Other Questions

Garda Deployment

Eugene Murphy

Question:

43. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí in each Garda station in counties Longford and Roscommon as of 1 November 2017; the number of community gardaí in the division; and the number of Garda Reserve and new recruits assigned to the division since recruitment resumed in 2014. [51668/17]

I ask the Minister the number of gardaí in each Garda station in the Longford-Roscommon division on 1 November 2017-----

These are more mundane matters. They are the bread and butter of the Department.

It is where the votes are.

-----the number of community gardaí in the division and the number of members of the Garda Reserve and new recruits assigned to the division since recruitment resumed in 2014. I represent the Roscommon-Galway constituency, but, as the Minister understands, this issue relates to the Roscommon-Longford division.

The distribution of Garda personnel is exclusively the statutory responsibility of the Garda Commissioner. Notwithstanding the Commissioner's responsibility for the distribution of gardaí, I have provided a breakdown, in tabular form, of the detailed information requested by the Deputy. The Garda strength of the Roscommon-Longford division on 31 October 2017 was 309, of which ten were community gardaí. There are also nine Garda Reserve and 29 Garda civilian staff attached to the division. When appropriate, the work of local gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the armed support unit, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

As the Deputy is aware, the Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country, including in Longford and Roscommon, in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance for citizens and deter crime.  To achieve this, the Government has put in place a plan for an overall Garda force of 21,000 personnel by 2021, comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Garda Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, close to 1,400 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide. Of these, ten have been assigned to the Roscommon-Longford division.  I look forward to attending the graduation of another 200 trainee gardaí on Friday which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increase to around the 13,500 mark by year end, a net increase of 500 since this time last year.

I am also pleased that budget 2018 maintains this high level of investment in the Garda force and ensures the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track. I acknowledge that the moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a reduction to a significant degree in the strength of An Garda Síochána.  We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Garda Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of gardaí across every Garda division, including the Roscommon-Longford division, about which the Deputy is rightly concerned.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

STRENGTH Of THE ROSCOMMON/LONGFORD DIVISION 31 OCTOBER 2017

DISTRICT

STATION

TOTAL

CASTLEREA             

BALLAGHADERREEN     

9

 

BALLINLOUGH         

2

 

BOYLE               

26

 

CASTLEREA           

37

 

ELPHIN              

2

 

FRENCHPARK          

2

 

KEADUE              

1

 

ROOSKY              

3

 

STROKESTOWN         

5

 

TULSK               

2

 

TOTAL

89

GRANARD               

DRUMLISH            

2

 

EDGEWORTHSTOWN      

11

 

GRANARD             

33

 

SMEAR               

1

 

TOTAL

47

LONGFORD              

BALLYMAHON          

9

 

KENAGH              

1

 

LANESBORO           

6

 

LONGFORD            

72

 

TOTAL

88

ROSCOMMON             

ATHLEAGUE           

1

 

CLONARK             

6

 

ROSCOMMON           

78

 

TOTAL

85

 ROSCOMMON / LONGFORD    TOTAL    

 

309

I thank the Minister for the reply. There is some positive news in it, but in 2010 in the Longford-Roscommon Garda division there were 301 full-time gardaí. The Minister has given a figure of 309, ten of whom are community gardaí. That means that there are 299 full-time gardaí. We can compare that number with the figure in 2010 and see that it has decreased, albeit slightly. In the meantime, there have been many extra challenges for An Garda Síochána which we all know is doing a wonderful job. I accept that the Garda College was closed for a while, that there were some tough years and that in the past three years or so there have been improvements, but we need to put more effort into this issue and recruit more gardaí. I welcome the Minister's comments that new recruits will be deployed in the near future. In 2010 the Boyle Garda district had 41 full-time gardaí. There are 18 there today. I accept that there have been some minor adjustments in the locality, but there has been an overall drop in the number of gardaí serving there. In the Castlerea Garda district there has been a major drop in numbers. There are some new recruits who are badly needed.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. The number of gardaí in the Roscommon-Longford division, as of 31 October 2017, was 309. This time last year the figure was 301; in 2015 it was 292; in 2014 it was 285; in 2013 it was 285 and in 2012 it was 280. There are now more active Garda members in the Roscommon-Longford division than at any time since 2009.

