Wednesday, 13 May 2020
Department of Justice and Equality
344. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if funding is available for the purchase of state-of-the art drones for use by An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4174/20]
As the Deputy will be aware, record resources, including a substantial capital allocation of €116m, were made available to An Garda Síochána in 2020. Under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for carrying on and managing the administration and business of the organisation as well as for the allocation of Garda resources, in light of identified operational demands. As Minister, I have no role in those matters.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána does not currently use drones to aid policing but that a working group is responsible for assessing emerging technology and technological advances, including in relation to drones, with a view to their possible deployment in support of policing efforts.
I am informed that the organisation is giving consideration to the use of drones in areas such as by the Garda National Technical Bureau for the mapping of crime scenes and evidence collection; Roads Policing for traffic management, collision investigation, public order policing, crowd control and event management; and Operational Support Section for search and rescue and assisting operational frontline units.
I understand that it is envisaged that Gardaí will work to establish how the deployment of drones might operate and to identify any operational, legal or data protection issues that might arise, with a view to making recommendations for a policy on the matter. I understand that it is hoped that recommendations on the matter will be made in the second half of this year, although it is possible that the current Covid-19 pandemic may impact on this timeline.
I should also note that my Department is currently working on legislation relating to the recording and processing of digital images, as one of the actions arising under 'A Policing Service for the Future', the 4-year implementation plan for the Report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. It is expected that this Bill will allow for the use of drones by the Gardaí for operational policing into the future.