I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to raise the issue of Garda resources in north County Kildare. I also thank the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Charles Flanagan, for coming into the House to take this Topical Issue which is a major concern to the people of County Kildare. I am looking forward to discussing it in a constructive and positive way in the knowledge that the Garda College in Templemore was closed until 2014 and that the confidence and supply agreement includes a commitment to bring Garda numbers to 15,000 by 2021. While the Minister has no direct input in the allocation of Garda resources in my area, as a public representative, this is the forum in which I have to raise issues of concern to my constituents. It allows me to bring a focus to the issue and use this mechanism to send a strong message to the Garda Commissioner that the required resources to help the Garda do its job in County Kildare should be allocated. That is the framework in which I have raised this Topical Issue in the hope it can be progressed in a positive way.
I acknowledge the gardaí who are doing their duty in my constituency, particularly when they are under-resourced owing to a lack of numbers. In County Kildare the ratio of gardaí to population is 1:680, while nationally it is 1:450. The ratio in County Kildare, therefore, is well below the national average. One of the largest towns in north County Kildare, Celbridge, has a population of 22,000 but only 11 gardaí and no full-time Garda station. At one stage 22 gardaí were based in the town. This brings difficulties to the area and it is also the case in many other places such as Maynooth, Clane, Leixlip and Kilcock which are growing and developing. Garda numbers need to grow and develop with them to keep up with demand. If a Garda station is not operating effectively, it takes longer for gardaí to respond to, say, a burglary or a road accident. It is important that these towns and areas have a good Garda base to provide security for the people and businesses located in them. We are not suggesting County Kildare is a crime black spot. However, it is close to the suburbs of Dublin. I am highlighting the lack of Garda numbers in the hope they will be increased to assist in the good policing work already being done.
Maynooth, a university town, has a population of 15,000 and over 12,000 students but no full-time Garda station. Clane and Kilcock each has a population of 6,000, but their Garda numbers are seven and ten, respectively, and there is no full-time Garda station in either town. Whatever Garda management does with its resources is a matter for it; I am here to have extra gardaí allocated to these areas to have a better policing presence which is so badly needed in these communities. There are additional resources in Leixlip and Naas because they are the locations of Garda divisional headquarters. The figures are skewed because gardaí are allocated to the drugs unit and the traffic corps. While the numbers of gardaí may be higher than in other towns in north County Kildare, they are not actually in a position to do the day-to-day community Garda work required. Overall, we need increased numbers to bring the ratio of gardaí to population in County Kildare closer to the national average of 1:450.