On the particular stations referred to by the Deputy, in Castlerea there is a total complement of 37 gardaí. In Edgeworthstown there are 11 gardaí; in Ballymahon there are nine, while in Boyle in north County Roscommon which has been referred to and which is a very busy station there are 26, giving a total complement as of 31 October of 309. I will attend a ceremony in the Garda College in Templemore on Friday and it is fair to say that, of the new recruits, a number will be spread across the country, including Longford and Roscommon.

When he initially answered the question, I understood the Minister indicated that there were 309 gardaí in the district, including ten community gardaí. Is that correct?

If it is, we are talking about a lower figure of 299 full-time gardaí. I will not get into the figures, but the point I wish to make is that as far back as 2010 we had 301 full-time gardaí in the division. If we subtract the ten community gardaí from the figure of 309, there are 299 gardaí. There will be new recruits and the Minister might give some indication that some of them will be deployed to Castlerea Garda station as there is grave concern in the area that there is not enough manpower available because of the size of the district that must be covered. This point has been made by members of the community and the Garda Representative Association. Will the Minister give an indication that some of the new recruits will be deployed to counties Longford and Roscommon, with particular reference to Castlerea Garda station?

I will be happy to provide that information for the Deputy. The figure of 309 includes the ten community gardaí who, of course, are fully fledged members of An Garda Síochána. To be added to this figure are the members of the Garda Reserve.

The Deputy referred to Castlerea Garda station. As he is aware, the work of local gardaí is augmented by support from the national divisions. I am happy to provide the Deputy with specific information on the garda complement in Castlerea. As I said, the total number of gardaí in the division is 309. I want to see more members of the Garda Reserve coming into that area. I acknowledge the work of the local joint policing committee, which feeds directly into decisions of the Garda Commissioner regarding the distribution of gardái.

Garda Deployment

Shane Cassells

Question:

44. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí in each Garda station in County Meath as of 1 November 2017; the number of community gardaí in the division; and the number of Garda Reserve members and new recruits assigned to the division since recruitment resumed in 2014. [51660/17]

My question is in the same vein as that of Deputy Eugene Murphy, except that I am seeking data in regard to County Meath. I make no apologies for pressing the case for my county, because I see the pressure the division is under. This year, for example, the chief superintendent has had to pull the traffic corps from the north of the county and apply it in places like Ashbourne because of the increasing threat from gangland crime and the activities of persons operating in the drugs trade. I look forward to the Minister's reply.

As at 31 October 2017, the total number of gardaí stationed in County Meath was 304, of whom seven are community gardaí. There are also 16 members of the Garda Reserve operating in the county, as well as 30 Garda civilian staff attached to the division. Where appropriate, the work of local gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the armed support units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

The Government stands committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country, including in County Meath, in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and deter crime.  I am aware that the Deputy engages with the joint policing committee in Meath. It is the reports of these committees that inform the Garda Commissioner and his or her team as to the appropriate level of recruits for distribution in each division. Since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, close to 1,400 recruits have attested as members, 46 of whom were assigned to the Meath division.  I look forward to attending the graduation of almost 200 newly attested, fully trained, energetic and ambitious new gardaí, all of whom will be assigned to stations across the country between now and the end of the year. Taking into account annual retirements of fewer than 300 to date in 2017, I expect the garda complement to be 13,500 at year end.

I thank the Minister for his response. This is the third occasion in the past month on which I have raised directly with him the issue of garda numbers and crime-related matters in County Meath. I fully appreciate that in our earlier exchanges, the Minister dealt with the macro issue of Garda resources on a national level. I will continue, however, to press the case for Meath for the simple reason that it has been left behind when it comes to the core principle of the deployment of resources. The figures for the county clearly show that. I stated in my earlier conversations with the Minister that I am not here to try to score political points but to articulate the real concerns of the chief superintendent, Mr. Fergus Healy, who is crying out for the allocation of additional resources.

