Thursday, 8 July 2021
Department of Justice and Equality
An Garda Síochána
113. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the communication her Department has had with the Garda Commissioner in respect of the unanswered 999 calls which were largely in relation to domestic violence reports; her views on whether this could potentially point to a significant attitude with respect to domestic abuse within An Garda Síochána; the assurances the Commissioner has offered with a view to remediation in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36840/21]
116. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the nature of any investigation taking place into the cancellation of emergency calls by An Garda Síochána by her Department; the person or body that is undertaking the investigation; if such investigations will reveal the location and personnel involved in cancellation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36698/21]
123. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the position in relation to the alarming cancellation of 999 calls; the actions taken in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36770/21]
135. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the actions that are being taken to ensure no cancellations occur of emergency calls to An Garda Síochána at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36751/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 113, 116, 123 and 135 together.
Any inappropriate cancellation of 999 calls is a very serious issue. This falls significantly below the high standards that the public expect from the Gardaí and the high standards that An Garda Síochána set for themselves. I am particularly concerned that anyone experiencing domestic abuse, and indeed anyone in a vulnerable position, who summoned the courage to seek assistance may not have received it.
I welcome the apology that has been made by the Garda Commissioner and the Commissioner has assured me that when someone calls 999 now, they can expect and trust that An Garda Síochána will help. That should always be the case.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Policing Authority was asked by Minister McEntee to oversee the review being carried by An Garda Síochána in relation to this matter, and there have been a number of engagements between the Authority and An Garda Síochána since March of this year. This is of course in keeping with the role of the Authority in providing independent oversight of policing services, and reporting on and advising the Minister of the day.
As the Deputy is aware, the Commissioner met with the Policing Authority in public last month, where he gave a detailed account of these serious shortcomings and outlined what steps have been taken by Garda management to ensure it does not happen again. I understand he will be meeting the Authority again later this month.
It is vital that the best interests of victims and anyone whose calls were cancelled inappropriately are the priority and focus throughout this process. The Commissioner has informed me that Gardaí are currently contacting people whose 999 calls were cancelled in order to apologise and ask if they require help from An Garda Síochána. He has briefed me a number of times on the matter and he has assured me that this work will be completed quickly and that once that process is complete, he will give a full account to the Policing Authority.
When the Authority has completed its work and reported to me, I will examine its conclusions and take any action warranted on foot of its report.
114. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she has considered demands from the family of a person (details supplied) for an independent inquiry into their death; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36701/21]
I would like to restate my deepest sympathies to all those impacted by the tragic event in Hartstown last December, and in particular to the family of George Nkencho.
As the Deputy is aware, and as is the case in every incident involving the Gardaí that results in the death of a person, the shooting is being fully and independently investigated by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), which is chaired by a High Court Judge.
GSOC has confirmed publicly that they have begun a criminal investigation under section 98 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005. I can confirm it is open to GSOC to make wider systemic recommendations on issues they investigate and they are free to do that in this instance also.
As GSOC is statutorily independent in its operation and administration, it would not be appropriate for me as Minister to comment on or interfere in what is an ongoing independent investigation with full powers. I am confident however that GSOC is treating this matter with the utmost priority and with the gravity that it deserves. It is important for the family and all those involved in this tragedy that the investigation is done thoroughly but as speedily as possible in the circumstances.
As the Deputy will be aware, Minister McEntee met with the Nkencho family in April to hear from them directly. She assured them of GSOC's independence and that they are the most appropriate body to complete a full, impartial investigation into all of the circumstances relating to the death of Mr Nkencho. I hope the Deputy will appreciate that I cannot discuss this matter in detail given the ongoing investigation.
115. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the Statement of Strategy 2022-2024 for An Garda Síochána; if her attention has been drawn to plans to expand the Garda Information Services Centre in Castlebar, County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36815/21]
The Garda Strategy Statement 2022- 2024 will set out An Garda Síochána’s long-term operational priorities, as well as the key focus areas within the organisation, framed by the actions contained in A Policing Service for our Future, the Government's implementation plan for the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.
I am informed that An Garda Síochána will take account of a broad spectrum of views in the formulation of the Strategy Statement. Focus groups will be held with ethnic and culturally diverse groups from within our communities, while formal correspondence will seek the views and input from Government Departments, local authorities, non-governmental agencies and community representatives, as well as individual members of the public.
An Garda Síochána recently sought input from the public in assisting them in developing the Strategy Statement. The closing date for receipt of submissions to the online survey was 7 May 2021. These submissions will now be considered by An Garda Síochána ahead of the finalisation of the Strategy Statement.
The Garda Information Service Centre (GISC) was established by An Garda Síochána in Castlebar in 2005. I understand that it operates on a 24 hour and seven day a week basis, throughout the year. The objectives include the reduction of time spent by operational members on administrative duties and the improvement of data quality at An Garda Síochána. Garda management has assigned additional functions to the Garda Information Service Centre. Consideration is being given to assigning further functions to the Centre in the future, subject to the necessary staffing and other resources being made available.
I am informed by An Garda Síochána that GISC is staffed entirely by Garda staff and at 31 May 2021, the latest date for which figures are available, there were 217 Garda staff assigned to GISC
I am further advised that a competition for Incident Creation Representatives for GISC has concluded, with the first group of successful candidates having commenced training at GISC on 28 June 2021. This continued recruitment to GISC re-enforces the long term operational priorities currently being focused on by An Garda Síochána. A competition for the role of Principal Officer in GISC is currently in progress and I am informed that interviews are due to be held at the end of July.