Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Justice and Equality
420. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to fulfil the public commitment made on 17 January 2020 to establish a taskforce in Drogheda, County Louth in the wake of the killing of a person (details supplied); and the details of progress made on the establishment of such a taskforce. [6267/20]
As the Deputy will be aware, both the Taoiseach and I have visited Drogheda on a number of occasions to meet with Gardaí involved in tackling the ongoing and highly volatile feud as referred to. I have also been regularly briefed by the Commissioner on the matter.
I can assure the Deputy that Gardaí are dedicated to tackling gang-related violence in Drogheda and ensuring the safety of all citizens in the community and the wider area. There is a dedicated policing operation in place, Operation Stratus, which specifically targets the ongoing feud. This includes high visibility patrols and checkpoints, days of action and covert policing initiatives targeting specific individuals.
In addition, Garda resources in the region have been increased significantly. I understand from the Garda authorities that there are 158 Gardaí assigned to the Drogheda District at the end of April 2020, representing a 49% increase compared to the end of 2015. There are now also 19 Garda staff, an increase of 73% in the same time period. Taken together, this increase in the Garda workforce represents a very significant increase in operational policing hours in Drogheda. In addition, these are supported and supplemented by personnel from the Regional Armed Support Unit, Divisional Detective, Drugs and Crime Units as well as Divisional Roads Policing Units as required. Liaison is ongoing with relevant stakeholders, including the Local Authorities, Tusla and the HSE.
I further note that a key principle arising from the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing is that policing is not the responsibility of the police alone, but also involves other agencies of Government, such as health or social services, as well as other sectors of society. This principle is at the centre of a new policy on community safety which is being developed in my Department. The policy, which will be given a statutory basis in the new Policing and Community Safety Bill, proposes to establish and support a system of community safety at local level across the country. Through cross-sectoral collaboration, and by drawing on the available services, these systems will be best placed to identify, support and implement, community safety according to the needs of the local community.
In the meantime, officials in my Department are examining how the community in Drogheda can be better supported in the more immediate future including through engagement with the local authority who I know have been very active in delivering on actions to support local communities affected by the increase in violence. If it would be of assistance, officials in my Department are available to meet with the Deputy to further discuss the situation in Drogheda and the possible responses and, if you agree, I can have that meeting arranged. The further advancement of the specific commitment referred to by the Deputy is a matter for the next Government.
Finally I can reassure the Deputy that my Department and An Garda Síochána keep all criminal legislation under continuous review and that unprecedented resources are being provided to An Garda Síochána to help them address the challenge of gangland activities and other forms of criminality in the State - the Garda budget for 2020 amounts to €1.88 billion.