I have brought to the attention of two different Garda Commissioners at two separate meetings of the Committee of Public Accounts this year the shocking incidence of gangland crime in the county, conscious that it is the Commissioner who has legitimate power when it comes to the deployment of resources. I am asking the Minister to engage with me in a new way on this matter and to look at it with fresh eyes. The traditional way of allocating resources, by way of the Commissioner, does not reflect the changes in settlement patterns in this country. As a result, places like Navan, Trim, Oldcastle and Athboy have been left under-resourced. Given the settlement patterns along the eastern coast, we must acknowledge the pressures under which gardaí in those areas are operating and that the traditional methods of resourcing are not doing the job.

As the Deputy said, we have discussed this issue on several occasions and I am aware of his concern regarding the manner in which decisions are made as to the distribution of Garda personnel around County Meath. There are currently 304 members of An Garda Síochána in the county, following on from an increase in the complement each year since 2014. In fact, the number is the highest it has been since 2010, the year in which the Garda College was closed. The distribution model that is used takes into account a number of factors, including population, crime trends and the policing needs of each division. It is the responsibility of the divisional officer to allocate personnel within his or her district as appropriate.

I am a politician, not a garda, but I hear what the chief superintendent in Meath is saying clearly on behalf of our county. I do not dispute the progress we have made. I attended the launch of the consultation paper on the processes associated with future policing in the State, which was attended by the Minister and Ms Kathleen O'Toole, head of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. I listened carefully to what the Minister had to say on that occasion. If his words are to count for something, we must find a better way of utilising the gardaí coming out of Templemore. We have seen how the deployment of additional gardaí brings significant benefits to communities.

The threats posed by gangs and their wanton disregard for life is a very real issue in my county. Last Saturday, a young man in his 20s was found dead in Dunboyne, having been shot through the head. I noticed the former Taoiseach, Mr. John Bruton, in the Gallery earlier. He lives in that village and knows the threat that exists there. My colleague, Councillor Damien O'Reilly, articulated very well the fears of local people, which have been heightened by the discovery of that young man's body last Saturday morning. We are dealing with the type of high-level crime more usually associated with cities and we must have the resources to combat it.

I acknowledge the strong and positive commitment of An Garda Síochána to combatting crime, with particular reference to the type of gangland crime mentioned by Deputy Cassells. There have been significant arrests and successes in recent times, which show that our appreciation of the dedicated work of the force is well warranted. Using ratios such as the number of gardaí per head of population is not always an appropriate tool when considering the allocation of Garda resources because it fails to take into account that crime levels may vary significantly between communities.

I assure the Deputy of our commitment in this area, in line with the programme for Government. The Garda Inspectorate, at the request of the Policing Authority, is carrying out a review of the dispersal and usage of resources available to An Garda Síochána in delivering a policing service to local communities. The authority has informed the inspectorate that the review should take account of a range of issues, many of them adverted to by the Deputy today. It will be a comprehensive exercise, incorporating a consultative process with local communities. I invite the Deputy to make a submission to the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. I want to see the review completed in the first half of 2018 and am happy to engage further with the Deputy in this regard.

Garda Commissioner Appointment

Mick Wallace

Question:

45. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the recruitment process for the post of Garda Commissioner; the timeframe to fill the post; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51744/17]

It will be three months this weekend since the resignation of Nóirín O'Sullivan as Garda Commissioner. She was on leave before that, since 17 July, which makes it almost five months since she has performed her role. The Policing Authority told us on 11 September that it had commenced consideration of and research into the process to identify and appoint the next Commissioner. The Minister often points out that it is the Policing Authority which runs the appointments process, but we have heard nothing from the body since last September. If it is running the process, why did Ms Kathleen O'Toole, head of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, write to the Minister stating that the process is suspended until the commission has completed its report?

The Policing Authority under section 9 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended, has responsibility for nominating persons for appointment by the Government to the post of Garda Commissioner. In the meantime we have an excellent acting Commissioner in Dónall Ó Cualáin. 

This will be the first time that the new legislative process is utilised and I have consulted with the chairperson of the authority about a process to identify and appoint a permanent Commissioner to An Garda Síochána. We are agreed that it is crucial that a deliberate and considered recruitment process takes place in order that the best possible candidate is appointed following a selection process. We are also agreed that an overly long delay in the appointment of a new Commissioner would not be optimal for the organisation in terms of performance and morale. In the interim I have, of course, authorised a Deputy Commissioner to exercise all of the functions of the Commissioner during the term of the vacancy.

