Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Justice and Equality
487. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will ensure that adequate policing resources are provided in the Border region to deal with cross-Border criminal activity by persons and organised gangs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44522/20]
As the Deputy will be aware, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána including allocation of personnel and resources.
An Garda Síochána has been allocated an unprecedented budget of €1.952 billion for 2021. The significant level of funding provided over recent years is enabling sustained, ongoing recruitment of Garda members and staff. As a result, there are now some 14,600 Garda members and over 3,000 Garda staff nationwide. Budget 2021 will allow for the recruitment of up to620 new Gardaí and an extra 500 Garda staff.The Budget allocation also provides for an increase in supervisory ranks at Sergeant and Inspector level.
More Garda recruits and more Garda staff means extra members of the service on the front line and in specialist units battling organised crime groups, supporting victims, and keeping people safe.
The Deputy will also be aware that there is close and ongoing co-operation between An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland in respect of all aspects of policing. In addition, there are a number of structured and targeted co-operation mechanisms.
The Cross Border Policing Strategy aims to improve public safety throughout Ireland, and to disrupt criminal activity and enhance the policing capability of both police services on the island of Ireland. The Strategy was renewed in 2015 and covers an extensive range of policing activities.
The annual Cross Border Conference on Organised Crimefurther enhances cooperation between law enforcement agencies. Its aim is to enhance understanding and cooperation between law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border, particularly in relation to cross border organised criminality and related issues. I can inform the Deputy that I am addressing the 18th annual Cross Border Conference webinar alongside Naomi Long MLA, Minister for Justice - Northern Ireland, the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, and the Chief Constable of the PSNI, Simon Byrne, today 17th December.
In November 2015, the British and Irish Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive agreed a series of measures in the Fresh Start agreement as part of a concerted and enhanced effort to tackle organised and cross jurisdictional crime. These measures included the creation of the Joint Agency Task Force. The Task Force is led by senior officers from An Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Revenue Commissioners and UK (HM) Revenue and Customs. A number of other relevant bodies, including the National Crime Agency and the Criminal Assets Bureau are also involved in operational activity where appropriate.
There has been very considerable operational activity, with a variety of different operations undertaken, since the establishment of the Task Force. The Task Force has had a number of significant successes in countering organised criminality on both sides of the border. During my recent meeting with the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, Naomi Long, on 27 November last, An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland updated us on the work of the cross border Joint Agency Task Force.
I can further inform the Deputy that the close cooperation was further developed in November 2019, when An Garda Síochána and the PSNI established a Joint Investigation Team to address the attacks on Quinn Industrial Holdings and its management. This was the first ever Joint Investigation Team established involving An Garda Síochána. This is a significant step forward in cross border police cooperation and had been in preparation for some time.