 2017
Department of Justice and Equality
299. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if extra gardaí will be allocated to the relevant districts in order to ensure new stations are opened without impacting on existing Garda levels further to news that several Garda stations will be reopened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30036/17]
300. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if extra gardaí will be provided to the Balbriggan district in order to reopen Rush Garda station; if the station will be reopened using existing gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30037/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 299 and 300 together.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the distribution of resources, the effective and efficient use of the resources available to An Garda Síochána, including personnel and there distribution among the various Garda Divisions and I, as Minister, have no direct role in the matter. Garda management keeps this distribution of resources under continual review in the context of crime trends and policing priorities so as to ensure that the optimum use is made of these resources.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda Síochána District and Station Rationalisation Programme gave rise to the closure of some 139 Garda stations, in 2012 and 2013, following the completion by An Garda Síochána of a comprehensive review of its district and station network. That review was undertaken with the objective of identifying opportunities to introduce strategic reforms to enhance service delivery, increase efficiency and streamline practices within the organisation. I have been advised by the Garda authorities that the closures have allowed front-line Garda to be managed and deployed with greater mobility, greater flexibility and in a more focused fashion, particularly with regard to targeted police operations.
The Programme for Government commits the Government 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. Revisiting the decisions made to close Garda stations is also part of that commitment.
In this context, the Government on 24 June 2016 authorised the then Minister to request the Garda Commissioner, while fully cognisant of her statutory functions, to identify 6 stations for reopening on a pilot basis to determine possible positive impacts that such openings will have on criminal activity, with special emphasis on burglaries, theft and public order. The Commissioner's second interim report was considered by Government on 13 June 2017 when it agreed in principle to the reopening of Stepaside Garda station on a pilot basis as soon as any necessary preparatory works have been completed. The Government also agreed that a decision in relation to the proposed reopening of Rush, Leighlinbridge and Donard stations will be taken when a final report is received from the Commissioner.
This Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country. To make this a reality for all, the Government has in place a plan 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.
This plan is progressing apace. This year, 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. Funding has also been provided for the recruitment of 300 Garda Reserves.
I am informed by the Commissioner, since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, that almost 1,000 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. I am also informed that another 600 trainee Garda are scheduled to attest this year which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increase to around the 13,500 mark by year end - an increase of 500 since the end of 2016.
This focus on investment in personnel is critical. The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources she needs to allow her to deploy increasing numbers of gardaí across every Garda Division.