As I have previously stated, the authority has, over recent months, undertaken some essential ground work for the recruitment process in advance of the formal triggering of the statutory process by Government. This work has included the conduct of some research into aspects of the appointment process and engagement with my Department and with the Public Appointments Service, which will undertake the competition on behalf of the authority.

Importantly, the intervening period has also allowed the authority to explore with the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, as the Deputy mentioned, how it sees the future role and responsibilities of the new Commissioner. As the Deputy is aware, the commission is undertaking a comprehensive review of all aspects of policing and is due to report in September 2018. The Commission has a wealth of experience and expertise and the timeframe that I have outlined will facilitate the authority in exploring with the commission how it sees the future role and responsibilities of the new Commissioner. This will assist in ensuring that potential candidates have as much information as possible in relation to the future direction of policing in the State.

Does the Minister not agree that Robert Olson's report was a blueprint for how we should do policing? Why in God’s name are we paying Kathleen O'Toole €170,000 a year probably to regurgitate the same thing? Can the Minister justify the fact that she is double-jobbing? She will continue to be involved with the Seattle job until January. We do not have to reinvent the wheel. I do not understand this for the life of me.

The Minister said "we have an excellent acting Garda Commissioner". I am not so convinced that he is excellent. Why does the Minister not answer the letters concerning the same gentleman which came into his possession in the last while? I am also disappointed that the same acting Commissioner cannot find time to appear before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality this week. We are not getting the Commissioner or an acting Commissioner, we are getting an acting acting Commissioner. I do not agree that he is an excellent acting Commissioner. There is no one in charge of An Garda Síochána. Given the number of problems going on around the country it is pretty obvious that there is nobody running the ship.

I do not accept that the current vacancy at the level of Commissioner has been damaging to An Garda Síochána. Suggestions from Deputy Wallace and others that all of Garda top management should be replaced are unrealistic, irresponsible and unfair to many of the individuals involved in An Garda Síochána. The gardaí have a most important job to do in this State. They do it day in day out, on a 24-7 basis, fighting crime, fighting terrorism, dealing with people around the clock, ensuring safer streets and communities. They have had many successes. No responsible Government would jeopardise the safety of our communities by removing expertise, as Deputy Wallace would like to see. It is important that we acknowledge the role and function of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. Deputy Wallace should consider making a submission to that commission. It is open to hearing from people, from stakeholders and certainly from public representatives with information that Deputy Wallace appears to have.

I find it mindboggling that the Minister is prepared to kick this down the road for so long. He might have noticed the comments of Denis Bradley the former vice chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board who went to the nub of the issue when he stated that the Patten commission worked because there was clarity as to who was in charge: "The Northern Ireland Policing Board would be the hub and the driver of change, appointing all senior police officers and holding the chief officer to account for delivery and change." We do not have that here. We watered down what we were going to do with the Policing Authority. It is a creature of Government. It does not have the independence it requires to do its job properly.

We are not making progress and the Minister says it would be so unfair to move people from the hierarchy but it is unfair to most of the gardaí of Ireland to leave them in place. The Minister could give them a different job. I am not saying put them on the dole but the majority of gardaí would like a change of hierarchy because they know they would have a better police force with a good authority. The fish rots from the head, as the Minister well knows. We need change. Does the Minister disagree with what was done with the Patten report because it recommended removing the hierarchy and starting again? We have to start afresh or we will not do things any differently than we have done for a long time. There are serious problems.

One of the great attributes of the democratic process is the answering of questions by a member of the Executive on a daily basis. It throws up the type of challenges that we see on the matter of Deputy Wallace's intervention. I am accused on one side of the House of not acting smartly enough-----

I never accused the Minister of that.

Deputy Wallace accuses me of kicking the can down the road.

