Priority Questions. - Garda Deployment.

Chris Flood

Question:

6 Mr. Flood asked the Minister for Justice if her attention has been drawn to the continued rapid growth of the greater Tallaght area, Dublin 24, with a current population in excess of 90,000 and that one Garda station serves the entire area; her views on the fact that in view of the many special needs of Tallaght, it should now be designated as a separate Garda division; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9335/97]

Anyone who has visited the Tallaght area will be very aware of the rapid growth in many areas of development there. In the early 1980s the then new Tallaght Garda Station was the first building to be completed on the present complex that now incorporates The Square, the South Dublin County Council Headquarters, many new retail and business premises, the soon to be completed Tallaght Hospital and the new courthouse. In the intervening years, the population has continued to grow and Tallaght now has its own third level college along with many new recreational facilities.

With a large youth population, the Garda authorities have placed great emphasis on crime prevention. In one small area alone comprising 274 houses with a population of 1,844, 75 per cent of the population are unemployed and 1,100 are under 18. Community gardaí attached to the Tallaght Garda Station, by the very nature of their work, are brought into close contact with the young population in the community. The juvenile liaison scheme is specifically aimed at the first time offender with a view to avoiding reoffending. There is a youth diversion programme known as KEY, Killinarden Engages Youth, operating in the Killinarden area since 1991; the Deputy will know about that. The main purpose is to divert young people who are seen to be at risk of getting involved in crime or substance and drug abuse away from such activities. This project has expanded into the Fettercairn estate adjoining Killinarden and I have recently increased its annual funding from £34,000 to £50,000 so that it can bring its good work to a wider target group. This project brings together the statutory agencies and community workers. A drug strategy team has been established also in Tallaght to deal with the demand for drugs. A total of £10 million has been made available by the Government to assist in programmes aimed at reducing drug taking, such as the drug strategy team in Tallaght, the ten drug strategy teams in Dublin and the one in Cork.

I have already indicated publicly that serious consideration must be given to designating Tallaght and its environs as a separate Garda division given the rapid rise not just in population growth but in all aspects of the economic, social and cultural development of the area. As deployment is a matter for the Garda Commissioner, I have requested him to consider this issue as a matter of urgency. The matter has been receiving ongoing examination by the Garda Commissioner along with an examination of the policing infrastructure for the Dublin Metropolitan Area, and particularly the growing area of west Dublin in which Tallaght is situated. The Garda Commissioner will submit his proposals to me shortly and I expect a decision will be made at an early stage based on the Commissioner's report to me.

It should be noted that the divisional-district configuration of the DMA is examined from time to time taking into account changes in population, increase in business-factories and changes that might arise from physical infrastructural matters such as new roads, etc., and minor adjustments have been made over the years to reflect such changes. Developments in parts of Dublin have reached a stage that requires a re-examination of policing as well as other State provisions to take account of population growth. Many of the problems which have surfaced in the Tallaght area require a broad, multi-faceted approach by all the services — health, education, social welfare and parents.

I thank the Minister for her detailed reply. I note with some optimism her statement on divisional status for the greater Tallaght area. Will she agree that residents of different communities in the greater Tallaght area are forced to provide their own policing structure because of what is perceived to be a lack of adequate resources available to the Garda in terms of manpower and other support facilities? Will she agree also it is setting a dangerous precedent for the future of our democracy when communities have to take on policing duties? In view of the Minister's statement on divisional status for Tallaght, will she give her own imprimatur to that? While not wishing to interfere with the day to day operation of Garda structures, a statement from the Minister for Justice on this matter might go some way towards encouraging an early decision. The senes witnessed recently in Tallaght greatly depress the vast majority of Tallaght people who are decent, law abiding citizens trying to do the best they can in sometimes difficult circumstances.

From a policing point of view, the gardaí available to the Tallaght station is the largest number available to any area of Dublin, although people will always want more gardaí. This is a large area to police and problems will arise, particularly when crowds of youths gather, perhaps benignly at first, and cause disruption. The gardaí in Tallaght have been provided with a great deal of resources to tackle the problem, but a large number of the incidents that occur in Tallaght are perpetrated by people under the age of 16, and therein lies a serious problem for society. A small number of people are involved in these incidents which can have an adverse effect on people's lives and I share Deputy Flood's concern that life can be extremely difficult for some of those people. I recently met two groups from Tallaght to discuss this matter, following which I spoke directly to the Garda Commissioner who arranged for the Assistant Commissioner to meet members of the community in the Tallaght region. The Commissioner and I are well aware of the problems being experienced in the area. That is the reason the Commissioner is considering the whole policing of that area, along with other parts of Dublin. When he has submitted his report to me I assure the Deputy I will make a decision very quickly.

On the Minister's comments regarding the different facilities coming onstream and those already in existence in Tallaght, is the Minister aware that the opening of the new courthouse and the new Tallaght Hospital will reduce some of the manpower currently available to the Garda Síochána in the area because gardaí may be required to attend at the hospital in road traffic accident cases or appear in court in other cases? This is of concern to all of us in Tallaght. Consequently, we are anxious to see Garda resources improve in terms of manpower and backup facilities.

I have already indicated that the development of the hospital and the courthouse will require the availability of additional policing resources. I have also indicated to the Garda Commissioner the great value people place on community gardaí who are already operating. However, I would like to see a great deal more of them out on the street getting to know people by their first names, getting to know what is going on in a neighbourhood. That is something I have also discussed with the Commissioner, but it is not something that can be tackled just by Garda involvement. There has to be community involvement, and the other agencies of the State must also shoulder their responsibilities.