The Chairperson of the Policing Authority and I are agreed that the process of the appointment of the new Commissioner must be approached in a careful and considered manner to ensure that it delivers the outcome that will provide for the calibre of a person required to lead our national police service. It could well be along the lines suggested by Deputy Wallace but I believe that to rush at this, simply to have a person in a post would be a mistake. We must allow for the authority to take adequate time to complete its preparatory work. We must allow it to engage with the Public Appointment Service, the Department and the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland. I do not accept that is can-kicking. The authority has over the past few days submitted its views to me on the various aspects of the process and I expect to see real progress on this matter between now and the end of the year.

Garda Strength

Bobby Aylward

Question:

46. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí in each Garda station in counties Carlow and Kilkenny as of 1 November 2017; the number of community gardaí in the division; and the number of Garda Reserve and new recruits assigned to the division since recruitment resumed in 2014. [51634/17]

How many gardaí are in each Garda station in Carlow-Kilkenny as of 1 November 2017; how many community Garda are in the division as a whole, how many Garda reservists and new recruits have been assigned to the division since recruitment resumed in 2014?

Notwithstanding the Commissioner's responsibility for the distribution of gardaí, I have provided for the Official Report a breakdown, in tabular form, of the detailed information requested by the Deputy as of 31 October 2017, the latest date for which information is readily available.

The Garda strength of the Kilkenny-Carlow division on 31 October 2017 was 324, of whom 91 are community gardaí. There are also 26 Garda Reserve and 31 Garda civilian staff attached to the division. When appropriate, the work of local gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the armed support units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

As the Deputy will be aware this Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country. To achieve this our overall plan is to have a Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. We are making real, tangible progress on achieving this goal, having regard to the fact that the Garda college in Templemore was closed for a period in 2010.

I am also pleased that budget 2018 maintains this high level of investment in the Garda workforce to ensure that overall plan is implemented. I would be happy to provide the Deputy with detailed figures for Carlow-Kilkenny in the table.

The figures come to a total of 324. Some 86 are in Carlow town; 15 in Tullow; 130 in Kilkenny city; and 11 in Castlecomer, the Deputy's own area. Garda figures for the Thomastown district come to a total of 62, including Bennetsbridge, Glenmore, Goresbridge, Graiguenamanagh, Kilmoganny, 12 in Mooncoin, Mullinavat, Piltown and 38 in Thomastown.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

STRENGTH OF THE KILKENNY/CARLOW DIVISION 31 OCTOBER 2017

DISTRICT

STATION

TOTAL

CARLOW

BALLON

1

BORRIS

1

CARLOW

86

HACKETSTOWN

1

MUINEBHEAG

10

MYSHALL

1

RATHVILLY

1

TULLOW

15

TOTAL

116

KILKENNY

CALLAN

4

CASTLECOMER

11

KILKENNY

130

URLINGFORD

1

TOTAL

146

THOMASTOWN

BENNETSBRIDGE

1

GLENMORE

1

GORESBRIDGE

2

GRAIGUENAMANAGH

4

KILMOGANNY

1

MOONCOIN

12

MULLINAVAT

2

PILTOWN

1

THOMASTOWN

38

TOTAL

62

KILKENNY/CARLOW TOTAL

324

I recognise the increased provision of gardaí, particularly in south Kilkenny, which the Minister has mentioned. In my own parish, Ballyhale station and Stoneyford station, which were unmanned for a few years, are now manned. Both of those stations are situated in my locality and were stretched for resources in previous years. I acknowledge that. I am delighted to see that we are operating at full potential again and are seeing a stronger, more robust Garda presence in these communities and the surrounding areas. I recognise the work of the chief superintendent of the Carlow-Kilkenny division and the local superintendent in Thomastown station, which the Minister mentioned. The lines of dialogue between the Garda and the local community get stronger by the day and I am delighted to see the proactive work being done to improve community policing for these areas.

There is a need for an increase in Garda Reserve numbers for Carlow and Kilkenny. The Garda Reserve has an important function, assisting the work of the main force and interacting with local communities. It also allows citizens to make a positive contribution to their communities and enhances the effectiveness of community policing. There needs to be more members of the Garda Reserve to assist the main force. This will free up the main force's resources. As of 1 December 2016, there were only 695 members of the Garda Reserve. Of these, only 303 claimed their allowance, which is to say that they had completed the full 208 hours of service. Will the Minister comment on that?

I advise the Deputy that I have concerns about the operation of the Garda Reserve and I see great potential to increase numbers to help support communities and An Garda Síochána in the delivery of a service. There are 26 Garda Reserve members in Kilkenny. I expect the strategic review that is currently under way to be completed and with me by the end of the year and I would be happy to inform the House further about the plan for that. Kilkenny has been favoured with 44 new Garda recruits from Templemore, bringing the number in the Kilkenny-Carlow division to 324, higher now than any year since 2008. It is important in the context of ongoing policing that further consideration is given to Garda numbers, having regard to the submissions of the Deputy, who I know is in contact with the joint policing committee in Kilkenny and I would be happy, as Minister, to assist him.

We must ramp up our response to rural crime. The national statistics showing a reduction in burglaries and related offences do not reflect the situation in rural Ireland. The people of these communities feel isolated and forgotten. It is only a matter of time before we begin to see serious incidents of vigilantism occurring around the country. This is not an exaggeration. This is an old hobby horse of mine. I mention it often, as recently as last week, in the Dáil. There has been a failing by the Government to honour the commitment in the programme for Government to provide CCTV cameras at all major junctions leading to motorways. I heard that every time I raised the issue. I am not talking about the community-based CCTV grant aid scheme launched last April but the roll-out of a CCTV-based crime-fighting system on our motorways which are being used by criminal gangs, which terrorise areas, to get in and out of communities. There are two motorways in Kilkenny which come from towns and cities, and gangs come in on them, commit robberies, and are gone half an hour later. We need CCTV camera systems on all junctions leading off our motorways to counteract this.

I am conscious of what the Deputy says. My constituency has a similar profile to that of my neighbours in Kilkenny and Carlow and new challenges are being faced with the way that the motorway network has helped mobility. I assure Deputy Aylward that there will be a significant Garda presence throughout Kilkenny and Carlow over the winter months. Operation Thor, involving a broad range of activities to tackle organised crime in urban and rural areas, works with communities to prevent crime. It is a comprehensive operation supported by enhanced Government investment in Garda resources, including almost €100 million for Garda overtime. We have also invested heavily in the Garda fleet and there are many new vehicles in the Kilkenny-Carlow area, with a total of 720 coming on-stream since the start of 2015, and the provision of €46 million for new Garda vehicles under the capital plan for 2016 to 2021. Under Operation Thor, we have had 92,000 targeted checkpoints and 71,700 crime prevention patrols nationwide. However-----

What about CCTV?

We have to give other Deputies a chance. I call Deputy Pat Casey.

I would be happy to advance the issue of CCTV in communities.

Garda Strength

Pat Casey

Question:

47. Deputy Pat Casey asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí in each Garda station in County Wicklow as of 1 November 2017; the number of community gardaí in the division; and the number of Garda reserves and new recruits assigned to the division since recruitment resumed in 2014. [51663/17]

My question is to ask the number of gardaí in each Garda station in County Wicklow as of 1 November 2017; the number of community gardaí in the division; and the number of Garda reserves and new recruits assigned to the division since recruitment resumed in 2014.

I thank Deputy Casey for his question. Notwithstanding the Garda Commissioner's responsibility for the distribution of Garda personnel, I am happy to provide a breakdown, in tabular form, of the detailed information requested by the Deputy for County Wicklow.

The Garda strength of the Wicklow division on 31 October 2017 was 301, of whom 13 are community gardaí. There are also 20 Garda reserves and 26 Garda civilian staff attached to the division. When appropriate, the work of local gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the armed support units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

The Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens of County Wicklow and to deter crime in the Wicklow area.  To achieve this, the Government has put in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021, which will comprise 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Garda Reserve members, which will be a significant increase from those currently in the Garda Reserve, and 4,000 civilians which will allow for the freeing up of sworn gardaí to do duties on the street on patrol, which is the primary function of An Garda Síochána.

I am informed by the Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, almost 1,400 recruits have attested as fully fledged members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, 21 of whom have been assigned directly to Garda stations in the Wicklow area.  I look forward to attending the graduation of a further 200 trainee graduates on Friday this week, which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increase to around 13,500 by the end of this year, a net increase of 500 since this time last year.

STRENGTH OF THE WICKLOW DIVISION 31 OCTOBER 2017

DISTRICT

STATION

TOTAL

BALTINGLASS

BALTINGLASS

32

BLESSINGTON

23

CARNEW

4

DUNLAVIN

2

SHILLELAGH

1

TINAHELY

2

TOTAL

64

BRAY

BRAY

108

ENNISKERRY

3

GREYSTONES

27

NEWTOWNMOUNTKENNEDY

3

TOTAL

141

WICKLOW

ARKLOW

35

ASHFORD

3

AUGHRIM

1

AVOCA

1

RATHDRUM

3

ROUNDWOOD

3

WICKLOW

50

TOTAL

96

WICKLOW TOTAL

301

I thank the Minister for his response. I welcome the recent announcement of the reopening of Donard Garda station in Wicklow. It did not quite achieve the same national profile as Stepaside but we welcome it and the increase of the number of gardaí by 21. I sought these improvements to the Garda strength in Wicklow with both the Minister on his appointment and with his predecessor in the Chamber. It is a positive development and I thank the Minister for the commitment. However, the increase in Garda numbers and reopening of the station must be followed by further action at this time of year, specifically in relation to Operation Thor. Wicklow sees hardened criminal gangs targeting the county, specifically with thefts from Christmas tree farms, robberies of cash from businesses and various attacks on isolated, elderly members of our community.

We are all aware of the violent attacks this year on vulnerable and elderly people in Arklow and Kilboy in rural south Wicklow. All of us must be extremely vigilant and conscious of elderly neighbours living in our towns and communities. There needs to be a discussion about how we deal with people who engage in these repulsive and senseless attacks on vulnerable people and our emergency services personnel.

I assure the Deputy that my remarks in response to the question tabled by Deputy Aylward ring true to the same degree as far as County Wicklow is concerned. Operation Thor continues and Garda overtime will continue in order to ensure that every effort is made to police rural communities in particular. I acknowledge rural aspects of Deputy Casey's constituency.

I want to point to crime prevention days at locations identified for high volume throughput, including shopping centres, public transport hubs and termini and other high visibility locations. I acknowledge the existence of high visibility patrols on foot by personnel as well as in cars and on mountain bikes and high visibility public order patrols in areas of urban concentration and rural areas. I am also conscious of the legislative reforms, in particular the priority to strengthen provisions through the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Burglary of Dwellings) Act 2015 and others. I have a table containing the information relating to County Wicklow which I will gladly pass on to the Deputy.

I wish to inform the Minister specifically about Wicklow and the Baltinglass division which currently has only a part-time inspector on loan from Bray. Further, the superintendent was transferred out of the county with no permanent replacement. As the Minister might be aware, the Baltinglass division is almost half the geographic area of the whole county but it is sparsely populated. It stretches from Blessington all the way to County Wexford. Will the Minister inquire as to the stage at which the replacement of both the superintendent and the inspector are with the police authority and the commission?

An application for CCTV systems was made for Main Street, Arklow. This is an essential deterrent and would be a useful tool in bringing criminals to justice. Deputy Bobby Aylward and the Minister spoke about CCTV and access off motorways into rural areas. I think this is crying out to be delivered.

I assure the Deputy of the existence of funding in respect of community CCTV. The application process is open and I have €1 million at my disposal for local communities. I am anxious to ensure that local public representatives are actively engaged in the provision of this information to local communities and would be happy to assist Deputy Casey in that regard.

As far as Baltinglass is concerned and, in particular, its Garda complement, there is a total of 32 active gardaí in the Baltinglass station and 23 in the west Wicklow town of Blessington. Budget 2018 maintains a high level of investment in the Garda workforce in order to ensure that my target of 21,000 members by 2021 is realised and achieved. A further 800 new Garda recruits will enter the Garda college next year. This will see Garda numbers reach the 14,000 mark by the end of this time next year. I can confirm that as of December 2017 we will achieve the 13,500 mark. A further 500 civilians will also be recruited to fill critical skill gaps across the organisation and to facilitate the redeployment of gardaí from administrative and technical duties to front-line operational duties. There are plans to strengthen the Garda Reserve and a new reserve is expected to commence training early next year.

Refugee Resettlement Programme

Gino Kenny

Question:

48. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will use his discretionary powers in a humanitarian manner to allow relatives of Syrian residents here, who may be in equally dangerous situations as those of refugees, apply for family reunification under the family reunification humanitarian admission programme; his plans to redefine "family member" using the broader terms proposed in the International Protection (Family Reunification) (Amendment) Bill 2017; and if he will consider setting aside a budget to pay the administration and travel costs of bringing the family members of refugees that often have no means here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51496/17]

Deputy Kenny has 30 seconds to introduce his question.

I am happy for the Minister to answer the question.

I thank Deputy Gino Kenny for raising this issue. On 14 November last, together with my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy David Stanton, I announced the new scheme of family reunification in support of refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and their families. This new family reunification humanitarian admission programme will form part of the Government’s commitment under the Irish refugee protection programme, IRPP. The family reunification humanitarian admission programme will see, over a two-year period, up to 530 immediate family members of refugees or beneficiaries of subsidiary protection from established conflict zones, including Syria, come to Ireland as part of our overall commitment to accept 4,000 persons under the IRPP.

I will operate this humanitarian admission programme under my ministerial discretionary powers and it will be in addition to the family reunification provisions provided for in the International Protection Act 2015.  Officials in my Department are in consultation with the UNHCR and other stakeholders on developing the full operational details of the programme.

To allow the maximum number of families to benefit from the scheme, sponsors may be asked to prioritise a small number of family members for admission. I am conscious that the measure is being introduced at a time when our national housing supply is under strain and, to expedite the impact of the programme, priority may be given to sponsors whose eligible family members are in a position to reside with them.

As this new initiative falls within our IRPP commitment, I will examine if some limited IRPP funding can be made available to assist with the travel arrangements for eligible family members to Ireland in co-operation with the International Organisation for Migration and the Red Cross or Red Crescent.

I am sure the Minister is aware and that everyone in this House is cognisant of the human catastrophe that is the Syrian civil war which seems to be unabating. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled Syria in search of refuge. In some cases, families have been split apart not by the chaos of war but the chaos of escaping it. The family reunification humanitarian admission programme is very prescriptive as it does not encompass family members such as brothers or sisters. I welcome the Minister's statement that he would consider providing for some costs of those seeking refuge here. The scheme should be widened, however.

The scheme is aimed specifically at the families of those in Ireland who are in receipt of international protection and come from areas of current conflict, including Syria, as has been mentioned specifically in the question. Residents in Ireland who are not beneficiaries of international protection may apply to have family members join them under the guidelines set out in the policy document on non-EEA family reunification under the terms of the scheme operated by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service. I assure the Deputy that I will continue to apply my discretion in the area of family reunification for those outside of the international protection process. My initiative under the programme is specifically aimed at those most in need and, in doing so, it will address many of the motivating concerns of Members of the House, including Deputy Gino Kenny.

The new scheme is very prescriptive. It does not include grandparents, parents or brothers or sisters of a Syrian refugee trying to make a new life for himself or herself here. I welcome the Minister's statement on the costs of relatives of those seeking refuge here. The Minister was correct when he said that we have a housing crisis. However, consider what we are doing about the arms trade and our budget under the PESCO agreement. A lot of money is going into fighting different people's wars, yet we cannot give people who are seeking to get away from war refuge in this country.

As we approach the end of the year, I am keen to ensure that we meet our commitment to accept 4,000 people under the Irish refugee protection programme. It was with regard to addressing the balance of approximately 1,800 under the scheme, which arises largely due to the smaller number of asylum seekers eligible and registered under the EU programme, that I announced the establishment of a new family reunification humanitarian admission programme.

The resettlement pledges are the largest commitments for resettlement that we have made in a calendar year since our programme began almost 18 years ago.

My priority is to ensure we can support the maximum number of families rather than having a smaller number of families being able to admit larger numbers of extended family members, which could well work to the disadvantage of others.

Additional details on the operation of the programme will be announced on my website. I will be happy to engage with the Deputy directly if he requires any further information or if he has any specific concerns.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.